FlixChatter Review: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

There are films you’d readily see just for the cast and this is one such a film. I’m familiar with Agatha Christie’s work though I can’t claim I’ve actually finished even one of her books from start to finish. I did however, see the episode from British ITV production of the Agatha Christie series starring David Suchet a couple of years ago, so the plot is still quite fresh in my mind. The latest adaptation featured Kenneth Branagh as the Belgian super detective Hercule Poirot. Branagh also served as director, based on a script by Michael Green (who’s had quite a year as he also wrote Logan and Blade Runner 2049).

The opening sequence in Jerusalem seemed too whimsical and decidedly over-the-top, and I’m not just talking about Poirot’s outlandish mustache. I read in a review somewhere that Branagh can’t decide which fake mustache given to him from the makeup department so he basically just wore them all in a row. I think that enormous mustache probably has its own trailer, too! That establishing scene introduced us to a god-like figure who’s an absolute genius in cracking criminal cases. It also revealed his quirky OCD personality, so obsessed he is with balance that when he stepped one foot on manure, he immediately had to do the same with the other foot.

For a story famous for being set on a train, the film took its time to finally get there. But once there, the train set pieces is really quite glorious, filled with lavish set pieces and even more gorgeous passengers decked in 1930s costumes. Despite the rather sluggish pacing, I enjoyed myself thanks to the amazing cast. A movie with Dame Judi Dench is an automatic must-see in my book, though sadly she didn’t get to do anything in this film. But to be fair, most of the actors here seemed to have spent more time in costumes than learning their lines. She’s still memorable here, as is Olivia Colman as Dench’s German maid.

It’s tough to be memorable in a large ensemble cast as this one, but I’d say the film’s MVPs are Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard, Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham, Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen, and Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot. Oh, and hello Tom Bateman as train director Bouc (never seen this tall, dark and handsome Brit before but I sure hope I’ll see more of him!) It’s interesting casting to have Johnny Depp as Ratchett given his dire reputation of late. Branagh’s performance is often borderline over the top as well which in itself can be distracting. But I thought his monologue after the big reveal is pretty good and provides the high emotional point of the film. I love La Pfeiffer in this scene too, I’ve missed seeing her in movies. She’s one of those veteran actresses I wish would still get many intriguing roles.

I’m not going to talk about the plot here, but Branagh took some interesting creative licenses with how the story came to the big reveal. He also tried to vary the scenes of each passenger interrogation as to not bore the viewers, some work better than others. I love Branagh’s direction in Cinderella but here he seems too preoccupied with camera work (esp. the bird’s eye view angle) that the film feels rather haphazard at times. The dynamic camera angles adds energy to an otherwise stuffy whodunnit drama, but at times can be quite distracting as well.

Overall it’s a decent adaptation, but I’m not sure if it’s really all that necessary. I feel like the rich story would’ve been better served as a miniseries. There are parts that feel emotional, especially as we get to know who the passengers really are, but I think the film lacks any real suspense. That said, I still enjoyed it thanks to the committed cast, the stunning set pieces and the gorgeous score from one of my fave composers (and Branagh’s regular collaborator) Patrick Doyle. The ending seems to hint at ‘Poirot will return’ a la another titular character James Bond. Not sure I’d be so eager to return to another Poirot adaptation from Branagh though. I guess I’d recommend this if you like the cast, though if you’re a Christie fan you’d probably be more satisfied with re-reading the novel.


Have you seen the latest adaptation of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’? Well, what did you think? 

Advertisements

Guest Review – Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales (2017)

guestpost

Directed By: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Written By: Jeff Nathanson
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 minutes

When I saw the first trailer for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, I nearly sprained my eyeballs from rolling them so hard. While the first movie was enjoyable and still holds up as a fun adventure flick fourteen years later, the series has overstayed its welcome. The second and third were decent, but the fourth made it clear that these movies are pretty much just vehicles for Johnny Depp to ham it up as Jack Sparrow over and over, which I have issues with for a couple reasons. First is the domestic abuse allegations that came to light last year, which completely destroyed his likability for me-and for anyone who comments that Amber Heard is lying or it’s her fault: SAVE IT. While the allegations have changed how I feel about Depp, they’re not what this review is about, but if you insist on going there, I will fight you. Personal feelings aside, Depp’s acting hasn’t impressed me in a long time. His performances have become very one-note, not helped by playing the same character since 2003, which Disney has used as the primary marketing ploy for this movie. Because of this, I worried that they were compensating for an overall weak movie by putting most of the focus on its most popular character. With the fourth movie being so forgettable, my hopes weren’t high for this one.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales introduces us to Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of original trilogy hero Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Henry has been spending most of his life searching for the mythical Trident of Poseidon, which could be the key to rescuing his father from The Flying Dutchman’s curse. Hoping his father’s old friend Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) can help him, Henry teams up with the pirate, along with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a scientist trying to navigate a mysterious map her father left her with when he abandoned her at birth. Along their journey, the three are pursued by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghostly crew, who want to prevent Jack from using the Trident to escape their revenge.

