The Flix List: List of Misfires from big-name stars/filmmakers that I enjoyed

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Many film fans get excited when a film with big named stars or director or both are attached to a project. We assume that the film will be great and studio executives thinks it will be a box office gold and/or Oscar contender during the awards season. Unfortunately, most films with an all-starred cast or famed directors tends to disappoint and forgotten once it hits theaters. Below are some of the misfire films that included big named stars and/or directors and I really enjoyed all of them. By no means that I think these are great films, I do think they’re above average that has potential to be great films.

1. The Counselor (2013)

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When this film was announced, it was met with excitement by many film fans (including yours truly) since it’s the first script written by famed author Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott quickly signed on to direct it. The news got even better when the all-star cast was announced. How can a film that stars Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem and a talented director like Ridley Scott fail? The studio thought this was going to be an Oscar contender, so they opened the film in the prime award season in the fall of 2013, but it was met with dismal reviews and failed at the box office.



So, what went wrong with this film? I think the script is the main problem here. McCarthy is a great novel writer but his screenplay for this film needed a lot of revisions. The dialogs were spoken like something from his novels and while it worked in the printed form, it needed some revisions to make it work as a screenplay. I’m quite surprised that Ridley Scott shot the film with this script. I don’t think it’s a bad movie but with a refined script, it could’ve been something special. I still enjoyed the heck out of this film though.

2. ALIEN 3 (1992)

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I was hesitant to include this one since David Fincher was still a young and upcoming director when he made this film. And because of this film’s failure, it almost destroys his career in Hollywood. But he bounced back a few years later with SE7EN and he’s been an A-list director ever since, so I think it’s fair to include it here. This film has a long development history, there were many versions of the scripts that were pitched, and a lot of directors were considered to take on the project.

Fox scheduled the film to open in the summer of 1992 and put a pressure on the film’s producers to get the film made or risk it being cancelled. The producers needed someone to come in and just make the approved script comes to life and decided to hire a young no-name director. Fincher at the time has been directing popular music videos for famous singers such as Madonna and George Michael. You can read more about behind the scenes making of this film here. While this film didn’t come close to the first two films, it’s still a visual feast that would’ve been great had Fincher was able to make it the way he envisioned it.

3. Meet Joe Black (1998)

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Brad Pitt became a super star in the 1990s thanks to hits like Se7en, The Legends of the Falls, Interview with the Vampire and 12 Monkeys. Hoping to cash in on his minted super star status, Universal Studios decided to cast him in a big budget romantic drama (reportedly this film cost around $90mil), alongside another big star at the time, Anthony Hopkins. The studio even believed it’s going to be an Oscar contender by opening it in the prime awards month of November. It was directed by Martin Brest, whose previous films including Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman were box office hits and well received by critics.

Unfortunately, the film was met with terrible reviews, and it became one of the biggest bombs of that year. I took my then girlfriend to see it since she’s a big Brad Pitt fan, she fell asleep halfway through, but I totally dug the film. I still think it’s one of the best romantic dramas that I’ve ever seen. I do think that it’s way too long and the ending was kind of weak. But I enjoyed the performances by the actors, the score by Thomas Newman and the beautiful production design.

4. The Bonfire of Vanities (1990)

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Based on a popular book and starring 3 of the biggest movie stars at the time and a hot director behind the cameras. This film was supposed to be slam dunk hit for the studio. Tom Hanks was on a roll with hits like Big and Turner & Hooch. Bruce Willis just came off of the Die Hard hits and Melanie Griffith struck gold with Working Girl. I was too young to remember much about this film when it came out, but I do remember seeing tons and tons of commercials promoting it. Warner Bros. thought that it was going to be a box office gold and Oscar contender by opening it on Christmas week. Just like every other film on this list, it was met with terrible reviews and became one of the biggest box bombs of the 90s.

Because of its reputation, I didn’t see this film until I was in college and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

The film has some issues of course, mainly Willis. He’s total miscast here, and you can tell he’s way out of his elements in that role. Hanks and Griffith on the hand, I thought they were great in their respective roles. Hanks and Willis were able to recover their career after this film’s failure. Even director Brian De Palma bounced back a few years later with Mission: Impossible. The only career casualty here is Melanie Griffith. While she headlined a lot of films in the 90s, she never regains her box office star status after this film.

5. The Last Action Hero (1993)

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Arnold Schwarzenegger was on top of the world in the late 80s and early 90s. With four box office hits in a row, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop and T2: Judgement Day, everyone predicted that his next film will be a massive hit. It was announced that his next big film will be called Last Action Hero and John McTiernan, director of Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, has signed on to direct the picture. Since T2 was still in everyone’s mind, many of us were excited for this film and with McTiernan behind the cameras, what could go wrong right?

