FlixChatter Review – Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

gunpowder-milkshake

The John Wick films has started a new trend in Hollywood action films. Gone are the awful shaky cam, fast editing and up-close shots during action scenes. Now we get to see careful and well-choreographed hand-to-hand combat and shootout scenes. I definitely prefer this new style of action sequences since I can’t stand the shaky cam/fast editing style of the 2000s. The downside of this new trend is that many the recent action films seem to look the same and it gets kind of boring when most action films start to imitate one another. The newest John Wick clone is called Gunpowder Milkshake from Netflix.

gunpowder-milkshake-heady-gillan

Sam (Karen Gillan) is a super assassin working for an underworld organization called The Firm. On her new mission, her boss Nathan (Paul Giamatti) tasked her with retrieving money that was stolen from The Firm by an ex-employee. But the mission goes awry when she shoots the ex-employee, discovering that he needs the money to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman) from some nasty men. Making things even more complicated is that on her previous mission, Sam accidentally killed the only son of The Firm’s competitor, McAlester (Ralph Ineson). McAlester wants Sam’s head and orders his men to hunt her down. So, to avoid a full out war with another powerful firm, Nathan decided to betray Sam and let McAlester and his men take her out.

Of course, Sam won’t go down without a fight since she decided to take Emily under her wings and will need help from her mom Scarlet (Lena Headey), who abandon her when she was very young. Also, along for the ride are Scarlet’s old friends Anna May (Angela Bassett), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), and Mathilde (Carla Gugino). Now the women must use all of their skills to defend themselves against the army of McAlester’s men and also aiming to take down The Firm.

gunpowder-milkshake-badass-women

The script is credited to Ehud Lavski and Navot Papushado, the latter also directed the picture. The story is pretty straightforward, sprinkle in some female empowerment theme and a little bit of parent and child reconciliation. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before in other action films, but I did think they should’ve beefed up the villain role. We get a little bit of sense that McAlester is a nasty individual, but we don’t really get to see his true nature. Papushado decided to give the film a comic book style and included some fun action sequences including a car chase in parking ramp and fight/shootout scene in a clinic. Since it’s a John Wick clone, the action scenes were quite brutal, so you’ll see heads gets blown off and limps gets torn apart.

I enjoyed all the performances by the main veteran actors but the one really standout performance belongs to the young and adorable Chloe Coleman. She’s the only innocence person in the entire film and the good guys will do everything to protect her. Gillan whose 5’11 frame is very believable as an action hero and she looked to have a fun time here beating up several men and shoots them in the head. The more senior ladies also looked like they had a great time doing complex fight scenes and shootouts. While he might be on the screen for only a few minutes, Giamatti was also good the caring father figure type but also a business man who has to protect The Firm at all cost. The only disappointment here is Ineson, he’s supposed to be this over-the-top villain but he’s hardly in the movie and by the time he gets to do his evil speech to our hero, it wasn’t that impressive.

Overall, this is a fun action film that will remind you of the John Wick films. If you like those films then you’ll have good time with this one.

3.5/5 Reels

TedS_post


So have you seen GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Congress (2013)

TheCongressBnr

An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn’t consider.

I’ve been wanting to check this movie out of sheer curiosity. The idea of mixing animation with live-action is tricky, and I always wonder how a filmmaker would pull this off. This is from the same filmmaker who brought the Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman, and I must say The Congress is an ambitious and absolutely bizarre film. Whether or not the film works for you depends on how much the eccentricities bothers you, plus the structure of the film is also not straightforward to make it digestible. But the way I see it, I’m glad I saw it and the thing with certain art form is, one can still appreciate it even if we don’t fully comprehend it.

TheCongressStill1

The story is loosely based on Stanislaw Lem’s sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress. In the film, Robin Wright plays a fictionalized version of herself as an aging actress and single mother of two, and her son’s hearing and eyesight are slowly deteriorating. A Hollywood mogul from Miramount (Miramax & Paramount) offered to buy the film rights of her digital image so in the future studios could make films using only CGI versions of her, provided that she’d never act again anywhere.

It’s twenty years later when her contract’s about to expire that the animated adventure came alive. At the entrance of Abrahama City, where Robin is to attend Miramount’s “Futurological Congress,” she’s given a chemical so she transform into an avatar of herself in order to enter the strict animated zone. Trippy is the word I would use here and I can’t even begin to explain what the plot is about.

