Trailer Spotlight: THE RHYTHM SECTION (2020)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!! I’ve been meaning to do a trailer post but somehow kept getting sidetracked. Now, since I’ll be seeing The Rhythm Section tonight, and am quite excited about it, I thought I’d post it today.

Stephanie Patrick veers down a path of self-destruction after a tragic plane crash kills her family. When Stephanie discovers it wasn’t an accident, she soon embarks on a bloody quest for revenge to punish those responsible.

I have a thing for international spy thrillers, I like the cast and the trailer looked promising. Based on a novel by Mark Burnell, who also wrote the screenplay, and produced by EON Productions, the film company known for producing the James Bond films. I’ve been a big fan of Blake Lively, I think she’s a charismatic and versatile actress. I’ve seen her in four films so far, The Town, Age of Adaline, The Shallows, A Simple Favor, and she’s good in all of them. We already know Lively can play a believable femme fatale, but here, perhaps she can display her prowess as an action heroine.

Jude Law‘s grown to be a reliable character actor over the years, and Sterling K. Brown is undeniably a fantastic actor. He’s amazing in WAVES, too bad somehow he’s overlooked this award season. Looks like he’s playing Lively’s love interest in this one based on a glimpse of the trailer? Oooh yeah!

I’m also excited the fact that it’s helmed by a female director, Reed Moreno. This is Moreno’s third film after Meadowland and I Think We’re Alone Now, where she did double duty as director and DP. In fact, you might have seen her outstanding work as a cinematographer in Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings, The Skeleton Twins. For her work directing the pilot for HBO’sThe Handmaid’s Tale, she won both the DGA and Emmy award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. I haven’t seen her directing work yet, so I’m super excited to see this. This time she’s working with DP Sean Bobbitt who garnered many accolades for 12 Years Of Slave.

One worrisome part is the fact that the film’s release date was delayed at least twice. Per IMDb Trivia, it was originally scheduled for a February 22, 2019 release, before being delayed ten months, apparently because Lively got injured on set. Then it’s finally ready for release later this Friday, January 31. I’ll give this one the benefit of the doubt though, let’s hope this one wouldn’t be a typical January dud.


What are your thoughts of The Rhythm Section trailer?

FlixChatter Review: CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019)

I think it goes without saying that Captain Marvel is an important milestone. It’s not the first movie featuring a female superhero, but it’s the first out of the gate out of the behemoth Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Honestly, I try to tune out the buzz around this movie, something that’s getting increasingly difficult in the social media age. I only watched the trailer twice and didn’t read anything else, preferring to go into this movie as ‘blindly’ as possible.

The movie takes place in the mid 90s and the movie starts off in a planet called Hala, part of the Kree Empire. A woman called Vers (Brie Larson) is suffering from recurring nightmares with visions of an older woman. Her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Benning), some kind of AI being that rules Kree, keeps telling her to keep her emotions in check. Vers doesn’t remember who she is, and we’re not told as to why she suffers from amnesia (if that is even the case). As I’m not familiar with the comics, it’s all a bit bewildering, and perhaps that’s intentional given the state of disorientation that Vers find herself in.

Soon we get to see a battle sequence between the Kree undercover soldiers and their longtime enemy, the alien shapeshifters known as the Skrulls. My mind wanders a bit as more fight and action stuff happen on screen … until Vers ends up in a pod heading to Planet C-53, then crash landed in a very familiar place, earth. I won’t spoil where she lands exactly, though it’s actually in the trailers. In any case, I perk up again when I see S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, still two-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), both have been digitally de-aged considerably. I feel that the movie’s pace gets more interesting once Vers and Fury team up, and along the way we meet Goose the cat. I think I can watch an entire hour of just Fury and Goose, they’re quite the unlikely friends I never knew I needed!!

