FlixChatter Review – Netflix’s EXTRACTION (2020)

Netflix is trying to take on the big Hollywood studios by producing quite a bit of pricey original films within the last couple of years. While their more prestigious films such ROMA and THE IRISHMAN received rave reviews and decent amount of views. Most of their original action/adventure films didn’t do quite well, for example last year’s very expensive TRIPLE FRONTIER was a dud. EXTRACTION is their latest action film that became their biggest hit to date, viewership wise anyway.

As the story begins, we’re introduced to Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), he’s the son of a ruthless drug lord named Mahajan (Pankaj Tripathi). Mahajan is in prison but still very powerful within the crime syndicate of India. While out partying with his friends at a night club, Ovi is kidnapped by men working for Amir (Priyanshu Painyuli), Ovi’s father rival. Upon learning the news that his son has been kidnapped by his rival, Mahajan orders his right-hand man Saju (Randeep Hooda) to do whatever it takes to get his son back alive. Saju hires a mercenary team whose leader is Nik (Golshifteh Farahani), she recruits her old teammate Tyler (Chris Hemsworth) to join the team in rescuing Ovi from danger.

At first Tyler wasn’t interested because he’s still grieving the death of his son. But when Nik told him that the fee is very high, Tyler decided to join her. They traveled to Dhaka to get Ovi and once Tyler found the boy, things went south real fast. He realized that his team has been double crossed and he will need to use all of his skills to keep Ovi and himself alive from the local police and henchmen who’re all chase after them.

Based on a graphic novel named Ciudad written by Ande Parks and The Russo Brothers. The screenplay is credited to only Joe Russo and it’s decent script for an action film. The story is pretty simple and quite predictable. It did try to get too serious for its own good about half way through the story but thankfully it didn’t linger on that too much.

The biggest draw for this film of course is the action and first-time director Sam Hargrave delivered the goods. Being that Hargrave was a stunt coordinator for many of the big Hollywood blockbusters, he knows how to shoot action scenes properly. There’s a “one shot” action sequence that will blow you away, one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in recent years.

Hemsworth hasn’t had much luck in films outside of the MCU but he seems to be a good fit in this role. His 6’2″ muscular frame makes him more believable that he can take on several foes at the same time than say someone like 5’5″ Tom Cruise. There’s not much that was asked of him for the role but Hemsworth did try to give a more personal performance. Being that his character lost a son and now he’s being a father figure to a kid he doesn’t know but trying to save his life. Unfortunately, none of the supporting actors really stood out for me, they were okay in their respective roles but pretty forgettable to me.

It appears Netflix has found a franchise and a sequel has already been moved into pre-production. If you’re a fan of the John Wick franchise, then you’ll enjoy this film.

3/5 stars

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So have you seen EXTRACTION? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the release of AVENGERS: ENDGAME as an event, at least to fans of the MCU. If you don’t know what that acronym stands for, but yet you’re curious enough to finally check out just what the fuss is about, I suggest watching a few Marvel movies first in order to fully appreciate what’s going on in this movie. There are 21 MCU movies up until this point, broken down in three phases. ENDGAME, as the title suggest, is the cumulation of the most of the heroes’ journey.

As I was watching the movie, I thought about how much I have come to care about these characters and what they have gone through. Since the release of Iron Man 11 years ago in 2008, there have been multiple new characters being introduced, but in the end, the film pretty much focused on the original six Avengers who survived Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Infinity War. Now, I know there have been calls NOT to spoil the major plot points, though it should go without saying for every movie. FlixChatter readers know I’m very careful about spoilers. That said, it’d be tough to review this film without potentially revealing some key things, so if you prefer to go into the film completely blind, you should stop reading this now [consider yourself warned].

