FlixChatter Review: EQUALIZER 2 (2018)

With such a long and successful career, it’s hard to believe that Denzel Washington has never starred in a sequel until now. The first Equalizer film was a modest success at the box office, but I didn’t think it warrants a sequel. But then again, this is an era in Hollywood when every movie can be turned into a franchise.

Retired secret agent Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) still lives under the radar and uses his special skills to help the helpless. As the story begins, he rescued a little girl from her evil father and returned her to her mother. After the successful mission, McCall is back in Boston where he works as a Lyft driver. He lives a mundane life and try to stay out of the limelight as much as possible. One day he was notified that his friend and ex-colleague Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) was murdered while investigating an assassination of an asset who worked for the CIA. He realized someone from his past is trying to get rid of his teammates and he must use his skills to find out who’s responsible. He enlisted the help of his old partner Dave York (Pedro Pascal) and the two must work together again to find out who’s behind the killings.

Written by Richard Wenk, who also wrote the first film, the story is pretty straightforward. There aren’t any surprises or anything that hasn’t been done in this kind of genre. There are couple of subplots that didn’t really add much to the narrative. One involves McCall trying to help an old man reunite with is long lost sister and the other involves him trying to help his young neighbor kid from gang violence. These two subplots just slowed down the main plot of the story and made the film a lot longer than it should’ve been.

With not much of a deep plot, you’d think director Antoine Fuqua would fill the void with big action scenes after another, but surprisingly the film lacks big thrills. The film contains only couple of fight scenes and a big climatic sequence that takes place during a hurricane. Now I don’t know if Fuqua couldn’t get enough money to shoot more action scenes or he just wanted to make this one more of low key action film. I do have to give shout out to director of photography Oliver Wood, who I think is very underrated, this film looks pretty great. The aforementioned hurricane sequence was one of the best shot action scenes I’ve ever seen. He and Fuqua did a great job of combining practical effects and CGI.

Washington again commands the screen and he’s great as usual. He’s able to convey a character who has all these special skills and willing to help people, but his personal life is nothing special. Here’s a man who’s trying to escape his past and trying to atone for whatever he did by helping others, but he can’t seem to help himself. The rest of actors were kind of just there to fill the screen so Washington to interact with. None of the supporting cast members stood out to me.

The film is way too long and needed better pacing. Hopefully for the third sequel, they can come up with a better story and give us more action. I still enjoyed this one, just like the first film, I don’t have the urge to see it again anytime soon.

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So have you seen EQUALIZER 2? Well, what did you think?

Everybody’s Chattin + Trailer Spotlight: The Big Short

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Happy Tuesday everyone! Well, it’s a three-day work week for me so technically today’s already *Friday* for me, wahoo! 😀  I’ll be taking a week blogging break as my hubby and I are flying to Arizona Thursday to hang out with an old friend of hours who moved there last year from MN. I’m also going to be visiting my friend Cindy B. whom I met through the blog! I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few blog friends over the years, it’s truly one of the perks of blogging! 😀

So about those links…

  • Speaking of Cindy, she just posted a classic review of The Terrace, starring real life couple Paul Newman + Joanne Woodward
  • Michael posted some thoughts on Sicario, which Ted will be seeing tonight as I can’t make it to the press screening. On a related note, Adam reviewed another Denis Villeneuve film, Prisoners.
  • Mark reviewed the acclaimed documentary AMY on Amy Winehouse, whilst Jordan apparently isn’t wowed by Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut The Gift.
  • Jay & her crew have been busy covering TIFF 2015 and posted this awesome TIFF by the numbers post.
  • A lot of Oscar front-runners are no doubt coming out of TIFF and other film festivals, but check out one of the most important blog award, that is Drew’s Fisti Awards on the year 1990
  • Last but not least, have you checked out Margaret‘s Tom Hardy Appreciation yet? I always love celeb crush appreciation, and who doesn’t love Tom Hardy? 😛


Trailer Spotlight: The Big Short

Boy, for some reason I hadn’t even heard of The Big Short! Apparently it’s been in the works for some time and even movie pundits thought it wouldn’t be ready until 2016. Well, today they released a trailer and sounds like this could be an award contender for Christian Bale and Steve Carell. I love the casting of those two, but why’s Bale sporting the same haircut as his younger Bruce Wayne days?? Despite my indifference (I’m being nice here) to Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling, I am looking forward to seeing this!

The film is based on the book by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Moneyball) focuses on men who made millions from a global economic meltdown. Here’s the official synopsis:

When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything


I saw Marisa Tomei and Melissa Leo in the cast list but I could barely spot them. Heck, Karen Gillan actually got third billing on IMDb but she’s not even in the trailer (or if she was, it must’ve been a blink-and-you-missed it moment). I have no idea how thisIMDb STARmeter works but how in the world is her starmeter higher than Carell AND Gosling?? [scratch head]

Anyhoo, a few trivia about this movie from IMDb… This will be Adam McKay‘s first time directing a drama and also his first film not starring Will Ferrell. I really enjoyed The Other Guys and Ant-Man but he also wrote Get Hard which I have absolutely no desire to see. We’ll see how he fares in a drama though it’s not devoid of comedic moments judging from the trailer. According to Michael Lewis (the author of The Big Short novel), the big four: Bale, Pitt, Gosling, and Carell all agreed to take significant pay cuts in order to be in the film.

According to THR, Oliver Stone’s Snowden moved out of the Christmas frame to 2016, opening up the slot for The Big Short. Paramount will release the film in limited release on Dec. 11 and then wide on Dec. 23. The film also will make its world premiere as AFI’s closing night film on Nov. 12. Man, there are SOOO many good movies coming out this Christmas.


So what do you think of The Big Short trailer?

FlixChatter Review: PRISONERS

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When I first saw the trailer of Prisoners, I thought it looked like a made for TV movie that you’d see on TNT or some cable network. So I didn’t really have much interest in seeing it on the big screen, well after reading several high praised reviews online, I changed my mind.

The movie starts out with hunting trip between a father Keller and his son, Keller and Ralph Dover (played by Hugh Jackman and Dylan Minnette respectively). They caught a deer and drove home, during the ride back, Dover gave a speech to his son about survival of the fittest and such. Basically the filmmakers wanted us to know that this is a tough guy who worked very hard for everything he has gotten in his life and for his family. Also, he’s God fearing, a true patriot and a bit of a paranoia. Later, his whole family, including his wife Grace (Maria Bello) and young daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) walked over to their friends and neighbors’ home for a Thanksgiving dinner. Here we’re introduced to their friends Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Voila Davis), they too have two young kids.

While the parents were prepping dinner, the kids went outside and walked around the neighborhood. They came upon a suspicious looking RV, the two young girls wanted to play with it but the older kids told them not to go near it since they heard someone’s voice inside. Later after dinner, the two young girls wanted to go back to the Dovers’ home and pick up a toy, their parents told them they need to get the older kids to walk back with them. The girls said yes and left the room. Minutes later the parents couldn’t find their young ones and went down to the basement to ask the older kids where their sisters are? They said they haven’t seen them since dinner. Of course everyone got panicked and eventually they called the police.

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We then were introduced to Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who’s having dinner alone at a Chinese restaurant and tried unsuccessfully to hit on the waitress there. He got a call from his boss about the missing girls and was told about the RV. The police patrol men were able to find the RV and Loki arrived at the location and arrest the driver, a simple minded looking young man Alex Jones, played wonderfully by Paul Dano. Loki questioned Jones for hours but he refuses to tell him anything. Also, the forensic team couldn’t find any traces of the girls in Jones’ RV. So of course without any evidence to keep him, the police eventually have to let him go free. Dover heard the news that the police was going to let Jones go and decided to confront Jones while he’s leaving the police station with his aunt Holly (Melissa Leo). Upon the confrontation Jones mumbled something to Dover and he’s convinced that Jones is the person who took his daughter and her friend. I think people already know what happens after that since the trailer pretty much gave it away, so I won’t go much deeper into the plot. And to be clear, I’ve only described the first 30 minutes of the film, it’s two and a half hours long, I think you should go see it with as little knowledge as possible.

I mentioned earlier that the movie feels like a made for TV movie and I still believe that it is. But since it’s made for the big screen, the scope is much larger and with the great cinematographer Roger Deakins behind the cameras, the movie looks great. Deakins was able to the capture the dark and gritty feel that fits the tone of the movie. He was able to somehow made the usual boring American suburb neighborhood into a very creepy place, kind of reminded me of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Kudos also goes to Denis Villeneuve‘s direction, I’ve never seen any of his other films until this one and he did a good job of creating tensions and excitement. There were talks about how dark and violent the movie was, well I didn’t think it was that bad. Yes there were some intense moments but they didn’t show much, which is good. I thought it’s pretty tame compare to some other films in this genre, such Se7en or Silence of the Lambs.

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As for the script, it’s the usual by-the-book whodunit thriller and if you’re paying attention, you’ll able to figure who did it early on, but you’ll still enjoy the ride even though you won’t be surprise by it. There’s no M. Night’s “twist” ending here if you’re expecting that kind of thing.

Despite it being promoted it as a Hugh Jackman‘s vehicle, the main the protagonist’s actually Jake Gyllenhaal‘s character. I thought Gyllenhaal was serviceable as the lead detective but somehow I can’t buy him playing that role. I think I would prefer maybe an older or some not-so-well-known actor playing this role. Same goes with Jackman’s character, he really poured his heart and soul into the role but I still kept thinking of him as The Wolverine every time he got angry. When he started screaming, I expected to see those claws to come out. Again, maybe with a less-known actor who hasn’t played a superhero, he might work better as the hard working all-American suburban dad. As for the supporting cast members, Howard and Davis got their fair shares of screen time and they did a good job with their respective roles. Maria Bello unfortunately was relegated to just being the worried mother and didn’t have much to do. I thought Paul Dano was excellent as the main suspect, he didn’t have many lines in the movie but what he did with his eyes and body fit quite well of the kind of perverts and child molesters you see on TV.

My biggest gripe with the movie is the running time. I know they wanted to give all the famous actors some screen time but at two-and-a-half hours long, that’s way too much for this kind of movie. They could’ve cut out a couple of unnecessary scenes and made the movie a bit tighter. Despite the long run-time and the miscasting of the main leads, I still thought the movie was a very good suspense thriller. If you enjoyed movies like Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone or Zodiac, then I’m pretty sure you’ll like this one.

Just a warning for parents out there, you might not want to take your young kids to see it, they might get nightmares. At the screening I went, some parents brought their kids to the movie, I just went “WTF!”, did they think it’s a kind of movie their children would enjoy!? Seriously, what the heck is wrong with some of these parents?

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


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What are your thoughts of this film? Let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: Olympus Has Fallen

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I was wondering the other day if it’s possible to find a review of this movie that does not mention the words Die Hard. Seems that the comparison is inevitable and it seems that Olympus Has Fallen is begging for a comparison. In fact, perhaps it’s an homage to that action franchise, as it’s more akin to the spirit of the original Die hard movie than its official sequel (and if the latest one is any indication, much less banal)! Surely this movie will make you nostalgic about 90s bombastic action extravaganza (whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you).

If you’ve seen the trailer, or even a poster, then you’ll know the plot. The White House is being attacked by a group of North Korean terrorists and hold the president hostage. As is with a lot of 90s action flicks, there is only one person who could save the day and that man is Leonidas Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). The first ten minutes or so of exposition reveals a tragic event during his day as a Presidential guard. Again, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know exactly what happened, but in case you haven’t I’m not going to mention it here. In any case, Banning is now confined to a desk job and even as time passes he’s still consumed with regret that he let his boss and friend, that is President Asher, down. So naturally, he’s more than eager to redeem himself when the chance presented itself one sunny Summer day. The attack comes hard, fast and vicious. The first attack came from above, but instead of a space ship, practically the entire Washington DC is sprayed with bullets from an air carrier, and within 13 minutes (yes the terrorist leader was counting), the supposedly most secure building in the entire free world is reduced to rubble with dead bodies piling up on its grounds.

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The words fresh and original aren’t likely to be associated with this film, but it certainly stays completely true to its title. Olympus indeed has fallen, and Antoine Fuqua doesn’t pull any punches with the brutality of how it goes down. It’s rated R for a reason, it’s violent and bloody. I lost count how many people getting shot in the head at close range, not to mention all the severe stabbings. Both the good and bad guys deliver all kinds of ways to send people to their Maker. Banning himself has no qualms in *taking care* of the enemies. He seems to subscribe to the same “No mercy! No surrender!” motto as his most famous role in 300, but with a bit more humor thrown in. Some of the one-liners did deliver some laughs, especially his defiant quips at the Pentagon folks, though Butler’s character not quite as charismatic as Bruce Willis’ John McClane as the script lacks some serious wit.

Unfortunately it’s lacking in common sense as well. I mean, granted the believability factor depends on whether you’d believe a group of extreme terrorists could deliver such a blow to the United States. The thing is, I don’t know how such a big aircraft could enter our airspace, passing through Andrew Air force Base, without being shot down?? The security forces are so quickly rendered powerless by the enemy, it’s as if they’ve never been trained to respond to emergency attack whatsoever. But the biggest plot blunder of all to me is how Banning is still able to get security clearance once he’s inside the President’s compound as he’s technically no longer part of the Service. Yet could still use his thumb print to gain access, has the right code to open a safe, etc. as if he’s never left!! I mean, they didn’t change authorization codes every time there’s a shift in the security personnel? WOW, some *security* huh?

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Now, I can’t possibly write this review and not mention the cheesy special effects. I get that this is a throwback to 90s action blockbuster, but do they have to throw in 90s SFX as well?? It gets distracting at times, especially during the ambush scene in broad daylight. Fortunately things get better and grittier as the day progresses, and the action gets more up-close with more hand-to-hand combat between Butler and whoever is unlucky enough to get in his way. Butler is utterly believable as a bad ass special forces (is there any other kind in the movies?), he’s definitely credible in action flicks and as a one-man army. Yet he’s not wooden or vacant like many action stars, he still brings a touch of humanity to the role as the mission is a personal one for his character. There’s some emotional resonance in his scenes with Aaron Eckhart as the beleaguered POTUS, and also with his young son.

The supporting cast are stellar but not really given much to do. We’ve seen Eckhart and Morgan Freeman in far better roles, but their presence are more than welcome and add gravitas to the project. Melissa Leo got more screen time than I thought, though it’s curious what made the Oscar winner sign on to do THIS particular role. I’m disappointed that Angela Bassett — who still look beautiful and athletic — didn’t get to do any butt-kicking in this movie! I was sure she would get to do some of that when she was cast as the head of Secret Service. Rick Yune pretty much rehashed his role as Bond villain in Die Another Day as the villainous mastermind Kang who’s hellbent to get his hands on US nuclear missiles. I guess he’s serviceable but nothing more, a far cry from the iconic performance of say, Hans Gruber, as Kang is neither menacing nor entertaining. I’d say the characters of Dylan McDermott and Radha Mitchell could’ve been left in the cutting room floor and they won’t make a dent.

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Well, this movie doesn’t exactly put Butler back in my good graces just yet. He still needs to be much more selective in his role choices and most importantly, seek out decent scripts! A lot of his projects have potential but suffer from poor writing. I do think he’d be better off doing more action thrillers than rom-coms, though I do wish he balance things out with dramatic roles, too.

The spirit of patriotism is so high in this movie, there’s absolutely no room for subtlety. But seems like in the screening I was in, the audience ate it up, I could tell people were rooting for Butler as the lone hero. A torn down American flag being thrown by the bad guys from rooftops falls in slow-motion as a patriotic score comes on, there are plenty of moments like this and I can’t help but feel a bit emotional despite its inherent corny-ness. Btw, Lincoln also makes an appearance here, and you’d cheer when he [sort of] shows up on screen.

Final Thoughts: Despite all the flaws, I still think this one is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s actually quite entertaining and action fans should be pleased to see the relentless combat scenes and countless shootouts. Apart from the rather sluggish start, there’s not a boring moment as the action never stops. There’s also a decent level of suspense overall, and I definitely feel a pang in my gut seeing our leaders being violated in such a way. The subject matter of terrorism is sadly still relevant to this day, and at times it really hit close to home. Fuqua said in an interview that he sought to show America’s post-9/11 vulnerability and he certainly achieved that.


3 out of 5 reels


Those who’ve seen this one, what did you think? And for those who haven’t, are you going to check this one out?

Conspicuous trailer of the week: The Fighter

Well, well, well, when it rains it pours I guess. Within hours of each other, the trailers of two of my highly anticipated movies–which opens on the same day on December 10–are released! You’ve probably see The Tourist by now, and now check out this intense boxing drama The Fighter starring Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg:

Back last September, I posted a photo of a skinny Christian Bale on the set of the movie. In this David O. Russell movie, Mark Wahlberg plays the boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and Bale plays his half-brother Dicky Eklund, Ward’s sometime trainer and small-time criminal. It’s a real life ‘Rocky’ story that makes it all the more heart-wrenching. Eklund was featured in the 1995 documentary High on Crack Street and has battled drug addiction for years, hence Bale’s crackhead, balding look.

Now, check out this stark teaser poster. What is wrong with this picture??

Now, before you start analyzing the ‘look’ of the poster, which is meh I agree, but what I’m trying to get at is WHY in the world is Bale the ONLY one without Academy Award Nominee on top of it?! The only thing it would be ok is if it’s got ‘Winner’ instead of ‘Nominee’ as he surely deserved at least a couple for his past work!

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I’ve said before that he’s sort of been playing second fiddle to his co-stars in a lot of movies, and technically he is in this one as Wahlberg got the title role. But second banana no more! Looks like he’ll be the one stealing scenes in this movie. Not knocking Wahlberg as he looks good here, too, I mean this is the type of roles that suits him, intense and brooding, and of course he gets to show off that Calvin Klein buff torso of his. But Bale’s character is the one that grabs me, and talk about a chameleon, WOW! He’s no stranger to altering his look and yo-yoing with his weight drastically, but I’m still amazed by his skin and bones look! Hard to fathom he is Bruce Wayne!! And within a year or so he will once again be the caped crusader, which means he’d have to gain weight all over again. But look altering per se doesn’t make a good actor, but pair that with his formidable acting chops, it’s a force to be reckoned with. I do hope that dedication won’t go unnoticed and that he’ll FINALLY get his dues come award season!

Besides Amy Adams, another Oscar nominee Melissa River (for Frozen River) rounds up the cast. Just a bit of trivia courtesy of IMDb, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt were once attached for this film with Darren Aronofsky to direct, not long after Aronofsky directed the highly-acclaimed The Wrestler. I don’t know about you, but I think I prefer this cast.

The Fighter will open in limited release on December 10th 2010 before opening nationwide a week later. I’m usually not a boxing movie fan, I’m not too good dealing with all that blood, but I’ll make an exception for this one.

So, what say you? Are you excited for this film?