FlixChatter Review: NO TIME TO DIE(2021)

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For Bond fans, it has been a long seven year itch since we last saw a new Bond movie on the big screen. Delayed 2.5 years since April 2020, it’s been quite an arduous waiting game… there’s even a rumor at one point that Bond might be coming via a streaming service [gasp!] Well I for one am glad that didn’t happen, and I think this film deserves to be seen on the big screen.

For a franchise famous for its opening sequences–often followed by a music video of its theme song featuring scantily-clad women–this one already sets itself from the pack as it actually does not feature its titular hero. I’m going to keep this review spoiler-free (or clearly mark them as I usually do), so let’s just say the opening features an ‘origin story’ of sort for a female recurring character, which in of itself is quite revolutionary. There is a lot of firsts in Daniel Craig‘s Bond film, starting with the man at the helm, Cary Joji Fukunaga. He’s the first American director to direct a Bond film, which features Lashana Lynch as the first female 007. All of these historic anecdotes are cool, but at the end of the day, did the film deliver?

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One thing for sure, the post-credit opening scene delivers incredible panoramic vistas, as one would expect from a Bond film. Bond is shown living a blissful life with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) as they are on holiday in Matera, a picturesque stone village in Southern Italy. Bond is in love, and for a brief moment seems to live a blissful existence… but of course you know it’s short-lived because suddenly he’s nearly blown to bits and chased in a brutal fashion by relentless goons (well, what else is there?). Fukunaga proves adept in mounting a pretty exciting action sequence early in the film, complete with an insane car chase careening through rocky hills and cobblestone streets that ends with something rather fantastical even for a Bond movie. It reminds me of the Nick Fury’s car attack in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it seems Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is equipped with similar bullet-proof feature!

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Bond fans (me included) loves watching epic action sequences like that, so getting that ‘craving’ satisfied early on is a smart move, as the next hour is relatively quiet as Bond nurses a broken heart and lives quietly in Jamaica. There are plenty of nostalgia here despite its theme of ‘letting go of one’s past.’ From moments recalling integral characters in Craig’s Bond past (as well as those before his era), down to the choice of a melancholic song (one of my top 10 favorites) AND the lines Bond say (which he utters twice in the film). Another theme running through the vein of Craig’s final Bond film is secrets … which as a spy he is obviously well-versed on, but the secrecy isn’t just those of the country he serves, but of the woman (or I should say women) he loves.

As I feel that this is a rather unconventional Bond film, this will be an atypical review. Without getting into too much of the plot, let me just go over the good and not-so-good parts about the film…

THE GOOD:

Firstly, Daniel Craig‘s performance. I haven’t always been super fond of him even though he wowed me in Casino Royale, at times he appears too thug-ish and his sex scenes with the Bond girls can be laughably absurd (the one with Monica Bellucci in Spectre comes to mind)… but over his 15-year span playing the character, he’s able to balance his tough, formidable action prowess with his sensitive, vulnerable side. It’s even more palpable here as he declares his love for Madeleine… Bond is past just showing off his muscular arms as he unabashedly wears his heart on his sleeve.

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Then there’s the oh-so-fabulous Lashana Lynch as Nomi… sassy, smart, sexy, a woman who knows her own power but also has enough confidence in her competency that she doesn’t concern herself with ‘titles,’ or in this case the code name 007. Right from the moment Nomi meets Bond, she’s clear that she’s got no time for the old patriarchy. I love that she is often one step ahead of Bond and unafraid to put him in his place. There are lots of moments where I silently whispers ‘you go girl!’ but at the same time, she’s also empathetic and mindful, which proves that a woman’s strength isn’t about knocking men down as they don’t need to.

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Ana de Armas is fantastic as Paloma, a Cuban CIA agent working with Felix who’s assigned with Bond to track down a scientist at a Spectre party. Having seen her with Craig in Knives Out, their meet-up is actually quite hilarious. She’s shown as a rookie who’s still excited for her first big mission but comes out surprising everyone’s expectations, especially Bond. Wish she had more screen time here though… I want more Paloma! This is perhaps the most playful shoot-em-up in this movie, harkening back to a scene from a Roger Moore Bond flick, but it’s a lot of fun to watch!

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Another returning character is Jeffrey Wright‘s Felix–the actor has a consistently formidable presence in so many franchises … Bond, Marvel, DC (I so look forward to seeing him as Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming The Batman). After five years in retirement, Bond ends up teaming up with the CIA with Felix, along with a Jack Ryan type ‘state department guy’ Logan (Billy Magnussen). Wright is undoubtedly the best and most memorable Felix in the whole 007 franchise.