It’s no surprise that Vers has a past life on earth. We just don’t know who is she exactly and who woman the woman is who’s been in her dreams (or is it actually a memory?) Fury and Vers discovered that Vers is actually Carol Danvers and she was a U.S. Air Force pilot who’s been presumed dead for six years. The key to who she really is lies in her bestie Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and some of my favorite moments happen in her New Orleans’ home, involving the Skrull leader Talos (seriously, can’t they pick a name more dissimilar from Thanos??), played brilliantly by Ben Mendelsohn. One thing I like about this movie is how it plays with my expectations as to who the real enemy is. I guess comic fans might already figured that part out, but to a casual fan like me, I thought that part is handled well.

Overall I think Captain Marvel is a fun addition to the MCU canon. However, I can’t help but wish I liked her character more by the end of the movie. Now, before you accuse me of not being supportive of the first MCU female superhero, please hear me out. As a female filmmaker AND a female film critic, naturally I want to root for this movie and I do recognize its importance in the genre. Yet something is wanting… by the time the end credits rolled, I just didn’t feel emotionally-connected to her the way I did with say, Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman, or even other characters in MCU… Captain America, Black Panther, Tony Stark, Black Widow, even Thor who’s also an alien being. I’m not comparing these movies, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but given the importance of Captain Marvel to the MCU as a whole and to Avengers: Endgame specifically, I think it’s fair to expect something more impactful.

I do want to say that Brie Larson is a terrific actress and I can’t really imagine another actress who’d be perfect for the job. Yet her character arc isn’t really compelling …there wasn’t much transformation before and after she discovered her real identity. Perhaps if Danvers had started out being a bit more lost or downcast as a result of her amnesia, her character might’ve been more impactful. I think the biggest opportunity for emotional resonance is in the relationship between Danvers and Maria, and even with Talos towards the end. Yet their scenes barely tug my heartstrings the way Steve Rogers and Bucky’s friendship did in the first Captain America. Actually, the only part I teared up a bit was when the movie paid tribute to the late Stan Lee.

Goose the cat stole every scene it’s in!

Performance-wise, there’s an effortless chemistry between Captain Marvel and Nick Fury that’s really fun to watch. Goose the cat is obviously a hoot, which is quite a feat given how challenging it must be to direct cats to do anything! I’m not particularly fond of Annette Benning’s casting here, though I adore her as an actress. She seems like she wanted to laugh every time she uttered her lines which I find distracting. Jude Law is pretty memorable though Ben Mendelsohn is much more the scene-stealer.

Ben Mendehlson as Skrull leader Talos

I do have to give props to the duo filmmakers, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck for tackling such a difficult character to begin with (more on that in a bit), especially since this is Captain Marvel’s first intro ever in the MCU. At least with Wonder Woman, we had at least seen her as part of the DC superheroes in Batman v Superman before she got her standalone movie. The filmmakers embraced the weirdness nature of Danver’s character and origin story, and gives the movie a the funky retro vibe and an overall lightness in tone. I also appreciate the fact that there isn’t a romantic plot in her story which I find refreshing. I’m not against it if it’s organic to the story, but in this case it’s just unnecessary.

The highlights for me are the humorous scenes involving Fury, Goose and Talos. Given that I grew up in the 90s, the retro set pieces are quite amusing… I smile gleefully imagining Millennial moviegoers watching all those ‘ancient’ technology such as pager, computer CD drive, modem, etc as if those are relics from the past… man, those are stuff I had to use in college! As far as the retro soundtrack goes, the fact that we’ve heard it before in the Guardians movies, the novelty’s sort of worn off by now.

I think what makes Captain Marvel an inherently tricky character to bring to life is that she’s so mega powerful. Many filmmakers often speak of how difficult it is to tackle an all-powerful character like Superman and make him/her relatable. Even the Russo Brothers chimed in about that very topic in this article, which makes me really curious to see how they handle the Captain Marvel character in the final Avengers movie. The way she’s depicted here, she’s practically indestructible and there are a bunch of scenes showcasing her immense superpower. The more power she exerts, the less interested I was in her character (and the movie). The action scenes are largely unmemorable, and it’s also lacking a single sequence that truly stand out (i.e. the Fury car chase in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, No Man’s Land battle scene in Wonder Woman). Given Disney’s mega budget, I expect the special effects to be top notch and they are, but by the third act I find them to be a bit too long and too bombastic for my liking.