The movie clocks in at 3 hours 1 minute. It’s perhaps the longest superhero movie ever, but there’s just SO much to cover. It actually goes by relatively fast, but that’s not to say there aren’t any slow moments. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is organized in phases, this movie is comprised of three specific ‘chapters’ if you will. The surviving superheroes (and a powerful new ally) only have one thing in their mind, that is to go after Thanos. It’s quite amusing to see the supreme villain is actually living a rather domesticated life, seemingly not losing much sleep after wiping out half of all living creatures. I’m not going to say how that ‘avenging’ business goes, but the movie then jumps ahead five years.

The second act is perhaps the slowest part of the movie, but I feel like the quieter moments are necessary. Naturally those who survived the snap are in mourning, some have lost more than others… some lost absolutely everything they hold dear. It’s not something people can just move onward and upward, not even those as mighty as the Avengers. As Steve Rogers said in the trailer, ‘Some people move on, but not us.’ Some are dealing with this new ‘post-Thanos snap’ era better than others. One could say they’re all dealing with an intense case of PTSD. Rogers is shown in a therapy session, while Hawkeye and Thor are dealing with this trauma in very different ways. I actually love how this movie is playing with our expectations of certain characters. Let’s just say, some of their um, evolution, for a lack of a better word, is truly amusing and not at all what I expected.

Themes of loss, anguish, regret, vengefulness, sacrifice are all we expect in a film that promises to be ‘the end of the line.’ Those themes are explored well here by writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, brought to life brilliantly by Joe & Anthony Russo. By this time, most of the actors have convincingly embodied their characters. Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner who made up the original six are particularly strong here, with Josh Brolin’s Thanos as the perfect villain. This movie has plenty of genuine emotional moments without being too heavy handed. It’s dark at times without being too brooding or overly gloomy. In fact, there are plenty of funny, witty scenes that provide the perfect levity to balance out the heartbreaking moments.

I’m glad my bladder held out well despite the three-hour running time, so I didn’t miss anything. I have to say though, the level of satisfaction this movie is would depend on how much you care about the characters that have been carefully crafted in the past decade. By the same token, if you’re not familiar with the previous movies, especially the previous Avengers movie, you’d find this movie utterly discombobulating. Even I find the plot rather convoluted and some things don’t make any sense. But most movies involving SPOILER ALERT (highlight if you want to read) time travel, especially involving quantum physics, is bound to be a head-scratcher. Yet that plot device also allows for backstory for certain characters, a walk down memory lane for others and perhaps even a farewell of sort given that the ‘end is near.’ If I were to nitpick however, I find the action spectacle in its finale to be too bombastic for me. It’s a problem for most superhero movies that even the best ones can’t seem to overcome. Fortunately, the Russos remain focused on the characters and what they have lost/stand to lose, which keeps the story grounded despite some overblown action sequences.

We all have our favorite character(s), and mine happens to be the first Avenger. My heart constantly went pitter-patter wondering what’s to become of Captain America. I have avoided reading all the incessant fan theories, and I’m glad I did. Part of the journey is the end. This movie delivers on that premise and it completes many of the characters’ arc in such an emotional way. It also lives up to the ‘whatever it takes’ premise as the Avengers face one impossible odds after another. Thor’s line ‘because that’s what heroes do’ was delivered facetiously in Thor Ragnarok, but here it holds a whole new meaning.

What made the MCU franchise so successful and gratifying to fans is that there’s a unifying thread throughout the movies. Yes, there are parts that have continuity problems–I mean what happened to Wanda aka Scarlet Witch’s Russian accent after Avengers: Age of Ultron?? But in the grand scheme of things, the storylines are so tightly-interwoven that by the time they all assembled in Endgame, we know just how high the stakes are for these characters. It also helps that earth mightiest heroes have a worthy adversary to fight against, which in and of itself is quite a feat. For a movie with such a compelling premise and a humongous build-up, it would be a shame if the payoff is weak. Thankfully that’s not the case here and for that I’m grateful. I’m also glad I packed tissues as it’s an emotional roller coaster of the best kind. Endgame made me laugh out loud one moment, then bawl my eyes out the next.

