7 Films Screened at Sundance 2015 I’m most curious about

Sundance2015How’s your weekend everybody? I spent some of my weekend reading [and dreaming] about the Sundance Film Festival. I wish I could go there one day, the venue itself in Park City, Utah is gorgeous and of course, it’s a haven for movie fans, especially indie lovers. Who knows when we’ll actually see these films in a theater near us, but hopefully we will eventually.

So here are just a tiny sampling of movies that piqued my interest [in random order]:

Z For Zachariah

Director: Craig Zobel
Writer: Pall Grimsson, Nissar Modi
Cast: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor

In the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, two men and a young woman find themselves in an emotionally charged love triangle as the last known survivors.

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I’ve been seeing this photo all over the place and the cast alone intrigues me. I had no idea this was about a love triangle set in a post-apocalyptic world. Apparently this is based on a YA novel and according to this review from Variety,  the book has “…allusions to the Genesis narrative, [and] the novel was seen by some critics as a metaphorical clash between science and faith.” I was impressed w/ Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street, and it’d be interesting to see her in a more prominent role against these two equally gorgeous and talented actors.

Here’s a clip from the film

Brooklyn

Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleeson

In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.

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I LOVE Ronan and the 20-year-old’s definitely coming into her own as a grown-up actress now after churning in great performances in her teen years, esp. Atonement and Hanna. I like the sound of this period drama and John Crowley’s the same director who did the excellent Boy A with Andrew Garfield.

99 Homes

Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writer: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi
Cast: Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern

After his family is evicted, proud and desperate construction worker Dennis Nash (GARFIELD) tries to win his home back by striking a deal with the devil and working for Rick Carver (SHANNON), the corrupt real estate broker who evicted him.

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This sounds really intriguing, and it’s already got really good reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s an excerpt from We Got This Covered, “It is a film that could easily have condescended with characters that fall too concretely on the sides of black and white, the 99% vs. the 1%. (it is easy to believe that the 99 from the title refers to the plight of the common individual against the monopoly of the elite). However, Bahrani and co-scribe Amir Naderi are too perceptive and intelligent to depict these two men in simplistic ways.” 

No trailer yet, but here’s a clip featuring both actors:

Last Days in the Desert

Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Writer: Rodrigo Garcia
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Tye Sheridan, Ciarán Hinds

An imagined chapter from Jesus’ forty days of fasting and praying in the desert. On his way out of the wilderness, Jesus struggles with the Devil over the fate of a family in crisis.

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Ok so yes I was initially intrigued to see this mainly to see how McGregor pull off playing both Jesus and the Devil. But reading this interview with the filmmaker and lead actor on Christianity Today made me all the more curious. Described in the article as “…a character-driven meditation on family and mortality, haunting and spare” it seems as far away from something like EXODUS in terms of its *epic* and CGI-laden extravaganza, but hopefully it offers a reflective and thought-provoking look of Jesus’s life in perhaps his pivotal moment in his short but momentous life.

Lila & Eve

Director: Charles Stone III
Writer: Pat Gilfillan
Cast: Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez

Two distraught mothers, whose children were gunned down in a drive-by, team up to avenge their deaths after local authorities fail to take action.

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Viola Davis and J-Lo?? Now THAT’s quite an unlikely duo. It’s reminiscent of Thelma & Louise but decidedly more serious in tone. Considering the cultural climate of the recent police shootings in this country, the film would likely spark controversies. It’s certainly nice to see two strong women of color, who have a huge following in their own right, starring in a film together. The main draw for me here is Davis who’s charismatic and massively talented. Despite her questionable choice of movies, Lopez is actually not a bad actress and perhaps she gets to show her dramatic chops in this one.

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Director: Andrew Bujalsk
Writer: Andrew Bujalsk
Cast: Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce

Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client.

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Guy Pearce in a comedy, as a personal trainer no less? Yes please! Interesting to see the pairing of him and Smulders, but both have been in Marvel movies. Variety reported that the film’s been sold to Magnolia and perhaps will open later this Summer. Here’s more info about the plot: The film is set in the fitness world of Austin, Texas, with Corrigan as a recently divorced, miserable slob who makes a stab at self-improvement by signing up for a personal trainer at a local gym, where he meets the self-styled guru/owner (Pearce) and acerbic trainer Kat (Smulders). Sounds good to me!

Slow West

Director: John MacLean
Writer: John MacLean
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendehlson, Kodi Smit-McPhee

‘Slow West’ follows a 16-year-old boy on a journey across 19th Century frontier America in search of the woman he loves, while accompanied by mysterious traveler Silas.