TheCongressStill3In fact, when the movie’s over, I thought ‘what the heck was it that I just watched??’ Part of the film seems to be a commentary or satire on the mercenary nature of Hollywood, but other times it’s a mother-son story, and then there’s a love story between Robin and Dylan (voiced by Jon Hamm), who claims to be her animator. It’s hard to tell what it’s about, it’s really quite discombobulating as things get more colorful and more surreal. You’ll notice a bunch of famous people in the animated world, from deity, famous entertainers, sports figures, etc.

TheCongressStill2

The fact that the film somehow still retains my interest is Wright’s heartfelt performance, even in her animated format she’s always engaging and sympathetic. The supporting cast are excellent too, Harvey Keitel as Robin’s agent, Kodi Smit-McPhee as her son, and Danny Huston as the studio mogul. The most emotionally engaging moments are between Robin and Paul Giamatti who plays the kind doctor who treats her son.

The altered sense of realism is to be expected in a live-action/animation hybrid format, but messy structure of the film highlights the narrative problems. I kind of knew going in this film would not be an easy watch however, but still it can be frustrating. I think some people would have serious issues with the film, much like they would with say, Holy Motors, and I can’t say I blame them. But there are some enjoyable and funny moments, I always appreciate originality even if it’s a little on the bizarre side. I’d love to connect more with it and the characters, but overall it’s got enough going for it to warrant a recommendation from me.

3halfReels


Have you seen this film? Well, what do you think?

FlixChatter Review: Saving Mr. Banks

AshleyBanner
SavingMrBanksLogo

Right away with the vintage 1960’s Disney opening, I knew this film was going to be something special. Giving a nod to the beloved classic, the film opens in the sky and adds the perfect amount of mysticism with a haunting piano melody of “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” accompanied by Collin Farrell’s recitation of, “Winds in the east, mist coming in, like something is brewing, about to begin, can’t put my finger on what lies in store, but I feel what’s to happen, all happened before.” Based on a true story about the life of P.L. Travers, known for creating and penning the beloved Mary Poppins children’s book series, and Walt Disney’s 20 year struggle to purchase the rights, this film has something to offer everyone.

EmmaThompson_PLTravers

It’s 1907 and clear that Ginty, Mrs. Travers’ nickname as a child, and her father (Colin Farrell) have a very special relationship. She absolutely adores her father, and he encourages her to daydream, write and think outside the box, much to the dismay of her mother (Ruth Wilson). The family moves from an opulent home in eastern Australia to the rugged, secluded, outback of Queensland, Australia. The children see this move as an adventure, but it soon becomes evident the family is struggling to make ends meet. It’s slowly revealed that Ginty’s father is an alcoholic and is the cause of why the family had to move from means to meagerness in order to find work. While the tension between her parent’s marriage grows more palpable, Ginty continually chooses to see no wrong in her father.

SavingMrBanks_Stills2

Jump to 1961 and Mrs. Travers (Emma Thompson) is now a formulaic, stubborn and priggish woman. Almost bankrupt with no current plans to write additional stories, she begrudgingly agrees to meet with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), in L.A. for two weeks, to be part of the script writing and approval process, something he never promised any other author before, in exchange for the rights to Mary Poppins. The film travels back and forth between Mrs. Travers’ childhood in Australia, and present, amidst her battle between the writers and Walt for how the film will be presented. Mrs. Travers has strong opinions about what Disney represents and wants nothing to do with the outlandish, larger-than-life animated characters and musicals Disney was known for at the time.

SavingMrBanks_Stills4

Thompson absolutely dominates in this film and plays her character to a T. She’s calculating, a perfectionist and clings to routine and archaic methods. As the film reveals more about Mrs. Travers’ past, it’s hard to believe Ginty and Mrs. Travers are the same person. One is full of such hope, optimism and creativity, while the other has grown up to be a begrudgingly cynical, cold and controlling woman. The Sherman brothers (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman), Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and Walt are thrown for a loop as Mrs. Travers makes her expectations clear for what Mary Poppins will and will not become. What ensues is a hysterical game of cat and mouse. Along the way, your heart will warm when you hear the beginnings of popular tunes such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Feed the Birds” and you may even have a tear in your eye when “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” is finally presented.

I absolutely loved the relationship between Mrs. Travers and her driver, Ralph (Paul Giamatti). Every day, Ralph, embodies the bright and sunny Californian disposition and struggles to chip away at Mrs. Travers icy exterior. Only after they find common ground do you finally understand Mrs. Travers’ sometimes callous motivations. Without giving too much away, the film surprises you by dealing with very real, complex and adult content: loss, atonement and redemption.

