FlixChatter Review: Shazam! (2019)

There’s such a huge anticipation over this movie, and the early reviews have been giddily-positive. I have to say I was caught in a bit of Shazam! fever as well after seeing the second trailer, which promises a boisterous good time.

This movie is an origin story of the DC superhero that’s originally named Captain Marvel in the comics, but later renamed to Shazam! as Marvel comics held the rights to the name. I think Shazam is a more appropriate name for this given its whimsical, zany nature, though it actually started with a pretty dark sequence.

The movie took its time before we actually see protagonist in its superhero form. We see Billy Batson as a toddler getting lost in the crowd at a carnival, then later as a mischievous teenager (Asher Angel) playing pranks at cops. We follow Batson’s journey into another foster family where he meets his new friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). Grazer is SO good here, I absolutely adore him as Freddy who gives equal levity and credible emotional weight when the movie requires him to. I feel like the energy level shoots up significantly once the two meet up, which only gets better after the teenage Billy gets his powers from the Wizard.

Now the movie’s MVP is definitely Zachary Levi with his unabashedly-exuberant, relentlessly-buoyant performance. I have only seen him in the first season of Chuck in which he also played an effortlessly likable, goofy character. But Shazam is clearly a role he’s born to play. My favorite parts are the superhero discovery process, when Shazam is learning the extent of his strength, how to fly, etc. Those moments are so hilarious, filled with joyful good fun. I mean who hasn’t dreamed of taking on the people who’ve made our lives difficult, so all the scenes of Billy taking on the school bullies are pure wish-fulfillment stuff. I also laughed the hardest at the references to other DC heroes, esp. when Shazam throws a Batman toy  at the villain screaming for his help. It’s even amusing now given his alter ego’s name is Batson (read: Bat’s son) 😉 What makes Shazam works is that he’s still relatable even after he gains incredible powers. He doesn’t suddenly gain a conscience the way a mature adult would and behaves in an altruistic way like Batman or Superman.

I wish the trailers haven’t given away some of the funniest bits however, but it also didn’t show some of the less-fun scenes, mostly involving Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). Heh, even his name seems tedious. Now, I have seen the British actor portray a bunch of evil bad dudes, from Kick-Ass, John Carter, Robin Hood, even in the BBC miniseries The Jury in 2002 where he beat the living hell out of [pre-Leonidas] Gerard Butler with a baseball bat. I always think of him as a strong actor (pun intended), albeit that he’s been typecast, but here I thought he’s pretty weak. In superhero movies, it’s not enough that we have a formidable hero, we also need a worthy villain to make the movie works as a whole. I just think Sivana lacks real menace, so he ends up just being infuriating and worst of all, cheesy. The scene of him and the seven-deadly-sin gargoyle creatures wrecking havoc in a board meeting is perhaps my least favorite moments, which is a shame given DC usually gives us such terrific (even iconic) villains like The Joker, General Zod, etc.

I also think that the tonal shift from the dark scenes to the lighter, goofier parts could be handled better. Some critics have mentioned that this movie has scary moments that might spook young kids. I think I’d agree with that, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me. Apparently director David F. Sandberg is known for his horror films (i.e. Annabelle: Creation) which explains the scarier parts of the movie. The screenplay Henry Gayden mostly works, as it has heart in the right place. The scenes with the foster family are genuinely moving. I appreciate how the movie champions the often ‘forgotten’ people such as foster parents & foster kids, people with disability, kids who are bullied, and made them the real heroes. It also shows a prayerful family who loves and accept the kids as they are, now THAT is rare to see in a Hollywood studio movie, but gratifying to see.

In the end, I enjoyed it for the most part despite the overly bombastic action finale that somehow many DC movies can’t avoid, and other flaws I mentioned. Shazam! is definitely better than most DC movies. Yes I know that’s not saying much given their track record, but surely the DC execs are ecstatic by this positive reception. Now that we’ve got the origin story out of the way, I look forward to what Shazam will do next in the inevitable sequels.


