FlixChatter Review: Netflix’s VELVET BUZZSAW (2019)

Netflix has truly become a force to be reckoned with in terms of original content, the fact that they apparently planned on making 90 original movies this year alone… with budgets up to $200mil! In the Winter time, streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon are a staple for me, as weather can wreck havoc on your moviegoing plans (esp when we’re plagued with Polar Vortex!). Thankfully, many of Netflix original programming are pretty high-quality, and they attract high-quality filmmakers and talents.

In Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy re-teamed with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, who were both excellent in Nightcrawler. It’s a satire thriller with a rather whimsical tone, offering a tongue-in-cheek commentary about the relationship between art and commerce. Right from the first trailer, I was hooked by the premise of a thriller set in the L.A. art world AND the outstanding cast.

The main players of the movie are art critic Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal), gallery owner Rhodora Haze, and an ambitious agent Josephina (Zawe Ashton). One fateful day, Josephina found her neighbor Vetril Dease dead in her apartment complex. As it turns out, Dease was a painter and a plethora of his unseen work are stored in his apartment. Josephina stole a bunch of them, and upon showing them to Morf and Rhodora, they’re convinced they’ve stumbled into something truly lucrative and decide to profit from Dease’s work. So voilà! Rhodora showcased Dease’s paintings in her posh gallery along with some over the top pieces like a talking [creepy-looking] robot and a giant interactive sphere. Everyone was mesmerized. Everyone from curator assistant Gretchen (Toni Collette) and another artist who’s kind of in a funk Piers (John Malkovich), Rhodora’s rival Jon Dondon (Tom Sturridge), are all equally enamored. Dease’s work becomes a social media hit and the paintings can net 8-figure sum. But of course it’s all too good to be true. There’s evil lurking behind those paintings, ready to exact vengeance upon whoever tries to profit from them.

Strange things start to happen, as people begin to notice that the paintings actually move. I’m glad I don’t have many paintings in my home as those scenes are really quite eerie. I don’t know who the actual artists are who created the paintings for the movie but some are really amazing. Predictably, people who stand to profit from Dease’s work are starting to get killed one by one. It kind of lessens the suspense of it all but I don’t think Gilroy intends to make a ‘twist-y’ movie a la M. Night Shyamalan. I started to play a guessing game with my hubby as who’s gonna be offed next. It didn’t quite descend into the Final Destination franchise banality where the writers just have to figure out a ‘creative’ way to kill their characters. That said, some of the death scenes are pretty creative. It seems Gilroy decidedly made Velvet Buzzsaw a kitschy satire, as if he didn’t really take this story too seriously.

Toni Collette & the giant interactive sphere

Performance-wise, I think most of the actors are solid. Gyllenhaal seemed to relish playing a neurotic, flamboyant, ‘sexually-fluid’ art critic, delivering an over-the-top performance with such glee it was amusing to watch. Glad to see Russo in a meatier role here and she looked absolutely convincing as a gallery owner. Collette doesn’t have much screen time but she’s always memorable in any role and here she plays the pretentious museum curator with aplomb. I’ve never seen the British actress Zawe Ashton portraying the loathsome snob Josephina, well she definitely made quite an impression here.

Overall Velvet Buzzsaw didn’t have quite the shock value as Nightcrawler, which is still the better Gilroy-Gyllenhaal collaboration. This one feels shallow, one might even say frivolous, which is ironic as the outside world often views the art community that way. It’s also lacking a deep emotional resonance as most of the characters are so unsympathetic. In fact, I got so annoyed by Josephina and her greedy, duplicitous ways that I can’t say I was sorry to see her go. As a non-horror fan though, I was pretty entertained by it and thankfully it’s not as gory as I had been led to believe. (if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, I suggest you avoid it as some of the ‘deaths’ actually happen in the trailer!)