Well sadly, a lot of things went wrong with this film.

It was advertised as a straight up action/adventure but when people saw it, the film turned out to be an action/comedy. Worst was that McTiernan just don’t have the chops to do comedy. The action scenes were great but when it comes comedic tone, everything fell flat. I still enjoyed the film, but I was let down when I saw in theater. Apparently, the screenplay was written for Steven Spielberg, and he was interested in directing it. But then he read a script for another film that came out in same summer of 1993, Jurassic Park and took that job instead. Maybe the film would’ve worked better with Spielberg at the helms. Sadly, we will never know. Along with Waterworld, this film became one of the biggest box office disasters of the 1990s.

6. The Devil’s Own (1997)

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Brad Pitt has starred in a lot of misfires in his career, and I have three of them on my list here. This project started out as a mid-size budget production, but its budget ballooned up to over $100mil by the time the production wrapped. According to many reports, Pitt loved the script so much that he personally pitched it to the studio, and they agreed to put it into production. Then Harrison Ford got a hold of the script and wants to be in it. Apparently, his role in the script was a secondary character but the studio demanded a rewrite so Ford can be the lead. Of course, this made Brad Pitt very angry, he assumes he’s going to be the only big star in the film. 

Around this time, Ford was still a major box office draw, and his star power outshines the younger Pitt. Pitt apparently was so pissed that he wanted to leave the film during the shoot but was threatened with a lawsuit by the studio, so he stayed.

Originally the film was supposed to open in the awards season of 1996 but got push to spring of 1997. Once it finally opened, it was dead on arrival. The bad press surrounding the production of the film were all over the internet and the film itself wasn’t that great. The main problem with the film is that it couldn’t decide if it’s supposed to be drama or action and they tried to have it both ways. I still think it’s a decent thriller and I’ve enjoyed it even more when I watched it again in later years.

7. The Midnight Sky (2020)

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The most recent film on the list and my personal disappointment of last year. I reviewed the film back in the winter, you can read here. Based on an excellent novel called Good Morning, Midnight. When the film version was announced, I was very excited, although I was skeptical when George Clooney was going to direct it along with being the lead. But he did direct some good movies in the past so I thought it could work. Even Netflix put a lot of trust in Clooney but giving him over $100mil to make the film and scheduled it to come out during the awards season last year.

Unfortunately, they miss an opportunity on making a great space adventure with this one. I’ve said many times, a more well-seasoned and talented director should’ve been hired to helm this picture. There are enough ingredients for this one to be a special picture, but Clooney just couldn’t deliver.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


Those are some of the misfires that I enjoyed; do you have any other films that you would add to this list? 

FlixChatter Review: The Father (2021)

I first heard of The Father (Le Père) when I saw the stage play a few years ago. The play was written by French playwright Florian Zeller and adapted by Christopher Hampton. Zeller teamed up with Hampton once again who wrote the screenplay for the film, and this film became his feature directorial debut. In the play, the Father character is actually called André, but he renamed him Anthony as he wanted Anthony Hopkins specifically for the part. Well, I’m glad Hopkins didn’t turn down the role as he truly was astounding in the role as a headstrong man who’s losing his grip on reality due to dementia.

The film started in a similar fashion as the play, with Anthony complaining to his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) that his watch has been stolen by his caregiver. Despite his daughter’s insistence that he’s only just misplaced it in the cupboard, Anthony refuses to believe her. There’s something wildly amusing in their banters, as Anthony is often quick with a joke even when he’s on edge. Anne meanwhile, is clearly concerned of her father’s deteriorating mind… it’s as if the more severe her dad’s cognitive decline, the more defiant he becomes in refusing her aid.

Zeller’s storytelling style really puts us, the audience, in Anthony’s mind… as soon we too, question the reality of what we’re watching. The actor switcheroo is one of the device used to make us question everything. In one scene we see Olivia Colman as Anne, then in another it’s Olivia Williams (the fact that the two actresses are named Olivia are inspired, perhaps even deliberate casting!) Same with Mark Gatiss and Rufus Sewell… uttering the same familiar dialog in their conversations while Anthony is convinced ‘there’s something funny going on’ that he keeps seeing strangers in his own home.

The scenes mostly take place in a London flat where Anthony now resides in, but the furnitures are in different places in one scene to the next. I started questioning myself as I’m watching this… Just where does Anthony live exactly? Is this posh London flat Antony’s or Anne’s home? Then there’s the thing about about Anne’s current situation… one moment she tells her father that she’s moving to Paris to start life with a new man, to which Anthony reply “Paris? They don’t even speak English there.” But the next moment Anne is baffled why Anthony would even think she’s moving to Paris as she’s intent in staying in London.