This movie’s main problem is that it tries to fit too many individual backstories into two and a half hours, leading to fan-fiction levels of bad, clunky exposition. We have Jack’s history with Captain Salazar, Henry’s lifelong mission to rescue his father, Carina’s mysterious parentage and struggles as a female scientist in the mid-to-late 1700’s, and even previous Pirates villain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) gets a forced backstory shoved into the last half hour. The magical item the characters are searching for is poorly explained; it’s just supposed to “break all curses,” which is incredibly vague. If this had been the start of a new trilogy, the pacing could have been better, but because this is (supposedly) the last film, everything is crammed into one movie, and it’s a mess.

That said, the writing isn’t completely hopeless. There is a surprising amount of genuinely funny dialogue, especially among Jack’s crew. I also enjoy that the main female character’s defining characteristic is her scientific prowess and having to deal with men not taking her knowledge seriously. It’s refreshing having a leading lady who’s more than just the romantic interest; her intellectual expertise is instrumental in reaching their goal.

Regarding the acting, I have mixed feelings. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow was…fine. He plays the character the same way he always has, so while he doesn’t bring anything new to the role, at least he’s consistent. The two young leads, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario, are decent but not especially memorable, although Kaya shows a little more promise than Brenton. Geoffey Rush is always fun to watch and gives an enjoyable performance here, brief as it is. My favorite, though, is Javier Bardem, who is so good at making anything sound menacing in that deep, gravelly voice. Hearing that he was playing the villain made me a little more excited about seeing this movie, and he did not disappoint.

There are other positive aspects of this film as well. Like its predecessors, Dead Men Tell no Tales is a visually interesting movie. The action is good and the fight choreography is fun, although it gets buried in some of the larger crowd scenes. The character design and CGI for Captain Salazar and his crew is truly spooky; even his ship looks scary. The costumes, hair, and makeup are beautifully detailed. The soundtrack is as epic as ever; although Hans Zimmer isn’t the main composer for this film (his protégé Geoff Zanelli is), his famous theme is prominent throughout the movie, and I will never get tired of hearing it.

Overall, this is a decent adventure movie. The storytelling is poor and some of the acting is underwhelming, but some of the dialogue is fun, and it’s pretty to look at. Good job, Disney. You made a better Pirates movie than the last one (although that bar wasn’t set very high). Now, please, for the love of God, stop.

laura_review


Have you seen ‘Pirates 5’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: BLACK MASS (2015)

Ted_review
BlackMass_Poster

It’s been almost 20 years since the last time Johnny Depp starred in a modern gangster film, the vastly underrated Donnie Brasco. He’s now back playing another true life gangster character, James “Whitey” Bulger, the most violent criminal in South Boston.

Told in a flashback style, the film starts with the integration of Bulger’s crew members. In the 70s, Bulger was just a small time gangster but then rose to the top by becoming an informant to the FBI. We get to see that he has a normal life with a young beautiful wife Lindsey (Dakota Johnson) and a son. His brother Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the state senator, so we know he has a powerful ally.

BlackMass_Edgerton_DeppBlackMass_Cumberbatch

We’re then introduced to an FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who happens to be a childhood friend of the Bulger brothers. Connolly wants to move up the ranks in the FBI office and one day asked Whitey to help him bring down the Italian mafia. Whitey was hesitant at first; he doesn’t want to be known as a “rat”. Connolly convinced him otherwise and as the story progresses, we get to see how far both of these men will go to get what they want. For fans of gangster genre, there are not many new things that haven’t been told before cinematically.