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It’s interesting to note that first time director was a musician whose music been featured in films like High Fidelity and Remember Me. He worked on a short called Man on a Motorcycle starring Fassbender and perhaps that’s who the two met. Fassbender is also producing this film, described in MacLean’s own words in this Indiewire interview as “A European perspective of the West and young love…” Westerns isn’t my go-to genre, but the premise and cast definitely grabs my attention.

Hopefully these movies will all get distribution and that I get to see them later this year!


Well, have you been following Sundance this year? Which movies are you most excited to see?

MSPIFF14 Reviews: Breathe In & The Grand Seduction

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Breathe In

BreatheInPosterI have to admit I’m usually not into films about infidelity as it often gets glamorized on film and those getting cheated on often appear as if they deserve what happen to them. Luckily that’s not the case here. It’s more of a character study on temptation and the fragility of people who are deeply disillusioned with their lives.

The film opens with a seemingly happy family in an idyllic suburbs in upstate NY. The dad Keith (Guy Pearce) is a music teacher who is an aspiring orchestra cellist, the mother Megan (Amy Ryan), is a housewife who sells cookie jars on the side. Their daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) is a swimming champion, blond and vivacious. They were all anticipating the arrival of Sophie, an exchange student from Britain who’s coming to stay w/ them. That part reminds me of an exchange student from Denmark who came to live with us when I was in high school. Fortunately there was no such drama like what happens to this family. But then again, the student at our house was not in the form of an attractive girl like Felicity Jones and there was no married male in my household.

The attraction between Keith and Sophie is inevitable and palpable. As soon as Keith helped her with her luggage at the airport, exchanging quick glances in the car or at dinnertime, all the seemingly innocent acts have an electric undercurrent.

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The naturalistic style of Drake Doremus‘ direction lends itself to an atmospheric and intimate setting, as well as an authentic performance from the actors. Not that their behavior is excusable in any way, but neither Keith or Sophie seems powerless to stop their attraction from getting the best of them. In Keith’s part though, it seems that it’s more about him chasing his dream of a Bohemian life, something he felt he gave up when he took on the job and move out of Manhattan. There’s no real friction between him and his wife other than the fact that she sees his aspiring career as a concert cellist as a mere hobby. Keith’s motivation in the whole affair seemed more visible, for a lack of a better word, whilst Sophie’s much more of an enigma. And that to me, felt like a crux that prevents this film from being truly compelling. The way Lauren and her teenage friends is depicted here seems rather simplistic and generalized, it certainly puts teen life in a very unflattering light.

What I do appreciate is the lack of sensational & unnecessary sex scenes which I think would cheapen the story. As my friend Ashley astutely pointed out in her comment, anyone can grind and moan but to create a real sexual tension with just the touch of a hand or even a look across the room is far more challenging. As I’ve mentioned briefly in this piano moment post, there’s not one but two memorable piano scene brimming with sexual tension. Pearce and Jones certainly have a scorching chemistry despite their 16 age gap and the build up to their first moment together was almost as tense as a suspense thriller! Pearce is one of today’s finest actors and this performance further cements his amazing versatility. Even at 30, Jones still looks believable enough as a teen, and her character is supposed to be much more mature than her age. Having seen Like Crazy, I feel like I have seen Jones in a similar role as a girl who recklessly puts desire and passion above reason.

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I have to give props to Amy Ryan for delivering a memorable supporting role to a thankless role as Keith’s wife. She somehow makes her character sympathetic and I’m glad the film didn’t turn her into nothing but *scornful wife* here. There’s also a droll, albeit creepy, scene with Kyle MacLachlan pointing out the elephant in the room to Pearce’s character.

I think people might call this film tedious or underwhelming as there’s barely anything happening. I can see where they’re coming from, and for me, if it weren’t for the excellent performances I’d probably think the same way. I do think the script is so sparse and the vague finale barely give us anything to grasp on. What happened to Sophie in the end? Is the family beyond repair at this point? There are gaps that seem to be intentionally left open here which can be frustrating. All the exquisitely shot and breathless moments are memorable in and of itself, but ultimately the film itself feels too indulgent and even morose for its own good. One thing for sure though, it’s quite a sobering picture of infidelity that temptation may be sweet but remorse never is.