The film is an artistic and technical marvel. The set pieces are great, which is to be expected for a film of this scale. Alan Silvestri, the original composer of The Avengers, delivers rousing music with his iconic score, but it also sounds perfectly melancholy when it needs to be. What a bittersweet and worthy send-off for a bunch of beloved characters. I don’t even mind watching it again before its theatrical run is over, it’s THAT good.

Bravo to the Russos once again for completing a satisfying finale to such a behemoth franchise. There must have been an enormous pressure on them to deliver and I think, all things considered, they did an astounding job.


What do you think of AVENGERS: ENDGAME? Let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: 12 Strong (2018)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

The movie 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers is based on author Doug Stanton‘s book Horse Soldiers, which tells the story of U.S. Special Forces and CIA paramilitary officers sent to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, and Michael Peña, 12 Strong follows the group of Task Force Dagger who is sent to Afghanistan to fight with General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Afghanistan Northern Alliance and dispatched to a mountainous region of Afghanistan to conduct unconventional warfare against the Taliban forces who had occupied the region.

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Hemsworth, (best known for playing Thor, the hammer-wielding god of thunder) plays Captain Mitch Nelson, a character inspired by real life Green Beret commander Mark Nutsch who led the covert, horse-mounted mission that saw his 14-man Green Beret team unite with his Afghan allies’ horsemen to break out of the Hindu Kush mountains, seize a symbolic ancient shrine, and overthrow the Taliban regime. Nelson befriends and gains the trust of General Dostum (played by Navid Nagahban) and the General offered the Green Beret Special Forces team crucial “hooves on the ground” support.

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According to the declassified story, General Dostum asked his American allies of what sort of help they could provide to destroy the Taliban forces blocking their exit from the mountains. It was at this time that Mark Nutsch taught them of the satellite-guided bombs. Nutsch and the Green Berets acted as ground spotters to call in precision strikes from giant B-52s flying high overhead coming from aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean. As the bombs fell on Taliban tanks and positions, General Dostum’s men charged through the bomb smoke on horseback wiping out the remaining Taliban.

The film is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who has given us such classics as Black Hawk Down, Top Gun, and Armageddon, and co-produced with Alcon Entertainment and Black Label Media. Bruckheimer presents us with a riveting story in our recent history that many Americans might not know about. He also jam-packs 12 Strong with big-screen military fireworks that he is all too well known for. This is where we lose some key depth of storytelling and character development for more intricate action sequences and extravagant explosions on a massive scale.

Overall, the movie acts as tribute to soldiers whose contributions went unheralded for years. Even though it doesn’t have the strong emotional connection of other war movies such as Black Hawk Down or Hacksaw Ridge, this one is still a remarkable true story of great heroism that we should all keep in our memory and be grateful for the real life heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice and risked their lives for our American freedoms.


Have you seen ’12 Strong’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – THOR: Ragnarok (2017)

It’s been almost two weeks since I saw Thor: Ragnarok and I’m still giddy thinking about it. In fact, I had just seen Justice League two nights ago and honestly I’d rather write about the latest Thor movie, and this is one I’d readily watch again.

Let me preface this review with the fact that I’m a huge fan of its director, New Zealander Taika Waititi, ever since I saw What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople a year later. Those two rank as one of my favorite films of all time. In fact, even with an all star cast that includes my personal cinematic heroine Cate Blanchett, I’m most excited about Thor: Ragnarok because of Waititi. And boy did he deliver!!

It opens with our Asgardian hero, sans his Mjölnir hammer, being chained by a creature named Surtur who plans to destroy Thor’s planet by fulfilling the propechy of Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth is definitely much more comfortable in the role, having played Thor half a dozen times by now. But here he gets to show off his comic chops as well. He manages to escape, gets his Mjölnir and fighting mojo back and he returns to Asgard. It’s always a hoot seeing Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (I actually like him more than Thor from the previous films). I’m not going to spoil it for you but what he discovers there is one of the most comical bits of the movie. Let’s just say Taika made a great use of a famous A-lister that could’ve played like an SNL skit if it wasn’t handled properly. Love seeing Sam Neill making a quick appearance too.

