FlixChatter: THE RENTAL (2020)

When Ruth asked me if I wanted to cover The Rental, I said yes as soon as I saw that Dan Stevens was in it; I enjoyed him in 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, and my boyfriend and I have been on a Downton Abbey kick (we just finished season three and I am HEARTBROKEN), so I thought it could be fun to see him in a horror movie. Unfortunately, while he (and the rest of the cast) give great performances, there’s not much else that’s fun about it.

Dan Stevens with Alison Brie

In The Rental, married couple Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michelle (Alison Brie), Charlie’s younger brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White), and Josh’s girlfriend/Charlie’s business partner Mina (Sheila Vand) rent a vacation home for a weekend trip. While the weekend should be fun and relaxing, personal tensions mount, and the group might not be as alone as they thought.

This movie is a weird mashup of a romantic drama, psychological thriller, and slasher. That’s not to say that a movie can’t incorporate all of these genres, but The Rental doesn’t do it well. Rather than blending them together, the first half of the movie focuses on the relationship drama, the next chunk turns into a thriller, and the last ten-ish minutes is a lazy slasher. It’s a clunky, jarring way of telling the story and makes the end feel somewhat underwhelming after the buildup earlier in the movie.

There’s also a decision a couple of the characters make that is obviously there to move the thriller part forward, but it’s incredibly dumb to the point of being unbelievable. I don’t like being too nitpicky about plotholes, and I understand suspending my disbelief is important to a certain point, but if characters act more stupid than people would in real life, especially when the characters have seemed relatively intelligent up until that point, it’s disappointing.

Alison Brie in The Rental

Despite the underwhelming and frustrating writing, the cast does well with what they’re given. Dan Stevens is both funny and infuriating, and it’s kind of fun hearing him use an American accent. Allison Brie is likeable and sympathetic, as is Jeremy Allen White. Sheila Vand gives an understated but intense performance. And Toby Huss as Taylor, the creepy caretaker of the rental home, is excellent; he keeps you guessing whether he’s just a weird, unpleasant guy or if he has more nefarious intentions. The fact that they had a competent director must have helped too; Dave Franco does well in his directing debut here. Not only are the performances well done, but there are some well-composed shots that help keep the suspense high. It’s just unfortunate that his (and the other writers’) screenwriting skills weren’t as impressive.

Overall, The Rental is an underwhelming and messily-written movie. If you especially like any of the actors, maybe check it out; otherwise, I would recommend skipping this one.

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Have you seen The Rental? Well, what did you think?

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FlixChatter Review – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

I heard about the new Netflix movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga much sooner than most casual Netflix streamers and American audiences. The reason for this was my loyal following of the Eurovision Song Contest, or just “Eurovision” – a contest that started in Europe in the mid 1950’s, around the time of the formation of the European Broadcasting Union. It is the European Broadcasting Union that puts on the yearly contest, starting with just seven countries in 1956 and expanding each year to a maximum of 44 countries participating at once. I had first heard of Eurovision back in 1998, when Dana International, a transgender singer from Israel won the contest with the song “Diva.” Since she won the contest, Israel won the rights to host the contest the following year in 1999. That summer, I was on a summer trip to Israel and all I heard about was that spring’s 44th annual Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Jerusalem.

Fast forward 20 years, the year is 2018 and the Eurovision Song Contest is taking place in Lisbon Portugal. This year even my birth country of Bulgaria is taking part in the contest, even though the favorite to win the contest is a performer named Netta from Israel with her me-too-movement themed song call “Toy.” It was a hard fought contest with a singer from Cyprus, but Netta ended up winning the contest and bringing back the Eurovision Song Contest to take place in Israel the following year. So as events moved along in 2019, I had heard that Will Ferrell – yes that Will Ferrell from SNL and countless movies – was going to Israel to shoot a comedic movie about the entering the Eurovision Song Contest. That movie would later be titled Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga and it would star Ferrell as Lars Erickssong and co-star Rachel McAdams as his best friend Sigrit Ericksdottir, making music together as the band Fire Saga.

