FlixChatter Review – Atomic Blonde (2017)

guestpost
Directed By: David Leitch
Written By: Kurt Johnstad (screenplay)
Runtime: 1 hr 55 minutes

When I found out I would be reviewing this film, I pulled up an article on it for a little background information-and made the mistake of reading the comments. They were mostly all the same, with guys accusing Atomic Blonde of being pandering and asserting that the movie is unrealistic because women are too frail and weak to be badass action heroes. It was infuriating, and it made me hope that that this movie would be amazing, just to spite the trolls. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

In Atomic Blonde, an adaptation of the graphic novel series The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) recounts her mission in Cold War Berlin to track down a list of double agents to MI6 executive Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA official Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). From the moment she meets up with fellow agent David Percival (James McAvoy), Lorraine is plunged into danger and intrigue as she works to complete her mission.

This is an incredibly fun action movie. The fight choreography is impressive, ranging from creative and graceful to realistically graphic, and even some of that is surprisingly gorgeous; there’s one scene where blood is spattered on a large painting of a woman’s face right on her mouth, making it look almost like a messy lipstick kiss. Having it all set to a phenomenal soundtrack of 80’s rock makes it even more entertaining. 
 The technical aspects of the movie are impressive as well. The editing is tight and creative; one moment that stands out is in a scene where a body being thrown into a river, and as soon as it hits the surface, the scene cuts to Lorraine’s face breaking the water as she sits up in a bathtub. There are several gorgeous, well-balanced shots. The film overall is dark and gritty but glossy, which is perfect for a graphic novel adaptation, although the green filter is a little overused.

It can be hard to critique acting in a movie like this when so much of the focus is on the action and visuals, but Charlize Theron and James McAvoy still manage to shine in their roles. Theron is cold, calculating, and tough but still shows brief moments of panic and sadness without being melodramatic. McAvoy is so much fun to watch in this as well; he is so good at acting goofy but still a little unhinged and sinister (as proven in Split earlier this year). My one critique is some of their line reads are hard to understand, but I’m not sure if they’re mumbling or if there’s a sound-mixing problem.
 If you’re looking for a fun, beautifully-shot action movie to see this summer, you should definitely check this out. Ignore the trolls.

laura_review


Have you seen ‘Atomic Blonde’? Well, what did you think? 

Advertisements

Guest Review: SPLIT (2017)

guestpostmnight_split

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Written By: M. Night Shyamalan
Runtime: 1 hr 57 minutes

M. Night Shyamalan has struggled over the years to regain his early 2000’s glory. From a movie about trees compelling people commit suicide, to a horrible adaptation of a beloved animated series, several of his more recent films have been flops. His newest movie, however, has been attracting a lot of attention, and people are wondering if it might be a return to the tense, unique thrillers that originally made Shyamalan a household name. Does it deliver? In addition, can a movie with an antagonist whose defining characteristic is a legitimate mental disorder succeed without being offensive or painfully inaccurate?

In Split, three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey, Haley Lu Richardson as Claire, and Jessica Sula as Marcia) are kidnapped by Kevin (James McAvoy), a man with dissociative identity disorder. Kevin currently has twenty-three personalities who are awaiting the arrival of a new, mysterious one who is simply called The Beast. The girls must figure out which personalities they can trust or manipulate to help them escape.

split_still1

While this film had its problems, it was still one of the better ones I’ve seen out of Shyamalan in quite a while. It starts out tense and is suspenseful the whole way through; at the risk of sounding cliché, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, watching the girls’ constant attempts at escape and tense interactions with Kevin’s multiple personalities. James McAvoy gave a fantastic performance, managing to portray nine different personalities without overdoing any of them in an attempt to make them distinct. The actresses playing the kidnapped teenagers gave great performances as well, especially Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more of their work in the future.

split_mcavoy

That said, this was far from a perfect movie. There were some moments where the tone felt a little confused, and I wasn’t sure if the audience was supposed to laugh or feel unnerved. Much of the exposition comes from Kevin’s psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), and the way it’s presented is pretty clunky. Then, of course, there is the portrayal of dissociative identity disorder. Is it insensitive or inaccurate? To answer that would spoil Shyamalan’s signature “twist,” so you’ll have to highlight this next part in order to see it [SPOILER ALERT] Based on the climax of the movie, it appears whatever Kevin suffers from isn’t dissociative identity disorder, but some sort of supernatural ability to not only be host to multiple personalities, but to change physically depending on the personality. When The Beast finally makes his appearance, Kevin’s muscles grow and his skin thickens, earning him near invincibility. He can easily climb walls and ceilings and receive multiple gunshots without being taken down. So because the antagonist doesn’t actually have this specific mental disorder, I can’t say it was portrayed insensitively, since technically it wasn’t what was being portrayed at all.

The twist doesn’t come out of nowhere- it’s hinted at during a session between Kevin and Dr. Fletcher- and, for people who are familiar with Shyamalan’s style, one could almost predict it from the plot summary alone (maybe not the exact details, but at least the general idea). As far as accuracy, Dr. Fletcher does discuss her research on physical changes in individuals with DID, some of which sounded pretty far-fetched, but upon further research (Google searches during my lunch break at work), I found that much of what she said in the movie is based on actual DID cases, so at least the little they did include regarding the actual disorder was mostly based in reality.