The following scenes takes Thor and his half brother Loki to earth, trying to figure out the wherebouts of his father. The scenes involving them and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is funny stuff as well, peppered with Taika’s brand of quirky humor. As it turns out, it itsn’t just Loki who wants to take over the rule of Asgard, and this time she wouldn’t stop at that. With a name like Hela, of course she wants to rule the entire universe and unleash hell! Miss Blanchett relish on the opportunity to be a sexy, leather-clad, rockstar-ish goddess from hell, with another easy-on-the-eyes actor from Down Under Karl Urban as her lackey. Yes she seems to be purposely chewing the scenery but it works, and it’s fun to watch.

It’s clear the two brothers are no match for Hela and so Thor gets banished to a planet of scraps where his next crazy adventure begins! The new characters Taika introduced here, Valkyrie (bad-ass Tessa Thompson), the Grandmaster (the eternally amusing Jeff Goldblum), a rock creature Korg (voiced in a hilarious high-pitched voice by Taika himself) are all memorable! Even Rachel House (who was hilarious in Hunt for the Wilderpeople) got some hilarious one liners in the movie. I LOVE Valkyrie and Korg I wouldn’t mind seeing more of both of those characters in future Thor movies or even a spin-off! I also love seeing Idris Elba back as Heimdall, who became the loyal guardians for Asgardians. This is perhaps my favorite ensemble cast of all superhero movies.

I read that Taika has always wanted to make the latest Thor movie more comedic, whilst making some creative updates the character and its universe. Well he certainly’s done the job smashingly well! Yep, the term ‘Hulk Smash’ would apply to this movie and all the scenes with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), both as Bruce Banner and the big green creature, are massively entertaining. Everyone seems to be having a blast making this and it shows. But just because it’s chock full of hilarious bits, it doesn’t mean there’s no plot here. The story actually holds up and there’s even some nice moments between Thor and Valkyrie that points to her past as Asgard’s defender. There’s a hint there might be something less-than-platonic between these two and you know what, I’d welcome it! It’s certainly more interesting than Thor and Natalie Portman’s Jane.

I’m glad that Marvel once again took a chance on an indie director (following the success of the Russo brothers with the Captain America movies) and Taika Waititi is one of recent filmmakers I discovered who I REALLY want to see making it big. I love that he pushed for more Indigenous representation in his films. Apparently he hired many Aboriginal crew members and the film was shot in Australia. There are quite a few in-jokes for Kiwis and Australians, like the Aboriginal flag colors and the spaceships named after types of Holden, Australian-made cars. My relative actually owned one of those when I was growing up in Indonesia!

SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read) I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but the plot has a bit of social commentary about how the White people conquered a lot of the Indigenous land. When they’re inside the Asgardian palace, Hela said something about the dark history of Asgard… how Odin used to conquer different planets and wanting to rule the universe, with her by her side. But then Odin gained a conscience and became a benevolent ruler, thus banishing Hela because she didn’t share his vision. She said ‘where do you think we got all of this gold from?’ When I heard that, it sounded like a commentary about colonial privilege, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being the ‘stolen generation’ and white Australians living on someone else’s land. Even the Grandmaster’s line ‘slaves is such a harsh word, I prefer “prisoners with benefits”’ sounds like a sarcastic jab against people calling an awful thing differently as if that would actually lessen its awfulness.

Well, I’m curious if people notice those things or not. One thing for sure, this has become one of my all time favorite movie, not just my favorite Marvel movie. The actions scenes are definitely fun to watch. There are bombastic fight scenes but they don’t feel overlong or overdone like in some other superhero movies. There’s even an entertaining spaceship chase and of course the Thor vs Hulk battle promised in the trailer is still epic and fun! That ‘friend from work’ line is one of the many quotable quips from Taika Waititi’s movies I’d use again and again.

