FlixChatter Review – Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

The Mission: Impossible film franchise is one of the few that somehow got better and better after its third sequel struggle to make a dent at the box office. Not only did the later sequels were financially successful, they’re also critically darlings. Looking at Rottentomatoes.com, Mission: Impossible 4-6 received mid to high 90% rating.

After a mission gone wrong and three nuclear missile heads are in the hands of a new group of terrorists known as The Apostles, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his teammates Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) must retrieve the weapons. When Hunt was getting an intel briefing from his boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), as to where he can find the nuclear weapons, they’re both got interrupted by a new CIA director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett). Sloan is upset that the IMF team lost the nuclear heads and insists that her agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) must go with Ethan to retrieve them.

First on their task is to capture and impersonate a man named John Lark (Liang Yang) and meet with a mysterious woman named White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), in Paris who has the connection to the Apostles. But when Hunt and Walker met with White Widow, she insisted that they must break out an international terrorist and Hunt’s nemesis Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) from prison or they won’t get the nuclear weapons. Of course this complicates the mission but both Hunt and Walker went along and helped Lane escaped. Along the way, Hunt ran into an old friend Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). She’s also has her own mission and that is to eliminate Lane for good. Well, things never go as planned and Hunt must use all of his skills to try to save the world from chaos and also save those who he cares about.

For the first time in franchise history, the same director and writer Christopher McQuarrie of the previous film has returned and take charge of this new mission. To my surprise, McQuarrie has exceeded what he created in the last picture. He crafted a complexed storyline that’s full of twists, drama, humor and big action sequences. By hiring new crew members, notably a new cinematographer and composer, he was able to differentiate this film from the last one. It’s clearly that he used Nolan’s The Dark Knight as his inspiration for this outing. The film even contains a big chase that’s very similar to a chase sequence from The Dark Knight. A big bathroom brawl, a spectacular motorcycle and car chase through the streets of Paris and a helicopter chase are the highlights of the set pieces.

Cinematographer Rob Hardy is having a good year. He shot the excellent Annihilation for Alex Garland earlier this year and again for this film, he did a tremendous job. This film contains so many wide shots in the series since Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2. This is good because we the audience can actually see the action and not trying to figure out what’s going on super chaotic scenes. Shout out also goes to composer Lorne Balfe who apparently is the understudy of Hans Zimmer. So, of course this film’s score sounds like it’s was composed by Zimmer. There’s still the well know Mission: Impossible theme but Balfe made it sounded like something very original. Just a little trivia, Hans Zimmer did compose a Mission: Impossible film, he worked on the second one.

With three box office bombs in a row, Cruise poured all of his performance into this film. He did the usual crazy stunts but was willing to show his character’s age and flaws by having him get his ass whooped a few times in the film. The rest of the cast members were pretty good too. I was afraid Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust might just be nothing more than a cameo but her role was an integral part of the story and as usual she saved Hunt’s life couple of times in the film. Simon and Luthor didn’t really have much to do except to be comic relief. Luther did have a touching scene with Ilsa, I really liked that scene. I liked the addition of Alec Balwin’s character and he even got involved in one action scene with the team members. Bassett and Cavill were a nice addition and I hope we see more of Bassett’s character in the next Mission film. Kirby’s White Widow is an interesting character and I thought she played the role quite well even though she didn’t get a lot of screen time.

Having seen the film twice already, I can declare Fallout is the best Mission: Impossible film yet. It’s full of humor, great tensions and spectacular actions sequences. If there’s an IMAX, Dolby Cinema or other large vendor theater near you, go see it there. It’s definitely my favorite film of the summer and maybe even of the year.


So have you seen Mission Impossible: Fallout? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: Black Panther (2018)

I had been looking forward to write a review of this film since I saw it a week ago. By now practically everyone has seen this film, as it broke all kinds of box office records. Normally I don’t really care for numbers for a big tentpole films like this one, but I am thrilled for the success of Black Panther because simply it’s a terrific film that deserved to be seen on the big screen.

The film’s storyline is set just right after the events in Captain America: Civil War (a film I also admired a lot) where T’Challa, the then heir of a fictional African country Wakanda, lost his father. The young King of Wakanda returns his technologically-advanced and supremely wealthy home. It isn’t easy to be king however, as his ascend to the throne faced many challenges. Unlike many superhero films where the villains are mostly maniacal figure hell-bent to rule/destroy the world, T’Challa’s advisory turns out to be a personal one.