Split isn’t necessarily a major comeback for Shyamalan, but it’s still an interesting watch, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you want to see a solid acting performance

laura_review


Have you seen ‘SPLIT’? Well, what did you think? 

2014 Recap: 10 Favorite MALE Performances of the Year

Top10MALEPerformances2014

Well, now that I’ve posted my Top 10 Movies of the year and picked my Top 10 favorite FEMALE Performances and Top 10 Film Scores of the year, I’m finally down to my last 2014 Recap list. It’s quite a crowded category, more so than the female counterpart, as obviously there are more roles for men as there are for women on any given year. But I’m still picking only 10 on the main list, and another 10 15 on Honorable Mentions (there are just too many to keep it to just 10). Naturally these are performances from films I got a chance to see last year. So in case you’re wondering where’s Jake Gyllenhaal, Eddie Redmayne or J.K. Simmons, well I haven’t seen Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything nor Whiplash.

Same w/ the ladies, this list is in alphabetical order, as it was tough enough to narrow ’em down to 10, let alone ranking them. So here goes:

1. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Carrel_Foxcatcher

It’s one of those transformative roles that all actors are privileged to get but not everyone can pull it off. Well, I always think that Steve Carell is a much more versatile actor than people give him credit for and Foxcatcher‘s director Bennet Miller said during our interview that “…it’s exciting when an actor breaks out of what’s expected of them.” But it takes so much more than just putting on a fake nose to create a convincing character. I’ve seen him in serious roles before in Little Miss Sunshine, but took his dramatic potential up several notches here, displaying disquieting menace and creepy demeanor I’ve never seen before. As I’m writing this, I couldn’t help recalling his earlier role as Evan Baxter in Bruce Almighty, yet I couldn’t fathom that they’re played by the same actor!

2. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Cumberbatch_ImitationGame

Benedict Cumberbatch is no stranger to playing an eccentric genius on screen. But apart from being British and a brainiac, Alan Turing couldn’t be more different than his Sherlock persona. Cumberbatch effortlessly captures that brilliant intellect and that arrogant, dismissive attitude towards the world around him, but he also convincingly conveys Turing’s inner tumult. The final scenes where Turing is treated as a social outcast is the film’s most heart-wrenching moments. All the pain, anguish and utter despair is palpable on Cumberbatch’s face but without a moment of overacting. It’s no doubt the actor’s shining hour, a personal best even amongst his already impressive resume.

3. Chris Evans – Snowpiercer

tumblr_n68wdbrLQV1qbor6ao4_500

tumblr_n8px4aY1md1r8j1j3o2_500

In a year when he’s truly coming into his own as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America in its sequel, Chris Evans also emerges as a capable indie leading man. Certain actors often become stuck to play certain roles because of how they look and I think Evans is one them. But Evans is more than just a pretty face & a hot body, even if his role choices are questionable at times. I saw that he has dramatic chops in Puncture but this is an even more complex role – not to mention a better-crafted film overall – and he gets to show what he can do as an actor. As a conflicted rebel leader with a dark past, Evans displays an unusually somber, soulful and heartfelt performance. I’d love to see him tackle more dramatic roles like this in the future, he certainly has it in him.

4. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Fiennes_GBH2

Fiennes_GBH1

Whilst Carell is comedian playing a dark role, the normally-serious Ralph Fiennes got to do the opposite. It’s such a thrill to see him being so goofy here, and he seems to relish in the character’s inherent zany-ness. Apparently Wes Anderson wrote this role specifically for him, which I think is an inspired choice that absolutely paid off. His deadpan delivery is really fun to watch here, and he has that effortless elegance about him too that fits the role of the legendary concierge M. Gustave.

5. Tom Hardy – Locke

TomHardyLocke1

tom-hardy-locke3

It takes an actor of a certain charisma to hold your attention for 1.5 hour long when all you see is him inside a car the entire time. But charisma can only go so far without the skills, but thankfully, Hardy’s got both. This is the first film with him in the leading role, after seeing him stealing scenes left and right in films like Rocknrolla, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises. He was a co-lead (with Joel Edgerton) in Warrior, an intensely physical role that he offsets with layers of vulnerability. As a man grappling with one VERY stressful night of his life, his body is barely shown the entire movie, so he had to rely on his eyes and facial features to convey every single emotion. Suffice to say, he delivered with aplomb. It’s a mesmerizingly-nuanced performance that confirms my opinion that Hardy as one of the finest actors working today. Seems that he’s only just getting warmed up.

6. Michael Keaton – Birdman

keaton_gripe1

keaton_gripe2

One of the highlights of 2014 cinema for me is definitely seeing the perpetually-underrated Michael Keaton getting a career resurgence. I’ve been a fan of his for as long as I can remember, as he’s the kind of actor who can tackle hard-hitting drama as well as silly comedic roles effortlessly. In Birdman he gets a chance to tackle both and he relish in that opportunity. He’s been garnering kudos left and right and he’s the one I’m rooting for the entire award season. The fact that there are many similarities between his character Riggan and his professional acting life certainly adds a dose of amusement as well as authenticity to his portrayal. Keaton infused Riggan with such depth and genuine pathos that even during some of the film’s most bizarre scenes as Riggan descend into madness, he’s always emotionally engaging.