You would think it’d be tough to live up to the super fun trailer w/the rousing Led Zepellin’s Immigrant Song, but the movie manages to do just that… and then some! So yeah, Thor doesn’t just get a spunky new haircut but Taika gives him a whole new attitude and refreshing new take on his franchise. The funniest bits in the trailer is still hilarious in the movie, there’s so much joy and laughter in the whole theater. Like a joyful, thrilling amusement park ride, you can’t wait to get on it again as soon as it’s over!


Well, what did you think of ‘THOR: RAGNAROK’? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

FlixChatter Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

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It’s been ages since I saw the first Ghostbusters movie, which was released three decades ago in 1984. I decided to re-watch the original this weekend, but I barely remembered much of it by the time I saw this reboot. I pretty much chose to stay away from all the controversy over its all-female casting, chugging it to whiny fanboys who have too much time on their hands. I mean to say that a reboot ‘ruins your childhood’ and goes on a sexist/racist tirade over a movie, then perhaps you need to find more some meaning with your life.

In any case, I approach this movie with neutral expectations, as I usually do. Now, is it necessary to reboot this? Probably not, but seeing that all the cast members are so hilarious and talented in their own right, I expect to have a good time w/ the movie. Well, for the most part I did.

The movie starts out with a ghost sighting in a haunted mansion. That incident leads to the mansion owner seeking out Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), who vehemently denies writing a book about the existence of paranormal phenomenon as it threatens her reputation as a legit science professor. Soon Gilbert is reunited with her estranged friend and co-writer of the book, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who’s still as passionate as ever in her ghost-hunting vocation at a tech college. Her partner in crime is ab eccentric engineer Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) reported a ghost sighting at a subway tunnel, the Ghostbusters quartet is complete. Each was given a chance to shine here and I honestly can’t pick a favorite as I like ’em all.

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This is definitely an origin story from writer/director Paul Feig (who co-wrote it with Katie Dippold), not only told the story of how the team came together, but also how the Ghostbusters logo came about. I think they’ve assembled a great cast, as the four actresses have a great chemistry together and they work well as a team. It’s awesome to see regular girls, some are nerdy and prone to fan-girling (whether it’s ghost or hot-but-dumb male secretary), get to kick ass on the big screen. We’ve seen more of supermodel look-alike heroines like Lara Croft, Wonder Woman, etc. saving the world, so it’s always refreshing to see women we can relate to have their moment this time around.

Speaking of that hot-but-dumb secretary, Chris Hemsworth is definitely game in poking fun at himself as Kevin. He’s obviously aware of his more-brawn-than-brain image and goes all out with it, though at times it feels a bit too much. He’s not quite the scene stealer here, but certainly memorable. As for the cameos of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, well they’re amusing to see but the scenes they’re in are not as funny as I expected.
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The comedic style of this new movie is quite different from the original, for one I find that the new one has more wisecrackin’ one liners. I love the fact that the movie pokes fun at the haters…

‘It’s really easy sit there and be the naysayer when you don’t actually do anything.’ – Abby Yates

… but one of the funniest moments for me was when Leslie Jones’ character jumps into the mosh pit, but falls to the ground when the crowd moves away.

“I don’t know if it was a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell!”

Comedy is so subjective, so you either love or hate ’em, but having enjoyed Spy (also written and directed by Paul Feig and stars Melissa McCarthy), this one seems to be in a similar vein. The funniest bits are when the cast are bantering with each other, even the slapstick stuff involving the myriad ghostbustin’ weaponry made me laugh. But I find the last act to be the weakest and I find myself wandering a bit as the CGI-fest is happening on screen.

