Five for the Fifth: MAY 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2015_Spring

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. Since tonight I will be attending a Christopher Nolan‘s Conversation with Scott Foundas, chief film critic for Variety, I thought I’d dedicate my first question in Nolan’s honor.

WalkerArt_NolanLecture

Nolan is actually the first filmmaker whose complete works I have seen, though not in order as I’ve just caught up with his first film The Following (1998) a few years ago. I made a birthday tribute to him in 2012 by ranking his movies. Even though I wasn’t wowed by Interstellar, a so-so Chris Nolan film is still a darn good one. Foundas posted an article on Walker Art website on Nolan, calling him A Practical Magician of Modern Movies, which I think is an apt description.

So if you can ask one question to Nolan, what would it be? 

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2. I always like to include some kind of FIRST LOOK in FFTF, and this one just arrived yesterday courtesy of EW. It’s Martin Scorsese‘s upcoming drama SILENCE starring Andrew Garfield. It also stars Liam Neeson and Adam Driver due out in 2016.

AndrewGarfield_Silence

Based on Shusako Endo’s 1966 novel, ‘Silence’ tells the story of a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who is persecuted along with other Christians in 17th-century Japan. Garfield portrays Father Rodrigues, pictured in an exclusive image with Shinya Tsukamoto, who plays a villager named Mokichi.

Per EW, Scorsese told reporters in a press conference in Taiwan that he’d been trying to find a way to adapt this novel since he first read it more than 25 years ago, and that its themes resonated with him deeply. “The subject matter presented by Shusaku Endo was in my life since I was very, very young, … I was very much involved in religion, I was raised in a strong Catholic family. … Further reflection is how [we] want to lead our life in the Christian faith … so ultimately this book drew my attention when it was given to me in 1988.”

The spiritual element certainly piqued my interest. Sounds  like a meaty role for Garfield and I’m happy for him. I saw him in this British indie Boy A prior to his stint as Spiderman and he’s certainly a capable actor.

What’s your initial thoughts of Silence?

3. Now, since today is Cinco De Mayo, I usually highlight Mexican filmmakers and/or actors but this time around why not talk about Mexican cinema in general. I actually haven’t seen any film about the Battle of Puebla, which is what the Fifth of May commemorates. There’s one called Cinco de May: La Batalla that’s just released in 2013. This still below is from that film, has anyone seen it?

CincoDeMayoMovieLately Mexican filmmakers have dominated the award seasons, culminating with two Mexican directors and winning Best Picture Oscars back to back (Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity and Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman). But there are many others that have made a name in Hollywood and not just limited to directors, Emmanuel Lubezki is no doubt the hottest cinematographer working today.

So in celebration of Mexican cinema, what’s your favorite Mexican film?

4. I’ve been watching a ton of foreign films lately, thanks to MSPIFF AND my new crush Stanley Weber who’s so far have been mostly in French films (Violette, Thérèse Desqueyroux).

One of my top 3 picks from MSPIFF is definitely Girlhood (Bande de Files), a French coming-of-age drama that really spoke to me and featured one of my favorite scenes ever. I LOVE Karidja Touré‘s performance in that film, and it made me think how I wish more people would discover her. She’s still only 21 years old and based on this article, she is bilingual which helps… “Better practise my English so I can be a star in the States.” I’d love to see her get noticed the way Lupita Nyong’O practically took Hollywood by storm.

KaridjaToure_GirlhoodAs for Stanley Weber, well he’s been my obsession in the past month or so. I’m not gonna lie, of course I was initially transfixed by his ridiculous good looks. He’s like a taller, sexier, more virile version of Chris Pine, with a hint of Richard Madden. But looks alone won’t get me all worked up about. Actors I love have to have the chops AND screen presence and Stanley’s got both in spades.