In the end, how I feel for Captain Marvel is a testament to the fact that MCU has been consistently churning out good movies. Of course some are better than others but the recent ones, especially those helmed by the Russos, have set the bar high. It’s quite telling that I was more giddy watching the first post-credit scene than I was in the entire movie. Let’s just say I’m now even more excited for Avengers: Endgame than ever before! So while this movie has its moments, it just wasn’t the trailblazing movie I expected to introduce such a powerful super-heroine.


Have you seen CAPTAIN MARVEL yet? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

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Review by: Laura Schaubschlager

I just saw Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and once again, I have to separate my feelings as a die-hard 20-year-long Harry Potter fan from my thoughts as a movie critic. While I have a lot of gripes about how lazy J.K. Rowling‘s later additions and retcons to the Wizarding World canon have been, how parts of the timelines between the books and these movies don’t line up, and how casting an alleged domestic abuser as a lead in a movie whose source material has a main character who regularly suffers domestic abuse is messed up, I need to focus on this movie as just that–a movie. Fortunately, this second installment in the five-part series gives me plenty to work with on its own.

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, directed by David Yates, picks up nearly a year after the end of the first film’s events. The sinister criminal wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes captivity and flees to Paris to rally more supporters and continue manipulating Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), the sensitive orphaned teen with a mysterious and dangerous background. Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruits his former student and magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to find and help Credence before Grindelwald can get to him.

As with the first Fantastic Beasts movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald has a serious pacing problem. I had hoped that once they decided to expand the series from three to five movies it would improve, since they now have two more films to spread out the story, but it’s just worse. They try to fit in too many subplots and character backstories without enough time to develop them, so they feel forced and lazy.

The plots and subplots include: Newt’s continued research of magical creatures (you know, what you’d expect a film series titled FANTASTIC BEASTS to mostly focus on) and his mission to save Credence per Dumbledore’s request with the help of wizard cop and maybe more-than-friend Tina (Katherine Waterston), as well as their strained relationship over a misunderstanding; Grindelwald’s plotting to take over the wizarding world; non-wizard Jacob (Dan Fogler) regaining his memory after having it wiped in the first movie (which happens entirely off screen) and having a rocky relationship with mind-reading witch Queenie (Alison Sudol); Queenie’s wavering loyalty and growing attraction to Grindelwald’s side; Credence’s relationship with the cursed serpentine shapeshifter Nagini (Claudia Kim), their background at a sketchy wizard circus, and their search for Credence’s birth mother; the love triange between Newt, his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and Theseus’s fiance/Newt’s former flame Leta Lestrange (Zöe Kravitz), and Leta’s dark family backstory, filled in by enigmatic wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam). There’s a good chance I forgot some smaller subplots. That’s a LOT to include in a two hour and thirteen minute-long movie, and because of that, it all feels underdeveloped and hastily explained.

While the writing is a major issue, there are still good parts of this movie. The acting is still mostly strong, especially the core four. Fogler is delightful as Jacob, Redmayne is charming as Newt, Waterston is excellent but underused as Tina, and Sudol does well with what she’s given as Queenie, considering her character feels dumber and more easily manipulated than she was set up to be in the first movie. Jude Law is a great new addition to the cast and is wonderful as a younger Dumbledore. Ezra Miller and Claudia Kim feel a little wooden in their performances, but that might be because of how little they’re given dialogue-wise. Zoe Kravitz gives an understated but emotional performance; while her backstory is poorly handled, she does a great job in the role. The weakest link acting-wise is absolutely Johnny Depp, whose performance feels so half-assed. Depp himself has admitted he’s had a sound engineer feed his lines to him through an earpiece for some movies (he claims it allows him to “act better with his eyes”), and it definitely feels like he did that here, and no amount of “eye acting” can save this performance. I’m still baffled at this casting decision; it feels like the filmmakers thought “Well, he was famous for playing exaggerated characters a decade or two ago, so let’s go with him.” I really wish they had kept Colin Farrell, who was much better as a disguised Grindelwald in the first movie; he’s just as menacing but much more subtle than Depp could ever be.

