FlixChatter Review: CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

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It’s been almost a decade since Guillermo del Toro made a fantasy/ horror picture; Pan’s Labyrinth put his name on the map as a big time filmmaker. After two big budgeted sci-fi action films, he’s back with a smaller fantasy/horror thriller that made him famous.

Set in turn-of-the-century New York, a young ambitous woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is trying to become a serious writer in the field dominated my men. She’s written novels about love and ghosts, you see Edith believes in ghosts because she saw her dead mother visited her when she’s very young. Ever since then, she can see ghosts everywhere.  CrimsonPeak3

Her written work would get turned down by publishers and some even mocked her writing. One day she met an Englishman named Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) who’s in town to try and raise money for his clay mining business from Edith’s father Carter (Jim Beaver) and other business men. Thomas has a sister named Lucille (Jessica Chastain) who doesn’t seem to care much for everyone in town, especially Edith. After Edith’s father rejected his business pitch, Thomas decided to romance Edith in order to get money from the family.

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Local doctor Alan (Charlie Hunnam) also tried to woo Edith but she’s clearly smitten by the new Englishman in town. After a tragic incident, Edith married Thomas and they moved back to England to stay at his old mansion. Here’s when things got worse for Edith as she’s being haunted by spirits in the mansion.

CrimsonPeak1For the first half of this movie, it felt like a period romance drama so for those looking for a spooky ghost story, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Del Toro took his time with the story and didn’t show the horror stuff until later in the movie.

Being that Del Toro is technical expert, this was one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in a long time. Kudos also go to the set and costume designers, they did such an amazing job that I felt I was in that period of time while watching the movie. Performance wise, all the actors did a fine job, no complain for me here.

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Unfortunately the script by Matthew Robbins and Del Toro was quite generic and predictable. This was the kind of story that’s been told too many times in other horror/thriller. There were no surprises or twists that you won’t see coming. Another thing I thought didn’t work were the CGI ghosts, they looked fake and not scary at all. Speaking of scary, this was supposed to be a spooky horror movie and I was not once felt scared or spooked while watching this movie.

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Despite the great cinematography, performances and set design, this movie couldn’t overcome its lack of scares and originality.

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So have you seen Crimson Peak? Well, what did you think?

 

Thursday Movie Picks #56: Alien Invasion of Earth

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

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Alien Invasion of Earth

This month’s theme turns out to be pretty easy as there are actually not that many to pick from for me. A lot of the scifis I like are more about humans & robots, not aliens.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.

When someone says ‘alien invasion movies,’ the first thing that came to mind is this. In fact, I asked my hubby and that’s the first thing that came to his mind as well. It’d also my pick for apocalyptic blockbuster as it’s just so much fun! I remember when I saw it on the big screen for the first time, there’s a sense of awe and intrigue when those big spaceships first appeared hovering above the sky.

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I mean, all the action set pieces like the White House blowing up, Will Smith punching the ugly, slimy alien in the face, and that bombastic aerial battle at the end are still memorably epic to this day! It’s an awesome ensemble cast too, Jeff Goldblum has the snark and swagger to make any role memorable. And of course there’s that rousing, albeit corny, presidential speech from Bill Pullman… “We won’t go quietly into the night!” There’s nothing quiet about this flick and I love it all the better for it!

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SIGNS (2002)

A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.

Let me preface this pick with the fact that despite the atrocity of The Happening, I actually still have hope for M. Night’s career. He’s made two excellent films you could consider a classic (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) and the other two in his resume, The Village and Signs, left a lasting impression that I thought about them for days after seeing them. I know his films have their share of ardent fans and equally passionate detractors.