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All the returning cast in the MI-6 camp, Naomie Harris‘s MoneyPenny, Rory Kinnear‘s Tanner, Ralph Fiennes‘s M and Ben Whishaw‘s Q are all wonderful. Bond is so fortunate to have such phenomenal friends, esp. Q who’s willing to give up his date in order to help his friend out. So good to see MoneyPenny and Q collaborating again. I also enjoyed the rather talky scene between Bond and M in London, mulling over the dire consequences of Safin’s grand plans.

Now, I didn’t care for Christoph Waltz‘s Blofeld in Spectre who I described as nothing more than a clichéd, petulant psychopath. Well somehow he actually fares better here even and manages to rile Bond up even while he’s contained in a box within an extremely high-security prison. Somehow Blofeld still have control over his organization who’s now got a lethal DNA weapon using nanobots… which connects him with the main Bond baddie-du-jour Safin, that brings me to the…

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THE NOT-SO-GOOD:

Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer (is this just another lame way to say Lucifer??!) Safin just falls short in comparison to former Bond villains of the past. He seems dangerous on paper but kind of underwhelming on screen. Malek comes across more creepy than menacing, I actually think of him as a tragic character given what happened to his family, leaving him as the only survivor. His eerie connection with Madeleine from when she was a young girl just isn’t fully realized. At first I thought it might have involved a Stockholm Syndrome or akin to Phantom of the Opera’s obsession with Christine , but in the end I’m not exactly sure just what they’ve got going on here.

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Speaking of Madeleine, I generally like Léa Seydoux as an actress in other films but I just didn’t care for her as Bond’s love interest. For one, she always looks like she’s about to cry every two seconds, even when she’s on holiday in a sensational location! Looking at Madeleine just makes me miss Eva Green’s Vesper so much, and I feel like Bond has a genuine chemistry with Vesper and they look like they’re having fun together as a couple. Now, even though she’s given an origin story, a privilege very few Bond girl is afforded to, it’s hard for me to be invested in her narratives.

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SPOILER ALERT! [highlight to read] Then there’s Madeleine’s daughter that got Bond transfixed upon meeting her. ‘She’s got my eyes… Am I the father?’ Now, Bond didn’t right out say it, but he’s so obvious about it that Madeleine kept saying ‘she’s not yours’ a couple of times. I don’t know why the writers think the scene is supposed to be romantic, but it’s so cringe-worthy!

As for using nanobots to infect certain people based on their DNA, essentially making certain people to be killer weapons is quite eerie during pandemic as certain people can be ‘silent killer’ if they’re carrying the virus and spreading them unknowingly. The fact that a psychopath like Safin having access to this and harvesting them in an island somewhere does sound scary. At the same time, the whole villain hellbent on taking over the world just gets tiresome, I mean you’d think after 50+ movies they’d find a more creative reason for compelling villainy. Also, what’s up with the scientist Obruchev (David Dencik) who’s portrayed in such a silly, cartoonish manner. Let’s just say I wasn’t sad when he meets his inevitable end.

FINAL VERDICT

No Time to Die is the first Bond film to come out in the #MeToo era and Time’s Up movements, so the producers enlist Phoebe Waller-Bridge as one of the screenwriters to steer the franchise to be more progressive. Now, I have no problem with that, and having someone like Nomi is a great addition to the franchise as her character arc still feels organic to the story. I’m not sure everything about the more ‘radical’ storyline works for me though, SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] honestly I’m not sure about the whole ‘Bond being a father’ narrative. I mean, given the plethora of women he’s bedded, you’d think this shouldn’t come out as too much of a surprise, but still it feels a tad forced, especially since the big reveal comes as Bond is about to be killed off.

As for Fukunaga’s direction, I feel like it’s going to be a divisive one as despite some dynamic action sequences and Bond himself being put through the wringer, it’s a largely melancholic and somber affair. The Japanese-American filmmaker has said in interviews that being an ‘outsider’ gives him an advantage that British filmmakers might not have in making this film. The bombastic car chase in the beginning and the shoot-em-up in Safin’s nanobot factory in the third act feel familiar but with an edge. I appreciate the way he shows Bond’s weariness and defiance with style (like when he didn’t care if he live or die when his DB5 was riddled with bullets), but yet manages to make the super-spy human. For a super long 2 hour 43 minutes running time, it actually didn’t feel overly tedious, which in and of itself is quite a feat.

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Visually speaking, the film is gorgeous to look at, shot by DP Linus Sandgren. It’s got all the globe-trotting vistas to tick off the escapism box. Hans Zimmer‘s score has some decidedly familiar sounds, blending Monty Norman’s iconic Bond theme, one of John Barry’s famous motif and Billie Eilish’s theme song, fusing a rousing, suspenseful score with tender, sentimental elements.