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As with many recent big-budget action flicks like Batman V Superman, there seems to be an obsession with blowing up a city. It’s as if all these filmmakers are infected w/ Michael Bay syndrome or something. The fight scene at the end is once again filled with a city being blown to bits and the colossal CGI smash went on for way too long. I mentioned it in the Dawn of Justice review, it’s a sensory overload that feels like an endurance contest for the audience. Yes I know the original also has a big action scene at the end, but it didn’t feel as bloated as this new one. It also didn’t help that this movie also has a very weak and totally uninteresting villain. I can’t even remember what the guy’s name was who summons all the ghosts to wreck havoc among the living.

That said, I’m glad I saw this and I’m happy to say I enjoyed it overall. I’d say it’s a pretty good Summer escapist fun that pays homage to the original. I wonder at times whether they should’ve made this into a spin-off instead of a reboot, which would perhaps give the filmmakers more wiggle room to make it a different story that’s still about ghost hunting. Whether or not that’d be a better movie remains to be seen of course, but it’d be interesting to see that.

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Having seen both the original and the reboot within a week, I’m more convinced of how absurd the controversy is over the all-female cast. Just like the original, the talented main cast are the best thing about the movie. I personally think humor knows no gender. I suppose haters are gonna hate, I just can’t fathom the idiocy of it all.

So if you’re on the fence, give it a shot and make up your own mind. It’s not the best reboots out there, but it’s definitely NOT the worst. I wish this were a better movie but one thing for sure, the main cast made for a winning foursome.

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So have you seen the new ‘Ghostbusters’ movie? I’d love to hear what you think!

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Weekend Roundup + Review of Michael Mann’s Blackhat (2015)

Happy Monday everyone! It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my office is closed in remembrance of Dr. King’s birthday. I was reading up about Dr. King’s history earlier today and I’m always astonished by how many inspiring comments he had made in his relatively short life. These are just some of my favorites we can all live by no matter what day it is.

Did anybody see SELMA this weekend? Well, it’s a good a time as any to see that film but I figure it’d resonate even more on MLK Day. I only went to the cinema on Friday night for Blackhat, and only got around to seeing The Guest last night. Tonight my hubby and I are going to start watching The Honourable Woman before Netflix yanked it off its streaming service at the end of the month. We’ve been wanting to check that out for ages, and Maggie Gyllenhaal winning a Golden Globe for her performance served as a perfect reminder!

Now here’s my review of Michael Mann’s latest cyber thriller:

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Well, looks like I have to eat my words on this one, considering I’ve done this enthusiastic post on this movie. I was prepared for a smart cyber-thriller that would speak to our cultural anxieties sparked by the repetitive security breaches and surveillance concerns, but the movie is just a typical crime thriller in which the plot revolves around a malicious hacker (hence the title). The opening sequence depicts a CGI tracking shot going into a maze-like chase from inside one computer and out of another on the other side of the globe and resulted in a nuclear reactor explosion in China. Both US and China are desperate to find a computer whiz to help find the cyber criminal and so we’re introduced to Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) who’s currently serving time for computer fraud. Conveniently, his MIT roommate Chen (Wang Leehom) is now a high-ranking Chinese official and he suggests that the FBI grants him a furlough to help them out.

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It all sounds oh-so-exciting but the film itself comes off as dull and un-suspenseful. The hacking jargon and those cyber intrusion CGI may look and sound cool at first, but it gets repetitive as the film progresses, but that’s not even the film’s biggest flaws. The aerial shots are frame-worthy, as one would expect from visual stylist like Mann, but it can’t cover for the clunky dialog (both in English and sometimes broken Indonesian) nor all the plot contrivances that don’t pay off at the end. I haven’t even mentioned the lame villains that’s more irritating than menacing.

