FlixChatter Review: Rampage (2018)

I donʼt get Hollywood obsession with turning video games into films. Most of them were met with little box office and/or critical success, yet each year we seem to get one or two films based on video games. Last monthʼs reboot of Tomb Raider barely made a dent at the box office, now we get another film based on a video game that I doubt the target audience would remember or know much about it. But this one stars the always charismatic Dwayne Johnson and it just might turn out to be a big box office success than previous video game-based films.

After an experiment in space gone wrong and the space station was destroyed, debris containing mysterious chemicals fell to different parts of the United States. One landed near a San Diego zoo where Primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson) is running the show and his albino ape named George was exposed to the chemical. George is a friendly ape but after the exposure, he became more aggressive and growing bigger and bigger each day. Then a doctor named Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) showed up at the zoo and told Okoye she knows whatʼs wrong with George and can help cure him. Meanwhile in downtown Chicago office, leaders of the company that owns the destroyed space station, Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy) are planning to recover those chemicals.

They dispatched some military men lead by Burke (Joe Manganiello) to recover their product. Unfortunately for Burke and his men, when they arrived at the location, they found a giant wolf that was exposed to the chemical and had to fight for their lives. Back at the zoo, George became even more aggressive and starts attacking people but a group of mysterious agents was able to sedate him. The agentsʼ leader named Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) decided to arrest Okoye and Caldwell, he believes theyʼre responsible for Georgeʼs erratic behavior. Of course they couldn’t contain George and heʼs able to escape and itʼs up to Okoye and Caldwell to save everyone from the monsters, including a giant crocodile.

Four screenwriters were credited for the screenplay, so that means several drafts of the script were written before it got approved. Now I donʼt envy them on how to come up with engaging story based on a video game about giant animals smashing things. I guess what they came up with worked well as a big budget action/adventure, although I thought some parts of the story was too serious for its own good. Director Brad Peyton did a good job of not making this into some kind of serious picture, he knows heʼs making a movie about giant animals smashing things and he didn’t hold back on the mayhem. I do wish heʼd came up with something more inventive for the big climatic action sequences in downtown Chicago. The action scenes reminded me of Man of Steel where Superman and General Zod were fighting one another and just got too repetitive and boring. Otherwise, he put together a decent action picture that would satisfy the intended audiences.

For the human characters, well, unfortunately most of them were pretty one dimensional. Dwayne Johnson always seems to know heʼs in a silly movie and heʼs having a good time playing another larger than life action hero. Naomie Harris is your typical sidekick/love interest character but thankfully they didn’t turn her into a damsel in distress and needs a rescue. Both Akerman and Lacy are your typical villains, theyʼre greedy and will do anything to save their own butts once they realized their products are responsible for the mayhem. As for Jeffrey Dean Morganʼs mysterious agent character, Iʼm not sure why they even included him in the story, Morgan looked like heʼs having a good time playing the role but heʼs kind of just a wasted character. Now maybe he might be a major player for the sequel, assuming this one makes enough money and turn into a franchise for the studio.

Rampage is nothing more than a silly action picture, it reminded me of last yearʼs Kong: Skull Island, if youʼre going into it expecting to see some kind of great cinema than youʼll be disappointed. Itʼs full of plot holes and one dimensional characters, the people who makes Honest Trailers should have a lot of fun when they release the trailer for this movie. If youʼre in the mood to see some crazy action scenes and a fan of Dwayne Johnson, then you might enjoy this.

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

Guest Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)

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Directed By: David Frankel
Written By: Allan Loeb
Runtime: 94 minutes

After reviewing a couple unimpressive comedies last week (Office Christmas Party and Why Him?), I was ready for seeing something a little weightier, so I was excited to get the opportunity to see Collateral Beauty. I was a little nervous it would be overly-sentimental, and while I did find some problems with it, I still thought it was very well-done.

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In Collateral Beauty, advertising mogul Howard (Will Smith) writes letters to Love (Aimee, played by Keira Knightley), Time (Raffi, played by Jacob Latimore), and Death (Brigitte, played by Helen Mirren) following a family tragedy. At the same time, three of his friends and work colleagues- Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) – worry that Howard’s mental state may cost them their jobs and devise a desperate plan to prevent it from happening, all while simultaneously fighting their own personal battles. I realize this is a vague synopsis, but saying more would spoil a lot of the plot.

