FlixChatter Review: Only The Brave (2017)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

Only the Brave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, is directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion) and is loosely based on an article in GQ, ‘No Exit’, written by Sean Flynn. The film stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale and features Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly.

What most people know about the Granite Mountain Hotshots is that they are a young crew of specialist wildfire fighters, tasked with job of fighting wildfires head on.

According to GQ:

Hotshots are invariably referred to as elite firefighters, which suggests years of training, high-end equipment, and a mastery of the mechanics of wildfires. But none of that is required. The entry-level qualifications are a few dozen hours of classroom instruction and a decent level of fitness, and the primary tools are chain saws and Pulaskis, a specialty tool combining an ax and an adze. Hotshots also tend to be young…and few of them make a long career out of it.

During a routine assignment of fighting a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona in June 2013, a total of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were lost to the wildfire and it resulted in the greatest loss of firefighters since 9/11. This was known as the Yarnell Hill Fire. The lone survivor from the 20-man crew was 21-year-old Brendan McDonough (Teller). The pace of the movie starts out really slow, as tells the real life story of Eric and Amanda Marsh (Brolin and Connelly), a married couple who struggle through normal relationship ups and downs, living on a ranch outside Prescott, Arizona. Eric “Supe” Marsh is the superintendent of a hotshot crew of firefighters who are training to be certified to fight wildfires for the Prescott Fire Department. His second-in-command is Jesse Steed (Badge Dale) and the young hotshot crew trusts the both of them with their lives.

Josh Brolin and Jennifer Connelly

After sever weeks of intense training, in walks Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Donut is the nickname given to him by the more experienced hotshots, the same way a pledge gets one from his fraternity brothers during pledging). Donut went to the firefighters post in Prescott, where the hotshots were headquartered, with a mission. He knew a couple of guys from an EMT class he’d taken at a community college and he’d overheard them mention that Granite Mountain was hiring. But he was a stoned kid, straight out of serving a three-day sentence for theft and those guys knew him, too. No jobs, they told him. The veteran yet overly cocky hotshot Chris MacKenzie (Kitsch) told him straight up, all the positions had been filed. But Eric Marsh overhead McDonough asking and offered to interview him on the spot.

You see, Marsh saw something in McDonough, something he saw when he looked at himself in the mirror — a former addict who was looking for a second chance. McDonough recently had become a father and had to clean up and take more responsibility. And with that responsibility came sacrifice. Yet little did McDonough know just how much sacrifice being a hotshot was really asking of him.

Miles Teller and Taylor Kitsch

As we get ever closer to the inevitable, harrowing ending in Yarnell, we get to see the hotshots for what they were – husbands, fathers, boyfriends and members of Prescott Arizona where Duane Steinbrink (played by Jeff Bridges) is not only the wildland division chief for the city of Prescott by day, but also a mighty fine singer at night with his country band called the Rusty Pistols (yes, Jeff Bridges sings for a bit in the movie). The entire hotshot crew celebrates that night as they bask in the glory of saving the ancient juniper tree during the Doce Fire.

The standouts of the movie are Josh Brolin and Miles Teller. Both actors show a broad depth of acting superiority and might. Brolin is fierce as Marsh, the hotshot superior — tough and calculated, yet humanly fragile, especially when confronting his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly at her best) with issues related to spending a long time apart. Teller is the rookie hotshot, out to prove himself after being known as junkie for all of his life. He brings a tender, yet sincere face to the hotshots and makes the audience feel like they can relate to him. As Donut is tasked with being the lookout for the hotshots in Yarnell, thus separating him from the other and ultimately sparing his life, Teller draws you in and makes you feel what he is feeling, deep down in your gut.

Miles Teller & Josh Brolin

Overall, Only The Brave is a must see movie, whether you want to honor those who gave up their lives to save others from wildfires, or whether you want to see some of the finest storytelling and acting out this year. I would be surprised if you walk out of that theater and don’t feel like you’ve been sucker punched in the gut from that real life human emotion, precisely the kind the producers and director want you to feel when it’s all said and done.


Have you seen ‘Only The Brave’? Well, what did you think? 

Spotlight on ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ – Interview with 3 surviving members of the security forces team

On Friday December 4, I had the privilege to interview three of the real-life soldiers depicted in the 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi film on Friday 12/4 afternoon at the Grand Hotel Mpls.