BlackMass_Depp

Depp has been getting lots of good buzz on his performance and I believe he deserves all the praise. At first I thought I was going to see Depp acting like the usual Depp’s character. But to my surprise, he really shines here as the ruthless gangster who has no hesitation to kill anyone who wronged him or come in his way. Bad makeup aside, he really brought a chilling portrayal of a psychopath and made me believe that this was the real Bulger.

The other standout performance belongs to Edgerton, he plays a weasel FBI agent that reminded me of Matt Damon’s character in The Departed. Cumberbatch didn’t really have much to do and his *Boston* accent was kind of distracting a few times. He did have a very good scene with Edgerton though; it’s a scene you’ll have to see to appreciate.

BlackMass_CumberbatchEdgerton

The last film director Scott Cooper made was the uneven and quite frankly, very frustrating Out of the Furnace. Here he kept the pace moving quite nicely; I’m surprised that he was able to keep the film’s runtime in just over 2 hours. He pretty much borrowed every element from other films such as Goodfellas, The Godfather, The Departed and so on. It’s not a knock on him but I wish he came up with his own style to tell this story.

Even though I thought it’s a good film, I can’t say it’s a great one. This kind of story has been told many times before and I think with a more talented director behind the cameras, this could’ve been a great flick. I’d say see it just for Depp’s and Edgerton’s performances, those two really saves the film from being another average gangster thriller.

3Reels

TedS_post


So have you seen Black Mass? Well, what did you think?

Five movies everyone seem to love that leave me cold

RonSwansonBannerThis list has been on my draft folder for some time. Well, now seems as good a time as any to counter all the the applause for movies as one award after another is getting announced. This post is inspired by Abbi’s list, as well as Kristin’s who posted her own list. Now, I don’t totally abhor all of these films, but like Abbi said, I really don’t get all the praise and for me at least, it did NOT live up to the hype.

I use IMDb rating and Rotten Tomatoes score just to show how critically-acclaimed these films are. Two of the classic films listed here are even considered iconic masterpieces which is even more baffling to me. If you happen to LOVE these movies, well I wish I could say the same but I think they’re awful, sorry!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

HellboyII

IMDB rating: 7.1 | RT Score: 87%

I actually enjoyed the first Hellboy and that’s the reason why I was excited to see the second one but heh, my hubby and I actually turned it off after less than a half hour. For some reason I just couldn’t figure out why we liked the first one but this sequel is so boring. All the peculiar creatures and fantastical setting we found amusing the first time around just feels derivative, it feels like a studio obligation instead of a passion project from Guillermo Del Toro perhaps because that’s really the case here. I like Ron Perlman in the role though, but I’d rather just watch the first movie again.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

POTC_CurseBlackPearl

IMDB rating: 8.0 | RT Score: 79%

Just like Transformers, a string of horror series and young adult adaptations, I never get the appeal of Pirates of the Caribbean from the get go. Johnny Depp‘s flamboyant, Keith-Richard-inspired Jack Sparrow is amusing for maybe a half hour tops, but for some reason people just can’t get enough of it that the fifth movie is now in the works [face palm]. Alas Depp can’t seem to shake that role either now, it’s as if Sparrow became his acting *curse.* I haven’t bothered watching the sequels, though I had to endure the second one (or was it the third??) when I was at a friend’s house and it just reminded me how awful this franchise is. I wince every time Geoffrey Rush show up, but I suppose a big paycheck from this type of drivels allow him to do something worthy of his talents. As if these movies aren’t unbearable already, we also have to endure watching Orlando Bloom doing poor imitations of Errol Flynn!

Spartacus (1960)

Spartacus_poster

IMDB rating: 8.0 | RT Score: 96%

Spartacus_romanceMy jaw dropped when I found out just how high the score is after seeing the film. I saw this a few years ago and I could barely made it to the end. Now, I LOVE LOVE Ben-Hur which I have seen time and again over the years and it still held up, and as a fan of swords & sandal genre, I thought I’d enjoy this too. But heck, I find it corny, dull and boring. I don’t buy Kirk Douglas as a gladiator slave for a second. He just isn’t tough nor ruthless enough I’d imagine the character to be. Sure some might’ve called Charlton Heston a wooden actor, but he at least look the part as Ben-Hur and he made me root for his character. Not so with Douglas, and the romance with Jean Simmons have zero chemistry and the backdrop wallpaper they used for the scene is so awfully fake looking I couldn’t stop laughing!