The two best friends live in the small Islandic town of Húsavík, and perform for the locals in the town their music, especially a local favorite called “Jaja Ding Dong” which is great to sing, dance and drink beer to. But Lars’ dream has always been to represent Iceland in Eurovision, and it finally becomes a reality when they become the only contestants available, due to some unfortunate circumstances. The Islanding broadcasting committee has no choice but to send Lars and Sigrit to the contest, taking place in Ireland. *While we know, from earlier, that Ferrell and Rachel McAdams shot scenes with the live audience in Israel at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, director David Dobkin and producers Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum, and Chris Henchy decided to switch the location of Eurovision to Edinburgh, Scotland. When the duo arrive in Edinburgh, they are greeted by other contestants, including Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens), a flamboyant singer representing Russia. At one point, Lars and Sigrit have a great sing-a-long at a mansion party with other seemingly current Eurovision singers. Those singers are in-fact some previous real life Eurovision Song Contest contestants and winners such as Jamala, Conchita Wurst, Salvador Sobral and Netta.

Watching from home is Lars Erickssong’s widowed father Erick Erickssong (Pierce Brosnan), who is always disapproving and disappointed with Lars. When others at the bar want to watch Lars and Sigrit perform at Eurovision, all Erick wants to do is drink and watch soccer. But when Lars and Sigrit seem to be having a decent performance, all hell breaks loose and the wheels start to come off the truck, quite literally. Lars starts feeling quite embarrassed and humiliated and storms out, leaving a distraught Sigrit behind. Before Lars could be found, Sigrit learns to her shock, however, that Iceland is voted through to the finals on a sympathy vote. Lars is long gone; already back on the plane to Iceland.

Once back in Iceland, Lars talks with his father and confesses his love for Sigrit, and Erick tells him to go back and fight for her love. SPOILER [highlight to read]: Lars makes it to the grand finale just in time to perform, after hitchhiking with some initially unwilling American tourists. Instead of their official entry, Lars encourages Sigrit to perform a song she has written for him. Fire Saga are disqualified for changing their song during the contest, but both Lars and Sigrit have lost interest in winning the competition, realizing that their relationship is more important and they finally share a kiss.

Back in Iceland, Fire Saga is performing at a wedding when Lars ask if they should perform their Eurovision song or the popular “Jaja Ding Dong” to which the crowd chants “Jaja Ding Dong, Jaja Ding Dong, Jaja Ding Dong!” While the movie is not groundbreaking or visually unique, it does provide plenty of laugh-out-loud and sing-along moments with the cast. It did provide me personally with nostalgia from watching the actual Eurovision Song Contest, which got cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was a great movie for Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams to star in and play off each other in the musical performances. Also, it was fun to see Pierce Brosnan act in a comedy and play opposite Ferrell. But most definitely, it’s Dan Stevens who steals the show as Alexander Lemtov, who cannot express his sexuality and fears the fact that his country does not accept homosexuality. Stevens plays the role almost to perfection and become much more vulnerable than in any previous role he has played.

While Netflix is probably not going to see very many new subscriptions solely from the movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, they will leave their audience satisfied (for at least that night). I was pleasantly surprised at the way the movie pulled at the heartstrings and made you feel compassion and sympathy for Ferrell’s character Lars. It’s probably the only time I’ve had those feeling when watching a Will Ferrell movie. So, next time you’re sitting at your couch, I would suggest everyone check this movie out when scrolling through the seemingly endless list of titles, and catch this flick on Netflix.

– Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen Eurovision Song Contest? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: LUCY IN THE SKY (2019)

You may have heard about a newsworthy story back in 2007, when an a NASA astronaut drove from Houston, Texas to Orlando, Florida (roughly 900 miles) in record time to (and allegedly wearing an adult diaper the whole way) in order to confront and kidnap a fellow female NASA astronaut who was involved in a sexual relationship with a fellow male NASA astronaut, whom the first NASA astronaut was also having an affair with. To put it bluntly, NASA was entangled in an “Astronaut Love Triangle,” which put a dark stain on the seemingly perfect life of NASA astronauts and also led NASA to create its first astronaut Code of Conduct. And more importantly for this review, it led to co-writer and director Noah Hawley to come up with the screenplay for Lucy In The Sky, which is also marks the directorial debut for Hawley and is loosely based and inspired by the “Astronaut Love Triangle” from 2007.