As with the first movie, this film’s biggest strength is the visuals. The CGI is gorgeous, and the design for the magical creatures is beautifully imaginative; I especially like the zouwu, an enormous lion-like beast Newt finds in Paris. We see some new creatures in Newt’s workspace at the beginning as well, and I really wish there had been more focus there, because there’s so much to look at. Some familiar creatures from the last film make appearances too, including the gold-sniffing niffler, and I don’t care how overused for cheap laughs he is, because he is SO CUTE and if you want to see me cry, just play the scene with an injured niffler dejectedly limping out of the wreckage of the fight toward the end of the film on a loop, and if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas, Barnes and Noble sells niffler stuffed animals-ahem, sorry. In addition to the stunning CGI, the costumes, hair, and makeup in this film is mostly lovely too, with the exception of Grindelwald’s watered-down Tim Burton-style villain look. Overall, I love the late-30’s aesthetic, and it blends well with the wizarding fashion.

I really wish this series had stuck to what the title promised: Newt’s adventures searching for fantastic beasts. If the focus had been on that, with Grindelwald’s rise to power as a B-plot (with some eventual overlap with the A-plot), it would have been so much easier to pace and develop. Unfortunately, J.K. Rowling continues to forget that writing screenplays isn’t the same as writing a series of 300 to 800-page novels. I know I’ll end up seeing the rest of Fantastic Beasts movies out of a sense of fan obligation, but as pretty as they are, my expectations are low for the future films.


Have you seen the latest ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: SPY (2015)

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I have a confession to make. I haven’t seen Bridesmaids nor any of Melissa McCarthy’s R-rated comedies The Heat, Identity Thief, and Tammy. I’m not exactly fond of raunchy comedies with all the foul language and gross situations that I don’t find the least bit funny. But somehow when I saw the trailer for SPY, I was laughing so hard I actually watched it several times before the screening. I guess I love the spy action genre, and the casting of Jason Statham and Jude Law didn’t hurt either. Once the movie starts though, it’s clear that it’s McCarthy who’s the STAR of the show, she’s effortlessly hysterical and here she’s instantly likable. I was rooting for her character Susan Cooper right from the start, when she’s merely a desk-bound CIA analyst who’s desperately in love with a handsome spy (Jude Law).

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The story itself is pretty basic. When an operation goes bust, Cooper ends up volunteering to be a field agent and of course, hilarity ensues as she goes undercover to infiltrate the dangerous world of a deadly arms dealer. Just like any Bond or Bond-like movie, of course her mission is to prevent a psychopath villain from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon and save the world. But the plot hardly matters in a movie like this, so long as they keep the comedic moments coming and thankfully they did! Perhaps the fact that I’m not all that familiar with Paul Feig‘s brand of comedy works in my favor as at least it felt fresh to me.

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McCarthy herself is such a hoot here, she delivers the laugh from start to finish. It helps to see her paired with someone equally hilarious. Not sure why English comedienne Miranda Hart looks familiar to me as I’ve never seen her before, but I hope she’d get her own movie in the future. She’s simply hysterical and they have such a fun rapport together. If they ever do a movie or TV show with Melissa & Miranda together, I’d so watch it!

As a big 007 fan, of course I love all the Bond references, down to the moment when they go to the Q-branch to get her spy gadgets. The movie’s villainess comes in the form of gorgeous Rose Byrne. I’ve only seen her in a couple of non-comedic roles but she definitely has genuine comic timing. I remember McCarthy said in one of her interviews that Rose’s hair is basically a character in itself and it sure is! Her character is deliberately over the top but she also has some of the funniest bits in the movie “It’s the Bulgarian clown in you.” Ha!