So apparently Douglas did this movie to show William Wyler that he could do a Roman epic of his own, as he didn’t get the Judah Ben-Hur role he wanted. Per IMDb trivia, he was actually offered the role of Messala but he refused to play second banana. Heh, I thank the Lord he’s NOT part of Ben-Hur, I doubt he could do a better job than Stephen Boyd as Messala, let alone the lead role!! I also think Tony Curtis is completely miscast here as well.

Stanley Kubrick apparently disowned this project as he didn’t have complete creative control over it, well that explained it. Seems that this movie resulted from *too many cooks spoil the broth* syndrome.

The Getaway (1972)

TheGetawayPoster

IMDb rating: 7.5 | RT Score: 85%

This was my intro to Sam Peckinpah as my pal Ted S. LOVES his work. Sorry Ted, but I really don’t like this film, like AT ALL. It’s also my intro into Steve McQueen who’s supposed to be this suave and cool hero, but meh, I find him to be blank and stiff. I saw some clips of him in Bullit and he’s pretty much acting the exact same way. Now, I like a tough, brooding hero as much as the next gal, but there doesn’t seem to be much going on internally in his character to make me care. Same with Ali MacGraw who’s gorgeous but doesn’t really have much going on otherwise, and the romance is as lifeless as a dead fish.

TheGetawaySlappingSceneThis film is labeled a thriller but I don’t find it suspenseful at all. Even the shootout from a supposedly celebrated violent action director is so lackluster and on a few occasion it made me laugh! The color of the blood here looks so obviously fake too which doesn’t help matters. Al Lettieri did look menacing as the villain but for the most part he’s more annoying than scary. Plus the whole creepy sex scene with Sally Struthers, forcing her own husband to watch her cheat with a criminal is just plain revolting. What bothers me most here is the violence against women by not just the villain but the hero, as there’s a scene where McQueen slaps MacGraw several times and I read that he actually did it spontaneously so her reaction looked real. Heh, there’s nothing cool or ‘macho’ about assault of any kind and it’s even more shocking that this film is rated PG!!

Interestingly enough, this is yet another movie disowned by the director himself, as apparently he butted heads with McQueen who wanted a different version of the story and the studio backed the actor.

To Catch A Thief (1955)

ToCatchAThiefPosterIMDb rating: 7.5 | RT Score: 95%

The poster promises ‘shocking suspense and sizzling romance’ but we’ve got neither. Apart from the gorgeous cinematography of the French Riviera – as well as Grace Kelly’s exquisite beauty – this film hasn’t got much to offer. Kelly’s soooo beautiful here that it’s actually distracting, and I was  also distracted by how tanned Cary Grant is in this movie, especially compared to his alabaster co-star. It feels more like a rom-com than a mystery romance, as it lacks any real suspense or even believable chemistry between the two leads. Perhaps the fact that Grant was 50 playing a guy in his mid 30s have something to do with that. It’s almost as tedious as Torn Curtain, another disappointing film from ‘the master of suspense’ director Alfred Hitchcock.

The premise sounds promising on paper and you’d think with this cast, this could’ve been far more entertaining. By the time the twist was revealed, I no longer cared who did what to whom. I suppose this film is worth seeing for the lush scenery and glamorous costumes (done by Edith Head, natch!), but as a film, it’s more window dressing than an intriguing piece.


Well, those are five movies that everyone seem to love but me. What do you think? Let’s hear it!

Question of the week: Actors whose famous role you can’t shake

RDJ_TonyStark

I just reviewed The Judge this weekend and I mentioned how RDJ is playing yet another variety of Tony Stark. He’s always the smartest guy in the room, and always have an arsenal of snarky remarks he can just throw at you at the best opportunity. I’m not just talking about the recent roles he does after Iron Man, but even when I saw Zodiac I still can’t get past his Stark persona. There’s always a hint of that self-assured swagger that’s borderline cocky but somehow still lovable, which is something an actor either has or doesn’t, it’s not something they can teach even at Juilliard or RADA. You know what though, I’m tired of his schtick. As Sati said in her astute comment, his cockiness seems to translate off-screen now that it’s getting on my nerves. No matter how lovable a character, an actor’s job is to be able to pull off a variety of roles convincingly, to make a conscious effort to *disappear* into whatever role they do. I think the bigger/more famous the character is, the more responsibility said actor has to shake that off.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Source: Eccentric Billionaire Tumblr

Now obviously RDJ isn’t the only actor with this kind of predicament, where somehow they can’t escape their most famous role. I think Johnny Depp can’t seem to shake off his Jack Sparrow image either. I’m not saying RDJ or Depp aren’t capable actors because they are, but perhaps their schtick just sticks in the mind longer than others. On the contrary, someone like like say, Christian Bale doesn’t always remind me of Bruce Wayne when he’s playing other roles post-Batman and I don’t get hang up on Maximus in Gladiator whenever I see Russell Crowe on screen.

