FlixChatter Review: Doctor Strange (2016)

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I have to admit I wasn’t really anticipating this movie at all. I wasn’t familiar with this character at all and honestly, I have grown a bit tired of seeing Benedict Cumberbatch, though I did like him before he was super famous from playing Sherlock. Now it’s no fault of his but I tend to lose interest fast when an actor becomes overexposed.

In any case, I still went into the screening expecting to be entertained. To a degree, Doctor Strange was a pretty fun movie with some humorous moments. Yet I feel that it treads such familiar grounds. It’s basically similar to Iron Man‘s origin story, but with magic thrown in. We also got a hero who started out as a rich, arrogant genius who suffered a major accident. They also extend their hand just so to exert their power. Perhaps because Iron Man was still a bit of a novelty when it came out 8 years ago in 2008, it made a lot more impact to me and Robert Downey Jr’s performance was quite indelible.

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Stephen Strange’s journey all the way to the Himalayas also reminds me of Batman Begins. But instead of an East-Asian character as The Ancient One, Strange’s spiritual mentor is now a bald woman of Celtic origin with posh British accent (Tilda Swinton). To be honest, all the quantum physics and mysticism concept are lost on me. It was some gobbledygook that never became involving enough to me, though I did get a kick out of the rather comedic Cloak of Levitation. I think my favorite part in the entire movie is when the cloak attaches itself to Strange as he walks on, it was a moment he sort of becomes a superhero.

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Just like the lead, the supporting cast are full of massively accomplished actors. Fellow Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and British actor Benedict Wong are both in the camp of the Ancient One who became Strange’s allies. It’s rare to see an actor named Benedict to begin with, let alone having TWO of them in the same movie! I love the interactions between the two Benedicts, though the Beyonce/Adele joke seems rather out of place in this universe. There’s also the talented Mads Mikkelsen, once again sporting weird eye makeup as a villain, but he’s nowhere near as menacing nor effective as he did in Casino Royale. There is very little character development in this movie and none of the relationships elicit any kind of emotion, especially the one between him and fellow surgeon Christine (a wasted Rachel McAdams). That said, Cumberbatch himself acquits himself well in the role. He certainly has that ‘cocky genius’ thing down pat, though I wouldn’t call Doctor Strange my fave Marvel superhero by a long stretch.

As for the visual effects. I think it’s to be expected that a $165 mil movie would deliver something great to look at. The space visuals is reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy, whilst the whole folding architecture thing is slightly more robust than what we’ve seen in Inception. The movie has a a Groundhog day-style finale with a character encountering death over and over again, going against an entirely CG character, a nemesis called Dormammu that’s apparently also voiced by Cumberbatch. It was kind of a ho-hum ending to me, it was neither intriguing nor emotional in the slightest. The plot seems predictable and seems rather ‘convenient,’ and not once do I feel that the hero was in any great danger.

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I generally like Marvel movies, even those I was initially skeptical about like Thor. But overall I was underwhelmed by Doctor Strange. I think it could’ve been a much better film, or at least just a tad more thought-provoking instead of just mildly entertaining. The script (partly written by director Scott Derrickson) just wasn’t provocative, thought provoking nor memorable. I’m feeling generous in rating this one because I do like the cast, though the movie probably more of a 2.5/5 for me. I think it’s one of the weakest MCU movies so far, and I’m honestly flabbergasted by the high Rotten Tomatoes rating! (But then again I think their algorithm is botched. I mean the same exact rating from two reviewers can be fresh or rotten, huh??) In any case, there’s a post-credit scene but by then I have lost interest in this inevitable franchise entirely.

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So, what are your thoughts on ‘Doctor Strange’?

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FlixChatter Review: John Hillcoat’s TRIPLE 9 (2016)

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I’m a big fan of crime action thrillers of the 70s, 80s and 90s, so I was excited to see this new film by Aussie director John Hillcoat. As we all know, the last decade or so the superhero genre has been dominating the box office so crime action thrillers are rarity these days.