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GrandSeductionPosterThe Grand Seduction

I almost missed seeing this as I couldn’t get an extra ticket for my hubby on Friday night. Fortunately there’s a second screening on Sunday night and I’m glad I made it! This is one of the most delightful and sweet comedies I’ve seen in a long while.

The tiny Newfoundland harbor called Tickle Cove was once a thriving fishing village. But now that they’re prohibited from fishing to make a living, the community is living off welfare check. So when there is an opportunity that might land a contract with a big oil corporation to build a factory, a petrochemical byproduct repurposing facility to be exact, the town realize this is an opportunity of a lifetime to save their town from complete financial ruin. What’s the catch? In order to have the factory built on their premises, the contract specifies that the town needs a permanent doctor. And that’s where the grand seduction comes in.

At first I was wondering why they choose such a sensational title but once I see the movie it perfectly makes sense! The doctor in question is a young, cricket-loving Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), is only assigned in that town for a month. And so the new mayor Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) gets the entire harbor community to seduce the doctor to stay. The length to their seduction is the heart of the story and it lends itself to grand hilarity! I think the funniest bits are when the hockey-loving town has to learn the game of cricket, from creating the uniform & paddles, building the cricket field AND of course learning the rule of the game. As soon as Dr. Lewis arrives in town, he’s welcomed by practically the entire male population in a [faux] game of cricket. That’s just a fraction of the other schemes the entire town is in on Dr. Lewis, who’s so deliriously oblivious I feel like he deserves being pranked in this way.

TheGrandSeductionStills

I LOVE comedies that aren’t gross, foul-mouthed or just plain silly and this movie fits that description. As director Don McKellar said during the Q&A after the film, he’s drawn to the project as it’s the kind of social comedy that has a certain dignity, a certain respect for the people being depicted. There is a purpose to every gag, down to even the smallest comic scene is not a waste. There’s an obvious ethical issue with what the town is doing, I mean they’re tapping his phone and stuff, the NSA has nothing on them, ahah. Yet it’s not done in a mean-spirited kind of way and you can’t help but root for the town as well as for the young doctor.

The name of the harbor town is perfectly appropriate as it tickles your funny bone. There are plenty of gut-busting, thigh-slapping hilarity to be had from start to finish and having real life townsfolk definitely makes it feel authentic. Gleeson and Kitsch seem like an odd match and it is, but that’s kind of the point and it’s played to great effect here. Both of them are the only two actors who aren’t from easternmost province of Canada. Gleeson is Irish (which fits perfectly to the town’s Irish heritage) and Kitsch grew up in Vancouver. Gleeson is such a great actor, but I really like him in comedies [he’s much softer here though than his character in The Guard which I saw recently]. He’s is joined by Newfoundland’s most famous celebrity Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her), and the rest of the supporting cast, including comedian Mark Critch are from the area as well. All of them are so hilarious and by the end of it I fell in love with the Tickle Cove community!

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The ending is pretty predictable but in no way that it lessens the charm of the story. In fact, I don’t mind it at all that it ends on a hopeful and cheery note. I’m still gleeful just thinking about some of the funniest bits from this movie. Not only is it delightfully funny, it’s also heartwarming and beautiful to look at, it could practically doubles as a tourism video for Newfoundland. I definitely will watch it again as soon as it’s available on dvd or streaming.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Have you seen either one of these movies? I’d love to hear what you think!

Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2013 Edition

fiveforthefifth

Hello folks, welcome to the 10th Five for the Fifth of the year!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item, observation, trailer, actor/director spotlight, 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. There are two actors I like who’s having a birthday today: Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce. I’ve dedicated a post to the luminous and massively talented miss Winslet and posted my top five favorite roles, so I’m going to focus my attention here on the Australian thespian.

GuyPearceBday

Mr. Pearce who turns 46 today, I haven’t seen enough of his work to do a top five but I absolutely love him in L.A. Confidential and Memento (in that order), and also his supporting roles in The Hurt Locker, The Count of Monte Cristo, The King’s Speech and Iron Man 3. I still want to see the Aussie drama Animal Kingdom and also Lawless, he’s so unrecognizable in the trailer!

What’s YOUR favorite Guy Pearce roles?


Timberlake_RunnerRunner2.  I just read this article on The Wrap on Justin Timberlake after I saw the trailer for Runner Runner (review coming Monday). Truth be told, I wasn’t fond of the pop star at all, nor do I find him to be remotely attractive. But I’m slowly warming up to him, though I still much prefer him in supporting parts (preferably more comedic than dramatic roles) as he’s just not leading man material to me. Case in point: In Time, which would’ve been a lot more compelling had Cillian Murphy is in the lead instead of him. Granted the Irish actor is perhaps not a ‘marquee name’ (though he SHOULD be) so he’s not as marketable, but he’s certainly a much better actor.