The film tells the true account of the events of September 11, 2012 when Islamic militants attacked the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound (or simply – the American diplomatic compound, it was not the U.S. Embassy) and a CIA station called The Annex in Benghazi, Libya from the personal stories of five of the surviving American private security operators that were on the ground that day.

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Check out the green-band trailer below:

13Hours_bookI have to admit I was a bit nervous meeting them as I had never actually met a US marine nor Army Ranger before in my life, let alone famous ones who were involved in such a major military incident.

You might’ve seen them being interviewed by major media outlets since the novel the film’s based on, written by NY Times best-selling author Mitchell Zuckoff. As I was waiting for my turn for the interview, I continued reading the novel in the hotel lobby. It’s a real page-turner and full of details of the action of that night, as well as the previous nights before the attack happened. 

The three guys featured in the book are:

MARK “OZ” GEIST – Former Marine

JOHN “TIG” TIEGEN – Former Marine

KRIS “TANTO” PARONTO – Ex-Army Ranger

*Oz, Tig & Tanto are their actual radio call signs.

By the time I stepped into the room for the interview, Mark, John and Kris were busy signing the books. They’re friendly and courteous and made me feel comfortable and welcomed right away. Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto went out of his way from the other end of the room to give me a big bear hug which was very sweet. I asked them to sign my book which they obligingly did. As I sat down, I immediately thanked them for their service to our country and that they’ve risked their own lives to save others.

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Q: How did this project come to be? Was the studio aware of the book being written [the book was published in Sept 2014] and wanted to do a cinematic adaptation of it?

MARK: 3 Arts [Entertainment], their literary division was the one who represented us when we did the book. Their primary division is a film production company out in L.A. We initially didn’t know where this would end up, we just wanted to get our story in print and bringing Mitchell Zuckoff as the author, and how he put together the book, the reviews of it, they felt that it would be a great fit for a film. So we went out to L.A. and talked to Paramount, actually we talked to several different groups and Paramount was the one that really, I think it resonated with them and they reached out to us about wanting to do the project and everything sort of fell into place.

Photo: Paramount Pictures
Director Michael Bay, Mark “Oz” Geist, Author Mitchell Zuckoff and John “Tig” Tiegen on the set of ’13 Hours’ – Photo: Paramount Pictures

Q: The book is a real page-turner, it’s very detailed and very intense. It made me wonder how the film would match the intensity. Since the film hasn’t come out yet, but you guys were there, so based on the footage you’ve seen so far, how realistic is it? Are you happy with the depiction?

KRIS: We’ve seen about 20-25 minutes footage, I think the intensity is there.

MARK: That’s why this is… I think this is made for Michael Bay’s [style]. He’s one of the few directors that I think can match the intensity that came across in the book.

KRIS: We’ve been very blessed that this has been handled by very good people. It shows that they had a sense, a sense to represent us correctly. They truly believe in the story, I don’t think if you truly believe in what happened that night, truly believe in how we are and want to know what actually took place that night and felt in their heart about getting it right, it wouldn’t have come out right.

Q: So they’re respectful about what went through that night? I mean, Michael Bay is known for his use of explosions, but there’s an emotional side to this story as well. I mean, this is obviously a very emotional experience for you guys.

MARK:  Things that people will see in the movie, and where he really… and I can’t say that he gets away from everything he’s done in the past in a sense that I mean you’re gonna feel every emotion… just as you read the book, you’re going to feel those emotions and he does the exact same thing, from fear, to sadness to anger. The movie’s not just about the actual event of that night, but it’s about our families too, our wives, our kids and he shows that in little snippets. It relates to how our kids… for example, he shows one scene of one of us with our families and the kid asks his dad ‘Daddy, why he has to go back, can’t you just do this?’ That really resonates with every single one of us, because most of us in the [security] contracting world are a little bit older and most of us have kids, we’re further along in our family life. So the kids are there and they’re talking to us… and that’s when he shows the compassion side of the movie and the troubles that we go through and serve our country the way we do.

KRIS: Michael Bay’s critics don’t see how much he supports vets. The extras you see in the movie, they’re are also military people from special forces and SEAL teams. I don’t think people give him the credit he deserves when it comes to making movies and the fact that he uses real people when he needs an authentic military aspect. The fact that this is a military film and he has the experience because he’s been around military people throughout his film career. There were Seals in The Rock and even in the Transformers movies there were real army rangers who worked as extras and they’re friends of ours who’ve worked with us overseas. So I don’t think he gets the kudos when it comes to stuff like that.