I guess I’m just curious if anybody else feel the same, whether it’s RDJ or another actor.


So which actor(s) whose famous role you can’t shake? Or perhaps the question should be, actors who can’t shake their most famous role 🙂

Rental Picks: Get the Gringo & The Lone Ranger

TedSaydalavongBanner

Get The Gringo

GetTheGringo_Poster

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

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

GetTheGringoStills

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

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

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


threereels


The Lone Ranger

TheLoneRangerPoster

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

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

LoneRanger_Stills1

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

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

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

LoneRanger_Stills2

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

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

twoandahalfreels

TedSPic


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

A trio of casting news I’m excited about: Karl Urban, Rebecca Hall & Alessandro Nivola

Happy Midweek all!

I’ve got another director-related post nearly ready to go, but I thought I’d share a trio of casting news I heard this week that I’m excited about, all involving three talented underrated actors I’d love to see getting more work. So here goes.

Karl Urban’s cast in JJ Abrams’ futuristic drama pilot for FOX

Casting_KarlUrbanThe idea of seeing the ultra hunky Karl Urban on the TV screen is certainly a very enticing prospect. Deadline reported that after a lengthy negotiations, the 40-year-old New Zealander has closed a deal to star opposite Michael Ealy in Fox‘s untitled J.H. Wyman/J.J. Abrams drama pilot (formerly Inhuman). As you know, Abrams directed Urban as Bones in the Star Trek movie franchise, though I wish Urban had been given more screen time this time around. Anyway, though I’m a bit tired of seeing sooo many procedural shows on TV, I quite like the sound of this one. It’s billed an action-packed buddy cop show set in the near future when all LAPD officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids.

Apparently Urban will play a human cop John Kennex and his partner Dorian (Ealy) is an android cop. Kennex is described as a respected police officer who has shut down emotionally after a tragic mission left him critically injured. The cast of the pilot also includes Lili Taylor and Minka Kelly (meh). Urban’s played a bad ass futuristic cop before in Dredd 3D, I’m just thrilled that this time we could actually see his entire face 😀 The show’ll be produced by Warner Bros TV and Abram’s production company Bad Robot. Let’s hope this one won’t tank like Abrams’ once-promising show Alcatraz.

Rebecca Hall joins Wally Pfister’s directorial debut Transcendence

Casting_RebeccaHall
Oh man, this film’s quickly become one of my most-anticipated for 2014!

Last week I heard that Johnny Depp nabbed the lead role in Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister’s first film, which already has Paul Bettany as well. Fans of Christopher Nolan’s films are certainly familiar with the Chicago native Pfister as he’s the cinematographer in seven of his films, including the Batman trilogy. Last year he was also nominated for his work in Moneyball. This time Nolan lends his support as an executive producer, along with his wife Emma Thomas and Aaron Ryder.

Now they’ve cast Rebecca Hall in the female lead as Depp’s wife in this sci-fi drama. Apparently she beat out Rooney Mara and Emily Blunt for the role (per Collider). Now, what’s this film about? According to IMDb, here’s the premise:

A story centered on a scientist whose brain is uploaded into his creation — a supercomputer with the potential to think for itself — after he is assassinated by anti-technology terrorists.

Hall has worked with Nolan before in The Prestige. I quite like her in that one, and also her work in The Town, Everything Must Go and Starter for 10 with James McAvoy. I personally would rather see her than the other two actresses. I like Blunt but I’m not too fond of Mara, plus those two have been getting more steady work than Hall anyways.