SavingMrBanks_Stills3

In all honesty, watching Saving Mr. Banks will give more background to the hows and whys of the fantastical world of Mary Poppins and will make you want to re-watch the classic. And, now that I’m older, I would argue that Mary Poppins was created to be just as much of an escape for adults as it was a whimsical world for children.

Disney gets is right with Saving Mr. Banks. I’d highly recommend adding this film to your roster of movies to see over the holidays. The acting was superb, the score beautifully accompanied the emotions and themes of the film and it gives you insight into how the magical classic was made. Be sure to stay in your seats during the credits, as you’ll get a glimpse of the real P.L. Travers.

fourreels
4 out of 5 reels

PostByAshley


Thoughts on Saving Mr. Banks? Would love to hear what you think!

Weekend Viewing Roundup and PARKLAND review

Happy Monday all! Hope you had a nice weekend. I see that a lot of you saw GRAVITY, glad to see that Alfonso Cuarón’s film proves to be a critical AND box office hit with over $55 mil this weekend. If you’ve read my review, clearly that’ll be the film I’ll be rooting for come Award season!

I finally got around to seeing RUSH on Saturday night and it was aptly-titled as it’s quite an adrenaline rush! I enjoyed the rivalry between 1970s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt, especially Daniel Brühl’s performance. Is it the best Ron Howard movie to date? I’m not sure, but surely it’d make my Top 5.

WeekendRdp_RUSH

The rest of my weekend viewings are from Netflix. I finally completed Dark Knight Returns Part II and I must say I’m really impressed by the Frank Miller’s graphic novel adaptation. Our pal Jack Deth commented on the Five for the Fifth post that it’s his most-emotionally gratifying film he saw this year, and I could see why! Check out his in-depth review.

Last night I was feeling nostalgic so I watched a couple of episodes of two of my favorite shows: FRASIER and MOONLIGHT. Before Vampire Diaries and True Blood, there’s MOONLIGHT on CBS. I actually dedicated a post for the vampire series as it’s one of my all-time TV guilty pleasures!

FRASIERTVseries

MoonlightTVseries

Yes the writing isn’t stellar but I have a soft spot for Aussie’s Alex O’Loughlin as the sexy & romantic vampire Mick St. John, and British actress Sophia Myles as his love interest Beth. She’s clearly the best actor in the whole series, I also like her in Spooks Season 10 with Richard Armitage. Lucky gal! 😉

Now here’s my review of…

Parkland

Parkland_Banner

Parkland is a historical drama that recounts the assassination of JFK in Dallas and the four days following that devastating event. Now, there have been countless films and documentaries on that but what sets this film apart is that it gives us the perspectives from a handful of ordinary people who are suddenly thrust into the this extraordinary circumstances: the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital (hence the title), the Secret Service, the FBI agents, as well as those outside of the presidential circle. The two characters I’m fascinated by the most from this film are Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, and Abraham Zapruder, the man who inadvertently filmed what became the most-watched and scrutinized 8mm film. These are two ordinary people who never thought their lives would change drastically that very day.

The assassination itself wasn’t re-enacted on screen but the film actually used the footage from the Zapruder film. Most people probably have seen that very clip by now as it’s all over Youtube, a bunch of them have been edited in slo-mo so you could see every detail when the motorcade passed through Dealy Plaza. But this time, we see the reaction of the people behind the camera, especially the clearly-shaken Zapruder the second the shots hit the president. The concept of the film is intriguing and even refreshing, but I think writer/director Peter Landesman is way too ambitious with the scope of the film. There are so many parts he’d like to cover but in the end, it sort of went all over the place. The scenes at the hospital seems to go on forever, especially the part where the doctors were trying desperately to revive Mr. Kennedy. One thing that really struck me was the moment Jackie Kennedy handed a piece of her husband’s skull (or brain) to the lead nurse (Marcia Gay Harden). For some reason I just realized what it was that Jackie retrieved when she jumped on the back hood of the presidential limousine!

Parkland_stills

The worst part of the film for me is the shaky camera movements and constant blur effects which made me VERY nauseous. It’s hard to concentrate on the film, any film, when you struggle to keep from throwing up. I also find the extreme close-ups on the characters’ faces are excessive and distracting, which is another stylistic miscalculation. But the detrimental factor of the film for me is the lack of emotional involvement with any of the character as each only have a few minutes on screen. In fact, Tom Welling who got top billing according to IMDb basically only have a cameo here as as secret service agent Roy Kellerman. He only had like three lines in the film, and so was Billy Bob Thornton as lead of Dallas secret service, Forrest Sorrels.

