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? 

FlixChatter Review: DUNKIRK (2017)

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After three super hero and two sci-fi films, Christopher Nolan is ready to tackle a war genre. Of the current well-known directors working in Hollywood today, Nolan might be the most popular among movie fans. He’s able to secure $150mil for his latest picture and he didn’t need to cast any big named stars to be appear in it.

In the summer of 1940, German forces successfully marched forward with their plan to take over Europe. Many British and French soldiers were forced to leave Dunkirk but help isn’t coming as fast they should. As the film begins, we see young British soldiers being ambushed by unseen enemies, one of them named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) was able to escape. He ran into some of his fellow soldiers named Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles). They want to leave Dunkirk and will do anything to get away and avoid their commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh). We then see a civilian named Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his son make their way into Dunkirk to help rescue the soldiers. While in the air, pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) are trying to shoot down the German planes that have been dropping bombs on the soldiers and rescuing boats.

Nolan, who also wrote the film, decided to tell the story in a non-linear way. We saw three perspectives of the event, from land, air and sea. Personally, I thought the way he constructed the story is work of genius. There have been so many WWII films through the years and I’m glad to see Nolan decided to make something that really hasn’t been done before when it comes to this genre. Shooting the film in 65mm, including IMAX cameras, this is a film that needs to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. Nolan mentioned that he wants the audience to experience what those soldiers experienced and I thought he achieved that task. Since it’s based on a real event, I was worried that Nolan might glamorize the battle scenes, thankfully that didn’t happen. The action scenes were not something I would called “entertaining” but the aerial battle sequences were great to see on the big screen.

Performances were great all around. Whitehead, Barnard and Styles were believable as young soldiers and some would call them cowards. They didn’t have a lot of dialogues so their performances were mostly about body language and facial expressions. I’ve never been a soldier or seen any real battles in my life, so I don’t know how I would react if I was in their situation. Rylance, who’s always been great in the films I’ve seen him in, shines again in this one. There’s a scene where he showed raw emotion that I don’t think many actors can achieve. Hardy spent most of the film in the plane and technically he’s the “hero” of the story. Lastly, Branagh’s great as always. He conveyed a man who’s in total control even though he knew he might lose his men in any moment.

This isn’t the kind film where there are character developments and there’s no plot to speak of. Nolan wants the audience to experience the horror that happened during this event and to me he succeeded. Just like his previous film Interstellar, this one it’s being shown on various formats. Nolan’s preferred formats are 70mm IMAX or regular 70mm. If there’s a 70mm IMAX theater near where you live then I highly recommend you see it there.

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So have you seen DUNKIRK? Well, what did you think?

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Trailer Spotlight: DUNKIRK (Trailer #1)

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Happy Wednesday! It feels like a sluggish past few weeks… especially when I got barely ANY vacation left through the end of the year. My European friends, you guys are lucky you get at least a month worth of vacation, I mean I’ve worked in the same company for a decade and only got three weeks of vacation :\ But hey, I’m seeing Rogue One tonight, so at least that adds an extra spring in my step in these cold, frigid Winter days!!

It’s been ages since I did some community links… so let’s get to it!

Jordan reviewed the music documentary of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, One More Time With Feeling

Margaret reviewed the last episode of Westworld (can’t wait to binge on this later this month)

I love it when a fellow blogger reviewed a little-seen indie gem I happen to enjoy. Steven reviewed the Welsh comedy Hunky Dory

Glad someone else thinks this film deserves to be seen. Brittani reviewed Loving 

Vinnie reviewed one of my Blind Spot picks (that I haven’t yet to see), The Big Sleep

Well, it’s that time of the year! Chris asked fellow bloggers ‘What’s their favorite Christmas movies?’

Last but not least… Courtney reviewed critical darling of the year La La Land (and from her headline I think you know full well how she feels)


TRAILER SPOTLIGHT

Well it seems that every movie out of Christopher Nolan is a big event… and DUNKIRK is no different. I’ve been excited for this for a while. I posted the teaser trailer here back in August, but now we finally got the full first trailer. Behold…

Woof, this gives me goosebumps! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film dedicated to the brutal event in Dunkirk, France. The only one I remember vividly was this scene in Joe Wright’s Atonement, with its stunning tracking shot. But it’s such a pivotal moment in WWII history, and if there’s a director who could do it justice on the big screen, it’d be Chris Nolan!