I read later that apparently Gilroy was inspired to write the script because of the whole Superman Lives debacle. He was the writer of that project that was supposed to be directed by Tim Burton starring Nicholas Cage. He was dismayed that Warner Bros pulled the plug, he’s quoted as saying ‘Wow, I just spent a year and a half. Nothing I wrote is gonna ever be seen…I was looking at the waves and I was like, ‘I might as well come down and write words in the sand and have the waves just wash them away.’” (per The Playlist) Interestingly, he wrote a scene with one of his character on a beach. So I guess if there’s one takeaway from this movie, at least the way I think Gilroy envisioned it, is that, an art is more than just a piece of commodity and the level of success shouldn’t define it.

Despite its flaws though, props to Gilroy for his creativity and taking us to a world rarely depicted on screen. Heck, the character names alone is ingenious… Morf Vandewalt, Vetril Dease could be such fun band names! One thing for sure, I probably won’t be able to see an art gallery/museum the same way again after this.


Have you seen Velvet Buzzsaw yet? I’d love to hear what YOU think!

FlixChatter Review: MILE 22 (2018)

When an action film is released late in the summer season, it’s usually a lower budget fare that studios doesn’t want to spend too much money promoting it and the movie itself is not that good. This latest team up between BFFs Marky Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg definitely falls into those categories.

James Silva (Wahlberg) is a leader of a special elite military force called Overwatch, think of this group as the ‘Impossible Mission Force’ but works with the military instead of intelligence agency. After completing a mission that didn’t go smoothly in the States, he and his team are now working in an unnamed Southeast Asian country trying to find missing deadly chemicals.

His second in command agent Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) has an asset within the local government named Li Noor (Iko Uwais), who has a disc containing information on where to find the missing chemicals. Noor will unlock the disc when he’s out of the country and on his way to the States. With no time to waste, Silver and his team has no choice but to escort Noor to an airport and keep him alive from assassins working for the local government. With the help from Overwatch’s technical team and its leader Bishop (John Malkovich, wearing a ridiculous wig), Silver and his team must navigate through the city and avoid being killed.

There’s not much of a plot here, it’s a pretty simple story and I don’t think screenwriter Lea Carpenter really care to expand much beyond it’s simple storyline. Carpenter did include tons of F-bombs in the dialog and not much else. For a movie with not much of a plot, director Peter Berg decided to ramp up the violence and made sure this movie earns its R rating. Unfortunately, Berg didn’t get the memo that it’s 2018 and not 2008. The action scenes in this movie reminded me of last decade’s unwatchable fast editing, up-close shots and shaky cam style that ruined most of action films from the 2000s. By trying to make action scenes look exciting, Berg used several camera angles and most the frantic sequences were either incoherence or just plain ugly to watch. I think directors who’s going to direct an action film should watch the last couple of Mission: Impossible films and take notes on how to shoot action scenes correctly.

As for the performances, Wahlberg is basically playing the same type of roles just like his other flicks. His character in this movie supposed to have some sort of bi-polar condition so all he did in the movie was either yelling at people or being a smart ass. I like Lauren Cohan in The Walking Dead but here she seems to be out of her elements. They did try to give her character some background, but it just didn’t work for me. Iko Uwais didn’t have a lot of dialog, he was mostly used for the hand-to-hand combat scenes. Malkovich wasn’t on the screen that much but he does appear, I tried not to laugh because his haircut just looks ridiculous.

Mile 22 could’ve been a good action thriller if they had gotten a better crew to work on it. Berg tried to make a cool espionage picture, but he also tried to make it more realistic and the results was just silly. The movie also lacks any true villains and since we’re in the era of franchise building, this one ended with a cliffhanger and twist that I think most people will see it coming way before it ended. Apparently, it’s supposed to be a trilogy and I don’t think I’d care to see anymore adventures of the Overwatch team.

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So have you seen MILE 22? Well, what did you think?

Weekend Viewing Roundup & Warm Bodies Review

It’s a pretty uneventful weekend for me movie-wise, but I got to meet up my old college buddy I haven’t seen in years! So it was a lovely weekend in that regard though she’s as far away from being a cinephile as it gets. The last movie she saw at the theater was Nacho Libre, ahahaha.

