Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2015 Edition

FiveForFifthAutumn2015

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. I feel like I just did my Five for the Fifth not too long ago, September practically ran away from me. But Autumn is my all time favorite season. Not only is the crisp, cool weather is just perfect and refreshing, I also love Fall fashion and the fact that there’s TCFF to anticipate in October as well as a slew of great Fall films to look forward to.

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It made me think of films set in Autumn. Right off the bat I think of When Harry Met Sally, but films like Dead Poets Society, St Elmos Fire, Class, The Village, and another one starring Meg Ryan You’ve Got Mail all have scenes involving gorgeous foliage that put me in an Autumn mood.

So what’s your favorite movie(s) set in the Autumn season?

2. I haven’t done a spotlight on an actor in my FFTF in a while but since yesterday is Liev Schreiber‘s birthday, I thought I’d highlight this underrated but talented actor. I actually haven’t seen too many of his work, to be honest, but of the ones I have seen, I enjoyed his performance, i.e. The Manchurian CandidateThe Painted Veil, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and The Butler. I even saw his directorial debut Everything is Illuminated at TIFF in 2005, which I thought was very good.

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When I checked on his Wiki page, I was surprised to learn he has won a Tony in 2005 for his performance in the play Glengarry Glen Ross. Right now he’s juggling film roles as well as his Showtime series Ray Donovan. Wow, talk about a versatile talent who can wear many hats. He apparently can speak Russian, too, as he’s playing Russian chess grandmaster Boris Spassky in the upcoming film Pawn Sacrifice. Check out this clip:

What’s your thoughts on Liev Schreiber? Which of his performance(s) is your favorite?

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3. I gotta include some new trailers and I thought I’d highlight two very different films just to keep things interesting. First off, we’ve got the latest one from SPECTRE that finally puts Daniel Craig face to face and bantering with Christoph Waltz.

Well I wasn’t enthused with the new Bond theme song Writing on the Wall which sounds more like writhing against the wall from the excruciating pain of having to listen to Sam Smith’s whiny voice. But I sure hope that the film will be much better!

Now, the second trailer that caught my eye recently is A Bigger Splash that has a rather intriguing premise: The vacation of a famous rock star and a filmmaker is disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter. It also has quite a cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson.

It looks like a lot of fun but things are likely about to turn real ugly real fast. But hey, Fiennes looks like he’s relishing in his comedic side again.

So what are your thoughts on either one of these films?


4.
I was going to do a separate post on this and I still might do that later in the year. Having just seen ROOM last night and was very impressed by Brie Larson‘s performance, it made me think of other strong female performances of the year so far.

On the top of my head, I immediately thought of these fine ladies…

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  • Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina
  • Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Karidja Touré in Girlhood
  • Carey Mulligan in Far From the Madding Crowd
  • Juliette Binoche + Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Rebecca Ferguson in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Now, I haven’t seen Sicario nor Brooklyn yet, but I’ve heard lots of great things about the performance of Emily Blunt and Saoirse Ronan, respectively.

If you had to pick just three, who would make YOUR list of best 2015 female performers?

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5. 
This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Anna from Defiant Success Blog!

BooksToFilms

There are so many movies (and potential award candidates) based on books being released in the coming months, i.e. Carol, Brooklyn, The Revenant, The Martian, Macbeth, In the Heart of the Sea, among others. would you read the books as well as seeing the movies?

So would you read the books as well as seeing the movies? If so which one(s)?


Well, that’s it for the October 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Indie Weekend Roundup: The Reluctant Fundamentalist review

It’s the last weekend of MSPfest and it’s been great watching a bunch of indie films. Saw The Hunt last night and this is my initial reaction:

Now, two of the last three films I’m reviewing this week happen to be are directed by women. It’s interesting that they’re two VERY different genres, this one is a dramatic thriller and the other one I’m finishing up on, In A World, is a comedy, but both are highly recommended.

Anyway, on to the review:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

A young Pakistani man is chasing corporate success on Wall Street. He finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family’s homeland.

I happen to see the trailer just a week before I saw the MSPfest schedule so I signed up to see it right away. This is the kind of film that will likely raise some eyebrows and some people might have strong feelings about it, whether good or bad. I guess that’s to be expected given the subject matter involves terrorism, though this film is not so much about an extremist attack, but the reaction when such a heinous event occurs. This film also works as a character study of an intriguing character named Changez, who like many immigrants, often is (or feels) torn between two worlds.