As always, Nolan’s always assembled top notch cast for his epic films…

  • Tom Hardy
  • Kenneth Branagh
  • Cillian Murphy
  • Mark Rylance
  • James D’Arcy
  • Aneurin Barnard

I love all of those actors, including my recent discovery (read: crush), Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard! Sorry I don’t care for that kid from the famous boy band, but surely it’ll bring a ton of teenyboppers to see this. So Tom Hardy plays a fighter pilot, but I hope he gets to talk in this movie? Yes it seems to be another male-dominated Nolan film, which made me think perhaps Nolan’s next movie should be a female ensemble cast? 😉


Visually this movie just looks epiiiiic! It’s shot in IMAX 65 mm and 65 mm large format film stock by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema who also worked with Nolan in Interstellar (though my fave work of his is the visually-stunning Her). Does that mean he’s done working with his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister?? But looks like Nolan regular Hans Zimmer is back scoring this film.

It’d be amazing to behold how Nolan recreated the harrowing chaos of Allied forces who are surrounded by German army. It’s more than just staging a spectacle of aerial bombardments wreaking havoc on the beach and the ocean, destroying troops and sinking Allied ships. It’s also a tale of hope… as the evacuation is also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk. Per Wiki, on the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, a total of 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats.

I’m not usually a huge war movie fan just because I can’t handle the brutality, but yet I’m looking forward to this.


What do you think of the the first DUNKIRK trailer? 

FlixChatter Review: Cinderella (2015)

CinderellaPosterGrowing up watching Disney fairy tale movies, I have to admit Cinderella wasn’t my favorite heroine. Over the years though, as there are more and more adaptations of this quintessential underdog story (more so than any other Disney “princesses” it seems), the more I appreciate the animated classic. Lately the cinematic trend is reinvention, giving a classic tale a new twist or perspective, such as Snow White & the Huntsman and Maleficent, and so naturally I thought we’d see the same thing with Cinderella. Well, it turns out that this film stayed true to its classic story, you could even say it paid tribute to the animated film, with some surprises thrown in. But by going the conventional route doesn’t mean it’s dull and boring, in fact the opposite is true. There’s something so lively and refreshing about Kenneth Branagh‘s vision that even some of its most sentimental moments aren’t without charm.

Being that it’s the origin story of Cinderella, the movie begins with young Ella whose blissful existence is cut short when her dotting mother suddenly fell ill. Before she passed away, she instilled in her daughter to ‘have courage and be kind,’ a life motto young Ella takes to heart. And so, as life kept coming at her with one terrible blow after another, especially after the arrival of her stepmother and two step-sisters, Ella never gives up hope. I was skeptical at first about Lily James‘ casting in the titular role, but I quickly warmed up to her. There’s a pleasant countenance about her that makes her believable as a benevolent and sweet-tempered girl equipped with inner strength to face the cruelty inflicted upon her by her new *family.* Instead of running away from her problems, she choose to endure.

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Ella’s no damsel in distress either. I love how the sweet and swoon-worthy meet-up with the dashing Prince, who refers to himself as Kit to hide his true identity, reveals her independent spirit. “Just because it’s done doesn’t mean it’s what should be done,” she tells Kit in protest of him hunting deer for sport. The prince was immediately smitten by her, perhaps he’s also impressed that she rides her horse without a saddle! Richard Madden effortlessly steals Ella’s heart, and every maiden in the audience, with his impossible good looks and almost indecent sex appeal. As if the filmmakers weren’t sure of that, they had to outfit him in those distractingly tight white pants! I don’t know why they need to digitally enhanced his blue eyes though, I mean he’s already hunky enough with his eyes the way God made ’em!

Cinderella_PrinceCharming cinderella_prince_firstmeetIn any case, I like that he fell for her whilst Ella’s still dressed as a maid, though I actually think she’s the most attractive this way, so fresh-faced and full of life. Unlike the animated version, the Prince also gets a back-story here, and the father/son relationship depiction is quite moving. The Ella-Kit meet-up is my favorite scene of the entire movie! Yes, more so than the entire ball scene or even the transformation scene. In fact, I’m not too fond of Cinderella’s look for the ball — her hair is huge, the ball gown is huge, it’s just overwhelming. Overall there’s more chemistry between her and the Prince in that brief meet-up.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be Cinderella without the wicked stepmother and Cate Blanchett is an absolute delight to watch in the role. Looking as stunning and regal as ever, the great Cate was scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness. The Aussie thespian is obviously having fun with the role, there’s a twinkle in her eye and sense of mischief as she relish in being bad.

Holliday Granger and Sophie McShera are ok as the two vile stepsisters, they’re a bit over the top at times, yet not nearly as memorable as Cate was even when she was standing still. It’s fun seeing Helena Bonham Carter being the comic relief as the fairy godmother and the film’s narrator. Derek Jacobi adds Shakespearean gravitas as the Prince’s ailing father, whilst Ben Chaplin is affecting as Cinderella’s doting father. In attempt to making the cast a little more diverse, Branagh cast Nonso Anozie as Captain (who’s in his previous movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and the guests at the ball are racially-diverse.

