FlixChatter Review – WITHOUT REMORSE (2021)

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The journey of turning Tom Clancy’s WITHOUT REMORSE into a film was a long one. Originally, it was supposed to hit the big screen way back in holidays season of 1995. John McTiernan as attached to direct and Keanu Reeves, hot of the success of SPEED, was offered the lead role. Reeves was reportedly offered a salary of $7-10mil, pretty high for the time but he didn’t want to do back-to-back action pictures and declined the offer. Then Gary Senise, still in high demand because of his role in FORREST GUMP was attached to star as the lead and Lawrence Fishburne also signed on to be the second lead. But the production was shut down because Savoy Pictures, the studio that was producing the film, went bankrupt. In the 2000s, the late director John Singleton tried to revive the project, he was looking to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the lead, but the project never came to fruition. In the 2010s, Christopher McQuarrie was assigned to write and direct with Tom Hardy being eyed as the lead. But again, the project just couldn’t get off the ground.

Now almost 30 years later, Clancy’s second action hero (behind Jack Ryan) is finally getting his own film.

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A group of Navy SEALS is Syria trying to rescue an American prisoner, one of the SEALS named John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) feels there’s something fishy going on. He thinks that CIA operative John Ritter (Jamie Bell) is hiding something from his team. The only person that’s on his side is SEAL’s leader Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). Despite his protests, the team did rescue the prisoner, but it turned out the bad guys weren’t Syrians but a bunch of Russians. Kelly wanted to know what’s really going on, but Ritter basically told him it’s out of his pay grade. A few months after the rescue mission, members of Kelly’s SEAL team were assassinated.  When the assassins came to kill Kelly, he was able fend them off but not before his pregnant wife was killed during the attack at his home. Filled rage and vengeance, Kelly is on a mission to find who’s behind the attack that killed his unborn child and wife.

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Loosely based on Tom Clancy’s early 90s novel, the movie has little resemblance to the novel. The only similarity was that Kelly’s wife and unborn child were killed in the beginning of the story and that’s it. The screenplay is credited to Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. By stripping away all of Clancy’s source material, there’s not much that we haven’t seen before in this kind of story. Sheridan even repeats himself here by writing a plot that’s similar to the last SICARIO film. The most sinful thing the writers commit on this script was that they didn’t include a central villain. A good action film needs a good antagonist and here we don’t really find out about the villain until the last 10 minutes of the film. And I’m pretty sure most audiences can figure out who’s really behind the attack on Kelly’s SEAL team. I don’t mind that the writers decided to come up with their own version of this story, but I thought Clancy’s novel could be adapted into a great action thriller. There’s so much material in the novel that’s still relevance in today’s world.

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Director Stefano Sollima, who directed the underwhelmed SICARIO sequel, didn’t really elevate the not-so-exiting script. His style of direction is very mundane and by the number. A story like this need someone that can inject energy into the picture. But Sollima either don’t have that kind of talent or didn’t really care to make this into an exciting action thriller. Even the big action scene was lacking creativity and excitement.

Jordan really poured his heart and soul into this role and he’s great as John Kelly. Unfortunately, his co-stars were miscast. I didn’t believe that a young-looking Jamie Bell is a seasoned CIA operative and Turner-Smith just didn’t look tough enough to be a SEAL leader. I’m glad that her character is not a romantic lead or damsel in distress, and she can take care of herself. Guy Pearce has pretty much played that same sleazy character for the last 10 years or so and again his role as the sleazy politician in this film is no different.

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Clancy’s Without Remorse is one of my favorite novels and I’ve been waiting to see film version for a long time. Despite some good talents involved in this film version, it’s an underwhelming and disappointing adaptation. If the proposed sequel Rainbow Six do happen, I hope they’ll hire a better team of writers and director.

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So have you seen WITHOUT REMORSE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Double Review: Snowpiercer (2014)

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Ted’s Review

After last summer’s mediocre Elysium, I wasn’t that interested in seeing another sci-fi/action picture about the poor vs. the rich set in the future. Heck even after I saw the trailer, I sort of didn’t really want to see this new film from South Korean director Joon-ho Bong at all. But thanks to so many great reviews from critics, I’ve decided to check it out and I’m so glad I did. I think it’s my favorite film of 2014 so far.