I mentioned that there was no compelling human drama in Spectre and that it was a largely soulless affair. Glad to report that it’s quite the opposite here as it’s one of the most emotional Bond movies where things comes full circle for Craig. So to answer my question if the film delivered, the short answer is YES. Unlike his predecessors, Craig’s Bond films shares a plot thread that connect them all, which is quite unprecedented for the franchise. Thus, while Craig’s tenure does not end in an all-time-high fashion, I can say that it’s a bold and memorable finale for a game-changing Bond era.

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Have you seen NO TIME TO DIE? Let me know what you think!

Thursday Movie Picks 2021: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor + Best Supporting Actress

ThursdayMoviePicksThe 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… Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor + Best Supporting Actress.

It’s another Oscars edition! Well, prior to this year where the Academy got confused as to who’s actually the lead of the film (*cough* Judah and The Black Messiah *cough*) and nominated the leading man in the supporting category, for the most part it’s pretty clear which actor belongs in the supporting roles. Since I haven’t seen a bunch of classic films in which the actors won in the supporting category, I’m going to pick winners from movies released in 1980s – today.

In any case, here are my four picks:

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008)- post-humous

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It’s rare that an actor’s performance in superhero movie would get the attention of the Academy, but Ledger’s Joker is simply iconic. He deservedly won a total of 32 Best Actor in a Supporting Role awards for his work on this movie, including the “quintuple”: Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, and Critics’ Choice award (per IMDb). I really think he surpasses Jack Nicholson’s wicked-clown persona in the role, but created a psychopathic persona so scary yet mesmerizing.

As I said in this scene-spotlight post of the interrogation scene, the Joker had such power to get into anyone’s skin and he really pushed Batman to the point where he almost lost it. I’ve rewatched this movie a bunch of times and I’m always in awe of Ledger’s acting where the actor became the character… thanks to the extended research he did for the role, including secluding himself in a motel for six weeks, etc. It’s hard to watch that film and not think about how that role might’ve cost Ledger his own life. There were reports that the role took a toll on him mentally and physically, which might have contributed to his accidental drug overdose.


Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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I didn’t plan on including another villain who won Best Supporting Actor, but hey, bad guy roles are often juicier than the heroes, and good actors can elevate good roles and make them great. That’s certainly the case with Waltz’s performance which is indelible right from its intense opening sequence. He easily stole every scene he’s in, a perfect combination of being hilarious and terrifying. In less capable hands, Landa could’ve easily just be a sadistic caricature but Waltz made him so indelible. The Austrian actor also used his knack for languages to good use, speaking English, French, German, and Italian in the movie.

I remember reading IMDb trivia that Quentin Tarantino was considering abandoning the film during the casting period when they were searching for someone to play Colonel Hans Landa. He apparently thought he’d written a role that was unplayable, that is until they saw Waltz audition for the role. I think it’s safe to say this is my favorite QT’s film.


Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton (2007)

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This is a legal drama where George Clooney‘s played a ‘fixer’ to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company (U-North) that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit. It’s been ages since I saw this, but I remember it being quite gripping and that Tilda Swinton was amazing as Karen Crowder, U-North’s general counsel. Her intense performance stood out even in a star-studded ensemble that include Sydney Pollack and Tom Wilkinson. The Scottish actress is so versatile that she not only able to play virtually any role, but she can also disappear in them as well. I think her nervous breakdown performance in the bathroom alone deserves all the kudos. Karen is obviously an ambitious, ruthless character, but Swinton gave her depth and vulnerability that’s captivating to watch.

The film was screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut (known for The Devil’s Advocate and the Bourne trilogy). I just rewatched the trailer again, I should rewatch this one soon!

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave (2013)

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This is such a tremendous film with excellent performances all around, but it’s a film I could watch only once as it’s so harrowing.. At the center of the film is Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery, performed beautifully by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film is filled with big name actors, including Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, etc. but amongst the supporting cast, Lupita Nyong’o definitely stood out as  the brutally abused plantation worker. Clearly it was a physically and emotionally demanding role for any actor, let alone for a newcomer in her film debut!

I’ve always wondered how tough it must’ve been for her as well as her co-star Fassbender in filming those vicious scenes. Well, I read on IMDb that before filming their more brutal scenes together, Nyong’o and Fassbender performed a ritual of “making nice.” According to Nyong’o, “We wouldn’t say anything to each other, just a look in the eye and a grasping of hands. Our characters are in such opposition, but we as actors needed each other in order to be able to go the distance.” 