Lucy In The Sky stars Natalie Portman as Lucy Cola, a NASA astronaut who has just returned from a space mission aboard one of NASA’s now-retired space shuttles. During the opening credits, we see her outside the space shuttle, starring deeply into the atmosphere and onto the lights of the world’s cities that shine brightly from outer space. As she returns home, her husband Drew Cola (Dan Stevens) tells her that her teenaged niece Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson) was dropped off at their house to be cared for due to her absent parents. Being childless, Lucy and Drew, both employed by NASA, are used to his as they often have to look after her. Drew is a frail soul, and can’t open jars without his wife Lucy’s help. The family is also devout Christians, giving thanks to Jesus before starting their meals. Portman delivers lines in a thick southern accent, the way a lifelong Texan would, and sports a haircut resembling professional ice skater Dorothy Hamill. Lucy has spent her entire life to be the best in school, not having an Ivy League education, and overcoming other challenges, including the type of household she was brought up in (more on that later).

After returning from the out-of-this-world mission to space, Lucy returns to daily life at NASA, running laps, doing carpool and continuing to train for her next mission. The movie’s director shows us this less-than-exciting life style by cutting the aspect ratio of the on-screen frame to a “square-ish” 4:3 from the original and glorious 2.35:1 widescreen space scenes show just minutes prior. This leads Lucy to find alternate way to fill the void of leading an exciting astronaut lifestyle so she beings to have an extramarital affair with fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm), who has also had a profound experience in space and is also looking to rebound on his single lifestyle and use his newly acquired title as space astronaut to satisfy his love life. The problem is that Mark is not only involved with the married Lucy but also with another younger and more attractive single astronaut Erin Eccles (amazing actress Zazie Beetz, who is fresh off her minor and insignificant role in Joker).

While not being involved in an extramarital affair with her fellow astronaut, Lucy Cola also has to take care of her grandmother Nana Holbrook (Ellen Burstyn, who literally steals the show right under Portman and Hamm), an ailing old woman who smokes, swears a bunch and packs a pistol in her purse to boot. A typical opinionated Texas granny, Burstyn isn’t afraid to tackle this role head on, providing some much needed comedic relief while the movie screens are dragging on. “I’m back” says Lucy to her Nana. “Oh, did you go somewhere?” asks Nana, seeming unimpressed with her astronaut granddaughter’s most recent trip to space. “Up and down,” replies Lucy as she remembers her trip into outer space aboard the space shuttle. There is also somewhat of a running theme that includes a butterfly being born out of a cocoon. After her nana passes away, things are set into motion that leads Lucy to take Blue Iris on a trip across the country to intercept the astronaut pair of Goodwin and Eccles. In the end, its Lucy’s niece that saves the day and has the brightest future, having learned from her aunt that she can do something different than her deadbeat parents did – change the course of her own life.

Natalie Portman is spectacular in the title role of Lucy Cola, but she also dragged down by a slow-paced and lackluster screenplay. Even the likes of Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz and Ellen Burstyn can’t save this film from its own factual inaccuracies and over-the-top climax. While the story of an astronaut gone crazy or full of lust can seem appealing at first, the sensationalism portrayed in the film does not make it more exciting or climactic. In fact, it does the opposite – making it seem that the director just decided to tell the story as close to what may or may have not happed as possible, without exploring why Lucy snapped the way she did. Was it a desire to get back into space and retaliating at those who were trying to prevent it, or was it that she just that her desire to be the best at everything suddenly overcame her rationale and her ability to made correct decisions? Regardless of the answer, we are left to wonder what the real human experience of Lucy Cola might have been. Even the close-up scenes of Natalie Portman in space can’t make up for the overall lackluster of the film.


Have you seen Lucy In The Sky? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: Beauty and The Beast (2017)

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Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

I cannot begin to explain how excited I was to get to review this movie. If I hadn’t been in a theater with about twenty-five other reviewers, I might have burst into tears as soon as the title appeared on screen. Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s still one of my favorite movies. It’s a beautiful film, has some of the most memorable songs of all time, and features a princess whose defining characteristic is her love of reading. When I heard about the live-action remake, I was both excited and nervous. I’m not the kind of person who worries that a bad adaptation of a beloved classic will destroy my childhood, but I still wanted to like the new version. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed.

If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life and don’t know the story, Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful bookworm named Belle (Emma Watson), who lives in a small French village with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), where her bookish ways are misunderstood by the other townspeople, including Belle’s brawny, brutish suitor, Gaston (Luke Evans). One night, when a traveling Maurice unwittingly trespasses in a castle in the middle of the forest, he is taken prisoner by the beast (Dan Stevens), a prince who was cursed (along with his servants, who were all turned into household objects) by an enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for the beast to find true love, and to be loved in return. Belle bravely offers to trade places with her father, and, over time, begins to see what kind of man the beast can be past his appearance.