Q: The film was shot in Malta and also Morocco. How involved were you in selecting the location, obviously it couldn’t be shot in Libya but did you have any input in location scouting?

JOHN: No, we weren’t involved in the location as they’d select the location that’d look best to represent Benghazi the way it was. As for input for the set, as far as set design, by the time we got there, they already got the design done so we’re sitting there in front of the set guy. He was telling us what it looks like and how they did it. Well I said, ‘well this is wrong, this wall wasn’t here, this was actually over there…’ and Michael Bay was like, ‘Oh great, you just cost us another hundred thousand dollars’ but they moved it, they did it. Same thing with the actors, I mean one of them took Oz’s (Mark) wife on a date and tried to get into detail how everything was.

KRIS: Best date she ever had, I reckon she said.

[Everyone laughs]

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From L-R: Max Martini (Oz), John Krasinski (Jack Silva), Dominic Fumusa (Tig) and Pablo Schreiber (Tanto)

Q: Which actor was that?

JOHN: Max Martini. But don’t tell his wife [laughs]

KRIS: Don’t tell Oz, I mean he’s here but don’t tell him.

JOHN: Even on the set, we’re constantly in talks with the actors even before and after we left the set. Like Dominic Fumusa [who played John in the film], I mean he’s emailing me once a week asking me questions.

Q: So John, you have twins don’t you? According to the book, you’ve been there three times?

JOHN: Well I’ve been to Libya four times but three times to Benghazi.

Q: So you did go back to Libya after that?

JOHN: We all went back to work after Benghazi.

MARK: Well not to there [Benghazi] but everybody went back to the Middle East after all. I didn’t because I was injured but we all went back to our security work in different places. 

JOHN: Yes, until about mid 2013 when we finally decided to do the book.

KRIS: This wasn’t exactly our idea y’know ‘oh we got in a firefight, let’s go write a book about it’ We all wanted to continue to work. We just saw that the truth kept getting…

JOHN: hijacked…

KRIS: Exactly, hijacked by both [political] parties, everybody in the media, even by people in general who were writing a book about Benghazi who had no idea what was really going on in there. It got to the point where… first of all, it’s disrespectful to the people who died and disrespectful to those who lived, those who completed the mission and saved lives. I mean, it just wasn’t the truth. So it got to the point where had to vote as a team, as a team we said this is what we’re gonna do, let’s tell the truth… and of course we had to resign and here we are. I mean, I never planned on y’know, when I was younger I never thought I’d write a book that’s gonna be made into a movie, never in my life that I thought that.

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Pablo Schreiber as Kris “Tanto” Paronto, John Krasinski as Jack Silva & David Denman as Dave “Boon” Benton

Q: Early in the book, I read about how Jack Silva and Rone Woods, the night before the attack, they were talking about the security of the diplomatic compound and the ANNEX building. They were talking about the holes in the defensive system and how it might be vulnerable to terrorist attack and all that. Now in hindsight, knowing all that and this happened. Have you been contacted or are there improvements being made to make sure this doesn’t happen again? Not just in Benghazi but in other diplomatic compounds in vulnerable locations.

JOHN: They’re still trying to fix the holes that they found in the Beirut bombings [in November 2015]

KRIS: The actual training for state department guys…this is just from our friends in the State Department, they’ve made some improvements. Now I don’t know how much more intense they’ve made it thought they told me it’s pretty intense. But as far as from the state department asking ‘hey what are you guys’ take on this? What should we do? What’s the after action?’ No, that hasn’t happened, I think there are still the same problems overseas. And this is just from the guys that… it’s a small community, we still know guys who work as security contractors. They can tell you right now, that some lessons have been learned, but I don’t think they’ve exploited all the lessons they could’ve learned to make improvements that could be made to these diplomatic compounds overseas.

JOHN: Well, there’s really no reason to do the improvements because there’s nobody ever held accountable. Until someone is held accountable, put their feet to the fire, nothing’s ever going to chance.

KRIS: [holding the book] But this helps. The secret soldiers of Benghazi. Hopefully one day they’ll read this or somewhere down the line someone at the State Department or Government will watch it and maybe a light will click on. This will serve as a reminder forever so that’s important. I mean, we did what we had to do. This is out there, we’ve done all that we can do from our point of view. And the State Department know where we’re at and they can reach out to us. If they want to know our assistance, all they gotta do is ask.