7. James McAvoy – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

McAvoy_EleanorRigby

If only you more people had seen at least one version of this romantic drama, even just to see how good both lead actors are. McAvoy’s co-star Jessica Chastain is on my Top 10 list of Female Performers from the same film. I’ve been a fan of James McAvoy since Atonement and the Scottish actor has since done an amazing job balancing big blockbusters like X-Men: First Class to small indies like this one. He’s an instantly likable actor who I vehemently believe is more talented than people give him credit for. What I love about McAvoy is that there’s always such a natural way to his acting that you instantly believe he’s that character. Here he wears his character Conor like an old shoe, a man desperately trying to somehow regain his lost love. There is a moment in the film where Conor is alone in an empty apartment and he reminisce on his marriage that is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s a shame that AMPAS doesn’t even notice this film as both Chastain & McAvoy’s marvelous performances are certainly Oscar-worthy.

8. Edward Norton – Birdman

NortonBirdman3

NortonBirdman2

Another highlights from Birdman and why this is truly one of the best films of the decade is seeing Ed Norton in a role worthy of his talent. It’s definitely a scene-stealing role in a film that’s already jam-packed with fine performances. Just like his co-star Keaton, Norton did a brilliant dramatic and comedic turn as a self-absorbed diva of an actor who’s more comfortable in his own skin when he’s on stage. All the scenes of him and Keaton are truly the film’s highlights as both actors not only baring their skin down to their underwear, but they also bare themselves emotionally. It’s too bad that he probably won’t win an Oscar again this year, but I sure hope the three-time Oscar nominee won’t be wasted playing second/third banana in subpar movies like Bourne Legacy ever again.

9. David Oyelowo – Selma

DavidOyelowoSELMA

I’ve made my quibbles known about one of the egregious snubs of this year’s Oscar. But if there is justice in the world, this wouldn’t be the last we see Oyelowo’s name being mentioned during cinema’s award season. Even in bit parts in a myriad of movies ranging from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help, Jack Reacher, etc., I always notice his performance. He finally got to shine in a prominent supporting role as Forrest Whitaker’s teenage son in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which also deals with the Civil Rights Movement. It’s interesting that a year later he got to play the key figure in that historical movement, a role that I read he’s been dreaming to play for some time. Oyelowo didn’t just get Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mannerism and speaking style right, it’s more than just a brilliant impersonation but he truly embodied the role. What’s more, he portrayed Dr. King as not just a heroic figure but as a man, flawed and plagued with doubts just like any regular person would. He is just as convincing as a powerful and persuasive orator as he is in the quieter scenes that demand subtle nuances. I can’t wait to see what Oyelowo will tackle next.

10. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher 

RuffaloFoxcatcher

Is there anything Mark Ruffalo can’t do? I feel like I’ve been missing out as for whatever reason I didn’t really pay attention to him until recently. I was going to list his performance in Begin Again but technically that’s a 2013 film, but man what an astounding display of versatility. His role as an Olympic pro-wrestler David Schultz in Foxcatcher couldn’t be more different than a distressed & disheveled record producer in Begin Again but he’s utterly believable in both. Ruffalo’s role is actually the least flashy compared to Steve Carell’s and Channing Tatum’s, but his character is no doubt the heart of the film. It’s a role that demands the perfect amount of nuance and subtlety and Ruffalo pulls it off wonderfully. The video interview scene alone when he’s asked to describe Carell’s character is simply masterful, I remember marveling at how good his performance was as I was watching it. I think that might’ve been what earned him his second Oscar nomination.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

I truly didn’t expect to see some names would end up on this list. I honestly have never seen Tyler Perry nor Zach Galifianakis in anything other than clips of their movies, but they definitely left an impression on me in their respective films. There are some big breakthroughs here too, especially Dan Stevens and Chris Pratt, garnering a lot of buzz in their successful starring roles. There are also some perennial favorites of mine who definitely still got it (Keanu Reeves), as well as a brand new actor I’ve never seen before. Manish Dayal‘s like the male counterpart of Gugu Mbatha-Raw for me and I hope to see him more movies! As for Guy Pearce, I sure hope that he will get the recognition he deserves one day as he’s simply a phenomenal actor.

Here they are in random order:


Thoughts on these male performances? Which one(s) of these stood out to you from the past year?

FlixChatter Review – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

EleanorRigbyTitle

It seems that a straight love-themed drama is hard to come in Hollywood. Instead we see romance as part of another genre, i.e. romantic comedy, romantic thriller, romantic sci-fi and so on. It’s even more rare to see a love story in a three-film format, not a trilogy mind-you, but the same story told from three different perspective [as you can read in my spotlight here] where director Ned Besson shot three films from his and her perspective, then created a third – more marketable – version, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.

So who’s miss Eleanor Rigby? You might be inclined to think she ‘disappears’ in the same sense as Gone Girl, but no that’s not the case here. But the title makes sense as the film progresses, which is unfolding in an unhurried pace that is far from boring. It opens with a gorgeous young couple, Eleanor and Conor, running off without paying their bill at a restaurant. It’s apparent the two are blissfully in love, which makes you wonder all the more what happen to such a seemingly jubilant marriage. Besson didn’t immediately fill in everything about the incident that trigger the relationship’s collapse, which can be at times frustrating but it also made me appreciate the journey with the characters. 