Nyong’o is no one-hit-wonder though, she’s continued to impress me in subsequent roles and proven her versatility as an actress.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

FlixChatter Review – ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (2019)

So apparently James Cameron has dreamed of making this movie, an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro‘s “Battle Angel Alita” manga, for over 20 years! It was before he made Titanic in 1997 and Avatar in 2009, and it’s his commitments to the latter that made him relinquish his directing duties to Robert Rodriguez. I have to admit though that my initial reaction to the first trailer was that the huge, Manga-inspired eyes are creepy looking. I read some Manga as a kid (specifically Candy Candy) but in the printed comics, of course they never bothered me, that’s how all Mangas are drawn. But cinematically, they can be quite eerie.

Now, I decided to see the movie anyway, two weeks before it’s open to the public in Feb 14. As it turns out, the eyes didn’t really bother me once the movie starts. It actually didn’t have the ‘cold, dead eyes’ effect like in Polar Express. Of course they can still be a bit disturbing at times, but for a character made up of cyborg parts, she’s pretty lifelike.

There are plenty to like about Alita. In fact, I immediately sympathize with this cyborg creature trying to discover her identity. It’s an action-packed coming-of-age story of a young girl who’s trying to piece together the mystery of who she is. Set in the 26th century, 300 years after ‘the fall’ where ‘the haves’ live in a floating city called Tiphares and the rest down below in Iron City. The story starts when a man found a still ‘living’ severed head in a junkyard, where the Tiphares dumps its trash. I thought Christoph Waltz as her father figure Dr. Dyson Ido is inspired choice, and at first you don’t know if he’s good or bad, which the Austrian actor portrayed really well.

The father/daughter relationship between him and Alita is actually one of my fave parts of the film, and the way Dr. Ido tried to protect her from the new world she’s thrusted into is endearing. It’s once Alita (Rosa Salazar, terrific in her first performance-capture role) discovered rollerball-style game (and also ‘puberty’ it seems) thanks to a boy named Hugo (Keean Johnson) that the action switches into high gear.

Before long, we, along with Dr. Ido and Alita herself, discovers who she really is. It’s not a spoiler as it says right there on the title, she’s a formidable killing machine, basically an ‘angel of death’ despite her seemingly innocent appearance. She’s able to fight a bunch of vicious Hunter-Warriors, sometimes all at once, even a huge one that looks like what Fantastic Four’s The Thing mixed with a Transformer. Knowing that she’s virtually indestructible kind of lessen any sense of suspense, and the more bombastic the fighting scene the less impactful it becomes. The first time we see the gladiatorial game of Motorball in this huge arena filled with cheering crowd was cool, but the second one just feels indulgent in the parts of the filmmakers. Yes, the action and special effects are cool, but it gets tiresome real fast too. In fact, at times it reminds me of all the loud metal clanging of Transformers, which is NEVER a good thing.

I’m not that familiar with Robert Rodriguez’s work, having only seen Desperado and Sin City. I think this movie is as much a James Cameron movie as a Robert Rodriguez one. We’re treated to a video interview with the filmmakers and some of the cast after the movie and it’s clear that Cameron was Rodriguez’s mentor throughout and Rodriguez helped fulfill Cameron’s vision. As we all know, Cameron is a perfectionist, so I doubt there’s really much ‘creative liberties’ the ‘chosen director’ would have if it clashes with Cameron’s vision.

What? You’re not impressed by my Damascus blade? How about my chiseled face?

In any case, it’s no surprise that Cameron, who co-wrote the script with Laeta Kalogridis (Altered Carbon), loves cross-species, star-crossed romances. I kind of roll my eyes every time I see Alita gets all giddy over Hugo, even going so far as giving him his heart, literally! Most of the supposedly-romantic scenes end up being unintentionally hilarious. There are moments that remind me of Titanic, perhaps intentionally so? What’s genuinely funny are the scenes involving Hunter Warrior Zapan (Ed Skrein), a cyborg obsessed with his pretty face, the only ‘fleshed out’ part of his cybernetic being. The tall, lanky British actor relish on his character’s narcissistic vanity. It made me think that he might have imbued a much-needed dose of humor had he been cast in Altered Carbon instead of Joel Kinnaman!