TheFamilyPosterWell, I didn’t get to the theater nor any screenings this past week. I’m definitely NOT missing out on The Getaway based on Terrence’s review, ahah, it looks so darn awful from the trailer alone. I am looking forward to screenings in the next two weeks though, I’ve rsvp-ed for Don Jon, Gravity, and Runner, Runner. Oh and also the mafia comedy The Family w/ Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones. Trailer looks meh but I’m hoping it’ll still be good with a cast of THIS caliber.

So this weekend I only watched Warm Bodies and rewatched one of my fave Bond films, The Living Daylights. I guess I was inspired by Zoë’s excellent review recently where she praised Dalton’s take as Bond (atta girl!) So yeah, TLD AND Dalton as 007 is still as awesome as the first time I saw it.

Here’s my review from this weekend:

WarmBodiesPoster

I’ve been curious about this zombie comedy for quite some time as lots of people seem to love it. Now, I’m not a fan of the popular Zombie sub-genre, I think I’ve only like one zombie movie and that is Shaun of the Dead (I love 28 Days Later too, but that one is SO much more than just a zombie movie).

As with most zombie movies, some sort of plague has come over the world which render most humans to become walking corpses. This movie still pretty much subscribe to what we typically assume about zombies: they walk slowly, they eat brains and of course they look like decayed corpses, though the zombies in this movie seem to look far less gory, and sometimes they’re pretty agile too. One twist in this story, which was based on a novel by Isaac Marion, there are certain levels of being undead. There are Zombies and there are Boneys, which are zombies who’ve lost all traces of their humanity and flesh, so basically they’re skeletal zombies, preying on anything with a heartbeat.

Being that it’s a zombie romance, of course it’s entirely predictable that the protagonist R (as he no longer remembers his real name), falls for a human girl and saves her from a horde of fellow zombies. The first meeting of R & Julie amidst a zombie attack isn’t exactly a meet-cute, but it’s certainly amusing. After having eaten up her boyfriend, R ends up saving Julie (Palmer) and takes her to his house, which was a discarded plane. Because zombies talk like lobotomized Tarzan, the VO narration helps us get into R’s head. He a pretty astute thinker for being a zombie, ahah. Of course this being a fantasy horror flick, absurdity is to be expected, but even so I feel that Julie is way too soon to be so comfortable with R. I guess I could see it with vampires as they have this cool, sexy vibe about ’em, but flesh-eating zombies are just gross. In any case, R & Julie got on pretty quickly. The scenes of them playing together, listening to records, etc. reminds me of 80s/90s rom-coms. The soundtrack is a hoot, I grew up listening to songs by John Waite (Missing You), Guns N’ Roses (Patience), Bruce Springsteen (Hungry Heart), etc. which gives this movie a retro feel of sort.

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So what happens next is also predictable. The warm relationship he has with Julie somehow revives his humanity and there’s a scene where his heart actually starts beating once more. It’s an interesting twist on how our heart ‘skip a beat’ when we’re in love, ahah. Not only is this change affects R, but this odd transformation ends up spreading to the undead population like a virus. None of this is explained very well in the movie, just like we never really know how they got infected in the first place. Now, some critics call this a Romeo & Juliet story with zombie. Heh, apart from the balcony scene, and that ‘R’ might stand for Romeo with his Julie(t), it’s not exactly an apt comparison.

Thankfully, some of the inconsistencies and clunky dialog didn’t derail the movie. Both Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer (a Brit & Aussie sporting believable American accent) are more than serviceable. In fact, Hoult is a bit better — and ironically more soulful — here than in the abominable Jack & The Giant Slayer. Palmer’s face & lithe figure at times reminds me of Kristen Stewart, but she’s a hundred times more expressive! John Malkovich is entirely wasted here though, he probably could do this role in his sleep, ahah.

I enjoyed this enough but I’m quite puzzled by the high rating (81% Rotten Tomato score?) as overall it’s just ok, but not great. It’s not in the same league as Jonathan Levine‘s previous film 50/50, which I’d think is far more challenging project given the difficult subject matter. I do appreciate the fact that this one is reinvention of a popular horror genre, but I don’t think it’s all that groundbreaking. In terms of a novelty twist in a classic genre, I actually like the vampire thriller Daybreakers a lot more than this one. This one does have some fun moments though, that scene where R told Julie to walk like a zombie so she doesn’t get eaten is hilarious! It’s definitely better than Twilight (but what movie isn’t?) and the humorous tone makes it all the more watchable.