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I’m not saying SIGNS is a perfect film, there are some preposterous, even laughable moments. But I like that it’s really not so much about alien invasion, but he took some of the classic elements of that genre and turn it on its head. In the same way that Sixth Sense isn’t your typical ghost story and Unbreakable offers a compelling twist in the crowded superhero genre, Signs deals with a broader theme. It’s an intimate film about a close-knit family, led by a former pastor dealing with a crisis of faith. The mystery and suspense surrounding the aliens themselves was pretty fun to watch the first time around, but it isn’t the heart of the film and it’s not what stuck with me afterwards. I like the emotional and spiritual aspect, and how a dire predicament actually helps restore a man’s soul and brings his family together. It’s been ages since I saw this but I definitely want to see this again. Excellent acting all around too by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Pacific Rim (2013)

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

I love LOVE this movie! I never thought I’d love a big monster movie THIS much but what can I say, it’s awesome. Or as one character in the movie said, “That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’😀 I don’t think it’d be a major spoiler to say that it’s as much an alien invasion movie as it’s a big monster flick. The Kaijus are obviously not from this world, they’re mammoth biological weapons sent by an alien colony through a portal for a specific mission: wipeout humankind. Guillermo del Toro did an amazing job making these creatures look organic like a dinosaur, but with thick, gunky blue blood that actually looks cool the bloodier the darn thing is.

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All the fight scenes between the Kaijus and the massive human-powered robots called Jaegers are wonderfully staged. But I love that we constantly see the humans powering these machines and some of the scenes are actually quite emotional. I like the father-daughter dynamic between Idris Elba‘s and Rinku Kikuchi‘s, and a flirty banter between Rinku and hunky Charlie Hunnam, as well as a slew of fun supporting characters that enrich the movie. Just like ID4, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s something so giddily-amusing about the fight scenes, like when a Jaeger named Gypsy Danger swung a huge, Titanic-sized ship and hurl it at the Kaiju. You just want to get up and cheer when those moments came on!

I saw this movie twice on the big screen and loved every minute of it. I’ve since bought the Bluray and it’s gotten a lot of play in my house.

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What do you think of my alien-invasion movie picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

Casting News Roundup: Chris Pratt, Rosamund Pike, Keanu Reeves & Mel Gibson + Andrew Garfield

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Boy I’ve been meaning to do a post on casting news but for some reason just never got around to it! Well, I might make this more of a weekend bi-monthly series as there’s never a shortage of casting news 😀

Chris Pratt to star in graphic novel adaptation Cowboy Ninja Viking

Pratt_CowboyNinjaVikingLook at the smirk on this guy! When I read the description of the graphic novel created by writer A.J. Lieberman and artist Riley Rossmo, I think Chris Pratt fits the role nicely. Per Collider, The story revolves around an assassin with Multiple Personality Disorder who possess the skills of a cowboy, a ninja, and a Viking, and works for a secret government program. Pratt is to play the protagonist Duncan, and I think it’ll be fun to see him manifest into those three different personas. No director is attached yet, though some names including Marc Forster was circling the project at some point, seems that this project has been in development for some time.

Rosamund Pike joining Charlie Hunnam in ‘The Mountain Between Us’

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One of the year’s breakout female star probably has a slew of offers coming at her. I kinda wish she’d be cast in the lead instead of co-lead with a male actor. In any case, sounds like she’s joining Charlie Hunnam in an adaptation of Charles Martin’s book of the same name. The story revolves around two people who survive a plane crash in the mountains where they are forced to trust each other and find safety while badly injured. Rosamund Pike plays a successful writer who’s flying East to get to her much anticipated wedding, whilst Hunnam plays a surgeon on his way back East after a medical conference for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day. So based on the book description in Amazon, it’s kind of like a romantic version of Alive and perhaps The Grey, I guess I could see the casting work for the story though I’m not sure about this one until I see at least a trailer.

Keanu Reeves in Talks to Star in Tarsem Singh’s ‘The Panopticon’

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Though Keanu never really left Hollywood, seems that he’s sort of got a career resurgence following the success of John Wick. I’ve always liked the guy so more Keanu casting is awesome in my book 😉 So he’s been cast in the sci-fi thriller Replicas which sounds right up his alley: After a car accident kills his loving family, a daring neuroscientist (Reeves) will stop at nothing to bring them back, even if it means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory, a police task force, and the physical laws of science themselves. (per The Wrap).