EleanorRigbyStills1I read afterwards that Besson apparently had a relationship with the lead actress, Jessica Chastain, and that in a way the story is somewhat biographical. Perhaps that’s why I think Chastain is so perfect in the role, though I think she would be anyway without their history. She’s the kind of actress whose got such a captivating screen presence, both strong and vulnerable, as well as being able to remain likable even if her character isn’t always so. In fact, at times I feel like perhaps she’s being unreasonable. What could be so horrible that made her decide to take such drastic measures? I feel that Eleanor chooses to drown in her own grief despite being surrounded by such a supportive family, which I think is still a privilege as not many people would have such a privilege. Yet I couldn’t dislike her and I attribute that to Chastain’s soulful performance.

On the other side is James McAvoy as Conor, the *jilted* husband who tries to win her back. McAvoy is such a capable actor, I always think that given his resemblance to Gerard Butler, the two could be brothers, but he’s the kind of performer I wish Butler could be. McAvoy could juggle big-budget Summer movies like X-Men Days of Future Past, in an iconic role no less, yet he can still *disappear* [pardon the pun] into an entirely different role here. Like Eleanor, Conor is a flawed character who struggles with his crumbling marriage as well as his frosty relationship with his dad. I’d have to say I prefer McAvoy in dramatic fares and I hope he does more stuff like this where he plays a regular guy.

EleanorRigbyStill2

I feel that under less capable hands, both Conor & Eleanor might not have been as captivating nor as convincing in conveying deep emotional heartbreak. Even in quieter moments, both actors can hold your attention and they definitely get you involved in their story. It definitely helps having a solid supporting cast, I especially like Viola Davis as a college professor who became Eleanor’s unlikely confidant, as well as Ciaran Hinds & William Hurt as the father of Conor & Elinor, respectively. Bill Hader provides somewhat of a comic relief as McAvoy’s BFF. He’s ok but I feel that their scenes felt too much like a traditional *ingredient* of a typical rom-com, so it feels like a weak link in an otherwise unconventional drama.

It’s a small quibble though, the film does a lot of things right in that it really got you involved in the characters’ journey. As I’ve been married for some time to my college sweetheart, it definitely made me think about what I’d do if this circumstance were to happen to me. There is a moment in their apartment where barely any word is spoken, but it was such a heart-wrenching and delicate moment between the two. Yet I don’t feel manipulated into feeling something that’s superficial, there’s no sweeping music to tug your heartstrings, it was all the result of being invested in the story. That said, the music/songs are quite enjoyable and fit the theme of the film nicely. As I mentioned before, I love that Besson took his time to reveal the incident that propel the story. He give you some subtle hints throughout so you can take a guess what happens but the details remain open-ended.

EleanorRigbyStill3

Overall I’m impressed by Besson’s feature film debut, and applaud him for trying something different w/ the format. I like how intimate and personal this story feels, brought out by authentic and compelling performances of the two main actors. The cinematography of NYC is gorgeous and it shows a warm, even personal side of the city that complements the story. I’d be inclined to check out the His/Her version when they’re out on rental, that’d give me more insight into both characters and their story. It’s too bad that reportedly the film didn’t do well at all at the box office (per The Wrap) as I’d love more people to see this film. I was hoping that Besson, as well as McAvoy & Chastain get some nominations come award season, but that seems unlikely. In any case, I highly recommend this if you’re in the mood for a character-driven drama with splendid performances.

4halfReels


Thoughts on this one? If you have seen it, I’d love to hear what you think.

Trailer Spotlight: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

It’s been a while since I featured a trailer spotlight on my blog, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has a pretty unusual concept that I just had to share.

EleanorRigbyPoster

Once happily married, Conor and Eleanor suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. The film explores the couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

I first heard about this project last year when I heard about James McAvoy casting. At the time I thought that it was more of a mystery thriller or something. Then I saw some photos of McAvoy and Jessica Chastain all over Twitter when it premiered at Cannes. Well apparently there are there versions of this film, told from two different perspectives and also a combined version. Say what?

Well, the concept is quite unusual in that first-time director Ned Benson told the story of a young NYC couple from each character’s point of view. Conor (McAvoy) and Eleanor (Chastain) each get a 95-minute movie told from his/her perspective. Naturally it’s tricky to market two films that’s essentially the same story (especially when the Weinsteins are involved), so Benson’s created a third version (Them) which features footage from both His/Her versions and has a conventional running time of 2 hours. So this new trailer is the unified version of Benson’s ambitious directorial debut, check it out:


I LOVE romantic dramas, not the typical rom-coms but something that isn’t afraid to delve deeper into the nitty gritty of a relationship and the ‘warts and all’ approach to a love story. Seems that they have cast two excellent actors in the lead, I believe both McAvoy and Chastain have the chops to pull off the complexity and depth their roles require. I haven’t seen Chastain in anything this year though I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of her work in the past two years. McAvoy is definitely one of the brightest actors of his generation. He’s also one of my favorite Scots, I kind of think of him as the more talented & versatile version of Gerry Butler who looks like his older brother. If only Butler would pick the kind of roles McAvoy’s signed up for.