I haven’t felt so discombobulated and frustrated while watching a movie, unable to decipher between what’s real and what’s surreal, which is an effective way to immerse ourselves into a story about memory loss. I remember I felt the same way when I was watching the stage play, but I think the film enhanced that trippy feeling to even more devastating effect. Despite the morose subject matter though, this is not an entirely gloomy affair. It helps that cinematographer Ben Smithard allows a lot of light in to keep the mood less downcast.

Hopkins is absolutely perfect in the role, perhaps the most mesmerizing and moving performances I’ve seen him in. He embraces the inherent vulnerability of the role while imbuing it with a sense of wit and whimsy that makes Anthony such a fascinating character. Zeller allows some personal things of Hopkins to be a part of the film, such as using the Welsh actor’s own favorite classical music we see him enjoy in the kitchen and uttering his own birthdate as Anthony’s. Perhaps it makes the role more personal to him, as Hopkins certainly embodied him so beautifully. It’s such a contrast to his most famous role in The Silence of the Lamb… with the only similarity being he stars opposite a very strong female performer, which brings me to Olivia Colman.

I’ve always been a longtime fan of the English actress who seems really kind and good-natured in person. This compassionate, empathetic character seems to be made for her as Anne’s patience with her ailing father seems limitless. Even when her dad is often crass and unfeeling towards her by constantly bringing up his favorite daughter Lucy. Anne’s mental anguish is palpable and that brutal honesty is so moving. It’s a deeply emotional and nuanced performance that feels true without resorting to over-sentimentality.

Imogen Poots is splendid as Laura, the new caregiver Anne hired that Anthony took an immediate liking to. There are some funny bits where he told Laura he was a tap dancer… these moments of levity are definitely a welcome respite to an otherwise relentless mind-bending drama. Gattis, Sewell and Williams all have some memorable moments in their brief appearance. There’s a scene between Hopkins and Sewell that’s hard to watch, even though I’ve already seen it in the play. Of course we don’t even know if that scene actually happened or just Anthony’s mind playing tricks again.

I commend production designer Peter Francis for utilizing the flat itself as a storytelling tool with altering furniture arrangements to disorient the character. Despite being set in mostly a single location, the film didn’t feel claustrophobic. I think it helps that the characters sometimes step out of the flat, even a brief moment outside helps break the mundaneness. As a fan of classical music, I love the score as well, which works perfectly for the film. What a year for Ludovico Einaudi who’s also the composer for Nomadland.

Dementia is a heartbreaking disease that turns loved ones into strangers and this is one of those films that explore its effect in a beautifully-effective way. I actually don’t have any experience with dementia in my own family, at least not directly, still I couldn’t help tearing up watching this, especially towards the end. I can only imagine how tough it is for those who have family members dealing with memory loss, this might hit too close to home for them.

The Father is an astounding film that shows us what it means to be human and the harsh reality of aging. It definitely made me think about my own relationships with the people in my life, and not take my mental health for granted. Zeller has created a haunting portrayal of dementia that is truly, for lack of a better word, unforgettable.


Have you seen THE FATHER? Well, what did you think?

#BingeWatch: WESTWORLD season 2 – An Appreciation

One of the positive things about being quarantined is you’ve got the luxury of time to catch up on some of my favorite shows. I LOVED the first season of WESTWORLD when it premiered in 2018. My hubby and I finally finished season 2 Thursday night and of course I’m still thinking about it. I’m surprised I didn’t have nightmares of Halores, ahah. If you’ve seen season 2 you know what that means!

It’s truly one of the most bizarre, inventive, meta, enthralling, and addictive shows I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. It’s perhaps the trippiest show, which is made all the more discombobulating given the non-linear timeline. In fact, one of the most fun things after binging shows like Westworld is consuming ALL of the articles, theories, explanations, etc. because truly, this is the kind of shows you want to pick apart and discuss endlessly with fellow fans.

Thanks to this Insider article, I can make some sense of the timeline of the show, I said some because everything is still trippy AF and you never really know which part is real. I also love how the show keeps us guessing who’s actually human and who’s a host, aka robot.

If you haven’t caught up with season 2 yet, here’s the trailer to wet your appetite… it took me waaay too long to finally catch up with it, but it’s so well worth the wait!!

There are SO many things to appreciate about this show… so consider this an appreciation post.

The Score & Opening Credits

I absolutely love is Ramin Djawadi‘s haunting score and this stunning opening credits! TV shows have really upped their game in creating truly beautiful and memorable opening credits, but I consider Westworld’s music and graphics one of the most innovative. It truly fits the tone and eerie, mystical vibe of the show itself.