The actual villain of the movie is never actually seen (played by a famous actor we haven’t seen in a while). We only know it lives in Tiphares and could actually ‘possesses’ other beings to communicate with people down below. I feel like Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly are pretty wasted here as their characters are pretty thinly-written. As the protagonist, Alita’s backstory itself isn’t as deeply compelling it could’ve been. It’s a missed opportunity really, as her relationship with Dr. Ido and Connelly’s character Chiren could’ve been explored more. It’s clear the filmmakers focused heavily in the spectacle of it all. After all these years, the technology (thanks to Weta Digital) finally caught up with Cameron’s vision of Alita, at least the way he envisioned to do Kishiro’s world justice. Yet all that money spent (about $200 mil) is kind of hollow when it’s just another ‘style over substance.’ I think science-fiction is the perfect genre for a ‘what does it mean to be human’ commentary, when humans would co-exist together with robots in the future. But unlike sci-fi classics like Blade Runner or Terminator, Alita doesn’t really add anything new to that concept.

Alita going googley-eyed over pretty boy Hugo

Visually speaking, it also didn’t really inspire that sense of wonder the way I did with Cameron’s previous creation Avatar. I recently rewatched that movie and I still had that ‘awe-struck’ reaction when we first saw Pandora in 2009. The floating mountains and that mountain banshee flight sequence still made me go ‘whoa,’ which I never felt while watching Alita. I’m not sure of its replay-ability value as right now, I don’t know if I’m eager to see this movie again nor do I care to see more of Alita’s adventures.

As I never read the Manga books, I’m curious to see the reception from their fans, especially in its native Japan. As a Southeast-Asian blogger, I’m not bothered that they hired a Latina actress to portray Alita as Kishiro supposedly didn’t even set the world of Iron City in Asia, it’s just supposed to be a melting pot type of futuristic dystopian city. I think the cast is quite diverse and the actors get to speak with whatever they’re most comfortable with (Waltz with his Austrian accent, Skrein with his Northern London brogue, etc.) I do think it’s funny that Alita made a comment about the many languages spoken in the city when I never heard of any other language being English being spoken in the movie [shrug].

Should you go see it? Well, if you like a sci-fi action adventure, I’d say it’s well worth seeing on the big screen. I don’t normally like watching 3D movies with those pesky glasses, but the effects and visuals look cool in IMAX 3D as the movie was optimized for such technology. I skipped Ghost in The Shell (just didn’t appeal to me at all) and I think Jupiter Ascending is absolutely rubbish, but this one has enough going for it for me to recommend. Just don’t expect a sci-fi classic or even something emotionally gratifying, just enjoy the ride for the high-octane action adventure that it is.


What do you think of ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL? Are you excited to see it?

FlixChatter Review: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Did you that if you type ‘Tarzan’ on IMDb, there’d be about 200 titles popped up since 1918 all the way to 2016. So yeah, you could say that Edgar Rice Burroughs’ titular character has been adapted to death in various formats. But hey, Hollywood loves to recycle stuff over and over, and this one promises to make the Lord of the Jungle to 21st Century audiences.

What I do like about this one is how the story isn’t told in a linear way. By the time the film opens, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) has been acclimated to life in London as John Clayton III aka Lord Greystoke of Greystoke Manor, with Jane (Margot Robbie) as his wife. I’m glad this isn’t an origin story, though the film did reveal his backstory in flashbacks. In fact, director David Yates (known for his Harry Potter movies) use of flashbacks constantly throughout, showing us how he met Jane and so forth.
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Of course soon Tarzan ends up in Congo again, at the request of Belgium’s King Leopold II to visit & report on Belgian’s development on Congo. He’s reluctant at first, but American attaché George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) persuaded him to do so, suspecting of slavery of the Congolese people. There he crosses path with Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) who’s in Congo on a rich minerals expedition for the Belgian king. It would’ve been a huge issue if it weren’t for the fact that Rom has been promised diamonds by the tribal leader Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou, typecast once again) in exchange for Tarzan.
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I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed the adventure ride with Tarzan, with Jackson being the comic relief throughout. I gotta say that without Jackson’s hilarious antics, I might not have enjoyed this movie as much as I did, because the film tends to take itself far too seriously. On top of that, Skarsgård plays his character in such a surly, dour manner that practically sucked the fun out of the whole thing. There’s a difference between Byronically-brooding and dull, and he definitely fits more with the latter. I mentioned on Twitter before the movie started that it’d take more than a 12-pack abs to make his character intriguing. Well, it seems that Skarsgård’s too busy working out and dieting rigorously that he forgot to infuse his role with any kind of personality, let alone charm. Oh btw, those who couldn’t wait to see Tarzan’s bare torso would be pretty disappointed that he didn’t take of his shirt until about halfway point. I should mention too that Skarsgård reminds me a lot of Sam Heughan who plays Jamie in Starz’s Outlander at times that it distracted me a bit.

