Weekend Roundup + Review of Michael Mann’s Blackhat (2015)

Happy Monday everyone! It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my office is closed in remembrance of Dr. King’s birthday. I was reading up about Dr. King’s history earlier today and I’m always astonished by how many inspiring comments he had made in his relatively short life. These are just some of my favorites we can all live by no matter what day it is.

Did anybody see SELMA this weekend? Well, it’s a good a time as any to see that film but I figure it’d resonate even more on MLK Day. I only went to the cinema on Friday night for Blackhat, and only got around to seeing The Guest last night. Tonight my hubby and I are going to start watching The Honourable Woman before Netflix yanked it off its streaming service at the end of the month. We’ve been wanting to check that out for ages, and Maggie Gyllenhaal winning a Golden Globe for her performance served as a perfect reminder!

Now here’s my review of Michael Mann’s latest cyber thriller:

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Well, looks like I have to eat my words on this one, considering I’ve done this enthusiastic post on this movie. I was prepared for a smart cyber-thriller that would speak to our cultural anxieties sparked by the repetitive security breaches and surveillance concerns, but the movie is just a typical crime thriller in which the plot revolves around a malicious hacker (hence the title). The opening sequence depicts a CGI tracking shot going into a maze-like chase from inside one computer and out of another on the other side of the globe and resulted in a nuclear reactor explosion in China. Both US and China are desperate to find a computer whiz to help find the cyber criminal and so we’re introduced to Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) who’s currently serving time for computer fraud. Conveniently, his MIT roommate Chen (Wang Leehom) is now a high-ranking Chinese official and he suggests that the FBI grants him a furlough to help them out.

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It all sounds oh-so-exciting but the film itself comes off as dull and un-suspenseful. The hacking jargon and those cyber intrusion CGI may look and sound cool at first, but it gets repetitive as the film progresses, but that’s not even the film’s biggest flaws. The aerial shots are frame-worthy, as one would expect from visual stylist like Mann, but it can’t cover for the clunky dialog (both in English and sometimes broken Indonesian) nor all the plot contrivances that don’t pay off at the end. I haven’t even mentioned the lame villains that’s more irritating than menacing.

I mentioned my doubts about our current ‘sexiest man alive’ Hemsworth as a hacker. Not just any hacker mind you, a computer genius who can hack into anything, including tricking NSA to get him access to their “Black Widow” super computer. (Thor & Black Widow, yes those Avengers reference did put a smile on my face). Well, no matter how authentic the hacking sequences and UNIX command line accuracies are (apparently the film got ’em right according to Wired), it’s still REALLY tough to buy Hemsworth as any sort of computer whiz. He’s not a terrible actor in the right role but he’s so out of his elements here. He also isn’t a movie star, not yet anyway. I read a comment on IMDb that says, ‘Tom Cruise is a star, Hemsworth is a mere flash light.’ Ouch! But y’know what, it made me think that if it were Cruise or someone with his charisma in the starring role, the movie could’ve been a bit more watchable.

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It doesn’t help matters that we’ve got the cheesiest, most cringe-worthy tacked-on romance between him and Chen’s sister (Tang Wei) who conveniently happens to be a software expert. I remember the scorching chemistry between Colin Farrell and Gong Li in Miami Vice, but none of that is to be found here between Hemsworth and Wei. All longing glances and even a sex scene two days after they met, but absolutely zero chemistry. Zilch. I wish Mann would give more time to Leehom and Viola Davis instead, both are perhaps the only saving grace here in terms of casting. Even delivering lines like ‘You can call me Chica anytime you want,’ Davis is always entertaining to watch, if only Hollywood would give her more to do in a movie.

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It’s really a shame that this film never rise above mediocrity. There are even some seriously preposterous moments, I mean, magazines used as bullet proof vest?? Ok so maybe if Thor has ribs made of steel [shrug] My hubby and I turned to each other as the credit rolls that it doesn’t feel like a Michael Mann movie. It looks as if a lesser filmmaker was imitating him as Blackhat has the look/sound/feel to it. I do appreciate the global feel of the film, being shot on location in several countries from US to China to Indonesia. But even the finale set during a Hindus’ Nyepi “Day of Silence” Celebration in Jakarta serves nothing more than an extremely elaborate set decoration, employing 3000 extras no less, that doesn’t add much to the movie.

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You know I REALLY want to love Blackhat so imagine my disappointment. It’s yet another exercise of style-over-substance. Yet visually, despite some arresting ones here and there, overall it’s not as impressive as his previous work in an urban setting, i.e. Collateral. Everything else fares even worse, from casting, dialog and plot, there’s very little to recommend this even coming from a big fan of this director. Six years after the disappointing Public Enemies, this is another misfire from Michael Mann. Well, I hope we won’t have to wait as long to see him back in top form for his next film.

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So what did you watch this weekend? What do you think of Blackhat?

Weekend Plans? How about catching up on Oscar-nominated films you might’ve missed

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Welcome to the weekend, everyone!! It’s Martin Luther King (MLK)  day on Monday so I get an extra day, yay! 😀

What are your weekend plans? Are you going to the movies to catch up on all those Oscar nominees you’ve missed? Check out my Oscar nomination commentary post in case you don’t know which ones those are. Well, as customary, some studios are taking advantage of the nominations to expand the number of theaters, no doubt some would get an Oscar boost of exposure.