MarkQuoteQ: I don’t want to make light of this event at all, obviously this was very tough for you guys. But there’s one point in the book where I thought, ‘I wonder if it’s going to make it into the film or not.’ I think in the Overrun chapter, Tanto you said ‘I’m getting too old for this.’ I think it’s when you’re about to climb an 8-foot wall. There’s definitely a sense of humor in the book.

[Everyone laughs as they’re playfully poking fun at Kris]

KRIS: Yeah, people think combat is all serious but we actually had a lot of fun. There’s a lot of jokes, I mean that’s your defense mechanism, it’s how you deal with stress, you tell jokes and you have a good times. And you’re with your buddies and that makes it ten times better. I mean you got bullets zipping by above your head and you hear that snap. You gotta put that on your bucket list, one time you gotta let that happen and you’ll see, you’ll think, ‘man this is kinda fun.’

Q: Oh I don’t know about that. Now, you guys seem very happy and calm now. I mean it’s been three years but how’s life been for you guys? Has the memory of the event still haunt you from time to time?

MARK: I don’t know that it necessarily haunt. I mean we’ll carry this memory forever and I’m proud to carry this memory with me, serving with these guys. Even the memories of Tyrone [Woods, former Navy SEAL, played by James Badge Dale] and Bub [Glen Doherty, former Navy Seal, played by Toby Stephens], they got killed right beside me when I got injured in the same explosion. I’m proud to have been able to fight with those types of guys, it’s a sense of privilege and honor to be able to do that. And it’s unfortunate that people died and get injured in these line of work but we’ve been around long enough and doing this long enough to know that this is one of the consequences. We even rationalized, dealt with that, or compartmentalized this long before it even happened.

Who’s who in 13 Hours:

Featurette on the men who lived the Benghazi attack:


THANKS so much Mark, John and Kris for chatting with me.13Hours_interview

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi opens wide in the US on Friday, January 15

Check out the worldwide release date here


Thoughts on the interview and/or the film? I’d love to hear what you think!

Rental Picks: Get the Gringo & The Lone Ranger

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Get The Gringo

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Remember when Mel Gibson was the king of the box office? Back in the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s, seems like every film he starred in were box office hits. After he starred in the big hit Signs back in 2002, he actually agreed to return as Max in George Miller’s Fury Road (it’s been renamed to Mad Max: Fury Road); if I remember correctly the film was scheduled to come out in the summer of 2004 but when the second Iraq War happened, the film was cancelled. They wanted to shoot the film in the middle east and of course with the war, it’s not possible. Then we all know what happened to his career after he directed The Passion of the Christ, even though I don’t agree with what he said in his personal life, I still think he’s a great talent.

A car chase opens the movie, a getaway driver (Mel Gibson) and a wounded accomplice are fleeing the American police and heading towards the Mexican border. The car crashes through the border fence and Gibson’s character was taken into the custody of the Mexican police, his accomplice died after the clash. Gibson’s character name was never mentioned throughout the movie, he’s only been called by everyone in the movie as The Gringo. After a night in a jail cell, The Gringo was transferred to El Pueblito prison under false charges, there he found out that the prison actually looks like a ghetto town rather than a real prison. Males, females and even young children are all being kept in this so called prison. Being that he’s the only Caucasian in the prison, he realized he has to figured out how to stay alive and escape the place. He was able to study the ins and outs of the prison and later met a kid (Kevin Hernandez) who’s living with his incarcerated mother. The Gringo and the kid formed an unlikely friendship and he also found out that the prison is being run by a powerful crime lord Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho). He then came up with a plan that will get him, the kid and his mom out of prison.

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This being a low budget production, most of the movie took place in the prison setting. First-time director Adrian Grunberg was able to keep the pace moving and staged some cool shootout sequences. Being that he was a second unit director on some of Gibson’s previous work and other well know films, he didn’t really established the look of his first gig as a director. That’s not a knock on Grunberg though, the look and feel of this movie reminded me of Michael Mann’s recent flicks such as Collateral and Miami Vice, as typical with a lot of action movies in the last few years, this one was shot in digital and there were too many scenes that looked like home video to me. Sometime it takes me out of the story when I see scenes that looked like someone used a consumer camcorder to record the scene, I wish some director would use some kind of effects in post production to give the movie a more cinematic look to it. Both Gibson and Grunberg co-wrote the script along with Stacy Perskie, they didn’t really come up with anything new for this kind of genre. It tends to get predictable but kept my interest and I was entertained, the movie kind of reminded me of Payback, a very good thriller from 1999.

