Thursday Movie Picks: 2020 Releases – Worst Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

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… 2020 Releases.

This week’s topic kind of leaves it pretty wide open to do whatever we want with our list. Well, I had just posted my Top 10 Best List of 2020, so in order not to be repetitive, I thought about posting about those the opposite of such a list. I already had a draft post of WORST MOVIES, so I might as well post it here instead. I usually pick just 3, but for this occasion, I decided to go with 4.

In any case, here are my four picks of WORST 2020 releases

The Last Thing He Wanted

(full review)

I read about the terrible reviews prior to watching this but I still didn’t think this was going to be this bad. The Last Thing He Wanted seems to have all the ingredients of an intriguing political thriller. Helmed by acclaimed writer/director Dee Rees (Mudbound), the film is based on Joan Didion‘s Orange Prize-winning novel, the UK’s ‘s most prestigious literary prizes.

I have a penchant for movies about journalists and here Anne Hathaway plays a veteran D.C. journalist who Reagan’s re-election campaign suddenly got a call from her absentee father to be his sub to complete a ‘deal of a lifetime,’ which involves flying to a mysterious location with a huge amount of mysterious cargo. Of course things started go awry, and so did the movie. Despite the star-studded cast that includes Ben Affleck and Willem Dafoe, this one turned out to be a disjointed mess that moved at an aggravating pace.

Fun Trivia:
Ben Affleck replaced Nicolas Cage in the role of Treat Morrison.


Kissing Booth 2

Now, I feel like I only have myself to blame for even thinking that watching this movie is a good idea. I never watched the first movie, but the only reason I saw this was to Maisie Richardson-Sellers (for a film project I’m developing), who despite only seeing her briefly here, I think deserves a better movie.

Oh man, this movie is absolutely awful that I could barely finish it. This Roger Ebert review summed up my dread perfectly, it’s “…a movie about cookie cutter characters in contrived situations set in a make-believe world…viewers may find its artificial sweetness and simplicity off-putting.” I can’t stand anyone in this movie, including the lead, Joey King with her bee-stung lips. There’s only so much suspension-of-disbelief one can muster. I mean, even superhero movies made way more sense than this, even baby Groot has more personality than any of these characters put together! I fast-forwarded so much of it and STILL it felt too long… as the running time is 2h 14min (I kid you not!) I’m surprised at the 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it should’ve been waaaay lower than that!! Oh and I saw in the recent Netflix promo video announcing 71 new movies coming this year, one of them is a third installment to complete this garbage trilogy! [face palm]

Fun Trivia:
Joey King shaved her head for her role in The Act, so she had to wear a wig when filming this movie.


The Secret: Dare to Dream

(full review)

I’ve never heard, let alone read the self-help book series called The Secret where this movie is based on prior to watching it. I guess I don’t pay attention to Oprah’s book club as apparently this massively-popular book was endorsed by her. I really tried my darnedest to suppress my cynicism and just enjoy the film for what it is. It’s really tough to do as I’m not into Lifetime or Hallmark-inspired dramas which tends to be filled with cloying plot and even more cringe-worthy acting. Katie Holmes is actually did her best here and her kids are pretty adorable, but Josh Lucas‘ smarmy acting was really tough to stomach. In the time of uncertainties amidst a pandemic, I generally welcome a film with a hopeful and uplifting message, sadly this one is pretty much drowned out by its own schmaltz.

Fun Trivia:
Andy Tennant directed from a screenplay he wrote alongside Bekah Brunstetter and Rick Parks, based on the 2006 self-help book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The book has been translated into 50 languages and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for 190 weeks.

Wonder Woman 1984

(full review)

So my fourth pick is a controversial one as I know many people love this one. I wish I could say I even like this one, but given all the release delays and huge anticipation surrounding it, this turns out to be a huge disappointment for me. I think I’m quite generous in my ratings generally, so to give a movie 2/5 rating means it’s got to be pretty bad. Not only bad, this one is problematic, esp. in regards to how Patty Jenkins resurrected Steve Trevor. We all love Chris Pine and he’s still fun to watch despite some of the idiotic stuff he and Diana were involved in WW84 (somehow the fighter jets at the Smithsonian are fueled + ready to fly?!)… but I was cringing the entire time I was watching it given Diana was using another man’s body as an Uber as all she sees in him is Steve. There have been many articles discussing this, but this one by the Mary Sue sums things up nicely. It’s not even the worst of it, the talented Kristen Wiig has to prowl around as the poorly-written CGI and horrendous CGI effects. Let’s hope the 3rd movie would be at least on par with the original!