 

Genre-crossing brilliance

We’ve seen countless human vs robots movies/shows but I think Westworld still sets itself apart because it can bridge multiple different genres – this season it shows there are other parts of the theme park explored, there’s the Raj as in the British Raj period in the Indian subcontinent, Ghost Nation with the Native American tribe and Shogünworld that’s modeled after Japan’s feudal Edo period.

I was just in Disney World in early March (yup, right before there was any COVID-19 cases reported in Florida!) and it’s eerie to imagine if a theme park like this exist… man, even just thinking about it gives me the chills!

The Production Values

This show has got to be a dream not just for the cast to work with, but the crew! The ultimate sci-fi western mixing gunslinging & futuristic, lifelike androids. In every episode I’m constantly in awe of the production design that sometimes it’s distracting! I love the juxtaposition between the desert landscape of the Old West and the super high-tech, space-age technologies with its cutting edge gadgetry, weaponry… and of course the ‘host’ aka robot-building mechanisms. After all, most of the technologies and concepts explored in the series are not only totally plausible in the near future (check out this Venturebeat article), some like 3D printing, intelligent machines, etc. are already here.

I love the BTS featurettes on how the filmmakers built the stunning world of Westworld, and these two on the sets and how they created those creepy-looking drone hosts (which are actually costumes that actors wear)… fascinating stuff!

Thought-provoking concept

The show-runners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have really upped the ante and took this show to a whole different level from the 1973 movie version, directed by its own writer Michael Crichton. I haven’t seen the movie but I can’t imagine I’d enjoy it after seeing this phenomenal series. But the idea of a futuristic theme park where visitors can live out their wildest fantasies without any consequences is inherently intriguing… of course we all know everything comes with a price, and not all of it is monetary.

The running theme of ‘what is real’ and of course, ‘what it means to be human’ is at the core of every good science fiction… and that’s why I love this conversation between Dolores and Bernard, further blurring the lines between fantasy & reality, constantly flipping the roles between the creator and the creation… these scenarios that could potentially make one question one’s own existence!

What separates humans from robots is our mortality. Most of humans vs droids stories usually focus on the bots wanting to be like humans, to break free from the codes and human control as they’re often created to serve us. But what if there’s a twist? The series explores a grandiose concept that perhaps it’s the humans who want to be like the bots, to be able to live forever.

The Riddle of the Sphinx is an especially eerie one with plenty of philosophical speeches to ponder. Immortality is an often-told concept and seemingly a constant humans’ obsession with trying to cure death. I guess this is a ‘disease’ for the wealthy… I mean, no matter how much money one has, they still only have the same normal life span like the rest of us. Of course that doesn’t stop many companies in reversing the course of aging and offering us ways to ‘cheat death.’ We certainly don’t need any tv show, no matter how brilliant, to tell us it’s futile and playing God has dire consequences.

Great actor Peter Mullan as James Delos

Humans aren’t meant to live forever, let’s drink to that, shall we?

Speaking of living forever… reading this Vulture article where a futurist discuss the plausibility of AI developing consciousness in our world today is pretty eerie. Now, since we are all now living under a global pandemic and self-quarantining to save our lives, I thought about if something like Coronavirus were to happen in Westworld and spreading throughout the vast areas of the park… well, wouldn’t it be the end of humanity as we know it? I mean, as humans would start dropping like flies, the bots would live on as they’re obviously immune to organic viruses. It would be catastrophic not just for the park, but the world beyond.

Westworld Season 2 MVPs

I might do a separate blog just to talk about the cast. Man it’s really tough to pick just one as this show thrives on a talented, eclectic ensemble of phenomenal actors! It’d be too easy to pick

Ok for the sake of an argument, I’ll go with these two.

Thandie Newton – Maeve

It’s always clear from season one that Maeve Millay, a brothel madam in the local Mariposa Saloon, is much more than meets the eye. I knew she’s a special host, but just how special is she? Well, season 2 explores that brilliantly, boasting Thandie’s best performance yet. The kind of host never to trifle with and in the Akane No Mai episode in Shogünworld she proves just how mighty Maeve can be. I’m not going into details for spoiler sake, but when it happened I literally gasped! There’s also a scene where she finally get to humiliate one of her creators for constantly degrading her fellow robots, it’s one of the show’s funniest moments. Let’s just say he finally got his comeuppance.

