FlixChatter Review: WORTH (2021)

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I can’t believe that this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attack. There’s no other major disaster that’s etched in my memory like 9/11… I still remember exactly what I did when I first heard of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. I was driving to work and while sitting in traffic I heard the morning radio DJs talking about what they thought was an accident, but of course once the second plane hit the second tower, everyone knew it was a deliberate attack.

This film started with the protagonist, Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) on a train en route to his Manhattan law firm office… at first he was oblivious with his noise-canceling headphones on, as fellow passengers were in a frenzy as they saw huge smoke coming out of the twin towers. It’s hard not to feel emotional watching the characters stare out of the train window in horror… which I think is an effective opening for a film about the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The film is based on Feinberg’s book titled What is Life Worth?, in which the renowned mediation attorney described the eight-part plan in figuring out who gets what from the fund.

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I kept thinking what a thankless and impossible job it is for anyone, I mean, as the title implies… how does one measure a human being life’s worth? Is there even such thing as ‘fair’ compensation when it comes to a loss of a human life? Not to mention the ethical issue of compensating victims/their families in exchange for their agreement not to sue the airlines. You would think Congress would have an arduous time finding a special master for the fund, but in this film, Feinberg himself volunteers to do it pro-bono. Feinberg works with his law firm’s head of operations Camille (Amy Ryan) and a team of young attorneys for the months to allocate the right ‘number’ for each victim. At first Feinberg approach things in pragmatic, logical manner… which in most business circumstances is the right way to go about it. But he soon realizes one can’t exactly apply the same economics rationale when it comes to human tragedy.

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On the side of the victims, we’ve got a community organizer Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci) who lost his wife in the tower attacks. At first it appears as if Wolf was ‘rescuing’ Feinberg when a few victims berated him during the Compensation Fund meeting, but Wolf later introduced himself as his biggest nemesis. Wolf actually started a protest website called Fix The Fund as he has serious issues about it, which proved to be far more popular than the Compensation Fund website. Both Keaton and Tucci were in another biographical drama dealing with a heavy subject matter, Spotlight, but they didn’t share screen time together then. The interactions of these two very different people is one of the main highlights of the film and I can’t help but sympathize with both sides throughout the film. Given that both are such terrific character actors, their roles could’ve been flipped and it would’ve worked just as well.

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Sara Colangelo, directing from a screenplay by Max Borenstein, approaches this highly-emotional subject matter with sensitivity but yet not in a heavy-handed way. There’s an appropriate amount of levity that keeps the movie from being too gloomy. In fact, I find the film quite engaging from start to finish, which is quite a feat considering the movie consist of mostly people talking in a room and not much else happening. The pace is just right in that it doesn’t rush in explaining things and allow time for mere mortals like me to process and weigh in on this complex situation. There is a lot of numbers thrown around in this movie that in a lesser film I could’ve easily been completely lost. I honestly didn’t remember much about this Victim Compensation Fund, and there are still things I’m not entirely clear about, but that’s not really the point.

I had just seen Keaton in The Protegé recently and though he is a highly versatile actor, I think he’s more effective in this role where he can emote even without saying a word. Ryan is always first rate in any film, and she believably portrays an empathetic attorney who’s deeply affected by the stories she hears from various victims. Shunori Ramanathan as Priya, one of the new hires at the firm, is quite memorable here as well as she’s the one who reaches out to Wolf during one of his community meetings.

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If I have one quibble it would be the way the film focused a bit too much on a particular victim (played by Laura Benanti), a widow of one of the firefighters who perished in the tower. As it involves the dead husband’s brother and past affairs, the film descends into melodrama a bit. I suppose the filmmakers are trying to show Feinberg’s emotional transformation, but I think the interactions between him and Wolf are more compelling without resorting to over-sentimentality. 