The film opens with a prologue explaining what has happened to earth. A failed global-warming experiment has killed off pretty much all living things on the planet and only the few survivors are now living in a train that can travel all over the globe. In this train, there are two classes of people, the rich and the poor. The rich gets to live in the fancy front side of the train and all of the poor folks have to stay in the back. Of course the living conditions on the back of the train is horrendous. We’re introduced to two friends Curtis (Chris Evans) and Edgar (Jamie Bell), right away we know they’re planning to attack their oppressors and get to the front side so they can have control of the train. That’s pretty much the whole plot of the film, Curtis and his followers battles their way into each car of the train to get to the front side. The message about our current economics system gets a little heavy handed at times but I wasn’t bothered by it as much. Yeah I know the 1% is living large while the rest of us have to suffer and so on. Basically everything that Elysium did wrong, this film got it right.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but Chris Evans has starred in two of my favorite movies of the year, the other one being Captain America: Winter Soldier. I was never a fan of his before and now I think he’s grown as actor. As the lead in another action picture, he did a good job of commanding the screen, we don’t know much about Curtis until the film’s climax and the payoff worked for me. I don’t think I’ve seen Jamie Bell in anything since the dreadful Jumper, here he’s the sidekick/comic relief and I think he did alright. Tilda Swinton looked like she had a blast playing another villainous role, I would’ve liked to see more of her character in the movie though. John Hurt played a minor role as the old mentor to Curtis and the rest of the poor folks and he’s your typical father figure type. I think I’ve seen him played this kind of role so many times that I knew what to expect from his performance. Scenes stealer belongs to South Korea actor Song Kang-ho, he was recruited by Curtis and his team because he invented the train’s door security system and he’s their key to their success. For those who’ve seen Bong’s previous work, you know that Song is his go to actor and here he didn’t disappoint. Another well known actor showed up as the train inventor and main villain, I thought he was quite effective. I don’t want to mention his name since I think most people don’t know he’s in the movie and I think it’s better for people to find out for themselves.

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To me the main reason this film worked was because of Joon-ho Bong‘s direction. He was able to elevate a silly concept and made into something that kind of original and fun to watch. The film’s actually based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige. Bong co-wrote the script with Kelly Masterson (she wrote Sidney Lumet’s last film Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead), the story had me on the edge of my seat throughout and I like the fact that they didn’t chicken out and end the film in a Hollywood fashion. Bong staged some cool action set pieces, including a brawl between Curtis’ gang and the rich folks’ army and unusual shootout between Curtis and one of the villains. For anyone who’s never seen Bong’s other films, you might find his style a little weird and un-Hollywood like. I also think he pay homage to Sam Peckinpah for this film, in fact I thought had Peckinpah ever made a sci-fi picture, it would be like this one. For a film that cost less than $40mil, the visual effects looked pretty great. I can only imagine what his next film will look like if Bong gets a budget of $150-200mil.

After witnessing the atrocious Transformers 4 a couple of weeks ago, I was glad to have seen this excellent film. It’s smart, exciting and well paced. It surely will be on my top favorite films of the year, this one comes highly recommended.

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Ruth’s Review

Science fiction thriller set in post-apocalyptic world is a dime a dozen. Seems that Hollywood is quite obsessed with this sub-genre, even young adult fares are set in this dystopian future, often with a hero/heroine who’s destined to change the world. Thankfully, Joon-ho Bong‘s Snowpiercer manages to set itself apart from the pack. This is my intro into Bong’s work, and it’s also his first Hollywood film. I’ve blogged about the furor over Harvey’s Weinsteins constant meddling with the film’s cut last year, so finally, after waiting for over two years, I got to see this on the big screen.

What strikes me right away about this film is how bleak it is. Bong’s imagined future has that gritty, soiled and grimy look as we’re shown how the poor, unfortunate souls have been living the past 17 years in the tail section of a rackety train, Snowpiercer. Given that earth is now inhabitable due to a cataclysmic accident that renders everything frozen, the train has to keep running nonstop with what’s left of humanity on board. Having been oppressed for nearly two decades with no chance to escape, it’s no wonder the lower class is hellbent on revolt. It’s futuristic Les Misérables set on a train. It’s an intriguing concept surely, but that alone doesn’t always translate to an intriguing film (Ted’s mentioned Elysium and I’d also add In Time  which are more action/adventure than a true sci-fi). Snowpiercer on the other hand, has a nice balance of action and character-driven sequences, and it’s not reliant on special effects to thrill the audience.