The film opens with the kidnapping of an American college professor off the street in Pakistan, and somehow Changez, a fellow university teacher, appears to be right in the middle of the Pakistani/American conflict. That’s what Bobby, an American journalist, alludes to when he interviews Changez at a cafe. “I only ask that you please listen to the whole story, not just bits and pieces…” Changez said to Bobby, to which the journalist agrees and as the tape recorder rolls, we’re taken to Changez’s life ten years prior. We saw that he came from a rather privileged background in Lahore and that he was as a prodigious student at Princeton. With the potent combination of extraordinary intellect and tenacity, it’s no surprise he soon attain the American dream when he’s hired at a high-powered consulting firm Underwood Samson. He seemed to have it all, even his love life seems to be going well when he met a free-spirited American girl Erica. But then, 9/11 happened, and from the moment Changez witnessed the footage of the plane hitting the twin tower, things aren’t going to be the same for him.

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Now, there have been countless films on that subject, but I feel that The Reluctant Fundamentalist manages to tackle the side not often explored but certainly worth telling. As an immigrant, I empathize with Changez even if I don’t necessarily agree with his decisions. In fact, the whole time I was watching the scenes of him literally being harassed by counter-terrorism officers and TSA agents simply because of his nationality, I kept thinking of a Pakistani college friend of mine who actually share a very similar background as Changez. I’d imagine watching this film would perhaps hit too close to home for him.

I appreciate that the film doesn’t really take sides, in fact, it challenges me to put myself in someone else’s shoes, and to see a complex human emotion at play where things aren’t always so black and white. In the midst of such a tense story though, I also find the film to be surprisingly witty and humorous. Changez making a droll reference to CSI Miami to Bobby and the one that got the most laugh, his nonchalant quip about wanting to be a dictator of a middle eastern country with nuclear capabilities when his workmates ask him about what he wanted to be in the next ten years. Even in its humor though, the filmmaker is well-aware of people’s natural prejudices when faced with a character like Changez.

I was very impressed with London-born Riz Ahmed as Changez. The Oxford-educated actor is also a rapper under the name Riz MC. Apparently I had seen him before in a small role in Centurion, but this is the role that really showcase his talent as an actor. He’s effortlessly believable as an intellectual, a charismatic leader, and a romantic lead, which is a testament to his versatility. Ahmed’s melancholy yet expressive big, black eyes say so much, and I can’t help being drawn to his character up until the very end.

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Brunette Kate Hudson is quite good here as Erica, herself a tortured soul because of a past incident that killed her former boyfriend. The two have a convincing chemistry, though from the start it’s clear the relationship is built on feeble ground. Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber offer decent supporting performances. It’s interesting to see Mr. Jack Bauer NOT playing some CIA officer in a story that could’ve easily been an extended episode of 24.

Overall, I’m impressed with BAFTA-winning Indian director Mira Nair‘s film adaptation from Mohsin Hamid’s novel. How one receives this particular film is likely going to vary from person to person, but I do think it’s well worth a watch as a cultural drama about a subject that’s sadly always going to be timely.


Thoughts on this film yet? Is this something you’re intrigued to see?

FlixChatter Review: Wolverine

I realize I should’ve put a spoiler disclaimer on this from the start. Sorry to all of you readers who haven’t seen the movie, this ‘review’ is meant as a post-viewing discussion/observation. I’ll make sure to be clear on that in the future, and enhance my flix reviewing skills!

Marvel and DC ought to thank Bryan Singer for resurrecting the comic-book flix franchise with the highly-rated X-Men: The Movie. If you’ve seen even just one of the series, it’s obvious Wolverine is the one character that sticks out. The then-unknown Aussie Hugh Jackman inherited the role from Dougray Scott who was bound to finish shooting Mission Impossible II. Lucky for Mr. Jackman (and women everywhere) that he did, as he was PERFECT as the brooding mutant with claws of steel.

The critics aren’t too keen on Wolverine, so I came in with a pretty low expectation. But guess what, I quite enjoyed it. The story pretty much centers on the relationship of half-brothers James and Victor, who’s later known as Wolverine and Sabretooth. The opening credit shows the journey of these two men across time and multiple wars, as their regenerative powers prevent them from being killed. Given Victor’s vicious temper, James had to constantly restrain him. In fact, it was his brutality that got them condemned to die by firing squad in Vietnam, but of course those bullets merely ‘tickled’ them and they’re back in jail again. That is until Stryker visited them and offered them to be part of an elite team of mutants, Team X. It’s pretty obvious Stryker had his own agenda and pretty soon, a group of mutans under his command were in Legos, Nigeria looking for a meteorite. Repulsed by the murders committed by his teammates, James leaves the group.

Wolverine emerged with new, shiny metal claws!
Wolverine emerged with new, shiny metal claws!