Overall though, I think Worth is a solid, poignant drama that’s carefully handled and wonderfully-acted. Now, without researching the real Feinberg, I’m not sure if he’s as likable as he’s being portrayed here. Of course he’s still to be commended for carrying out such an intricate task, facing pressure from all sides–the government/corporate bureaucracy that’s all about number-crunching and the victims who are stricken with grief. The ending tells the audience that by the end of the deadline set for the fund, $7 billion was awarded to 97% of the families. That makes Feinberg a hero for the government and especially the airlines as the families couldn’t sue them. As for the victims, well the film itself says it properly… there are no winners here.

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Have you seen WORTH? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: THE PROTÉGÉ (2021)

Is it just me or every action flick these days always want to be associated with John Wick. Granted it’s a lucrative franchise but really, the secret ingredient for its success is Keanu Reeves. So the same studio hopes they could launch another action franchise with yet another actor of Euro-Asian descent. Maggie Q, who Irish/Vietnamese was apparently discovered by legendary action star Jackie Chan when she was doing films in Hong Kong. I remember her from a few episodes of CW’s Nikita, but haven’t seen her in anything since, so it’s cool to see her finally get a feature leading role as Anna in The Protégé.

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The movie starts off with the protagonist Anna’s origin story back in Saigon on a grim, rainy night. Discovered by a legendary assassin named Moody (Samuel L. Jackson, natch!) as a young girl, he immediately adopted her and trained her to be a contract killer. Director Martin Campbell didn’t waste time to let us know just how skilled and deadly Anna is while on a job in Bucharest, Romania. It’s definitely a cool intro introducing Maggie Q’s potent cred as an assassin. Cool as a cucumber, she has no qualms in killing people… in fact she seems to relish in it.

The fact that Campbell has directed two of my favorite Bond films, Goldeneye and Casino Royale, there’s a deliberate Bond-like vibe about the movie. There’s the exotic locations, stunning locations, and the fact that Anna is also based in London. It’s actually refreshing to see a bad-ass female heroine who isn’t morose or have a chip on her shoulder, she seems happy living her double life as a contract killer and rare bookstore owner. She’s shown quoting Edgar Allan Poe though there’s not a single scene of her actually reading a book, ahah. But really, who has time when you’ve got people to kill and vengeance to pull off.

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Let’s just say the first half hour of the film is really enjoyable and promising. I enjoyed the surprisingly sweet father/son dynamics between her and Sam Jackson, especially the moment she gave him a very expensive vintage electric guitar. Clearly being a contract killer is massively lucrative business, Moody’s palatial home looks like those owned by Bond villains! Then there’s the somewhat of a meet-cute with Michael Keaton‘s Rembrandt at her store. Now at this point, I was more amused by this flirty exchange despite the nearly 30-year age difference between the two actors. More on this later.

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You know the action trope of ‘you can’t escape the past,’ well that’s especially true for assassins. Anna finds Moody brutally killed one night, which leads her back to her home country to track down his killer. I have to say the main reason to see this movie is to see MaggieQ kick ass and she absolutely delivers on that front. She trades her long reddish hair with a sharp, jet black bob-cut that shows off her features and makes her look even cooler and meaner.

There are some genuinely thrilling action stunts inside a sleek skyscraper where she continually eludes her captors. She’s proven lethal even with just a piece of metal tray or twisted sheet as she is with a gun. I love when an actress playing a femme fatale looks believable that she can perform her own stunts, and she sure fights with style. 

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Unfortunately style is mostly what this movie has going for it. Campbell’s direction is uneven, the more thrilling bits are often held back by overuse of unnecessary flashbacks. Writer Richard Wenk‘s (The Equalizer, The Expendables) is laden with clichés and throwaway characters. In fact, one of the actors Ray Fearon, has a strong presence but not sure what the point of his character was and he’s gone before you even figure it out. The twisty plot is overly convoluted that it takes the fun out of the movie in the third act. I think there’s something intriguing here, but it’s not explained well at all. It doesn’t matters that the actual villain is so laughably weak he seems like an afterthought. What’s worse, they even made an initially intriguing character but make him rather pointless delivering some morality speech about choosing the path of evil. SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] Why make Moody come back to life (a la Nick Fury who only pretended to have been killed) if you’re going to have him die in a murder suicide?!! And what’s with THAT ending?? It’s frustrating to see all that build-up ultimately leads to a lame payback.