3 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend roundup folks. What did YOU watch this weekend?

Weekend Viewing Roundup, Quick Thoughts on Comic-Con, & RED 2 review

Hello everyone! Hope you had an awesome weekend. If you happen to be at Comic-con the past few days, then I’m sure you had a blast (and you know I’m so green with envy!!) It made me feel a bit nostalgic seeing all those SDCC pics, maybe one day I’ll make it there again. Now, I haven’t read all the highlights from the big event but if I were at Hall H on Saturday, these two would’ve surely been the most scream-worthy panels!!

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Click for a larger version

Just LOOK at this X-Men: Days of Future Past cast… I mean seriously!!! It’s incredible how good Hugh Jackman still looks after his breakthrough role as Wolverine thirteen years ago. Can’t wait for this movie already!

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Thor who? Loki ruled Hall H!

I LOVE Tom Hiddleston‘s theatrical style and boy, this would’ve been the closest thing a lot of the Comic-con goers to seeing him ‘on stage.’ He certainly brought the house down with his performance! You can watch a video of it here.

Well, my weekend was ok (well considering I wasn’t at Comic-con), but hey, I got to see TREMORS, thanks to Cinekatz‘ Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap in which I was “gifted” the monster flick from 1990 (review coming soon). I also rewatched Pacific Rim at IMAX Saturday night, which looks absolutely glorious in the giant screen. So that’s TWO monster movies in one weekend, which is a record for me 😀

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TREMORS
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PACIFIC RIM

I also got to re-watch one of my favorite superhero movies of all time. Well, even with a slew of comic-book movies since, I still rate this very high on my list. Batman Begins is one of the movies I’d bring if I were stranded in a desert island and I’d definitely pick it again in a heartbeat!

BatmanBegins
BATMAN BEGINS

Now, here’s my new release review from the screening a few days ago:

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Though I enjoyed the first movie, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the sequel. The only main draw for me is the cast and really, that’s the main highlight of this movie and the filmmakers knew that. You don’t go into these kinds of movies looking for an engaging story or character study, but you know what, they didn’t pretend to be a bombastic, over-the-top action flick so I still end up enjoying this quite a bit.

There’s really no point talking about the plot here, as the story is set up in such a way where it actually suits the actors playing these cartoonish characters. It’s as if the filmmakers had a checklist of what they want these actors to do in the movie and so the plot is written around that, if that makes sense. Seems like the actors are hired to do what they do best, some of them even did a parody to their famous characters they’ve done in the past (you’ll know it when you see it). The Retired-Extremely-Dangerous gang is once again on the run, being chased left and right as they attempt to solve the puzzle of finding a portable nuclear device.

Red2Stills

It’s too bad Karl Urban isn’t back to reprise his role as he was one of the highlights for me in the first movie. Also, instead of Morgan Freeman, we’ve got another seasoned actor (both happen to be 76 years old!) Anthony Hopkins. Nice to see him doing a comedic role though he’s not as fun to watch as Freeman.

Bruce Willis is back as Frank, which is basically a variation of John McClane (seems like Bruce is done with playing any other characters these days). Mary Louis Parker gets more screen time this time as his love interest Sarah, which is fine by me and she, along with John Malkovich‘s Marvin are the real comic relief in this movie. Their scenes together, especially the car chase all over Paris in a white Citroën, are preposterous fun. I guess you could describe the movie in that way as well. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this movie as much if it weren’t for the actors. I love watching Dame Helen Mirren reprising her bad ass role of Victoria and her car case with Byung-hun Lee is hysterical! It’s right up there with all the outrageous action in those Fast & Furious movies.

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I think the weakest link for me is Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian femme-fatale who used to be Frank’s lover. Her character is so darn boring and her romance with Willis’ character just falls flat. “Katja’s Frank’s ‘kryptonite,” Marvin explained to Sarah, which then drives her to do all kinds of jealous-driven shenanigans to one-up Katja. I do like charismatic Korean actor Byung-hun Lee here (not a bad replacement for Mr. Urban) who has a personal vendetta with Frank. He’s clearly hired for his awesome fighting skills and he totally delivered on that front.