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The casting of Jason Statham may seem odd but he got his start in an Guy Ritchie’s action comedy (Lock, Stock Two Smoking Barrels & Snatch) so he’s actually quite a natural here. Of course it’s a hoot seeing him poking fun at himself and a bunch of preposterous action scenes he’s been in. The bit where he’s bragging about surviving all kinds of ridiculous calamity is pure comedic gold! Allison Janney with her deadpan expression is pretty funny too as the no-nonsense CIA boss.

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Now, I’ve mentioned that I’m not fond of raunchy, foul-mouthed comedies and so of course there are scenes here I don’t care for. Seriously, those selfies of male genitalia is imbecile, gross and utterly unnecessary. I really don’t think it adds anything to make the movie funnier, and neither are the excessive f-bombs though sadly most people have become desensitized to such things these days. I’m also not that impressed by Bobby Cannavale (Byrne’s real life boyfriend) as this suave but deadly arms dealer. His character is too much of a caricature, so I guess I have more of an issue about how he’s written. Byrne’s character is definitely far more memorable and more fun to watch.

Despite those quibbles, I had fun with this one and I might even rent this later.I might also give The Heat a watch as it also has Sandra Bullock who’s always fun to watch. This movie made me like Melissa McCarthy and I think it’s great that her movies are box office hits! It’s about time we see guys like Statham and Law playing second and third bananas to her, and that we see more and more female-centric movies in general.

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Have you seen SPY? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects

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This supposedly Steven Soderbergh‘s last feature film wasn’t even on my radar, in fact I just saw the trailer the day of the screening a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad I didn’t know anything about this movie and I think the less you read or watch about it the better. In fact, when I went to the screening, the press associate said the studio won’t allow anyone to be admitted to the theater once the film has begun, saying that the opening scene is so key to the plot that showing up late would surely lessen the viewing experience for the viewer.

The opening scene takes place in what looks to be a luxury apartment in Manhattan, belonging to a well-to-do couple Emily (Rooney Mara) and Martin (Channing Tatum). Emily’s husband has just gotten out of jail where he spent a four-year term for insider trading. She should be overjoyed, right? But instead she’s afflicted with recurring bout of depression and suicidal behavior. The doctor who ends up treating her, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), proceeds to prescribe her an anti-depressant. But when a regular drug isn’t enough, he gives her a new one that just came out in the market called Ablixa, suggested by Emily’s former shrink, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The drug perks Emily up for a while — much to the delight of her husband – but then the drug’s supposed side effect ends up creating more problems than its worth.

At least that’s what Soderbergh wants you to think. When people first saw the trailer or even reading the premise involving a pharmaceutical corporation, they might immediately think of Contagion (which was also written by Scott Z. Burns). Other than the medical-related theme, it can’t be more dissimilar. Soderbergh is known for experimenting on his projects and this one is no different.

As the story progresses, we realize more and more that everyone and everything are not who/what they seem. The character focus alternates between Emily and Dr. Banks, who apparently has some issues on his own and a past incident that catches up with him. The narrative pretty much shifts from being a character study to a whodunnit Hitchcockian thriller laden with plot twists. I find the first act to be much more intriguing, but its um, potency kind of wears off in the second act, recovered slightly in the third though the lurid twist is a bit eye-roll inducing.

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I think Side Effects is a deftly-constructed thriller, it’s packed with clever camera work, shrewd acting and appropriately moody atmosphere (thanks largely to Thomas Newman‘s ominous score). Yet somehow the film fails to engage me. Not to mention the lack of emotional connection with any of the characters, made worse by the decidedly morose and unsettling tone of the entire film. A few commenters in the Five for the Fifth post pointed out how some Soderbergh’s films are emotionally-cold, and this one is a perfect example. There is not a single character that I can truly empathize with, maybe Banks’ wife (played by the underrated Vinessa Shaw), who has to put up with her husband’s antics. By the end I feel that they get what they deserve, if only they happen much sooner.