I mentioned my doubts about our current ‘sexiest man alive’ Hemsworth as a hacker. Not just any hacker mind you, a computer genius who can hack into anything, including tricking NSA to get him access to their “Black Widow” super computer. (Thor & Black Widow, yes those Avengers reference did put a smile on my face). Well, no matter how authentic the hacking sequences and UNIX command line accuracies are (apparently the film got ’em right according to Wired), it’s still REALLY tough to buy Hemsworth as any sort of computer whiz. He’s not a terrible actor in the right role but he’s so out of his elements here. He also isn’t a movie star, not yet anyway. I read a comment on IMDb that says, ‘Tom Cruise is a star, Hemsworth is a mere flash light.’ Ouch! But y’know what, it made me think that if it were Cruise or someone with his charisma in the starring role, the movie could’ve been a bit more watchable.

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It doesn’t help matters that we’ve got the cheesiest, most cringe-worthy tacked-on romance between him and Chen’s sister (Tang Wei) who conveniently happens to be a software expert. I remember the scorching chemistry between Colin Farrell and Gong Li in Miami Vice, but none of that is to be found here between Hemsworth and Wei. All longing glances and even a sex scene two days after they met, but absolutely zero chemistry. Zilch. I wish Mann would give more time to Leehom and Viola Davis instead, both are perhaps the only saving grace here in terms of casting. Even delivering lines like ‘You can call me Chica anytime you want,’ Davis is always entertaining to watch, if only Hollywood would give her more to do in a movie.

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It’s really a shame that this film never rise above mediocrity. There are even some seriously preposterous moments, I mean, magazines used as bullet proof vest?? Ok so maybe if Thor has ribs made of steel [shrug] My hubby and I turned to each other as the credit rolls that it doesn’t feel like a Michael Mann movie. It looks as if a lesser filmmaker was imitating him as Blackhat has the look/sound/feel to it. I do appreciate the global feel of the film, being shot on location in several countries from US to China to Indonesia. But even the finale set during a Hindus’ Nyepi “Day of Silence” Celebration in Jakarta serves nothing more than an extremely elaborate set decoration, employing 3000 extras no less, that doesn’t add much to the movie.

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You know I REALLY want to love Blackhat so imagine my disappointment. It’s yet another exercise of style-over-substance. Yet visually, despite some arresting ones here and there, overall it’s not as impressive as his previous work in an urban setting, i.e. Collateral. Everything else fares even worse, from casting, dialog and plot, there’s very little to recommend this even coming from a big fan of this director. Six years after the disappointing Public Enemies, this is another misfire from Michael Mann. Well, I hope we won’t have to wait as long to see him back in top form for his next film.

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So what did you watch this weekend? What do you think of Blackhat?

5 Reasons I’m looking forward to Michael Mann’s BLACKHAT

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Normally I don’t get too excited about films opening in January, but when it’s a Michael Mann movie, that changes everything. His cyber-thriller Blackhat opens this Friday and I definitely will see this on opening night!

I posted the first trailer here a few months ago, and here are five reasons why I’m excited for this movie:

1. Michael Mann – one of my all time favorite directors

Even though I was underwhelmed by Public Enemies, I still consider Mr. Mann amongst my faves and I always look forward to his films. Manhunter, Heat, The Insider, The Last of the Mohicans, and Collateral are some of cinema’s finest films and he always takes his time in making his films.

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I love how LA Times describes him, “…Mann, 71, crafts sharp, sleek thrillers with a moody, existentialist bent” and per IMDb trivia, Blackhat also marks the very first Michael Mann movie to be shot entirely in digital. According to Variety, Mann has been up to his eyeballs in the worlds of cyber intrusion and espionage for the past three years, ever since he first read about Stuxnet, the computer worm (widely believed to have been deployed, at least in part, by the U.S. government) credited with creating major disruptions in Iran’s production of enriched uranium.

Sounds like Mr. Mann has done extensive research on the subject, consulting microchips engineers, cyber-intrusion experts, and the likes. I also read that hackers served as on-set consultants during filming.