As someone who is very sentimental about the original, I can safely say this is an incredibly faithful adaptation. Much of the dialogue from the original is included verbatim in the remake, and there are lots of little moments and details from the animated version that are featured in this one, making me feel wonderfully nostalgic. At the same time, the remake offers some much-needed updates. For example, Belle is a better-developed character in this version. Besides just being a bookworm mostly interested in fairy tales, she helps her father with his creations and shows her own innovation. She’s also more relatable, showing her self-consciousness about how the other villagers view her as “odd.” The romance between Belle and the Beast is better handled as well. The movie shows how their friendship develops first, which makes the transition to romance more believable. The fact that Emma Watson and Dan Stevens have excellent chemistry helps sell it as well.

Besides the actors behind the titular characters, the rest of the cast give wonderful performances as well. Luke Evans and Josh Gad were born to play Gaston and Le Fou. Kevin Kline is a less scatterbrained (but still dreamy) Maurice, and the chemistry between him and Emma is heartwarming. The household staff all gave solid performances, and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth were especially entertaining.

Besides the adaptation in general, I was mostly nervous about how the singing would be. Emma Watson is a fantastic actress, but I wasn’t sure how she’d do as a singer, and she had some pretty big shoes to fill. Fortunately, she did not disappoint. Watson has a lovely, bright-toned voice, and while it’s not as full-sounding as Paige O’Hara’s was in the original, it was still an excellent fit for the character. Luke Evans gives a decent performance as well; while there isn’t as much bravado in his voice during Gaston as I would like, he really shines in Kill the Beast. Ewan McGregor nails Be Our Guest with his warm, sparkling voice, although something about the number overall feels kind of underwhelming; I’m not sure if the tempo is a little slower, or if the phrasing could be tighter, or there isn’t as much background chorus as there was in the original, but it doesn’t pack the same punch the Oscar-winning number did in the animated version, although it is still enjoyable. Emma Thompson’s rendition of Mrs. Potts’s titular song holds its own against Angela Lansbury’s, which is no small feat. Naturally, Broadway royalty Audra McDonald as Garderobe is the best singer out of the cast, and while her song at the beginning isn’t particularly memorable, she still makes it sound amazing; seriously, she could sing the dictionary and make it sound good. My last music-related critique is that the orchestra is pretty overpowering and tends to drown out the singing a bit.

Lastly, the movie is visually stunning, as anyone who has seen the trailers has probably already gathered. The big group scenes are beautifully shot and reminiscent of the original. The sets are lovely, and the castle is especially breathtaking. The CGI for the beast and the other enchanted characters is very impressive. Most memorable, though, are the costumes; they remain faithful to the animated version while still adding incredible detail. While Belle’s trademark yellow ball gown is gorgeous, my favorite is the one she wears in the final scene of the movie; if I ever get married, I will walk down the aisle in a replica of that dress. 
 While I’m sure I will continue to be skeptical of this wave of live-action remakes Disney has been churning out, Beauty and the Beast is excellent, both as an adaptation of an animated film and as a movie on its own. Whether you’re a hardcore, nostalgic Disney fan like I am or a casual movie-goer, I have no doubt you will enjoy this.

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Have you seen ‘Beauty & The Beast’? Well, what did you think? 

Weekend Roundup: In a Period Drama Mood

Happy Monday everyone! Another full week in store for me this week, but I’m excited for the Jurassic World and Inside Out screenings back to back Tuesday and Wednesday.

This weekend ends up being rather busy but I managed to fit in a couple of rewatches and a new movie I haven’t seen before, the Irish animated fantasy Song of the Sea (review upcoming). My tumblr feed has been filled with all kinds of Jane Austen gifsets lately and so it puts me in a period drama mood.

BBC Sense & Sensibility (2008)
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Most Austen fans would say that their favorite is Pride & Prejudice but for me, Sense & Sensibility reigns supreme, followed by Persuasion. So nearly every year I have to watch at least one version of this adaptation. The Ang Lee version is still superior on the whole, it’s after all one of my top five favorite films of all time. But there are quite a lot of things I love about this version, especially in the casting of Hattie Morahan & Dan Stevens as Elinor Dashwood & Edward Ferrars, respectively. Oh and I also love Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood. Hard to beat Alan Rickman but David Morrissey is more than adequate as Col. Brandon and I’ve grown to like his portrayal more and more. I didn’t care for Dominic Cooper as the dashing cad Willoughby though, and still don’t this time around.