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While I don’t think this movie will go down as a classic, it was a solid film. It was creative and handled the subjects of loss and grief well, without being too heavy-handed. The acting was, of course, phenomenal; how could it not be with such a strong cast? The stand-outs for me were Helen Mirren, who gave a both humorous and poignant performance, and, naturally, Will Smith; he barely has any dialogue in the first half of the movie, but his facial expressions and body language alone is striking, and if he doesn’t make you cry (or get a little choked up, at the very least), you are made of stronger stuff than I am. Naomie Harris as Madeline, the leader of a support group for parents who have lost their children, was excellent as well; she was able to bring both strength to the character as well as an underlying sense of grief without being too obvious.

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I did have a couple issues with this movie. One of the twists seemed way too obvious-there were too many pregnant pauses and significant glances hinting toward it- so when it was finally revealed, it felt a little underwhelming. I also thought the plan Howard’s friends come up with to prevent them from losing their jobs was really convoluted; admittedly, it was needed to get the plot moving, but suspension of disbelief can be stretched only so far.

Overall, though, Collateral Beauty was an enjoyable movie, thanks mainly to the fantastic acting. If you’re looking for a light, heartwarming film with some tearjerker moments, check it out.

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Have you seen ‘Collateral Beauty’? Well, what did you think? 

Award season chat: Musings on 2017 Golden Globes Nominations

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Award season is in full swing! There are a plethora of awards already announced, but in years past, I normally only talk about a few of them, SAG, Golden Globes and of course, the Oscars. By the time I got to Twitter on Monday morning, people were already chiming in on their thoughts on the noms. It’s no surprise that La La Land and Moonlight are frontrunners, with seven and six nods, respectively.

Well, I had planned on going to see Jackie tonight but I had to cancel as it’ll snow again this afternoon… and my week has been filled to the brim so tonight is the only night I could actually be home and do some household chores. But I am seeing La La Land tomorrow night, followed with Rogue One on Wednesday.

The head-scratching nom last year was The Martian being nominated under Musical/Comedy category. This year, it seems like the nomination of Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Nocturnal Animal (whilst Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon were both snubbed) seems puzzling to me, just based on the reviews I’ve read so far.

Anyway, here’s the full noms of the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards… and my short commentary on who I’m rooting for (in bold)… mostly on the FILM categories as I barely watch any TV (hoping to catch Westworld soon!):

Best Motion Picture – Drama:

“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Lion”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

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As you’ve read in my glowing review, Moonlight is the one I’ll be rooting for all the way to the Oscars! I’m so 100% behind that film. A masterpiece of filmmaking, tackling a subject rarely seen in such a graceful, elegant and emotionally heart-wrenching way. It’ll be tough to beat that one as of now, even with a handful of other award contenders I have yet to see.

I so want this film to win not because it’d somehow *make up for* the #OscarSoWhite controversy last year, but because the outstanding work absolutely merits it.

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy:

“20th Century Women”
“Deadpool”
“La La Land”
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“Sing Street”

Where is Hunt For the Wilderpeople?? I’d nominate that over Florence Foster Jenkins or Sing Street. I’ve finished my review of Wilderpeople and that’s one of the rare 5/5 rating I’ve given in a long time. I don’t know which from the list I’d root for, I’ll update it after I see La La Land tomorrow night.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama:

Casey Affleck – “Manchester by the Sea”
Joel Edgerton – “Loving”
Andrew Garfield – “Hacksaw Ridge”
Viggo Mortensen – “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington – “Fences”

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This is Viggo’s third Globes nomination. Boy I can’t believe he hasn’t won a single one!! I sure hope his well, fantastic performance in Captain Fantastic finally earns him one this time around. I’m sure glad Edgerton’s got recognized for his quiet, soulful performance in Loving.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama:

Amy Adams – “Arrival”
Jessica Chastain – “Miss Sloane”
Isabelle Huppert – “Elle”
Ruth Negga – “Loving”
Natalie Portman – “Jackie”

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This is Adams’ seventh Globes noms and she’s won two. There’s some tough competition here, especially from Natalie Portman, but I’d love to see Adams nabs the statue. Glad to see Chastain being recognized for her confident, powerhouse performance in Miss Sloane.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy:

Colin Farrell – “The Lobster”
Ryan Gosling – “La La Land”
Hugh Grant – “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Jonah Hill – “War Dogs”
Ryan Reynolds – “Deadpool”

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Wow Jonah Hill again?? I like Reynolds, Grant and Farrell out of the ones I have seen, but I’m definitely rooting for Farrell for his understated but hilarious performance in The Lobster. I’d have loved to see the film recognized, and it could pretty much fit in either drama or comedy.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy:

Annette Bening – “20th Century Women”
Lily Collins – “Rules Don’t Apply”
Hailee Steinfeld – “The Edge of Seventeen”
Emma Stone – “La La Land”
Meryl Streep – “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Heh, I have only seen Streep’s performance so far, which I knew for sure will nab a nomination. After all she’s gonna pick up the Cecil B. Demille award. Now I don’t know if that means it lessens or increase her chance of winning in the individual award category, but I don’t really care for her winning again to be honest.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:

Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges – “Hell or High Water”
Simon Helberg – “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Dev Patel – “Lion”
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – “Nocturnal Animals”

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Mahershala Ali is one of my fave talent discoveries of 2016, so you bet I’m rooting for him!! I also adore Helberg’s and Patel’s performances, nice to see Patel being recognized for his rare dramatic performance.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:

Viola Davis – “Fences”
Naomie Harris – “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman – “Lion”
Octavia Spencer – “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams – “Manchester by the Sea”

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I’m so impressed w/ the entire ensemble cast of Moonlight, so I’m glad Naomie got a nod! To think that she did this role during the undoubtedly glamorous press tour of the mega-budgeted Bond flick Spectre. She’s virtually unrecognizable (who’d believe she’s Money Penney!), but it’s not just the looks, but it’s a deeply-emotional performance that makes this indie gem shines.

Best Director – Motion Picture:

Damien Chazelle – “La La Land”
Tom Ford – “Nocturnal Animals”
Mel Gibson – “Hacksaw Ridge”
Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan – “Manchester by the Sea”

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Ah, so it seems Gibson’s officially back on Hollywood’s good graces again? Well, I think based on how I feel about Moonlight, it should be no surprise who I’m rooting for. An impressive sophomore feature film effort from Jenkins, I sure hope he continues to make movies.

Best Screenplay:

“La La Land”
“Nocturnal Animals”
“Moonlight”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Hell or High Water”


I’m gonna sound like a broken record here but I’m rooting yet again for Moonlight. It’s a coming-of-age drama with a real emotional punch. That revelation of adult Chiron in the end killed me… I literally gasped and sobbed in that scene. A great screenplay has the ability convey strong emotions with little words spoken. I aspire to be able to write that well one day.

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language:

“Divines” – France
“Elle” – France
“Neruda” – Chile
“The Salesman” – Iran/France
“Toni Erdmann” – Germany

Sadly I have not seen any of these 😦 I missed the press screening of Elle as it was at 10 o’clock in the morning. It’s too dark a film to see so early in the day anyway, but I’m so curious to see it.

Best Motion Picture – Animated:

“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“Sing”
“Zootopia”

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I missed Kubo and the Two Strings and gonna miss the press screening of SING as well, as it conflicts with another film. But I adore Zootopia, so I guess right now that’s what I’m rooting for. Judy Hopps FTW! 🙂

Best Original Song – Motion Picture:

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – “Trolls”
“City of Stars” – “La La Land”
“Faith” – “Sing”
“Gold” – “Gold”
“How Far I’ll Go” – “Moana”

Hmmm, where’s Shakira’s Try Everything from Zootopia? It’s actually written by SIA and it’s a really fun, catchy tune that fits nicely w/ the film’s topic. I have a feeling I’d enjoy the music of La La Land though, just based on some of the featurettes and trailers I’ve seen so far.

Best Original Score – Motion Picture:

Nicholas Britell– “Moonlight”
Justin Hurwitz – “La La Land”
Johann Johannsson – “Arrival”
Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka – “Lion”
Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Benjamin Wallfisch – “Hidden Figures”

Wow, I had no idea Hans Zimmer is one of the co-writers of Hidden Figures! I can’t wait to see that in January. Well, my fave here that I remember most is Moonlight. For some reason I didn’t really remember much of Arrival‘s score, I should definitely take a listen again as I LOVE Johannsson’s work in Sicario.

Best Television Series – Drama:

“The Crown”
“Game of Thrones”
“Stranger Things”
“This Is Us”
“Westworld”

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Can’t really comment on any of these as I’ve only seen Stranger Things. I don’t know if it’s the BEST of the bunch but sure glad it’s got a nod.