Zahn McClarnon – Akecheta

While some sites have said the Kiksuya (which means “remember” in Lakota) is the best episode of season 2. That might be debatable, but I’d think it’s the most emotional one, which is quite a feat considering the episode consist almost entirely of expository flashback. Zahn McClarnon delivers an absolutely moving performance as Akecheta, delivering a monologue to a young child (in Lakota language no less), telling his story of his lost love and how he came to figure out just what kind of world he’s been living in. That whole bit of ‘take my heart when you go’ could’ve come out so mawkish and schmaltzy, but his performance holds it together and really made you care. It seems the show, just like the park’s creator Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), is pro-host, and when you have character like Akecheta, it’s easy to see why.


Season 3 – beyond the park

Season 3 has started on HBO, and boy the trailer looks freaking amazing!! I’ve been waiting to see just what would happen if the hosts goes into the real, human world that they’ve been forbidden to enter. I’m salivating but I’d rather wait until all episodes are available as I prefer to binge on shows, I mean I find it torturous to have to wait a whole week to see what’s next!

Right now, I’m actually still reading all kinds of stuff about season 2! So if you have some great articles about it (NO SPOILERS for season 3 please!), please do share!

Have you seen WESTWORLD season 2? Let me know your thoughts!

Christmas Weekend Recap: Scrooged + binging on Westworld

Happy last Tuesday of the year folks! Hope you had a lovely Christmas break. Mine is relatively mellow on Christmas day, though we did go up North to Duluth Friday and spent the night there to see the Bentleyville Tour of Lights (I’ve shared the pics here).

We came back in time for Christmas Eve church service, which was wonderful. For the next couple of days, we pretty much hibernated indoors as the weather is quite frightful outside. But hey, it gave us a chance to finally watch a Christmas classic we’ve missed all these years…

SCROOGED

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Thanks to Courtney’s post on her favorite things about Scrooged, I thought it’s about time I checked it out. My hubby and I loved Bill Murray and the movie is directed by Richard Donner, who I’ll love forever for giving us Superman: The Movie. Well, the updated Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas staple and it’s easy to see why. Murray is perfect as a selfish, heartless TV exec, he’s just effortlessly funny and the slapstick stuff was hysterical. Nice to see Karen Allen here too though she’s barely given anything to do. The movie itself isn’t exactly perfect but still it was a lot of fun and has that rousing ending with great music. Glad I finally saw this movie, a Christmas must-see movie I can now cross off my list.

WESTWORLD

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If you were to ask me to sum up what I did on Christmas weekend… it’d be bingeing on Westworld! My hubby and I couldn’t wait to finally have time to devote to this series, and I much prefer to binge on tv shows these days, and having a free subscription to HBO on the first month certainly helps! It took us two days to get through halfway of the first season, with just five more episodes to go.

Well, first impression is… we LOVE it!! It’s definitely the kind of sci-fi shows we like… bold, visually-stunning, thought-provoking, well-written and well-acted… it pretty much ticks all the boxes of what a binge-worthy show should be. It reminds us a bit of another sci-fi we used to binge-watch, Battlestar Galactica, an ensemble-cast series which also deals with the interactions of humans and robots but I think Westworld is even bolder and sharper in scope. I love that the show is not melodramatic or bogged down by unnecessary romantic plots, but man does it give you a ton of stuff to think about. It’s what people call a mindf*ck in the best possible way! The cast are simply astounding and most of them bring their A-game to the series. If I had to list my four favorite characters, it’d have to be these:


Anthony Hopkins effortlessly adds gravitas as the park creator, whilst Ed Harris is wonderfully menacing and cool as hell as Man in Black. He’s such a terrific actor, and he adds SO much to his role. I can see why Margaret goes ga ga over him now 😉 I haven’t seen Evan Rachel Wood in hardly anything, but she’s no doubt the heart of the show and her acting is phenomenal!! I sure hope this show will give a boost to her career as she’s clearly very talented. As for Thandie Newton, this is perhaps the strongest performance I’ve seen her in, though she was memorable in Crash and Rocknrolla.


I’m also impressed with James Marsden who I think is an underrated actor who people might not take seriously because of his good looks. Well he’s still a sight to behold here as the cowboy Teddy, but at least he gets to show his acting chops too. I’m most intrigued by Jeffrey Wright‘s Bernard, as he seems to have a hidden agenda that’s been hinted out since episode 1. But please guys, NO SPOILERS in the comment as I’ve only got to episode 5. My hubby and I couldn’t help watching fan theories on youtube after each episode, there’s really SO MUCH to ponder and analyze, that’s why we’re limiting ourselves to a couple of episodes a day even though we can’t get enough!

The Nolans sure have the brains for storytelling. Jonathan Nolan‘s written a ton of my fave films with his brother Christopher (esp. The Dark Knight). Here he teamed up with his wife Lisa Joy who’s a talented TV writer in her own right. Executive producer JJ Abrams sure has a midas touch too, is there anything that guy can’t do?? I might also check out Michael Crichton‘s 1973 film Westworld in which the series’s concept is based on. I had no idea Crichton was also a film director on top of being a best-selling author.