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Robbie did her best with what she’s given. Her Jane isn’t quite a damsel-in-distress, though there’s still the obligatory rescue when she’s held hostage by Rom. As for Waltz, well he’s better here than in Spectre, but his mustache-twirling villain-y is becoming more of a tiresome schtick. It seems his fun baddie performance a la Hans Landa is long behind him, what a pity.

There’s also the issue with the whole colonialism and slavery that critics think are tone deaf. Now, I actually think the filmmaker/writers strived to make Tarzan more than ‘another white savior’. Jackson’s character is based on a respected real life African American minister/soldier/lawyer/writer and he’s got a major role here that includes saving Tarzan’s life. Even the moments where Tarzan returns the favor is downplayed a bit and that bit when Williams climbs onto his back as he swings down from a tree vine is pretty hilarious. I didn’t expect this Tarzan movie to be some sort of buddy comedy but at times that’s how it played out, which doesn’t always work but Jackson is always a hoot. There is also a quiet moment between Williams and Tarzan when Williams reflects on his past that I think is quite memorable. There are moments that tugged at my heartstrings too, as Tarzan and Jane seem to genuinely care for the Congolese residents, both the people and animals of the jungle.

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Having just seen The Jungle Book, the cinematography here doesn’t quite match that one, and at times it appears way too dark and gloomy. But there are some beautiful shots and some of the action sequences are pretty fun to watch. The soundtrack byRupert Gregson-Williams was pretty rousing at times too, though now I could barely remember it. Somehow every time I hear the word Tarzan I always think of Phil Collins’ fabulous song You’ll Be in My Heart from the animated Disney version.

This may sound like a backhanded compliment but given my low expectation coming into this, I’m not disappointed. I guess I wasn’t expecting something truly epic and it wasn’t, but as far as Summer popcorn flick go, it offers an adequate escapist good time.

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Have you seen ‘The Legend of Tarzan’? Well, what did you think?

Trailer Spotlight: SPECTRE first teaser is here!

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I normally hate the adverts for a trailer, but at least it’s not an actual trailer for a trailer. But when I saw a tweet from @007, I gotta say I couldn’t wait to see it!

As a longtime Bond fan, I’m always excited when a new Bond movie came out, well except for the last two Brosnan movies as they look as dumb even in the trailers. Daniel Craig‘s Bond films not only brought back the grit and fortitude lost in Brosnan era, it’s also got that real sense of mystery and mystique, which is what one would expect in an espionage genre.

This teaser captured that sensibility perfectly:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

With Bond 24, I love that the filmmakers brought back the enigmatic nefarious organization we’ve seen in the earlier Sean Connery movies. Yet there’s still that continuity of storyline from Casino Royale, the fact that we see Mr. White once again, still as cryptic and ominous as ever despite looking like he might’ve lost his eyesight.

“You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane Mr. Bond.”

Then of course we’ve got Christoph Waltz there towards the end. I’ve mentioned in my Spectre post here that he’s not playing Blofeld, but he’s obviously a powerful figure that might’ve had a key tie to Bond’s past as well. Can’t wait to see him going toe to toe w/ Bond.

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Glad to see Sam Mendes back for directing duties. He shared on 007 official site a bit more about the plot of SPECTRE:

“The reasons I’m doing the second Bond movie are the reasons I would do any movie, really, which is all to do with the story. And in this movie, SPECTRE, what you have is a movie entirely driven by Bond. He is on a mission from the very beginning,” he says. “It’s about whether or not to pursue the life he’s always pursued, whether he matters and is he going to continue or not. And you’re going to have to come to see the movie to find out whether he does.”

Even from this teaser, we can expect to see an amazing cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema whose impressive work you can see in Her and Interstellar. Nice to see Thomas Newman scoring this too. Wish we didn’t have to wait until November to see it!


Well, what do you think of this teaser so far? Are you excited for SPECTRE?

007 Chatter: BOND 24 is now called SPECTRE

Boy it’s been a while since I posted anything about Bond and this morning a press release came to my email that I simply had to do a post! “Welcome back commander!” 

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[you can see the motion poster over on 007 Facebook]

LONDON, UK, December 4, 2014 – 007 Soundstage, Pinewood Studios, London. James Bond Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the title of the 24th James Bond adventure, SPECTRE. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, is directed by Sam Mendes and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fourth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. SPECTRE begins principal photography on Monday, December 8, and is set for global release on November 6, 2015.

The launch of SPECTRE was streamed live on 007.com and Facebook.com/JamesBond007, and here’s the video if you missed it:

Along with Daniel Craig, Mendes presented the returning cast, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as well as introducing Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott. Mendes also revealed Bond’s sleek new Aston Martin, the DB10, created exclusively for the movie.