Fun Trivia:
In a brief shot outside Max Lord’s HQ, as police and crowds are running in the background, a motorcycle cop in beige passes right behind Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as he walks toward the HQ with Diana. The cop is wearing the California Highway Patrol uniform, a homage to the 80s police show CHiPs (1977), which starred Pine’s father Robert Pine as Sergeant Getraer.


Thoughts on my picks of WORST 2020 movies? Which one(s) have you seen?

FlixChatter Review: Wonder Woman 1984

There are few 2020 movies that are as anticipated as WW1984. No wonder, it’s apparently got seven release dates, as far back as last December 2019, then it got moved around several times mostly due to Covid, then Warner Bros shifted its entire upcoming movie schedule until it’s got its dual premiere in theater and HBO Max. Well, I live in a state where there’s a state mandate to close movie theaters, so I saw it on streaming.

The opening sequence on Diana Prince’s paradise island Themyscira is quite a visual spectacle displaying the prowess of the Amazons as young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competes in an olympic-like athletic competition against those who are much older than her. It’s a cool sequence that harken back to the amazing Amazons vs German army battle in the first movie. Now, unlike the first one, I’m not sure this sequence actually fits in this movie this time around. More on that later.

After that competitive scene ends, we’re then transported to an entirely different world – 1980s Washington D.C. We’re suddenly hit with all kinds of 80s throwbacks – leg-warmers, bat wing tops, 80s sport cars, etc. It’s actually quite fun to reminisce on 80s nostalgia, especially in the shopping mall sequence where we see places/stores that no longer exist, particularly Waldenbooks as I always made a stop in that store (or B. Dalton) before Amazon (as in the retail giant, ha!) blew its competition out of the water. I think the period world building is pretty convincing, albeit not as immersive as the WWI period that Diana was thrown into in the first film.

Our heroine now works as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian, and she exudes elegance amongst the more campily-dressed rest of the world, but then again, only Gal Gadot would look lithe and graceful in loose-fitting pleated pants. There she meets her colleague, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a bumbling nerd who’s a bit outcast. Barbara is quite star-struck by Diana, even as the two forms a tentative friendship over a new project brought by the FBI to identify some ancient gems. As it turns out, there’s something about one mysterious stone that ties both of them with an aspiring businessman (focus on the aspiring part) named Maxwell Lord (perfectly slimy Pedro Pascal) who sells his brand of Gordon-Gekko greed with aplomb–”Life is good! But it can be better!”–even when his empire is crumbling in a mountain of debt.

The 80s is all about being loud, blatant and showy, but it seems that the movie has adopted the ‘go-big-or-go-home’ mantra from that era as well, where subtlety and nuanced seems to be deemed a bad thing. The conversations between all the characters, Diana & Barbara during lunch, and all the scenes involving Lord is campy to the max, which at times is comical. I have to say that the action scenes post the opening sequence are all big, bombastic, but largely uninspired. In fact, it’s was like a big clanging cymbal that feels empty and repetitive, which you could also say the same about the film.

The entire plot is built upon this Dreamstone that can grant wishes to anyone. Unlike Aladdin’s magic lamp, it not clear how this stone actually works but we’re supposed to just go along with it. When someone in the museum office wishes for coffee in front of the thing, then voila! it magically appears. Apparently Lord’s been searching for this magical stone for a while and naturally he sees it as the solution to his economic problems, that is to get all his investors to believe in his oil investment schemes. Interestingly, the stone would grant any wish, big or small, no matter how incredulous it might be.

Thanks to this mysterious Dreamstone, everyone’s life changes in an instant. Director Patty Jenkins, who also co-wrote the script with Geoff Johns & Dave Callaham uses the moments post wish-granted as comic relief. From Barbara at the gym being all hot, sexy and super strong (channeling Jane Fonda in her leotards, rawr!) to ALL the scenes when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is all bewildered by everything in the 80s. As to those asking why in the world is Trevor back from the dead? Well, trust me, that’s not the only thing that’ll get your suspension of disbelief stretched to its snapping point, at least he was amusing in the 80s getup. Plus, Pine and Gadot have an effortlessly-playful chemistry that’s fun to watch.