2. The eerily-timely & intriguing premise

Considering the major SONY hack is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and just yesterday there are reports of U.S. military social media accounts being hacked by Islamic State sympathizers, this cyber-crime premise is as timely as it ever was.

Set within the world of global cybercrime, Legendary’s BLACKHAT follows a furloughed convict and his American and Chinese partners as they hunt a high-level cybercrime network from Chicago to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Jakarta.

According to this NY Times article, [Mann] became interested in a hacker-centered story after spending time in Washington with government cyberdefense officials. “What became apparent is that Washington knew — the White House, defense, law enforcement — how truly vulnerable we are to cyberintrusion.”

3. The international setting, including my hometown Jakarta!

There are no international barriers to cybercrimes and so naturally I’d expect the film would have a global appeal. I LOVE films that are shot on location, especially during the Winter months when escapism is why you go to the movies for! Plus, I’m super excited to see my hometown Jakarta on the big screen, woo hoo!!

Blackhat_Jakarta_Market
Blackhat_Jakarta_Nyepi

Per LA Times, Blackhat was shot over 66 days in the U.S., Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia, and the production used a variety of cameras, from top-of-the-line digital equipment to cheaper, smaller consumer-grade models. There’s supposed to be a sequence where Mann re-created the annual Balinese Nyepi Day celebration with some 3,000 extras. WOW, can’t wait to see THAT!!

Here’s a behind-the-scene video of Man filming in Jakarta:

 

4. Curious to see if Chris Hemsworth can carry a movie as an action hero

ChrisHemsworthBlackhat

For sure Hemsworth makes a good superhero, but can he be an action hero sans his red cape and Mjölnir? Truthfully, I still see him as more brawn than brain, and so I was quite dismayed surprised by his casting. I mean, Mann has worked with the likes of De Niro & Pacino, Brian Cox, Daniel Day Lewis, Russell Crowe, and Tom Cruise, so Hemsworth isn’t exactly in those leagues just yet. Besides, most hackers probably don’t have abs and biceps like these …

ChrisHemsworthShirtlessBlackhat

But I read in this article on how Mann came to casting Hemsworth:

“I first saw Chris in `Thor,’ and I thought he was great. Then I talked to Ron Howard, who had worked with him on `Rush,’ and Ron had a great experience and was kind enough to show me about 45 minutes of the film. Chris was just terrific. Then, I really wanted to meet him. So I went down to Costa Rica, where he was vacationing with his family, and we spent about two days together just talking about the film. I decided, at that point, this guy’s it.”


So y’know what, I’m going to give Chris the benefit of the doubt. Heck if Matthew McConaughey can play an astronaut and fly a spaceship through a wormhole to save humankind, who’s to say a beefcake can’t hack? 😉 I do love the ethnically-diverse supporting cast, starting with the always-excellent Viola Davis, character actor William Mapother (who happens to be Tom Cruise’s cousin), Chinese actress Tang Wei and Taiwanese-American Wang Leehom.

5. Promises to be a dynamic, entertaining, & cerebral action thriller

If there’s a director who could make the convoluted world of cyber-crime cinematic, I’d think that’d be Mr. Mann. I mean, he made a what seemingly tedious story about tobacco whistle-blowing case tense and suspenseful in The Insider and cyber thriller is inherently more exciting than that.

Plus, I think we can expect a good looking film, as most Mann movies are. Here he’s working with cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh, an Oscar nominee for The Piano who first worked with Mann on the pilot for his TV series Luck, noted that as much as possible they shot using available light, whether the dazzling neon of Kowloon or mostly by torchlight for the final confrontation in Jakarta.

It’s been a while since I saw a really good cyber-crime thriller. I mean I enjoyed Sneakers, The Net, and of course The Matrix, but Blackhat promises to be something more visceral and the fact that the premise is ripped from today’s headline makes it all the more intriguing.

Fingers crossed all of this adds up to one heck of a great thriller!


Here’s the latest trailer:


So are you going to check out Blackhat?