Have you seen Shazam!? I’d love to hear what you think!

Top Ten Favorite Actor Voices… that I can listen to for hours

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Well, on Tuesday night I saw the press screening of The Jungle Book, which is a remake of the 1967 animated film. It was such a pleasant surprise, a visually-mesmerizing film with a simple-yet-moving story. That film is certainly an eye AND ear candy, with phenomenal voice actors like Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, etc/ providing the speaking voice for all the animals.

So in honor of that film, I thought I’d um, remake my old post that still remains quite popular to this day, top 10 favorite actors with the smoothest voice. It’s funny but more often than not, actors I have a crush on usually have an addictive speaking voice, and I’d even listen to their interviews over and over just to hear their voice! It’s obviously a very subjective list, and I’m not going to include the same people I’ve already included in my original list (i.e. Gregory Peck, Alan Rickman, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, etc.) Also excluding the obvious ones like James Earl Jones & Morgan Freeman, because well, they’re a league of their own.

Yes I realize I could’ve renamed this list Favorite BRITISH voice actors, ahah. But hey, I didn’t pick based on nationalities, but just like looks & talent, the Brits seem to have ’em all 🙂 In any case, here they are in no particular order:

1. Idris Elba
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I’ve been a huge fan of Idris’ voice since Rocknrolla. The voice timbre, the accent, it’s simply mesmerizing. Even without seeing his physical presence, his voice alone has that irresistible swagger.

2. Sam Riley

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Ok so Sam’s voice is a bit of an unconventional choice. People say he sounds like John Hurt, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But there’s something so irresistible about his raspy voice, likely due to his years of chain smoking. I’ve been saying on Tumblr that Sam’s voice is my drug of choice of late 😉 I literally would listen to a bunch of his interviews, which is just as fun to listen to as his singing voice in Control (and his former band 10,000 Things)

Whether he’s speaking in American accent as Sal Paradise (aka Jack Kerouac)…

… or British as dashing Colonel Darcy in Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

… Sam’s voice is music to my ears that I can’t get enough of.

3. Jeremy Irons

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I don’t know why I didn’t include this in my original list as I’ve always loved Mr. Irons’ voice! It’s so distinctive, with a timbre all his own and he’s got impeccable delivery the way Alan Rickman did. Hearing him even in his brief appearance in Batman V Superman reminded me just how much I loved his voice. Speaking of Disney voice actor, his voice work as Scar in The Lion King is just superb. I mean how does one go against James Earl Jones in the voice department, but he certainly held his own in that regard.

4. Tom Hiddleston

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The one actor I was crushing on in the first Thor movie wasn’t the hero, it’s the villain. Hiddleston’s voice sounds so melodious even when he’s in distress. His extensive theatrical training came through in his delivery, it’s so clear, dramatic and simply mesmerizing. He totally came away with the movie on account of his voice alone IMHO. I went to see his performance as Coriolanus as part of a National Theatre Live broadcast just because I LOVE listening to him do those long monologues and indeed he delivered.

Here’s a scene with Anthony Hopkins (who’s on my original list)

Oh and of course he’s absolutely divine in reading Shakespeare…

5. Will Arnett

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Ok this is crazy but I never actually paid attention to Will’s voice as I barely watch any of his movies. But when he did Batman in the LEGO Movie I thought my goodness he’s got a gorgeous voice! It’s so deep that it’s hilarious but it certainly sounds lovely, heck better than Christian Bale’s ridiculous’ Batman voice in Nolan’s movies. I can’t wait for the standalone LEGO Batman movie!

6. Mark Strong

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Come to think of it, Rocknrolla is chock-filled with Brits with gorgeous voices (there are three of them on this list alone). Strong is so criminally underrated as an actor, but I think fewer people know he’s also a fantastic voice actor. But really, he’s got the perfect voice pitch and lovely accent that he probably could make a successful career solely on his voice alone.