EleanorRigbyMcAvoyChastain1

The supporting cast is not too shabby at all: William HurtIsabelle HuppertViola Davis, and Bill Hader. So would we be able to see all three versions in the theater? Well, according to Deadline, “Benson said the plan will be to release the new two-hour cut around September 26. A month or six weeks later, the first two films, Him and Her, will play in limited release in art house theaters.”

Hmmm, I doubt my city would get all three versions, we’d be lucky if we even get this unified version. But hopefully all three would be released on iTunes or DVD/Bluray at some point.


What do you think of this film and/or unusual concept?

Everybody’s Chattin’, X-Men: Days of Future Past mini review and Holiday Hiatus!

EverybodysChattin

Happy Weekend everyone, and to my fellow Americans, Happy Memorial Weekend!

Well, by the time you read this I’ll be on my way to Amsterdam, then Bruges and of course, Paris! So naturally I’ll be taking a blog break for the time being, but before that I’d like to share some of my favorite posts from my fellow bloggers and my quick thoughts on X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Let’s start with the reviews:

Keith and Tim reviewed Godzilla 

Mark reviewed Enemy

Brian over at Vic’s Movie Den reviewed one of my sci-fi faves District-9

Natalie, Mikey & Dan reviewed X-Men: Days of Future Past

As for the rest …

Nostra is back with another edition of Many Faces Of – this time on Clint Eastwood!

Another CinSpec Award post is up from Josh, this time the focus is on 1952

Michael highlights the opening title and song of one of the best modern noirs ever, L.A. Confidential

Sati’s Rambling Friday is here! I even enjoyed her Game of Thrones’ coverage though I don’t even watch the show. That Pedro Pascal guy needs to get more roles! I actually noticed him when he was in BBC’s Robin Hood, man there are sooo many hunks playing supporting roles on that show!

Oh and lastly, check out Ted’s entry to Katy’s BLOGBUSTED B-Movie Blogathon: Action Jackson (1988) & Dark Angel (1990).


XMenDOFPlogo

I’ve been wanting to see this one for ages. It’s perhaps my top 3 most-anticipated movies of the year. Well, I’m happy to report that it’s well worth the wait! In short, I loved it. I’m a big fan of the X-Men franchise, yes even the worst one (X-Men The Last Stand) is still quite watchable. I recall how excited I was when I first saw the X-Men movie trailer 14 years ago in 2000, that’s still one of my favorite superhero films to this day before the genre became so ubiquitous.

My favorite X-Men characters, Professor X, Magneto and Wolverine, are the major players in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the complicated relationship between Charles & Erik is one of the main highlights once again. What I love about the X-Men movies is the social themes of prejudice and alienation that are thought-provoking and even relevant to our world today. This film adds a layer of complexity to the story of humans vs mutants struggle with the time travel aspect. The X-Men sends Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both species.

XMenDaysOfFuturePast

I’m not going to go into details about the plot on this mini review, but I just want to point out that I was a bit worried at first that the whole time travel aspect would be confusing, but it turns out to be pretty easy to follow. Despite the back and forth between multiple dimensions, somehow the pacing and transition helped me figure out just what the heck is going on. Kudos to Bryan Singer for still retaining all the things I loved about this franchise in the first place and adds an extra dose of cool factor in some of the big action moments. And most importantly, he’s able to tell a complex story in a compelling way, whilst at the same time not forgetting that this is after all a fantastical comic-book movie that ought to be escapist fun.

PeterDinklageXMenDOFPThe ensemble cast are simply awesome! The five actors that make up the major players, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart + Ian McKellen are excellent as always, and Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine is definitely much more fun to watch in an ensemble. Peter Dinklage is memorable here as well as the new cast member, but I’d have to say Evan Peters as Quicksilver was quite the scene stealer. His scenes of him in action are the most fun in the movie!

As far as superhero movies go, this one has everything that makes going to the movies so gratifying. Emotional drama and complex relationship are mixed together well with witty humor and thrilling, dynamic action. Similar to Nolan’s Batman films in some ways, it’s character & plot-driven. The dramatic tension gives a context and reason for all the action spectacle. In other words, it’s much more than just popcorn cinema that’s roaringly-loud but doesn’t really have anything to say.

I posted 40 reasons why I loved X-Men: First Class, I might do the same with this one at some point. I mentioned the soundtrack on that list and I love the score here too by John Ottman (Singer’s longtime collaborator). Can’t wait to see this one again, though I probably skip the 3D as it didn’t really add much to the experience. I think fans of the franchise might get more out of this film than those who’ve never seen any X-Men movie before. The nostalgia factor and the fact that I’m already invested in those characters adds so much to my enjoyment. That said, I think newbies might be intrigued enough by this one to check out the previous movies (well, you can just skip the Wolverine movies).

4.5 out of 5 reels

So did you enjoy X-Men: Days of Future Past? 


Adieu

See you in a couple of weeks, folks! 