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As for the half-baked romance between Anna and Rembrandt, let’s just say it’s a hit and miss. I enjoyed watching the flirtatious banter in the restaurant which seems to be modeled after the Casino Royale‘s train scene between Bond and Vesper. Even the way Anna, in a heart-stopping red dress, leaves the room reminds me of when Vesper walked through the Casino with all the men drooling over her. The seductive vibe between them is fun initially, though I think it would have been much sexier (and less cringe-worthy) had the filmmakers kept the sexual tension brimming but left it at that. As much as I enjoy seeing Keaton in a movie, I feel like he’s strangely miscast here as an action AND romantic lead. On the way home my husband and I thought perhaps someone like Pierce Brosnan would’ve been a better fit and kinda fun to see him as a sort of Bond baddie. But hey, at least they gave Keaton quite a bit to do here in terms of action, compared to Robert Patrick who’s completely wasted here. 

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Despite its shortcomings and there are plenty, I still think it’s worth a look for all the MaggieQ’s action scenes alone. It’s as if Campbell was making his vision of a female Bond, a powerful killing machine with equal style and sex appeal. Except she wouldn’t need Q as she’s already born with it (sorry I can’t help it!!) In any case, based on her commanding presence and phenomenal action work, I hope we get to see more of her in the leading role, but hopefully with a more compelling narrative well worth her (and our) time.

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Have you seen The Protégé? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: DUMBO (2019)

It seems that every year now we’ll be treated to a live action of Disney’s animated movies. Now, I actually quite like Cinderella, Beauty & The Beast, Jungle Book, and I’m curiously anticipating Aladdin. As for Dumbo, I actually don’t remember much of the original. I only watched a scene of Dumbo and his mother in the Baby, Mine sequence. As for Tim Burton, I haven’t seen the last few films he’s done, including Alice in Wonderland which doesn’t appeal to me at all.

This movie doesn’t have talking animals nor musical numbers. The screenplay by Ehren Kruger is an expanded version of the 1941 animated version that’s now told from the human characters. The circus is intact of course, this time it’s called Medici Circus, owned by Max Medici (Danny DeVito). Soon we see Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) coming back from the war. Once a circus star, he’s now missing an arm and his wife (also a former circus star) has died of Spanish Flu, leaving him with his two kids Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins). Holt gets demoted to caring for the upcoming baby elephant, which later becomes known as Dumbo.

One thing the movie gets right is the titular little elephant itself. Dumbo is utterly adorable – from the moment we saw him buried under a pile of hay, the large-eared CGI elephant immediately won my heart. A ‘face only a mother could love,’ Max Medici said, he couldn’t be more wrong. Milly and Joe were immediately taken by Dumbo as well, even more so when his mother was sold off to recoup a loss of a tragic incident. The devastating separation scene pierced my heart. I have similar experience when I was sent to a boarding school at the age of 7 and had to be separated from my own mother whom I didn’t see until two weeks later.

The villain of the movie comes in the form of Michael Keaton‘s Vandevere who buys Medici Circus upon learning of the flying elephant. His Disneyland-type, vas amusement park called Dreamland, with attractions like Nightmare Island, Wonders of Science, etc. It’s no surprise that the huge park is filled with dark secrets. Keaton is especially hammy here, but his character wasn’t given much to do. In fact, DeVito, Keaton and Alan Arkin‘s characters are basically just stock characters. They have no real arc at all, basically just caricatures of a circus owner, an opportunistic entrepreneur and a powerful banker, respectively. I have to say the timing for this movie is quite interesting. Its blatant message against corporate conglomeration/industry domination coming out just a week after the announcement of Disney buying out 20th Century Fox isn’t lost on me.

I feel like Colin Farrell‘s Holt is the only character resembling a real person and is someone actually worth rooting for. Eva Green is perfectly cast as trapeze artist Colette, offering her usual sexy mystique but this time with motherly touches. Nico Parker‘s young scientist aspiring to be Marie Curie message of feminism is quite on-the-nose, but she is pretty good role model for young girls. There’s also a fine message about not relying on certain ‘crutches’ to achieve big things, as Dumbo couldn’t fly initially without the prompting of a feather.

