FlixChatter Review: CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

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It’s been almost a decade since Guillermo del Toro made a fantasy/ horror picture; Pan’s Labyrinth put his name on the map as a big time filmmaker. After two big budgeted sci-fi action films, he’s back with a smaller fantasy/horror thriller that made him famous.

Set in turn-of-the-century New York, a young ambitous woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is trying to become a serious writer in the field dominated my men. She’s written novels about love and ghosts, you see Edith believes in ghosts because she saw her dead mother visited her when she’s very young. Ever since then, she can see ghosts everywhere.  CrimsonPeak3

Her written work would get turned down by publishers and some even mocked her writing. One day she met an Englishman named Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) who’s in town to try and raise money for his clay mining business from Edith’s father Carter (Jim Beaver) and other business men. Thomas has a sister named Lucille (Jessica Chastain) who doesn’t seem to care much for everyone in town, especially Edith. After Edith’s father rejected his business pitch, Thomas decided to romance Edith in order to get money from the family.

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Local doctor Alan (Charlie Hunnam) also tried to woo Edith but she’s clearly smitten by the new Englishman in town. After a tragic incident, Edith married Thomas and they moved back to England to stay at his old mansion. Here’s when things got worse for Edith as she’s being haunted by spirits in the mansion.

CrimsonPeak1For the first half of this movie, it felt like a period romance drama so for those looking for a spooky ghost story, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Del Toro took his time with the story and didn’t show the horror stuff until later in the movie.

Being that Del Toro is technical expert, this was one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in a long time. Kudos also go to the set and costume designers, they did such an amazing job that I felt I was in that period of time while watching the movie. Performance wise, all the actors did a fine job, no complain for me here.

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Unfortunately the script by Matthew Robbins and Del Toro was quite generic and predictable. This was the kind of story that’s been told too many times in other horror/thriller. There were no surprises or twists that you won’t see coming. Another thing I thought didn’t work were the CGI ghosts, they looked fake and not scary at all. Speaking of scary, this was supposed to be a spooky horror movie and I was not once felt scared or spooked while watching this movie.

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Despite the great cinematography, performances and set design, this movie couldn’t overcome its lack of scares and originality.

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So have you seen Crimson Peak? Well, what did you think?

 

Thursday Movie Picks #56: Alien Invasion of Earth

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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… 

Alien Invasion of Earth

This month’s theme turns out to be pretty easy as there are actually not that many to pick from for me. A lot of the scifis I like are more about humans & robots, not aliens.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.

When someone says ‘alien invasion movies,’ the first thing that came to mind is this. In fact, I asked my hubby and that’s the first thing that came to his mind as well. It’d also my pick for apocalyptic blockbuster as it’s just so much fun! I remember when I saw it on the big screen for the first time, there’s a sense of awe and intrigue when those big spaceships first appeared hovering above the sky.

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I mean, all the action set pieces like the White House blowing up, Will Smith punching the ugly, slimy alien in the face, and that bombastic aerial battle at the end are still memorably epic to this day! It’s an awesome ensemble cast too, Jeff Goldblum has the snark and swagger to make any role memorable. And of course there’s that rousing, albeit corny, presidential speech from Bill Pullman… “We won’t go quietly into the night!” There’s nothing quiet about this flick and I love it all the better for it!

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SIGNS (2002)

A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.

Let me preface this pick with the fact that despite the atrocity of The Happening, I actually still have hope for M. Night’s career. He’s made two excellent films you could consider a classic (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) and the other two in his resume, The Village and Signs, left a lasting impression that I thought about them for days after seeing them. I know his films have their share of ardent fans and equally passionate detractors.

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I’m not saying SIGNS is a perfect film, there are some preposterous, even laughable moments. But I like that it’s really not so much about alien invasion, but he took some of the classic elements of that genre and turn it on its head. In the same way that Sixth Sense isn’t your typical ghost story and Unbreakable offers a compelling twist in the crowded superhero genre, Signs deals with a broader theme. It’s an intimate film about a close-knit family, led by a former pastor dealing with a crisis of faith. The mystery and suspense surrounding the aliens themselves was pretty fun to watch the first time around, but it isn’t the heart of the film and it’s not what stuck with me afterwards. I like the emotional and spiritual aspect, and how a dire predicament actually helps restore a man’s soul and brings his family together. It’s been ages since I saw this but I definitely want to see this again. Excellent acting all around too by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Pacific Rim (2013)

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

I love LOVE this movie! I never thought I’d love a big monster movie THIS much but what can I say, it’s awesome. Or as one character in the movie said, “That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’😀 I don’t think it’d be a major spoiler to say that it’s as much an alien invasion movie as it’s a big monster flick. The Kaijus are obviously not from this world, they’re mammoth biological weapons sent by an alien colony through a portal for a specific mission: wipeout humankind. Guillermo del Toro did an amazing job making these creatures look organic like a dinosaur, but with thick, gunky blue blood that actually looks cool the bloodier the darn thing is.