In any case, it’s interesting to see how many films Timberlake has done, but his most successful one is still The Social Network, which I think is still my fave film he’s been in. I guess he’s not as good an actor as he is a singer, and his star power doesn’t exactly translate at the cinematic box office.

Thoughts on Justin Timberlake? I’m also curious if there a musician-turned-actor whose work you admire.


3. Ok, this is one piece of news I find truly mind-boggling.

Earlier this Spring, the crime drama BROADCHURCH aired on ITV in Britain, and then the show was bought by BBC America and it was shown this past August. The show just concluded its first season run on BBC America last week. Former Dr. Who David Tennant and Olivia Colman star as two detectives investigating the murder of a young boy in a small coastal town, which brings a media frenzy that threatens to tear the community apart. My friend Novia (a huge fan of BBC shows) praised the show in her review, and I’ll be posting a guest post on why people should check out this series.

BroadchurchBBC

Well, I just read on BBC America web site that FOX is going to remake it and though Tennant will reprise his role as the lead detective, the show will be “thoroughly Yankified,” as the article says. “The Fox redo will be set in an American small town. The network hasn’t said whether Tennant will play a Scotsman (which he is in real life) who has ended up on this side of the Atlantic or will adopt an American accent for the U.S. version of the series.”

I guess it’ll be similar to the show Elementary on CBS which capitalizes on the popularity on BBC’s Sherlock, and just as pointless. I really don’t get this types of projects but maybe there’s actually people who thinks this remake is a good idea. If so I’d like to know why. I’m also puzzled why Tennant is willing to play two separate versions of the same character [scratch head]

So perhaps one of you smart folks could enlighten me as to WHY Hollywood is doing this??


4. A couple of trailers got me super excited this week:

Before I get to it, watch Thorin er, Richard Armitage introduces the trailer [swoon] 😛

… and the trailer itself:

Totally agree with Sati that every woman who sees The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug trailer better has medics waiting for her outside!

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I LOVE that there are more scenes with Thorin this time and also Thranduil (Lee Pace), the two major eye candy by two actors who really should get more roles already. I wish those two were as busy as Benedict Cumberbatch, whose dragon voice sounds awesome. Fun to see Sherlock tormenting Watson again, ahah.

Speaking of Cumberbatch, I just rsvp-ed to see The Fifth Estate this coming Tuesday. Can’t wait to see the controversial film about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It’s got a great cast, too, including Daniel Brühl and Dan Stevens. Check out the latest trailer:

Are you excited for either (or both) of these?


5. Now, the last topic is inspired by my recent review of GRAVITY, which still lingers with me a week and a half after I saw it. Few films have such power to really get under my skin (in a good way). In my review I mentioned about the deep emotional/spiritual aspect of the film, yet another strength of the film on top of its technical and visual spectacle.

Well, now my last question to you is: What’s the most emotionally gratifying film(s) you’ve seen this year?


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

10 Reasons Iron Man 3 Exceeds My Expectations

IronMan3Banner

Truth be told, this is one superhero film this year I wasn’t really  looking forward to. I mean I LOVE the first film, and I didn’t even hate the second one even with its set of flaws. But I guess I’m just a bit worn out with the character of Tony Stark himself, his snarky cool edge that was so fun to watch before is just getting stale. But thanks to writer/director Shane Black, somehow he manages to win me over with his direction style. Here are just some things he did right:

1. Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce came up with a thrilling story that doesn’t dwell too much on the rich-billionaire syndrome. I mean we’ve seen all that, so no need to keep rehashing that fact. We see the frivolous party-animal part of Tony Stark in a flashback at the beginning, but shortly after that, he’s plucked out of his elements. It’s a fish-out-of-water story of sort, as Tony ends up being stranded in a snowy small town in Tennesse.

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Shane Black on the set with RDJ

2. The burning question for this particular superhero, perhaps more so than any other Marvel superhero is this: Does the suit make the man or the man made the suit? In the Film School Rejects interview Shane Black and exec. producer Kevin Feige, the interviewer said, “…you seem as interested in having Tony out of the Iron Man armor as in it”. Here’s Black’s answer:

I want the Iron Man stuff to have impact. And if he’s always in the suit doing stuff, it doesn’t have any impact. If every once in a while he gets just a piece of the suit and POW! he launches a bolt and somebody goes flying 20 feet through the air, but it burns him to do it, that has impact.

