FlixChatter Review: The November Man (2014)

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It’s been over a decade since Pierce Brosnan played a spy, his last outing as 007 in the atrocious Die Another Day probably was not the way he wanted to go out after 4 very successful Bond films, financially speaking only of course. Along with Die Another Day, I thought The World Is Not Enough is also up there with being one of the worst Bond films ever made. Brosnan is now back playing another sort of super spy and believe it or not, it might be worse than the last two Bond flicks he starred in.

This new film starts with the usual spy flick, a beautiful location in Montenegro and we’re introduced to an aging spy Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) and his young protégé David Mason (Luke Bracey). They’re in the city to protect a very important US Congressman, later there was an assassination attempt and during the chaos, Mason took out the assassin but unfortunately he also killed an innocent kid who happens to be in the wrong place. This infuriated Devereaux because the young spy wouldn’t listen to him and killed an innocent bystander. Fast forwarded a few years later and Devereaux is now retired and living in Switzerland. His old boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) showed up and asked for his help.

Apparently a very important and dangerous man named Federov (Lazar Ristovski) in Russia is going to become its next president and US government doesn’t want that to happen. There’s a mole inside Federov’s circle and she has evidence against him that can destroy his campaign of becoming the president. Hanley wants Devereaux to rescue her before she gets exposed and also he wants the evidence against Federov. As it turns out this mole is Devereaux’s old girlfriend and he still has feelings for her. Of course he accepts the mission and decided to get back in action. Unfortunately though, a top CIA executive Perry Weinstein (Will Patton) found out about this mole and wants her taken out. He ordered his agents to assassinate her, one of these agents also included Devereaux’s protégé David Mason. Of course things gets messy when Devereaux and his old pal finally meet during a botched rescue. There were shootouts, explosions and car chases.

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The plot of this movie was so convoluted that I sort of tuned out because it was not interesting to me. They introduced a lot of things but never really solved them by the time the movie ended. It’s one of those movies where it thinks it’s smarter than it’s actually is. Veteran director Roger Donaldson who at one point was on his way of becoming an A-list director, doesn’t seem to know what he wanted this movie to be. And to be honest, I don’t think he really care about telling a cohesive story or even staged a descent action scene. He and his cinematographer decided to adapt the visual that’s very similar to Paul Greengrass’ Jason Bourne films, unfortunately their movie looks pretty ugly compare to Greengrass’. Could be that maybe they don’t have the budget as big as the Bourne films but still the movie looked just awful. Even worse the script by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek felt like it’s written by amateur writers. The movie was based on a Bill Granger’s  novel called There Are No Spies, I’ve never read or even heard of the book before so I couldn’t make a comparison here.

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Performances wise, the only person who shines was Brosnan, since he’s also the producer of the movie, it seemed he really put a lot of heart into his performance here. Unfortunately his co-stars didn’t do much. Luke Bracey probably went to the same acting school as Taylor Kitsch since he has no charisma and didn’t even look believable during the action scenes. Ex-Bond girl Olga Kurylengo pretty much got stuck playing the same character since Quantum of Solace, in fact her storyline in this movie is very similar to that of Quantum. I couldn’t believe it! I just thought to myself, are the writers really that lazy and didn’t think no one would notice?

It’s really unfortunate how this movie turned out, I thought after so many years out of doing action movie, Brosnan would’ve learned his lesson and chose a good script. Apparently he didn’t and starred in another lousy action/spy picture. I really tried to find something positive to say about this movie but I really can’t. It’s ugly, boring and worse of all just a waste of time. Not recommended at all.

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Have you seen The November Man? Well, what did you think?

Weekend Viewing Roundup – OBLIVION Review

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Photo courtesy of StarTribune.com

The weekend is coming to a close as I’m writing this, hope y’all had a nice one… especially in the weather department. It’s really the kind of “Spring” that does NOT add an extra spring in your step, unless you want to slip on ice and fall over into a puddle 😦

I mean, just look at this photo from a couple of days ago!! THAT’s the reason I couldn’t see Mud last Thursday! And this is the kind of stuff we could expect for this week, courtesy of our local meteorologist at the Star Tribune:

A rain/snow mix tomorrow evening – but temperatures boomerang to near 70F by Saturday afternoon, maybe even a few severe T-storms late Sunday? Something for the entire family.