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All the fight scenes between the Kaijus and the massive human-powered robots called Jaegers are wonderfully staged. But I love that we constantly see the humans powering these machines and some of the scenes are actually quite emotional. I like the father-daughter dynamic between Idris Elba‘s and Rinku Kikuchi‘s, and a flirty banter between Rinku and hunky Charlie Hunnam, as well as a slew of fun supporting characters that enrich the movie. Just like ID4, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s something so giddily-amusing about the fight scenes, like when a Jaeger named Gypsy Danger swung a huge, Titanic-sized ship and hurl it at the Kaiju. You just want to get up and cheer when those moments came on!

I saw this movie twice on the big screen and loved every minute of it. I’ve since bought the Bluray and it’s gotten a lot of play in my house.

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What do you think of my alien-invasion movie picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

Question of the Week: What movie(s) surprises you most this year?

Happy Friday everyone! Hope your week’s been going well. It’s been a slow week for me blogging-wise as well as my workload at the office. I hope it’s just a Summer thing as people being out on vacation and what not. As you probably know, June was kind of an eventful month that kept me from watching some screenings and other movies I’ve set out to see. I saw that people have started listing their favorite movies of the first half of the year, which I hope to do sometime next week.

In the meantime, I thought I’d pick your brain this week to find out just which movie(s) end up being a surprise to you so far. I’m talking about new releases in 2013 that you haven’t been particularly stoked to see but end up surprising you in a good way.

PacificRim_PicJust looking at the top banner above and from my review yesterday should give you a hint how much I enjoyed Pacific Rim 😉 I actually tweeted last Tuesday night that I like this movie more than Man of Steel (imagine that!). I mean, as a huge Superman fan, I’m more surprised by that than anyone, especially since I’m not even into robots or big monster movies at all. I never bothered putting the trailers on this blog as I thought they were lame. In fact, I was thisclose from bailing out from the screening altogether!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t skip it as it ends up being my favorite Summer movie so far. It remains to be seen if del Toro’s mammoth robots will conquer audiences this weekend or not, seems like all the experts are predicting a soft opening for the movie (around $30 mil according to Variety).

As far as indie movies go, my surprise pick would be The Kings of Summer. It’s another movie that wasn’t even on my radar but it’ll surely be in my top 10 list of the first half of this year.


Now your turn!

What movie(s) surprises you most in 2013 so far?

(Feel free to also list movies that surprises you in a bad way, perhaps those you’ve been anticipating that let you down in a big way)

FlixChatter Review: Pacific Rim

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I remember back in 2008 when I saw the trailers for Iron Man. My hubby was excited for it but I kept rolling my eyes when it came on and said how silly and vapid it looked, only to be bowled over when I finally got around to seeing it. It’s the same case with this one, only this time my hubby agreed with me that it looked just like another loud popcorn movie, nothing more than another Transformers movie mixed with Independence Day. Well, I guess the lesson I learned once again is ‘don’t judge a movie by its trailer(s)’ 😀

The plot (yes there IS one, in case some of you are wondering) is nothing we’ve never heard before but it’s played out quite efficiently here. The swift exposition at the beginning showed us that a war between humankind and a bunch of humongous sea creatures called Kaiju (Japanese for strange beast) have been going on for some time. The narrator, Raleigh Becket, was only five when the first attack began in San Francisco. He’s a former pilot of this man-made giant robots called Jaeger (German for the hunter) who left the force when his co-pilot brother got killed in battle. We learn that it takes two pilots to control each of those Jaegers, whose minds are locked in a neural bridge called ‘The Drift.’ Apparently, the deeper the bond between them, the better they fight.’

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Right away I was pretty absorbed by the story and the characters, and what’s at stake at the seemingly-inevitable apocalypse as these Kaijus have become stronger and more relentless with each attack. Fans of giant monsters movies like Godzilla, etc. would have an especially enjoyable time watching the fight scenes of Kaiju vs. Jaegers. The  I have to admit that though I’m not into monster movies, I too was caught up in the whole spectacle!

The fight scenes are well-staged and though it was certainly loud and bombastic, it didn’t have the dizzying effect like the battle scenes in Man of Steel. Though the battles between the steel vs organic giants are quite relentless, there’s a constant reminder that these aren’t simply mindless robots that are fighting, but there are people inside these steel beasts that get hurt with each punch. The film certainly lives by its motto ‘Go Big or Go Extinct’ as the scale is just massive, but yet it’s not bloated in terms of content. Seems like each scene has a purpose that justifies its 2 hrs 11 min run-time. The meticulous amount of details of the set pieces are also muy impressive. Each of these Jaeger have a name, and the main hero is called Gypsy Danger – the only remaining analog robot, and in one interview, del Toro said it’s meant to resemble a WWII fighter jet calling it “a mixture of deco skyscraper and John Wayne.”

