Trailer Spotlight: Netflix’s The Old Guard (2020)

Happy Thursday!! It’s rather gloomy here where I live, so it’s nice to see something that gets the juices flowing. Definitely something to look forward to July 10 as that’s the date it’ll drop on Netflix, yay!

A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered.

I’m not always excited for Netflix Original Movies, I mean I haven’t seen Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction, and probably never will. But there’s SO much going for it here that makes me yell ‘yeah!!’ even as I’m watching the trailer 😀

I do love Charlize Theron in action movies. She’s great as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road and also in Atomic Blonde, she looks believable here too as Andy (is that a nickname??) the leader of immortal mercenaries who’ve been fighting to protect the mortal world for centuries. As if they weren’t bad-ass enough by the looks of it, they’re also very hard to kill! Dayum, I certainly don’t want to be on their wrong side!

I LOVE the director too, Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights), glad to see her doing an action genre! It’s apparently based on a 5-part graphic novel of the same name by Greg Rucka. Now, as for the rest of the cast, we’ve got Kiki Layne who’s lovely in If Beale Street Could Talk, and three of my fave Euro actors who are all verrry easy on the eyes: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthias Schoenaerts and Marwan Kenzari.

I’m intrigued by the concept that they’re immortals. Who are The Old Guard and why they sent ancient warrior Andy to recruit the team? How do they get the immortal ability? Why are they protecting the mortals? And why they seemingly always in hiding/on the run? There’s a quick blurb about the group could potentially be weaponized, and looks like Ejiofor is their enemy here, it’s not clear exactly who his character is. One thing for sure, looks like even he’s shaking in his boots when the Old Guard are near!

Well, based on the trailer, I really can’t wait to see this!


What do you think of this trailer?

FlixChatter Review: Disney’s live-action ALADDIN (2019)

Can you believe it that the original Aladdin animated feature came out 27 years ago? To be honest, I barely remember it as I was more into the Princess movies growing up (esp. Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid). When they first announced they’re working the live-action remake, I was skeptical, which wasn’t helped at all by the ‘blue-not-blue Genie’ debacle. So I went in to the screening really hoping to be pleasantly surprised. You know what, I was!

The opening sequence of Arabian Nights sets the right mood, though it took me a little while to get used to Will Smith‘s singing. By the time we meet Aladdin (Mena Massoud) in the streets of Agrabah with his loyal monkey friend Abu, I have a good feeling I’d enjoy the movie. The Egyptian-Canadian Massoud is instantly likable and is light on his feet as he runs, jumps, leaps from building to building while flashing his movie-star smile. He can sing too, his song One Jump Ahead is dynamic and fun, offering great views of the town.

The arduous casting process for this movie paid off, not only in finding Massoud but Naomi Scott as well as princess Jasmine. The Anglo-Indian actress got so much flak because she isn’t of Arabic descent, but I think people would be impressed by her performance here. She has such a regal air about her but also a charming earthiness that made you believe Aladdin would mistake her for being the princess handmaiden. She and Massoud have a lovely chemistry as they relate to one another that they feel trapped in the life they’re born into. She too can belt a tune and actually sound fantastic together in the gorgeous duet of A Whole New World.

Now, as for Genie. The comparison with the iconic Robin Williams is inevitable, and Will Smith has such giant shoes to fill. But all things considered, I think his ‘Fresh Prince’ interpretation of the character surprisingly works. His Friend Like Me rendition has touches of hip-hop and it’s pretty catchy. The A-list star has an infectious energy that works perfectly as Genie, and some of the jokes (mostly directed at his naive master Aladdin) is genuinely funny. Massoud’s comic timing is adorable, playing up the state of being discombobulated to great effect. It mostly works as this version of Genie also has a good rapport with Aladdin and their relationship plays like an unlikely buddy-comedy with some emotional moments for good measure. I actually enjoyed Smith more when Genie is in human form, which shows up quite a bit in this movie.

It’s ironic that initially I was most excited by Jafar’s casting (Marwan Kenzari) but he’s actually the weakest link here. It’s not exactly his fault however, as he’s a talented actor based on the few things I’ve seen him in (especially The Angel on Netflix). I just think his character is underwritten and bland. The Dutch-Tunisian actor is stripped off his hotness charisma playing a trite, one-note villain. The finale when he’s got his last wish is practically laughable and way over the top as the CGI team went nuts with the magic dust effects.

As for the supporting cast, Iranian-American actress Nasim Pedrad provides comic relief as Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia (and Genie’s love interest). I also like the fact that Dalia is more of a friend to the princess which is lovely to watch. Turkish-German actor Numan Acar as chief soldier Hakim has a memorable scene towards the end, while Billy Magnussen as a goofy Caucasian prince with a hilarious accent drew plenty of laughs. I’m glad his screen time is basically a cameo as he’s so unnecessary. In any case, it’s gratifying to see a diverse cast in this movie. As someone of Southeast Asian decent, I’m always glad to see actors of color shine in a big-budget Hollywood production.

Guy Ritchie seemed a rather odd choice as director, given that he’s mostly known for his R-rated action movies set in London. But to be fair, he’s been stretching his filmmaking horizon a bit with movies like Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., etc. And as he often make movies about inner city working class people, I suppose it’s fitting that he tackles a Disney version of a street hustler. Ritchie also co-wrote the script with John August.