AugustOsageCty_CollageAccording to Box Office Mojo, Gravity is expanding to 944 theaters nationwide, whilst August: Osage County is going to be in over 2000 theaters. Not bad at all for an indie film with only $20 mil budget, but not surprised considering the distributor is The Weinstein Company, who’s no stranger to Oscar campaigning. Stay tuned for a guest review of August: Osage County for this weekend from someone who’s seen the stage play.

My #2 fave film of the year, Her, is currently open in more than 1700 theaters. So no reason for you not to catch it! 😉 Apparently Captain Phillips is still in theaters (about 900 theaters nationwide) and Dallas Buyers Club is shown in about 400 theaters.  All of the films I mentioned are on my Top 10 list of 2013, so obviously I highly recommend them!

One film that’d likely get a MLK Day boost is 12 Years a Slave. According to EW.com,  the studio will re-release it into 700 theaters nationwide today. Can you believe it that it’s made less than $40 mil so far since its limited release back in October? I hope it won’t end up to be the lowest-grossing Oscar Best Picture winner (IF it won that is). Anyway, to mark Dr King’s birthday, the studio made a recut 12 Years promo that combines footage of the film and audio from King’s I Have a Dream speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during 1963′s March on Washington. Apparently, Dr. King gave his speech not far from where the real-life Solomon Northup was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in 1841. Wow, I did not know that. Check out the video below:

Well, in the new releases front, we’ve got a Ride Along (billed as a Training Day comedy w/ Ice Cube & Kevin Hart), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and the horror movie Devil’s Due. Since I’ve seen the Jack Ryan movie (expect review next week), I’ll probably do home cinema this weekend and watch It Happened One Night, one of my BlindSpot list, yay!


So what are you going to watch this weekend? Movie theater or home cinema for you?

Whatever happened to the planned Martin Luther King Jr biopics?

Exactly a year ago today, I was excited that the long-overdue Martin Luther King Jr’s biopic was supposedly getting made. But now, on the eve of the MLK holiday a year later, there is still NO definite plan on that particular project, or any other movie based on this inspiring American hero. We’ve got ALL kinds of biopic movies of various leaders since: J Edgar (the famed FBI director), The Iron Lady (British PM Margaret Thatcher), The Lady (Burmese political & human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi), but still no MLK biopic on the big screen or even TV mini-series comes to life.

In that post, I reported that British director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy & Ultimatum, Bloody Sunday, United 93) was going to direct Memphis, a biopic which will focus on the period of King’s life just prior to his murder on April 4th, 1968 in the Tennessee city. Here’s a more detailed plot of what Greengrass had in mind:

it looks at King’s life while trying to organize the city’s sanitation workers in the spring of 1968, just before his murder on April 4 of that year. If so, that’d make for a much more human portrayal of King than some might expect. By the spring of 1968, King’s personal and professional lives were in disarray: His marriage was faltering; he was chain-smoking, boozing, and packing on the pounds. King’s outspokenness on the Vietnam War cost him his relationship with President Johnson, and his new-found interest in labor organization and the urban poor put him on the fringes of the rising Black Power movement.

Well, only a few months later Deadline reported that Universal pulled the plug on the project, citing ‘scheduling’ issues, but the article writer Mike Flemming suggested that the real cause is likely this “…the MLK estate was highly critical of the project, and exerted pressure on the studio to call it off…The family, I’ve heard, made it known that it might go public with its displeasure over Greengrass’s script, which could have hurt the film’s theatrical prospects.”

Apparently that’s not the only MLK biopic the King Estate has objections with. Precious‘ director Lee Daniels was apparently planning a biopic on Dr. King titled Selma, referring to the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march. This Deadline article cited that friend and confidante of the late Dr. King and his family, Andrew Young, raised objections to purported facts in the script Selma, which mentioned about King’s alleged extra-marial affairs. “They didn’t even identify the woman who started that march, Amelia Boynton, who was beaten on the bridge and left for dead on Bloody Sunday… They call it poetic license, but I told them it doesn’t make sense to take poetic license when the real story is more powerful.” Young was quoted as saying.

Now, as of last Thursday, English actor David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help, Red Tails) who was going to play Dr. King in Selma said the project isn’t dead yet. He’s quoted in Indiewire as saying, “… we’re going to make [‘Selma’] one day, let’s get this collaborative energy going, let’s start creating a collaborative relationship. I know it will happen in its good time. That’s not a role you want to rush.”

I’m sure some people would also have objections to his casting as he’s not American. But to me, I’m more concerned with getting the right talent for the job, someone who not only look the part but could portray the role believably, so I think Oyelowo has both.

As for the objections about the negative portrayal of Dr. King, I certainly understand his estate would want to protect his image and his powerful legacy. But I agree with the Indiewire writer in that “… it does the leader a great disservice to paint only a hagiographic portrait of him…” Whether the infidelity factor was accurate or not, I don’t think it would take away or even lessen his legacy to mankind. After all, Dr. King was a hero, not a saint, he was subjected to human weaknesses like the rest of us. Well, it seems as though, much like Dr. King’s dream itself, the fruition of his own biopic also faces an uphill battle.


What do you think folks? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on these MLK projects.