Final Thoughts: The A-list cast seems to have a great time making this and it shows. Whilst it still brings the laughs and I was entertained for the most part, I do think the writing is so lazy and derivative. I hope they’re done with this movie, I mean how many franchises does Bruce Willis need?! I’m being generous here with my rating, because Mirren, Parker and Malkovich made me laugh so hard in this movie! Oh, there’s also Brian Cox in a small but memorable role, so yeah, there are TWO British thespians who’ve played Hannibal Lecter on screen!

3 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend?

Weekend Viewing Roundup – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)review

MSPIFF_PressPassHappy Monday all! It’s going to be quite a busy week for me with three screenings Tuesday – Thursday, starting with Disconnect tomorrow. I’ve got my MSPIFF press pass kit yesterday and all the tickets for the films I’ve mentioned herewell except for Kon-Tiki as it was sold out and the second screening conflicts with another film. I was thinking of going to the Screenwriters Panel but this stupid Wintry weather kept me from going. Seriously, there are icicles forming on my roof as I type this. We seem to be going backwards!! [sigh] In any case, here’s my viewing schedule this week:

  • Disconnect (Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgård)
  • Unfinished Song – or Song for Marion (Terrence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave)
  • Mud (Matthew McConaughey)
  • Oblivion (Tom Cruise)

It’ll take me some time to review them all so this week we’ve got a couple of special guest posts on schedule, so stay tuned! Anyway, here’s my mini review of the one film I managed to see this weekend:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

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Mere seconds before the Earth is to be demolished by an alien construction crew, journeyman Arthur Dent is swept off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher penning a new edition of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

My hubby and I didn’t originally set out to see this one but it’s one of those movies we’ve been curious about for some time as it’s such a pop-culture phenomenon. Truth be told, I don’t know anything about the story, though a short stop at Wikipedia revealed that it’s a comic sci-fi series created by Douglas Adams, which started out as a BBC comedy radio program in 1978 and later adapted to other formats, including novels, TV series and the 2005 movie. When I saw the cast, Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, John Malkovich, PLUS Alan Rickman & Helen Mirren‘s voice, I was more than intrigued! It has the vibe of the wacky sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest, one of my fave comedies ever, but I think is still far more enjoyable than this one. Now, it started out very promising, with the hilarious narration about how the dolphins has been trying to warn humans of their impending doom but they’re mistaken for playful tricks, hence all the dolphin shows in Sea World. The song So Long and Thanks for All the Fish that the dolphins sing before they leave earth is such a hoot and fun to watch. Then we meet a hapless Englishman Arthur Dent — Martin Freeman can portray utter bewilderment like no other — who wakes up to all the ruckus outside his home as it’s about to be demolished. As if that wasn’t a bad enough morning, his friend Ford Prefect (hip-hop artist Moss Def) tells him he’s actually an alien and earth is being destroyed in a matter of minutes! Before you know it, Arthur is whisked away by Ford, by hitching a ride to a spaceship (natch!), and they embark on a madly bizarre adventure! HitchikerGuideGalaxyPics I could see how this story would become so popular, not just people who grew up listening to the radio show, as my hubby’s colleagues often reference this movie. Even Apple’s Siri refer to this giant computer Deep Thought’s answer, the number 42, when asked about the meaning of life. There are certainly some amusing parts in this film, the segment with John Malkovich as a seriously outlandish religious leader with mechanical spiders for legs and Sam Rockwell’s flamboyantly over-the-top portrayal of Zaphod Beeblebrox (I guess with a character name like that one can’t exactly underplay it, ahah) are certainly amusing. Overall though, the pacing is just off, it could be because director Garth Jennings’s lack of directorial experience. On top of that, I just didn’t connect with the story as I found myself falling asleep midway through, and didn’t wake up until Bill Nighy‘s Slartibartfast, the planet designer, gave Arthur a tour of the galaxy. Unlike Galaxy Quest where I was caught up in the characters’ journey, this one sort of become tedious over time, I’m sure the radio show/novels are far more interesting. Most of the characters, while amusing at first, just aren’t really that interesting after all, which is a shame considering the talents involved. Freeman basically playing a similar character as Bilbo in terms of being out of his comfort zone, as he’s pretty much dumbfounded and perplexed for most of the movie. I do love Marvin the Paranoid Android, he’s perhaps my favorite character of the movie, largely thanks to Alan Rickman‘s voice! I don’t know how this guy managed to be entertaining just by lending his voice alone, but all the sarcastic quips of the manically-depressed robot are truly the best lines of the movie!