Zack Efron is actually pretty decent as the young resident doctor at Parkland Hospital. I haven’t seen enough of his work to say that I like him as an actor but at least he seems to give a good effort to escape his High School Musical persona. The two actors who made an impression on me were Paul Giamatti as Zapruder and James Badge Dale as Robert Oswald. Both are interesting characters in their own right, but the two actors did a compelling job portraying them. Oh and Australian double Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver is fantastic as Marguerite Oswald, she really knocked it out of the park even in her brief scenes. It makes me want to check out the Aussie drama Animal Kingdom even more.

Overall Parkland is better in concept than execution. In fact, if you’re curious about the subject matter, I’d just rent it. It’s not a terrible film but its in-cohesive narration and nauseating shaky-cam style made this quite unbearable to watch for me. Though it did make me curious enough to want to read more about the most-scrutinized event in history, the film itself is ultimately forgettable. Or worse, I’d only remember it as being the film that made me [literally] want to vomit.

twoandahalfreels
2.5 out of 5 reels


That’s my weekend roundup folks. What did you see this weekend?

Double Clooney Reviews: The Ides of March and The Descendants

As part of the LAMB Acting School 101 on George Clooney, I thought I’d review two of his recent films, one of which garnered him an Oscar’s Best Actor nod. Now, the idea of this monthly LAMB event is to highlight a different actor/actress whose performances, for better or worse, have left a mark on the cinematic landscape.

Truth be told, I’m not as enamored with 50-year-old actor as most people. Yes I think he’s dashing but for some reason he’s not the kind of actor whose film I’d go see just because he’s in it. That said, I understand his appeal and he’s played his card right in the business, rising steadily from his days as a TV actor to becoming quite a Hollywood royalty if you will. Plus, the man knows how to pick good films and in the case of The Ides of March, he knows how to make a decent one.

So in honor of his Oscar nomination, here are a double reviews of his two latest films:

The Ides of March

I’m generally not a big fan of political films. Heck I’m not into politics in general, call me cynical but I feel that for the most part, there are just so much unethical stuff going on and it’s just a matter of what people can get away with and how much they’re willing to sacrifice to gain power. This political drama directed by Clooney is full of such back-alley dealings and takes its name from a historical event from the Roman Calendar. It’s a date commonly associated with the death of Julius Caesar, who was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by his most trusted allies and long-time friend Brutus.

There’s a loose connection between that event and what happens in this film, but a theme of betrayal is certainly ripe in the story. To understand the plot, we’ve got to meet the players:  Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris’ (Clooney) is campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his campaign is led by a world weary campaign veteran Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his second-hand-man, an idealistic and ambitious 30-year-old Stephen (Ryan Gosling) who’s shrewd at handling the communications with the media. Morris’ biggest rival remains faceless throughout the film but his campaign is run by the cynical and ruthless Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). Caught in the center of it all is one of Morris’ 20-year-old intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) who has the hots for Stephen.

Stephen ends up getting himself in two major predicaments involving Molly and Duffy, two separate occasions that both threaten not only his political career but also the career of his big boss, Morris. Loyalties are tested and the game of survival of the fittest are full on, lives are at stake and not just in political sense. This is a movie where there are no real heroes or villains, just a bunch of ruthless people who’s really tough to root for, in my opinion anyway. None of the characters are really sympathetic as they’re only concerned about themselves and how to get ahead. Perhaps the only person whom I despise the least is Paul who at least still strives to play by the book, perhaps too much for his own good.

I don’t think this film tells us anything new or fresh perspective that we don’t otherwise already know about politics. If anything it just reaffirms the ‘dirty politics’ reputation of every political party. Career victory wins over virtue, that seems to be the message, which is hardly surprising. Still I think overall I think it’s a decent film that offers intriguing dialog and a great deal of intellectual suspense. I like the subtlety of Clooney’s direction, he doesn’t show every single thing to the audition but instead scenarios are implied in a clever way, such as when Paul enters the big campaign SUVs with Morris in a back alley, it’s clear that his fate within that campaign is sealed. The face-off between Stephen and Morris in a dark kitchen of a restaurant is also shot in a sinister way that shows their faces in the shadows most of the time.

The performances are top notch and that’s another props from Clooney to draw sharp performances from his cast. Gosling is sleek and confident in this role, but I feel that he has that same cocky aura he displays in those DRIVE trailers and movie posters. Clooney doesn’t have as much screen time here but he certainly makes for a believable Obama-like figure, and seems like he’s likened his character to Obama as his campaign posters are done in the exact same way. To me, the two scene-stealers are the actors playing the campaign managers of both parties, Hoffman and Giamatti. They don’t share a screen together however, but their scenes with Gosling are quite memorable. Evan Rachael Wood proves that she’s one of today’s brightest young stars, she embodies her role with sheer drive and youthful recklessness that plays a key role in the downfall of the political candidate, as well as her own. Marisa Tomey is good but it’s a nothing special as she’s done a similar type of supporting roles in other films I saw recently.