I won’t go into too much details about the plot as it’s best to go into this blindly as I did. The story takes place mostly in Wakanda, but it started off in a familiar urban setting in Oakland, California. I love how relatable the story is, and you truly feel for the dilemma of the characters involved. Rich in vibranium, the indestructible metal that’s used to make Captain America’s shield, Wakanda isolated themselves from other African nations and posed as a Third World country. Run by the King’s sister Shuri, her state-of-the-art tech lab would make even Tony Stark and Bond’s Q envious! This is a country that truly can stand alone in the universe and would never need any other nation’s help in any way. Therein lies the dilemma. Why doesn’t it help other nations and fellow Africans in need? The themes of refugees and the role (and responsibility) of a powerful nation is so fitting given the current global refugee crisis.

There is even a mid-credit scene that seems to directly address the current administration with its message about building bridges instead of barriers in times of crisis. The film doesn’t shy away from the current political climate, yet somehow it isn’t preachy and the story is still organic within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s admirable in and of itself the fact that the plot fits perfectly within MCU but yet manages stands alone and in many ways, be ahead of the pack. Because the conflicts are so personal to our hero, even when the action sequences are huge and bombastic, it never overpowered the story and there are real human lives at stake.

Let’s talk about the fantastically-diverse ensemble cast that made this film so great. From its intro in Captain America: Civil War, I already loved Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, but here we get to see his dramatic chops. The charismatic actor’s got an effortless regal vibe about him, plus he looks just as spectacular as a monarch as he is a superhero! He’s surrounded by a phenomenal cast, from veteran actors like Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett, to relatively-new-but-accomplished young stars like Michael B. Jordan, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, current Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira. I have to admit I had a gleeful smile watching two of the Tolkien white guys, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman, reunited in this movie. The latter had more to do here and he provided some of the comic relief along with Wright’s Shuri.

Kudos to writers Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole for writing a villain who is multi-dimensional and someone we actually empathize with. Jordan displayed a layered performance as well as a towering physical magnetism as Erik Killmonger. Both he and Boseman are such strapping [read: hot] lads that their fight scenes are quite breathtaking to behold, but the action actually mean something instead of just a gratuitous display of destructive force [*cough* Man of Steel *cough*]. The filmmakers also created a conflict that has political/cultural significance that raises the stakes, yet keeping it grounded with human emotion.

I’d say the film might pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors, considering the number of female characters with a real arc instead of used merely as accessories. The real MVPs are Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest and a Wakandan spy, and Danai Gurira as Okoye, a Wakandan general of the all-female special forces. Gurira’s army of bad-ass women easily give Wonder Woman‘s Amazonians a run for their money. So gratifying to see SO many heroic women of color on screen who are strong in terms of physical strength as in their intellect and resolve. Nakia is an especially inspiring character worthy of the King’s love and admiration, and Nyong’o has an amazing screen presence. Forget Black Widow, I’d love to see a spinoff with Nakia and Okoye in their own standalone Marvel movie!

This is what I called ‘fun with substance’ kind of movie, which is what Marvel has excelled at by hiring indie filmmakers to helm their blockbusters. The film showed off the huge $200 mil budget in terms of visuals and action set pieces, but the best part of it is still the story and its characters. But man, what a feast for the eyes it truly is! Apparently Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige spent more $$$ on this film to get the wealthy-beyond-measure world of Wakanda just right (according to Vulture). The towering skyscrapers, the hi-tech trains/spaceships, not to mention the incredibly rich costumes that would hopefully earn Ruth E. Carter some Costume Design nominations. They look stylishly-futuristic while still honoring its tribal African roots.

I love that Black Panther has a ton of girl power both in front and behind the camera. Its cinematographer Rachel Morrison has just broke new ground as the first female DP ever to be nominated for an Oscar (for Mudbound)! Her stunning visual work here is quite Oscar-worthy as well. There’s such colorful vibrancy in this film that’s complemented by the lively score by Coogler’s longtime collaborator Ludwig Göransson.