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I give props to Guillermo del Toro for his unbridled passion for his $180 pet project, fusing it with digital artistry and spectacle worth raving about. He said in interviews that Pacific Rim contains all his bucket list rolled into one movie, and it shows! I’m glad that during the fight scenes, the director didn’t resort to quick cuts or blur effect so we’re still able to make out just what the heck is going on. What I appreciate most of all, is how emotionally satisfying it is. THAT ultimately, is what makes a movie so gratifying and memorable.

The last movie I saw that del Toro directed was Pan’s Labyrinth, which was excellent albeit too disturbingly violent for my taste. No doubt this movie is far more accessible and commercial than the 2006 fantasy drama, but del Toro’s deft touch and zeal for the material is palpable. He’s assembled the best of the best in the biz, working with ILM (its chief creative officer John Knoll, is the co-creator of Photoshop) on the SFX, as well as composer Ramin Djawadi on a rousing score that already becomes my personal favorite!

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Acting-wise, I think everyone is pretty well-cast. 33-year-old Brit Charlie Hunnam (of the Sons of Anarchy TV show), is pretty decent as Raleigh, and he’s got a nice narrating voice. He’s also got a nice chemistry with Rinko Kikuchi (THAT girl from Babel), and the martial arts training session is brimming with sexual tension. But to me, the real STAR is the hunky and charismatic Idris Elba. I’ve liked him since I saw him Rocknrolla years ago and he’s always been fun to watch. But man, he’s so incredibly magnetic in this movie! He’s got such a strong screen presence, plus he looks fantastic in that Jaeger pilot suit I barely noticed anyone else in that Shatterdome facility once he shows up! That ‘cancelin’ the apocalypse’ speech rates right up there with Bill Pullman’s speech in ID-4.

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Yes the speech is corny… but it works!!

The supporting cast deliver some of the funniest parts, most notably Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the oft-bickering scientists, and del Toro’s regular Ron Perlman as a Kaiju black market honcho. I love the creative character names, too: Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, Perlman’s Hannibal Chau, Day’s Newton Geiszler.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is definitely one of the most fun I’ve had this year watching a movie! Despite the predictable plot — the ending echoes other disaster movies like again, ID-4 and Armageddon — this movie still has some fresh concepts to set this one apart. In fact, I think action directors Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay have some things to learn from del Toro, as he’s able to deliver a visual feast without falling into the ‘style over substance’ trap. Plenty of eye candy and thrilling action, but not devoid of emotion either, what’s not to like? When Geiszler shouted ‘That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’ I can’t say he’s exaggerating!

We saw the screening in IMAX 3D at our local theater and the picture quality is the best I’ve seen in a while. My hubby and I plan to see this again in the next couple of weeks, maybe even at the real IMAX. Depending on the box office receipt, I wager that this movie is going to revive the big-monster movie genre… for better or for worse!

P.S. Do stay for a bit after the end credits. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

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What do you think of Pacific Rim and/or monster movies in general?

Five for the Fifth: May 2013 Edition

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Hello folks, welcome to the 5th Five for the Fifth of the year!

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. Happy Cinco de Mayo! I’ve made it a tradition of sort to feature a Mexican filmmaker/actor on the May edition of Five for the Fifth. Last year I featured director Alfonso Cuarón, but this year, I turn the spotlight on Guillermo del Toro since Pacific Rim is coming out later in July.

GuillermodelToroA short bio on the 48-year-old director: Guillermo del Toro was born October 9, 1964 in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. Raised by his Catholic grandmother, del Toro developed an interest in filmmaking in his early teens. Later, he learned about makeup and effects from the legendary Dick Smith (The Exorcist (1973)) and worked on making his own short films.

I quite enjoyed the first Hell Boy movie, though I haven’t seen the sequel, but his film that really made an impression on me was the captivating but often violent fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth. I’m still not sold on his sci-fi alien adventure Pacific Rim yet, I mean I love Idris Elba and I’m thrilled he got the lead role, but the movie looks like a combo of Independence Day and Transformers to me. As Tim outlined in his trailer review, it does look promising, but I guess it remains to be seen how captivating the movie will be.….

So what’s your thoughts on Mr. del Toro and/or Pacific Rim?

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2. Now, many of you likely have seen Iron Man 3 by now which I happen to enjoy quite a bit. You’ve perhaps also heard about the Chinese version of the movie, which according to this Beijing-based Kotaku site said featured four-minute added content and the Chinese character Dr. Wu had a more prominent part in the film. In the film version, Dr. Wu (played by Chinese movie star Wang Xueqi) only had a few seconds screen time, basically a blink-and-you-missed it type of cameo. I since learned that apparently those footage was NOT filmed by director Shane Black.