We’ve got another killer heroine from Soderbergh. Instead of the bad-ass action hero in Haywire, this time we’ve got a slightly more rounded character — and more unhinged – but still equally detached. Performance-wise, I think Mara was given the most material to work with and she’s able to tackle the contrasting personalities her character requires. I’ve only seen her in The Social Network, which was brief but memorable. She’s definitely a gifted performer and her glacial aura is put to good use here. Her blank expression suggest there’s something lurking, enhancing the chilling effect. At the same time, her lack of warmth makes it impossible to root for her. Jude Law is pretty good here as he’s the co-lead of the film, a much more sympathetic character despite his flaws. I must say that Law doesn’t have quite have that star quality so when the narrative is focused on him, he doesn’t exactly lights up the screen. All I could say for Zeta-Jones is that perhaps she’s inspired by her husband’s choice of role in his next film when she signed up for this role.

Final Thoughts: Unpredictable? Perhaps. Absorbing? Not really.

Despite the roller-coaster ride that Soderbergh set up for the viewers, this film left me rather underwhelmed. I glanced at my watch a few times as I was watching it, which is never a good sign. I didn’t see some of the twists coming but yet when it happened, I wasn’t all that surprised either. The revelation itself seemed a little too neat that it doesn’t quite pack a punch. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a decent thriller, but it doesn’t leave a level of greatness I expect from Burns and Soderbergh pairing.

Judging from the reaction about his pending retirement, I know a lot of people are disappointed by that and wish the director would stay around. Well pardon me for being indifferent.

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As Tyson has eloquently put in his A Call To Arms post, would you be so kind as to use one of the share buttons below to share my post? I’d sincerely appreciate it. Share… it’s what makes the blogs go around 😀


Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina

Thanks to my friend Julian who told me about the trailer via Twitter, I had forgotten that I was going to do a spotlight post on this film when I first picked up the novel. I still have not finished the Leo Tolstoy masterpiece, still stuck at about the halfway mark. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish it, it’s really quite a heavy book about Russian aristocratic society on top of the obvious tragic love story, but watching the trailer actually makes me think I shouldn’t give up on it, yet.

Before I get into the casting and overall thoughts on this adaptation, first check out the poster and the trailer below:

CASTING

Firstly, let me confess that I’m not exactly sold on Keira Knightley‘s casting. The trailer doesn’t exactly change my mind. In fact, I’m already bored looking at her here, I don’t know if I can watch two hours of her being gloom and doom, suffering in the name of love.

I wasn’t sure who I’d rather see in her place, but now I think perhaps Mélanie Laurent, the French actress who was in Inglourious Basterds and most recently in Beginners. She actually look like she could be Russian and she has that melancholy yet mysterious look about her. Plus she’s not as well-known as the pouty-mouthed Keira, which would’ve made it fresher. Alas, Joe Wright apparently loves working with the English actress, this will mark his third project with Knightley after Pride & Prejudice and Atonement.

Now, the casting of Aaron Johnson piqued my interest, he’s wowed me in a couple of things he’s done, particularly as young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy. At only 22, there’s something so sensual about this young man, such virility and vigor. But there’s also restlessness and unworldliness that he seems to be able to inhabit as Vronsky, which as you know in the book would lead to the downfall of their torrid romance. Not sure he pulls off the mustache look though, I’m just not fond of it and I find it quite distracting. Funny how reading it in the book is quite different than seeing the character on screen. I almost wish Wright would take creative liberty and forgo the mustache on Vronsky, I mean he’s taking a bunch of creative license on the story anyhow.

Now on to the wronged husband Alexei Karenin. In the book he’s described as not being much to look at, so initially I was baffled at Jude Law‘s casting. I mean he’s as far away from ‘ugly’ as you can get, in fact he’s perhaps one of the most beautiful man in the world, so props for the make-up people to actually make him look unattractive enough.

Interesting to see Keira’s Mr. Darcy, Matthew MacFadyen appearing as Anna’s brother, Oblonsky. Other notable British cast include Emily Watson, Olivia Williams and up-and-comer Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s son) as Levin, whose story parallel Anna’s in the book.