Bride & Prejudice (2004) 

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This is a Bollywood version of Austen’s most popular novel. I’ve reviewed it here, and this is such a fun movie to watch over and over. So goofy and at times hilarious, but I think it captures the essence of the story as Austen intended. Aishwarya Rai is mesmerizing as Lalita Bakshi (Lizzie Bennett) despite being far too beautiful in the role. Martin Henderson provides quite an eye candy as Darcy with his dimpled good looks, and fellow Aussie Daniel Gillies makes quite a charming Wickham. Gurinder Chadha did a nice job adapting the classic story and somehow fit it into the Indian culture. I thought that the portrayal of Lizzie’s parents are spot on, especially Mrs. Bakshi who’s unabashedly eager to marry off their daughters. Naveen Andrews makes for the most charming version of Mr. Bingly, can’t imagine any of the British actors be up for THAT kind of vigorous dancing, ahah.

North and South(2004)

I’ve dedicated a post for Richard Armitage‘s performance as John Thornton in this amazing BBC miniseries a while ago. It still stands as one of my top five period dramas of all time!

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From time to time I’d watch clips of this on Netflix streaming, but this weekend I watched the last two episodes… and of course the ‘Look back… look back at me‘ scene gets me every time! Nothing like a gorgeous tortured soul to stir my heart and Armitage looks positively gorgeous as the venerable & vulnerable Mr. Thornton.

The Rise & Fall of Versailles (2009)

Speaking of gorgeous, of course not a weekend passes by these days without at least one Stanley Weber viewing 😉 And because of the recent casting news that Stanley will be portraying a French nobleman in Outlander season 2, I re-watched this documentary on King Louis XV. It’s also available in the full French version called Le Soleil Noir (The Black Sun) which I’ve also seen despite not having English subtitles.

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For anyone who’s into French history, this three-part documentary that goes all the way to the French revolution is fascinating and insightful, not to mention damn right sexy! The French sure knows how to make history lesson so titillating by casting such hot young actors as their monarchs, ahah. Louis XV is known for being quite a virile King with a colorful sexual history and this documentary doesn’t shy away from that. The set pieces and cinematography is fantastic for a TV documentary and it was filmed on location in Versailles. It’s especially fun to watch this as I was just there last year. So Outlander fans curious to see Stanley in French aristocracy regalia, be sure to catch this one and it’s on youtube and Hulu!


Well that’s my weekend, what did YOU watch?

Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2015 Edition

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

1. First things first… well, Twitter erupted with geekgasm yesterday when the third Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer dropped. I have to admit I dug it enough I watched it three times in a row during my lunch break. I’m lucky to have the 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display at the office 😉

I wasn’t super excited about the first two trailers but now I’m slowly getting more enthusiastic about this sequel. Though I’m much more excited about Captain America 3 that opens May 2016.

For those who’re averse to comic-book stuff, no fret. Far from the Madding Crowd also opens on the same weekend (May 1).

In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.


I never read Thomas Hardy’s famous novel that the movie’s based on but I like the look of this one, sounds like something I’d enjoy. Carey Mulligan is lovely & talented, and this is from the director of The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg, which was one of my top 10 films of 2013.

So are you excited for either one of these?

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2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Oliver Stone’s thriller SNOWDEN. The film is currently shooting in Munich, before moving to locations around the world.​ Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden before he became the NSA whistle-blower – Edward was an ordinary man who unquestioningly served his country.

Levitt_SnowdenThe movie also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant … and Nicolas Cage! Hmmm, I wonder which role he’d play, and most importantly which hairdo he’ll be sporting 😉

In any case, I’m not convinced yet about Levitt as Snowden, here’s what my casting wish for the role:

I knew the chance of Richard being cast is slim to none, he’s just a big enough name yet for such a role. Now, I’m not exactly a big Oliver Stone fan as director, we’ll see how much creative liberties will be taken for this movie. I think if you want to see the real Snowden, just watch the excellent doc Citizenfour instead.

What’s your initial thoughts of SNOWDEN?

3. Well, Cinderella hasn’t even opened yet and the interweb has been abuzz with the casting of yet another live action Disney adaptation, Beauty & The Beast. Apparently it’ll be a musical, with Emma Watson as Belle, who was cast months ago. Well, this week we’ve got casting news of the Beast himself AND its villain, Gaston: Dan Stevens and Luke Evans respectively. Behold the gorgeous all-Brits main cast:

BeautyandBeastCast

I actually just rewatched some clips of the animated feature not that long ago and looking at the drawings below, I’d say the casting is pretty spot-on physically. Though Stevens would likely have to undergo long hours in the makeup chair to get all big and furry as Beast, which is too bad that they have to cover up that handsome face!