Well, I’ll do another summary post again once I’m done w/ the season. So far I think Westworld does live up to the hype!


So what did you watch this Christmas weekend? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Westworld too!

Everybody’s Chattin + TV News Update: HBO’s Westworld & George RR Martin’s Wild Cards

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Happy Wednesday everyone! Are y’all watching the Olympics? I missed the opening ceremony so I only caught up w/ some clips on Flipboard. I did watch the Men’s 100m backstroke as Minnesotan David Plummer, a swim coach who’s perhaps one of the oldest at 30, won Bronze.  Woo hoo!

Well I’m super excited to see Anthropoid tomorrow. I’ve posted the trailer here and yesterday I read this awesome NY Mag article that the film shows how women helped defeat the Nazis.

Ok how about those links!

A couple of Suicide Squad-related posts: Margaret lamented on the lack of Jared Leto’s Joker’s scenes, among others, whilst Jordan actually had some praises for the movie.

Jia posted a Blindspot review on one of my favorite modern noir thrillers, L.A. Confidential

Jay reviewed a movie I missed at the theaters, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I can’t wait to rent as soon as it’s available.

I hadn’t reviewed Spielberg’s The BFG yet, but it seems Mark liked the movie more than I did, whilst Zöe pretty much agreed with me in regards to Jason Bourne.

I enjoy reading ranking lists! Keith just ranked the Marvel movies from worst to first ( I LOVE his #1 pick!)

This is a movie which trailer intrigued me… Dan reviewed Indignation

Last but not least, Cindy shared some great book recommendations.


Ok, we’ve still got a couple of months to wait yet for this upcoming series, but man, everything about this upcoming series looks really good!

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A series inspired by the 1973 film of the same title written by Michael Crichton about a futuristic theme park populated by artificial beings.

Now, I’ve never seen the original series with Yul Brynner, but the idea of a western sci-fi instantly intrigues me. Ok now it doesn’t always work, as in the case of Cowboys & Aliens, but we’ve got quite a pedigree in terms of its creator.

I love that it’s a husband/wife team behind this series remake: Jonathan Nolan and fellow screenwriter Lisa Joy Nolan. Oh, and JJ Abrams also serves as executive producer along with the Nolans. Check out the trailer:

Here’s just a sampling of the impressive ensemble cast:

  • Anthony Hopkins
  • Ed Harris
  • Evan Rachel Wood
  • James Marsden
  • Thandie Newton
  • Jeffrey Wright
  • Tessa Thompson
  • Shannon Woodward
  • Ben Barnes

The 10-episode season 1 will premiere on HBO on Sunday, October 2 at 9 p.m. I can hardly wait!
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As Game of Thrones‘ fans are waiting for season 7 with bated breath, its author George R.R. Martin has long set his sights elsewhere. He just may have another sprawling fantasy world on television, according to Variety.

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Universal Cable (same studio behind Mr. Robot that I’m currently watching) has purchased the rights for Martin’s work. The first volume in the book series was published in 1986, with 22 volumes released to date.

Here’s the premise:

“…the shared world of the Wild Cards diverged from our own on September 15, 1946 when an alien virus was released in the skies over Manhattan, and spread across an unsuspecting Earth. Of those infected, 90% died horribly, drawing the black queen, 9% were twisted and deformed into jokers, while a lucky 1% became blessed with extraordinary and unpredictable powers and became aces. The world was never the same.”

I quite like the sound of this, so I’ll keep an eye on this project. Surely plenty of actors are salivating to be cast in this.

 


What are your thoughts about these TV projects?

FlixChatter Review – THOR : The Dark World

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Marvel Studios continues its box office winning streak with an $86 mil US domestic earnings, up about $20 mil from the previous film. It’s made nearly a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide already as it’s opened internationally a week ago. The filmmakers are well aware that most moviegoers are already familiar w/ the character, especially given the behemoth box office success of The Avengers last year. So there’s no character development needed here, and the story picks up where it left off with Loki now going to the dungeon as punishment for being a naughty boy.

So Asgaard and the rest of the planetary universe are now safe right, since the Bifröst‎s (Loki’s kind) have been defeated? Well not quite. Once again we’ve got another megalomaniac creature called Malekith from the Dark Elves race who’s hellbent on taking over the universe. The ‘dark world’ in the title refers to the state of a universe when a weapon known as the Aether is released upon them. But Odin’s father was able to stop Malekith and hid the weapon for thousands of years. That is, until somehow, it got discovered when Jane Foster and her buddies were looking for, who else, his Norse god boyfriend of course.