The movie opens with a bank robbery that didn’t go as smoothly as planned. The bank robbers weren’t there to steal money but a case in the safe box. In a pretty impressive opening action sequence, the robbers were able to escape unscathed. We then learned that two of the robbers named Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge Ridriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.) are cops and one is an ex-cop named Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul). The rest of the robbers are ex-military men named Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell Welch (Norman Reedus). They were tasked to steal something very important for a Russian mob boss named Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet, sporting a very 80s hairdo and weird Russian accent). Irina has a sister named Elena (Gal Gadot), who happens to be Atwood’s ex-girlfriend.

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After Atwood delivered the steal goods to Irina, she told him that she has another job for him and his team. Atwood of course wasn’t interested but Irina told him she won’t pay him for the job he’d just finished unless he gets the second one done. With no other choice, Atwood got his team together again and try to come up with a plan to make the biggest heist of their lives. We then were introduced to a detective named Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), he’s in charge of finding the bank robbers. Allen has a nephew named Chris (Casey Affleck) who’s also a cop and Belmont’s new partner. As the story progresses we learned more about each of these characters and how they’re all some-how connected and we found out meaning of the movie’s title.

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With so many well known actors in one movie, I wasn’t sure if they’re all going to get enough screen time, but to my surprise all of the big players got equal screen time and they played their respectively role quite well. This is the kind of movie that doesn’t really have a central character you want to “cheer” for, each of the characters has their own motivation and there’s no good or bad guy in the story. I had my doubts about Casey’s casting as the supposed “hero” of the story but his character played a central role in the plot and he’s pretty convincing.

John Hillcoat is one of my favorite newer directors and he didn’t disappoint with his direction for this movie. He staged some pretty good action sequences including his signature bloody violence. What really impressed me was how he avoided making the movie into a super dark and serious tone that has plagued most action movies the last few years. This movie feels like a thriller from the 80s and 90s.


Even though I was very impressed with the performances and direction of the movie, I had some problems with the script. Matt Cook is a newcomer in Hollywood and I was surprised his script didn’t get rewrites or more polished by other screenwriters. The story is filled with so many layers that I think a well-established screenwriter could’ve made it into a great script. I’m not saying that Cook’s script is bad just that it needed a lot of fixing. My biggest beef with the script was how the story wrapped so neatly by the movie’s end. I won’t spoil anything but if you saw The Departed then you’ll know what I mean when you see this movie.

Triple 9 is a well made action thriller that could’ve been a classic had the script been more polished. Fans of the buddy cop action and crime thrillers from the 80s and 90s will be pleased with it.

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Have you seen TRIPLE 9? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Martian (2015)

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It’s a testament of a truly good film when two weeks after I saw it I’m still thinking about it fondly and can’t wait to see it again. I mentioned in this post that I had been anticipating this film for a couple of reasons, but deep down I still wished it’d be good as I like Ridley Scott. Well, glad to report that the 77-year-old British thespian certainly still got it.

If the plot makes you think of Saving Private Ryan because it involves saving Matt Damon, well you wouldn’t be wrong, but the similarities pretty much end there. The film doesn’t waste much time to get to the part when Mark Watney is left alone in Mars following an accident that made his teammates presumed he’s killed. It turns out he survives the accident but that’s only the beginning of his journey being stranded in a desolate planet. The first act pretty much contains scenes of Watney dealing with the concept of surviving on whatever resources is left on the space station, as the next Mars mission would take at least four years.

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There are similarities to Gravity and Interstellar, but I think The Martian is a heck of a lot more entertaining than both. It’s an intelligent crowd pleaser that doesn’t dumb down the audience, but it also doesn’t bog us down with scientific mumbo jumbo or bludgeon us with over-sentimentality. Even the scenes in NASA with a terrific ensemble cast doesn’t feel at all boring or obligatory and has its share of amusing and fun moments. The emotional moments throughout the film feels natural and not at all manipulative, a testament to the shrewd script by Drew Goddard and Scott’s direction.

The whole concept of an astronaut growing potatoes inside a space station certainly make for some amusing and highly entertaining scenes. Whether it’s actually possible or not doesn’t really matter, and that’s what I find about this film. I find that I don’t pick apart the science as much as I did with say Interstellar, as I was completely invested in Watney’s journey from start to finish. It helps too that the script is really focused about the ‘bring him home’ storyline and keep it frill-free from unneccessary subplots.

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As for that ensemble cast, I’ll mention those who impressed me most, starting with Jeff Daniels as NASA chief Teddy Sanders. He made him memorable even though he’s not the most interesting characters. The same could be said with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong as two lead scientists tasked to help bring Watney home. Sean Bean is always great to watch but there is one particularly memorable scene involving a very famous fantasy trilogy that made his casting even more perfect. They actually have more to do in the film than Watney’s fellow team mates including Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie, though they are all pretty good in their roles. Donald Glover also has a brief but memorable role as a young genius astronomer who provides a key theory for the recovery mission. But the real star here is obviously Damon, who has the most screen time and most of his scenes are basically a one-man-show of him talking to the camera.

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The Martian looks phenomenal and has some breathtaking *aerial shots* by Dariusz Wolski of the red planet, shot in Wadi Rum, Jordan, which has a red-colored desert. That said, it’s not a style-over-substance film, in fact, it’s a story and character-driven piece, which is what every film should be. It must have been hellish for Watney to be stuck up there on his own, but thankfully, watching him being stuck there isn’t. The survival story is more akin to Tom Hanks’ Castaway, given the humorous tone and amazing survival skills of the protagonist. This is perhaps one of my favorite roles of Matt Damon, and he’s as likable and funny as he ever as astronaut Mark Watney.

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As with any survival story, there is an element of inspiration that make you appreciate what you have on earth, from profound things like spending time with your family to seemingly-trivial things like duct tape. But the film does it in such a droll and fun way, which seems to be faithful in terms to tone to Andy Weir‘s sci-fi novel, described by one book critic as “…sharp, funny and thrilling, with just the right amount of geekery” (per Wiki). I also love that The Martian is not dark and brooding despite the rather grim subject matter of a man being trapped alone in space. It’s also not nearly as violent as Scott’s other sci-fi film, apart from an earlier scene that definitely made me avert my eyes. This could very well be the most enjoyable theatrical experience from Ridley Scott since Gladiator, so yeah sir, we’re definitely entertained. And thanks for making another epic film that I can watch and appreciate for years to come.

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Have you seen The Martian? What did you think?

Fall Movie Spotlight: Ridley Scott’s The Martian

You’re probably wondering why I’m suddenly blogging about this film, with just two weeks before its US release (October 2). UK folks actually will get this two days sooner on Sept. 30. In all honesty, up until fairly recently, I had been mostly blasé about this film, given my disappointments with Sir Ridley Scott‘s movies lately. I even skipped The Counselor but I somehow got around to seeing Exodus despite my dread, and though I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, it still was such a letdown.

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But y’know what, the relentless campaign somehow succeeded in getting me more intrigued about this one and it seems that the reviews suggest that this could be a return to form for the 77-year-old prolific filmmaker. The Rotten Tomatoes summary said the film is “Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny…” hmmm, I’m most intrigued by the surprisingly funny part, esp. given the 141-min running time, a bit of humor goes a long way.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

As for the casting, well I have to admit I was rather meh about Matt Damon casting, but perhaps because I was one of those who don’t care for his casting in Interstellar and he’s playing an astronaut yet again here. But yes I realize it’s a totally different character and I am intrigued by the MacGyver style survival story in space.

I do love the supporting cast! Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara … nice to see a trio of actresses in prominent roles. I’ve always liked Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Sebastian Stan and Chiwetel Ejiofor, so that’s very cool too. Interesting to see Ejiofor playing an Indian character, but apparently Irrfan Khan was originally cast but had scheduling conflict. Hey, even Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie whom I like in Headhunters is here, too!

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Another piece of trivia per IMDb, Drew Goddard, who wrote the screenplay for the film, was also at one point set to direct, but left that role to go direct the Sinister Six film. After that, Scott read the script and jumped into the project, rather than making a Prometheus sequel (I think that’s wise). I also didn’t realize that the writer of the novel Andy Weir first published his book for free on his own site as a blog for fun. Then people asked him to put it in a downloadable form, then people asked him to put it on Amazon for Kindle download which he did at the then min price of $0.99.

So apparently this movie had the coolest premiere ever… in the International Space Station! I guess that made sense as NASA was consulted while making the film in order to get aspects of space and space travel, specifically in relation to Mars, with the most accuracy.

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Well I’m seeing the film later tonight, and I thought I’d post three featurettes from the film. The marketing budget for this film is pretty massive, so we’ll see if it pays off.


So are you looking forward to seeing The Martian?

Weekend Roundup: Solomon Kane, Dancing on the Edge miniseries + Casting By doc

Happy Monday everyone!

Hope you had a nice weekend. It was a nice, mellow one for me, just enjoying the last few weeks of the fleeting Minnesota Summer. We had yummy Lebanese food for dinner and took a stroll by Mississippi River just before sunset… it was a warm night with a slight breeze. PERFECT.

My hubby took this on our stroll in St. Paul at dusk
My hubby took this on our stroll in St. Paul at dusk

I did fit in a few movies, one of them I’ve been wanting to see for some time…

SOLOMON KANE

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A ruthless mercenary renounces violence after learning his soul is bound for hell. When a young girl is kidnapped and her family slain by a sorcerer’s murderous cult, he is forced to fight and seek his redemption slaying evil.

I’m not going to review it again as my pal Becky has done a comprehensive review/tribute to the massively underrated sword & sandal film. She had the dvd so I saw it on Friday night at her place, and boy am I glad I finally did. I’ve been a fan of James Purefoy since his fearless performance in HBO’s ROME, and I’m constantly astounded why he’s not more famous than he is now. The man has the looks, talent, charisma, but maybe he lacks the one thing most stars have to have that they have no control over: luck.

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Director Michael J. Bassett and the producers had planned Solomon Kane to be a trilogy. It’s a bummer that it didn’t happen as it was a darn good film, it probably just wasn’t marketed very well. It’s got the swashbuckling action that looks gritty and raw with little CGI, and the supernatural elements of the story work for the adventure fantasy story. I find the story to be emotional engaging as well, especially between Solomon and the Puritan family led by the late character actor Pete Postlethwaite. English actress Rachel Hurd-Wood is quite good in a key role in the story, and it’s also got Max Von Sydow in a brief supporting role.

If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s definitely worth a rent.


DANCING ON THE EDGE miniseries (2013)

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A black jazz band becomes entangled in the aristocratic world of 1930s London as they seek fame and fortune.

I’m glad Netflix added this recently. I think I heard about it when Jacqueline Bisset won a Golden Globe for her performance, but I kind of forgot about it. But really, with a cast of Chiwetel Ejiofor AND Matthew Goode, I knew I had to see it.

I’ve only seen two out of the six episodes and I love it so far. The 30s jazz music is fantastic, but I like the glamor of the British aristocracy of that era and the mystery aspect of it that really sucks you in. There’s also the obvious racial issues given the Louis Lester Band is perhaps the first black band to ever perform for the British royal family. John Goodman has a key supporting role as an enigmatic American businessman, I can’t wait to see what he’s all about but he’s quite sinister.

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The set design and 30s costumes are beautiful to look at. It’s definitely an ear & eye candy + a gripping, historically-tinged story. Can’t wait to finish ’em all. If you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix streaming, can’t go wrong with this one.


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This documentary focuses on the role of the casting director in movie making and particularly on Marion Dougherty. She began work in the late 1940s sending up and coming young actors to be cast in the then new medium of television. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the contribution on casting directors was recognized in film credits and even today there is no Oscar awarded for that role in filmmaking.

If you know me at all, you’ll know how much I’d love to be a casting manager. So naturally I find this documentary utterly fascinating. I talked about this briefly here, but somehow I just haven’t got around to seeing it. Casting is so crucial and can make & break a film, so people like Marion Dougherty is really an unsung hero in Hollywood.

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Anyone who loves movies should check out this HBO documentary, as it shows how some of Hollywood legends like James Dean, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, etc. get their start. There are also stories about actors getting second chances after a not-so-memorable first start, most notably from Jon Voight and Jeff Bridges. Some of the people interviewed include directors the likes of Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Peter Bogdanovich. It also proves that Michael Eisner is a jerk, I mean he’d rather have Suzanne Sommers over Meryl Streep??! Mel Gibson was ready to drop out of Hollywood and raise organic vegetables and beef cattle before Dougherty suggested him to Richard Donner for Lethal Weapon. She also told Donner about Danny Glover… “He’s black, so what?” – Y’see, the part wasn’t written for a black actor, so obviously miss Dougherty was far more progressive than most Hollywood folks.

There’s no Academy Award category for casting director, and so in 1991, there was a campaign started by a bunch of actors to get her an honorary Oscar. Well, the fact that women mostly make up the job of casting, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re overlooked in this male-dominated industry.

Thanks to filmmaker Tom Donahue for shining a light on this under-appreciated profession that’s so crucial in the filmmaking process. This documentary is available on Netflix Streaming, so definitely worth checking out!


Well, that’s my viewing recap. So what did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

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Guest Post: Sundance review of Z for Zachariah

Special thanks to Iba from I Luv Cinema for her Sundance review!

ZforZachariah1Boy the things you learn when you decide to just hop in and catch a film. For instance, I did not know that there was a source material to this three-hander, post-apocalyptic drama. Z for Zachariah, directed by Sundance veteran Craig Zobel, is based on the same-named sci-fi novel written (and published posthumously) by young adult author Robert C. O’Brien. With a big screen adaptation penned by Nissar Modi, the film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie and Chris Pine. Yup, that is it. No one else. So you better like them, because for the duration of the film’s 95 minute running time, they (and a dog) are all we have to entertain us.

ZforZachariah3From jump, we know something is horribly wrong, as the world (or at least this part) appears to have gone to waste. However, among these ruins, we also land in an ‘Eden” – a spot that seems untouched by the chaos. Ann Burden (Margot Robbie) is our guide through these landscapes. She is alone, that is until she comes across Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a scientist, who until fairly recently, has lived underground. Circumstances will necessitate that they work together to build a life; I mean, really it makes sense that when you find someone, they should become an ally. Or will they? Because just as we get comfortable with these two and the bond they are forming, in walks Caleb (Chris Pine) an enigmatic crasher to their party of two. Immediately tension enters our idyllic hideaway as the two men contend for Ann.

In a slight deviation from the source material, I find it interesting that the filmmakers decided to essentially split the Loomis character from the novel into two people. In doing so, it ratcheted up the tension, thus creating a post-apocalyptic love triangle. This definitely presents an interesting dilemma for her as she sees these two men essentially duking it out for her as the prize. They could not be any different in their approaches – there is the soft, slow burn of her relationship with Loomis starkly contrasting the raw urgency of her interactions with Caleb.

ZforZachariah2Aside from romantic complications, we also have before us a story with heavy biblical references; set in a paradise (lost) of sorts, there is a Cain versus Abel-like battle waging between the two men. Oh well, maybe it’s just me …

Overall, I would say Z for Zachariah was an interesting cinematic exercise. If you are a lover of a well-crafted love story set in the blight of an apocalyptic fallout, I suggest you take a look-see. It is indeed beautifully shot and well acted. In fact, the film did hold my attention until that very (ambiguous) end – which when you think about it, maybe was not so ambiguous after all …

It is ultimately up to us to decide.

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Review by Iba
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What do you think of this film? Are you keen on seeing it when it’s released near you?

7 Films Screened at Sundance 2015 I’m most curious about

Sundance2015How’s your weekend everybody? I spent some of my weekend reading [and dreaming] about the Sundance Film Festival. I wish I could go there one day, the venue itself in Park City, Utah is gorgeous and of course, it’s a haven for movie fans, especially indie lovers. Who knows when we’ll actually see these films in a theater near us, but hopefully we will eventually.

So here are just a tiny sampling of movies that piqued my interest [in random order]:

Z For Zachariah

Director: Craig Zobel
Writer: Pall Grimsson, Nissar Modi
Cast: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor

In the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, two men and a young woman find themselves in an emotionally charged love triangle as the last known survivors.

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I’ve been seeing this photo all over the place and the cast alone intrigues me. I had no idea this was about a love triangle set in a post-apocalyptic world. Apparently this is based on a YA novel and according to this review from Variety,  the book has “…allusions to the Genesis narrative, [and] the novel was seen by some critics as a metaphorical clash between science and faith.” I was impressed w/ Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street, and it’d be interesting to see her in a more prominent role against these two equally gorgeous and talented actors.

Here’s a clip from the film

Brooklyn

Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleeson

In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.

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I LOVE Ronan and the 20-year-old’s definitely coming into her own as a grown-up actress now after churning in great performances in her teen years, esp. Atonement and Hanna. I like the sound of this period drama and John Crowley’s the same director who did the excellent Boy A with Andrew Garfield.

99 Homes

Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writer: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi
Cast: Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern

After his family is evicted, proud and desperate construction worker Dennis Nash (GARFIELD) tries to win his home back by striking a deal with the devil and working for Rick Carver (SHANNON), the corrupt real estate broker who evicted him.

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This sounds really intriguing, and it’s already got really good reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s an excerpt from We Got This Covered, “It is a film that could easily have condescended with characters that fall too concretely on the sides of black and white, the 99% vs. the 1%. (it is easy to believe that the 99 from the title refers to the plight of the common individual against the monopoly of the elite). However, Bahrani and co-scribe Amir Naderi are too perceptive and intelligent to depict these two men in simplistic ways.” 

No trailer yet, but here’s a clip featuring both actors:

Last Days in the Desert

Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Writer: Rodrigo Garcia
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Tye Sheridan, Ciarán Hinds

An imagined chapter from Jesus’ forty days of fasting and praying in the desert. On his way out of the wilderness, Jesus struggles with the Devil over the fate of a family in crisis.

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Ok so yes I was initially intrigued to see this mainly to see how McGregor pull off playing both Jesus and the Devil. But reading this interview with the filmmaker and lead actor on Christianity Today made me all the more curious. Described in the article as “…a character-driven meditation on family and mortality, haunting and spare” it seems as far away from something like EXODUS in terms of its *epic* and CGI-laden extravaganza, but hopefully it offers a reflective and thought-provoking look of Jesus’s life in perhaps his pivotal moment in his short but momentous life.

Lila & Eve

Director: Charles Stone III
Writer: Pat Gilfillan
Cast: Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez

Two distraught mothers, whose children were gunned down in a drive-by, team up to avenge their deaths after local authorities fail to take action.

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Viola Davis and J-Lo?? Now THAT’s quite an unlikely duo. It’s reminiscent of Thelma & Louise but decidedly more serious in tone. Considering the cultural climate of the recent police shootings in this country, the film would likely spark controversies. It’s certainly nice to see two strong women of color, who have a huge following in their own right, starring in a film together. The main draw for me here is Davis who’s charismatic and massively talented. Despite her questionable choice of movies, Lopez is actually not a bad actress and perhaps she gets to show her dramatic chops in this one.

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Director: Andrew Bujalsk
Writer: Andrew Bujalsk
Cast: Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce

Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client.

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Guy Pearce in a comedy, as a personal trainer no less? Yes please! Interesting to see the pairing of him and Smulders, but both have been in Marvel movies. Variety reported that the film’s been sold to Magnolia and perhaps will open later this Summer. Here’s more info about the plot: The film is set in the fitness world of Austin, Texas, with Corrigan as a recently divorced, miserable slob who makes a stab at self-improvement by signing up for a personal trainer at a local gym, where he meets the self-styled guru/owner (Pearce) and acerbic trainer Kat (Smulders). Sounds good to me!

Slow West

Director: John MacLean
Writer: John MacLean
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendehlson, Kodi Smit-McPhee

‘Slow West’ follows a 16-year-old boy on a journey across 19th Century frontier America in search of the woman he loves, while accompanied by mysterious traveler Silas.

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It’s interesting to note that first time director was a musician whose music been featured in films like High Fidelity and Remember Me. He worked on a short called Man on a Motorcycle starring Fassbender and perhaps that’s who the two met. Fassbender is also producing this film, described in MacLean’s own words in this Indiewire interview as “A European perspective of the West and young love…” Westerns isn’t my go-to genre, but the premise and cast definitely grabs my attention.

Hopefully these movies will all get distribution and that I get to see them later this year!


Well, have you been following Sundance this year? Which movies are you most excited to see?

10 Brilliant Acting Performances Defined by One Look

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

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

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

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

Christian Bale in Equilibrium

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

Emily Blunt – Jane Austen Book Club

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

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

Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale

Bassett_WaitingToExhale

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

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

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

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

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

Russell Crowe in The Insider

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

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

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

Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

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

Kate Winslet in Titanic

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

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

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

James Cromwell & Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

Cromwell_LAConfidential

Spacey_LAConfidential

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


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

Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2014 Edition

FiveForTheFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only 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. April Fools was just four days ago, man it seems like it was ages ago for Unbreakable_Postersome reason. Some of you caught the prank I pulled that day, and surely the interweb was full of fake news. One of them I read was this article listing three fake news stories we wish were real. One of those fake headlines says that M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable 2 Confirmed for 2015.

Per the article, ‘the studio indicated that the sequel will be set well after the events of the original film, and will follow Willis’ character as he learns more about his powers and the responsibility that comes with them.’ Oh man, if only that were true!! I’ve long been awaiting to see Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their roles, Unbreakable is my favorite M. Night’s film and one I’d wish to see a follow-up on. It’s been 14 years since its release and I still think it’d be worth revisiting the first truly *dark* superhero film.

Did you read any April Fools fake news you wish were real?
….

2. Switching gear to a superhero follow-up that’s been breaking box office record [pardon the pun]. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is poised to be the biggest movie of 2014 so far. According to Box Office Mojo, the Friday take of $37 mil would likely wind up to about $110 -$120 mil final weekend tally. I’m glad it’s doing well as I’ve said in my review it’s my favorite Marvel stand-alone movie yet, though I still have a special fondness for the first film.

MarvelStudiosFilms

Surely everyone’s going to have a different opinion on this. So, just for the heck of it, how about we rank 10 Marvel Studios movies from 2000, but only those involving character that appear in The Avengers. That means we’re NOT counting the X-Men movies, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, etc. Here they are alphabetically:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Hulk
  4. The Incredible Hulk
  5. Iron Man
  6. Iron Man 2
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Thor
  9. Thor: The Dark World
  10. The Avengers

So how would you rank these 10 Marvel movies?

……
3. Right now I’ll be watching a bunch of indie films at MSPIFF  2014. One of them I sadly have to miss because of a scheduling conflict is Tom Hardy‘s LOCKE.

LockePoster

A successful construction manager’s life is drastically changed by a series of phone calls while he drives.

Now this film that puts one actor in a confined location, more of a one-man-show for the entire film if we’re to judge from the trailer that I posted here. We’re only seeing Hardy as Ivan Locke as he takes a series of phone calls as he’s driving in a car, but boy is it gripping! I really think that the casting is what make or break this types of films, as that actor would have to be charismatic enough to hold our attention whilst seemingly not much is happening. As I’m a big fan of Hardy, naturally I’m intrigued.

My question is two fold: What do you think of Locke? And which actor would you like to watch in a similar confined setting like this one? 


4. Any casting news involving Chiwetel Ejiofor always makes me smile as I’ve been championing him for some time. Last time he was rumored in Star Wars also made a Five for the Fifth subject, if only that were true! Now as a massive Bond fan, of course this casting news piqued my interest!

ChiwetelEjioforBONDvillain

Seems that lately, or at least since Sam Mendes was on board, the new plan seems to be only to hire Oscar winners/nominees as Bond villain, ahah. In Skyfall we’ve got Oscar winner Javier Bardem, and now, Ejiofor is reportedly the top choice for Bond 24 which is currently in production. I’m definitely stoked if he were cast, though my initial thought was that fellow Black Brit Idris Elba would also make a great choice, given he’s got that devilish charm about him. I’ve never seen Ejiofor’s sinister side on screen before but I’m sure the massively talented actor is more than up for the task! With Ralph Fiennes and Naomi Harris returning, boy this is going to be one heck of a Bond cast. This might be the case where I’d love the villain more than the hero, ahah.

Thoughts on this casting rumor? Who would YOU like to see cast as Bond villain?

5. What a perfect segue to the last topic as we’ve got a former Bond villain in this one. I just backed this Kickstarter project ENEMY OF MAN, starring Sean Bean, Rupert Grint, James D’Arcy, Jason Flemyng and Charles Dance.