Stanley putting on the charm on Audrey Tautou in Thérèse Desqueyroux
Stanley putting on the charm on Audrey Tautou in Thérèse Desqueyroux

Classically trained at Cours Florent, French National Academy of Dramatic Arts and the London counterpart LAMDA, his background is theater but he’s done quite a few TV and film works in the past decade. Even in smaller supporting roles alongside big names of French cinema, Isabelle Adjani, Emmanuelle Devos, Audrey Tautou, etc. he more than held his own. He’s only 28 but seems much older than he looks, I kind of think of him like an old soul. As with ANY successful actor, versatility is key and I’ve seen him display his comedic chops in a British rom-com (Not Another Happy Ending) as well as portray a devilishly charming psychopath (BORGIA: Faith & Fear) convincingly. So yeah, I’m dying for him to get more leading roles, and soon!!

Which foreign actor/actress you noticed lately that you wish would get their big break in Hollywood?

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5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Tom from Digital Shortbread!

DigitalShortbread
Seeing that Avengers: Age of Ultron has just rolled on through, I thought it’d be interesting to gauge what people think of highly anticipated movie events.

Is hype generally a good thing or generally a bad thing, in your view, when it comes to movies?


Well, that’s it for the May 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

FlixChatter Double Reviews – Avengers: Age of Ultron

AgeOfUltronPoster

Ted’s Review

I have a confession to make, I’m not a big fan of the first Avengers film, I enjoyed it for the most part but when I watched it again on Bluray, I found it kind of dragging. So going into this gigantic sequel, I had no high expectations for it. Well color surprise because I think Age of Ultron might be my favorite Marvel film to date, I’ll know for sure when I see it again in a few days.

Things kick off right away when the movie opens; our superheroes are in the middle of a battle with the bad guys. The sequence was quite impressive; director Whedon decided to reintroduce each of the heroes by showing skill set and that they’re now working as a team. They successfully retrieved Loki’s scepter from Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and before it returns to Thor’s world, Stark and Banner decided to create an AI called Ultron without telling the rest of the team. After the events of the first film, Stark wanted to protect humans from another alien invasion. Of course every time when some geniuses create a super intelligent machine, it will take over its masters and that’s what happened here. I think most people have already seen the trailers and clips of the movie so I’m not going to discuss its plot. For this review I’ll go over the goods, there are plenty of them and not so good about this sequel.

AgeOfUltron_fight1

The goods: Whedon really improved the action sequences in this one, along with the opening sequence; there are three other set pieces that I thought were quite excellent. The fight between Hulk and Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor was spectacular. The midway action sequence where Capt. America was fighting with Ultron and Black Widow on the motorcycle chasing them was eye-popping. Finally the entire climatic battle with Ultron’s minions was just fun to watch. I didn’t care for the 3D effects in the first movie but here all the 3D worked, clearly Whedon shot each sequence with 3D in mind.

Instead of focusing on one character, Whedon was able to give each of the heroes equal screen time and they’re bantering are still amusing to me. All the actors appears to be quite comfortable in their respectively role. I wasn’t sure if the addition of Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch would work in the story but they turned out well.

AgeOfUltron_HulkbusterVSHulk

AgeOfUltron_Twins

I also have to mention the sound design, the movie was recorded in Dolby Atmos and it’s my favorite surround sound right behind GRAVITY. If there’s a theater that has Dolby Atmos near your time, please see it there. I don’t tend to recommend seeing movies in 3D but I was quite impressed with 3D effects in this movie. So see it in 3D and Dolby Atmos if possible.

The not so good: I didn’t care for the romance with between Hulk and Black Widow, it kind of dragged on too long and just didn’t work for me. I expected Ultron to be this super menacing villain but he kind of turned out to be bland, just the usual AI villain that we’ve seen many times before.

Despite my quibbles I still think this is a perfect summer movie that delivers everything you’d expect to see in a tent pole picture. I can’t wait to see it again.

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Ruth’s Review

It seems that Ted and I have the opposite reaction in regards to the two Avengers movies. I actually loved the first film, I even made posted 10 Reasons why I think The Avengers rocks and gave it a 4.5/5 rating. I remember being massively anticipating it, following all the buildup from Iron Man 1 & 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, there’s still a sense of novelty of seeing ALL of the Avengers assembling on screen fighting a menacing villain Loki hellbent to rule earth and beyond.

