FlixChatter Review – WITHOUT REMORSE (2021)

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The journey of turning Tom Clancy’s WITHOUT REMORSE into a film was a long one. Originally, it was supposed to hit the big screen way back in holidays season of 1995. John McTiernan as attached to direct and Keanu Reeves, hot of the success of SPEED, was offered the lead role. Reeves was reportedly offered a salary of $7-10mil, pretty high for the time but he didn’t want to do back-to-back action pictures and declined the offer. Then Gary Senise, still in high demand because of his role in FORREST GUMP was attached to star as the lead and Lawrence Fishburne also signed on to be the second lead. But the production was shut down because Savoy Pictures, the studio that was producing the film, went bankrupt. In the 2000s, the late director John Singleton tried to revive the project, he was looking to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the lead, but the project never came to fruition. In the 2010s, Christopher McQuarrie was assigned to write and direct with Tom Hardy being eyed as the lead. But again, the project just couldn’t get off the ground.

Now almost 30 years later, Clancy’s second action hero (behind Jack Ryan) is finally getting his own film.

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A group of Navy SEALS is Syria trying to rescue an American prisoner, one of the SEALS named John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) feels there’s something fishy going on. He thinks that CIA operative John Ritter (Jamie Bell) is hiding something from his team. The only person that’s on his side is SEAL’s leader Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). Despite his protests, the team did rescue the prisoner, but it turned out the bad guys weren’t Syrians but a bunch of Russians. Kelly wanted to know what’s really going on, but Ritter basically told him it’s out of his pay grade. A few months after the rescue mission, members of Kelly’s SEAL team were assassinated.  When the assassins came to kill Kelly, he was able fend them off but not before his pregnant wife was killed during the attack at his home. Filled rage and vengeance, Kelly is on a mission to find who’s behind the attack that killed his unborn child and wife.

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Loosely based on Tom Clancy’s early 90s novel, the movie has little resemblance to the novel. The only similarity was that Kelly’s wife and unborn child were killed in the beginning of the story and that’s it. The screenplay is credited to Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. By stripping away all of Clancy’s source material, there’s not much that we haven’t seen before in this kind of story. Sheridan even repeats himself here by writing a plot that’s similar to the last SICARIO film. The most sinful thing the writers commit on this script was that they didn’t include a central villain. A good action film needs a good antagonist and here we don’t really find out about the villain until the last 10 minutes of the film. And I’m pretty sure most audiences can figure out who’s really behind the attack on Kelly’s SEAL team. I don’t mind that the writers decided to come up with their own version of this story, but I thought Clancy’s novel could be adapted into a great action thriller. There’s so much material in the novel that’s still relevance in today’s world.

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Director Stefano Sollima, who directed the underwhelmed SICARIO sequel, didn’t really elevate the not-so-exiting script. His style of direction is very mundane and by the number. A story like this need someone that can inject energy into the picture. But Sollima either don’t have that kind of talent or didn’t really care to make this into an exciting action thriller. Even the big action scene was lacking creativity and excitement.

Jordan really poured his heart and soul into this role and he’s great as John Kelly. Unfortunately, his co-stars were miscast. I didn’t believe that a young-looking Jamie Bell is a seasoned CIA operative and Turner-Smith just didn’t look tough enough to be a SEAL leader. I’m glad that her character is not a romantic lead or damsel in distress, and she can take care of herself. Guy Pearce has pretty much played that same sleazy character for the last 10 years or so and again his role as the sleazy politician in this film is no different.

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Clancy’s Without Remorse is one of my favorite novels and I’ve been waiting to see film version for a long time. Despite some good talents involved in this film version, it’s an underwhelming and disappointing adaptation. If the proposed sequel Rainbow Six do happen, I hope they’ll hire a better team of writers and director.

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So have you seen WITHOUT REMORSE? Well, what did you think?

You can watch JUST MERCY for FREE during the month of June

Hello friends… pardon the lack of posts and engagements on the blog lately. I had been doing a lot of reflections lately and kind of avoiding social media. There’s only so much one can take before information overload sets in… it’s a delicate balance between wanting to keep updated about what is going on and processing everything we see & hear and let them sink in.