EnemyOfManMovie

Enemy of Man is an ambitious feature length retelling of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Macbeth.

This will be the feature directorial debut of actor Vincent Regan. I really like him in TROY and 300, I thought he gave one of the best performances in 300, as well as the most heart-wrenching. Regan is no stranger to Shakespeare, he’s a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare and National theaters. Sean Bean apparently played Macbeth on London West End and this gave him a chance to revisit the character for a larger audience.

All money raised from this campaign will go towards taking the film into pre-production. You can read the details on the Kickstarter link above as well as a preview to the teaser trailer. Below is Sean Bean talking about his involvement in this project:

This looks pretty promising and the talented British actors involved are quite underrated. I hope they’ll meet their goal and get this film made! As of right now, there is only 15 hours left and they still need about $33K to meet their goal.

Whether or not you choose to back it, what do you think of this project and the cast involved?


Well, that’s it for the APRIL 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

MSPIFF 2014 (April 3-19) The films I’m excited to see!

MSPIFF_StoneArchCinema
Photo courtesy of mspfilm.org

Another film-filled event is just around the corner! I really feel so privileged to live in a city where we’ve got not one but TWO film festivals, one in Spring and the other (TCFF) in the Fall. Founded in 1962, The Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul is Minnesota’s foremost film exhibition organization, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Presented every April, The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) is the largest spring arts event in the region, showing more than 200 films from some 60+ countries each year! Check out the awesome MSPIFF official trailer done by Crash + Sues & audio by Echo Boys Music:

On Thursday April 3, MSPIFF will host its Opening Night Presentation with a special screening of Amma Asante’s BELLE, followed by its opening night party at the Festival Pavilion across the street from the St. Anthony Main Theatre.

Unfortunately I can’t make the opening night festivities, though I’ve been looking forward to seeing Amma Asante‘s period drama Belle for some time. I’ve even posted the trailer here back in November, but here it is again:


More than 200 films are presented this year from over 70 countries, and it’s quite a lineup! I’ve picked up my Press Pass as well as about a dozen tickets earlier this week, woo hoo!

MSPIFF_PressPass

Here are the movies I’ll be seeing in the next three weeks:

FEATURE FILMS

Half of a Yellow Sun
Nigeria | 106 min | English
Directed by: Biyi Bandele
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton

Joe
United States | 117 min | English
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Nic Cage, Tye Sheridan

The Grand Seduction
Canada | 115 min | English
Directed by: Don McKellar
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch

Words and Pictures
United States | 111 min | English
Directed by: Fred Schepisi
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Clive Owen

Breathe In
United States | 98 min | English
Directed by: Drake Doremus
Starring: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones

A Thousand Times Goodnight
Norway | 111 min | English
Directed by: Erik Poppe
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

The Last of Robin Hood
United States | 88 min | English
Directed by: Richard Glatzer
Starring: Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Dakota Fanning

No trailer available yet
No trailer available yet

I REALLY want to see Locke, which is a one-man show with the charismatic Tom Hardy (also starring Ruth Wilson), but I might not be able to see it as it conflicts with the Transcendence screening. If there’s an additional screening for that one, I’ll definitely check this one out! Here’s the trailer:

 

DOCUMENTARIES

Beyond the Edge
New Zealand | 90 min | English
Directed by: Leanne Pooley

Brave Miss World
United States | 90 min | Hebrew
Directed by: Cecilia Peck

Charlie Victor Romeo
United States | 90 min | English
Directed by: Robert Berger

Google and the World Brain
United Kingdom | 90 min | English
Directed by: Ben Lewis

 

I’m also thrilled to see my friend (and FC contributor) Conor Holt’s sci-fi short film A BETTER LIFE screening on Thursday, Apr 10 | 6:30 PM.

ABetterLifeShortFilm

It’s one of my favorites at TCFF last year, you can check out my mini review of it here.


AdmitOneTicketGet your tickets and MSPIFF passes before they sell out!

$12 General Admission | $10 Film Society Members* | $6 Students w/ Student ID

The MSPIFF website is a great resource for the lineup, schedule, tickets, etc. You can download the 2014 Official Guide which has all the details about each film featured at MSPIFF.


What do you think folks, does any of these films interest you?