Gibson is pretty much the star of the movie and I thought he’s terrific in the role. Again, I don’t agree on what he said in his personal life but I think he’s one of the few aging movie stars who’s still giving 100% in his performance, Tom Cruise being the other one. I can’t say the same for some other brand name stars, yes I’m referring to Bruce Willis and Robert De Niro, those two seems to just take whatever role the studio offered them.

Despite it being predictable and has that home video look to it, Get The Gringo was a good action thriller that will satisfy both fans of Gibson and the genre. It’s on sale for cheap on DVD/Bluray or you can stream it on Netflix. I think if you’re in the mood for a good thriller, this one will be worth your time.


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The Lone Ranger

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After reading negative reviews after another I didn’t intend to see this movie but my girlfriend and I couldn’t figure out what to do one Friday night, so we decided to check it out. We saw it at one of the most popular movie theaters in MN and there were only 5 people in the seats, including us and this was a Friday night! Apparently the negative reviews scared off a lot of people. Fortunately, the movie wasn’t as bad as most people made it out to be.

The film starts out with a prologue, took place at a San Francisco sideshow in 1933. A young boy who adores The Lone Ranger radio series ran into an old Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp), Tonto sees the boy and start calling him Kemosabe, seeing the boy with the mask on, Tonto thought the boy was his old pal The Lone Ranger. The boy was curious as to why this old man started calling him by that name and so Tonto decided to tell him the story about the masked man and his sidekick. The film then flashes back years later when we meet a lawyer named John Reid (Armie Hammer), he’s on a train and going to visit his brother who’s a lawman Dan Reid (James Badge Dale). However his train ended up being hijacked by a few outlaws who are trying to free their leader Butch Cavendish (William Fitchtner). Here we’re also introduced to a young Tonto, when chaos ensued, both Tonto and Reid tried to stop Cavendish from escaping but were unsuccessful.

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Shortly after, Dan deputizes his brother, allowing him to join in the hunt to bring Cavendish back to justice, but tragedy strikes as their group is ambushed and left for dead. Tonto comes to the scene and saw bodies everywhere, he decided to bury all the lawmen but then John woke up, so Tonto believed he’s been brought back to life by the higher power. John swears to take revenge on Butch for the murder of his brother and decides to team up with Tonto, who is trying to take his own revenge for another tragic event from several years ago. Their adventure will put them up against not only the violent gang of outlaws, but also against a scheming railroad man, Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), who is attempting to amass a great fortune with his plan. There’s also a subplot about the romance between John and his widowed sister-in-law Rebecca Reid (Ruth Wilson) that didn’t really pan out that well.

What worked for me were the great visual effects and action scenes, especially the big climax sequence involving trains was pretty well thought out and exciting, you can tell where all those millions of dollars went to. Director Gore Verbinski and his cinematographer really wanted to capture the look of Sergio Leone’s western films of the 60s and I thought they were quite successful at it. As mentioned earlier, the action scenes were pretty great to watch, you can tell Verbinski and his crew probably spent weeks or months prepping each sequence. Wish they spent more time on the actual plot of the film though.

A few things that I thought didn’t work. First the film tonal shift just felt out of place, it didn’t know if it wants to be a comedy action or dark and edgy action/western. There would be one scene where you’ll laugh and then another where you see people getting slaughtered. By combining all these elements into a film, it just didn’t blend well for me. Also, by trying to tell origin stories of both of the leads didn’t really work either. I mean the film’s called The Lone Ranger and they should’ve just focus the story on him, Tonto’s a sidekick so why not leave his origin for later films? I understand when you have a big star like Depp in that role, you have to make him the main lead. They should’ve just called the film Tonto and The Lone Ranger. Lastly, the bloated run-time was just inexcusable, about 20 to 30 minutes of the film could’ve been edited out.

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Performances wise, I thought Johnny Depp was good as Tonto, he’s basically playing Jack Sparrow again here. I was bit disappointed with Armie Hammer though, I always liked him as an actor but I found him to be lackluster here. I wonder it’s because he’s second fiddle to Depp, he’s been told not to over shadow the bigger star? Whatever it was I just thought he didn’t really sell me as the action hero. Both Fictner and Wilkinson were great as usual since they’ve played villains in other films before. I’m still not sure why Helena Bonham Carter agreed to appear in this movie, her role was so small and didn’t really have much to do, maybe she did it as a favor to Depp since they’re good friends. Ruth Wilson was pretty decent as the damsel in distress.