Six years later, James–now goes by his last name Logan–was now a lumberjack living peacefully with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox. That peace was soon threatened when Victor started killing his old teammates from Team X. Stryker found Logan and told him that someone’s been hunting down the now disbanded group. He asked for Logan’s help but he refused. Predictably, Victor came after Kayla and killed her. The hurt & furious Logan ran after Victor, but he wasn’t strong enough to defeat him. So when Stryker came to him a second time for help, he agreed. Next thing you know Logan is on the ‘island,’ Stryker got him into a very painful experiment in which a series of metal needles insert adamantium, an indestructible metal compound retrieved by Team X, into his skeleton system. Just watching him go through that makes my whole skin crawl! Apparently, even though Logan has strong regenerative powers, he still feels pain like anybody else. Just before the procedure started, he asked his dog tag to say Wolverine (natch), in reference to a story Kayla once told him. Wolverine nearly died in the procedure, but woke up just as Stryker ordered his memory to be erased. He emerged of the ‘aquarium’ with a ferocious growl (just as you saw in those ubiquitous movie promo pics), displaying his now shiny metal claws.  For a 41 year-old, Hugh’s physique is impressive, albeit too huge for my taste personally (are those humps on his shoulder??). Still, I commend his discipline and dedication to get so buff (and he’s obviously proud to show it off), he looked unbreakable even without the claws!!

Ok, back to the story, Wolvy (sorry, Wolverine is just too long) then fled the scene and Stryker ordered the dexterous marksman, Agent Zero, played by the hot-looking Korean-English actor Daniel Henney, to kill him. A chase ensued, and Wolverine got to show off his now indestructible claws. After some outlandish acrobatic scenes, he’s able to bring down the chopper with Agent Zero in it (darn, the eye candy is dead already?!). With the help of an escapee mutant named Gambit, Wolvy later returned to the island to confront Stryker. There, we learn who Silverfox really was, and what’s Stryker’s been working on in his lab. The final battle was pretty intense when Stryker prematurely released Weapon XI, who possesed several powers from the killed/captured mutants. Wolvy and Victor joined forces briefly to fight the mutant frankenstein monster. Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool character half made up Weapon X’s face, but with his blabbermouth sealed. There’s a funny quip by Wolvy, “Looks like Stryker finally found a way to shut you up.”

The end actually ties well with the first X-Men, with Professor X making an appearance to save the escaping mutants. Wolvy and Victor’s whereabouts are left a mystery, which we later learn in the X-Men trilogy that they end up on opposite sides once again.

Pretty cool movie overall, but the storyline is pretty complex for this type of film that the plot often get convoluted. It seems as if the film tries to do too much (romance, action, sci-fi, drama) that it sometimes lost focus. Despite the great cast led by Jackman and thespian Liev Schreiber, it just isn’t ‘sharp’ enough (pardon the pun) as the original X-Men. But if you’re just looking for fun thrill on a Saturday afternoon, it’s fairly entertaining.

FlixChatter Review: The Painted Veil

This is one of the most touching and poignant movie I’ve seen in a very long time. The tag line says “Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people.” And what a journey it really is.

The story takes place in China in the 1920s, which tells the story of a mid-class doctor (Walter) who marries an upper-class woman (Kitty) and moves to Shanghai. It’s clear from the beginning that she marries him only to please her family. In Shanghai, she has an affair with a fellow ex pat (Liev Schreiber, Watt’s real life partner), which is quickly discovered by her husband. As an act of vengeance, Walter whisks her off to a remote village ravaged by cholera. It is here, amongst the deadly epidemic and tough circumstances, that they rediscover their relationship and find purpose both as a couple and as a person.

The movie is superbly acted and well-written. Ed Norton is in top form as always (he’s easily one of the best actors working today) and Naomi Watts gives a wonderful, nuanced portrayal as the initially unlikable Kitty, but she slowly earns my sympathy as the film wears on. Toby Jones as the couple’s cheery neighbor Waddington also gives a notable performance.

What I love the most is how the movie presents the characters as they are, neither heroic nor evil (like most people are), they are simply human. The film does shy away from being ‘preachy,’ such as when dealing with a Catholic orphanage, focusing instead on how the characters evolve as the story progresses. Although the pace is a bit slow at times, the ending has such a redeeming quality that it’s worth every second. It also boast a beautiful cinematography of the lush rural setting in China.

It’s rare to find a movie that tells a wonderful human drama without being too cutesy or overly romantic. Love is more than a bed of roses or candlelit dinner in fact, it’s best experienced when you’d least expect it.


Have you seen this film? Let me know what you think.