7. Mike Colter

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One of the reasons I ended up loving Jessica Jones is the casting of Mike Colter as Luke Cage. Ok so the first time we saw him I was already transfixed by him before he even opened his mouth (I mean look. at. him.) Then he did open his mouth and I was like, seriously? Not only did he look like THAT, he has to sound THAT good as well? Well let’s just say I hope they give him extensive monologues in the Luke Cage series!!

8. Iain Glen

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Another underrated British actor with an absolutely divine voice is Iain Glen. I remember first seeing him in the first Tomb Raider movie. In fact, he’s one of the best things about the movie as the charismatic villain. Fans of Game of Thrones surely are familiar with his character Jorah’s voice. I think people with a great voice is memorable even in a small role, as was Iain in Eye in the Sky, which was already filled with people with distinctive voices like Alan Rickman AND Helen Mirren. The movie is like voice porn!

9. Ben Whishaw

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Whether citing John Keats in Bright Star, or bringing a bear to life in Paddington, Whishaw’s use of his phenomenal voice is simply incredible. I also enjoyed his voice as Q in the Daniel Craig’s Bond movies. There’s such a pleasant lilt to his voice that will make anyone swoon.

I love this fan video of him reading Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Merci set to Thor‘s soundtrack. An odd choice of music but it works!

10. Tom Hardy

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Ok some people say they love Tom Hardy but they’d need subtitles in order to understand him. Ahah, I agree with that, for some reason he’s been in movies where he mumbles so much. But obviously if he speaks in his natural voice he’s got a clear accent and the loveliest voice. Check out his seductive voice in Rocknrolla, I have played this clip dozens of times just to listen to him. Speaking of voice porn, this movie is another one of those featuring a trio of great voices courtesy of Idris and Gerry Butler!


Well, what do you think of my picks? Whose actor voice(s) that you consider music to your ears?

Weekend Roundup & Kingsman: The Secret Service review

Valentine’s Weekend is awesome this year as it’s a company holiday on Monday for President’s Day, who doesn’t love a three-day weekend right? Hope you had a lovely V-day wherever you are. It was super cold Saturday night so we opted for some scrumptious Thai take-out and watched Nightcrawler, that’s the kind of perfect *night in* for us. I’ll have my full review of the Jake Gyllenhaal film but suffice to say it lives up to all the great reviews I’ve been reading.

It’s not surprising that the Fifty Shades movie shatters box office record, though it’s kind of sad such a movie is so wildly popular. There is no way I’d ever subject myself to what Aussie anchor Lisa Wilkinson calls ‘domestic violence dressed up as erotica’ and I’m convinced her review is far more entertaining that the film:


I re-watched two of my favorite period dramas, Belle and Pride & Prejudice, and my love for both films just keep growing. I did go to the cinema Friday night to see Kingsman: The Secret Service and here’s my review:

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I have to admit that the first time I knew about this movie was from this cool poster I saw at a local cinema. It has no info of the director nor the cast but the visual of an elegant closet is so Bond-like and ever so British. But by the time the trailer came out I thought it looked a wee bit silly, and so it wasn’t until the positive reviews coming out that I was excited to see it.

Well, the movie is VERY British indeed, both an homage AND a spoof to the 007 movies, and as a fan of the genre, that definitely appeals to me. Refined British gent Colin Firth plays as one of the Kingsman agents, Harry Hart, who’s as proper as he is bad ass. The first act was basically him recruiting a replacement for his fellow agent who died on a mission in the Middle East. Harry (aka Galahad) owed his life to Lancelot (another code name inspired by British Knights) and thus he felt compelled to recruit his friend’s teenage son, Eggsy (Taron Egerton). The film moved along swiftly and director Matthew Vaughn infused it with tongue-in-cheek humor and a huge dose of riotous fun from start to finish. The whole sequence at a ski resort is very Bond-like, but think Roger Moore instead of Daniel Craig in tone, complete with a gorgeous female assassin wearing razor-sharp blades as prosthetic legs.