Even though I thought the plot didn’t work and the film was way too long, I didn’t hate it. I actually enjoyed it for the most part but I’m a sucker for western so it’s an easy sell for me. With a better script that focuses more on The Lone Ranger and shorter run-time, the film could’ve been a fun summer ride. Since the film is officially a massive flop for Disney, we probably won’t see any more adventures of The Lone Ranger and Tonto.

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What do you think of Get the Gringo and The Lone Ranger? 

Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2013 viewings

Since I started last year, I’m going to make this post an annual thing (well, for as long as I have this blog that is). I mentioned in the first post that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. Again, I may not necessarily love the film they appear in, but the actor(s) in question could still make an impression to me to make the list. The obvious case for me this year is last year’s Honorable Mention Oscar Isaac (who in hindsight should’ve been on my MAIN list) in Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m not terribly fond of the film but I LOVE his performance and I’d love to see more of him in Hollywood.

So like last year, I’d like to focus on those I either wasn’t aware of prior to 2013, or that for some reason I just didn’t notice them until last year. Some of these actors have been working steadily and relatively well-known to some, but they were ‘obscure’ to me until recently. It’s perfect timing that I had just read the BAFTA Rising Star nominees earlier this week, and a couple of their nominees make my Honorable Mentions.

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In any case, based on my 2013 viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Riz Ahmed

FiveNewFaves_AhmedI had never heard of Riz Ahmed before but apparently the British Pakistani from Wembley London is a pretty well-known actor and rapper. Well he didn’t rap in the movie I saw him in, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, but he gave a pretty soulful and affecting performance as a Pakistani man pursuing the American dream. I was pretty mesmerized by the 31-year-old, though apparently he also had a bit part in Michael Fassbender’s swashbuckling actioner Centurion in 2010.

What’s Next: Well according to IMDb, he’s got supporting roles in Nightcrawler and Violent Talent, not sure yet about the release dates. I hope he’d get a leading role again in the future as he definitely has the talent AND gravitas to pull it off.

Lake Bell

FiveNewFaves_BellApparently miss Bell has been acting in various movies and TV shows like The Practice and Boston Legal, but I haven’t seen a single film of hers until her directing debut where she also starred. The film was this comedic gem In A World … which I saw at the MSP Film Festival in a sold-out showing.

The leggy and beautiful actress could’ve been a fashion model (and she probably was at some point), but she made herself to be a disheveled mess in her own movie, but yet she’s so fun to watch! I hope she does more comedies as she’s so naturally goofy and has quite a knack for physical comedy. As a voice over talent trying to break into a male-dominated industry, she proves her mettle both in front and behind the camera. I love that she explored a plot that hasn’t been explored much but definitely ripe for a hilarious comedy!

What’s Next: I just saw her in the trailer for sports drama Million Dollar Arm with Jon Hamm, and she’s also up for a thriller with Owen Wilson (??) and Pierce Brosnan called The Coup. But what I’m looking forward to is Bell teaming up with Simon Pegg in British comedy Man Up, now I don’t know what the premise is yet, but it sounds like fun!

Daniel Brühl

FiveNewFaves_BruhlNow, I’ve already been aware of Brühl from his memorable supporting role as a Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. But everyone’s performance in that movie was practically eclipsed by that Austrian Christoph Waltz. But this year, I was impressed by the 35-year-old German actor in not one but THREE films: RUSH, The Fifth Estate, and Joyeux Noël. I’m thrilled that he’s nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Niki Lauda in RUSH, but hopefully Oscar won’t overlook him.

There is a quiet charisma about him that I like, not to mention his versatility. Apparently he’s part Spanish as his full name is Daniel César Martín Brühl González Domingo (wow!) and he’s fluent in German, Spanish and French on top of English, of course. No wonder he’s able to pull off different accent, which is key to being offered roles of various nationalities.

What’s Next: I saw him in the John le Carré’s spy thriller A Most Wanted Man with Philip Seymour Hoffman, but looks like he’d have a more prominent role in the drama The Face of An Angel with Kate Beckinsale.