ManicallyDepressedMarvinMarvin: You can blame the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation for making androids with GPP… Arthur: Um… what’s GPP? Marvin: Genuine People Personalities. I’m a personality prototype. You can tell, can’t you…?

Arthur: I think that door just sighed. Marvin: Ghastly, isn’t it? All the doors on this spaceship have been programmed to have a cheery and sunny disposition.

Marvin: Freeze? I’m a robot. I’m not a refrigerator.

So even though I didn’t love this movie, I’m glad I finally saw it so I know when people make references to this story. I probably won’t rewatch the movie but I definitely would rewatch all the hilarious Marvin moments, courtesy of youtube. 3 out of 5 reels


Fun Trivia bit: The movie was first optioned in 1982 by producers Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross. Douglas Adams wrote three drafts for them per his contract. During this time, Medjuck and Gross were considering Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd to play Ford Prefect, but then Aykroyd sent them his idea for Ghostbusters and they did that movie instead. [per IMDb trivia]


Well, that’s my weekend roundup, folks. What did you see this weekend, anything good?

A Rant and a Question: Where do you get your movies?

This is what the Random Thoughts category is for. I haven’t actually posted anything under that in a while but what happened today prompted me to this rant I rarely do on my blog.

Before I get to my rant and question, let me give you a quick background. Well, yesterday I found out that the next subject of the LAMB’s Acting School 101 is Nicole Kidman. I really want to participate in this, maybe do a Top 5 Fave Roles of hers, but after looking at her filmography, I realize there are some of her films from the past few decades that I’ve missed. I figure since the blogathon isn’t starting until the end of the month, it might be good to catch up on a few of her past movie One of them that caught my attention is The Portrait of A Lady by Jane Campion. I quite like period dramas and this is based on a novel by Henry James. Alas, as you can see on my tweet below, it’s NOT available to rent anywhere!!

In fact, neither Netflix DVD NOR Streaming has the movie available to rent! I even went so far as searching my local library for it! Zero. None. Zip. Nada. Basically my only option to watch this movie is to BUY the darn thing! Gah! Now after seeing the trailer I’m even more curious to see this movie, I mean it’s also got John Malkovich, Barbara Hershey (who was nominated for Oscar’s Best Actress in a Supporting Role), plus Christian Bale and Viggo Mortensen in smaller roles!

Now, a few other of Kidman’s movies I’m hoping to check out this month are Fur, The Hours, and Rabbit Hole. Ted is going to lend me The Peacemaker this weekend. I have no interest in seeing Dogma, The Others, nor Eyes Wide Shut. Those who know me probably know those films aren’t my cup of tea. I haven’t checked yet if those movies are readily available to rent.

Truthfully, I’m dismayed that there are some movies are practically impossible to see unless you have Netflix DVD subscription (except for The Portrait of a Lady as I’ve mentioned above, the date of availability is listed as UNKNOWN!). Two other films my hubby and I had been wanting to watch are The Guard and The Whistleblower.

Yes I know they both have super generic, uninteresting titles but the premise and cast of both of them are quite appealing. But unless I’m willing to buy them, it doesn’t look like I have any option to see those two! Right now I just can’t justify paying $15 bucks a month for both Netflix DVD and Streaming option, so I guess that’s my problem, eh?

All right, enough about my rant. I’ll find a way somehow to rent those titles, but I’m curious now if any of you encounter the same issues about not being able to rent the movie you want. So my question to you is…

Where do you get your movies from?