[Full] Trailer Spotlight – X-Men: Days of Future Past

WHOAH!! I haven’t posted a trailer spotlight in ages but I just HAD to post this one today folks, this is one of my most anticipated movies of the year and despite this awful poster, the trailer definitely gets me super excited!

Patrick Stewart’s voice over alone gets me all hypnotized… this is the kind of trailer where the narration works so well in setting the tone for the film.

Professor X: “You need to go into the past … “
Magneto: “… to end this war before it ever begins”

This film is supposed to act as a sequel to both 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011’s X-Men: First Class, as well as a follow-up to 2013’s The Wolverine (per Wiki) I think this time travel premise is the first of its kind in ANY franchise (as far I can remember anyway), as the characters from the original movie join forces with their younger selves from First Class to change the past and save their future. Seems like a hugely ambitious project in which I’m glad Bryan Singer is back at the helm. He’s the one filmmaker that gave us the first X-Men film in 2000 that pretty much launched the superhero franchise. Before Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy even entered the picture, X-Men was the first comic-book-based film that is more than just a standard action-adventure, as it metaphorically deals with deeper issues of racism, anti-semitism and outcasts of society. This one is poised to be a mindf*ck that promises to discombobulate as well as enthrall us at the same time.

Morphing Xaviers (McAvoy & Stewart)
Morphing Xaviers (McAvoy & Stewart)
MorphinMagneto
Morphing Magneto (McKellen & Fassbender)
GIMystique
Thanks Yahoo UK for the GIFs!

Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart from the first X-Men movie are back, joining First Class cast of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult. Peter Dinklage is one of the new cast member here as Bolivar Trask, a military scientist and the head of Trask Industries who created a range of robots called Sentinels whose purpose is to hunt and destroy mutants. The Intouchables’ Omar Sy also played one of the mutants from the future with the ability to absorb energy to redirect it in kinetic blasts  Seriously, this is the kind of movie to watch even just for the cast!!

Xavier_McAvoy_Stewart

I have to admit I get chills and a bit teary eyed watching this. I LOVE Henry Jackman’s music in the first film, and I was bummed that he’s not back to score this… but now I’m loving John Ottman’s ominous yet thrilling music he’s doing here. It hits the emotional high notes of this epic mutant saga and battle against extinction. That last scene of the two Xaviers facing off each other, oh man, that moment of the younger Xavier shedding a tear always gets me. I’ve been sold on this movie from day one, now I’m officially in agony waiting for this film to open in the US on May 23!


Are you as excited for this one as I am, folks?

Top 10 Favorite Scottish Actors

Today’s Gerry Butler’s birthday. For the past three years I’ve been making all kinds of tribute posts to my former crush. But y’know what, I don’t think any of you would be surprised that I won’t be doing a tribute for him this year, instead, I figure I’d finish the list that’s been sitting dormant in my draft folder for some time. I was originally going to post this shortly after I posted my picks of Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors which was three years ago!

Scotland_Bagpiper

As you know, I have a penchant for the Scots. But really, can you blame me? There’s got to be something in the water in Scotland that churn out an endless supply of talented, AND handsome blokes. To top it off, they seem to have a charming personality to go with ’em too, and of course, there’s the irresistible Scottish burr. I’d say there aren’t enough Scots working in Hollywood right now, especially since Connery’s been out of the game for some time. In any case, here are my current faves right now in alphabetical order [Yes Gerry, you’re still on the list… for now] 😀

Billy Connoly

BillyConnoly

I’ve only seen him in a few movies but some have become my favorites. Love him in Mrs. Brown alongside Judi Dench, in Dustin Hoffman’s debut Quartet, as well as his voice work in the recent Pixar feature film BRAVE. He’s got such a charming but mischievous personality that I often associate with Scottish men.

Brian Cox

BrianCox

Brian Cox is easily of the most underrated actors working today. It’s one of those actors you wonder why he hasn’t gotten an Oscar yet given his consistently excellent performance. Even in small roles, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Dundee-born actor, i.e. The Bourne Supremacy, Rob Roy, X-Men 2Red, etc. I even like his performance as Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter more than Anthony Hopkins’ in The Silence of the Lambs.

Craig Ferguson

CraigFerguson

Ok so now he’s switched to be a talk show host on CBS, but Ferguson is quite a great comic and voice actor. He was a hoot in Saving Grace with Brenda Blethyn, a hilarious British crime comedy. I also enjoy his voice work in How To Train Your Dragon as well as Brave, and once in a while I’d tune in to The Late, Late Show and watch his gregarious monologue and hysterical interviews!

Dougray Scott

DougrayScott

I think a lot of moviegoers probably only know him from Mission Impossible II or as the actor who missed out on the role of Wolverine in the X-Men franchise. But he’s actually a pretty good actor. I like him as the Handsome Prince in Ever After, as well as in smaller movies like Enigma and Ripley’s Game. Who knows, his breakthrough role could be just around the corner.

Ewan McGregor

EwanMcGregor

Perhaps the most prolific Scottish actor in Hollywood today, McGregor is as hard working as he is talented. He’s quite versatile as well, playing different types of roles and moving from one genre to the next. Just this year alone he was in The Impossible, Jack The Giant Slayer and August: Osage County, which couldn’t be more different from each other. He’s also got a beautiful singing voice too, as displayed in Moulin Rouge! I’d totally buy his album if he ever decide to be a recording artist!

