3 new Netflix movies I can’t wait to see this month

I guess it’s no longer a surprise that Netflix has become such a studio behemoth, but now I’ve found myself anticipating Netflix movies as much as those from other studios. I mean it’s free anyway since I have the subscription and with movie theaters closed, obviously more studios have decided to release their movies on streaming.

Well, thanks to Wiki, there’s quite a list of movies coming in 2021, but it’s only January so I’m just focusing on the ones coming out in the next two months. I have blogged about The Dig, starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes, so I’m not going to mention it again here. Action, crime thrillers, emotional drama, comedy, romance… there are definitely something for everyone here.

Outside the Wire

Releases January 15

In the near future, a drone pilot sent into a war zone finds himself paired with a top-secret android officer on a mission to stop a nuclear attack.

My first thought when I first saw this was… ‘So Falcon now becomes even more powerful than Captain America!’ He won’t be needing the shield as as a cyborg. Not clear how becomes an android officer, but he obviously still looks and sound very human and the character tells the drone pilot that he still feels more than you think. Well, it looks intriguing enough, and I like Anthony Mackie so this should be worth a look. The movie also stars British actor Damson Idris and Danish actor Pilou Asbæk, and directed by Swedish director Mikael Håfström (Escape Plan, The Rite).

The White Tiger

Releases January 22, 2021

The epic journey of a poor Indian driver who must use his wit and cunning to break free from servitude to his rich masters and rise to the top of the heap.

This one is based on a debut novel of the same name by Aravind Adiga, an Indian-Australian writer and journalist, which won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. I’m intrigued partly by the director, Ramin Bahrani who made the excellent drama 99 Homes. This one also deals with a similar theme of a down-on-his-luck person rising up to power, escaping from the life he was born to. It looks more like a dark comedy than a heavy crime drama, starring Adarsh Gourav, Rajkumar Rao and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas. Queen’s I Want to Break Free is quite an interesting choice that’s somehow perfect for the trailer.

Penguin Bloom

Releases January 27, 2021

Based on the best-selling book of the same name, the film tells the story of Sam Bloom a young mother whose world is turned upside down after a shocking, near-fatal accident leaves her paralyzed. Sam’s husband, her three young boys and her mother are struggling to adjust to their new situation when an unlikely ally enters their world in the form of an injured baby magpie they name Penguin.

This one is also based on a novel AND a real life story. Honestly, I’m usually not too keen on sad movies and this one definitely looks like a tearjerker. After watching the trailer though, I’m curious enough to give it a shot. I haven’t seen Naomi Watts in anything lately, though it seems like I’ve seen her in similar role like this one. Looks like this one is an Australian production, with an Aussie filmmaker and mostly actors from Down Under: Watts, Jacki Weaver and Rachel House who’s from New Zealand. Andrew Lincoln is British though, nice to see him take a break from all the Walking Dead projects. I’ll be sure to have tissues handy when I watch this one.


What do you think of this lineup? Is there one you’re looking forward to seeing?

FlixChatter Review: Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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It’s been nearly a month since I saw this film, but I’m still thinking about it. In fact, I was just telling a friend over coffee this weekend how the more I think about this film, the more I like it.

The story revolves around Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton in an art-imitating-life sort of a role as he’s famous for playing Batman in the late 80s/early 90s. Riggan is a has-been actor, most famous for playing a successful comic-book franchise, Birdman. But instead of opting to take an easy paycheck out of the fourth installment of the franchise, Riggan attempts to reinvent himself and reclaim his past glory by directing/starring an off-Broadway play. Not a light undertaking, especially when one problem after another starts popping up, threatening to grind his play to a halt. It also doesn’t help that Riggan is still haunted by his Birdman character, literally, who constantly berates him in his dressing room.

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The way Alejandro González Iñárritu frames his story is captivating and unequivocally surreal. The camera is told from Riggan’s point of view and the camera often follows him in one long, continuous take. From the cramped dressing room through the narrow corridor all the way to the stage, the film takes place mostly in the confines of the theater’s backstage. The neon sign of Phantom of the Opera is often visible in NYC’s Theater District across Riggan’s theater, one of the things that grounds the film in reality amidst all the surreal elements. Slipping back and forth between reality and fantasy, and often blurs the line between the two, the film manages to keep me entertained and engaged throughout.