I could go on and on about how much I loved this film. The stakes felt real and there were moments of genuine sadness, but it also didn’t forget to have fun because hey, it’s still a superhero movie. I LOVE the exhilarating car chases that shows off Black Panther’s prowess. Basically the entire scene in Busan, South Korea is just so freaking cool! I mentioned Shuri reminds me a bit of Bond’s Q, well, some of the action scenes here at times feels like a Bond film but thankfully without the male chauvinism aspect.

Now, it’s not a perfect film as there are some pacing issues and some parts seemed to go on longer than necessary. But really, those are really small quibbles in a largely masterful work by director Ryan Coogler. He’s joined a growing number of indie filmmakers like the Russo Brothers and Taika Waititi who’ve stepped up to the task of making such quality superhero films for Marvel. I’m glad that they now have a fruitful career ahead of them, as I want to see more of their work.

Diverse representation alone doesn’t make a film automatically good. But Black Panther did the diverse cast justice by giving them something worthy to do in a well-written, thought provoking film. And THAT is definitely something worth praising about. I hope Hollywood would finally realize that racial diversity and inclusion does pay at the movies! It may not be the first black comic-book-based movie, but it certainly the biggest and best one to date.

A friend from work put it best, ‘Forget about Marvel universe, give me a Wakanda universe!’ Hey I’m down with that! #WakandaForever


So have you seen ‘Black Panther’? Well, what did you think? 

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

WeekInReview

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.

ShauntheSheep2 ShauntheSheep1

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. 

10 Brilliant Acting Performances Defined by One Look

I LOVE LOVE this idea from Brittani that I came across earlier this week that I had to take part.

“Sometimes a simple look an actor gives is nothing short of brilliant,”

I totally agree with her sentiment. Sometimes the quietest, most subtle look or gesture has the power to generate the most emotional response, no words necessary.

It made me think of some of those scenes and really, there are SO many examples that it’s tough to narrow it down to just 10. The fact that I remember these scenes despite the length of time that’s passed since I’ve seen it means they definitely left a big impression on me. In fact, from time to time I still look on youtube to watch that particular scene again. Ok so technically there are 11 here, as I paired up one of them, but I think it still count as one as it happens in the exact same scene where the two actors interact with each other. Anyway, here goes:

Christian Bale in Equilibrium

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I always have a fondness for this dystopian sci-fi thriller despite its flaws. Bale’s Preston came too late to save the woman he loves from being incinerated… and he had to watch her die right in front of him. Bale’s expression of utter despair just breaks my heart. It’s one of my favorite Bale performances from all the amazing work he’s done, even if the film itself is far from perfect.

Emily Blunt – Jane Austen Book Club

Blunt_JaneAustenBookClub

I LOVE miss Blunt and she adds so much gravitas and emotional complexity to her character of a French teacher going through an unhappy marriage. She’s just about to have a rendezvous at a motel with a hot, young student but something precludes her from taking another step. I don’t remember much about the entire film but I always remember this scene.

Toby Stephens – Jane Eyre (BBC – 2006)
Toby_JaneEyreI have to include at least one out of a plethora of Toby’s masterful scenes as Rochester. The no-wedding scene is definitely one of the most emotionally-charged. Rochester’s anguish is so palpable here when ‘bride in the attic’ secret’s been revealed. He was so close to finally be with the woman he loves, but in a single moment, that elusive happiness is snatched away again. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s such mesmerizing beauty in his look of pain and agony. It takes a real craftsmanship to bring such tortured soul persona so beautifully and Toby does it with aplomb.

Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale

Bassett_WaitingToExhale

Fireman: Ma’am, were you aware that your car was on fire?
[Bernadine nods her head while smoking a cigarette]

Fireman: Ma’am, did you start this fire?
[she puffs smoke and plainly looks at him]

Fireman: You know, it’s against the law to burn anything except trash in your yard.

Bernadine: [flicks off ashes from her cigarette] It is trash.

Miss Bassett is simply awesome, period. It’s been over a decade since I saw this film but I never forget Bernadine’s rage and heartache when her husband leaves her. She’s crestfallen, but yet she never loses that bad-ass sensibility. Her look says it all, ‘Don’t mess with Bernadine.’