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy:

“Atlanta”
“Black-ish”
“Mozart in the Jungle”
“Transparent”
“Veep”

Haven’t seen any of these.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama:

Rami Malek – “Mr. Robot”
Bob Odenkirk – “Better Call Saul”
Matthew Rhys – “The Americans”
Liev Schreiber – “Ray Donovan”
Billy Bob Thornton – “Goliath”

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I actually have only seen a handful of episodes of season 1 of The Americans. But I was so impressed w/ Rhys’ performance and he’s generally a massively-underrated actor anyway. So even though I think Malek’s terrific in his breakout role in Mr. Robot, I feel like Rhys’ work as a Russian spy deserves equal recognition. Malek’s won an Emmy already though, so he probably wins this one as well.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama:

Caitriona Balfe – “Outlander”
Claire Foy – “The Crown”
Keri Russell – “The Americans”
Winona Ryder – “Stranger Things”
Evan Rachel Wood – “Westworld”

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Wow, talk about a comeback role for Winona Ryder! I feel like she’s either scared or worried in the entire show though, but I guess it’s a memorable performance. I personally would like to see Keri Russell win in The Americans. How awesome would it be if the pair playing married KGB spies win ’em this year!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy:

Anthony Anderson – “Black-ish”
Gael García Bernal – “Mozart in the Jungle”
Donald Glover – “Atlanta”
Nick Nolte – “Graves”
Jeffrey Tambor – “Transparent”

Can’t comment here as I haven’t seen any of the performances. Never even heard of Graves before, either.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy:

Rachel Bloom – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – “Veep”
Sarah Jessica Parker – “Divorce”
Issa Rae – “Insecure”
Gina Rodriguez – “Jane the Virgin”
Tracee Ellis Ross – “Black-ish”

Ditto in this category, though I have seen a few episodes of Veep and Louis-Dreyfus is such a hoot!

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television:

“American Crime”
“The Dresser”
“The Night Manager”
“The Night Of”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Gah, I really want to see The Night Manager and The Night Of!! Been hearing great things about both.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television:

Riz Ahmed – “The Night Of”
Bryan Cranston – “All The Way”
Tom Hiddleston – “The Night Manager”
John Turturro – “The Night Of”
Courtney B. Vance – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

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Again no comment here, but nice to see Brits Hiddles and Ahmed in the same category (their shows’ titles sound so similar too!). I’m really glad to see Ahmed getting more recognition (especially after Rogue One). Been a fan of his since The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television:

Felicity Huffman – “American Crime”
Riley Keough – “The Girlfriend Experience”
Sarah Paulson – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Charlotte Rampling – “London Spy”
Thandie Newton – “Westworld”

Can’t comment on the performances yet, but I find it baffling that Newton is nominated here under the ‘Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television’ category, whilst Evan Rachel Wood is nominated under ‘Television Series – Drama’ Huh?? Again, bonkers categorization of the HFPA.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television:

Olivia Colman – “The Night Manager”
Lena Headey – “Game Of Thrones”
Chrissy Metz – “This Is Us”
Mandy Moore – “This Is Us”
Kerry Washington – “Confirmation”

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I haven’t even seen The Night Manager yet but I’m already rooting for Olivia Colman! She’s another underrated actor I wish would get more recognition. I LOVE her in Broadchurch in which she won a BAFTA for Best Leading Actress.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television:

Sterling K. Brown – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Hugh Laurie – “The Night Manager”
John Lithgow – “The Crown”
Christian Slater – “Mr. Robot”
John Travolta – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Wow, Slater again for Mr. Robot? Yes it’s a good performance but is it that good? He already won one for the same show last year, so I would like to see someone else win in this category.


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Quick thoughts on Snubs and Surprises:

  • Surprised to see Martin Scorsese‘s SILENCE got snubbed. It sounds like one of those films the HFPA and Academy would be into, especially given it’s a Scorsese’s picture, too. I guess one of the biggest surprises is seeing Mel Gibson‘s name… and Aaron Taylor-Johnson‘s (as I’ve mentioned above).
  • Seeing Simon Helberg‘s name up there is a pleasant surprise though, he’s such a hoot in Florence Foster Jenkins!
  • Boy I feel like it’s been ages since Deadpool came out, but I’d think it warrants its nom in the comedy category. It sure has been a good year for Ryan Reynolds!
  • I know lots of people are dismayed not seeing Tom Hanks nominated for Sully, but really the man has won numerous accolades over his career. I’m not saying he wouldn’t be deserving it, but sounds like there are some really strong performances in that category as it is.
  • Hmmm, no Michael Keaton in The Founder? There’s virtually zero buzz for that film, too.
  • Based on what I’ve seen even in the trailers, Taraji P. Henson killed it in Hidden Figures. Looks like an extremely different role from her hit TV show EMPIRE.
  • Last but definitely not least, as Vulture astutely pointed out, where’s the female-led films?? They’re all pretty much snubbed in the drama categories… I mean, not even Arrival?? I’m no Gibson hater but is Hackshaw Ridge better than Arrival? Really?Snubbing both Jackie AND Hidden Figures… I agree w/ this sentiment “For the HFPA to snub two films that center on pivotal women in American history, in favor of hypermasculine narratives, feels especially icky this year.” 😦

Well, what are your thoughts on the Golden Globes nominations? Let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: SPECTRE (2015)

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I wonder if the way I feel about the Bond song somehow impacts how I feel about the film itself. Some of my least favorite Bond songs are The Man with the Golden Gun, Die Another Day, and Quantum of Solace, and those are also my least favorite Bond films. I already mentioned in this post how much I abhorred Sam Smith’s latest, Writing’s on the Wall which sounds more like fingernails on a chalk board. Unfortunately for me, during the press screening, I had to endure that song not once but twice as they played Sam Smith’s music video before the movie, so I had to suffer through THAT song once again during the opening title [sigh]

Of course it’s ludicrous to judge a Bond movie from the song, so I was prepared for an awesome Bond film. To be fair, the melody of the song itself is actually not bad, with Thomas Newman back scoring this again after Skyfall. Well, the first 15 minutes is certainly promising. It’s tradition that Bond films open with a bang and this one is no different, starting with a foot chase through a throng of huge crowd during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City. It’s followed by a spectacular fight scene aboard a helicopter flying above the main square. If we’re to judge a movie by cinematography alone, Spectre is excellent, thanks to Hoyte van Hoytema whose done amazing work in Her and Interstellar recently.

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Plot-wise, Spectre has a lot going for it, at least on paper. The parallel conflicts that Bond and M are facing in the film also promises an extra layer of intrigue, in addition to the personal vendetta that runs through the vein of Daniel Craig‘s Bond films. A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization and somehow he ends up going rogue. Meanwhile, his boss M (Ralph Fiennes) is dealing with a crisis of his own as the head of Joint Intelligence Service (which merged MI5 and MI6) threatened to shut down the double-O section. It’s an intriguing set up and as a massive Bond fan, I expect once again to be bowled over.

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Alas, after that spectacular opening, the film seems to lose momentum and never quite claim it back. All the high-octane action didn’t have quite the adrenaline rush I expected from a Bond movie. Even the car chase through the streets of Rome feels rather stale, it’s like I’ve seen a far more exciting car chase scene in previous Bond movies and recently in its rival franchise, Mission Impossible 5. Then there’s the unintentional humor that makes it hard to take the film seriously. The two times Bond wooed two of the beautiful Bond girls, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux, the scenes elicit laughter from the audience. It feels so obligatory and cringe-worthy, a far cry from the intriguing AND sexy love affair between Bond and Vesper in Casino Royale. Vesper was a complex character with a compelling story arc, but here the two Bond girls aren’t given the same courtesy. It’s sad to see an actress of Bellucci’s stature be utterly wasted here.
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The film also promises a massive super villain, the mother lode of all villains Bond has encountered in his past, “I’m the source of all your pain,” Oberhauser tells him once Bond gets to his lair. So it’s quite a let down that this supposedly fearsome, ultra-powerful mastermind turns out to be not so menacing at all. Remember how sinister Christoph Waltz was in Inglourious Basterds? Well, here he’s nothing more than a clichéd psychopath throwing tantrums at Bond because of… a childhood feud. Huh? No less than FOUR screenwriters credited here, three of whom also worked on Skyfall, and all they could come up with is THIS half-baked story? [spoiler alert] I find it hard to believe that Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chifre, who was effortlessly menacing AND intriguing in Casino Royale, actually worked for this lame, petulant nutjob.

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Sam Mendes and his team of writers seems to have recycled a lot of what’s been done in previous Bond films with nothing new to add to the franchise. In fact, in terms of the treatment of the Bond girls, it’s a step backward. The film seems to aim for a darker story but the execution feels light and even unintentionally comical. I realize that Bond films aren’t expected to be too deep or poignant, but even the fun, escapism factor seems to be missing in this one as Mendes can’t decide what kind of Bond movie he wants this to be. At times it harkens back to the Roger Moore era, which is a jarring contrast to the more pensive and grittier tone established in Craig’s films.

The returning characters from Skyfall are still good in their roles. I do like Ralph Fiennes as M but yet he still can’t hold a candle to how fantastic Judi Dench was in the role. Moneypenny and Q (Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw) have bit more to do in supporting 007, though not so much that would make any real impact in the movie. Andrew Scott, who’s excellent in the Sherlock series, is just serviceable here, but Dave Bautista certainly lives up to other big, burly but taciturn henchmen of Bond’s past. The fight scene on the train is certainly an homage to From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me with my favorite henchman, Jaws.