AgeOfUltron_team

This time, I have to admit I wasn’t terribly excited for Age of Ultron. Despite all the hype, I just couldn’t muster the excitement I once had for the last Avengers movie.  That said, I figure I’d still have fun with it and maybe I’d end up loving it. Well, I wouldn’t say the movie wasn’t devoid of fun. It actually started off with a thrilling action sequence and there are some funny moments peppered throughout, but overall it’s just not a movie I’d remember in a week or so, and certainly not something I’m eager to watch again.

Ok let’s start with the good. I still have to commend director Joss Whedon for somehow not making a huge mess out of having sooo many characters in a film (11 characters total) and having to somehow give each of them adequate screen time as well as making them work as a cohesive team. All things considered, I think he did a smashing job. The scenes of the team working or playing together are the main highlights for me. I feel like they care about each other and look after each other when one of them get hurt. It genuinely feel like a team whose loyalty is tested by a new deranged enemy.

I especially enjoyed that whole Mjölnir-lifting-attempt scene where each Avenger tried to see if they could lift Thor’s mighty hammer. The look on Thor’s face when Chris Rogers tried his luck is perhaps the funniest of all. That’s absolutely hilarious and one I’m sure I’d watch over and over again when someone has posted it on Youtube. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of a moment where I actually cheered or having any kind of strong emotion towards what’s happening on screen.

MjolnirScene_Ultron
Gif Source: MTV.com

I have to say that the villain Ultron himself was okay, despite the run-of-the-mill storyline of human-created AI that ended up wanting to destroy humanity. We’ve seen that plot in a plethora of sci-fi movies and explored in a much deeper way in films with a tiny fraction of Age of Ultron‘s budget, yet somehow James Spader’s able to inject some wit and humor into that mechanical character. At least he’s more interesting than a Transformer robot, even if he’s nowhere as fun to watch as Loki was.

AgeOfUltron_Ultron

As for the bad, well it’s simply an overloaded and overstuffed movie from the get go. It’s as if they didn’t have too many characters already, they added even more! I suppose Marvel have to pave the way for Phase 3 and beyond, so perhaps they’re planning a standalone movie for Vision (Paul Bettany), who looks like something out of the Body Worlds exhibit with a red cape. There are also the Maximoff twins, who were experimented on by of one of Hydra cohorts Strucker in an Eastern European country of Sokovia. Out of the two, Elizabeth Olsen fared better than Aaron Taylor-Johnson who came across so weird and awkward. Their *Russian* accent are laughable but they’re just so underwritten, though to be fair I think every character here suffers the same treatment. The Quicksilver character in X-Men: Days of Future Past was far more fun and memorable.

AgeOfUltron_Vision

I’d say that the biggest misstep of them all is the tacked-on romance between Bruce Banner (Hulk) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow). I didn’t care for that cheesy and entirely-unnecessary subplot and their scenes are so cringe-worthy that it took me out of the movie. Natasha was sharing some of the backstory of her dark childhood, and it would have been a rather emotional moment but I just couldn’t get into it as the corny romance thing was distracting me. I like both Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson, but they seem to have a more effortless chemistry off-screen during interviews than in the movie.

AgeOfUltron_HulkBlackwidow

I think people expecting a bunch of action in a big tentpole movie won’t be disappointed. For me, it’s more fun if I actually care about the characters and the universe presented here. As it is now, it’s just one huge bombastic film, in fact the whole fight sequence of Hulkbuster vs Hulk was so loud and verbose it reminded me of the final battle in Man of Steel. With so many characters all fighting for relevancy, the movie feels disjointed and abridged at times. The backstory of some of the characters also didn’t gel with me and felt forced and extraneous. Even the most adept filmmaker like Whedon surely was overwhelmed so I don’t blame him that he’s not going to do the final Avengers film. The Russo brothers certainly have a challenging task ahead of them to direct Avengers: Infinity War, and because Hollywood is all about the bottom line, of course it will be another two-part movie.