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Apparently this was based on a comic-book written by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (the two also collaborated on Wanted). The story itself is actually pretty solid and not all about silly good fun. There’s a bit of a father/son bond between Harry and Eggsy, and a bit of a coming-of-age story in regards to Eggsy. During one of the intense Kingsman training, Mark Strong‘s character told him to ‘get rid of the chip on his shoulder,’ and Eggsy’s slowly coming into his own as the film progresses.

As the film’s master villain is Samuel L. Jackson, as internet billionaire Richmond Valentine that’s a heck of a lot more entertaining than Tomorrow Never Dies‘ lame media mogul Elliot Carver. He even has his very own henchwoman deadlier than Jaws & Oddjob combined, in the form of dark-haired beauty Sofia Boutella. Jackson is obviously having a good time playing Valentine. He speaks with an amusing lisp (which the actor apparently had in real life) and can’t stand the sight of blood. Of course he has to be some kind of a psychopath hellbent on *saving the planet* as it were, but in his own twisted way. It’s an interesting social commentary on how our addiction to our handphones just might lead us to our own demise. Apparently, the broadcast signal sent by Valentine to those hand phones cause people to become extremely violent.

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It’s yet another fun collaboration between Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class). This could very well be Vaughn’s version of a Bond flick, that is if the Bond producers would allow him to make a hyper violent R-rated film. I knew this would be violent but I didn’t know it’d be THIS violent, I mean there are some intense and extremely bloody fight sequences that made even John Wick seems tame. One sequence inside a church reminds me of this scene in 300 when Leonidas single-handedly fought all those Persians, but without the stylized slo-mo. I do think the foul language & violence are excessive, gratuitous and more graphic than it needs to be, even if the fight sequences are well-styled. There’s one crazy head-explosions scene that’s absolutely bonkers, set to the Pomp and Circumstance Marches no less! You can’t help but laugh in its absurdity and the fact that the filmmakers had the balls to do it. SPOILER ALERT: We’ve seen plenty of scenes of the White House exploding on screen, but never the Commander in Chief himself, especially one who is still in power!

I think what makes Kingsman works is its self-awareness and that it doesn’t to be a heavy movie. It’s ‘boys just wanna have fun’ type of flick, packed with wit, dry humor and of guns & gadgetry. The set pieces are great to look at, especially the Kingsman headquarter that resembles Drax’ mansion in Moonraker. And of course, those sleek, sharp suits that’s practically a character in itself. I saw Sam Jackson in a talk show the other day wearing one of the Kingsman menswear line that’s crafted especially for the film, dang that is some exquisite tailoring. It was fun seeing Mr. Darcy being so ridiculously bad ass here. I read that Colin Firth did most of his own stunts, which is quite impressive and somehow he still looked quite elegant doing it. “Manners maketh man” is his motto after all. I quite like newcomer Taron Egerton here as well, I actually think he might fit the role better than Kick-Ass’ star Aaron Johnson who was offered the role initially. It’s always nice seeing the always-reliable Mark Strong having a bit of fun here and there are also some amusing cameo from Mark Hamill and Michael Caine.

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Overall it’s definitely a fun spy flick that works in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Kingsman is gleefully over-the-top, relentlessly boisterous and unapologetically un-PC. If you’re a fan of Vaughn’s or Guy Ritchie movies, you should enjoy this entertaining twist of the spy genre. Though the ultra violence and some offensive content is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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So what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen Kingsman, what did YOU think?

Five for the Fifth: AUGUST 2014 Edition

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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. As customary with Five for the Fifth, I’d like to highlight a filmmaker/actor who’s having a birthday today. Well, it so happens that two talented-yet-underrated British actors have a birthday today: Mark Strong and Janet McTeer. They turn 50 and 52 respectively.

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You might not know these two actors by name but surely you have seen them in a film or TV show. I can’t remember where I first saw Mark Strong but he’s been in so many films and he’s always memorable even in small supporting roles. My favorite of his roles would be Rocknrolla, Robin Hood, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Zero Dark Thirty. He’s quite a versatile actor and he has a rather chameleon face where you can’t tell what ethnicity he belongs to. I mean he could play a Jordanian prince as effortlessly as an English lord.