I have to admit it’s not the most entertaining film I’ve seen, and at times it’s too violent for my taste. It’s not as graphic as I feared it would be but I still think it’s not for the faint of heart. But I appreciate Bong’s bold vision and the way that Snowpiercer doesn’t glamorize the post-apocalyptic world, which enhances its sense of realism. Despite the fantastical concept, at times it made me think how this bleak reality might not be so far-fetched after all. The geopolitical and socio-economic allegory can be in-your-face at times so I could see why some critics have called it heavy-handed. But overall the pace of the film is good and the slow moments are a welcome relief from all the brutality. I especially like Chris Evans‘ emotionally-charged monologue towards the end which gives us a glimpse into what’s really at stake for the rebels. The confined space of a train gives a heightened sense of claustrophobia that makes everything even more suspenseful. The more we learn about the world within Snowpiercer, the more we realize that nothing is what it seems. There are genuine surprises as well that keeps you on your toes. Just when you think things are calming down, Bong would suddenly pulls the rug from under us! Unlike lot of action films that are loud, bombastic but lacking genuine tension (basically what Bayhem is all about), this one gives me a real adrenaline rush.

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The international cast is full of inspired casting. Interesting to see Chris Evans in the role of the protagonist. He’s a flawed, reluctant hero, the polar opposite of Captain America, though Evans retains that sympathetic guy-next-door persona even bloody and covered in dirt the entire film. Having seen him in Puncture, I knew he’s got dramatic chops, so I hope he makes wiser role choices from now on so we can see more of what he can deliver. Tilda Swinton once again delivers her chameleonic turn as Minister Mason, a role that’s originally written as a mild-mannered man. The most memorable characters to me are the South Korean father/daughter duo played by Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, both have worked with Bong before in The Host. It’s nice to see Ed Harris in a key role, he definitely makes an impact despite his brief appearance. Jamie Bell, John Hurt, and Octavia Spencer round up the solid supporting cast.

So overall Snowpiercer is definitely worth the wait, though I wouldn’t call it flawless. There’s a certain chaotic madness in Bong’s direction that’s discombobulating, and the emotional involvement with the characters just isn’t as strong as it could be. In the end they’re all still a mystery to me that keep them at a distance from the audience. But what the film does well is that it really makes us ponder on the fascinating, though-provoking ideas whilst we marvel in the visually-arresting cinematography. The contrast between the vast and bright frozen landscape outside the train window and the cramped, crowded and dark interior is striking. The music by Marco Beltrami is also pleasing to the ear and enhances the mood.

The finale is truly something to behold, and the CGI is actually used to a tremendous effect because we’re not so worn-out by it. The lack of a glorified happy-ending is also refreshing, something that would linger long after the end credits roll and inspire countless conversations afterward. If you’re a big sci-fi fan, this one is not to be missed. It’s truly a visceral experience that manages to feel original despite the tried-and-true premise we’ve seen time and again. I’m curious to see what Bong does next, hopefully this won’t be his last collaboration with Hollywood.

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What do you think of Snowpiercer? 

Seven talented actors who deserve more leading roles

Underrated, under-appreciated, criminally-overlooked, call it what you will but the fact of the matter is, these actors deserve better! They are constantly relegated to supporting roles, and worse, playing second fiddle to actors whose talent aren’t even on par. Yet time and time again they almost always overshadow the lead with their charisma and on-screen presence, which make you wish they had been given more screen time. With that in mind, here are seven fine actors who not only deserve it, but are more than capable to carry a movie on their own:

  1. Rufus Sewell
    Yes, yes I know, predictable aren’t I? But seriously, the reason I mention this Brit a bazillion times in my blog is because he just doesn’t get enough recognition in Hollywood. I mean, you already know how I felt about his involvement… or lack thereof, in The Tourist. Nothing against Johnny Depp but I certainly think Rufus can do an equally smashing job in his place. He usually steal scenes in practically every movie he’s in anyway (as my buddy Prairiegirl outlined in her b’day tribute), why not just let him ‘own’ the whole darn thing? As Roisin from Sundryanco Blog said in her brilliant comment, “Who needs the former two, when you’ve got two acting legends.” Hear, hear!
  2. Minnie Driver
    I’ve been a fan of Minnie since her excellent turn in Circle of Friends. There’s an inherent likability about the London-based actress that it’s so easy to root for her. She makes for an engaging and lovely leading lady in Return to Me, which unsurprisingly is a rom-com most people have overlooked. I also love her comical role as the egotistical Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera. She had a brief stint in the acclaimed TV series The Riches with Eddie Izzard, and was seen recently in Conviction. I’d love to see her get one of Jennifer Aniston’s roles for once, as it’s likely going to be a more watchable movie with her in it.
  3. Jamie Bell
    The ‘playing second fiddle’ comment I said above was pretty much dedicated to this 24-year-old Brit, particularly in the movie Jumper. Even just from the trailer, you could tell he’s the better actor than Hayden Christensen (though to be fair, Christensen was quite good in Life As a House). The BAFTA-winning actor does get the lead role in the British indie Mister Foe, but in Hollywood, he seems to be relegated to supporting roles, i.e. in The Eagle (whilst the beefcake with feeble talent Channing Tatum got the lead) and later in Sam Worthington’s thriller Man on Ledge. He’ll be starring in Tintin and Jane Eyre both due out next year, and hopefully more lead roles are in store for him in the future.
  4. Marisa Tomei
    She won an Oscar nearly 2 decades ago for her supporting role in My Cousin Vinny, but since then she never seems to be ‘upgraded’ to leading lady status. Sure, many of her supporting turn are quite memorable and has won accolades (i.e. What Women WantThe Wrestler), but I’m curious what she’d do if she’s given a chance to ‘carry’ a movie on her own. She seems to have a knack for playing women with emotional issues, but she’s always comes across endearing, not annoying. I’d think she’d be a good option for roles that normally go to Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock, as she’s obviously as equally attractive and talented as those two movie stars.
  5. Sophia Myles
    Most of you probably have no idea who she is, but her face probably looks familiar to you. She’s one half of Tristan + Isolde as James Franco’s besotted lover and most recently was in Outlander as Jim Caviezel’s love interest. I first saw her in Mansfield Park and remembered her for her uncanny resemblance to Kate Winslet. But her excellent turn as Beth in the prematurely-canceled vampire show Moonlight is really one of the best thing of the series that made me wonder why Hollywood hasn’t quite ‘discovered’ her. I guess she’s got a pretty good gig right now in BBC’s seriesMI-5 alongside Richard Armitage, but with her talent and beauty, she could easily play roles that would’ve gone to Scarlett Johansson or Michelle Williams.
  6. Steve Zahn
    I just realized Zahn is a Minnesota-native, but that’s not exactly the reason for his inclusion. Known mostly for playing the ‘funny best friend,’ Zahn is so much more capable than that and has proven he’s got range in Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn. He’s also willing to suffer for his art, a la his co-star Christian Bale, as he lost 40 pounds for the role in that movie. His affable and naturally um, zany personality makes him so fun to watch (i.e. he makes Sahara more bearable, probably even more so if he had as much screen time as Matthew McConaughey!). I’m hoping that his moment to shine isn’t too far away in the horizon.
  7. Matthew Goode
    You’d think someone with his good looks would have no trouble finding lead roles in Hollywood. But Goode is much more than mere eye candy, which makes it all the more frustrating when he’s underutilized as the love interest in a vapid rom-com (read: Leap Year). Lately he’s all over the net as the rumor mill was working overtime in placing him as yet another possible contender for Superman. You already know who I think would be perfect for the role, but the tall, dark haired Brit as a superhero is an idea I can get behind 🙂 Of course I’d rather see him play various characters, and I’d think he’s poised to take over any role that’d normally go to the overworked (and overused) Ryan Reynolds or Sam Worthington.

Btw, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t put Timothy Dalton on this list, but I think I’ve made my feeling about him quite known all over this blog and especially this post. Besides, I’m planning on creating a dedicated list for seasoned actor of his stature sometime in the future.


Well, do you agree/disagree with my list? And while you’re at it, do share which actor(s) you think deserve to get top billing for a change.