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Despite the title, there’s nothing dark about this film, in fact, there are never any sense of real danger with any of the characters. Even when Thor is fighting a giant beast three times his size, his loyal Mjölnir always saves the day for him. Chris Hemsworth is much more confident in the title role this time around, and a whole lot more likable as well. There’s still friction between him and his dad Odin (Anthony Hopkins), but obviously it’s a natural father/son relationship. When Heimdal (Idris Elba), Asgaard’s loyal guard who can see into all of the realms, tells him he couldn’t locate Jane (Natalie Portman), Thor visits earth once again. It’s nice to see that Jane is not merely an accessory of Thor, but her character is actually pretty crucial to the plot. But it’s not the reunion between Thor and Jane that I was looking forward to, but it’s Thor and his brother, Loki.

I felt like the time leading up to that is a bit too slow for my liking, but it was well worth the wait! Seems that every time he’s on screen, my interest level just goes up a notch because he’s just so much fun to watch. Though he’s not the main villain here, Loki still gets the best lines, delivered with aplomb by the fantabulous Tom Hiddleston. I think there’s more screen time of Loki, but really, the film could still use more of his presence. The lord of mischief makes the most of his power of illusion, and it makes for some truly hysterical moments both in Asgard and beyond. There’s even a Marvel cameo, I wouldn’t say who it is, that practically brought the house down as the whole theater erupted in laughter.

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The women in Thor’s world are given more to do in this film as well, which is a plus in my book. I’ve mentioned about Jane, but Thor’s mom Frigga (Rene Russo) is also given more screen time here. Clearly Thor gets his bad-ass warrior trait from both parents! Kat Dennings is still a delight as Jane’s research assistant, adding even more comic relief with her irreverent commentaries. But believe it or not, Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Erik Selvig is actually the goofiest of the ‘Thor comedic troupe’ with his shenanigans and a penchant for stripping in public! Nice to see Idris Elba got a chance to get in on the action a bit more as Heimdal as well, and Zachary Levi apparently replaced Josh Dallas as one of Thor’s buddies, it took me a while to recognize him with blonde hair!

I knew going in that the sense of fun that we’ve come to know and love from The Avengers is going to be carried over in this film, but I didn’t expect it to be a full-on comedy. There are even more laugh out loud moments throughout, and the final battle is just hilarious. The self-referential humor is palpable as a guy witnessing the battle from a library in London quips, ‘Look, it’s Thor fighting down there, with his hammer and everything!’ Some of the subtler comedic moments are a lot of fun as well, my personal favorite is when Thor hangs his mighty hammer on a coat hook when he enters Jane’s apartment!

Whilst the film is robustly entertaining, save for the first twenty minutes or so, there are some flaws that makes this the lesser of the two Thor films. For one, Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith is a pretty lame and wholly uninteresting villain. It’s not the actor’s fault though, it’s just the character isn’t really given anything worthy to be remembered. He barely even speaks and when he does, he uses some ho-hum Elven language. I also miss Patrick Doyle’s awesome score. No offense to Brian Tyler, who’s a good composer, but Doyle’s gorgeous and rousing theme is so memorable and adds so much to the enjoyment of the movie for me. Overall I also prefer Branagh’s direction to Alan Taylor’s, as the pacing is a bit off and tonally uneven. The visuals and production design are just as superb however, Asgard feels a bit more organic here whilst the first film it looks so majestic and pristine. At times it reminds me of Star Wars though, especially the flying sequence on the Harrow as they’re escaping Asgard. The universe reminds me so much of Naboo, and the moment of Thor and Jane being lovey dovey together also makes me think of Princess Amidala with his Jedi lover, ahah.

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Kudos to Marvel for creating a universe that spans multiple films, somehow it relates to one another whilst still maintaining a unique identity, tone and look & feel. Iron Man has a hi-tech, futuristic actioner,  Captain America is more of a political thriller, whilst Thor has that medieval fantasy feel to it akin to Games of Thrones. Yet everything ties together as one Marvel macrocosm. Just like in Iron Man 3, the Avengers’ battle in New Yorkis never far from the writers’ mind, not that we’d be inclined to forget it anyway. As Loki won’t be on the sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron, I’m very curious if there might be a Loki film down the line. Certainly there are enough fans of Hiddleston and his nothing-short-of-iconic performance as Loki that’d warrant his own film. [Spoiler alert: Seems that the ending of this film suggests that this isn’t the last time we’d see Loki ;)]

I saw this film in 2D which is perfectly adequate. When it’s all said and done, Thor: The Dark World is lacking the depth to be a great film. I mean, it’s decent entry into Marvel’s cannon that’s fun and entertaining, but the hilarious bits are probably going to be more memorable than the film itself as a whole.


Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


So what did you think of THOR 2? Did you like it more or less than I did?

Weekend Viewing Roundup, Quick Thoughts on Comic-Con, & RED 2 review

Hello everyone! Hope you had an awesome weekend. If you happen to be at Comic-con the past few days, then I’m sure you had a blast (and you know I’m so green with envy!!) It made me feel a bit nostalgic seeing all those SDCC pics, maybe one day I’ll make it there again. Now, I haven’t read all the highlights from the big event but if I were at Hall H on Saturday, these two would’ve surely been the most scream-worthy panels!!

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Click for a larger version

Just LOOK at this X-Men: Days of Future Past cast… I mean seriously!!! It’s incredible how good Hugh Jackman still looks after his breakthrough role as Wolverine thirteen years ago. Can’t wait for this movie already!

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Thor who? Loki ruled Hall H!

I LOVE Tom Hiddleston‘s theatrical style and boy, this would’ve been the closest thing a lot of the Comic-con goers to seeing him ‘on stage.’ He certainly brought the house down with his performance! You can watch a video of it here.

Well, my weekend was ok (well considering I wasn’t at Comic-con), but hey, I got to see TREMORS, thanks to Cinekatz‘ Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap in which I was “gifted” the monster flick from 1990 (review coming soon). I also rewatched Pacific Rim at IMAX Saturday night, which looks absolutely glorious in the giant screen. So that’s TWO monster movies in one weekend, which is a record for me 😀

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TREMORS
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PACIFIC RIM

I also got to re-watch one of my favorite superhero movies of all time. Well, even with a slew of comic-book movies since, I still rate this very high on my list. Batman Begins is one of the movies I’d bring if I were stranded in a desert island and I’d definitely pick it again in a heartbeat!

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BATMAN BEGINS

Now, here’s my new release review from the screening a few days ago:

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Though I enjoyed the first movie, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the sequel. The only main draw for me is the cast and really, that’s the main highlight of this movie and the filmmakers knew that. You don’t go into these kinds of movies looking for an engaging story or character study, but you know what, they didn’t pretend to be a bombastic, over-the-top action flick so I still end up enjoying this quite a bit.

There’s really no point talking about the plot here, as the story is set up in such a way where it actually suits the actors playing these cartoonish characters. It’s as if the filmmakers had a checklist of what they want these actors to do in the movie and so the plot is written around that, if that makes sense. Seems like the actors are hired to do what they do best, some of them even did a parody to their famous characters they’ve done in the past (you’ll know it when you see it). The Retired-Extremely-Dangerous gang is once again on the run, being chased left and right as they attempt to solve the puzzle of finding a portable nuclear device.

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It’s too bad Karl Urban isn’t back to reprise his role as he was one of the highlights for me in the first movie. Also, instead of Morgan Freeman, we’ve got another seasoned actor (both happen to be 76 years old!) Anthony Hopkins. Nice to see him doing a comedic role though he’s not as fun to watch as Freeman.

Bruce Willis is back as Frank, which is basically a variation of John McClane (seems like Bruce is done with playing any other characters these days). Mary Louis Parker gets more screen time this time as his love interest Sarah, which is fine by me and she, along with John Malkovich‘s Marvin are the real comic relief in this movie. Their scenes together, especially the car chase all over Paris in a white Citroën, are preposterous fun. I guess you could describe the movie in that way as well. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this movie as much if it weren’t for the actors. I love watching Dame Helen Mirren reprising her bad ass role of Victoria and her car case with Byung-hun Lee is hysterical! It’s right up there with all the outrageous action in those Fast & Furious movies.

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I think the weakest link for me is Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian femme-fatale who used to be Frank’s lover. Her character is so darn boring and her romance with Willis’ character just falls flat. “Katja’s Frank’s ‘kryptonite,” Marvin explained to Sarah, which then drives her to do all kinds of jealous-driven shenanigans to one-up Katja. I do like charismatic Korean actor Byung-hun Lee here (not a bad replacement for Mr. Urban) who has a personal vendetta with Frank. He’s clearly hired for his awesome fighting skills and he totally delivered on that front.

Final Thoughts: The A-list cast seems to have a great time making this and it shows. Whilst it still brings the laughs and I was entertained for the most part, I do think the writing is so lazy and derivative. I hope they’re done with this movie, I mean how many franchises does Bruce Willis need?! I’m being generous here with my rating, because Mirren, Parker and Malkovich made me laugh so hard in this movie! Oh, there’s also Brian Cox in a small but memorable role, so yeah, there are TWO British thespians who’ve played Hannibal Lecter on screen!

3 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend?