FlixChatter Review: SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (2018)

Denis Villeneuve’s SICARIO was one of the best films of 2015 and one of my favorites that year. It was well received by many movie critics, but it wasn’t a huge box office hit, so I didn’t expect or wanted to see a sequel. But these days Hollywood studios will try to turn ANY movie into a franchise and now part 2 of the hit man saga has been unleash to multiplexes.

The story kicks off with terrorist bombings, including one at a major convenient store in the heartland of America. Special agent Matt Gravers (Josh Brolin) has been summon by his boss Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener) to find out who’s responsible for the bombings. With the blessing from the Secretary of Defense James Riley (Matthew Modine), Gravers was given a mission to do whatever it takes to get a payback for the bombings.

After interrogating a Somalian pirate, he found out that the drug cartels in Mexico are smuggling terrorists through southern border of Texas. With a help of his trusted assassin Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), they devised a plan to kidnap a daughter of one of the big drug cartels and made it look like it’s another cartel who did it. Their goal is to start a war between the cartels, hoping they would all kill each other and wouldn’t be able to smuggle people to the United States. The victim is teenager named Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner), whose father happens to be the biggest drug lord in Mexico. Once Graves and his men took Isabel, things went south fast and Alejandro must use skills to protect Isabel from danger.

With Villeneuve being busy with other projects, stepping into the director’s chair this time is Stefano Sollima, whose previous projects were mostly TV shows in Italy. I thought he did a decent job by following Villeneuve’s template, in fact I think most people would think this film was directed by Villeneuve if they didn’t know a new director was hired for the job. The look and feel were no different from the last film. There’s nothing wrong with following the previous director’s style but for me, if a new director takes over a franchise, I expect to see that person to bring in their own creative vision. Sollima did stage a pretty impressive action sequence in a desert where Graves and his men got ambushed.

Taylor Sheridan’s script is solid but not as good as the first one. Here he tackled several political subjects that are relevant to our real-world issues such as immigration debate, terrorism and politics bickering. But I thought with all those complex ideas he came up with, they just masked a very thin plot. If you’ve seen the trailers of this film, you pretty much know the whole story and that’s pretty disappointing to me. There were opportunities to make this one even compelling than the first film, but the story ended way too fast. I understand they’re planning a trilogy, so hopefully the third film will give us better story.

Performances were pretty decent all around, Brolin and Del Toro looked very comfortable in their respective roles and some of the young actors were pretty good. I thought Keener’s and Modine’s character were kind of wasted, they didn’t really have much to do and could’ve been played by unknown actors.

I was looking forward to this sequel and was a disappointed, mostly with the script. I think they missed an opportunity to make this one as good or better than the last film. Still a solid thriller and fans of the first film should check it out.

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So have you seen Sicario: Day of the Soldado? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Jobs

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The main draw for me about this film is not the talents involved, but the subject matter of one of the most revered innovator of the 20th century. As a huge fan of Apple products, naturally both my hubby and I knew quite a bit about Steve Jobs’ life. My hubby more so than I am as he’s read a lot more stuff on him, including the Walter Isaacson’s official biography that’s published shortly before his death. There is another biopic in the works that’s going to be based on that book, currently in the development stage with Aaron Sorkin as the writer. Now, THAT is the biopic I’m looking forward to, which I read recently has gotten the blessings from Steve Wozniak. THIS film on the other hand, was made with no involvement from Apple whatsoever, Steve Wozniak himself would not recommend the film, saying he was ‘turned off’ by Jobs’ script (posted in the comment section of Gizmodo.com review the film.

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This film focuses on the early years of Apple, how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak first came up with the first personal computer. It began with one of Job’s famous keynotes (or Stevenotes) in 2001 when he unveiled one of Apple’s masterpiece iPod, which forever changed the way people listen to music, and the music industry itself. Then it wind back about 30 years with Steve sleeping on a sofa at Reed College, Portland, unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. It was shot in a whirlwind of vignettes with the Hippy-looking Jobs getting high with his friends, a trip to India to find ‘enlightenment’, working at Atari where his insolent work ethic clashes with his co-workers. All of this happens relatively fast, but I felt like the movie sort of got off in the wrong foot for me as even 10 minutes in, I already found it to be tedious, even grating. To be honest, despite their physical resemblance, I’m not exactly fond of Ashton Kutcher‘s casting. He just gets on my nerves and seeing him portraying Jobs behaving badly just accentuates that.

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To be fair, as the film went on, I found that Kutcher’s portrayal isn’t the worst part of the film. I actually think he did his best with imitating Jobs’ gestures, the way he walked, etc., trying earnestly to shed the image of the dimwitted Kelso from That 70s Show. Unfortunately, there’s more to a compelling portrayal of a real-life persona that mere physicality. On top of that, the superficial, ‘episodic’ script from first timer Matt Whiteley doesn’t do him any favor. Once in flashback mode, the film pretty much tread along in a linear fashion.

Still, it was amusing to see how he and Wozniak ended up building Apple computers out of Jobs’ parents’ garage. Seeing what Wozniak (Josh Gad) came up with, which he didn’t seem to think much of, Jobs was inspired to combine a typewriter with a TV, and that’s how Apple II was born. Then came Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney – who’s good here though he looks nothing like the real guy!), a former Intel engineer who came on board to fund their business. Apple II ended up being a hit at the San Francisco’s West Coast Computer Faire (Jobs was only 21 years old at the time) and the rest is well, history.

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I think people who are familiar with the story of Apple would recognize right away the supporting characters in the film: Matthew Modine as CEO John Scully (which Jobs personally recruited from Pepsi), J.K. Simmons as Apple Board leader Arthur Rock, as well Kevin Dunn as CEO Gil Amelio which Jobs ousted in 1997 in a boardroom coup as Apple stocks continued its downward slump.

Yet the dramatization just isn’t all that compelling. In fact, for a biopic about one of the most creative brains of this century, the way his story is told lacks creativity. Director Joshua Michael Stern often tries to hard to be imaginative with his camera angles and whatnot, i.e. blurry effect before a scene comes into focus, but it feels too gimmicky to me. All the details about Jobs’ quirks (being a fruitarian, lack of physical hygiene, his temper tantrums, etc.) are well-covered here, but the film never really captured the ‘essence’ nor the ‘heart’ of the character. It seems that the film is far more concerned about portraying the ‘genius’ aspect of Jobs, completely glossing over his personal life. It’s never explored how he went from being a complete jerk to his pregnant girlfriend to being a family man with Laurene Powell up until the day of his death. Not sure how he got around to naming the first Apple computer after his first daughter after he vehemently rejected the idea that he was the father.

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In the finale, when Jobs recited his most famous quote for his Think Different campaign, I didn’t feel that this film earned it. I remember being so moved when I first heard that quote years ago that ends with “… because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Yet hearing it at the end of this film didn’t quite have the same impact. Perhaps because the Steve Jobs as portrayed in this film failed to connect with me. If anything, it makes me long for the other biopic that I mentioned above.

Final Thoughts: Subpar script, lackluster direction and that Kutcher’s lack of dramatic chops contribute to something that looks more like a TV movie. Heck, even the decidedly made-for-TV Pirates of Silicon Valley that focused on the parallel lives of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs got a much better critical reviews. I really think the people involved in this film tried to bite more things than they can chew, perhaps it might’ve been better if they had narrowed the scope of the film and focused on a certain period of Jobs life instead. So yeah, this one certainly would NOT end up in my list of favorite Biopics.

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Well, what do you think of this film and/or Ashton Kutcher in general?

Guest Post – Forgotten Box Office Misfires Part II

Ok, here’s the last part of the forgotten big-budgeted misfires. Just to reiterate, these were the films that had a huge budget for its time and their failure went so far as to bankrupt the studio that marketed them, and some even ruined the filmmakers’ career:

5. Cutthroat Island (1995): I think more people know about the other box office misfire from this year, Waterworld, than this movie. For sure Waterworld was huge box office bomb but at least it didn’t bankrupt the studio, but Cutthroat Island did. The studio behind the film was Carolco Pictures. They used to churn out a lot of big films in the mid-80s and early 90s, including Rambo 2 & 3, Terminator 2, Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Cliffhanger. By the mid-90s they were running out of money and decided to put all of their chips on this film. It’s listed on the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest box office flop of all time. Ge this, it cost the studio about $115 mil to make and it only earned back around $10 mil, ouch!

They should have pulled plug on this film from the beginning. Michael Douglas was attached to be the leading man, but decided to drop out a couple of months before the cameras started rolling. Then they went on a panic mode to look for his replacement, offering the lead role to pretty much all of the A-list actors around that time, but none of them took it. So finally they offered the role to Mathew Modine, who’s never starred in any big-budgeted films nor was he an A-list actor. Because director Renny Harlin was so busy trying to find a new male lead, he didn’t look over the script or set designs, so when he was finally ready to shoot the film, he didn’t like both the script and the set pieces.

Matthew Modine & Geena Davis on the set

The project underwent a script-rewrite and the sets also had to be rebuilt, which ballooned up the production budget and caused the film to be behind schedule. It was scheduled to open in the Summer of 1995 but didn’t make it to theaters until that December. Carolco Pictures filed for bankruptcy six weeks before the film open, so they didn’t have any money to market the film. The film was released by MGM Studios and it opened with a paltry $2 mil in one weekend.

As for Renny Harlin, a year later he came out with another big-budgeted film The Long Kiss Goodnight, which also starred his then-wife Geena Davis, and again, it failed at the box office. In 1999 and 2001 he made Deep Blue Sea and Driven, both had huge budget but again neither of them made a dent at the box office. His last few films were either small-budget or straight-to-DVD fares. Geena Davis’ career didn’t pan out well either, the last time I saw her was on a TV show where she played the President of the US, forgot the name of it.

6. Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997): Keanu Reeves was smart enough to drop out of the Speed sequel a couple of months before the cameras started rolling. Unfortunately for Sandra Bullock, she was stuck because she said she was obligated to do the film because director Jan De Bont made her into a big star by casting her in the first film, so this was her way to to pay him back.

The film’s budget was around $160 mil and it only made around $48 mil back. The film didn’t ruin Bullock’s career but she was sort of in a slump after this film came out. Jan De Bont on the other hand, hasn’t had a big box office hit since 1996’s Twister. He was set to direct a lot of big action pictures after Speed 2, one was about a group of secret agents hunting down the world’s most ruthless terrorists and he was offered a chance to direct the American remake of Godzilla. Of course he never got to make those films because Speed 2 was such a huge failure that the studios didn’t want him to be in charge of their tent-pole pictures.

7. Town & Country (2001): I bet not many of you remember this film right? Well don’t worry, it’s not worth remembering. It’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. The film cost around $105 mil to make and earned about $10 mil back. The production started in 1998 but the film didn’t come out till 2001. The reason it took so long to finish was because Warren Beatty demanded to do a lot of takes and the screenplay be rewritten while they were shooting the film. I believe this was the last time Warren Beatty appeared on the big screen, there were rumors that Tarantino offered him the role of Bill in Kill Bill but he didn’t want to make another film again after the experience he had making this film.

8. Rollerball (2002): This remake of 1975 Norman Jewison’s film was so bad that I can’t even recommend it to my worst enemies. Its budget was round $70 to $90 mil and made back around $18 mil. What’s so unbelievable was that the film was directed by John McTiernan, the man who made three of my favorite action films, Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October. I don’t know what went wrong during the production of this film but wow, I just couldn’t believe it was made by the same person!

Back in 1999, McTiernan remade another of Norman Jewison’s film The Thomas Crown Affair, which was a good movie and it made some money at the box office. So I presumed MGM figured ‘hey, why not give him a lot of money to do another remake and we can make more money from it.’ Well of course it didn’t turn out that way. First, Keanu Reeves dropped out before the film started shooting (I’m starting to think Keanu is a lot smarter than he looks since he dropped out of two of the biggest box office bombs in history.) Then they cast a Keanu look alike, Chris Klein, to replace him. Klein’s got to be the worst actor I’ve ever seen.



The film was scheduled to come out in the summer of 2001 but because of negative word of mouth after early screenings, the studio finally dumped it in February of 2002. The studio knew that they had a stinker in their hands, so in order to spread some good word of mouth to the movie geeks out there, they contacted Harry Knowles, the owner of a very popular movie website aintitcool.com and flew him in a private jet for a private screening with director John McTiernan with the hope that he would give the film a good review and convince his readers to go see it. Well, after Knowles saw the film, he published a review of it by tearing it to pieces.

After the film came out, John McTiernan got into some legal troubles and I believe he’s currently serving time in prison. Chris Klein disappeared from the face of the earth; apparently he’ll reprise his role in another American Pie sequel. I’m sure he’s a got a lot of time on his hands now since never became the movie star the studio hope he would be.

Sources: imdb.com, boxofficemojo.com, youtube.com and Wikipedia.org


Well those are some of the not-so-well-known box office failures, let’s hope Hollywood studios will learn from their past failures and invest wisely in future films. Wait a minute, what I’m I smoking? Studios released crappy films with huge budget yearly, some made money and some didn’t. Ridley Scott said in an interview last year that studio presidents told him they don’t even read scripts, they just listened to their executives and would green light any script with potentials to make them a lot of money. No surprise there right?

Any thoughts about any of these films? Which of these films happen to be your favorite?