As for Janet McTeer, I really should see more of her work. I’ve only seen the two-time Oscar nominees in the BBC Sense & Sensibility as Mrs. Dashwood. I know my pal Ashley loves her as she’s her favorite actress. The statuesque actress (she’s 6’1″) is a graduate of RADA and can effortlessly juggle TV and film work. She’s starring in The Honourable Woman BBC miniseries with Maggie Gyllenhaal and a Victorian-era thriller Angelica with Jena Malone and Ed Stoppard.

So what’s your favorite from both of these fine actors?
….

2. My hubby and I were watching a bunch of new trailers on iTunes on Friday and we came across Into The Woods. For some reason I hadn’t heard of this movie before, either that or I just forgot about it.

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Into the Woods is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel — all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.



As someone who grew up watching Disney fairy tale movies, this immediately intrigues me. The cast is awesome too, boy is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do? Never mind, clearly there is none. I like the Emily Blunt and James Corden pairing, and Anna Kendrick is inspired choice as Cinderella. Though I’m usually not enamored by Chris Pine, I must say he looks mighty dashing as Cinderella’s Prince, yowza!! Ask my hubby, I actually rewound the trailer and paused it a few times when he appeared 😉 Can’t wait to hear Chris’ singing voice, as he’s displayed on Jimmy Kimmel a while back, he actually has a great set of pipes!

I had no idea there’s actually a musical on Broadway featuring music by Stephen Sondheim. Now, Rob Marshall directing is a bit worrisome however, considering what a mess NINE was despite the stellar cast, but hey hopefully this will be good. It’s set to open on Christmas day, competing with Unbroken and Exodus. But considering the subject matter, this should be a hit with the kiddies at least.

Does this one interest you, folks?

3.Ok so this weekend I finally saw the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, thanks to my pal Ted who kindly lends me a bunch of Blu-rays. It’s been ages since I saw this film, I honestly can’t remember a lot of it, so I can’t really say what’s different from the theatrical version.

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Boy I forgot how amazing the cast was, well everyone except for the lead Orlando Bloom. To be fair, I think he’s not as horrible as I thought he was but still the movie would’ve been a heck of a lot better with a stronger lead actor IMO. I mean he looks good here but he barely his face is so expressionless and he barely has any gravitas required for the role. The supporting cast is spectacular though: Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Eva Green, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, and Edward Norton whose face is hidden behind a mask the entire time. Oh I’m quite impressed by Alexander Siddiq who really should be in more films! Did you know his real-life uncle is Malcolm McDowell? Sorry I digress. Watching this makes me think of other Director’s Cut versions out there and how many of them are superior to the theatrical version.

So my question to you is, do you watch Director’s Cuts of a movie if they’re available? If so, which one(s) are your favorite?

……

4. Director Colin Trevorrow sure knows how to get fans’ attention and capitalize on the success of The Guardians of the Galaxy. Last week he tweeted a photo of Chris Pratt looking hunky and very Indiana-Jones-y in Jurassic World.

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Now I have completely forgotten about this movie, which apparently is not a reboot [thank goodness] but set about 20 years after the events in the original Jurassic Park. Pratt’s sure to be a bonafide star after this weekend, so I think the movie surely would benefit from having him in the lead. I’m mostly curious as I LOVE the original Steven Spielberg film, but the cast they’ve assembled is pretty good so far. In addition to Pratt, we’ve got Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, Nick Robinson (whom I liked in The Kings of Summer), Irrfan Khan, and Vincent D’Onofrio. The film is set to open next Summer, June 12, 2015 to be exact. I hope it’ll live up to the original, but I suppose we’ll have a better idea about it once we see a trailer.

Have you been anticipating Jurassic World?.

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Fernando from Committed to Celluloid Blog. So here it is in his own words:

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One of my favorite things in the last few months has been following Netflix’s House of Cards and watching Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) being absolutely ruthless and expertly manipulative, so my question is:

What’s your favorite villainous couple (they don’t have to be married to each other) in TV or film?