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The production design is really something to behold. This is easily one of the best looking movie I’ve seen in a while, and I’m not just talking about the beautiful cast. The costume design by Sandy Powell is simply amazing, especially Cate’s jewel-toned, richly-embroidered dresses, blending 1940s with 19th century style. Everyone’s talking about Cinderella’s gorgeous ball dress – and Lily James’ teeny-tiny waist – but I think Cate’s outfits are equally breathtaking to look at. Oh and those glass slippers… well, that’s fairy tale for ya, the funniest bit was when the fairy godmother say they’d be comfortable, ha! Apparently they’re made of real Swarovski crystals fit only for mannequins. So the scene of Cinderella having those on is made possible by the magic of CGI.

Chris Weitz‘s script might seem simple and conventional, but it’s quite challenging to somehow make the story fresh without making it unnecessarily dark or edgy just for the sake of it. I’ve been a longtime fan of Patrick Doyle‘s gorgeous music and Branagh’s longtime collaborator once again delivered! The music fits the genre perfectly, it has that elegant, sweepingly lush feel to it, but also with a bit of whimsy.

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But the biggest kudos has to be given to Kenneth Branagh and his impeccable directing style. He somehow made something *old* feels new again. I think it starts with his vision for the main characters, with an empowered Cinderella who, despite being mistreated, remains true to her moral principles. In this article, “[Branagh] likened it to the nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi.” Ok so that might’ve been a bit of a stretch, but I get the point. The love story feels richer and more emotionally involving because you believe there’s more than just the obvious physical attraction. Branagh’s quoted in the article as saying, “When you watch this film, you see Cinderella is such an amazing woman. My biggest thing was how do I create a man that is worthy of her?” I came away from the movie thinking that Cinderella rescues the Prince just as much as he rescues her.

I enjoyed this movie so much I just might see it again on the big screen as it’s such a visual treat. But I wouldn’t say it’s style over substance, there’s a nice balance of drama, humor, and even action to please the young and the young-at-heart. Though the movie is infused with such an infectious sense of optimism with its bright, lush colors and lavish set pieces, there are genuine poignant moments to keep it grounded. The scene when Ella receives news of her father’s sudden passing is one of those scenes that made me tear up.

If you’re on the fence about this one, I’d say give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised. I think I’d get the Blu-ray as I could see myself enjoying this for years to come.

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Have you seen Cinderella? Well, did you like it more or less than I did?

Thursday Movie Picks #35: Live Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Today the theme is… 

Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

Well, I’ve been sick the past few days and I’ve actually written a much longer post for this but for some reason WordPress did NOT save my draft so I lost it all 😦

Ever After (1998)

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A reimagining of the classic Cinderella story – with Leonardo da Vinci as the fairy god-father

What if Cinderella were real? That’s the main premise here, showing the Brothers Grimm talking to a Grand Dame telling them the story of Danielle de Barbarac and showing them her glass slippers. I’ve always had a fondness for this movie despite Drew Barrymore‘s laughable *British* accent. But hey, she more than makes up for it w/ her charm. She has a lovely chemistry w/ Dougray Scott as the dashing Prince Henry. I like that Danielle is no Damsel in Distress, but when she absolutely needed help, there’s Leonardo da Vinci to the rescue! Anjelica Huston is fun to watch as the wicked stepmother, and

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

As I mentioned above, I’ve already written a much longer stuff here but lost it in the WP snafu. This is definitely NOT a feel-good fairy tale, as it’s mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Part terror, part wonder, Guillermo Del Toro has crafted a spellbinding fable with amazing set pieces and special effects. But the story is as rich and intriguing as the visuals. As the young protagonist, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) has that wide-eyed innocence that serves as a stark contrast to the brutal world she’s trying to escape from. There’s something so wonderfully organic and mystical about this film, though the unflinching brutality warrants its R rating. There are plenty of weird and downright freaky creatures, the faun and pale man (played by Doug Jones) are key characters here, but the scariest character is no doubt Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Perhaps one of the messages is that the real *monster* of real life actually look like you and I.

Cinderella (2015)

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When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger in the woods.