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As for the titular hero, I still like Craig as Bond, but more often than not he looks bored in this movie. It’s as if he’s weary of the same old types of shenanigans and hollow sexual escapades in various exotic locations. Yes I know Bond’s supposed to have this devil-may-care attitude but I think there’s a sense of fatigue that the actor can’t quite conceal. Perhaps it’s telling when Craig said in an interview recently how he’d rather slash his wrist than play James Bond again. It’s tacky to bite the hand that feeds you, but I can’t say I blame him for feeling that way.

It’s a pity because this could’ve been a truly great swan song for Craig if he were to retire as Bond (though I think he’d be back for at least one more). I like the fact that four of his films are connected in some way, though the constant throwback to his previous films also invites the inevitable comparison. If I were to rank Craig’s Bond films now, Spectre is just slightly more watchable than Quantum of Solace, but falls far short of the greatness of Casino Royale and Skyfall.

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Spectre might’ve topped the box office, but it’s nowhere near the top of the best Bond films for me. So I guess that awful theme song is sort of a warning about the movie. Bond’s most personal mission barely evoke any emotional response as the protagonist himself didn’t even seem to care. There’s just no compelling human drama here in this largely soulless affair. Overall the payoff just doesn’t live up to all that build-up and frankly, the film is just forgettable. I saw it four days ago yet I barely remember anything about it. It’s such a bummer really, this movie even made this loyal Bond fan think that perhaps I’ve outgrown this franchise a bit.

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Well, what did you think of Spectre? Did you like it more or less than I did?

007 Chatter: BOND 24 is now called SPECTRE

Boy it’s been a while since I posted anything about Bond and this morning a press release came to my email that I simply had to do a post! “Welcome back commander!” 

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[you can see the motion poster over on 007 Facebook]

LONDON, UK, December 4, 2014 – 007 Soundstage, Pinewood Studios, London. James Bond Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the title of the 24th James Bond adventure, SPECTRE. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, is directed by Sam Mendes and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fourth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. SPECTRE begins principal photography on Monday, December 8, and is set for global release on November 6, 2015.

The launch of SPECTRE was streamed live on 007.com and Facebook.com/JamesBond007, and here’s the video if you missed it:

Along with Daniel Craig, Mendes presented the returning cast, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as well as introducing Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott. Mendes also revealed Bond’s sleek new Aston Martin, the DB10, created exclusively for the movie.

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Official synopsis:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Bond’s going back to the classic Aston Martin too, which is by far one of my favorite of all Bond’s fantastic rides. Man, the DB10 is going to be specifically built for the film and it’s absolutely drool-worthy!! Heck, I’d rather take his car home than Bond himself, ahah.

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The 007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.

Commenting on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, “We’re excited to announce Daniel’s fourth installment in the series and thrilled that Sam has taken on the challenge of following on the success of SKYFALL with SPECTRE.”.

Per EMPIRE, the evil organization has not had a presence in the Bond universe thanks to a long-running copyright battle between MGM and the estate of Kevin McClory, the producer of Thunderball and the unofficial Connery Bond, Never Say Never Again. That, however, was resolved in 2013, paving the way for SPECTRE to return to the Bond movies. People have been speculating that Christoph Waltz will be playing Spectre’s leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but according to the UK mag, his character’s name is Oberhauser [??]

Man, I’m super excited for this!! What a cast, too, woo hoo!!! I LOVE Christophe Waltz, the Austrian thespian really impressed me in Inglourious Basterds and he has been working steadily in Hollywood ever since. He’d be great as the villain, with Bautista as his henchmen I presume. Not sure who Andrew Scott is playing, but he’s playing another baddie named Denbigh. They’re playing it *safe* this time in casting actors who’ve won accolades playing bad guys previously, as Scott won BAFTA for portraying Sherlock‘s nemesis Moriarty in the BBC series.

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I’m loving the female cast, too! I have always been a big fan of Naomie Harris as Money Penny, but now we’ve got gorgeous Italian and French beauties Monica Bellucci & Léa Seydoux. I’m actually surprised they haven’t cast Monica in previous Bond films, but she still looks stunning at 50 so it’s cool to see they don’t just cast young actresses as Bond girls!

SPECTRE is set for a October 23, 2015 release in the UK and a November 6, 2015 release in the US. Can’t friggin’ wait for this!!