I have high hopes for this one, though it also has a first-time screenwriter Jack Paglen penning the script. For sure it’ll look amazing, but whether or not Wfister’s career as a director will take off or not remains to be seen. It’s set to open on April 25, 2014.
///

Alessandro Nivola joins a stellar cast for David O. Russell’s ABSCAM film

Casting_NivolaNow, last but not least. Nice to see Alessandro Nivola’s name being mentioned in this all-star cast. It’s still in the negotiation stage but I sure hope it would materialize! Per Deadline, Nivola is negotiating to join, get this, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams AND Jennifer Lawrence in the David O Russell-directed drama on the ABSCAM scandal. WOW, what a cast!! I don’t know if all of the cast are confirmed, four of them have gotten accolades (including Oscar) under Russell’s direction before. One interesting cast member is comedian Louis C.K.

Nivola will play Reggio, the federal prosecutor who tried the case in court. The Eric Singer-scripted drama is about the ’70s FBI sting operation Abscam that took down a bunch of U.S. congressmen.

The article also mentions Nivola other project he’s just wrapped that also sounds intriguing: Atom Egoyan-directed Devil’s Knot, a drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth. He plays Terry Hobbs, a stepfather of one of the three murdered children, who later became a focus of suspicion though he has denied any part in the triple murder and has not been brought up on charges. Glad to see Nivola getting more work, I mean people seems to only know him as Pollux Troy in Face/Off! He’s actually quite versatile, he was very good in Laurel Canyon, Mansfield Park, Junebug, and Coco Before Chanel. Those are pretty diverse roles and he pulled off every single one convincingly. He even sang in Junebug and he has a nice voice!


Well, what do you think about any of these actors and/or projects? Any one of them appeal to you?

I watched the Superbowl for the trailers… specifically Star Trek Into Darkness & The Lone Ranger

Superbowl2013I barely watched the Superbowl, maybe only for 5 minutes when the Baltimore Ravens’ QB threw a 40+ yards touchdown pass. I’ve only watched the biggest sporting game show for the ads, and now that I’ve got a movie blog, for the movie trailers! The power outage cracked me out though, someone tweeted that he’s expecting Bane to come out, ahah. Yeah it probably could be happen in the next superhero flick. Anyway, Congrats Baltimore Ravens … and Ray Lewis, what a way to end his NFL career!

Well, a boat load of trailers were released during the game, and two starring Dwayne Johnson: Snitch and Fast & Furious 6, neither one is my cup of tea. Then there’s Iron Man 3, Oz the Great and Powerful, and World War Z. I’m curious about Oz but the trailer isn’t that much different from the one I’ve posted here.

Now, these two on the other hand, got me quite excited and I wish this were released this weekend instead of in two months time!

Star Trek Into Darkness – Super Bowl TV Spot

After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

StarTrekTrailerStill

I’m no trekkie but I love JJ Abram’s Star Trek movie. It was just so fun to watch and I quite like Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk. Now we’ve got a nemesis that should match his know-it-all “I am better at everything” cockiness, in the form of the BBC Sherlock‘s Benedict Cumberbatch. LOVE his gorgeous voice narrating this trailer and though I’m bummed not seeing Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy in the trailer.

Not sure who Benedict’s character is exactly… Khan or no Khan… it really doesn’t matter much to me. I expect this to be yet another entertaining action flick (and more lens flares of course! :D) Curious to see if Pine and Cumberbatch would have a mano-a-mano in the movie.

“Shall we begin?”

Why yes! Too bad we still have to wait until 17 May 2013!!



The Lone Ranger Game Day Spot

Native American spirit warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.

DeppHammerTheLoneRanger

This looks like the quintessential buddy flick a la Lethal Weapon. Armie Hammer is becoming an actor I like to see on screen as he’s proven to be more than a pretty face, and I think he has the charisma of a leading man. Now surely that’s quite tough to do when you’ve got such a major movie star Johnny Depp as the sidekick Tonto. Depp seems to be right in his element playing a strange looking, wisecracking character, and he seems to have a good chemistry with Hammer. I have to admit I’m not a fan of Gore Verbinski’s most popular franchise Pirates of the Carribean, and I thought Rango was only funny in parts, but this certainly looks promising. Of course Disney also hopes this would be a hit given its hefty $250 mil budget (seriously?!)

Anyway, this trailer is pretty fun to watch. Let’s hope the movie itself will be too!



What do you think of these trailer folks? Feel free to share your favorite Superbowl movie trailers!

Weekend Roundup: Addams Family Musical, Phantom of the Opera, Dark Shadows

Happy Monday all! 