Burton’s visual flair and his imaginative mind seems perfect to helm this live-action adaptation. Aided by his longtime Burton-collaborators Danny Elfman (music) and Colleen Atwood (costume design), it’s indeed a gorgeous movie. I’d say the darker stuff is to be expected, but it’s nothing that would really scare off young children. Ultimately, in order for the movie to work, it has to convince us that an elephant can fly. The movie delivers in that regard. I enjoy all the flying sequences, especially towards the end when Dumbo flies over Cooney Island. I also love the scene where the little elephant was in a trance watching a circus act making giant balloon bubbles.

Just like its protagonist that keeps stumbling on its large ears, the movie doesn’t always get every step right either. The first half hour feels a bit sluggish, while the fiery finale seems too grandiose for its own good. I think Burton fans might complain that the movie isn’t weird or bizarre enough. I’d say for a Tim Burton movie about circuses that inherently celebrates eccentricities, this is a pretty safe one. But as a feel-good family film, I think it’s still pretty enjoyable. Is this movie necessary? Well no, but neither is any of the live action adaptations Disney’s been making. I personally would rather see more original stories being made, but judging this for what it is, I’d say it still merits a recommendation.


Have you seen DUMBO? I’d love to hear what you think!

Spotlight on ‘American Assassin’ – Interview with lead actor Dylan O’Brien and author Kyle Mills at its Minnesota premiere

Welcome to another edition of FlixChatter Interview! Thanks to Allied Integrated Marketing for the opportunity to be a part of the red carpet interview on Friday night on September 8.

Because the late author of the original Mitch Rapp series, Vince Flynn, was born in St. Paul, it was nice to see the studio held the premiere in his hometown. Well it was Roseville, MN, but close enough.  Mr Flynn had died back in June of 2013 after a three-year battle with prostate cancer, but his widow Lysa Flynn was there, along with Dylan O’Brien, the star of the film, as well as Kyle Mills, the author continuing Mitch Rapp book series and the film’s producer Lorenzo Di Bonventura.

It was lovely that I got a chance to chat with Lysa Flynn. I asked her if there was any special memory of her late husband as he was writing the Mitch Rapp books. She said that Vince Flynn was always very organized about his writing. He’d make little recipe cards that were color coordinated. He’d put things together carefully for weeks before he actually started writing. She’s beyond proud and happy how the film turned out and loved Dylan O’Brien in the lead role.

Above are photos I took with my own iPhone. 

Author Kyle Mills and Dylan O’Brien posed with Lysa Flynn on September 8, 2017
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for CBS Films)


AMERICAN ASSASSIN follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), a CIA black ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together the three discover a pattern in the violence leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on starting a World War.

 

DIRECTED BY: Michael Cuesta (Kill the Messenger)
PRODUCED BY: Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Transformers), Nick Wechsler (Under the Skin, The Road)
CAST: Michael Keaton, Dylan O’Brien, Taylor Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar


Quest review of the movie
by Vitali Gueron

Thanks Vitali for keeping me company as I waiting for everyone to show up. I wasn’t able to stay for the screening itself so I asked him to review the film for me.

The pairing of Michael Keaton and Dylan O’Brien as Stan Hurley and Mitch Rapp in American Assassin makes for a near-perfect duo in this action-packed thriller. After Rapp is recruited to join an elite, but secret anti-terrorism unit headed by Hurley, he must prove his worth as an spy/assassin. When things don’t go according to plans, Rapp disobeys Hurley’s direct orders so he can track down the mission’s target on his own. Thankfully, Rapp is on his way to becoming a master spy/assassin and he goes on to gain the resect of his trainer. And to our relief, by the end of the movie, Rapp makes a choice to listen to Hurley and follow his direction, just in the nick of time when an armed nuclear bomb risks the lives of thousands of Americans.

While most of the main plot points in American Assassin have been done before in other spy thrillers, the combination of O’Brien and Keaton works because they are codependent on each other. That is, each one is primarily dependent on the other person’s dependence on them. Hurley has to depend on Rapp to carry out the mission and stay alive while Rapp has to rely on Hurley to find their targets and communicate with the CIA to coordinate their efforts in order to stop the madman Ghost (Taylor Kitsch). Neither Hurley nor Rapp could accomplish the tasks on their own.

This American Assassin action thriller is here to stay, as evident from the final few shots in the movie as well as the fact that Vince Flynn had written an entire series of novels with the character of Mitch Rapp, the American Assassin. I, for one am looking forward to the next partnership of Hurley and Rapp, as well as the next onscreen performance of both Michael Keaton and Dylan O’Brien.

 

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After over an hour waiting for the talents to show up, my patience was rewarded as I did get to talk to ALL of them who came to the premiere. I am only posting my interviews with Dylan and Kyle below.

Q&A with Dylan O’Brien

My friend Vitali snapped this right in the middle of our interview 😛

I have to admit I didn’t expect I would actually get a chance to meet Dylan O’Brien given how many press people were waiting, most of whom were from big local news companies like KARE11, Star Tribune, WCCO, etc. Plus they seemed to be running behind and the talents had to get inside the theatre to introduce the screening. But suddenly he started making his way closer to me and his publicist said to me I’d be his last interview of the night. So yeah, it was cool to be able to chat with him for a total of two-and-a-half minutes 🙂

I have never seen Dylan in anything before, but I knew he was in The Maze Runner franchise and Teen Wolf series. I also read a couple of years ago about his massive on-set injury last year that shut down production of Maze Runner: The Death Cure. Glad to see him looking well and in good spirits. He seemed genuinely cordial, sweet and professional. No movie star pretense at all despite his success as a young actor. Even though the place was loud and so many people wanted to get his attention, he was attentive to whomever he was speaking to. I enjoyed meeting him and wish him all the success in his career!

Listen below on my Q&A with the talented young actor:

Are you a big fan of the Vince Flynn books?

How did your training for this movie have to be changed due to your recovery from your injury


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I definitely had to start to start easy and slow… there were still a lot of limitations at first for me, which was frustrating… but I’m good now and I was able to ramp up with the training as time went on and I was further and further away from surgery, and also more approval from my doctor. So I did as much as I could and all the training I really enjoyed.

What was it like working alongside Michael Keaton?


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Unreal… We joked around, we cracked up… he’s a really funny guy. He’s also a really smart dude, really nice, sweet… a great guy.

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Q&A with Kyle Mills

The first person from the American Assassin‘s team I got to talk to is Kyle Mills. He’s a New York Times’ best-selling author who has written plenty of thriller novels in a similar vein as Vince Flynn’s books. He told me his father was an FBI agent for 25 years so he felt like he grew up surrounded by characters like Mitch Rapp. That made him the perfect choice to continue Mr. Flynn’s books, plus he’s also written books that were originally created by Robert Ludlum.

I made a playlist of my convo with Mr. Mills. Here are my three questions…

Q1: How hard is it taking over a book series you didn’t create?

Q2: What did you think of Dylan O’Brien’s casting?

Q2: Are you thrilled by how the film turned out?


Have you seen American Assassin? Feel free to share your thoughts about the film and/or the interviews.

Week In Review: A comedic play, Spider-man Homecoming and podcasting

How’s your weekend everyone? Well it’s been quite a whirlwind week for me, but a fun one nonetheless. I didn’t get an extra day off for Fourth of July, but still a four-day work week is better than five 🙂

I did manage to see a fun play on Friday night, a French farce called Don’t Dress For Dinner. It’s actually the opening night of the theatre company run by my lead actor Peter Hansen, in which he also starred in with five other actors.


I also got to see one of its rehearsals last week which was really fun to see. I had never been to a play rehearsal before and the fact that it’s a comedy is even more delightful to watch. Oh as if I hadn’t been busy enough w/ my film AND Kickstarter campaign, I also helped redesign his theatre website. (yep I need a vacation real bad!)

Saturday was a hot day, so after a scorching afternoon going to Art Crank in NE Minneapolis, we cooled off watching the new Spidey flick.

I have to admit I wasn’t all that enthused to see this so if it wasn’t for my hubby’s insistence, I probably would’ve waited for its VOD release. Fortunately it ends up being a pretty decent flick which is NOT an origin story, thank goodness!

It’s fun to see Peter Parker being a proper teenager and Tom Holland is perfectly believable in the role. Some of the banters between him and his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon) seems too cutesy with all the ‘awesome’ which at times doesn’t ring true. But as the film progressed it didn’t bother me and they do have some fun memorable moments. Our young’un hero is far more eager to be a hero than in past interpretations but I’m glad actually gets to do something heroic and does it on his own account.

I hadn’t paid much attention to this film so I was pleasantly surprised to see Michael Keaton as the villain. He’s definitely one of the best villains in the plethora of Spidey movies I’ve seen over the years. My fave is still Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) from Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 2 and Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is right up there with him. I like villains who are more of a tragic character, not an all-out monster hellbent on destroying the world. I enjoyed watching Keaton as a cross between Batman and Birdman when he’s wearing the birdlike costume, but his character actually has some depth. There’s also a pretty bizarre father-daughter storyline here that I did not see coming.

The movie starts out pretty light, Peter’s fanboy-ing over Tony Stark also gets overdone, but the movie actually grows darker with a genuine sense of dread. I am however quite puzzled by the hype over Zendaya in this movie. Not because her acting wasn’t good but her character barely registers here to even make any impact. Yes I appreciate that she’s not just another love interest but I wish the slew of writers actually gave her something to do. The movie does hint that she perhaps will have a larger role in the inevitable sequels.

Despite me feeling blasé about this reboot, this movie ends up being pretty enjoyable. There are a couple of thrilling action sequences though the finale is still way too loud & bombastic. Casting-wise, Holland fits the role nicely and he seems to have fun doing it. There are fun moments of Peter poking fun at members of the Avengers which is in keeping with him being a 15-year-old kid. It was pretty fun seeing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his chauffeur/personal assistant ‘Happy’ (Jon Favreau) as part of the story too. I’m not exactly clamoring to see more of Spidey movies though, but I suppose if they gotta make ’em at least they don’t suck.


The weekend is topped off w/ my first time doing a podcast! It was fun being a guest for an episode of The Film Pasture, hosted by my friend Vern from Vern’s Video Vortex with film blogger Kristen Lopez. Vern was kind enough to invite me to discuss our picks of Top 5 Female Filmmakers and let me promote my short film Hearts Want which I can proudly say has a strong woman of color in the lead and done by a mostly-female crew.

I will post the podcast here once it’s up. As you know I’m a big supporter of women filmmakers and having just written/produced my first film, naturally I have even more respect for those who’ve made it in the male-dominated film industry.


Well, did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen the newest Spider-man movie, what did you think?

Weekend Roundup + Quick thoughts on ‘The Founder’ (2017)

Hello all, happy last week of January! Well, it’s another hectic week… as some of you know if you read this post, I have my work cut out for me now that I’ve embarked on my first short film project!

Well, suffice to say I barely have time to blog these days, so sorry for my absence but I know this day would come. Thanks to my wonderful contributors to help keep FlixChatter going. Some of you might’ve noticed I’ve got some new guest reviewers, including CineMuse Films‘ Richard all the way from Down Under!

I did manage to fit in a few episodes of Black Mirror last week. It’s one of the most provocative scifi shows ever, yep even more thought-provoking than Westworld! It’s unsettling and quite bleak but it’s so intriguing you just gotta keep watching! I’ve got 5 more episodes to go on the third (last) season so far. Not sure if I’ll ever get around to blogging about it, but dayum, everyone should check out this show!