I try to make most of my reviews spoiler free, but from time to time I simply have to talk about it. One of my biggest beef about Diana’s character here is the irritating inconsistency of who she’s supposed to represent. She’s supposed to be one the most powerful woman person in the world, but yet she’s shown as lonely and reclusive, unable/unwilling to make friends. SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read)Despite initially not believing that the stone has magical powers, she made a wish anyway and that is she wants her lover back. Diana/Steve love story was beautifully-realized in the 2017 movie, but in this timeline, that was more than six decades ago, and she hasn’t moved on in all that time?? Now, I’m not against romance or anything, but bringing Steve back in this way is problematic. Somehow the movie makes Diana comes across like a lovelorn woman, which is disappointingly at odds with the message of female-empowerment.

Thus, I feel like Jenkins just want to work with Pine in the sequel and she ended up sacrificing story integrity, or worse, the integrity of the character we’ve come to love in the first film. I’m all for bringing Pine back, I just feel like his character should’ve been written in a different way. It’s also odd that the biggest action spectacles involving Wonder Woman is at the most dynamic when Steve was around as her side-kick. I’m not saying that Steve becomes Robin to Diana’s Batman necessarily, but it feels as if he was more instrumental to her ‘saving the day’ than he needed to be. He also becomes her voice of reason, which again is a re-tread to what we’ve already seen in the first film.

Which brings me to the two villains in the movie, which is definitely not created equal. With his inherent campiness and absurdity, Lord is an entertaining character to watch. Pascal is having a moment right now and I’m glad because he’s a terrific actor who finally gets his due. His character is clearly modeled after Donald Trump (“I’m not a con man but a respected television personality” ha!) but with much, much better hair. You can almost visualize Lord twirling his invisible mustache. I think the fact that Pascal is without any facial hair makes him look unsettling, like something is off, which I guess is the point.

At the same time, Pascal is still able to make the character grounded instead of making him a full-blown caricature of a modern genie. He hits the emotional moments required that makes you still sympathize with him despite the massive chaos he’s caused all over the world. I do have to mention though, I was a bit distracted by the fact that the boy who plays his son looks more Asian (like Thai or Filipino) than Latino, but perhaps I was a bit more distracted by his unconvincing acting. His nefarious plans are so grandiose and incredulous, i.e. inadvertently starting a nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union, seem to play out like SNL skits that they’re unintentionally hilarious.

Barbara, aka Cheetah, on the other hand, suffers not only from poor character development, but also from horrible special effects. I was still scratching my head as to how she suddenly became Cheetah when suddenly she’s dressed in the furry cheetah getup, slinging and taunting Diana who’s now donning the legendary Amazon warrior Asteria’s all-gold armor that she’s kept in her home. Despite being almost as powerful as Wonder Woman, Cheetah is barely menacing nor even the least bit threatening, partly because of bad CGI, but also largely because of the shaky character motivation. Barbara is more of an ugly-duckling-turned-swan run amok as she’s consumed by her own beauty and power. I like Kristen Wiig generally, but I have to say her character makes me cringe from start to finish. Her giggling and crushing over Maxwell Lord is as hard to watch as all the Cheetah action sequences.

To be fair, none of the action sequences is all that great apart from the opening sequence. That’s why I said it doesn’t fit this movie as it feels tonally different and doesn’t really advance the story forward as we have already seen how bad-ass young Diana was in the first film. It would’ve worked better as a special feature in the blu-ray instead, as it’s still spectacular to watch. To make matters worse, the music by Hans Zimmer is too loud, boisterous and irritating… I can’t even remember any of its motif/melody at all, just the fact that I wish it could be toned down (hello Dreamstone/Maxwell Lord? Were you not listening to my wish?)

At an overlong 2 hours and 31 minutes, WW84 feels derivative and preachy, which is made worse as it’s a rehash of the same virtues that’s been delivered in the first movie. So she’s basically ‘preaching to the choir’ over and over again with her lasso of truth, adding a clichéd ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage on top of that.  I guess the one improvement that can be said over the first movie is the villain is far more memorable this time around (anyone even remember Ares God of War?). Unlike The Dark Knight where the villain upstages the hero, that is in fact part of the plan and fits the Batman story as a whole. It’s quite ironic that despite showing an extended flying sequence here, Wonder Woman fails to soar.