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Official synopsis:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Bond’s going back to the classic Aston Martin too, which is by far one of my favorite of all Bond’s fantastic rides. Man, the DB10 is going to be specifically built for the film and it’s absolutely drool-worthy!! Heck, I’d rather take his car home than Bond himself, ahah.

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The 007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.

Commenting on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, “We’re excited to announce Daniel’s fourth installment in the series and thrilled that Sam has taken on the challenge of following on the success of SKYFALL with SPECTRE.”.

Per EMPIRE, the evil organization has not had a presence in the Bond universe thanks to a long-running copyright battle between MGM and the estate of Kevin McClory, the producer of Thunderball and the unofficial Connery Bond, Never Say Never Again. That, however, was resolved in 2013, paving the way for SPECTRE to return to the Bond movies. People have been speculating that Christoph Waltz will be playing Spectre’s leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but according to the UK mag, his character’s name is Oberhauser [??]

Man, I’m super excited for this!! What a cast, too, woo hoo!!! I LOVE Christophe Waltz, the Austrian thespian really impressed me in Inglourious Basterds and he has been working steadily in Hollywood ever since. He’d be great as the villain, with Bautista as his henchmen I presume. Not sure who Andrew Scott is playing, but he’s playing another baddie named Denbigh. They’re playing it *safe* this time in casting actors who’ve won accolades playing bad guys previously, as Scott won BAFTA for portraying Sherlock‘s nemesis Moriarty in the BBC series.

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I’m loving the female cast, too! I have always been a big fan of Naomie Harris as Money Penny, but now we’ve got gorgeous Italian and French beauties Monica Bellucci & Léa Seydoux. I’m actually surprised they haven’t cast Monica in previous Bond films, but she still looks stunning at 50 so it’s cool to see they don’t just cast young actresses as Bond girls!

SPECTRE is set for a October 23, 2015 release in the UK and a November 6, 2015 release in the US. Can’t friggin’ wait for this!!


So, what do you think of this announcement? Would love to hear your thoughts, folks!

New Releases Double Reviews: Jack Reacher & Django Unchained

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Thanks to Ted for these reviews as I was on vacation when the screenings took place.

Jack Reacher

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Tom Cruise continues his “comeback” on the big screen with another action thriller after the success of last year’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, this time he’s playing another super-spy type in Jack Reacher. It’s based on one of Lee Child’s popular series of novels, One Shot. The film starts out with a mysterious person who randomly shot and killed five people in a public place with a sniper rifle. With the recent tragedies in real life, this opening sequence was a bit eerie, so just a warning if you’re still too upset about what happened in Connecticut, I don’t recommend you go see this movie. Now the scene was well shot and staged and to me it didn’t glamorize the violence but I can definitely understand if someone can get upset when they see it. Later an ex-marine sniper named Barr (Joseph Sikora) was arrested for the crime and during an interrogation he asked the detective on the case Emerson (David Oyelowo) and district attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) to get him Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise).

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Director Werner Herzog as the Russian mobster known as ‘The Zec’

Emerson and Rodin decided to look up Reacher but couldn’t find anything on him. A few moments later Reacher showed up at their office and asked to see Barr. But Barr is in a coma because he got beat up badly by some other inmates while in custody. So Reacher met with Barr’s lawyer Helen (the gorgeous ex-Bond girl Rosamund Pike). Reacher told her that he’s there just to make sure Barr is behind bars because he believed Barr did the shooting, he and Barr had a history together back when they were in the army. But Helen convinced Reacher to help her investigate what really happened and as both of them dig deeper into the case, they got in trouble with some local thugs, Charlie (Jai Courtney aka John McClane Jr.) and his mysterious boss known as The Zec (the great director Werner Herzog).

Performance wise, I thought everyone did a good job. Especially Cruise who was in the command of the role. I’ve never read any of the books but I know some fans weren’t too thrilled that he was cast as Reacher. But I think many of them will find out that Cruise did well here.

The film is a straightforward procedural thriller; there aren’t any major surprises that will wow you. The humors are well-placed and they didn’t feel forced into each scene. The action sequences were pretty great, I’m so glad that the filmmakers decided to shoot action scenes where we can actually see them. Some directors tends to forget that when we go see action films, we want to SEE the action, not trying to figure what’s going on during a scene or get dizzy from it. Christopher McQuarrie who wrote and directed this film, did a tremendous job with his sharp dialogues and action sequences.