Yes, another Cinderella story, but as far as live-action adaptation is concerned, this could be a new favorite. I’m borrowing from Rotten Tomatoes‘ critics consensus here: “Refreshingly traditional in a revisionist era, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella proves Disney hasn’t lost any of its old-fashioned magic.” Precisely. I think Disney made the right call in NOT making this another reimagining of a classic story, thought there are some subtle *twists* about the main characters that still fit nicely into the story. It’s a gorgeous and lush production, on that front alone makes this a wonderful movie to see on the big screen. Lily James and Richard Madden fit their roles as Cinderella & Prince Charming as perfectly as those Swarovski glass slippers fit our heroine’s nimble feet. But the inspired casting is Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother, scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Music Break: Disney’s Animated Classic CINDERELLA (1950)

CinderellaPrince_posterOne of the screenings I’ll be going to later this week is the live-action adaptation of Cinderella. Now, I mentioned in this post that having grown up watching all those Disney Princess movies, naturally I’m curious to check it out.

I know what you’re thinking. Do we have to have a live action version of this? Probably not, but whether we like it or not, that’s the trend we have here. We’ve seen a live-action reimagining of Snow White, so you know other Princesses would soon follow. I have a feeling I’d enjoy this one, especially with Kenneth Branagh directing, Helena Bonham Carter as fairy godmother and Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother, not to mention the eye candy factor with the dashing Glaswegian Richard Madden as Prince Charming. You know I have a thing for the Scots 😉

I doubt that it’d ever replace the animated classic as my favorite though, so in light of the new movie, I thought I’d highlight the wonderful music by Paul J. Smith and Oliver Wallace. Even sixty five years after its release, this quintessential classic fairy tale still retains its magical charm. To this day I still fondly remember the songs and would often find myself humming to them, even though it’s been years since I saw the movie.

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Now I’m not exactly fond of this silly mice voice singing, but this scene is just so darn cute and heartwarming. It’s so quintessentially Disney but I can’t help being swept away by Cinderelly’s adorable creature friends 😉

Now here’s the new Cinderella‘s trailer music by Nick Murray which is quite pleasing to the ear, but I can’t wait to hear the official soundtrack by Branagh’s longtime collaborator Patrick Doyle. I LOVE Doyle’s work as he made one of my favorite soundtrack ever, Sense & Sensibility.

https://soundcloud.com/switchtrailermusic/cinderella-trailer-music-aeon-nick-murray-ft-juliet-lyons


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. Have you seen this Disney classic?

Question of the Week: Which movie(s) are you looking forward to in March?

MarchReleases

Now that award season is officially over… we can all look forward to what else 2015 has in store for us. February is practically dead in terms of new releases, in fact I only saw Jupiter Ascending & Kingsman in the theater. But there are more intriguing stuff coming next month. I have rsvp-ed for The Second Best Marigold Hotel and Cinderella‘s screenings and Ted will be going to Chappie & Run All Night in the next couple of weeks.

I might rent Get Hard and Serena, but I have zero interest in seeing yet another Taken variation that Liam Neeson is doing, Run All Night. I mean it just looks so darn awful from the trailer, oh why’s Ed Harris doing in there?? [face palm] Oh and Sean Penn’s The Gunman is directed by the first Taken‘s director too, and so he apparently wants a piece of the action moolah from that bankable violent thriller. As for Insurgent, well I’ve completely lost interest in that Divergent franchise even though I quite like the first movie. So maybe I’ll rent that on a slow night.

Anyway, you can check out the full March Release schedule here over at IMDb, but here are some of the movies I’m looking forward to seeing:

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.

I LOVE the first movie, the ensemble cast is simply splendid. I mean you can’t beat Maggie Smith & Judi Dench, two of my favorite Dames, together again in a movie. This time we’ve got Richard Gere to spice things up 😉

Cinderella

A live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale about a servant step-daughter who wins the heart of a prince.

I grew up w/ Disney Princess movies so naturally I’m drawn to this. Plus I quite like Kenneth Branagh as director so he’s another draw for me to see it!

The Riot Club

Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening.

All those gorgeous British boys doing VERY bad things. I dunno about you but that intrigues me 😉 Plus I’ve had a crush on Sam Reid ever since BELLE (he’s in the far right in the pic below), and Jeremy Irons’ hunky son Max is in the main cast, too. It’s from the director of An Education, which I like, so hopefully it’ll be good!

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Seymour

Director Ethan Hawke explores the life and lessons of piano teacher Seymour Bernstein.

I heard about this after I saw Predestination and it sounds like a great doc! I love that Hawke is doing a personal project like this, I hope this arrives on Netflix soon.

Chappie

In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

I proceed this one w/ caution even though I LOVE sci-fi that deals w/ man vs robot relationships. I was quite disappointed w/ Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium so hopefully this has more of an engaging and emotional story like District 9.


So which March movie(s) are you most excited about folks?