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It certainly helps that all his actors perform with equal dexterity. Nice to see Edward Norton get a role worthy of his talent. He’s a method actor who’s a bit of a diva and his on-and-off screen antics are fun to watch. There’s an amusing brawl backstage between him and Keaton that’s worth the price of admission. Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan and Emma Stone all provide memorable supporting role, with Stone perhaps having the flashiest part as Riggan’s daughter. Her performance, especially memorable for her heated monologue, has already earned her a Golden Globe and SAG nomination. Even Zach Galifinakis, an actor I never quite warmed up to, was quite good here as his often-hysterical theater producer. British actress Lindsay Duncan has a small but important role as the critic who could potentially make or break Riggan’s career.

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The real star here is Michael Keaton in a welcomed come-back role as a leading man. I’ve always been a fan of the underrated actor as he can deliver both serious, menacing and comical performance convincingly. He gets to do both here in equal measure as he truly embodies his character. He’s a natural in the more um, batty scenarios, but also genuinely sympathetic in the quieter moments that display Riggan’s vulnerability. Perhaps the fact that he has a similar personal experience helps him in the role, so it’s definitely inspired casting here that works wonderfully for the film.

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This is Iñárritu’s third film that I have seen so far. It could very well be my favorite and one I don’t mind seeing again. He strikes a perfect balance between drama and humor, at times hilarious and off the wall, and others heart-rending and poignant. The film’s a not-so-subtle mockery of Hollywood’s preoccupation with superhero franchises – and some of the real-life actors who’ve been in them– but yet it’s not done with disdain nor contempt as it’s all part of Riggan’s personal story. The movie also provides an interesting commentary on social media and how that affects celebrity culture in this day and age.

On a technical level, Birdman is simply phenomenal. The stunning and unique camera work make you think ‘how did they do that?’ without being too distracting. The percussion music isn’t really my style but it works in the context of the film. Emmanuel Lubezki, who won an Oscar for his astounding cinematography work for Gravity, will likely get another nom for this. I read somewhere that he shot this without artificial light due to space constraints of the cramped theater.

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I have to admit I still don’t know what to make of that WTF finale that seems deliberately left open for interpretation. It certainly makes for a fun discussion afterwards and it’s been fun reading all kinds of theories about it. I won’t say another word on it as it’s best that you discover that for yourself. Despite all the bizarre scenes and all its dream-like eccentricities, the film somehow still feels personal and human, even relatable in a strange way. No surprise that Birdman‘s become the critical darling of the year and has been raking a bunch of nominations left and right. I for one think the accolade is well-deserved as Iñárritu pushes the creative boundaries of story-telling to a new level.

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Have you seen Birdman? Well, what did YOU think?

Upcoming Local Event: Twin Cities Film Fest Coming Sept. 28!

Happy Monday all! Hope your weekend was a good one. It’s been a hectic but fun one for me as I participated in two local events back to back yesterday. My hubby and a bunch of my friends did the annual St. Paul Classics Bike Tour (the new Lilydale loop was absolutely gorgeous!), followed by a hearty brunch buffet, and then off to a volunteer meeting for the first ever Twin Cities Film Fest with my pal Becky (a.k.a Prairiegirl).

I’ve only attended ONE film festival in my life, which was Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF for short about five years ago, but it left a big impression on me. I remember wishing I could be a part of an event like that, you know, as a volunteer or what not, but I don’t know why I never got around to until now. And the opportunity sort of presented itself early this Summer. I was part of a video shoot for a product launch at work, and the actor we happened to hire was none other than the festival’s executive director, Jatin Setia! My co-workers was the one who told me that he’s working on this event, knowing that I’m a movie blogger. So I emailed him that I’d be interested in blogging about and volunteering for the event and so here I am!