I think that’s a wise move right from the get go, having such a strong vision for the character and make him the primary focus once again. I think Black succeeds in creating that delicate balance of seeing both persona of Tony Stark, making the most of Robert Downey Jr.‘s undeniable screen charisma that seems to only get better with age.

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Now, THAT’s the money shot

3. Going back to basicsbut somehow makes the old feels new again. The reason I like the first film was because we see Tony as a real genius who’s seemingly thrive under even the most desperate circumstances with his ability to build something out of nothing. We see that MacGyver side of Tony here, how he somehow can still rise to the occasion outside of his state-of-the-art lab and without his loyal robotic butler Jarvis. Tony Stark actually has to shop at a Home Depot type of store like the rest of us, ahah. The ‘relationship’ between the hero and his Iron suit gets an even more amusing play here, which seems even more hilarious than ever before.

4. Shane Black is no stranger to buddy action-comedies. After all, he was the writer behind the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action franchise Lethal Weapon. He’s also worked with RDJ in the wacky thriller-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where RDJ and Val Kilmer made a droll and quirky pair.

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Here RDJ still has a great rapport with General Rhodes (Don Cheadle), that whole bit about War Machine having a more nationalistic name Iron Patriot delivers some laughs. But when Rhodes is not always around to swap snarky banters with, Black cast a precocious whiz boy (Ty Simpkins) as his sparring partner. The 11-year-old Simpkins is able to hold his own against the veteran actor, and their banter is fun to watch. I love how Tony is still being Tony regardless who he’s dealing with, not allowing anyone—no matter how old—to wallow in self-pity, including himself. It was an unlikely duo that works in the story.

IronMan3_TheMandarin5. Surprising twist on the villain that I didn’t see coming. Having a more realistic ‘real world’ adversary with the terrorism angle works well here instead of simply having another suited-armor nemesis. But there’s more than meets the eye here about the eccentric psychopath The Mandarin that still hit me out of left field. I think comic readers might not necessarily appreciate the alteration but I consider it to be a pleasant surprise that’s sooo entertainingly zany.

Perfect casting of Sir Ben Kingsley in that role, stealing scenes whenever he appears on-screen. The scene of him, Stark and Rhodes is definitely one of the major highlights, but the less I say about the character the better for the sake of your viewing enjoyment.

6. Guy Pearce looking cool and hunky for a change, instead of looking like 200 years old (Prometheus) or some follicly challenged gangster (Lawless). He’s not the kind of villain that takes himself too seriously, Aldrich Killian is a pretty cool name and Pearce plays him as a charming baddie that could easily match Downey’s quick wits. There’s a scene towards the finale that somehow reminds me of his breakthrough role in Memento, I don’t think it’s an homage or anything, it’s just something I picked up on. Pearce seems to have had a good time filming this and it shows!

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7. Fun action set pieces but yet they’re not just some over-the-top and vapid bombastic shoot-em-ups (*cough* Die Hard 5 * cough*). The most memorable one, that you’ve likely seen in the trailer, is the relentless attack on Tony’s Malibu mansion. I remember marveling at that sprawling beach-front property in the first movie, and seeing it being destroyed to bits was wow, I’ve got to admit my heart sank a bit as I watched it.

The eye-popping special effects are to be expected. I still enjoy watching our armored hero shooting off to the sky, but this time, the flying sequence isn’t so much about Iron Man looking hip and cool on the air, but more about what he can do with that gift. Ultimately, it’s Tony’s sharp thinking that does the saving, not simply the power of that suit itself.

8. Robert Downey Jr.’s consistent dedication to the role is one of the main factors the franchise hasn’t lost its juice. Everything we’ve come to know and love about the character is all there, Tony’s flair for the theatrics, his nerdy obsession with his robotic toys, and his snarky prowess is still firing on all cylinders. Yet somehow under Black’s direction, it feels fresh, sprightly, and endearingly self-deprecating. I think the key here is showing the character’s vulnerability and contrast that with his larger-than-life billionaire antics.

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There are countless hysterical scenes where things don’t go according to plan for Tony. Even in the moment he needs it most, his invention can still let him down, and that sense that our hero isn’t always so invincible makes him more human, and in some ways more relatable.