Hope you had a nice weekend. Mine was quite busy but in a good way. For our anniversary celebration, we went to see the Addams Family play on Friday night at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul.

Truth be told, I’m not that familiar with the story nor have I seen the 1991 film version, but the trailer looks like a hoot so I thought, why not. Well fortunately, unlike what the critics think of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, the show itself is as amusing and fun as the preview. Instead of Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth on Broadway, the touring cast of Douglas Sills and Sara Gettelfinger as Gomez and Morticia are both excellent. Sills practically stole the scenes every time he came on stage with his zing-y one liners and impeccable comic timing. I think I’d like him a lot more than Lane in the role.

I quite like musicals, and this weekend I also got to revisit one of my all time favorite musicals, The Phantom of the Opera. I have seen the stage performance twice and I could easily go a few more times as I’m just so in love with the doomed-romance story and its incredibly beautiful music. I even enjoyed the short-run sequel Love Never Dies when it was still playing in London’s Adelphi Theatre, but no, it still can’t hold a candle to the original. No wonder it’s still the highest-grossing entertainment event of all time!

THIS is the role why I’ll forever be a fan of Gerry Butler and remains one of my top five favorite GB roles. He’s been somewhat off my radar lately for one reason or another, but seeing him as the passionate, emotional tortured soul gets me every time. Now, I’m not a fan of Joel Schumacher’s work in general but I’ll always thank him for casting the then unknown Butler over John Travolta and Antonio Banderas who were vying for the Phantom role. I also like his idea of making it a young romance between Christine and the Phantom. Thus, having 16-year-old Emmy Rossum in her first feature film role is inspired casting. There’s certain beguiling innocence about her that makes it so bewitching to watch as she falls for the dark and irresistibly seductive musical genius.

The powerful combination of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s haunting music, the stunning set pieces and Butler’s sultry performance is why I’m an unabashed POTO phan for life. There are just so many favorite scenes that I may just dedicate a post for it one day, but this steamy rendition of The Point of No Return definitely takes the cake.

On Saturday, I got to see Haywire as well which I wanted to watch back in February but it was no longer playing in theaters. Soderbergh, Gina Carano and Channing Tatum was promoting the film at the Hall H panel in Comic-con last year, which piqued my interest. Review coming later this week but in the meantime, check out this guest review from FC contributor Cecilia Rusli:

DARK SHADOWS (2012)

Yes it’s the eighth film where a collaboration between Tim Burton as the director and Johnny Depp as the cast happens. I personally have only watched three of them, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and this Dark Shadows where Johnny Depp has his face painted white just like he did as Willy Wonka.
Dark Shadows is a fantasy film telling about the life of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) which was cursed to be a vampire and buried alive by a witch whose heart is broken by him, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). As always, Tim Burton has this imaginary fantasy in creating characters and ambiance on a film. Fairytale-like, Dark Shadows offers a vampire storyline with a little Twilight-like at some points. However, the comedic scenes by Johnny Depp shows that he’s successful in bringing this vampire movie to a different level.
I personally put my high appreciation on the vintage stuffs I find on the film. First is the soundtrack. Bringing great 70s tunes to the movie is such a superb idea to connect the film which tells about Collins’ life in the 70s. Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues and Top of the World by The Carpenters are the soundtracks I definitely will have on my iPod. Secondly is the wardrobe. I finally find the gorgeous Chloe Moretz back. I was a bit disappointed with her performance on Hugo, but she managed to look fabulous on vintage outfits and awkward personality on Dark Shadows. Lastly, the Collinwood house of the Collins family. The statues, paintings, and decoration at the house did a great job in creating the dark ambiance of the movie.
I still feels that Dark Shadows is not Tim Burton + Johnny Depp’s best collaborations. There are some absurd scenes on the film, some people may find it entertaining or just plain weird. But I actually find nothing special on the storyline, it’s hilarious, but not much… it’s dark, but not strong either. However, it’s still worth to watch for one looking for a light comedy film with great music.
– review by Cecilia Rusli 

3 out of 5 reels


So what did you see this weekend? Anything worth watching?