Is it through iTunes, Netflix or (LOVEFilm if you’re in the UK), Amazon on Demand? If you get your movies through illegal means, you don’t have to answer, ahah.

FlixChatter Review: RED

I saw this back in August on an advance screening. Before the movie began, they told us that the special effect wasn’t final yet, but I didn’t really mind as the main draw for me to see this is the cast, mainly Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, AND John Malkovich. I thought that even if the story is crappy, the cast would still make it entertaining. Glad to say I was right, and the story actually isn’t too bad.

RED is a rowdy and facetious espionage action comedy. As I learned when I posted the trailer, apparently the decidedly the movie is a far cry from the ultra-violent Warren Elis’ comic series. The movie also expands the focus from Frank Moses (or Paul in the comic, played by Willis) to include Freeman’s, Mirren’s and Malkovich’s characters: Joe, Victoria and Marvin.

The four former CIA top agents have all (except Marvin) seemed to settle in their retirement life. Frank leads a pretty boring life in the suburbs all by himself, with only Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) from the federal pension-benefits office keeping him company via phone conversations. Suddenly, his peace and quiet existence is interrupted by a covert strike from a group of special forces. Willis can pretty much do this type of role in his sleep, channeling his Die Hard‘s John McClane, only with a slightly more deadpan mannerism, as he takes out every single one of his attacker with ease.

Soon we learn that the fact that he knew too much, the Agency wants him and his friends dead. So Frank goes on the road to find them, but not before he finds Sarah, as he reckons they will also target those close to him. Inevitably she gets entangled into the whole spy business as the team must use their collective experience to stay one step ahead of the people after them and expose the government’s conspiracy cover-up.

Parker is pretty funny as the befuddled Sarah who soon becomes Frank’s enthusiastic ally in his mission. I suppose if I’m chained to my desk at work daily, I’d be as eager to live it up a bit. Morgan Freeman, who’s as adept in comedy as he is in dramatic fares, also brings in the laughs in most scenes he’s in, including one where he gleefully ogles the retirement home nurse as she fixes the TV.  Looks like Joe is the most comfortable with his retirement life. Now Marvin on the other hand, hasn’t moved on much from his old life. He lives on an underground bunker and is extremely high on conspiracy theories—a result of years CIA’s LSD experiments, Frank tells Sarah. Malkovich relish his inherent nuttiness with panache. He’s truly a great comic relief, as he often is, and his over-the-top acting is put to good use here.

Dame Mirren doesn’t show up until about 45 min to an hour into the movie, but when she does, it’s such a treat! Her Victoria is a classy lady who seemingly enjoy her Martha-Stewart-like activities. But she too never quite gets over the high of being a spy, and confesses to Frank that she still takes contract jobs on the side. One of the movie’s highlights are the shootout scene from a hotel’s kitchen to the parking garage, it’s such a hoot seeing Dame Mirren dressed in a cocktail dress going all trigger happy with that big machine gun!! Her bad assery is a real scene stealer. She was quoted at ComicCon saying “It was great to have guns instead of words, …because long speeches are harder.” (per MTV blog) Methinks the dame ought to do more action movies! 🙂

Oh did I mention the Scottish thespian Brian Cox also co-stars? He plays Mirren’s Russian love interest, who’s also Frank’s former arch nemesis. And 90-something Ernest Borgnine also has a memorable cameo appearance as a CIA archivist.

Last but not least, there’s Karl Urban, the other non-AARP member besides Louis Parker. I’ve talked about how I was quite mesmerized by the New Zealander in this post, which prompted me to think he’d make a great Bond. His character as a young CIA officer tasked to bring Frank in is pretty one-dimensional, but he plays him with such amiable charm that makes me care for his character and the dilemma he’s faced with.

The best part of this movie is how everyone seems to be having a ball making this fun caper, which makes the ride so enjoyable even if it’s not always smooth. It doesn’t have the tidiest script, but the cast more than makes up for it. I don’t even mind paying to see this again in the theater!

Well folks, any of you planning to go see it this weekend?