Well, seems that he’s also in talks to team up with Tarsem Singh in an action thriller The Panopticon, but the premise seems wholly generic to me: “The Panopticon” follows a seemingly ordinary man who receives a mysterious package containing a pre-recorded message from himself, warning that the world is about to end and only he can save it. He must race against the clock to piece together the puzzle before time runs out for mankind. Meh, I’m kind of tired of this ‘one man left on earth to save the world’ premise. It’s so stale, derivative and hackneyed that it’s REALLY hard to actually make a good film out of it. But then again, John Wick‘s premise isn’t exactly groundbreaking either but the film still turned out fresh and fun. Judging from Tarsem’s past work though, it’d probably be more of a visual feast than an absorbing story.

Boy, Keanu is one busy dude. Per The Wrap, he’s recently wrapped Eli Roth‘s “Knock Knock” and the courtroom drama “The Whole Truth,” and he’s currently filming the indie “Daughter of God.” Oh and supposedly he’s also working on Bill & Ted‘s 2?

Mel Gibson to direct Andrew Garfield in a WWII drama?

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Now this last one is intriguing to me as Mel Gibson hasn’t directed any film since Apocalypto nearly a decade ago. Regardless of how you feel about the actor/director, I think he’s a talented filmmaker.

DesmondDoss_HacksawRidgeI’m curious about his next project which is a WWII drama based on the true story of Corporal Demond Doss, the first conscientious objector to receive the US congressional Medal of Honor by President Truman. Per Comingsoon.net, Doss was drafted into World War II at age 23. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, he refused to kill or carry a weapon and, as such, became stationed as a medic. The center of the story is likely to focus on 1945′s three-month military assault Operation Iceburg, also known as the Battle of Okinawa. “Hacksaw Ridge” was the name given the location of a particularly brutal two-week confrontation wherein United States troops faced off against Japanese soldiers on the rocky cliffs of Okinawa.

If the deal went through, Gibson would reteam w/ Braveheart‘s screenwriter Randall Wallace who co-wrote it with Robert Schenkkan. Look-wise, Andrew Garfield seems to have the right physique and age to play the role and I think it’d be good to see him in something that’d really display his versatility as an actor.


Ok so what do you think of any of these casting news and/or the projects mentioned above?

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Five for the Fifth: SEPTEMBER 2014 Edition

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

1. As customary with Five for the Fifth, I’d like to highlight a filmmaker/actor who’s having a birthday today. Well, it so happens that Paddy Considine turns 41 today.

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The underrated British actor is perhaps most well-known to mainstream audiences from his brief role in Bourne Ultimatum, remember the Waterloo station scene? I actually first saw Paddy in the excellent 2002 drama In America, as well as in two of the Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy: Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. Aside from being a terrific actor, Considine is also an acclaimed filmmaker. He won a BAFTA for his directing work in Tyrannosaur starring Peter Mullan.

So what’s your favorite film from this talented English actor?
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2. I haven’t posted a trailer in a while and this one caught my attention from the past week, Escobar: Paradise Lost.

In Colombia, a young surfer meets the woman of his dreams – and then he meets her uncle, Pablo Escobar.

I thought that the casting of Josh Hutcherson as the young surfer is interesting as I’ve only seen him in The Hunger Games so far. Benicio del Toro seems suited to play the mighty powerful Colombian drug kingpin, and he looks quite menacing in the trailer.

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I’ve been meaning to check out this documentary called The Two Escobars that focuses on the lives of two unrelated men who shares the same last name but somehow their lives were inextricably – and fatally – intertwined. Now I’m not sure how historically-accurate Paradise Lost is, other than using Pablo’s character in the story.

Thoughts on this one? Does the trailer pique your interest?

3. Most of you are probably familiar with Dan Stevens from his Downton Abbey role as Matthew Crawley. Well, if you google him now, he looks quite different from his Downton days. He apparently lost a lot of weight and had been training extensively to look leaner and athletic. I wasn’t watching the show yet when he reportedly left the show to pursue a Hollywood career, and so far it seems, it’s paid off.

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Stevens in Downton Abbey
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Stevens in The Guest
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Stevens in Walk Among the Tombstones

The English actor seems adamant to shed his period drama image as his upcoming roles are pretty bad ass. He’s playing the lead in The Guest as a soldier who introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. It’s an R-rated thriller that looks quite sinister. Another film he’s starring that’s also out this month looks to be quite a violent one. This time he’s playing supporting role to Liam Neeson’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, as a Brooklyn drug trafficker  whose wife was murdered.

The actor’s uprooted his family to NYC as well, perhaps to make things easier for his career as Hollywood beckons. Quoted in Daily Mail, he admitted that it was the hardest decision he had to make leaving Downton, but he said ‘I’ve got an appetite to learn new things. It’s nothing more than that.’

So my question to you is, which actor/actress (be it TV or film) would you like to see reinvent themselves in a similar fashion?

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4. Ok, now some casting news that’s been circulating the blogosphere this past week. Well, this happens to be a remake of Escape from New York that’s been in development hell for some time, heh perhaps that’s a sign they should’ve left it well enough alone? Reportedly Charlie Hunnam has just been cast as Snake Plissken, a role that Kurt Russell was perhaps best known for.

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Apparently Dan Stevens was up for the role as well, interestingly enough. I think Hunnam is better-suited as Plissken though, he’s got more of that devil-may-care grit and bad-assery about him that comes more naturally to him than Stevens. I remember a few years back there were reports that Russell was miffed that the studio was considering Gerry Butler, a Scot, to play an iconic all-American role. Ahah well, this time they gave it to an English actor anyway. Seems that Hunnam’s one busy actor, he’s also working on yet another King Arthur adaptation (directed by Guy Ritchie) with him in the title role.

In any case, here’s the rumored plot for the Escape of New York remake per Firstshowing: Rather than just focusing on Snake Plissken venturing through the prison that is New York, this time the story sees Plissken teaming with “a rogues gallery of criminals who look to leave the island-turned-prison in exchange for the rescue of the captured U.S. President.”

What do you think of this casting news and this remake project in particular?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Tim from Tim Film Reviews Blog.

TimFilmReviewsSo here it is in his own words:

It’s a question I’ve been pondering since the recent release schedule. Most people associate comic-book movies with big budget tentpole Summer movies, but there are actually quite a few small to medium budget movies made well under $100M. Dredd, Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim, Blade, Hellboy, etc. just to name a few.

Well, do you think superhero/comic book films should get a big-budget treatment?


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

FlixChatter Review: Pacific Rim

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I remember back in 2008 when I saw the trailers for Iron Man. My hubby was excited for it but I kept rolling my eyes when it came on and said how silly and vapid it looked, only to be bowled over when I finally got around to seeing it. It’s the same case with this one, only this time my hubby agreed with me that it looked just like another loud popcorn movie, nothing more than another Transformers movie mixed with Independence Day. Well, I guess the lesson I learned once again is ‘don’t judge a movie by its trailer(s)’ 😀

The plot (yes there IS one, in case some of you are wondering) is nothing we’ve never heard before but it’s played out quite efficiently here. The swift exposition at the beginning showed us that a war between humankind and a bunch of humongous sea creatures called Kaiju (Japanese for strange beast) have been going on for some time. The narrator, Raleigh Becket, was only five when the first attack began in San Francisco. He’s a former pilot of this man-made giant robots called Jaeger (German for the hunter) who left the force when his co-pilot brother got killed in battle. We learn that it takes two pilots to control each of those Jaegers, whose minds are locked in a neural bridge called ‘The Drift.’ Apparently, the deeper the bond between them, the better they fight.’