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Truthfully, when I first heard about the existence of this Chinese version, I shook my head in dismay. I mean, as if we didn’t need more proof that Hollywood honchos only care about the bottom line, this is yet another reason creative integrity is just thrown away by the wayside. I mean, I realize some films have multiple cuts that are released in the DVD/Blu-ray versions that feature alternate scenes and/or ending than the theatrical release. But I feel that this is an entirely different ball game that is purely motivated by profit.

Apparently the Kotaku writer Eric Jou shares my dread, “It literally offends me as an American in China and as an ethnically Chinese person that Hollywood would attempt to sell this to the Chinese audience… It undermines Chinese people’s intelligence and movie savvy.”

I’m curious to hear what you think on this matter folks, so please chime in below.

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3. Well, looks like the negotiation with Tom Hiddleston to play The Crow fell through 😦 I was so thrilled to see him possibly getting cast in that role, especially since the hot Brit seemed keen on playing the role. I really think he’d have rocked the role, though Brandon Lee would perhaps remain as my favorite Eric Draven.

Now it looks like the deal is set with Welsh actor Luke Evans (one of my picks to play 007) has nabbed the role. According to Deadline, Evans was actually director F. Javier Gutierrez’s first choice for the role but scheduling conflict made them consider other actors. But apparently “… they have decided to push the start date to early next year to accommodate his schedule in order to secure Evans.” 

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Well, I still would rather see Hiddleston but Evans is a thousand times better choice than Alexander Skarsgard, for me anyways. I think he’s got the look as the dark and lean rock star, let’s hope he can bring something fresh and perhaps even iconic in this reboot.

How do you feel about Luke Evans’ casting as The Crow?


4. Hugh Jackman is really a jack of all trades, the ultimate quadruple threat as he’s not only a ruggedly gorgeous hunk of a man, but he can sing, dance, act, and with a good business sense as he’s also the producer of the film. He’s the kind of actor who could pretty much do any kind of genre believably, you name it, drama, rom-com, comedy, action, mystery, etc. he’s done it all. But his most famous role happens to be the same one that gave him his breakthrough in Hollywood, and that is X-Men’s Wolverine.

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Check out the latest International trailer:

This is surely one of my most-anticipated movies of the Summer. The Wolverine reboot will mark his fifth time Jackman will reprise the comic-book character (not counting the cameo in X-Men: First Class). I think that’s the highest number of superhero character portrayal by a single actor to date. It’s notable just on that front alone, but also the fact that somehow Jackman has not overstay its welcome as that character. Far from it in fact, as this James Mangold-directed origin story (yes, again) set in Japan seems to present the character in a whole new light.

Thoughts on Mr. Jackman and/or his upcoming movie The Wolverine?


5. Now, last but not least, I’d like to make the fifth question be a forum for movie recommendations. I’ll limit the genres to foreign thrillers and/or dramas as I had just been impressed with the Danish thriller The Hunt. As you probably know if you read my blog regularly, it’s my pick for Movie of the Month in April (full review coming later this week), and that’s the second Danish thriller I was VERY impressed with after Headhunters. Interesting that both have the word ‘hunt’ in it though they’re two very different films. As for foreign dramas, I was delighted by Intouchables recently, which I also highly recommend.

Please share your recommendations of foreign thrillers/drama that you think everyone must see!


For those with a Reddit account, would you be so kind as to submit this post?
I’d sincerely appreciate it folks! 😀


That’s it for the May 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these subjects.

Flix Poster of the Week: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

The swirly yellow font treatment set against stark black caught my attention in the Apple trailer page, but the official poster set in nifty illustration is even more artsy. I love how the monsters’ hands guide draw your eyes down to the terrified-looking girl and down to that script fonts of the title. Very creative, but man is it ever creepy!

Synopsis:
Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison), a lonely, withdrawn child, has just arrived in Rhode Island to live with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at the 19th-century mansion they are restoring. While exploring the sprawling estate, the young girl discovers a hidden basement, undisturbed since the strange disappearance of the mansion’s builder a century ago. When Sally unwittingly lets loose a race of ancient, dark-dwelling creatures who conspire to drag her down into the mysterious house’s bottomless depths, she must convince Alex and Kim that it’s not a fantasy—before the evil lurking in the dark consumes them all.

One of the principal writers of the movie is Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican director who made the violent and also creepy fantasy thriller Pan’s Labyrinth. That’s one movie I won’t be able to ever see again, even if I admire its creativity and style. I don’t think I’ll be able to see this one given my distaste for horror flicks. Besides, my nerves had been stretched to its snapping point just watching the trailer!

Watch it for yourself below… if you dare.