[sigh]

Anyway, I did see quite a few new films this past week, five to be exact:

Disconnect, Unfinished Song (both reviews are up), Caesar Must Die, I, Anna and Oblivion. Stay tuned for the reviews of the other two, but now, here’s my thoughts on…

OBLIVION

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Post-apocalyptic science fiction films are a dime a dozen and there seems to be no shortage of it. Even before the start of this film, there are trailers for a couple of them (After Earth, Elysium) and the world we live in is almost always depicted in a state of doom, with humanity facing extinction with the rest of well, what’s left of our universe.

OBLIVION begins with a voice over exposition courtesy of Jack Harper (starring the virtually ageless mega star Tom Cruise) who now lives in a high tower above the earth, Tower 49, which looks like a very expensive high rise penthouse, complete with built-in swimming pool underneath. Not a bad living quarter for a ‘mop-up crew,’ that’s what Jack refers to himself and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). They’re only two weeks away on completing their mission of drones repair on earth before they could join the entire remaining human population in their new home in Titan. Now, you’d think he’d be excited for that but Jack still can’t let go of earth & his earthly house by the lake, and he’s also still haunted by his memory of a woman from 60 years ago as they walk up to the Empire State Building [is this like the only romantic rendezvous place for New Yorkers in the movies??].

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Well, what do you know. On a routine mission, Jack ended up meeting that very woman who was in one of the delta-sleep pods that crash landed on earth as Jack was relaxing by the lake. Now, the arrival of ‘Julia’ who claims to be his wife, and then later meeting a group of human survivors hiding underground, led by cigar-smokin’ Morgan Freeman, Jack’s life quickly begins to unravel as he discovers just who his true identity is. He starts to question the things we’ve also been curious about from the start, and the last half of the film follows Jack in that journey of self-discovery… and more.

Now, all of this is intriguing stuff and director Joseph Kosinski builds this film with so many beautiful vistas and cool-looking robots to mesmerize us, but the plot leaves way more questions than the film could even begin to answer. Now, I don’t want to discuss ’em here without revealing a bunch of spoilers, but let’s just say I have similar questions as this guy in Film School Rejects post. Well, I don’t really care about ‘why was Beech [Freeman’s character] is always wearing sunglasses’ but the rest are definitely valid plot holes issues. I feel that my beef with Kosinski’s first film, Tron Legacy, where it’s mostly style over substance, also applies to this one. The one advantage is that this one he has a far more charismatic protagonist than Garrett Hedlund (more on that latter). But similarly, Kosinski seems far more concerned with building cool looking stuff than he is about crafting a real ‘meaty’ story that goes beyond a mere ‘intriguing concept.’

That said, I still find this film entertaining and I’ve got to admit I was wowed by the visuals. Everything from the bluish-hued barren landscape of earth in ruins, to the ultra sleek sky tower and Jack’s collapsible Bubbleship [apparently the design was a hybrid of a jet fighter and a Bell 47 helicopter – per We Are Movie Geeks], there are visual eye candy aplenty for the sci-fi geek in all of us. I saw this in 2D which was perfectly fine, but I bet this film would look pretty stunning on IMAX.

The pace is pretty good and I never find myself bored in the entire two hours. I also think there’s a balance of quiet moments and full-throttle action, which makes it more effective when it does happen. The aircraft chase with the drones in the narrow canyons remind me too much of so many other sci-fis, most notably The Phantom Menace. But then again, this film borrow a lot of sci-fi concepts from other films so I shouldn’t be surprised by that. Despite all the plot holes though, I’ve got to give props to the filmmaker for at least attempting to inject some humanity into the story.

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As I’ve alluded to earlier, Tom Cruise is still more than capable to carry this film. I don’t think Jack Harper would make my top 10 Tom Cruise roles, but still he’s very watchable. Some of the flying sequences made me think of this movie as Top Gun meets Minority Report, it’s amazing Cruise still looks pretty much the same as he was in Top Gun which was released 27 years ago!! One of Cruise strengths is that he is believable in the action as well as the more emotional scenes. Interestingly enough, the part of him reminiscing on earth—recalling his old days of watching baseball, playing sports in his back yard and listening to old records—are more effective than the ‘romantic’ scenes of him and his female co-stars however. I don’t exactly know why that is, though I give Cruise some credit for not looking creepy romancing actresses nearly half his age!

Speaking of the actresses, I was impressed with Andrea Riseborough once again (she was also in Disconnect), she’s truly a star on the rise [pardon the pun] with a chameleon-like ability. I don’t think Olga Kurylenko is as versatile, but she actually impresses me more here than she did in Quantum of Solace. She has an earthy and mysterious quality about her and though she is stunningly beautiful, she doesn’t come across as flighty. Morgan Freeman of course adds gravitas to his role, Beech is the kind of ‘cool but eternally wise’ character he’s played in so many films that it probably doesn’t require much effort on his part. Hunky Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau also has a small part as Freeman’s cohort, but I think he’s more capable than that.

Final Thoughts: I don’t think Oblivion will be a sci-fi classic. I appreciate it for what it is, which is popcorn entertainment, but not profound enough to be memorable. I don’t mind watching it again down the road though, even if it’s just to gawk at the marvelous visuals. It’s the kind of escapist entertainment that’s tailored to maximize Cruise’s massive star power. The film’s box office prowess will prove that Cruise’s certainly still got it.
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Three and a half stars out of Five

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Well, what did you think of this film? Did you enjoy this more than I did?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: CENTURION

I’m all for swords & sandals flicks, so naturally I’m intrigued by this Roman empire feature Centurion when I first read about it in Empire a couple of months ago. The fact that it stars one of my top ten actors to watch Michael Fassbender doesn’t hurt, either. I first noticed the rising German/Irish star as Stelios in 300, which was then followed by acclaimed indie projects Hunger and Fish Tank, and more prominently Inglourious Basterds. In this movie, he’s starring alongside another 300 alum Dominic West, both seem to have better success retaining their buff physiques than King Leonidas himself (but I still love you Gerry Butler!) 😉

Anyway, the trailer arrives last week, check it out below:

Synopsis: Based on the legend of the Ninth Legion, an army of 3000 unstoppable Roman warriors who vanished without trace, Centurion is the tale of their vicious conflict with a murderous adversary, the Picts. Quintus Dias (Fassbender), a Roman corporal, is taken hostage by the Pict King, Gorlacon and the Ninth are charged with bringing him home and ending Pict domination of Britain. Led by General Virilus (Dominic West) and guided by a Pict prisoner and warrior woman named Etain (Olga Kurylenko), the army marches towards enemy territory and finds itself in the midst of a perilous battle with a mysterious foe.

Most blogs featuring this trailer raved about it, but my initial reaction is meh, it’s like a poor man’s Gladiator. I mean I’m not dissing it for it’s low-budget as a movie obviously doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. I just feel like I’ve seen it all before, and again the Romans are depicted as the good guys here. The beginning reminds me of the opening scene of the Ridley Scott epic when the Maximus-led Romans attacked Germania, it’s probably was filmed in the exact same forest! The intensely brutal fight sequences are to pretty typical in this genre, though given the director Neil Marshall is known for bloodthirsty/gory flicks like Doomsday and The Descent (neither of seems like something I’d enjoy watching), the level of savagery level might be off the charts.

The cliché-laden catchphrases are kind of ho-hum, “We live united or die divided!” and “I’m a soldier of Rome! I will not yield!” They just don’t carry the same gravitas as “At my signal, unleash hell!” or “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Then there’s every male’s favorite tough-chick Olga Kurylenko, who didn’t impress me much in Quantum of Solace (and even less so in the dreadful Hitman). She seems nothing more than eye candy for the dudes and from the reaction of the male bloggers out there, that’s probably all she needs to be.

Fassbender looks like he fits the part well, but it’s hardly a far-reaching role for him. I’m more interested to see him as Rochester in the latest Jane Eyre adaptation, which has lined up a pretty impressive cast, apparently Judi Dench, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) and Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) have just been added.

Anyway, no US release date is set for Centurion, but the UK release is April 23, 2010. What do you think, folks? Yay or nay for you? It’s definitely a rental for me just on account of Fassbender.