Well, that’s it for the AUGUST 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Everybody’s Chattin’ & the most fantabulous Superbowl Commercial ever!

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Welcome to the first 2014 edition of Everybody’s Chattin’! In case some of you noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve done this post. No fret though, I still plan on doing this community-building post on a regular basis. It’ll be a bi-monthly thing from now on and it’ll be posted sometime in the middle of the week.

This edition’s all about lists and blogathons, so here we go:

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James has recently seen all of the Oscar nominees for Best Documentary, and he went on to listing which one should have been nominated and which one should win the award. Check out his reviews for each of the nominees from that post.

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Keith‘s Weekly Phenomenal 5 has been taken over Top 5 lists of best performances from the 2013 movie year. This past week he posted his picks for Top 5 Performances of 2013 Leading Actress

I LOVE minimalist movie posters and Chris recently showcased some really awesome ones by designer Olly Moss.

If you love lists but you’re not following Dan Stephens‘ Top Films Blog, well then better get on that pronto! His latest list shines a spotlight on a British living legend. Yep, check out his Top 10 Michael Caine Films.

Speaking of Top 10, since it’s January, it’s still not too late to post your Top 10 Films of 2013. Eric did just that so check out which movies made his Top 10 list.

Now on to the blogathons:

LifeLoveMoviesIf you haven’t already, do join Nostra’s latest Blogathon LIFE, LOVE AND THE MOVIES

Another fun blogathon you should take part in is Lights Camera Reaction’s RECAST-ATHON

Check out some of the Recast-athon participants’ posts: Sati @ Cinematic Corner and Andina @ Inspired Ground

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Ok, so it’s the Superbowl this weekend. If you’re anything like me, then you probably didn’t know about it until all those ads started popping up on social media. I don’t know yet if I’ll watch it but if I did, it’ll be for the ads and trailers!

The two new trailers I’m anticipating are Captain America and X-Men: Days of Future Past. The first two trailers had me salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. There are rumors we may see a trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy but I’m really not hugely anticipating that one at this point. There might also be a trailer for David Fincher’s Gone Girl which sounds like a great mystery thriller.

As far as the commercials go, boy it’ll be tough to top this Rendezvous Jaguar ad with the three fantabulous Brits known for playing villains.

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Oh yes, it’s good to be bad

I’ve already seen some pics of Tom Hiddleston on Tumblr but you should’ve seen my reaction when I first saw the whole ad. I was jumping up and down like a crazy person and grinning ear to ear. Who cares about football, I wish they’d just make a movie with Ben Kingsley, Mark Strong and one of my current crush Tom Hiddleston prancing around in their Jaguar F-Type Coupe. I might’ve subbed Kingsley with the ultimate British villain Alan Rickman though.

Creativity Online has a nice article on the making of the spot, which was apparently directed by Tom Hooper (who won an Oscar for The King’s Speech) and the score was done by Alexander Desplat, a six-time Oscar nominee) who’s Hooper’s involvement probably made it easier to persuade film stars such as Kingsley, Hiddleston and Strong to commit to the project. Check out the making of the ad below:



Talk about the ultimate show stealer!


So are you gonna watch the Superbowl… at least for the ads? 😀

FlixChatter Review: Zero Dark Thirty

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Apart from perhaps Point Break, Kathryn Bigelow’s films are often a one-time-viewing-only for me and this one is no exception. It’s not a dis mind you, it’s just that the subject matter she picks are usually so difficult to watch.

The beginning of the film took us back to September 11, 2001. With nothing appearing on screen, we hear the tape of the air controller and 911 operators responding to the people in the twin towers. It was an efficient way to remind us what’s really at stake in the investigations that take place two years later. A CIA officer named Maya has just been brought to the black site where an ongoing interrogation of an alleged terrorist takes place. It’s during the first 20 minutes of the torture and humiliation scenes, including waterboarding, that’s become the subject of tons of controversies. Kathryn Bigelow has since defended her film, saying that “…depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices.” Well said, I’d say.