Gerard Butler

GerryButler

Ok Gerry, I guess I still have a smidgen of hope that you’d star in something I REALLY want to see again. The ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movie sequel London Has Fallen and that video game movie based on Kane & Lynch aren’t likely to top my must-see list 😦 He did impress me in Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher, both of which are grossly overlooked, so he’s still got it in him if the role calls for it. I think he ought to take a page from Matthew McConaughey’s book of career re-invention. I wrote this role for him in an espionage drama with Timothy Dalton as his dad and James McAvoy as his half brother. I’d SO love to see him in an ensemble cast like that by a stellar director, even if he’s only doing a supporting part.

James McAvoy

JamesMcAvoy

I always think that he looks so much like Gerry Butler’s younger brother, but the one with the better acting chops. The first time I saw this Glaswegian native was in The Chronicles of Narnia as Mr. Tumnus, but since then he’s had been on a roll in Hollywood, balancing small/medium indies (The Last Station, Atonement, The Last King of Scotland) to big blockbuster movies like Wanted and X-Men: First Class. He’s also not afraid to take on unsympathetic anti-hero roles, Trance, Welcome to The Punch and Filth, all of which are released this year alone.

Robert Carlyle

RobertCarlyle

Yet another great but underrated Scot. Mr. Carlyle has had an illustrious career since the early 90s. His breakthrough role in Trainspotting got him noticed, and since he’s juggling a TV and film career, some of which don’t seem to deserve his talent [*cough World is Not Enough *cough]. He’s also the best thing in the ABC show Once Upon a Time as Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin. Let’s hope he gets more meaty film roles in the near future!

Peter Mullan

PeterMullan

I think I’ve noticed Mr. Mullan in his supporting role in Braveheart, but it was his role in Boy A as a surrogate father to Andrew Garfield that really made me a fan. He’s also memorable in War Horse though his performance is easily overlooked by the younger supporting cast the likes of Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. I still need to see On a Clear Day and Sunshine on Leith that my Scottish friend Mark Walker highly recommends.

Sean Connery

SeanConnery
Ok so technically he’s retired, but really you can’t have a Favorite Scot list and not mention THE most iconic of them all. Yes the Edinburgh-born actor is the first and to most people, he’s still the best James Bond, but I also like his roles post 007. The Hunt for Red October, Finding Forrester, Rising Sun, Just Cause, The Rock, to name a few, as well as two of my personal favorites: The Untouchables and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. He’s not only a distinguished actor, but he’s also got one of the most recognizable accent in all Hollywood.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Billy Boyd
  • David Tennant
  • Iain Glen
  • John Hannah
  • Robbie Coltrane

Now, these five men are talented Scots as well, I just haven’t seen enough of their work to put them on my list. I’d love to see all these actors get more work in Hollywood, especially David Tennant who obviously has got quite a career in British TV. Perhaps that Broadchurch remake would be his American breakthrough. As for Iain Glen, I first saw him in the first Tomb Raider movie and I thought he made a charming villain. He’s also very memorable in BBC’s Spooks, love all his episodes with my Brit crush Richard Armitage! I’ve been slow going catching up with Downton Abbey, but I’m looking forward to seeing Glen’s performance in it, too!


Hope you enjoy my list of great Scots! Who’s YOUR favorite Scottish actor?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: Danny Boyle’s TRANCE & Advanced Screening Giveaway

James McAvoy is a bit on an action roll these days. He’s starring in two British crime thrillers out in the same month in the UK. One is Welcome to the Punch, and the other is TRANCE, directed by Danny Boyle. This is Boyle’s first film since the Oscar-nominated 127 Hours in 2010. As you know, he was busy directing the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony last year.

If you live in the Twin Cities area, register below to get your advanced screening tickets!

TranceUKposter

An art auctioneer, who has become mixed up with a group of criminals, partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.


ADVANCE SCREENING TICKETS for Twin Cities Moviegoers!

Advance screening on:
Wednesday, April 10 – 7:30pm @ Landmark Lagoon Cinema

Download a pair of screening tickets on gofobo.com

Seats are first come, first served and the theater is overbooked to ensure a full house – so arrive early!


Boyle worked with Glasgow-born screenwriter John Hodge once again, their fifth collaboration after Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach (interestingly, three of them starred Ewan McGregor). This time, Boyle chose another talented Scot, with Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson as McAvoy’s co-star.

Check out the trailer:

Looks like a pretty bloody crime noir judging from the trailer! McAvoy is quoted by DigitalSpy.com about the torture scenes “[It did affect me] a little bit. The torture stuff got to me, actually. It never usually does… I’m usually fine with all that stuff, and love being covered in blood and having my face bashed in, but I felt quite bad about myself for a couple of days on this one.” He added: “It starts as an art heist like ‘Thomas Crown Affair,’ but it’s not really about that. It’s noir-ish at times. There’s an essential idea of crime, but it’s not really about money.”

Thompson on Hollywood also noted that this marks the first time Boyle’s put a woman at the center of one of his movies, which the director himself admitted that they tend to be “boyish.” The article says he likes the film noir femme fatale premise: “Wouldn’t it be scary if a woman behaved even worse than the men?”