I’m so excited to be a part of this grassroots happening that the Minneapolis mayor called “… a [celebration] of cinema on a larger scale than previously seen in the region.” Another board of directors member, seasoned actor/producer/member Bill Cooper, gave us a spiel about the vision of the festival and said how this event has exceeded everyone’s expectations. They had wished for one studio film and they’ve got FIVE (i.e. the Sean Penn/Naomi Watts thriller Fair Game, the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy), totaling 30+ features with an eclectic mix of studio and independent feature films and shorts. This is just exciting stuff, and I can’t agree more with what he said to Becky and I afterward: this city needs it! There have been other festivals in town, but these guys have big dreams, and they, as well as we avid MN moviegoers want to see it come true. And that is, in the years to come, we’ll be the festivals movie bloggers and watchers would be buzzing about the way they do Tribeca, Sundance, TIFF, etc. Didn’t I mention they have big dreams? 🙂 But hey, why not, as a wise man once says, “we are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision,” TIFF wasn’t THIS big 34 years ago when it first premiered. In fact, according to this site, “TIFF had a setback in its first year when Hollywood studios decided to withdraw their contributions, apparently considering the Toronto audience base too parochial.”

So, I will be blogging more about TCFF up until and during the film festival, in the meantime, please peruse the official site for the films featured in the 5-day event. Stay tuned for more!

Btw, has any of you have had experience covering for or being a part of a local film festival?

Flix Poster of the Week: You Will Meet a Tall, Dark, Stranger

Another year, another Woody Allen’s ensemble-cast movie. I’m not one to rush to see his movies, in fact, I can count with one hand how many of his films I have seen. But these posters of his upcoming rom-com just spell lovely. I love, love these! The illustrated silhouettes are so simple yet sooo romantic, seductive and makes me want to see the movie, which is the idea right? I don’t know which one I like best, probably the right one with the creative use of negative space and just a dash of spicy red against the black and white.

The trailer’s out on Apple‘s trailer page, and here’s the synopsis:

After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller. Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Freida Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window. Despite these characters’ attempts to dodge their problems with pipe dreams and impracticable plans, their efforts lead only to heartache, irrationality, and perilous hot water.

You Will Meet a Tall, Dark, Stranger also stars Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Anna Friel. Now, the movie would have been VERY appealing to with an entirely different cast [perhaps with Matthew Goode or my new crush Karl Urban :)]. But Josh Brolin?? Major meh! I hope he ain’t the tall dark stranger, ’cause he definitely doesn’t come to mind when I think about such a man. Banderas maybe, if you’re into the heavy-accented, latin lover type. The way it is now, the only interesting part of this movie is just the posters. Oh, and perhaps the title, too. It’s long, but catchy.

FlixChatter Review: The Painted Veil

This is one of the most touching and poignant movie I’ve seen in a very long time. The tag line says “Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people.” And what a journey it really is.

The story takes place in China in the 1920s, which tells the story of a mid-class doctor (Walter) who marries an upper-class woman (Kitty) and moves to Shanghai. It’s clear from the beginning that she marries him only to please her family. In Shanghai, she has an affair with a fellow ex pat (Liev Schreiber, Watt’s real life partner), which is quickly discovered by her husband. As an act of vengeance, Walter whisks her off to a remote village ravaged by cholera. It is here, amongst the deadly epidemic and tough circumstances, that they rediscover their relationship and find purpose both as a couple and as a person.

The movie is superbly acted and well-written. Ed Norton is in top form as always (he’s easily one of the best actors working today) and Naomi Watts gives a wonderful, nuanced portrayal as the initially unlikable Kitty, but she slowly earns my sympathy as the film wears on. Toby Jones as the couple’s cheery neighbor Waddington also gives a notable performance.

What I love the most is how the movie presents the characters as they are, neither heroic nor evil (like most people are), they are simply human. The film does shy away from being ‘preachy,’ such as when dealing with a Catholic orphanage, focusing instead on how the characters evolve as the story progresses. Although the pace is a bit slow at times, the ending has such a redeeming quality that it’s worth every second. It also boast a beautiful cinematography of the lush rural setting in China.

It’s rare to find a movie that tells a wonderful human drama without being too cutesy or overly romantic. Love is more than a bed of roses or candlelit dinner in fact, it’s best experienced when you’d least expect it.


Have you seen this film? Let me know what you think.