BeautyandBeastAnimated

I personally like this casting. These are impossibly beautiful actors but fortunately they can act and have charismatic screen presence. It’d have been horrid if they cast say, Alex Pettyfer and Liam Hemsworth for example. Not convinced with Bill Condon as director though, but I haven’t seen Dreamgirls yet, so I suppose he has experience directing a musical.

What do you think of this casting bit?

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4. Oh for the times they are a-changin. Nothing could be truer for media distribution landscape, as companies like Amazon and Netflix are entering the foray. Well, this is creating some interesting *shake-up* as four major theater chains are refusing to show Beasts of No Nation, the Cary Fukunaga drama starring Idris Elba that Netflix bought this week for $12 million, because the company is debuting the film simultaneously on its streaming service (per Variety).

Apparently the reason is that “… they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.”

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A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.

NetflixLogoWell, since I have Netflix, it doesn’t bother me much, but this news certainly made me pause a bit. What if it’s the kind of movie I’d LOVE to see on the big screen? There’s only a handful of indie theaters near me, so there’s a likelihood none would even show such films. How big of a game changer this will become remains to be seen, but we might know sooner rather than later. Netflix also announced similar plans to the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that’s supposed to be out in August. It’s also partnering with a bunch of celebs on various projects, the latest is a partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio on documentaries that will premiere exclusively on Netflix.

What are your thoughts on this development?

5. The first 2015 Five for the Fifth’s guest is Natalie from Writer Loves Movies blog!

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We’re seeing some interesting Artificial Intelligence films lately (Her, Ex Machina). Chappie is out soon too. As a kid I loved Johnny 5 from Short Circuit! But as a grown up I’d have to pick Her‘s Samantha, such a clever film.

So, what’s your favorite cinematic AI?


Well, that’s it for the March 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Rental Pick: The Guest (2014)

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I always enjoy seeing actors reinvent themselves and one of such actors who did a pretty phenomenal job recently is Dan Stevens. Most of you probably knew him from as Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey, but I first saw the British actor in another period drama, BBC’s Sense & Sensibility. Well, gone is his chubby cheeks and floppy hair. Here he’s sporting a lean, sinewy bod with slicked-back hair AND a Southern drawl. He’s still got those dreamy baby blues though, which he uses to great effect to portray one of the creepiest characters ever.

TheGuest_DanStevens

The story is a simple one. A mysterious stranger, David, suddenly shows up at the door saying that he’s a good friend of the the family’s deceased soldier son. Without bothering to check for his ID, the lady of the house just lets him inside AND invites him to stay the night. Despite initial hesitation (well, barely) the entire family pretty much just welcomes him with open arms and of course things slowly unravels until it completely gets off the rails.

Just like most horror/thriller movies, The Guest is filled with obtuse characters who make a series of glaring mistakes, but that’s sort of part of the fun. The movie isn’t exactly unpredictable as you’d know from the start there is something really off about *David* and that he is not who he says he is. But yet you’re in for the ride to discover just who the heck he is, and the film moves at a swiftly pace that it never overstays his welcome.

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Director Adam Wingard has mostly done horror films (V/H/S, You’re Next) and this one certainly has that campy horror feel to it. The style and sound is a throwback to 80s/90s action thrillers, nicely mixed with suspense and humor. Stevens seems to be having a blast being a bad ass action antihero here, and he’s proven to be versatile enough to display affable charm one minute to psychotic menace the next. Maika Monroe is quite good as the daughter in the family who’s much more shrewd than meets the eye.

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The finale in a school’s Halloween maze makeshift is cleverly executed and stylishly shot, complete with a chase through a hall of mirrors. The synth (or goth electronica as they’d like to describe it) music by Steve Moore is pure 80s nostalgia that adds a dose of excitement and amusement to the action-packed scene. I’ve featured it on a Music Break here, it’s a great example where the music sets the tone of the movie brilliantly. Glad I finally saw this one, and it lives up to the great reviews this movie’s been getting and it’s surely destined to be a cult classic. Despite some decidedly-cheesy and predictable moments, it’s definitely one of the most entertaining offerings of 2014 and I definitely want to see more of this naughty side of Dan Stevens 😉

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What do you think of The Guest?