Russell Crowe in The Insider

Crowe_TheInsiderI’ve always believed that Crowe got robbed of his Oscar in this film. As fantastic as his portrayal of Maximus was, the way he completely disappeared into Jeffrey Wigand is nothing short of astounding. This scene at the hotel room is mesmerizing, powerful and heart-wrenching and Crowe only communicates with his body language. There’s a bit of a dream sequence here that was crafted masterfully by Michael Mann, but it’s Crowe’s stillness and inner tumult that you won’t soon forget.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel_12YearsASlaveThis scene is one of the most haunting, which is saying something given how many heart-wrenching scenes there are in this film. At first Solomon didn’t join the other slaves singing Roll Jordan Roll, but somehow, halfway through the song, he started singing. His facial expression stirs up so much expression as I watched it. It’s as if he’d reached the lowest point of his life, losing all hope of ever escaping his fate as a slave… all the grief, desperation, anger and sense of helplessness is all there. Yet there is a glimmer of defiance in him, a flicker of hope still left in him that gets him through another day. Ejiofor deserved an Oscar win just for this scene alone.

Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

Peck_TheHolidayThe finale remains one of the most beautiful and poignant film endings ever. And I think Peck’s facial expression conveys so much. The restrained tears in his eyes, the rigid way he’s standing, it takes so much out of Joe not to say how he feels about Ann. Yet his expression speaks louder than words could ever do.

Kate Winslet in Titanic

Winslet_TitanicIt’s been ages since I saw Titanic but for some reason, this subtle scene of Rose during dinner with her family and Cal still stands out to me. There’s this glazed look on her face, like she finally stops caring about her privileged life that feels more and more like a prison. “That fire is gonna burn out,” Jack tells her at one point and it’s as if it finally sinks in that he is right and she wants out.

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

Joaquin_GladiatorThis is truly one of the greatest scenes in film history IMHO. There’s just so much going on in this scene on psychological and emotional level. Of course Crowe is simply astounding in his ‘Maximus Decimus Meridius’ monologue but one thing that always struck me is Commodus’ stunned reaction. His lips quiver, eyes wide open with shock and his whole body trembles with a combination of rage and fright. It’s like ‘WTF! How could you still be alive?’ He knew at that moment, everything he’s planned so carefully is in shambles. As Lucilla said, at that moment, a slave did become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome, and it’s all written in Commodus’ face.

James Cromwell & Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

Cromwell_LAConfidential

Spacey_LAConfidential

There are certain phrases in movies that will forever be stuck in my head. “Rolo Tomasi” is one of them, and thanks to both Cromwell and Spacey for creating such an iconic and chilling scene. That’s the name Exley (Guy Pearce) gives the unknown murderer of his father just to give him a personality. “Have you a valediction, boyo?” Capt. Dudley Smith asked the dying Sgt. Jack Vincennes. It’s a powerful and totally unexpected response, and one he never thought would eventually lead to his own demise. Even nearing death, Jack still manages to deliver quite a blow to Dudley.


Well, what do you think of my picks? Please share your own picks of great acting defined by one look.

A Fisti Recast-athon: The Devil Wears Prada, Gravity, and Michael Clayton

FistiRecastathon

Now THIS is a blogathon I can’t wait to take part! Andrew over at A Fistful of Films blog just had a brilliant idea for a recast-athon, similar to what I did here but this time with a slight twist. I’ll let him explain in his own words…

Here is my issue with Hollywood. It seems like these talented women (the men have it much easier) are either relegated to minority-necessary casting (like, we NEED a black actress in this movie because the character is a slave) or they get shoved onto television, where they flourish in short-lived TV shows that the average cinephile has probably never heard of.  It is very rare that a top rate director is going to use an actress of color in a role that doesn’t call for one. Obviously, there are a lot of biopic nominations going on all over the place, but taking those out…look at some of these roles and tell me if they couldn’t have been filled by an actress of color.

  • Nina Sayers (Black Swan)
  • Nic (The Kids are All Right)
  • Cindy (Blue Valentine)
  • Megan (Bridesmaids)
  • Tiffany (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Cheryl (The Sessions)
  • Dolores (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Jasmine (Blue Jasmine)
  • Ryan Stone (Gravity)
  • Ginger (Blue Jasmine)

So here are the RULES:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn’t require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don’t need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person).  This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time. So, in other words, don’t select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968’s Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn’t born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit.  Plead her case.  Let’s tell those Hollywood casting directors what they’re missing.