STORY

Anna Karenina is the quintessential doomed love story. A married woman falls in love with a dashing and wealthy calvary officer and must pay the price of being shunned by society for her actions.

What I find complex about the book is the double plot, as I mentioned above, the story of Anna & Vronsky and that of Constantin Levin. Naturally the film will focus more on Anna’s crumbling marriage and infidelity, so in a way it’s a simplification but digestible version of Tolstoy’s epic Russian saga. What I love about it is the rich characters and how Tolstoy create such complex and nuanced characters, there’s no simple hero/heroine or villain. In fact, Anna is a deeply flawed protagonist, at times it’s hard for me to root for her.

As much as I admire Tolstoy’s meticulous attention to detail, I also find it frustrating and overwhelming, I mean he’d go on and on Levin’s agricultural interest, all that details about 19th century farming is over-indulgent. Especially when the first intimate encounter between the two forbidden lovers is skipped over completely. Judging from the trailer though, we’ll likely see lots of heaving bosoms, longing glances and steamy trysts in this passionate adaptation. The screenplay is written by Oscar-winner Tom Stoppard who won Best Screenplay for Shakespeare in Love.

STYLE

Now this is one area this movie won’t be lacking. Even right from the opening sequence with the conductor directing a stage performance, we can expect a lush, lavish, and gorgeous movie that’ll transport us to 19th century Russia where everyone speaks with a British accent 😀 I love vintage train stations and surely there’ll be as many scenes set there as in various palatial locations.

The costume design and set pieces are beautiful to look at. Waif-looking Keira certainly wears the period costumes well and Wright knows how to light her and frame her in such a dramatic way. It reminds me a bit of Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence in terms of all that pent-up longing, and it makes heartache looks so appealing, ahah. I think Wright might give Baz Luhrmann a run for his money in the style department.

Overall Thoughts 

I was intrigued initially but this trailer doesn’t quite move me. I teared up every time I saw the Les Miserables trailer but not with this one, somehow Keira just leaves me cold. Even the poster with the words ‘AN EPIC STORY OF LOVE’ emblazoned under the two doomed lovers just seems so corny. Overselling it a bit? I mean, the only *epic* thing to me is the visuals. Perhaps I’m a bit fatigue from seeing all the costumed drama being released this year — The Great Gatsby, Les Miserables are also out around the Holiday season.

I do like this genre mind you, and I’m a fan of Joe Wright’s work [saves for the manipulative The Soloist], but this feels like too much style over substance, which is the same fear I have for the similarly opulent-themed Baz Luhrman movie that’s also based on a celebrated book. Granted Wright’s first two period dramas were highly acclaimed, so perhaps this one would follow in that footsteps? We shall see. But right now, I’m not sure I’d see this one on the big screen.


What say you, folks? Thoughts on this Anna Karenina adaptation, particularly on casting?

Guest Review – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Hello all, today’s review comes courtesy of Andy from the blog Ramblings of A Minnesota Movie Geek. Isn’t that an awesome name or what? Andy is a self-confessed geek in every sense of the word. Need proof? Well, he signs off his email with ‘May the Force Be With You’ 😀 He’s currently consumed by his TV watching, but when he did have time for some movies, he’s kind enough to send me a review to share with all you fine FlixChatter readers, so here you go:

Sherlock squaring off against Moriarty. Now that premise alone sold my ticket. This is Moriarty, ladies and gentlemen, Sherlock’s dark reflection, the one man who is just as clever as him, if not more, always one or more steps ahead of the ‘game’, merciless, brilliant. Any tale that has these two locked in intellectual (and eventual physical) battle should be something extraordinary. Ultimately, A Game of Shadows doesn’t quite reach that. In fact, the movie doesn’t seem entirely concerned with the story at all, which is good news for fans of the Sherlock/Watson banter which is given the classic sequel ‘more more more’ treatment, but is detrimental to the overall quality of the film. I wanted Sherlock vs. Moriarty, a battle of the minds as they constantly try to outsmart the other, and I wanted a real sense of jeopardy to every action – hell, every scene, because that’s what a Moriarty story deserves.