This film definitely challenges us to ponder on various moral issues and as a viewer I was put into a roller coaster ride as all kinds of raw emotions run through me. At the center of it all, we have a relentless protagonist Maya, who’s become obsessed with this manhunt. What started out as an assignment straight out being recruited out of high school, her hunt for Bin Laden (nicknamed ‘UBL’ by her colleagues) quickly became a personal vendetta.

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It plays like a documentary at times in the way it depicts true events such as the various terrorist bombings, including one that Maya herself almost become a victim of at the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan. Despite its claim that it was based on true events though, of course it’s still a movie so creative liberties are obviously taken. As a thriller, it definitely works. Despite the 157-minute running time, Bigelow’s direction based on Mark Boal’s script managed to keep my attention throughout. There’s not a boring moment as even the slower moments are packed with tension. There’s also some humorous moments such as when Maya relentlessly writes on the glass window of her CIA boss how many days its been since she gave out her intel but nothing has been done about it. She also delivered the most bad-ass lines to Leon Panetta (played by Mr Soprano himself, James Gandolfini) when he asked who she was during a meeting discussing Bin Laden’s compound.

“I’m the motherf***** who found this place, sir!”

I don’t like to cuss but that is one heck of an awesome line delivered in such deadpan perfection by Jessica Chastain. She gave a credible performance in the role. Maya’s reserved, even aloof at times, but she’s definitely a fighter and she stops at nothing to get the job done. There’s a powerful scene where she tells her boss Joseph Bradley a piece of her mind, it was a ‘you go girl’ moment and Chastain nailed it.The supporting cast delivered a solid performance as well, most notably Jason Clarke (an Aussie who always play Americans), Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Edgar Ramirez and Mark Strong. Joel Edgerton plays one of the SEALS Team Six that appeared in the last 40 minutes of the actual raid in the compound in Abbottabad.

I thought that the whole sequence was well-directed. The views from night-vision goggles and the handheld camera movements offer quick cuts in a dark environment, but thankfully it didn’t make me feel nauseous watching it. I’m also glad that Bigelow didn’t over-dramatize the actual killing of Bin Laden with excessive slo-mo, what have you. Though we know how the end plays out, it’s still an edge-of-your-seat ride from start to finish.

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The end of such an exhilarating, dangerous, and not to mention expensive operation ends with a solemn moment of Maya alone on an airplane as she leaves the military base. It’s the right kind of sentiment I’d expect someone in her position would have. She’s spent years at the agency to finally get to this moment, to bring justice a man who has killed thousands of innocent victims. But yet, there’s no self-congratulatory cheer, no high-fives with the troops… it’s not a moment of celebration. It was such a relief for me that the whole ordeal is over and I had only been watching it for 2.5 hours, I can’t begin to imagine how the real ‘Maya’ must have felt.

As I said in my Oscar nominations reaction, I think Bigelow was snubbed and now I’m even more convinced of it. It was a well-crafted film all around, the non-flashy, no non-sense directing style works for this subject matter, and acting-wise it was top notch. The whole film was enhanced by the terrific score Alexander Desplat. It’s minimalistic but definitely effective in setting the mood. A riveting film that certainly leaves much to ponder about for days to come.

4.5 out of 5 reels

What are your thoughts on this film? I’d love to hear it.

Weekend Roundup: ENDGAME review

It’s another s-l-o-w week at the box office when the number one movie is a small-budget horror flick The Possession and it barely cracked $10 million! I skipped the cinema this weekend, though I was initially anticipating The Cold Light Of Day. But the utterly dismal critical rating (9% on rotten tomatoes!!) dissuaded me for shelling out 10 bucks to see it, no matter how much I LOVE Henry Cavill. Ah well, best to just wait for the rental methinks.