Anyway, I promise to still blog once a week, I’m still hoping to finish my review of Lion at some point. But today, here’s my quick thoughts on…

THE FOUNDER (2017)

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Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: Robert D. Siegel
Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch

The Founder is the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world. The movie opens with Keaton delivering a pitch directly to camera for a multi-mixer milkshake machine, and we see him going from one restaurant to another trying to sell it. He faces constant rejections, but one day, he learns that a restaurant in San Bernardino California just ordered six of those milkshake machines. Thinking that there might be an error, he ended up driving Route 66 to see that restaurant in person… owned by Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and his brother Dick (Nick Offerman).

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It’s quite intriguing to learn how this giant fast food company got its start, as the McDonalds gave Ray a tour through their super-efficient kitchen. I find myself amused by it all, how this small restaurant revolutionized the speedy service technique in the 50s. It’s also fascinating to watch Ray’s persuasive power once he set his mind to something. He ended up convincing the McDonalds into making him the franchise manager to expand the business to other states.

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Keaton is quite effective as the driven, ruthless, and callous salesman who saw an opportunity and snatched it, letting nothing stand in his way. Yet there’s a certain charm about him that somehow I still don’t completely hate him. Glad to see him getting more meaty roles post his Birdman comeback. Lynch and Offerman were quite memorable as the McDonalds, and it’s quite an understated performance from Offerman, apart from the one scene where he trained his workers as if his restaurant were a military basecamp!

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The film isn’t always engaging though, in fact it’s rather bland at times. For a movie about a fast food, the pacing could’ve been speedier. The performances are rather uneven as well. Keaton delivered quite a performance, but it’s a pity Laura Dern is wasted as Ray’s neglected wife. Still, it’s a pretty intriguing biopic about the dark, shady side of the American dream. Suffice to say, it didn’t make me want to eat at McDonald’s anytime soon.


So how was YOUR weekend? Seen anything good?

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Oscars 2015 – Recap, Reflections on Best & Worst Moments

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Quick confession: I’m not a huge fan of Oscars red carpet, or red carpet in general. So I only tuned in a half hour before the show. It’s funny but the second I turned on the TV, Michael Keaton was standing next to the chirpy blond presenter. He seems effortlessly at ease, LOVE that guy and I’m so rooting for him to the end! As I did last year, I went to Zumba, had dinner, then went down to my basement.

Well, first things first…

How did I do on my predictions?

  1. Best picture: Boyhood  Birdman
  2. Best director: Richard Linklater (Boyhood) Alexandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
  3. Best lead actor: Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
  4. Best lead actress: Julianne Moore – Still Alice
  5. Best supporting actor: J.K. Simmons –Whiplash
  6. Best supporting actress: Patricia Arquette –Boyhood
  7. Best animated feature: Song of the Sea Big Hero 6
  8. Best feature documentary: Citizenfour
  9. Best adapted screenplay: The Theory of Everything The Imitation Game
  10. Best original screenplay: Birdman
  11. Best original score: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  12. Best cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman
  13. Best original song: “Glory” from Selma
  14. Best Make Up and Hair Styling: Foxcatcher The Grand Budapest Hotel
  15. Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  16. Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
  17. Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Well, I got 12 out of 17 predictions right. I’m actually surprised to be surprised by the winners, if that make sense at all. I mean, I honestly thought Boyhood would sweep the awards, well at least in Best Director and Best Picture. I haven’t seen the film yet so I’ve been #TeamBirdman from the start. I literally screamed at the top of my lungs [sorry neighbors!] when I heard Iñárritu‘s name called out… I was ecstatic still, I did NOT see Birdman‘s Best Picture win coming …

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Red Carpet Stuff

Firstly, can someone explain what the heck is going on here?? John Travolta is feelin’ frisky tonight eh? Scarlett Johansson‘s post-baby figure is PHENOMENAL! Dayum girl, and that haircut is bad ass!!

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These two dresses are my two favorites of the night:

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Lupita Nyong’O was my red carpet fave last year too. Wow she’s still the reigning queen of the red carpet with this amazing custom-made pearl gown. YOWZA!! Can’t beat her pearl dress, but it’s her elegant swagger that makes her so dazzling.