A Game of Shadows has plenty of moments of fun, loads of them. The much loved Sherlock and Watson relationship that was so central, no doubt, in making the first film hugely successful, is greatly expounded upon with delicious results. No exaggeration: Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law’s chemistry and complete bromance rules this movie every second they’re together. And rightfully so. In summary with those two, Sherlock and Watson are handled perfectly here. The filmmakers having their friendship down, but they’re not the ones who make Game of Shadows a movie that I was really, really, really looking forward to. No, that was – in case you couldn’t tell – the sinister mastermind Moriarty, and he arrives in the Hollywood ‘reimagined’ world with mixed results.

Jared Harris as Moriarty was good, he was solid, but he wasn’t great. That’s not to fault Harris, I feel, but instead the script. Harris portrays Moriarty with that cool, calm, restrained demeanor, very much in control of his emotions, his words, all his faculties. Plus Harris just looks like a man who has this wide web of a plot in his noggin’. But the script doesn’t allow Moriarty to come across as anything uber-spectacular (except the final Sherlock/Moriarty confrontation, which is nothing short of extraordinary and one of my favorite scenes of 2011), or rather, a force to be reckoned with. At one point, Moriarty breaches cliché, as he tortures one of our protagonists while singing along with classical opera. It’s not creepy or unnerving as the filmmakers may have intended, unfortunately. With the right script, Jared Harris could make the Moriarty of our generation. But for now, I’ll settle with a really, really good one.

To continue the ‘more, more, more’ vibe of Hollywood sequels, director Guy Ritchie is sadly not immune to that trend. Slow motion is used far too frequently, and not always necessarily. That said, one instance of Ritchie using slow mo to great extent is the Sherlock vs. Moriarty face off before the climax, as the two adversaries size up what action they’re about to take. In the same way Ritchie gives us ‘Sherlock Vision’, where he anticipates his opponents moves and how he’ll respond accordingly, we have Moriarty utilize the same skills against Sherlock, making that final scene a tense one, as they both seem even matched. Ritchie’s style is now a trademark of the franchise, and overall, it works. It’s much of the same as the first one, so all I’ll say is that when the inevitable third one enters production, he tries to change it up a bit, give us something new.

Ultimately, where this movie falters is the screenplay. It’s the source of Moriarty’s lack of badassery, and also the source of making this movie not all that engaging and, dare I say, confusing. By the last two bits, I mean this: Sherlock Holmes stories are first and foremost mysteries. It’s the unraveling of these mysteries that drive Sherlock stories, that make them so damn fun to watch. The BBC series Sherlock understands this, and masterfully delivers equal weight of interesting mysteries and highly enjoyable Holmes/Watson scenes. As for A Game of Shadows, I spent more time wondering what the hell was going on and why the characters were doing what they were doing. The plot, and how Point A connects to Point B and that connects to Point C, it just all seemed lazily pieced together, almost like an afterthought. In the end, the strength of the Sherlock/Watson relationship made the lacking script sufferable. A second viewing of the movie some time ago helped clear a few of the plot-points up, but there was still that feeling of disinterest. Furthermore, the side of me that wanted a battle between Sherlock and Moriarty on a grand scale – well, what the writers came up with, didn’t so much deliver on that expectation.

You might have noticed neither the lovely ladies Noomi Rapace or Rachel McAdams have been mentioned thus far. Thing is, they’re hardly in the movie. One more than the other, but even then, she doesn’t make that much of an impact, sadly enough. This leads in to me saying Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is pretty damn decent entertainment. If what you’re looking for is to have a blast watching Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law banter back and forth and have some spectacular action-y adventures, this film absolutely delivers. If you, like me, wanted a battle royale of the minds between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, then it doesn’t fully deliver the goods. But what we have here is a movie very much in the same spirit as Sherlock Holmes (2009), with high points and low points, and if you even seminally liked that flick, you’re going to enjoy the hell out of this one. See y’all for the third one!

3 out of 5 reels

So have you seen this movie? Please do let us know what you think.