It pains me to write this review… though I had a bad feeling after watching all the trailers, I was hoping the movie would prove me wrong. Alas, that did not happen. I still like the character and Gal Gadot’s performance as Diana though, so I’m hoping this is just a singular misstep and we’d see the character rising to greatness again in its inevitable third installment.


Have you seen Wonder Woman 1984? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

I started writing this review just a day after seeing it. It has become a rarity for me to be able to write reviews so soon after I saw it but I felt… compelled, yeah that’s the right word, to get my thoughts out as the film opens. Thankfully the embargo ends Wednesday night!

I’m not going to lie. Like many people who care and support gender equality in Hollywood and want female filmmakers, or just women in film in general, to succeed. We all want Wonder Woman to succeed. It’s no hyperbole that much is riding on this film, even if it’s not exactly the first big-budget superhero film, though really we should perhaps forget those who came before this because well, let’s face it, they’re not any good. No doubt there’s an unfair amount of pressure put on director Patty Jenkins, whose last film Monster, was 13 years ago. (Wow, seriously?? I had to double check on IMDb on that fact).

There’s also a sizable amount of pressure on relatively unknown Gal Gadot. I have to admit, I wasn’t crazy with her casting initially. But like my qualms with Daniel Craig as Bond, it was quickly squashed when I first saw the first trailer. I was immediately on board with Gadot’s portrayal. The fact that she was part of the Israeli army, no doubt she looked the part. But more than sheer athleticism, she is also extremely charismatic and has such a genuine ‘goodness’ the way Christopher Reeve was as  the first cinematic Superman. It’s perhaps no surprise that the scene of Diana saving Steve in a London alley is reminiscent of Clark saving Lois in a NYC alley in Superman The Movie.

Superhero films can live and die by casting… it is extremely crucial that we believe in the person playing the role. Gal Gadot absolutely rocks as the mighty Wonder Woman as well as the sweet and compassionate Diana. More so than her two fellow DC boys Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman combined. That’s why she’s the best thing about Batman V Superman despite her less-than-10-minutes running time. She’s also got a pretty effortless comic timing that works in the film’s many lighter touches. Plus she’s got such an earnest quality that made lines such as ‘I can not stand by while innocent lives are lost!’ works, instead of coming off lame or corny.

It’s superb casting all around. The Amazonian women. Diana’s mother Hippolyta is played with such grace by Connie Nielsen (I so miss her since Gladiator) and Robin Wright as Diana’s aunt Antiope is in phenomenally bad-ass form here (man she deserves her own superhero franchise!) I truly enjoyed the scenes in the paradise island Themyscira. The production design in Greece is absolutely beautiful, I’d love to see more scenes set here perhaps in the sequels? I also love the first big action scene on the island between the Amazonians and the German army set in WWI. It was so much fun to watch these fierce women looking amazingly cool in various acrobatics… on a horse, leaping in the air, etc. I would rewind that scene over and over when I get the Blu-ray!

Now, I’m not saying I love every action scene in this movie. In fact, I gotta say the slo-mo stuff gets overwhelming after a while as the movie goes on. Towards the end the pyrotechnics of the final battle dull my senses, though nowhere near as bad as all the bombastic blasts at the end of Man of Steel. I quite like the music though, and I’m glad they use the main theme by Hanz Zimmer and Junkie XL sparingly to make a real impact.

As for the villains, I’m not too fond of Danny Huston’s rather over-the-top performance and he’s basically forgettable. SPOILER ALERT [highlight text to read] I don’t think it’s that huge of a surprise that Ares God of War takes the form of a British cabinet member (David Thewlis), I didn’t think that part and the subsequent battle between him and Diana are all that interesting.

In any case, there are plenty to like in this movie that offset my quibbles. The always-watchable Chris Pine is charming and sweet as Steve Trevor, Diana’s love interest. He’s got that rogue-but-sensitive sensibilities down pat, and his attempt at a German accent is hilarious! Plus he’s nice eye candy and we got to see quite a lot of him in a particular scene, ehm. The tentative romance is handled well, akin to Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter in Captain America movies in that you immediately want them to be together.