Actors who are (surprisingly) good singers

Ewan_NicoleMoulinRouge

As is often the case when I’m on YouTube, when I was browsing around to find Keira Knightley’s clip for yesterday’s post, I got sidetracked watching other similar clips. She’s just one of a handful of actors who surprisingly has a pretty decent singing voice. So I decided to list 10 of them that I think are particularly noteworthy. Now, I’m not talking about actors who may have some vocal training unrelated to a film role. Emmy Rossum, for example, who played Christine in Phantom of the Opera, she blew me away with her amazing Soprano but apparently she was trained at the NY Metropolitan Opera. I’m also excluding actors who double as singers/musicians, such as Scarlett Johansson, Russell Crowe with his The Ordinary Fear of God band, Keanu Reeves with Dogstar, and others listed here. But these are contemporary actors who blew us away with their singing voice, despite any vocal training prior to their given movie roles. So here goes:

Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman
I was totally dazzled by both of them in Moulin Rouge, especially by McGregor’s stunning voice. If he were to record an album one day, I’d definitely be the first to buy it! He’s got such amazing control for a non-singer, even during the high notes. His voice is the reason the movie’s soundtrack remains one of my favorites!

……
Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon

Not only did Joaquin and Reese have to sing all the Johnny Cash songs themselves, they also had to learn how to play the musical instruments from scratch. I thought they sounded really good together, not to mention the amazing chemistry between them. According to the movie’s trivia on IMDb, when Joaquin was learning how to sing and play guitar like Johnny Cash in the months following the start of filming, his voice was too high and the band had to learn how to play Cash’s songs in a higher key. But then just before they started filming, Joaquin’s voice dropped closer to John’s level and the band had to re-learn the songs in their original key.

I guess he is destined for a musical career after all, but I never thought in a million years it’d be rap! I certainly hope he’d come to his senses and return to the acting business.


……
Gwyneth Paltrow
I actually never saw Duets, but I heard this song she did with Huey Lewis on the radio and later learned it was indeed her own voice! I thought she sounded far better than actual singers. It’s interesting that she ended up marrying a lead singer of Coldplay. Wonder if she’d ever do a duet with Chris Martin? Nah, I doubt it.

……
Kevin Spacey

We know he’s a great actor, but when I saw him in Beyond the Sea, I thought he could definitely have a musical career if he wanted to. I’m sure the real Bobby Darin (pardon the misspelling earlier)  would’ve been proud, though he apparently died before he reached the actor’s age at the time he played him (44). I recently learned Spacey’s a great impersonator as well. He did a bunch of impersonations (Pacino, Brando, Chris Walken, etc.) during Inside the Actor’s Studio interview, and completely nailed every single one of them.

……
Gerard Butler
I’ve been listening to Andrew Llyod Webber’s music for as long as I can remember, but the second I heard Gerry sing the Music of the Night, I was done for. He may not have the best vocal chops, but there’s something about the way he sang each song that was so mesmerizing. In fact, I now prefer Gerry’s version of the Phantom songs than that of Michael Crawford’s!

He’s said in many interviews that he took vocal lessons as soon as he was considered (though not yet confirmed) for the role, and continued practicing the songs even during filming Dear Frankie. My favorite part is in the DVD deleted scene when he sang No One Would Listen.

Here’s also a clip from P.S. I Love You where he sang I Love You ‘Til The End. I don’t care what critics say about this film but I LOVE this film, and it’s one of Gerry’s best roles IMO (yes, playing a character also named Gerry no less!)

……
Val Kilmer
Most people probably know Kilmer is a good singer from playing Jim Morrison in The Doors. But I first heard him sing in this WWII spy movies parody Top Secret! where he played an American rock and roll singer Nick Rivers. His comic skills and vocals are amazing, he even got the Elvis moves down pat!


……
Kate Winslet
Apparently there’s few this multi-talented actress can’t do. Winslet sang this beautiful, melancholic song in Sense & Sensibility, where Col. Brandon first saw and fell in love with her. I thought she sounded really good even without a full orchestra behind her. She also sung in the musical comedy Romance & Cigarettes along with James Gandolfini.

……
Johnny Depp
Though he’s been a guitar player in several bands, according to IMDb, Sweeney Todd marked the first time he’d ever publicly sung in his life. This wasn’t Depp’s first musical, but his voice was actually dubbed in Cry Baby. To prepare for Sweeney’s role, he often practiced singing the songs during filming the third Pirates movie.


……


I’m sure I’m forgetting some important people here. Please do chime in if you think of other actors that belong in this list.