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Right away I was pretty absorbed by the story and the characters, and what’s at stake at the seemingly-inevitable apocalypse as these Kaijus have become stronger and more relentless with each attack. Fans of giant monsters movies like Godzilla, etc. would have an especially enjoyable time watching the fight scenes of Kaiju vs. Jaegers. The  I have to admit that though I’m not into monster movies, I too was caught up in the whole spectacle!

The fight scenes are well-staged and though it was certainly loud and bombastic, it didn’t have the dizzying effect like the battle scenes in Man of Steel. Though the battles between the steel vs organic giants are quite relentless, there’s a constant reminder that these aren’t simply mindless robots that are fighting, but there are people inside these steel beasts that get hurt with each punch. The film certainly lives by its motto ‘Go Big or Go Extinct’ as the scale is just massive, but yet it’s not bloated in terms of content. Seems like each scene has a purpose that justifies its 2 hrs 11 min run-time. The meticulous amount of details of the set pieces are also muy impressive. Each of these Jaeger have a name, and the main hero is called Gypsy Danger – the only remaining analog robot, and in one interview, del Toro said it’s meant to resemble a WWII fighter jet calling it “a mixture of deco skyscraper and John Wayne.”

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I give props to Guillermo del Toro for his unbridled passion for his $180 pet project, fusing it with digital artistry and spectacle worth raving about. He said in interviews that Pacific Rim contains all his bucket list rolled into one movie, and it shows! I’m glad that during the fight scenes, the director didn’t resort to quick cuts or blur effect so we’re still able to make out just what the heck is going on. What I appreciate most of all, is how emotionally satisfying it is. THAT ultimately, is what makes a movie so gratifying and memorable.

The last movie I saw that del Toro directed was Pan’s Labyrinth, which was excellent albeit too disturbingly violent for my taste. No doubt this movie is far more accessible and commercial than the 2006 fantasy drama, but del Toro’s deft touch and zeal for the material is palpable. He’s assembled the best of the best in the biz, working with ILM (its chief creative officer John Knoll, is the co-creator of Photoshop) on the SFX, as well as composer Ramin Djawadi on a rousing score that already becomes my personal favorite!

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Acting-wise, I think everyone is pretty well-cast. 33-year-old Brit Charlie Hunnam (of the Sons of Anarchy TV show), is pretty decent as Raleigh, and he’s got a nice narrating voice. He’s also got a nice chemistry with Rinko Kikuchi (THAT girl from Babel), and the martial arts training session is brimming with sexual tension. But to me, the real STAR is the hunky and charismatic Idris Elba. I’ve liked him since I saw him Rocknrolla years ago and he’s always been fun to watch. But man, he’s so incredibly magnetic in this movie! He’s got such a strong screen presence, plus he looks fantastic in that Jaeger pilot suit I barely noticed anyone else in that Shatterdome facility once he shows up! That ‘cancelin’ the apocalypse’ speech rates right up there with Bill Pullman’s speech in ID-4.

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Yes the speech is corny… but it works!!

The supporting cast deliver some of the funniest parts, most notably Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the oft-bickering scientists, and del Toro’s regular Ron Perlman as a Kaiju black market honcho. I love the creative character names, too: Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, Perlman’s Hannibal Chau, Day’s Newton Geiszler.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is definitely one of the most fun I’ve had this year watching a movie! Despite the predictable plot — the ending echoes other disaster movies like again, ID-4 and Armageddon — this movie still has some fresh concepts to set this one apart. In fact, I think action directors Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay have some things to learn from del Toro, as he’s able to deliver a visual feast without falling into the ‘style over substance’ trap. Plenty of eye candy and thrilling action, but not devoid of emotion either, what’s not to like? When Geiszler shouted ‘That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’ I can’t say he’s exaggerating!

We saw the screening in IMAX 3D at our local theater and the picture quality is the best I’ve seen in a while. My hubby and I plan to see this again in the next couple of weeks, maybe even at the real IMAX. Depending on the box office receipt, I wager that this movie is going to revive the big-monster movie genre… for better or for worse!

P.S. Do stay for a bit after the end credits. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

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What do you think of Pacific Rim and/or monster movies in general?