Hmmm, I’m certainly intrigued, especially with the talents involved! I just hope it won’t be too violent as much of Boyle’s movies tend to be.

TRANCE opens in limited release in the US on April 5 (Minneapolis release date is April 12).


Well, what are your thoughts on this film? Will you be seeing it?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Starter for Ten & A Scanner Darkly

There’s nothing interesting at the cinema this weekend, but it’s always nice to catch up on older movies I’ve been meaning to see.

This past Friday was our first Girls Movie Nite since its summer hiatus and my girlfriends and I had initially settled on Water for Elephants. The trailer looks pretty good and the combination of Christoph Waltz and Robert Pattinson in a circus setting seemed intriguing. Unfortunately it’s not available on Netflix yet (another reason I’m canceling my subscription) so we ended up seeing Starter for 10 since one of my friends owns the DVD. The other one I saw was A Scanner Darkly, a sci-fi done in interpolated rotoscoping animation style in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame.

Starter For 10

 

Set in 1985, working-class student Brian Jackson navigates his first year at Bristol University.

Seems like James McAvoy hasn’t made a bad film. At least out of the eight films where he had a prominent role, none of them has disappointed me. Ok so I didn’t love Becoming Jane (despite my love for period dramas) but it’s more because of Anne Hathaway performance than James’.

McAvoy truly carried this film with his earnest performance as the brainy kid Brian who finds out that life education is definitely as important as being book smart. Despite being in his mid 20s when he did this film, he was quite believable as a college freshman. His transformation from the naive geek with bad hair to a slightly older & wiser university student is fun to watch. Scottish director Tom Vaughan peppered the film with witty dialog and whimsical college scenes without relying on silly or inappropriate gags like college films like say, Old School. Even the more sexually-charged scenes are a hoot, especially the one involving Brian and the parents of the girl of his dreams on a Christmas holiday, are funny but not cringe-worthy.

The romance is sweet and engaging. It’s almost unanimous that everyone in my group sympathize with Rebecca Hall’s character. I feel that it’s not only because her character (also named Rebecca) is written that way but also because Hall seems to always come across very affable on screen. The film truly belongs to the über talented McAvoy but Benedict Cumberbatch managed to steal some scenes with his hilarious performance as the ambitious group ‘leader’ competing for the University Challenge quiz show. His character may be one-dimensional but still he made it entertaining. The ending is quite predictable but I don’t really mind it in a movie like this where a lack of ‘plot twist’ is not a detriment.

Starter For 10 is quite a poignant yet funny coming-of-age comedy drama starring the hottest young British talents working today. Many of the cast have now become quite famous: McAvoy himself, Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, The Town, Everything Must Go), Benedict Cumberbatch (Amazing Grace, BBC’s Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, An Education, The Devil’s Double). Alice Eve is perhaps the least known but she’s starring in The Raven next year.

The music is quite memorable as well with songs mostly by The Cure and other British bands such as Tears for Fears, The Smiths and Wham!.

4 out of 5 reels

A Scanner Darkly

 

An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug called Substance-D and begins to lose his own identity as a result.

I’ve been curious about this film for some time, mostly because of the rotoscoping animation style I’ve mentioned about, as well as the fact that it’s a Philip K. Dick adaptation. He’s perhaps one of the greatest sci-fi authors whose work have been a popular subject for films such as Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report and most recently The Adjustment Bureau.

The cast for this film, especially Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr., is also a big selling point. Combine that with an intriguing subject matter and a distinct visual style, this one surely can’t be a misfire, right? Well, I wouldn’t call it a misfire, but I can’t exactly call this one enjoyable. People have said that this movie is not for everyone, but really, one can say that for just about every title, right? Even the most beloved movie would have its detractor. The thing is, I was prepared to really like this one, but I actually found this one to be tedious in parts that I actually dozed off about three-quarters the way through. I did wake up about 10 minutes before the end and found that the story is quite profound, but yet I’m just not interested enough to rewind which parts I had missed.

I think the main strength of the film is the story itself, which made me think that I might appreciate the novel more. The acting is also good overall — both Keanu and Robert are perfectly cast, and Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson are quite memorable in their supporting roles. But the pacing is a bit too slow as the novelty of the animation style wears off. I really think the visual technique is really imaginative and I appreciate that the filmmaker went with this route. Yet I’m not really sure how much that style improve the story-telling. Yes I do believe director Richard Linklater is able to capture the paranoia and perceptual contortion caused by Substance-D, but because of the animation style, I feel that the subtle expressions that we would otherwise be able to perceive from each actor is somewhat lost. I almost feel guilty that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I learn in the Special Features about the dedication of the filmmaker and how personal this project is to him.

Perhaps if I give this film another chance I might enjoy it more, though I highly doubt I’d see this again. The thing about this whole film is how unsettling it is. I hate insects so the opening scene alone of a guy suffering from intense hallucination is disturbing and down right repugnant. But with that said, I’d still recommend this for a rental for people who enjoy sci-fi movies and Philip K. Dick’s stories. Though I didn’t end up loving it, I definitely don’t regret finally seeing this.

3 out of 5 reels

Well, what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen either one of these films, please share your thoughts in the comments.