So Friday night, my hubby and I decided to see a little-seen thriller/drama ENDGAME set during Apartheid in South Africa. I’m glad I stumbled upon this film because I had never heard of it before. I was just looking at the positive reviews of Dredd 3D and was curious who had directed it, which brought me to Pete Travis. Seems like nobody has seen this film as I asked three times on Twitter about it and got zero response. Only my pal Ted replied saying he hasn’t even heard of it! Ah well, read my mini review below, I think it’s a worthy film.

I also got to see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The reason I’m curious to see it is because a few weeks ago I heard that Keanu was reportedly keen on making Bill & Ted 3! And since I haven’t seen the original, I though what the heck. Well, it’s definitely a silly movie in the vein of Wayne’s World, but it’s good fun and quite a hoot to see how Keanu hasn’t aged that much in 23 years!!

Anyway, here’s my review of:

ENDGAME (2009)

apartheid |əˈpärtˌ(h)āt; -ˌ(h)īt|
(in South Africa) a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.

The subject matter is quite heartbreaking, as is any movie about racial segregation. Based upon the book The Fall of Apartheid by Robert Harvey, the movie is a dramatization of the covert discussions between the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Party, that brought down the Apartheid regime.

It starts off with a suspenseful scene of Jonny Lee Miller‘s character being ‘smuggled’ into the black township to hear about the suffering of the black Africans. I thought he was a doctor at first, but it turns out Michael Young is a businessman, a public affairs director for Consolidated Gold Fields, a British gold-mining company. Young ends up being the key individual who brought about the controversial secret meetings between the two opposing parties, down to securing a country house in Somerset, England to host the talks.

For a film that barely has any action or shootouts, the level of suspense is quite high. Despite not having a lot of knowledge about who the main key players are, I quickly sympathize with what each of the players signed on to, and the risk that came with it. Travis’ direction depicts the predicament subtly but efficiently, it’s a slow build-up to the momentum but he manages to keep it engaging.

I did get a bit dizzy from the hand-held camera work used in some scenes, and in this case I don’t think it’s really all that necessary to use this technique. Fortunately, there are a lot going for it here that keeps me intrigued. The filming location in Cape Town definitely helps enhance the authenticity and atmosphere, but what really sells the film for me is the cast, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor as Thabo Mbeki from the ANC side. Ejiofor has this aura of intelligence and gravitas that is perfect for his role, and he also carries the emotional moments very well. There’s a scene where he’s overwhelmed with shock and fear following a car chase and you just feel he’s thisclose to falling apart.

The rest of the supporting cast is full of B-list actors who are excellent in their roles. Miller does a good job as not only the ‘instigator’ but also the ‘moderator’ of sort, and he depicts the role of a quiet hero in a perfectly-understated way. At first I thought that Mark Strong‘s character is the usual bad guy type, but there’s actually more to it than meets the eye. The only one I wasn’t too keen on is William Hurt as philosophy professor Willie Esterhuyse, but mostly because I can’t understand most of the things he’s saying with his odd Afrikaans accent. But yet the crucial scenes between him and Ejiofor are terrific, their slow bond of trust is intriguing to watch, those scenes are one of my favorite parts in the movie. Derek Jacobi also has a brief cameo here as Miller’s boss, but it’s always nice to see him deliver lines the only way he could. Last but not least, NYC actor Clarke Peters delivers an emphatic performance as Nelson Mandela, the thing that strikes me about the quiet hero is how his inner strength helps him to stay calm during even the bleakest moments of his life. It’s truly extraordinary what he went through, but even more remarkable is how he survived such an ordeal with grace.

At the end of the film, some facts are shown as to what happens to the real-life characters following the meeting. Though it still take years before the reign of Apartheid ended, it showed what the courage of a few brave men could do and the power of hope in humanity. I highly recommend this one. It’s a sophisticated historical drama on an important subject that’s well-written and well-acted. It’s not a ‘sensational’ movie, uplifting without being emotionally-manipulative, which is perhaps why it flew under the radar.

4 out of 5 reels


Thoughts about this movie? Also, did you see anything good this past weekend?