Oh, I have to mention that I saw this in 2D and the theater I was in had a pretty terrible surround sound. I wish I had seen it in a theater with Dolby Atmos as I still love the soundtrack, this time done by Brian Tyler & Danny Elfman. I doubt that seeing it in a better-equipped cinema would fix the weak script however. It also pains me to see Andy Serkis practically wasted here.

You could say the superhero fatigue is getting to me, so that certainly plays a factor in my enjoyment of this film. I can’t say I’m excited for more Marvel movies, except for Captain America: Civil War because I actually care about the Capt and his relationship with his friend-turned-foe Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier. Compared to the second Captain America movie, this one just felt bland and forgettable. It’s amazing how all that star power and an astronomical budget ($250 mil) only amounts to this, but then again, more is often just more, not better.

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Well, if you’ve seen this movie, what did YOU think? 

APRIL Viewing Recap, Movie of the Month + Looking forward to 2015 Wizard World Minneapolis!

Monthly2015RecapAprilWhoah, April’s been a freakishly busy month thanks to MSPIFF! Check out the banner below to check out our reviews from the Minneapolis/St Paul Film Festival, I have this image widget on my blog sidebar for easy access as well. I’ll have my MSPIFF recap next week as well as my and Josh’s picks top three movie picks.

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Posts You Might’ve Missed

MSPIFF 2015 Film Spotlight: The Center
Interview with filmmaker Charlie Griak & lead actor Matt Cici

The Longest Ride interview with cast member
Scott Eastwood & Britt Robertson

Wordless Wednesday:
the unrequited love of The Age of Innocence

BLOGATHON:

20 Perfect Cinematic Moments – A Fistful of Moments

The Five Senses Blogathon

Thursday Movie Picks #42: Father-Daughter Movies

April Blind Spot Pick:

A Space Odyssey (1968)

New-to-me Movies (non-MSPIFF related):

Avengers: The Age of Ultron

Furious 7 (2015)

Ex Machina (2015)

Not Another Happy Ending (2013)

Thérèse (2012)

Documentary – The Rise & Fall of Versailles: Louis XV

I think if I were to sum up the month of April, you could say it’s basically a split between MSPIFF and my new obsession Stanley Weber.

TomDuvall_NAHE

Yes I’m officially afflicted by the #StanleyWeber bug. Watched #NotAnotherHappyEnding a dozen times in just under 2 weeks!! #madcrush

— FlixChatter (@FlixChatter) April 21, 2015

Needless to say, there’s barely time for any other rewatches 😛

TV Series:

Netflix’s Daredevil (season 1)

BORGIA: Faith & Fear (season 1)

Movie of the Month

ExMachinaPosterI’m excluding MSPIFF films here as I’m going to do a separate recap. So this was an easy choice, Ex Machina is simply an excellent sci-fi… well, an excellent film in general.

Avengers: Age of Ultron was the last film I saw in April, and though there are some fun moments like the attempt to lift Mjölnir scene, overall it’s pretty forgettable. I don’t know when I’ll have time to review this movie but let’s just say I agree with Kenneth Turan I heard on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning: “Age of Ultron is made for the ‘instant gratification’ culture… It disappears without a trace as soon as it’s consumed.” Yep, that pretty much sums up my sentiment.

What I look forward to in May

WizardWorld2015MplsIt’ll be a fun weekend at Mpls Comic-Con starting tomorrow! Full programming all day Saturday, these are some of the panels I’ll definitely take part in:

11:30-12:15 – WETA workshop: character creation through prosthetics, hair & make up

2:00-2:45 – No “bones” about it: Karl Urban

4:00–4:45 – The truth is out there: Gillian Anderson

 

WalkerArt_NolanLectureMy hubby and I got tickets to attend this quickly sold-out lecture at Walker Art Center with Christopher Nolan! I sure hope there’ll be a Q&A segment at the end!

In celebration of 25 years of Walker Dialogues, the Walker presents acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, one of the most innovative directors working today, in discussion with Variety chief film critic Scott Foundas. The lecture is followed by a nine-film retrospective May 7–24, 2015.


Whew, so that’s my April recap. What’s YOUR fave movie(s) you saw in April?

Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2015_Spring

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. First things first… well, Twitter erupted with geekgasm yesterday when the third Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer dropped. I have to admit I dug it enough I watched it three times in a row during my lunch break. I’m lucky to have the 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display at the office 😉

I wasn’t super excited about the first two trailers but now I’m slowly getting more enthusiastic about this sequel. Though I’m much more excited about Captain America 3 that opens May 2016.

For those who’re averse to comic-book stuff, no fret. Far from the Madding Crowd also opens on the same weekend (May 1).

In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.


I never read Thomas Hardy’s famous novel that the movie’s based on but I like the look of this one, sounds like something I’d enjoy. Carey Mulligan is lovely & talented, and this is from the director of The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg, which was one of my top 10 films of 2013.

So are you excited for either one of these?

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2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Oliver Stone’s thriller SNOWDEN. The film is currently shooting in Munich, before moving to locations around the world.​ Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden before he became the NSA whistle-blower – Edward was an ordinary man who unquestioningly served his country.

Levitt_SnowdenThe movie also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant … and Nicolas Cage! Hmmm, I wonder which role he’d play, and most importantly which hairdo he’ll be sporting 😉

In any case, I’m not convinced yet about Levitt as Snowden, here’s what my casting wish for the role:

I knew the chance of Richard being cast is slim to none, he’s just a big enough name yet for such a role. Now, I’m not exactly a big Oliver Stone fan as director, we’ll see how much creative liberties will be taken for this movie. I think if you want to see the real Snowden, just watch the excellent doc Citizenfour instead.

What’s your initial thoughts of SNOWDEN?

3. Well, Cinderella hasn’t even opened yet and the interweb has been abuzz with the casting of yet another live action Disney adaptation, Beauty & The Beast. Apparently it’ll be a musical, with Emma Watson as Belle, who was cast months ago. Well, this week we’ve got casting news of the Beast himself AND its villain, Gaston: Dan Stevens and Luke Evans respectively. Behold the gorgeous all-Brits main cast:

BeautyandBeastCast

I actually just rewatched some clips of the animated feature not that long ago and looking at the drawings below, I’d say the casting is pretty spot-on physically. Though Stevens would likely have to undergo long hours in the makeup chair to get all big and furry as Beast, which is too bad that they have to cover up that handsome face!

BeautyandBeastAnimated

I personally like this casting. These are impossibly beautiful actors but fortunately they can act and have charismatic screen presence. It’d have been horrid if they cast say, Alex Pettyfer and Liam Hemsworth for example. Not convinced with Bill Condon as director though, but I haven’t seen Dreamgirls yet, so I suppose he has experience directing a musical.

What do you think of this casting bit?

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4. Oh for the times they are a-changin. Nothing could be truer for media distribution landscape, as companies like Amazon and Netflix are entering the foray. Well, this is creating some interesting *shake-up* as four major theater chains are refusing to show Beasts of No Nation, the Cary Fukunaga drama starring Idris Elba that Netflix bought this week for $12 million, because the company is debuting the film simultaneously on its streaming service (per Variety).

Apparently the reason is that “… they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.”

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A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.

NetflixLogoWell, since I have Netflix, it doesn’t bother me much, but this news certainly made me pause a bit. What if it’s the kind of movie I’d LOVE to see on the big screen? There’s only a handful of indie theaters near me, so there’s a likelihood none would even show such films. How big of a game changer this will become remains to be seen, but we might know sooner rather than later. Netflix also announced similar plans to the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that’s supposed to be out in August. It’s also partnering with a bunch of celebs on various projects, the latest is a partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio on documentaries that will premiere exclusively on Netflix.

What are your thoughts on this development?

5. The first 2015 Five for the Fifth’s guest is Natalie from Writer Loves Movies blog!

WriterLovesMovies

We’re seeing some interesting Artificial Intelligence films lately (Her, Ex Machina). Chappie is out soon too. As a kid I loved Johnny 5 from Short Circuit! But as a grown up I’d have to pick Her‘s Samantha, such a clever film.

So, what’s your favorite cinematic AI?


Well, that’s it for the March 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