Right from the trailer, I also love his secretary, played with such glee by Lucy Davis. My only complaint is that she’s not on screen enough. The rest of Diana’s earth-bound rag tag team are a hoot as well, played by Saïd TaghmaouiEwen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock.

I enjoyed the fact that the movie isn’t as dark as previous DC installments but it’s also not all fluff and style over substance. There’s an emotional scene between Diana and her mother as they part ways, and Diana’s compassion and heartbreak at seeing people injured from the war is palpable. That’s what makes the first earthly action scene, Wonder Woman vs the German Army, is so powerful to watch. She’s driven by compassion and love for humanity, and she doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder like many of her male superhero counterparts.

Overall it’s a terrific start to what I hope will launch more and more female-led comic-book films. For me, any female-led films is a great thing in my book, regardless of genre. It helps to actually have an actual comic book writer, Allan Heinberg, amongst a team of writers that also include Zack Snyder. But mainly, kudos to Patty Jenkins for being a capable captain of the ship and Gal Gadot for portraying a symbol of female empowerment with such strength and grace. It’s not just the best DCEU film so far, it’s a solid and hugely entertaining film, period.


So have you seen WONDER WOMAN? Well, I’d love to hear what you think!

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Trailer Spotlight: WONDER WOMAN (trailer 3)


Hi everyone! Hope all is well in your part of the world. Well I don’t have to tell you that my life’s been practically consumed by my short film now. As they say, writing is pretty much rewriting and that’s where it’s at now… constant script revisions. It’s a very exhausting, humbling and also fruitful learning experience for me. But believe it or not, that’s not the worst part of it so far… scheduling is definitely a bloody nasty process!

So pardon me if I haven’t been around your blog lately, heck I haven’t even been around MY own blog. But I do miss doing these community links… so let’s get to it!

Margaret participated on the Unsung Heroes Blogathon. Of course it’s one of Ed Harris‘ movies 😉

Let’s take some time from movies to gaze at Cindy‘s stunning shots of full moon over Sycamore Canyon, AZ

Jordan reviewed an Italian film Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers)

Meanwhile Allie just reviewed a book, Truly Madly Guilty. I actually haven’t done a book review before, not sure I’m cut out for that. I think I’ll stick to movies.

As I’m about to write my quick thoughts on LOGAN, glad my friend Mark loves it as much as I do!

On the other hand, glad I’m not the only one who isn’t so ga-ga over La La Land. Eddie didn’t fall head over heels with it either.

I love Michael‘s Best Album Covers series, this time he shone the spotlight on trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s album Hub-Tones

Speaking of music… Chris has been listing his Top 100 songs of 2016. Check out if one of your faves made his list.


TRAILER SPOTLIGHT

Ahhh yes… wonder indeed!! I have posted about Wonder Woman here which was around Comic-con last year. Man I can’t be more excited for this movie. It’s one of the rare DC movies I’m actually super looking forward to.

Behold…

Woof, this gives me goosebumps! I love that first part of the Amazon princess Diana in warrior training. Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman! I actually had trepidation about her casting initially, but just like Daniel Craig w/ Bond, I’m definitely sold as soon as I saw the first teaser!! Interestingly enough she actually auditioned to be a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, heh I’d love to see her play a female spy, and the fact that she was in the Israeli Army, she likely could kick any of those Bond actors’ arses effortlessly 😉

I like this alley scene, definitely reminds me of a scene in Superman: The Movie, the first time Clark Kent saves Lois Lane from a bullet in an alley, complete with Diana wearing dark rimmed glasses too!

Nice to see Connie Nielsen back on screen again as Diana’s mom Hippolyta. Oh and Princess Buttercup er Robin Wright as an Amazon warrior? Yes please! Chris Pine is instantly likable as her love interest, glad he took on a second-banana role despite being one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men. But mostly I’m thrilled because we have a woman behind the camera this time! That in itself is history in the making, Patty Jenkins is the first woman to have directed a live-action movie with a $100 million budget.

I sure hope this movie will be a huge success… I mean dayum, DC sure needs a hit right about now. As for me, I’m hugely optimistic… heck this scene alone looks darn epic!!!