The Flix List: Five noteworthy young actors (under 30)

Talk about perfect timing. I had been jotting down this list when I saw yesterday’s assignment from Castor’s 31DBBB event is to make a list post! It’s day 2 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, a group project a bunch of movie bloggers are doing together in an attempt to improve our blogs and help each other become better bloggers.

Inspired by my recent ‘discovery‘ of Robert Pattinson’s talent, it got me thinking what other actors under 30 who’ve caught my attention. So inevitably he made the list, along with four other young male actors who’ve made an impression on me in the past decade:

  1. Robert Pattinson (24)
    I never thought of including this London-born actor on this list until I saw Remember Me. Sure, Twilight made him astar and gained him a bazillion fans, but acting-wise the franchise doesn’t do him any favors. Thankfully he seeks out understated rolesin smaller movies to showcase his acting chops. Let’s hope he continues to mix things up and learn from people like Leo DiCaprio who successfully shed his matinee idol image and become a formidable actor.
  2. Jamie Bell (24)
    The English actor first won me over in the acclaimed dancing drama Billy Elliot, he even beat Tom Hanks (Cast Away) and Russell Crowe (Gladiator) at 2001’s BAFTA! Since then been playing mostly under-the-radar roles: King Kong, Jumper, Defiance. Yet, even in supporting roles, it’s clear Bell is one talented young man. I haven’t seen Jumper but my husband who saw it kept saying how he stole every scene from Hayden Christensen, who got the movie’s top billing. He also won raves in the little-seen Hallam Foe, but hopefully his next movie, Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson’s The Adventures of Tintin will rightfully put him on the Hollywood map.
  3. Daniel Radcliffe (21)
    I had just recently discovered Harry Potter, which was an entertaining franchise to catch up on (all six movies in 2 weeks!). The movies are well-written and well-acted, mixing complete unknowns with award-winning thespians. Radcliffe obviously had the formidable job of portraying such a beloved literary character, and I think he pulls it off quite well, growing more comfortable as an actor as the franchise went on. He’s been known to take some risks in his roles as well, probably hoping to shed his innocent-boy image so he can have a fruitful career post HP. He took on the bizarre role in the play Equus, playing a boy with a pathological fascination with horses, even willing to strip nude on stage! He’s set to star in a Hammer horror flick Woman in Black. After that, he reportedly plans on going back to theater in a Broadway play How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Pretty versatile guy I’d say.
  4. Shia LaBeouf (24)
    Probably known most as the Transformers boy who’s the envy of every adolescent boy for getting to snog Megan Fox, I actually think this guy can act. He was rather good in Disturbia, which was a decent thriller, though its similarities to Hitchcock’s Rear Window got the studios in some legal troubles. Spielberg reportedly was quite taken with him, hence casting him in the sequel that should not have been made. Obviously the inept script didn’t give him a chance to do much of anything in that movie. Hopefully his next movie, which happens to be another sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleep, will fare better.
  5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (29)
    Gordon-Levitt is pretty much in a whole different league amongst his 20-something peers, having proven his craft in solid roles one after another: The Lookout, Stop-Loss, Brick, and the refreshingly-smart rom-com (500) Days of Summer. The phenomenal success of Inception will no doubt help his career even further. Though with talent like his, he hardly needs a blockbuster to get us to notice. The best thing about Gordon-Levitt is that he’s reliable, we can always expect an excellent performance out of him and not be disappointed.

Honorable Mentions (added 8/11):

  • Henry Cavill (I talked about this guy quite a lot, so it’s simply an oversight for not mentioning him. Thanks Dez!)
  • Freddie Highmore (He may only be 18, but this kid’s resume is impressive. He’s done some great work in Finding Neverland, A Good Year, and August Rush, among others)
  • Rupert Friend (Won me over in The Young Victoria)
  • Ben Wishaw (Bright Star didn’t blow me away, but can’t deny Wishaw’s acting chops)
  • Andrew Garfield (I confess I haven’t seen any movie of his, but I’m making an exception as he’s impressed me in three trailers: The Red Riding trilogy, The Social Network and Never Let Me Go. No doubt we’ll be hearing more about this kid in the future, especially now that he’s been cast as Spiderman).

Ok folks, your turn. Which young actor(s) have impressed you lately?