9. But also not ‘too relatable’ as we go to see a superhero movies for escapist entertainment. Iron Man 3 is by no means a dark and gloomy affair (I don’t know why some reviewers equate this with The Dark Knight) as I don’t think it would fit the essence of Tony Stark if they go that route. There are dark moments to be sure, but the mirthful tone is intact and plenty of geeky gadgetry to keep the superhero geek massively entertained. Black & co. never forgets that at its heart, Marvel superhero movies are popcorn entertainment and on that front, it certainly delivers!

IronMan3_RebeccaHall10. The returning characters are given a bit more to do here. Retiring from directing duties (but still serves as exec. producer), Jon Favreau is quite amusing as the head of security of Stark Industries. I wish Rebecca Hall has more screen time but still, it’s nice to see her here alongside Gwyneth Paltrow (who’s not even the most beautiful woman in this movie, let alone the world, heh). That said, I kind of like that Stark’s love interest is not just a damsel in distress in this one which makes Pepper Potts a bit more interesting than in the previous installments.


Perhaps having a tepid expectations helps me enjoy this more than I otherwise would, as the movie is definitely not without flaws. Just to name a few, the motivation of the super-villain’s descent to madness is too much of a stretch and the loud clanging and bombastic mayhem of the third act can be quite dizzying. But overall, those who haven’t become too cynical or jaded by superhero movies would be hard pressed not to enjoy this one.

Though the iron suit sometimes run out of juice in this movie, thankfully the Iron Man franchise still has plenty of that in its third installment. I wouldn’t rate this as high as other stellar “threequels” like the Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a solid addition to the lucrative Marvel canon.


4 out of 5 reels

What did you think folks? Does this one meet YOUR expectations?

Guest Review: Prometheus – from a die-hard ALIENS fan

In August last year, I posted this Random Question: What movie you’ve seen most often on the big screen as I was inspired by my colleague who saw Aliens twelve times on the big screen. Well, now he’s here to tell us whether Prometheus lives up to his lofty expectations.


Review by Phil Thompson

Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the first 2 Alien movies, Aliens is my all-time favorite movie, and I actually saw it twelve times in theaters. So yeah, I’m a fan.

“A king has his reign, and then he dies. It is inevitable.”

These words open the narration of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a return to the Alien universe he created back in 1979 with Alien. A character will speak these words again later in the movie, and their significance will be apparent at that time.

Prometheus is a gorgeous movie, with excellent cinematography, sets, and special effects, and is generally well-cast and well-acted. The soundtrack was a bit of a let-down for me; it never really conveyed a sense of fear or dread. The movie combines the genres of science-fiction, action, and horror, with a touch of religion added in. It has a lot in common with the original Alien, but also interestingly evokes memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And although this is clearly a prequel to the movie Alien, it is not a direct prequel in the sense that the events of this movie will lead to the beginning of Alien. Rather, the events in Prometheus will answer some questions about Alien, and will help you better understand the Alien movies.

The general storyline of Prometheus is that in the late 21st century, a handful of scientists/archaeologists convince the massive Weyland mega-Corporation to bankroll an expedition to the moon (“LV-223”) of a distant planet, where they hope to find some answers about the beginning of mankind on Earth.

The 2 scientists/archaeologists behind Prometheus’ mission are Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Michael Fassbender plays the eerie robot David who must look after Prometheus’ sleeping human passengers on the 2+-year journey from Earth to LV-223. Charlize Theron is the grumpy corporate Meredith Vickers, who is in charge of the expedition for the Weyland Corporation, and Idris Elba is Janek, the ship’s gruff, Christmas-loving pilot. Guy Pearce also appears in heavy makeup as Peter Weyland, the CEO of the massive Weyland Corporation.

Prometheus is Noomi Rapace’s movie, and she is a strong female character in the vein of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the first 2 Alien movies. The harrowing scene where Shaw undergoes a self-inflicted medical procedure is the movie’s best, in my opinion. The other standout star of this movie is Fassbender’s David. He evokes memories of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and you will spend much of the movie trying to understand why he acts the way he does.

Spoiler Alert: [highlight the text below if you want to read the spoiler]

Shaw and David will be part of any “Prometheus” sequels.

Theron’s Meredith Vickers doesn’t have a lot to do in this movie, but she does deliver one of my favorite lines in the movie: “If you’re going down there, you’re going to die.” Interestingly enough, the person(s) she says this to are not the persons she appears to say it to in the movie’s many trailers.