So, what do you think of this announcement? Would love to hear your thoughts, folks!

A Fisti Recast-athon: The Devil Wears Prada, Gravity, and Michael Clayton

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Now THIS is a blogathon I can’t wait to take part! Andrew over at A Fistful of Films blog just had a brilliant idea for a recast-athon, similar to what I did here but this time with a slight twist. I’ll let him explain in his own words…

Here is my issue with Hollywood. It seems like these talented women (the men have it much easier) are either relegated to minority-necessary casting (like, we NEED a black actress in this movie because the character is a slave) or they get shoved onto television, where they flourish in short-lived TV shows that the average cinephile has probably never heard of.  It is very rare that a top rate director is going to use an actress of color in a role that doesn’t call for one. Obviously, there are a lot of biopic nominations going on all over the place, but taking those out…look at some of these roles and tell me if they couldn’t have been filled by an actress of color.

  • Nina Sayers (Black Swan)
  • Nic (The Kids are All Right)
  • Cindy (Blue Valentine)
  • Megan (Bridesmaids)
  • Tiffany (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Cheryl (The Sessions)
  • Dolores (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Jasmine (Blue Jasmine)
  • Ryan Stone (Gravity)
  • Ginger (Blue Jasmine)

So here are the RULES:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn’t require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don’t need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person).  This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time. So, in other words, don’t select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968’s Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn’t born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit.  Plead her case.  Let’s tell those Hollywood casting directors what they’re missing.


I LOVE this idea! I often think the same thing too that a lot of these roles could’ve easily been done by so many non-white actresses. I love that Drew focuses on actresses as non-white MALE actors certainly do get it easier than the female counterparts. It’s a shame really as there are SO many talented & beautiful actress of color out there who remain so underutilized. So here are three actresses who I think could’ve given an equally good performance in these Oscar-nominated roles:

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Angela Bassett as Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)

BassettMirandaPriestlyI have always been a big fan of miss Bassett. In fact, I have sort of a girl crush on her from Waiting To Exhale. She obviously epitomizes a strong, perceptive, no-nonsense woman but she has a certain vulnerability as well that make me think she’d be great as Miranda. Bassett is nine years younger than Meryl Streep, but I don’t think age is an issue here. In an era where Lucky Fashion Magazine’s editor in chief and Banana Republic’s creative director are of Taiwanese and Korean descent respectively, why not have a Black woman play a Fashion Mag editor in the movies?

I think Bassett would rock the role with her dramatic chops, and she also has a playful side and a rockin’ body that’d look phenomenal in high fashion. As Meryl portrays Miranda less as a sadistic monster of a boss but more of a fierce/demanding figure, I think Bassett can do the same given her naturally-likable persona.

Bonus: It’d be cool to see gorgeous British actress Naomie Harris in the role of Andy Sachs, the naive college grad who moved to NYC and lands a job as Miranda’s co-assistant.

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I’ve been impressed by Naomie in 28 Days Later, Skyfall and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and I’d LOVE to see her in more prominent roles. She’s even more beautiful than Anne Hathaway but I think she could be made up to look more like the girl-next-door.

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Michelle Yeoh as Ryan Stone (Gravity)

YeohRyanStoneWhen I first saw the trailer of Gravity, I was a bit surprised to see Sandra Bullock as Biomedical engineer Ryan Stone on her first space shuttle mission. She just wasn’t the actress I had in mind in the role, though she did a great job in the end and I think her Oscar nomination was well deserved. Now, I read that Natalie Portman was originally the first choice for the role, but heh, if only Hollywood would think outside the box once in a while. I think an actress who’d suit the role nicely is Michelle Yeoh. It’d somewhat coincide nicely the fact that in June 2012, Chinese space pilot Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space.

Yeoh is actually two years older than Bullock at 52, though both look at least 10 years younger than their age. I always think of the former Miss Malaysia is hugely underrated, despite having churned out great performances in Crouching Tiger, Sunshine, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies and recently, The Lady.

I think her martial-art training and dance background would help with the rigorous physicality required for the role. She also has the dramatic chops to pull off the quieter moments of desperation that Stone encounters when she was all alone in space. I really think Yeoh would’ve done a wonderful job in the role and the film would’ve had an ever bigger International appeal given her popularity in Asia.

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Viola Davis as Karen Crowder (Michael Clayton)

ViolaDavisKarenChowderI had put down miss Davis in this role before I saw her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them where she played a tough but compassionate NYU professor. But now I’m more convinced she’d have been awesome in the role. As she is now playing yet another sharp-witted character, a tough-talking, shrewd defense attorney/law professor in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, you know she would be perfect as the general counsel of an agricultural conglomerate.