While protests about George Floyd’s horrendous killing is still going on, with many countries across Europe and Canada showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter, one word we hear more and more lately is systemic racism. Per Wiki…

Institutional racism (also known as systemic racism) is a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other factors.

Well, one of the recent films that highlights systemic racism dramatically is JUST MERCY, and if you have not seen it yet by now, Warner Bros has made it available to stream for FREE for the month of June.

Per Variety, WB released this statement: “We believe in the power of story… Our film ‘Just Mercy,’ based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, is one resource we can humbly offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society. For the month of June, ‘Just Mercy’ will be available to rent for free across digital platforms in the US.”

I had the privilege of seeing this film at TCFF last year and posted this review. This is an excerpt from what I wrote…

It’s the kind of film that gets you riled up for the blatant racism and injustice that sadly still hasn’t been completely eradicated to this day. The scene where attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) first met Walter McMillian’s (Jamie Foxx) family, greeted warmly by his wife who’s astounded that he’d bother to visit them packs an emotional punch. The film made me want to learn more about the McMillian’s case and others similar to his, as well as the Equal Justice Initiative that Stevenson founded in 1989. For that reason alone, the filmmakers and cast did an admirable job.

I hope you’ll take the time to watch this if you haven’t already… or if you have, this is a film worth rewatching. The topic can’t be more timely than it is now… though learning about such an important history shouldn’t just be confined to when there’s a devastating incident.

To make it easy, I thought I’d embed this YouTube link so you can watch it here:


In addition to sharing about this film, USA Today also shared a list of books for kids and adults alike to learn more about anti-racism. I think we all can always benefit for learning more about each other, and make sure these kinds of centuries-old practice of injustice don’t keep getting passed down through generations.


Have you seen JUST MERCY? Let me know your thoughts!

FlixChatter Review: JUST MERCY (2020)

I saw Just Mercy at Twin Cities Film Fest last October, but finally just got around to reviewing it. It ends up being perfect timing given today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day as it’s known in the States), celebrating Dr. King’s birthday. This year it happens to be the 25th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy.

Just Mercy is an extraordinary BOAT (based on a true story) film. Not only because of the powerful and thought-provoking subject matter, but the story is based on a memoir of attorney Bryan Stevenson who’s depicted in the film, with Stevenson himself served as an advisor. That aspects lends authenticity to the story, plus there’s two powerhouse actors bringing it to life: Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson, and Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian, a wrongfully imprisoned black man who’s on death row.

The story starts with Stevenson after graduating from Harvard Law School. Naturally the bright young lawyer could’ve taken a number of lucrative jobs in a big city of his choice. But instead he drives to Alabama to work on people who are wrongly-condemned and not afforded proper representation. His only ally is Eva Asnley (Brie Larson), a young mother working to match lawyers with death row inmates. She was about to give up when she got a call from Stevenson looking to start a legal center for inmates on death row.

As far as legal/courtroom dramas goes, Just Mercy perhaps isn’t the most accurate. I talked to an attorney friend of mine after the screening and he noticed a bunch of glaring inaccuracies in the courtroom scenes. Be that as it may, for most people who aren’t in the legal field, I don’t think we’d ever notice those. What the movie has going for it is the emotional impact. The flashback scene that shows an encounter between Walter and the town sheriff who obviously deems Walter guilty before he does or say anything. “You don’t know what you’re into down here in Alabama, when you’re guilty from the moment you’re born.” – it’s just one of Walter’s gut-wrenching quote that stays with me. By the time we see him in the film, Walter’s already served several years on Alabama’s Death Row, having been accused of murdering an 18-year-old white dry-cleaning clerk.

It’s the kind of film that gets you riled up for the blatant racism and injustice that sadly still hasn’t been completely eradicated to this day. The film mentioned the fact that Walter had an affair with a white woman automatically made him a suspect, despite having a strong alibi that he was nowhere near the location of the crime, and dozens of witnesses were with him at the time of the murder. The scene where Bryan first met Walter’s family, greeted warmly by his wife who’s astounded that he’d bother to visit them packs an emotional punch.

Both Jordan and Foxx did an astounding job in their respective roles. It’s clear that the subject matter is personal to them, and it shows. Foxx has shared in several talk shows that his own father was wrongly jailed for seven years for having $25 of illegal substances. What’s most heartbreaking to see is how Walter sort of resigned himself to a death sentence. Even when Bryan assured him he could get an appeal, Walter thought a death sentence a foregone conclusion. It’s no surprise given just how much the rigged system is stacked against them, and that what really happens have no bearing on the jury’s conviction.

The third act consists of conventional courtroom drama stuff. It gets a bit schmaltzy and even plodding at times, but director Destin Daniel Cretton manages to keep the emotional quotient high. Jordan and Foxx really shine on and off the courtroom scenes, but I have to give props to supporting actors Herbert Richardson as Walter’s fellow death-row inmate and Tim Blake Nelson as a career criminal whose false testimony incriminated Walter. Rafe Spall, an underrated English character actor,  is also pretty effective as the District Attorney for Monroe County, a key figure in Walter’s appeal process. If I have to nitpick however, aside from one brief conversation with his mother about wanting to fight injustice, we don’t really get to see just who Bryan Stevenson is and what is he about as a person. I suppose the film’s focus in the fight to free Walter McMillian, but I think his character (and Larson’s) could use some more depth.

Overall, the talented cast elevates Just Mercy slightly above a run-of-the-mill social justice drama. Stylistically, this film is pretty subdued, no dazzling cinematography or cutting-edge camera work to speak of. Even the music isn’t particularly memorable. But in the end, it’s Walter McMillian’s narrative that takes center stage, as it should be because it’s an inspiring, timely story and one that needs to be told. The film made me want to learn more about the McMillian’s case and others similar to his, as well as the Equal Justice Initiative that Stevenson and Eva Asnley founded in 1989. For that reason alone, the filmmakers and cast did an admirable job.


Have you seen JUST MERCY? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: CREED II (2018)

The first Creed film was a big hit with both audiences and critics, so of course a sequel must be made. I was skeptical with the first film, but it blew me away and when it was announced that the sequel will be about Creed vs. Drago, I was pretty excited. I’m sure most fans of the Rocky franchise will tell people that Rocky 1 or 2 is their favorite because those films were considered more prestigious than the later sequels. But Rocky 4 is my favorite in the series. So, a rematch of Creed and Drago got me all pumped to see this film.

After becoming a world champ boxer, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is living the high life with his beautiful girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thomson) and father figure Rocky (Sly Stallone). While in the Ukraine, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) trains his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) to take down Creed. With the help of a boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby), the Dragos challenges Creed to a match that the boxing world has been waiting to see for over three decades. Adonis is considering taking up the challenge because he believes this will be a revenge for his father’s death he always wanted. Rocky on the hand, fears that Adonis might not be able to beat Victor and don’t want to lose another person who is very close to him and basically the only family he has left.

The screenplay by Stallone and Juel Taylor were very well-written. Even though the storyline is pretty straightforward, they were able to focus more on the characters and it worked for me. The focus this time around is family and we see the struggle Adonis and Bianca is going through once they got married and became parents. Rocky and Adonis also have to deal with their sometime difficult father and son like relationship. I really appreciate that they gave the Dragos some backstory, so they’re not just one-dimensional villains. Fans of the franchise will probably recognize some of the elements from Rocky 3 and 4 were integrated into this one.

Stepped into the director’s chair this time is Steven Caple Jr. and I thought he did a pretty decent job. With the template set by the first film’s director Ryan Coogler, Caple just have to follow it. I thought he should’ve come up with a better way of filming the fight scenes though. The boxing scenes weren’t bad, I just wish they came up with something more creative.

I was most impressed with the performances by the lead actors. Jordan and Thomson have such an amazing chemistry that I really believe they’re real couple. Mid way through the film, they both shared a dialog free and heartbreaking scene that almost made me tear up with them. Stallone could play Rocky in his sleep. He’s more of side character this time around, but he’s always great when he’s on screen. I really enjoy his chemistry with Jordan. Both Lundgren and Munteanu didn’t get a lot of screen time but I thought they delivered a pretty decent performance.

I’ve seen this film twice now and I feel like it’s as good as the first one. I gave that film 4.5 stars but I’m giving this one half a star less mostly because there’s nothing new we haven’t seen before and it’s predictable. But it’s well made and I truly loved the performances by the three leads. If there’s another film, I’m pretty sure a third Creed film will get made, let’s hope they come up with a more refreshing storyline like the first one.

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So have you seen CREED II? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Black Panther (2018)

I had been looking forward to write a review of this film since I saw it a week ago. By now practically everyone has seen this film, as it broke all kinds of box office records. Normally I don’t really care for numbers for a big tentpole films like this one, but I am thrilled for the success of Black Panther because simply it’s a terrific film that deserved to be seen on the big screen.

The film’s storyline is set just right after the events in Captain America: Civil War (a film I also admired a lot) where T’Challa, the then heir of a fictional African country Wakanda, lost his father. The young King of Wakanda returns his technologically-advanced and supremely wealthy home. It isn’t easy to be king however, as his ascend to the throne faced many challenges. Unlike many superhero films where the villains are mostly maniacal figure hell-bent to rule/destroy the world, T’Challa’s advisory turns out to be a personal one.

I won’t go into too much details about the plot as it’s best to go into this blindly as I did. The story takes place mostly in Wakanda, but it started off in a familiar urban setting in Oakland, California. I love how relatable the story is, and you truly feel for the dilemma of the characters involved. Rich in vibranium, the indestructible metal that’s used to make Captain America’s shield, Wakanda isolated themselves from other African nations and posed as a Third World country. Run by the King’s sister Shuri, her state-of-the-art tech lab would make even Tony Stark and Bond’s Q envious! This is a country that truly can stand alone in the universe and would never need any other nation’s help in any way. Therein lies the dilemma. Why doesn’t it help other nations and fellow Africans in need? The themes of refugees and the role (and responsibility) of a powerful nation is so fitting given the current global refugee crisis.

There is even a mid-credit scene that seems to directly address the current administration with its message about building bridges instead of barriers in times of crisis. The film doesn’t shy away from the current political climate, yet somehow it isn’t preachy and the story is still organic within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s admirable in and of itself the fact that the plot fits perfectly within MCU but yet manages stands alone and in many ways, be ahead of the pack. Because the conflicts are so personal to our hero, even when the action sequences are huge and bombastic, it never overpowered the story and there are real human lives at stake.

Let’s talk about the fantastically-diverse ensemble cast that made this film so great. From its intro in Captain America: Civil War, I already loved Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, but here we get to see his dramatic chops. The charismatic actor’s got an effortless regal vibe about him, plus he looks just as spectacular as a monarch as he is a superhero! He’s surrounded by a phenomenal cast, from veteran actors like Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett, to relatively-new-but-accomplished young stars like Michael B. Jordan, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, current Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira. I have to admit I had a gleeful smile watching two of the Tolkien white guys, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman, reunited in this movie. The latter had more to do here and he provided some of the comic relief along with Wright’s Shuri.

Kudos to writers Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole for writing a villain who is multi-dimensional and someone we actually empathize with. Jordan displayed a layered performance as well as a towering physical magnetism as Erik Killmonger. Both he and Boseman are such strapping [read: hot] lads that their fight scenes are quite breathtaking to behold, but the action actually mean something instead of just a gratuitous display of destructive force [*cough* Man of Steel *cough*]. The filmmakers also created a conflict that has political/cultural significance that raises the stakes, yet keeping it grounded with human emotion.

I’d say the film might pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors, considering the number of female characters with a real arc instead of used merely as accessories. The real MVPs are Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest and a Wakandan spy, and Danai Gurira as Okoye, a Wakandan general of the all-female special forces. Gurira’s army of bad-ass women easily give Wonder Woman‘s Amazonians a run for their money. So gratifying to see SO many heroic women of color on screen who are strong in terms of physical strength as in their intellect and resolve. Nakia is an especially inspiring character worthy of the King’s love and admiration, and Nyong’o has an amazing screen presence. Forget Black Widow, I’d love to see a spinoff with Nakia and Okoye in their own standalone Marvel movie!

This is what I called ‘fun with substance’ kind of movie, which is what Marvel has excelled at by hiring indie filmmakers to helm their blockbusters. The film showed off the huge $200 mil budget in terms of visuals and action set pieces, but the best part of it is still the story and its characters. But man, what a feast for the eyes it truly is! Apparently Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige spent more $$$ on this film to get the wealthy-beyond-measure world of Wakanda just right (according to Vulture). The towering skyscrapers, the hi-tech trains/spaceships, not to mention the incredibly rich costumes that would hopefully earn Ruth E. Carter some Costume Design nominations. They look stylishly-futuristic while still honoring its tribal African roots.

I love that Black Panther has a ton of girl power both in front and behind the camera. Its cinematographer Rachel Morrison has just broke new ground as the first female DP ever to be nominated for an Oscar (for Mudbound)! Her stunning visual work here is quite Oscar-worthy as well. There’s such colorful vibrancy in this film that’s complemented by the lively score by Coogler’s longtime collaborator Ludwig Göransson.

I could go on and on about how much I loved this film. The stakes felt real and there were moments of genuine sadness, but it also didn’t forget to have fun because hey, it’s still a superhero movie. I LOVE the exhilarating car chases that shows off Black Panther’s prowess. Basically the entire scene in Busan, South Korea is just so freaking cool! I mentioned Shuri reminds me a bit of Bond’s Q, well, some of the action scenes here at times feels like a Bond film but thankfully without the male chauvinism aspect.

Now, it’s not a perfect film as there are some pacing issues and some parts seemed to go on longer than necessary. But really, those are really small quibbles in a largely masterful work by director Ryan Coogler. He’s joined a growing number of indie filmmakers like the Russo Brothers and Taika Waititi who’ve stepped up to the task of making such quality superhero films for Marvel. I’m glad that they now have a fruitful career ahead of them, as I want to see more of their work.

Diverse representation alone doesn’t make a film automatically good. But Black Panther did the diverse cast justice by giving them something worthy to do in a well-written, thought provoking film. And THAT is definitely something worth praising about. I hope Hollywood would finally realize that racial diversity and inclusion does pay at the movies! It may not be the first black comic-book-based movie, but it certainly the biggest and best one to date.

A friend from work put it best, ‘Forget about Marvel universe, give me a Wakanda universe!’ Hey I’m down with that! #WakandaForever


So have you seen ‘Black Panther’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Double Review: CREED (2015)

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I had trepidation about seeing this film as I’ve only seen one Rocky film and I’m not really a boxing movie fan. But my hubby really wanted to see it, and so we went and am I glad I did. Here’s our review:

Ted’s Review

Doing a spinoff of a franchise that hasn’t been a box office hit for long time could be risky but somehow director/writer Ryan Coogler was able to convince not only the studio executives but its star Sly Stallone to revive this once box office gold of a franchise. What’s even more surprising was how good the film turn out to be and it’s one of favorite films of the year.

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Adonis Johnson/Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is a young man who wants to be professional boxer; he found out early in the story that his late father was a fame-boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Creed’s widow Mary (Phylicia Rashad) took in the young Adonis and raised him as her own son. Unlike other boxers who needed to box in order to make a living, Andonis grew up in a privilege lifestyle but he yearns to be a boxer. Even a promotion at his corporate job won’t keep him from pursuing his dreams. So he quit his job, moved to Philly and tried his hands at a professional level boxing. But after he got beat badly in a “friendly” bout, he realized he’s not ready and asked Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him. Rocky has walked away from the ring after his last victory match and never wants to be back. He’s now happily running his Italian restaurant.

But the young Creed is persistent and wants to create his own image, he doesn’t want to be known as the son of the great Apollo Creed. He even found time to romance a local musician named Bianca (Tessa Thompson). The story of this film is similar to that of the original Rocky, it’s about an underdog who’s determined to be the best. The film features the usual training montage, great fight sequences and fans of the franchise will happy to know that we do get to hear that famous Rocky’s theme. But Creed does have his own theme though.

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The performances by the leads were quite excellent. Jordan excels in his first leading role; his fierce demeanor is very similar to that of Weathers’ Creed from earlier films. Thompson’s Bianca is not just another pretty face love interest, she has her own ambitions and chemistry between her and Jordan were quite believable. The person who steals the show for me though is Rocky himself. Here I think Sly gave maybe his best performance of his career. Rocky is now an old man and he realized he doesn’t have much in life; all of the people he cared about are all gone. By training the young Creed, he can have a family again and maybe have one last glory as a trainer to a champ. I won’t be surprised if Stallone gets an Oscar nomination.

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I’ve never seen any of Coogler’s previous films but after this one, I’ll have to check out his work. I was surprised how well he put this picture together; I was involved in the story from beginning to end. He even shot a single take for one of the boxing matches in the film; it’s an incredible sequence. What really impresses me was the way he’s able to blend in the nostalgic feel of the earlier films and then injects some 21st century style into this film. He’s a real talent and I’m looking forward to his next film.

Creed is a great spinoff/reboot of a once popular franchise. It contains great performances, tight direction and reminds you to never give up your dreams. I can’t wait to see the next chapter in Creed’s pursue of becoming the best boxer in the world.

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Ruth’s Review

There has been far too many reboots and spin-offs and more often than not, it’s just a money-making scheme. But once in a while, emerged a gem that actually earns its merit and Creed is no doubt one of them.

Though I’ve only seen one Rocky film, I read a little bit about the friendship of Rocky and Apollo Creed, the father of the film’s protagonist, and it certainly helped me understand the story better. The film began with a brief but meaningful introduction of Adonis, who clearly has his father’s talent, as well as ambition as a boxer. Determined to make his mark in the sport, Adonis moved to Philadelphia. He ended up finding an aging Rocky Balboa at his restaurant, naturally named after his beloved wife Adrian. It’s a memorable scene that promises great things to come from this eventual mentorship.

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The relationship between these two is the heart of the film and filmmaker Ryan Coogler is wise to keep that be the focus of the film. He didn’t squander it by over-complicating things or adding unnecessary subplots, and that’s largely why the film worked so well. There’s an effortless chemistry between Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan almost straight away. There’s an interesting banter between the two that’s funny and heartfelt, and it gets even better as the film goes on.

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One of Adonis’ journey involves a love story with a beautiful up-and-coming singer Bianca (Tessa Thomson), but I’m glad she’s given an intriguing character arc and not simply just a ‘pretty girlfriend’ role. Yet the film paid more attention to Adonis’ relationship with Rocky, which ultimately is what the film is all about. Most of conversation takes place during training and it certainly will please people who love boxing and boxing films. But even for someone like me, I find those scenes extremely dynamic and entertaining.

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Much had been made about Stallone’s excellent performance and you know what, it lived up to the hype. It’d be interesting if he did end up being nominated for an Oscar, as he did in 1976 for the first Rocky film. I’d think would mark some kind of record that the same actor is nominated twice playing the exact same role. He’s definitely my pick to win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. He obviously had lived and breathed this role for many years, and if this were to be his swan song to the franchise, well he couldn’t have left on a higher note. His performance is convincingly heartfelt, showing a gentler, wiser and more vulnerable Rocky who thinks he’s got nothing much to live for anymore. What started out as a mentorship slowly builds into a genuine friendship between him and Adonis, and they both end up helping each other when they need it most.

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For a boxing film, the film isn’t graphically violent. There are basically only two major fight sequences but both are done VERY well. There’s one that was done in a single take and it was quite a scene to behold. Real-life professional boxers Andre Ward and Tony Bellew play two of Adonis’ oponents which adds a touch of authenticity to the scenes. The script by Coogler and Aaron Covington have a wonderful balance of humor and emotional touches, which honors the original Rocky story that breathes life into the new hero. But nostalgia could only work so much and so it’s wise that Coogler didn’t drown the film with it and lets it stand on its own merit. Even its use of the Rocky theme is perfect, it’s brief but it came just at the right moment.

Ultimately this is Jordan’s film and he’s certainly perfect in the role. He’s reunited with Coogler who directed him in Fruitvale Station. I haven’t seen that one yet but clearly this has been quite an erm, fruitful collaboration between the two and I look forward to seeing more from both of them, together or separately. This movie is such a pleasant surprise of the year, an entertaining as well as inspiring film that should please loyal fans and win new ones.

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So have you seen CREED? Well, what did you think?

Rental Pick: CHRONICLE (2012)

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a big fan of the found-footage genre, which is often used in horror or sci-fi movies. So when this one comes around, I was only mildly interested in seeing it. But the good reviews piqued my interest and y’know what, going out of one’s comfort zone can be quite rewarding 🙂

The story is pretty straightforward, three Seattleites high school friends somehow gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery one night. It’s not fully explained how they gain these powers, but that’s beside the point. Soon, the three boys bonded over their newly-found powers, and the scenes of them discovering the powers are quite fun to watch. You sort of live vicariously through these characters, especially in the exhilarating flying sequences. Now who hasn’t wished they could fly at some point of their lives? What started out as whimsical and fun soon takes a sinister turn, however. Never has the saying ‘it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye’ been more aptly applied here.

The found-footage film-making style lends itself well to the story, as one of the main characters, Andrew, is a loner kid who seems to only communicate using his handy-cam. He’s the quintessential troubled boy who lives with his cancer-stricken mother and a disillusioned, abusive former-firefighter father. As if life at home isn’t hard enough, he’s also bullied at school. After seeing the documentary Bully, these bullying scenes are even more heartbreaking and you truly feel for this kid. His two friends however, Matt (who’s actually Andrew’s cousin) and Steve, the popular guy who’s running for school president, live seemingly problem-free lives.

So it’s no surprise that this incredible discovery affects Andrew the most. On the way home from school one day, Andrew uses his power that sends someone in the hospital. Surely anyone who’s been tailgated or harassed by a careless driver can relate to that scene, but the incident prompts Matt and Steve to enforce a ‘rule’ that they should not to use the powers whilst they’re angry or for evil purposes. For Steve and Matt, the powers are just something cool to have, a new talent they can use for fun, such as freaking people out at a toy store using their telekinetic powers.

But for Andrew, the power feeds his growing anger and resentment, and it quickly overtakes him. It doesn’t help matters that Andrew’s telekinetic abilities seems to be the strongest of the three, perhaps because he’s just naturally the most gifted out of them all, and it could be because he spends more time perfecting it. My husband likens his ability to X-Men‘s Jean Grey, who could be incredibly powerful when she puts her mind to it. Andrew also shares some similarities with another mutant with a dark past, Magneto, whose life is in turmoil following the death of his mother.

What I like about Chronicle is that the superhero theme ultimately speaks more about our humanity and moral conscience at the core. When something out of the ordinary happens to us, whether good or bad, we all have a choice in how we deal with them and those choices are what affects us and those around us, more so than the circumstance itself. The film’s sense of realism also makes the story and characters very relatable, after all these three boys are as ordinary as they come.

The script did a good job in getting us care about the characters and provides some depth that transcends beyond the gimmicks of its precarious concept. The special effects is pretty good considering its paltry $12 mil-budget, it’s nothing spectacular but does its job and serves the story well.

I’m also impressed with the performances of the relatively unknown young actors. Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan have good chemistry together, and all of them have only done mostly TV projects and various small projects. DeHaan, who looks so much like a young Leonardo DiCaprio (circa This Boys Life), has the most challenging role out of the three and he’s more than up for the task.

Now, I’m not saying this is a perfect movie of course, there are quite a few plot holes about the extend of their powers and all that, not to mention the clichéd stereotypes on some of the characters. There are also some of the absurd choices some of the characters did that aggravate me, but not to the point that derail the whole movie.

The quibbles I did hear from some reviewers are that the ending seems extreme and overblown. It’s a warranted sentiment though I actually don’t mind them as the conflict has been hinted more than once. Plus, Andrew’s musings about being an ‘apex predator’ that shouldn’t feel sorry for crushing its inferior prey would inevitably lead to him doing some horrible things. I do feel that the finale is quite violent for being PG-13, that battle scenes both on the air and on the ground around the Space Needle are fierce and brutal. It’s heartbreaking to see what the powers cost each of these kids and what happens when certain powers falls into the wrong hands.

Final Thoughts: Chronicle is a pleasant surprise for me. It’s a worthy sci-fi fantasy that’s grounded in realism and has more emotional weight than meets the eye. It’s a pretty impressive achievement from director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis in their feature film debut.

4 out of 5 reels


Somehow I get a feeling this will be another polarizing movie, so if you’ve seen this, I’d love to hear what you think. If you haven’t, are you willing to give this a go?