I still gets goosebumps when the Wonder Woman theme came on… thanks to Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL. I love that they use it sparingly for the finale, which made it all the more impactful.

 


What do you think of the the third Wonder Woman trailer? 

FlixChatter Review: Hell or High Water (2016)

Ted_review

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When I first saw the trailer of Hell or High Water a couple of months ago, I thought for sure it’s going to be one of those late summer action films that would be shown at theaters one weekend and disappeared the next. Well as it turns out, it is one of the best reviewed films of the year, maybe the best so far. According to Rottentomatoes.com, out 134 critics who reviewed it, only 2 gave it a negative review. As of this writing, it’s currently sitting at an unbelievable 99% fresh rating on the site.

Set in West Texas, brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are bank robbers and as the film opens, we see their acts right away. They’re amateurs but desperate for money, especially Toby who wants to keep his family land from being foreclosed on by the evil banks. Texas Ranger Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the hunt to stop these two brothers from committing any more robberies. These four characters are the center of the picture and it’s the chess match between the brothers and Rangers that’s fun to watch. This film can be described as buddy/western/road/action/thriller, it’s quite a lot to describe a film but that’s best way to explain it to anyone.

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For a film that doesn’t have a complex plot, the actors need to carry the picture and the performances by the main leads were pretty great. Jeff Bridges gets my vote for best performance of the year so far; no doubt he’ll get nominated again comes awards season for his performance here. He pretty much reprised his role from True Grit and it’s quite fun to watch. His character is on the verge of retirement and he wants to catch these thieves so he can ride out into the sunset as a hero. His constant insults on his partner Parker is hilarious and we audience know he didn’t mean what he said.

Birmingham also stood out as the partner who has to endured Hamilton’s insults but he give as much insults back to Hamilton as well. Watching these two rangers bickers gave the picture more comedic tone than you’d expect in a film like this. Pine, who probably realized he can’t rely on the Star Trek pictures to keep him relevant in Hollywood, wisely accepts this role in a smaller film. He’s very good here as a desperate man who wants his kids to have a better life than his. He also worries about his reckless brother who only decided to rob the banks just for fun. I was never a fan of Foster but he’s effective here as the reckless brother who enjoys violence and knows that his life is over once they’re done with the robberies.

HellHighWater_PineHellHighWater_Foster

The script by actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is pretty great. Even though it’s a simple story, he was able inject some dark humor, great dialogs and some surprises here and there. I do wish he’d toned down some of the hate directed at the evil banks; yeah we get it, many people suffered because of these greedy bankers. Some of the dialogs tend to get a bit too preachy for my liking, especially when Toby and Hamilton had their confrontation.

Director David Mackenzie also did a good job of setting moving the film along as a brisk pace. It’s obvious that he took inspirations from films of Sam Peckinpah and The Coen Brothers. Some even compare this film to No Country For Old Men. While I agree there are similarities, I still think the Coen Brothers’ picture is superior to this.

Even though it sounds like I love this film, I only liked it. I thought Mackenzie did a good job of bringing a great script to the big screen, I think had it been directed by a more polished directors like David Fincher or Alfonso Cuaron, this would’ve been a near perfect film. I didn’t see any originality from Mackenzie so I can’t call a great film, just a very good one. But it does have a great script and fine performances.

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So have you seen Hell or High Water? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Double Reviews: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

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Ted’s Review

I don’t consider myself a Trekkie, I’ve seen all of the Star Trek films but never got into any of the TV shows. I enjoyed the first two films by JJ Abrams, even the much-maligned Into Darkness. When Abrams decided to jump ship and take over the other space adventure franchise, Justin Lin was hired to direct this third sequel. Lin made his name by retooling the Fast & Furious franchise and those films made millions. Personally I thought he’s an odd choice to take over a sci-fi franchise but thankfully he delivered one of the most enjoyable Summer films I’ve seen so far.