I LOVE this idea! I often think the same thing too that a lot of these roles could’ve easily been done by so many non-white actresses. I love that Drew focuses on actresses as non-white MALE actors certainly do get it easier than the female counterparts. It’s a shame really as there are SO many talented & beautiful actress of color out there who remain so underutilized. So here are three actresses who I think could’ve given an equally good performance in these Oscar-nominated roles:

FistiRecastathon_Angela

Angela Bassett as Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)

BassettMirandaPriestlyI have always been a big fan of miss Bassett. In fact, I have sort of a girl crush on her from Waiting To Exhale. She obviously epitomizes a strong, perceptive, no-nonsense woman but she has a certain vulnerability as well that make me think she’d be great as Miranda. Bassett is nine years younger than Meryl Streep, but I don’t think age is an issue here. In an era where Lucky Fashion Magazine’s editor in chief and Banana Republic’s creative director are of Taiwanese and Korean descent respectively, why not have a Black woman play a Fashion Mag editor in the movies?

I think Bassett would rock the role with her dramatic chops, and she also has a playful side and a rockin’ body that’d look phenomenal in high fashion. As Meryl portrays Miranda less as a sadistic monster of a boss but more of a fierce/demanding figure, I think Bassett can do the same given her naturally-likable persona.

Bonus: It’d be cool to see gorgeous British actress Naomie Harris in the role of Andy Sachs, the naive college grad who moved to NYC and lands a job as Miranda’s co-assistant.

NaomieHarrisAndySachs

I’ve been impressed by Naomie in 28 Days Later, Skyfall and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and I’d LOVE to see her in more prominent roles. She’s even more beautiful than Anne Hathaway but I think she could be made up to look more like the girl-next-door.

FistiRecastathon_Michelle

Michelle Yeoh as Ryan Stone (Gravity)

YeohRyanStoneWhen I first saw the trailer of Gravity, I was a bit surprised to see Sandra Bullock as Biomedical engineer Ryan Stone on her first space shuttle mission. She just wasn’t the actress I had in mind in the role, though she did a great job in the end and I think her Oscar nomination was well deserved. Now, I read that Natalie Portman was originally the first choice for the role, but heh, if only Hollywood would think outside the box once in a while. I think an actress who’d suit the role nicely is Michelle Yeoh. It’d somewhat coincide nicely the fact that in June 2012, Chinese space pilot Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space.

Yeoh is actually two years older than Bullock at 52, though both look at least 10 years younger than their age. I always think of the former Miss Malaysia is hugely underrated, despite having churned out great performances in Crouching Tiger, Sunshine, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies and recently, The Lady.

I think her martial-art training and dance background would help with the rigorous physicality required for the role. She also has the dramatic chops to pull off the quieter moments of desperation that Stone encounters when she was all alone in space. I really think Yeoh would’ve done a wonderful job in the role and the film would’ve had an ever bigger International appeal given her popularity in Asia.

FistiRecastathon_Viola

Viola Davis as Karen Crowder (Michael Clayton)

ViolaDavisKarenChowderI had put down miss Davis in this role before I saw her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them where she played a tough but compassionate NYU professor. But now I’m more convinced she’d have been awesome in the role. As she is now playing yet another sharp-witted character, a tough-talking, shrewd defense attorney/law professor in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, you know she would be perfect as the general counsel of an agricultural conglomerate.

I think Hollywood might be reluctant to cast an actor of color in such an unsympathetic role, but I think it’d be a challenging and fun role for someone of Davis’ talent. Chowder is ruthless and even callous, willing to take a life when her cause demands it. But she’s also suffering from a mental breakdown and tough she appears tough and in control in the outside, on the inside she is crippled with anxiety and fear. Though I LOVE Tilda Swinton’s Oscar-winning performance, I can totally see Davis pulling off such an inner conflict with aplomb. Davis’ adept use of subtle body language as well as her magnetic screen presence would also work wonder for such a role.


What do you think of my recast-athon picks? If you were to do your own recasting, who would YOU pick?

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.


3 out of 5 reels


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