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The climatic shoot out was probably one of the most meticulous action scenes I’ve ever seen. The way he laid out each sequence and edited were quite astonishing to me. Then the mano-a-mano showdown between Reacher and Charlie was well staged and looked like a “real” fight between two grown men. Of course this being an action film, it needs a car chase scene and it was well done too. It reminded me of the chase scene from Bullit but I kind of wish it ended similar to that film, if you saw the trailer then you know how the chase ended. I thought it’s too cheesy and didn’t really make sense.

In the end I thought it was a well made action thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously and I like the fact it has that old school 70s thriller feel to it. I would definitely love to see more of Jack Reacher films in the future.

4 out of 5 reels

Django Unchained

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Having read the script last year and loved it, I was very excited to see this film. (Read my script review here.) Surprisingly the film is very close to the script, only a few scenes didn’t make it to the screen. Quentin Tarantino is obsessed with spaghetti westerns and he tends to pay homage to that genre in some of his films, particularly Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. Well now he’s finally made a film that truly pays homage the genre but he also mix in another genre, blax-ploitation, mostly the slave related subject that were popular back in the 70s, the most popular film from the genre was called Mandingo. Anyone who likes 70s films as much as I do will probably have seen some of these films; even though they were considered “trashy” by most critics, I somehow enjoyed them. It also burrowed a lot of elements from Sergio Corbucci’s films, especially Django and The Great Silence; if you’ve seen either of those films, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The film opens with a “dentist” named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) looking for a slave who can identify three fugitives for him. We then meet Django (Jamie Foxx) who said he knows these three fugitives, so Schultz decided to buy Django from his owners but they refused. Well, Schultz being an educated man tried to reason with these clowns but they still won’t budge. So he used his skills with a pistol to convince them. Django is freed and both of them set out to find the three fugitives. After they hunt down the fugitives, Schultz was quite impressed with Django skills so he asked if Django would like to be a bounty hunter like him and join him in the hunt. In return Shultz will help Django with anything he wants. Django agreed and said he wants to find his wife who’s been taken away from him. The first half of the films was about Schultz teaching Django how to become a good bounty hunter and sharp with a pistol.

A few months later, Schultz found out where Django’s wife is being kept. She’s at a plantation known as Candieland which owns by Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio). So in order to rescue her, Schultz came up with a plan by pretending to be a rich German who’s interested in purchasing a Mandingo fighter and Django is his Mandingo expert. The rest of film took place at Calvin’s Candieland plantation.

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I thought the performances by the lead actors were great, especially Waltz and DiCaprio. Jamie Foxx surprised me, I was skeptical when he was cast in the title role but he did a good job. Apparently QT wrote the part specially for Will Smith but Smith turned him down, I was hoping QT would cast someone like Anthony Mackie or Idris Elba. Also, the cinematography by Robert Richardson was excellent, from the snowy landscape of Montana to the muddy streets of Mississippi, every shots looked spectacular. The action sequences were great, there’s a shootout scene that’s similar to the carnage scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 where the Bride took down the Crazy 88s.

Now I’m going to talk about why I was very disappointed with this film. As mentioned earlier, I read the script (which I reviewed here) and loved it, but somehow the actual film just didn’t deliver in my opinion. It’s clear that QT really needed his long time editor the late Sally Menke to work on this film with him. I thought the first half of the film was sloppily-edited and just wasn’t coherent. The music selection was kind of odd too. I always love the music QT used in his films but when you hear a Tupac song during a shootout scene in this one, it sort of take you out of the film. Now I understand why QT cast a not so well known actress in the role of Broomhilda, Django’s wife, she hardly spoke in the film. She either screams, cries or look scare in each scene she appeared in.

This was one of the films I most looking forward to see this year and unfortunately it was a major disappointment to me. Now I plan to see it again soon since I saw it almost a month ago, so I might change my mind when I see it again. I’m not saying it’s a bad film, it just didn’t lived up to my expectations. I know that I might be in the minority since after the private screening, many people in the theater thought it was great. If you’re a huge QT fan, you might enjoy it. Just a warning though, the film is violent and very bloody. The N-word were uttered constantly by pretty much everyone in the film, so if you’re easily offended, I don’t recommend you go see this film.

In an interview, QT mentioned that he might release a longer extended cut of the film down the road. At one point his producer Harvey Weinstein tried to convince him to split the film into two parts like they did with Kill Bill but QT vetoed that idea. I assume he shot many scenes that were in the script but decided cut them out. I don’t know if a longer version will improve the movie, I mean most of the scenes left in the cutting room floor were probably just violent and rape scenes. I’m assuming here of course because those sequences were in the script.

2.5 out of 5 reels

– reviews by Ted S.


What are your thoughts on these films? Did they live up to your expectations?