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Three years into their five-year mission, the enterprise crew is feeling the grind of their routine space work. As the film opens, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is giving back an artifact to a group of alien creatures but it didn’t turn out well as he’d hoped. Later the crews are heading to a new advance space station to get some R & R. While stationing at the new space station, Kirk received a new job offer and contemplating leaving the Enterprise. Before he can decide to accept the new job offer though, there was a stress call from a lone survivor who needs help. Kirk and his crew set out to rescue more lives from danger but as they approach their destination, it turns out to be a trap. In a pretty spectacular sequence, a group of aliens with advance spaceships attacked the Enterprise and broke the ship into pieces. The ship crashed landed on an isolated planet and the crew got separated. Kirk must find his friends and also figure out who these aliens are and their purpose for attacking the Enterprise.
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The script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung is pretty simple, maybe too simple for my liking. The premise is basically search and rescue and lots and lots of action. But they were able to throw in a lot of funny dialogs and lighten up the mood of the film quite a bit. Speaking of action, Lin definitely delivered on that front. The space battles were well-staged and very exciting to watch. If there’s a theater near you that has Dolby Atmos surround sound, I highly recommend you see it there. Lin also was able to move the film along at a brisk pace, never linger on any subplots that might slow the story down.

One minor complaint I have is the way he shot the climatic showdown between Kirk and the main villain. He moved the cameras way too much and I wasn’t sure what was going on. I thought Abrams did a much better job in a similar scene for Into Darkness when Spock and Kahn had their showdown.

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Performances by the actors were great, since this is their third outing, I thought all of the actors look comfortable in their respective roles. Since plot have them separated from each other, many of them got equal screen time. The best pairing to me has to be Spock and Bones, their bickering were fun to watch and the two actors have good chemistry. The weakest link here though is Idris Elba’s villain Krall. He’s yet another one -dimensional evil character whose purpose is vengeance against Starfleet. Elba didn’t have much to do except scream and spouting clichéd evil dialog.

It may not be the best film in the franchise but definitely an upgrade over the too serious Into Darkness. The film contains great action sequences and a touching tribute to the two deceased actors. I’m not a trekkie but I thought this one can be considered one of the best in the franchise.

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Ruth’s Review

I wasn’t going to review this one, but seeing that I have quite a different reaction than Ted, I thought I’d post my thoughts on it as well.

Like Ted, I’m not a Trekkie either, but JJ Abrams actually managed to make me interested in the Star Trek Universe with the first film. I also enjoyed the second installment Star Trek Into Darkness that Abrams also directed, and I really dug Benedict Cumberbatch’s villainous turn as Khan. I said in that post that it was a huge improvement over Eric Bana’s role in the first film. Well, unfortunately in this third installment we’re back to another clichéd, one-dimensional villain in Idris Elba‘s Krall, as Ted has pointed out above. It’s a travesty that when they hide incredibly good looking, massively talented actors under such heavy makeup and give them banal dialog on top of it.

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It’s no fault of the insanely-charismatic Elba that Krall is such a terrible villain. But he’s so terribly-written it made me cringe. But interestingly enough, the one person I thought would be cringe-worthy turns out to be quite okay. I’m referring to Sofia Boutella‘s Jaylah (who I initially thought was Rihanna), a scavenger who rescued Scotty (Simon Pegg) and took him to her home. Her house turns out to be an early generation Starfleet vessel USS Franklin, and she needs Scotty to help her fix it.

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The moments between Jaylah and Scotty are pretty fun. I quite like Jaylah, and she’s given a pretty decent character arc. The movie’s best moments to me are in the the dueling banters, whether it’s Scotty & Jaylah, or Bones & Spock. Karl Urban‘s grumpy-ness is so endearing and he’s got as good chemistry with Chris Pine as he does with Zachary Quinto. The film did boldly go where no previous Star Trek film has gone before in making Sulu (John Cho) gay, though it only amounts to barely a minute of screen time showing him with his husband and young daughter.

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Unlike Ted though, I’m not too crazy about the frenetic action sequences. I find it to be too dizzying and goes on far too long. It seems endless to me that my mind started to wander and it actually took me out of the movie. I don’t remember feeling this way in previous Star Trek films, but this one has so much combat scenes and explosions, even the USS Enterprise was blown to bits. There’s also a ton of chase sequences, so I guess I could see why they hire Justin Lin for this movie. During one of the many extended action sequences, I whispered to my husband that this is basically Fast & Furious in Space! The one part I did enjoy was towards the end when they used loud rock music as a countermeasure against the tiny ships ‘swarm’ controlled by Krall.