The movie starts out relatively quickly, with a couple quick setup scenes, and in less than 15 minutes, the Prometheus, an opulent trillion-dollar spacecraft with a crew of just 17 people, is in orbit around LV-223.  At this point, Drs. Shaw and Holloway announce to the ship’s crew that they believe some beings they call “Engineers” left some breadcrumbs on Earth “inviting” us to follow them to this exact location, and that they hope to find some evidence of these “Engineers” on this moon, and maybe even meet one of them.

The Prometheus finds some clearly non-natural structures on LV-223, and sets down to investigate them. What they find is not what they expected to find, and some characters’ hidden agendas eventually appear, making things even more interesting. The rest of the movie is a roller-coaster ride, with very few wasted scenes. The ending clearly calls out for at least one sequel, and the final scene of the movie is not to be missed by fans of the “Alien” movies.

So did it live up to my own lofty expectations?

Short answer is: YES. I enjoyed this movie, and I would recommend that you go see it.  But the movie does have several flaws. Its alien creatures (all but one) are surprisingly uninspired (in my opinion), compared to H.R. Giger’s creations for the earlier movies. It has a few serious plot holes – in a trillion dollar expedition to a remote moon, would there really be nobody monitoring 2 scientists stuck off-ship during a storm? And the movie brings up an awful lot of questions that will leave you shaking your head days later. And some of those questions can only be answered by a sequel.  But these are relatively minor flaws, and will not prevent you from enjoying the movie.

As a big fan of both the Alien and Aliens movies, I was a little disappointed that this movie kind of sets off in a different direction. It explains how the aliens in the Aliens movies came to be, but then moves off in another direction with the Engineers and the questions associated with them, and any “Prometheus” sequels would appear to marginalize the “Alien” storylines. I think I might’ve enjoyed the Jon Spaights version of the script more, which supposedly was more of a true Alien prequel, with the same aliens/eggs/chest-bursters that we’ve come to know (and love?).

Thoughts on the Box Office take and the 3D quality:

From what I’m reading right now, Prometheus has opened to a $50 million box-office take in its opening weekend. I think that amount would’ve been a lot higher if the movie didn’t have an R rating. Madagascar 3D bumped Prometheus off the large UltraScreen in the Marcus Oakdale Theater near me, and also out of the main large 3D theater in my local theater. I was stunned that a movie of Prometheus caliber would have to play second fiddle to an animated film about a bunch of animals.

I would recommend getting to the theater on time, as the very first scene of the movie is somewhat important, especially if you want to understand some of the deeper concepts in the movie. Also, I saw the movie both in 3D and on a regular screen, and I didn’t feel that the 3D added much. But I did not see it on an IMAX screen, and I do wear glasses, so any 3D movie for me means 2 sets of glasses. Add in the fact that a lot of the movie’s scenes are in dark scary places, and it doesn’t make for the best 3D viewing.

If you’re like me, you’ll have at least one or two very large questions after the movie ends, and if you go online to get some answers, you’ll find all sorts of them. And you may be surprised to find that the movie may have been hinting at far bigger things than you may have first thought.

4 out of 5 reels

Have you seen Prometheus? Feel free to add your thoughts below on whether this film lives up to the hype.

THIS JUST IN! John Hillcoat’s ‘Lawless’ Trailer

The first time I heard about this movie was when there’s news circulating about Shia LeBeouf and Tom Hardy clashing on the set and got into a bar brawl. Now, I don’t really care about what’s really going on between those two, but the movie they’re working on does sound intriguing. Formerly called The Wettest County in the World, which is a bad title but at least not as generic as this new one, is one of those movies I’d watch just for the cast! Besides the two I’ve mentioned, we’ve got Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain!

Now check out the brand new trailer:

Hardy, LaBeouf and Jason Clarke play three brothers who find their bootlegging business under threat in Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia. The story is based on the true-life tales of Matt Bondurant’s own grandfather and great-uncles, who were the inspiration of the events in his novel The Wettest County in the World.

Man, that’s a pretty intense trailer! I’m guessing this’ll be a hard R like most of Hillcoat’s previous films, i.e. The Proposition, The Road. The Aussie director seems to have a penchant for the utterly dark and bleak stuff. I do like the setting in the Prohibition era, there’s something so riveting about that period and the true-story aspect of it certainly adds to the intrigue.

I think we can expect some fine performances as well as some really bad ass shoot-outs! Hardy looks like he’d steal the show here, but LaBeouf actually doesn’t look too bad. I think he gets a bad rap after Transformers like R-Patz with Twilight, but I think he’s got potential. The main draw for me are Hardy and Chastain whose career are stratospheric to say the least, as well as the two veterans Oldman and Pearce, the latter is barely recognizable here with that hideous haircut. We’ll see who’ll be chewing the scenery the most between those two.