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David Oyelowo

FiveNewFaves_OyelowoHe’s one of the trio of British-African actors I’m really loving lately, along with Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor. I first noticed him in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and then The Help, but last year I saw him in Jack Reacher and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Now, it’s the latter that REALLY made me take notice as the 37-year-old actor somehow can pull off playing a teenager and college freshman believably. Not only that, the Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) graduate also has the on-screen charisma to match his natural acting talent.

Like many British talents, Oleyowo are often mistaken for being an American as he effortlessly pulls off various accent. In fact, most of the roles I saw him in was him playing an American. Many Brits might recognize him from earlier season of Spooks (MI-5) as well, so he’s perhaps one of the most successful Spooks-alum as Hollywood’s taken notice of him.

What’s Next: He’s got no less than seven projects listed on his IMDb page, yay! One of them is Interstellar. But what I’d love to see is him in leading roles as he surely deserves it. Sounds like he’s the protagonist in Nightingale and Five Nights in Maine, and a supporting role (rumored) in Jurassic World.
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Andrea Riseborough

FiveNewFaves_RiseboroughWhen I first saw Riseborough in Disconnect, I was blown away by her performance… only to be floored later on when I realized she’s British!! I’d say her role as an ambitious journalist was one of the most grossly-overlooked performances of 2012! Later in the year I saw her in OBLIVION where she uses her natural accent and she was truly the best performer in that entire movie!

The third film I saw her in, Shadow Dancer with Clive Owen, she plays an IRA member-turned-informant and pulls off an Irish accent beautifully. She reminds me of my favorite actress of all time Cate Blanchett, who has the same chameleon-like ability with not only her looks but her accent, demeanor, etc. The 32-year-old English actress was trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), so I guess we can expect quality work from this future thespian.

What’s Next: She’s part of an ensemble cast of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming film Birdman (also starring Emma Stone, Ed Norton and Naomi Watts), as well as The Silent Storm with Damian Lewis. Hopefully she’s got a bigger role in the latter.


Honorable Mentions:

These five names did an impressive performance last year, though two of them (Robinson and Nyong’o had not acted before). Poulter and Nyong’o are one of this year’s BAFTA Rising Star nominees year’s nominees, too.

Tye Sheridan (Mud)

Somehow I didn’t notice him much as Brad Pitt’s son in The Tree of Life, but here he’s definitely memorable. As one of the two young boys in MUD who befriended a man with a shady past (Matthew McConnaughey), Sheridan’s character was the heart of the film. I’d love to see what else he’s got going on next.

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

It’s definitely one of the most talked-about performance of the year but her sensational performance hopefully won’t be a one-hit wonder. The Mexican-born Kenyan actress was a graduate of the Yale University School of Drama’s Acting program and she has a pretty extensive stage credits. She’s starring with Liam Neeson next in the actioner Non-Stop [sigh], let’s hope Hollywood finds a project worthy of her talent soon enough.

Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer)

Soulful. That’s how I’d describe this newcomer. Though it’s his feature-film debut, the 18-year-old has a certain confidence and charisma to carry off a leading role. He also seems wise beyond his years which made him so perfect in this coming-of-age tale.

Will Poulter (We’re The Millers)

Here’s another young Brit who manage to fool me as an American. I totally forgot he was in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader but the tall, lanky 20-year-old was absolutely convincing as an geeky American teenager who somehow got entangled with a small-time pot dealer pretending to be a family vacationing in Mexico. His rendition of TLC’s Waterfall alone proves that this kid has amazing comic timing, it’s worth seeing just for that part (I’m sure it’s on Youtube).

James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3, Parkland)

Here’s another actor who I’ve never heard of before then suddenly I saw three of his movies in one year (same as Riseborough above). I didn’t really remember him in World War Z but he was definitely memorable in Iron Man 3 and Parkland, two VERY different roles that he pulled off nicely. In the former, he somehow reminds me a bit of Robert Patrick in Terminator 2, though perhaps not quite as iconic. As in Parkland, as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, the 35-year-old displayed his dramatic chops. I hope he won’t get stuck playing supporting roles in the future.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

Weekend Viewing Roundup and PARKLAND review

Happy Monday all! Hope you had a nice weekend. I see that a lot of you saw GRAVITY, glad to see that Alfonso Cuarón’s film proves to be a critical AND box office hit with over $55 mil this weekend. If you’ve read my review, clearly that’ll be the film I’ll be rooting for come Award season!