I guess this movie would satisfy action fans. But for me, I expect Star Trek to be a space adventure drama, more about Starfleet’s journey and the relationships of its crew members. The film touched upon that in Capt. Kirk’s opening monologue, but that’s pretty much it. I guess there’s not much room for characterization amidst the dizzying action, apart from a few fun banters here and there. Even the quiet moments of Spock mourning the passing of Ambassador Spock doesn’t elicit much emotion as it should’ve been. It did pain me every time I saw Chekov on screen though, I still can’t believe Anton Yelchin‘s gone.

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So despite some fun moments, overall it’s just hard for me to feel invested in Kirk & co.’s journey this time around. The faster the chase scene the more tedious it becomes for me. Perhaps the movie’s aimlessness has been hinted in the intro voice over of Captain Kirk… “As for me, things have started to feel a little episodic. The farther out we go, the more I find myself wondering what it is we are trying to accomplish” Yep, that’s how I feel as the audience too, Cap. The ending also feels a little too neat, resolved perfectly just in time for yet another episode (read: sequels) in a not too distant future. Not sure I’m too excited for future Star Trek movies after this one.

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So what did YOU think about ‘Star Trek Beyond’? 

Weekend Roundup: FlixChatter on BTR radio & Trailer highlights from SDCC – Wonder Woman, King Arthur & Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

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Happy Sunday everybody!

How’s your weekend? Mine is quite a busy one. I went to see Star Trek Beyond Friday night (review coming soon) and spent most of the day at the grand opening of the new Vikings stadium (US BANK stadium) in downtown Minneapolis.

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Hey I’m on the radio! 😀

Earlier this month I had a chat with BreakThrough (BTR) Radio host Taia Handlin who runs the Biology of the Blog podcast. It was an honor & privilege to talk about the origins of my blog and my passion for movies in general. So hope you take a listen…


comiccon_logoOk, I thought I’d post about a few highlights from San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. I can’t believe it’s been five years since I was at SDCC! I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get tickets to go there, nor do I have the energy to wait in line for hours again. Well I’ll always have the fun memory of being in Hall H!

I was pretty much blissfully ignorant to all the updates most of the weekend until late Saturday night when I watched some of the trailers.

Well, the two I posted here are two of the movies I most look forward to in 2017. I actually saw the Justice League trailer first but honestly it doesn’t change my mind from my ‘meh’ sentiment about it. It looks humorous but given Zack Snyder directing, can’t say I’m optimistic.

THIS trailer however, still gets me excited!

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Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman is one of the few best thing about Batman V Superman, and goodness it’s about time we see a feature film showcasing a bad-ass female superhero!!

Yes I realize that despite having a female director Patty Jenkins at the helm, we’ve got four male writers (including Zack Snyder, yikes!) But I’m hoping they’d do the Amazon princess’ story justice. I LOVE that the film is a period piece set in 1920s, and this is an origin story I don’t mind seeing. We’ve got a glimpse of Themyscria, home of the Amazons. Oh and Chris Pine as the human boyfriend… interesting that the trailer debuts the same weekend as Star Trek Beyond.


Nice to see Connie Nielsen as Diana’s mother, been too long since she had a prominent role since Gladiator. Oh and speaking of bad ass women, Robin Wright as an Amazonian army general, yes please! The trailer ends in a comedic note, which I take it as a good thing as superhero movies ought to have a sense of humor.


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I know it’s all about superhero and comic-book movies at SDCC, but I’ve been looking forward to Guy Ritchie‘s take on the often-told King Arthur adaptation. Well, this medieval king is more ‘street’ than any other ones we’ve seen before and y’know what, I think it looks like fun! This is a mythological figure that’s been done to death on screen, so I welcome an unconventional, edgier version. I gotta say I like the casting of Charlie Hunnam in the lead role, too.


One of the biggest announcements out of #MarvelSDCC has got to be THIS:

I have no clue who Captain Marvel is, but another female superhero? That’s always a good thing in my book and I think the lovely Brie is a fine choice! It seems Marvel is a bit behind in making a female heroine movie this time as DC’s already got Wonder Woman ready for battle next Summer. I thought that they’d spun-off Black Widow by now, alas…

The lovely Lupita Nyong’O tweeted this from SDCC… so much awesomeness in a single photo!

 


Well that’s my weekend recap folks. Thoughts on SDCC or anything you watched this weekend?