This movie will be premiering in 2012 Cannes Film Festival this May, and the US release date is set for August 31.


What do you think of this trailer? Will you be watching this one?

Guest Post: Five Favorite Movies with a Twist Ending

With the recent release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to Planet of the Apes, it got me thinking of films with twist/surprise/shocking ending. Since the original 1968’s ‘Apes’ movie was the godfather of twist ending, I figure I should list my favorite films that has a surprise ending. Don’t worry, there won’t be any mentions of M. Night’s films, I think that’s too obvious to name one of his films here. Although I still think Unbreakable’s ending was pretty cool and shocking (well it was shocking to me when I first saw it anyway).

— Spoiler alert! —
If you haven’t seen some or any of the films listed below, I’d recommend you don’t read any further. Unless you don’t intend to see any of these films (or don’t mind the spoiler), then by all means read on.

So here are the films with ending I didn’t see it coming:

1. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Why not start with the godfather of shocking ending right? The original Planet of the Apes ending’s wasn’t as true to the novel but it’s way better than the Tim Burton’s 2001 remake. Throughout the film, Charlton Heston’s character believed he was on a different planet that‘s ruled by apes, well the last shot of the film showed the floating head of the Statue of Liberty on the beach and he realized he’s already home. Classic!

2. No Way Out
This underrated and little-seen suspense thriller from 1987 was truly nail-biting and had a nice twist ending. Kevin Costner starred as a Navy Officer who was working under a powerful Secretary of Defense, played by Gene Hackman. Costner’s character had an affair with Hackman’s mistress, played by Sean Young. About 30 minutes into the film, Hackman’s character accidentally killed his mistress. So in order to cover up the murder, Hackman’s right hand man, played brilliantly by Will Patton, cooked up a story of how she was having an affair with a Russian spy named Yuri and Yuri was the one who killed her. They’ve decided to bring in Costner’s character to lead the investigation, the two of them doesn’t know that Costner was having an affair with Young‘s character. So upon finding out Young’s character was killed, not only did Costner have to find this so-called spy Yuri, he must also try to keep his boss from knowing that he was the one who’s been sleeping with his mistress!

Before I give away the twist ending, I really hope those who’ve never seen this film to check this out. It’s really a great suspense thriller and all the performances were quite great, especially Costner, Hackman and Patton.

So after everything happened in the film, we found out at the end that Costner’s character was actually a Russian spy named Yuri and his mission was to have an affair with his boss’ mistress. I know it might not make much sense for those who’ve never seen the film, but you’ll know what I mean when you see it.

3. Sleepaway Camp
This film came out in the early 80s, the time when slasher horror flicks were everywhere. What sets this one apart was the shocking ending. I mean seriously the first time I saw it, the ending freaked me out. The story is about a young shy girl who was sent to a camp and suddenly people in the camp were being killed one by one. Well, we find out the killer was actually the shy girl and she is actually a he. Trust me, when you see the film, you’ll understand why it freaked me out. Do check it out if you’ve never seen it.

4. Memento
Chris Nolan’s second film was probably one of the best films of 2000s in my opinion. I won’t go into the plot since I believe most people have seen this film already. I do want to know though, if you’re a fan of this film, what do you think of the ending? Personally I think it was great, here’s a guy who believed that he has this “disease” and will do whatever it takes to make people believe that he has this short term memory. Truly a classic suspense thriller that will have people talking for years to come.

5. Don’t Look Now
This 1973 thriller was probably one of the best of the genre I’ve ever seen. Again if you’ve never seen it, please check it out before reading my spoiler. The film is about a couple who are living in Venice, Italy and grieving the death of their daughter. The husband, played by Donald Sutherland, starts seeing a series of disturbing and fragmented premonitions which coincides with a series of murders in the city. He also sees a little figure who wears the same red-hooded cloak that his daughter wore when she died of drowning. He decides to follow this person who’s wearing the red cloak, a decision he’d surely regret.

When Sutherland’s character finally caught up with the little hooded figure, he turns out to be the little person who was responsible for the murders in the city. And of course Sutherland was killed by this little murderer. I know it doesn’t sound as shocking when you read about it now, but when you see the entire thing, you’ll know why I put this film on this list.


Well those are some of my favorite twist ending films. Name yours in the comments below.