Stylistically, Ritchie’s trademark hyper-stylized filmmaking style of frenetic pacing, quick camera work and kinetic editing is visible in some of the chase scenes, but overall it’s tamed down a bit here. It’s definitely nowhere near as dizzying as his reimagining of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which was a major flop. The way he directed the musical numbers however, is a bit hit and miss.

I’m a huge fan of Alan Menken‘s classic songs, and those are still the main highlights here despite some of the wonky directions. For one, some of these numbers seem to be Bollywood-inspired despite the story is set in the Middle East. The Prince Ali sequence is supposed to be all festive and celebratory but at times feels more topsy-turvy. I do love the A Whole New World number atop the magic carpet which feels appropriately dazzling and romantic, boosted by the terrific aerial effects. The one that make me cringe is the main scene of Speechless, mostly in how it’s directed. I loved the new song the first time I heard it, sung beautifully by Naomi Scott. But the second time around, the musical number felt off despite the defiant message. It’s a pity as it’s such an empowering song and the lyric is organic to the story of a smart, capable woman who’s a natural leader of her Kingdom. I credit Scott’s charismatic performance that somehow she still made the scene work.

I went to the press screening with my best friend’s 12-year-old daughter. In the car she said she’s disappointed by Disney that they keep remaking old things instead of coming up with new materials. Well, she definitely shares my dread about the lack of creativity from behemoth studios. Alas, these live-action remakes are here and they’ll keep on coming whether we like it or not, but as a critic I still ought to judge each of them based on its artistic merit.

Overall Aladdin is a pretty fun movie, though overlong at 2 hours 8 minutes. The production quality is naturally top notch given the hefty Disney budget. I love the set pieces of Agrabah and especially the fabulous costumes. Jasmine’s intricate dresses are especially breathtaking. I think this princess would be a good role model for young girls as she’s not just beautiful on the outside but also has something to say. This movie is far from perfect, but it’s got enough going for it that warrants a recommendation. One thing for sure, Menken’s iconic songs still sound as wonderful as the first time I heard them, and Speechless is a great addition. I don’t even mind seeing this movie again and that speaks volumes about its entertainment value.


Have you seen ALADDIN? Well, let me know what you think!

Guest Review: The Promise (2017)

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Directed By: Terry George
Written By: Terry George, Robin Swicord
Runtime: 2 hrs 13 minutes

It has taken more than ten years for Terry George to return from Hotel Rwanda with another sweeping historical narrative – again about genocide. The Promise is a sobering, beautiful disappointment. The film has a beautiful score and decent cinematography, but is hindered by two competing and uncomplimentary story-lines, flawed casting, and lackluster performances by usually gifted actors.
One thing that The Promise does right is its dogged determination – at least in the beginning – to accurately recreate the Ottoman Empire at its peak. The diversity of the Ottoman Empire is highlighted in the script and on the screen: crowded streets and classrooms alike brim with a rainbow of skin colors and a wide variety of clothing styles. This attention to detail falls to the wayside later on: extras become less and less Armenian with every passing scene, leaving me wondering if the casting department doubts an audience’s ability to see facial features through dirt.

That initial pursuit of realistic cultural immersion was also highlighted in moments like the one when our stars leave a stuffy party full of people in European clothing to hit up the nearby belly dancing club where they drink absinthe, sugar cube ritual and all. The effort to establish the Ottoman Empire as a progressive, inclusive, educated, and wealthy place is palpable.

Unfortunately, The Promise falls short constantly. The focus of the film is what can only be described as a love square: one man is betrothed to a woman but he falls in love with a different woman who is already romantically involved with another man, but she also falls in love with that first man. On its own, this might be a decent movie, but this love square has been placed in the foreground of a genocide. The result is a bad love story (because the backdrop is too dark) and a bad historical drama (because the love story is more carefully developed than the history).
The flashes of the Armenian Genocide that we get are stark: labor camps, cattle trains full of people, violent killings, riots, executions, people on the run and trying to hide. They deserve a telling that does not hide them behind a petty romantic squabble. This is a story that is more than 100 years old and is still illegal to tell in Turkey. 1.5 million people were killed in five years. That story can be told without a love story.

Casting was poor. Oscar Isaac is a great actor, but why a man who is nearly 40 years old is playing a medical student who is betrothed to be married in two years is completely beyond me. He also does not look particularly Armenian. Neither does Charlotte Le Bon, who plays his romantic interest. Angela Sarafyan who, is both a phenomenal actress and an Armenian was cast in a lesser role. I would have liked to see her as the leading actress and a younger, more Armenian man in the place of Isaac.

I get the feeling that this set was not especially actor friendly, which is evident in a lot of lackluster performances. Christian Bale’s character (which should not exist, but that’s a rant about American centrism that we can save for another day) had many a stale outburst. Marwan Kenzari gave a consistently mediocre performance. Charlotte Le Bon seemed out of place in the 20th Century.

It is unfortunate that The Promise fails in its execution because the film explores many prescient themes:

In what ways might people respond to an atrocity? What compromises of our own character might we make when put in a difficult situation? How do we know what side of a story is the true one, both journalistically and personally? What sacrifices might we make for the sake of our families and our friends?

I can only hope that we’ll get the opportunity to explore those questions in a different movie. With any luck, it will be about the Armenian Genocide, because clearly we still haven’t found it in ourselves to tell that story in the way it deserves to be told.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘The Promise’? Well, what did you think?