I finally got around to seeing RUSH on Saturday night and it was aptly-titled as it’s quite an adrenaline rush! I enjoyed the rivalry between 1970s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt, especially Daniel Brühl’s performance. Is it the best Ron Howard movie to date? I’m not sure, but surely it’d make my Top 5.

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The rest of my weekend viewings are from Netflix. I finally completed Dark Knight Returns Part II and I must say I’m really impressed by the Frank Miller’s graphic novel adaptation. Our pal Jack Deth commented on the Five for the Fifth post that it’s his most-emotionally gratifying film he saw this year, and I could see why! Check out his in-depth review.

Last night I was feeling nostalgic so I watched a couple of episodes of two of my favorite shows: FRASIER and MOONLIGHT. Before Vampire Diaries and True Blood, there’s MOONLIGHT on CBS. I actually dedicated a post for the vampire series as it’s one of my all-time TV guilty pleasures!

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Yes the writing isn’t stellar but I have a soft spot for Aussie’s Alex O’Loughlin as the sexy & romantic vampire Mick St. John, and British actress Sophia Myles as his love interest Beth. She’s clearly the best actor in the whole series, I also like her in Spooks Season 10 with Richard Armitage. Lucky gal! 😉

Now here’s my review of…

Parkland

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Parkland is a historical drama that recounts the assassination of JFK in Dallas and the four days following that devastating event. Now, there have been countless films and documentaries on that but what sets this film apart is that it gives us the perspectives from a handful of ordinary people who are suddenly thrust into the this extraordinary circumstances: the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital (hence the title), the Secret Service, the FBI agents, as well as those outside of the presidential circle. The two characters I’m fascinated by the most from this film are Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, and Abraham Zapruder, the man who inadvertently filmed what became the most-watched and scrutinized 8mm film. These are two ordinary people who never thought their lives would change drastically that very day.

The assassination itself wasn’t re-enacted on screen but the film actually used the footage from the Zapruder film. Most people probably have seen that very clip by now as it’s all over Youtube, a bunch of them have been edited in slo-mo so you could see every detail when the motorcade passed through Dealy Plaza. But this time, we see the reaction of the people behind the camera, especially the clearly-shaken Zapruder the second the shots hit the president. The concept of the film is intriguing and even refreshing, but I think writer/director Peter Landesman is way too ambitious with the scope of the film. There are so many parts he’d like to cover but in the end, it sort of went all over the place. The scenes at the hospital seems to go on forever, especially the part where the doctors were trying desperately to revive Mr. Kennedy. One thing that really struck me was the moment Jackie Kennedy handed a piece of her husband’s skull (or brain) to the lead nurse (Marcia Gay Harden). For some reason I just realized what it was that Jackie retrieved when she jumped on the back hood of the presidential limousine!

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The worst part of the film for me is the shaky camera movements and constant blur effects which made me VERY nauseous. It’s hard to concentrate on the film, any film, when you struggle to keep from throwing up. I also find the extreme close-ups on the characters’ faces are excessive and distracting, which is another stylistic miscalculation. But the detrimental factor of the film for me is the lack of emotional involvement with any of the character as each only have a few minutes on screen. In fact, Tom Welling who got top billing according to IMDb basically only have a cameo here as as secret service agent Roy Kellerman. He only had like three lines in the film, and so was Billy Bob Thornton as lead of Dallas secret service, Forrest Sorrels.

Zack Efron is actually pretty decent as the young resident doctor at Parkland Hospital. I haven’t seen enough of his work to say that I like him as an actor but at least he seems to give a good effort to escape his High School Musical persona. The two actors who made an impression on me were Paul Giamatti as Zapruder and James Badge Dale as Robert Oswald. Both are interesting characters in their own right, but the two actors did a compelling job portraying them. Oh and Australian double Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver is fantastic as Marguerite Oswald, she really knocked it out of the park even in her brief scenes. It makes me want to check out the Aussie drama Animal Kingdom even more.

Overall Parkland is better in concept than execution. In fact, if you’re curious about the subject matter, I’d just rent it. It’s not a terrible film but its in-cohesive narration and nauseating shaky-cam style made this quite unbearable to watch for me. Though it did make me curious enough to want to read more about the most-scrutinized event in history, the film itself is ultimately forgettable. Or worse, I’d only remember it as being the film that made me [literally] want to vomit.

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2.5 out of 5 reels


That’s my weekend roundup folks. What did you see this weekend?