I think Hollywood might be reluctant to cast an actor of color in such an unsympathetic role, but I think it’d be a challenging and fun role for someone of Davis’ talent. Chowder is ruthless and even callous, willing to take a life when her cause demands it. But she’s also suffering from a mental breakdown and tough she appears tough and in control in the outside, on the inside she is crippled with anxiety and fear. Though I LOVE Tilda Swinton’s Oscar-winning performance, I can totally see Davis pulling off such an inner conflict with aplomb. Davis’ adept use of subtle body language as well as her magnetic screen presence would also work wonder for such a role.


What do you think of my recast-athon picks? If you were to do your own recasting, who would YOU pick?

Twin Cities Film Fest: Preview of 2013 Lineup

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Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is excited to offer a sneak peak at several films coming to their 2013 lineup, including some of the most anticipated films of the year. TCFF is less than two months away, it will will run from October 17 – October 26.

Jatin Setia, executive director of the Twin Cities Film Fest, said this year’s slate of studio premieres represents the most promising, star-studded lineup in TCFF history: “The buzz we’re already hearing, from people wanting tickets to the new Meryl Streep-Julia Roberts premiere, to the new Alexander Payne film – which is sure to be a Best Picture contender – is deafening. And to then see subjects like Nelson Mandela and Simon Cowell in our lineup – for any serious movie lover, this is the true beginning of the Oscar race.”

While specific dates and showtimes are not yet public, TCFF is excited to showcase the following films:

NEBRASKA

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After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states, Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America. NEBRASKA is written by Bob Nelson and directed by Alexander Payne, which last film The Descendants won Best Adapted Screenplay.

Dern won Best Actor award at Cannes in this comedy drama, and in this interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Dern “…considered Alexander Payne to be a “genius” and why he “wouldn’t dare” to deviate from Payne’s script because “he’s too good.” Check out the first trailer:

ONE CHANCE

James Corden as Paul Potts
James Corden as Paul Potts

From the director of The Devil Wears Prada, ONE CHANCE is a comedy based on the remarkable and inspirational true story of Paul Potts, a shy, bullied shop assistant by day and an amateur opera singer by night. Paul became an instant YouTube phenomenon after being chosen by Simon Cowell for ‘Britain’s Got Talent.’

Fresh from celebrating his Tony Award-winning Broadway run in One Man, Two Guvnors, BAFTA winner James Corden (The History Boys) stars as Paul Potts and is supported by an acclaimed ensemble cast that includes Julie Walters (Mamma Mia!, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot), Colm Meaney (Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa ), Jemima Rooper (Kinky Boots, Lost in Austen) and Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady). Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Hope Springs) and written by Justin Zackham (The Bucket List).

No trailer yet but here’s that Britain’s Got Talent clip from a couple of years ago of the real Paul Potts. Make sure you have some Kleenex handy:


TCFF’s Silver, Gold and Platinum Passes are now available!

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GET THEM EARLY
(while supplies last)


MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

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The film is based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society. Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Prometheus) stars as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris (Skyfall) stars as Winnie Mandela, with Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directing.

I LOVE this cast! I’m a huge fan of Elba, who I think would make a fine Bond (if the producers are brave enough for a Black Bond) and Naomi was a sassy Bond girl in Skyfall so what a perfect pairing! I’ve seen about three Nelson Mandela films so far, with actors of various built and height portraying the titular world leader. I must say that Elba seems too big physically (not to mention hunky!) to play Mandela, but hey, it sounds like a meaty role for the talented actor, so I’m definitely looking forward to this!

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

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This is one of those movies I’d watch just for the cast. I mean, just look at the names in that poster! This film is based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name made its Broadway debut in December 2007. It continued with a successful international run and was the winner of five Tony Awards in 2008, including Best Play.

It tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is directed by John Wells (The Company Men) and features an all-star cast, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.


This is one of my most-anticipated Fall movies so I’m thrilled TCFF’s got it! There’s already Oscar buzz on Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in the Best Supporting Actress category. Now, I’m particularly curious about Cumberbatch’s role in this, who along with McGregor are the only two Brits in this star-studded cast. Their roles are probably pretty small though.


In early September, TCFF will announce its full 10-day slate, compiled from more than 300 viewed contenders and submissions. Tickets will go on-sale at twincitiesfilmfest.org beginning October 1, 2013.


What do you think of this early lineup folks? Any one of these on your must-see list?