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Yet another gorgeous new mom,Rosamund Pike just had a baby back in December!! She’s wearing the color of blood for her first Oscar nomination, how appropriate! She looks absolutely stunning and I LOVE the rose textures all over her gown.

A few other favorites …

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Dapper men on the red carpet!

Look at the three dapper Chris-es in the center (Evans, Pratt & Pine), hmmm where’s Hemsworth??

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Forget best-dressed peoples…  these two ladies WON the red carpet with their unabashed display of affection. LOVE the spontaneity of this shot, I didn’t know Emma StoneJennifer Aniston are best buds, VERY cool!

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Favorite Speeches:

“We made a film, black and white, about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world and contemplation, and here we are at this epicenter of noise and all the tension… Life is full of surprises” — Pawel Pawlikowski, director of IDA

By far the funniest speech of the night, can’t blame him for his exuberance. I kind of feel guilty for not having seen IDA yet.

The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” – Citizenfour’s Lauren Poitras

.@johnlegend moves the crowd to tears with his powerful Oscars speech. pic.twitter.com/UhmNezO1zN

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Now, I wasn’t rooting for him but I have to admit I was moved by Eddie Redmayne’s ecstatic and his can’t-believe-I-actually-won reaction when he gripped his Oscar tightly in his hand. I predicted he’d win and I knew that no matter how much I wanted Michael Keaton to win, it just wouldn’t be in the cards. But hey, the dude seems cool about it. I think Eddie wanted to win more badly than anyone else.

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Hilarious nod to his pal Alfonso Cuarón who deservedly won last year for Gravity, in case some of you forgot.

What a great come back to Sean Penn’s uncalled for ‘green card’ comment [see below under WORST moments]. Seriously, I thought I couldn’t dislike a guy more, but Penn is relentless in being so unlikable.

Fave Moments

The LEGO Movie‘s Everything is Awesome musical number is so exuberantly fun and joyful! Some of the dancers came out carrying the LEGO version of the Oscar statuettes in response to their egregious snub. Take THAT the Academy!

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Common and John Legend‘s performance of GLORY… it was a glorious performance. Common_Legend_Oscar2015I know people are mocking the standing ovation and people tearing up over that song, but it’s uncalled for. The song is genuinely moving rendition of an important and VERY timely film. It’s a well-deserved win and followed by a defiant speech.

LadyGaga_Oscar15WHOA!! I didn’t see THIS coming …

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I can’t say I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga so I had no idea she could sing so beautifully! What’s even more beautiful is the Dame herself Julie Andrews coming on stage looking genuinely verklempt over Gaga’s performance and hugged her. LOVE it!

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Glom Gazingo! Idina Menzel, aka Adele Dazeem got her revenge on John Travolta. But this hilarious moment is also one of the creepiest. What’s w/ all the face-touching John??

Hands down my favorite moment ever from last night:

 

So how did NPH do as host?

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 Can’t say I’m impressed with Neil Patrick Harris. I think I only laughed a couple of times as he seemed so self-aware all night that the joke just seemed off. Even when he showed up in his tighty whities as a spoof to Birdman, it didn’t feel all that spontaneous compared to last year’s pizza delivery thing. I definitely like Ellen more as host, I just think she is funny without trying too hard. Oh and I didn’t care for his subtle-not-so-subtle ‘treason’ jab against Ed Snowden after Citizenfour won Best Documentary.

I did enjoy his ‘Oscar prediction’ bit but I think that’s due to the Oscar writers kind of summarizing the most amusing moments of the night.

Oh and THIS moment with David Oyelowo is pretty cute.

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Worst Moments:

Sean Penn making us wait for the final award of the night, Best Picture, only to be followed by a distasteful *joke* about green card, sheesh! Yes I know he worked with Iñárritu on 21 Grams so the two are likely friends, but still, it’s just inappropriate and offensive.

Seeing this pic of Robin Williams… still can’t believe he’s gone 😦

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So did you watch the Oscars last night? Thoughts on the winners and what’s your pick of best/worst moments?