Final thoughts:

I think fans of political films will enjoy this one and those who are already fans of the cast will definitely appreciate them all the more. I appreciate Clooney’s direction and the performances, but the film itself is not entertaining or even compelling enough for me to want to watch again.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


The Descendants

I went to see this film largely because of Clooney’s casting and the fact that he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. I’ll tell you right off the bat that I think his nomination is well-deserved, and it’s perhaps one of my favorite roles from this actor to date.

The story from writer/director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) is centered on the life of Matt King (Clooney), a workaholic attorney living in Hawaii. His life is turned upside down when his wife Elizabeth suddenly fell into a coma following a boating accident that leaves him to care for his two daughters. At the same time, Matt is also at the crossroad involving the decision to sell his family’s 25000-acre land that’s been handed down from his ancestors of Hawaiian royalty and missionaries, hence the film’s title. As the trustee of the estate, Matt torn between his family who want to sell the land and the rest of the island who wants him to preserve it.

The film opens with Clooney narrating the story, it’s done in a matter-of-fact manner refuting the common preconception that people who live in a place like Hawaii is devoid of personal problems. His friends seem to think that life in this tropical paradise must be equally perfect, not lacking anything. “Paradise? Paradise can go f*** itself.” Matt scoffs. That is such a perfect opening as it sets the tone to the whole film and how Matt’s life is definitely far from the pristine look of his surrounding.

Prior to Elizabeth being in a coma, Matt was an absentee father, he’s the ‘back-up parent’ that’s how he describes himself, thus his relations with his daughters is obviously not going to be easy, especially when he takes 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) home from her private school in the last days of her mother’s life. Alex seems like a typical rebellious teenager but when she tells her father a secret involving her mother’s infidelity, it’s clear life hasn’t been easy for her either.

This story could easily be overly sentimental and unbearably glum, but yet Payne somehow manages to inject subtle humor and the way Matt deals with his seemingly endless quandaries is often funny without diminishing the weight of those circumstances. The scene of Matt running to his neighbors’ house in a drab polo shirt, shorts and sandals is shot almost like a comic sequence even though he’s about to question them about his wife’s affair. The same with the scenes when Matt is spying on the man his wife is cheating on and when he pays him a visit. The script and Payne’s direction perfectly capture such complicated and extremely awkward situation with dexterity that makes you go, ‘wow, I sure hope I’d never end up in such predicament.’

Though I haven’t seen Payne’s previous work, I’ve read enough reviews about them that makes me think he like to incorporate all kinds of quirky characters in his films, though not to the degree of Wes Anderson. This film is no exception, Alex’s friend Sid’s stoned-like mannerism provides comic relief, but later we reveal that he too is not exempt from personal tragedy. In fact, the variety of characters in this film is what makes this film so wonderful to watch.

What I like about Clooney in this role is how far it is from his glamorous movie-star persona. In a lot of his films, one could argue that he’s just playing a variation of himself but I can’t say that it’s the case here. I feel that he’s able to epitomize the pathos and the personal hell his character goes through with precision and care. A less capable actor could easily resort to overacting, but fortunately Clooney manages to avoid that and the astute script definitely helps him achieve that. The rest of the performances is good as well, even the small roles by Beau Bridges as one of Matt’s cousins and Judy Greer as the oblivious wife of Elizabeth’s lover. I’m impressed with relative newcomer Shailene Woodley who’s done mostly TV work by this point. It’s touching to see Alex’s emotional growth that helps repairs her relationship with her dad, and that subtle transformation is believable.

The seemingly two separate storyline about Elizabeth’s coma and the sale of his family’s land somehow connect together at the end as Matt finally comes to a unexpected decisionIt’s not entirely unpredictable as we’ve sort of been cajoled to root for the King family to keep the land, but it’s a satisfying ending nonetheless. There’s no fairy tale ending but it’s a heartwarming one that definitely puts a smile in my face as tears run down my cheek.

Final Thoughts:

This neatly-paced drama boasts wonderful performances and carries an inspiring theme about second chances and forgiveness. The message about the importance of family over wealth is also quite strong which is always nice to see in today’s films. On top of that, it also boasts a beautifully-shot scenery of the island of Kauai that lends an authentic flavor to the story instead of becoming a distraction.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Well, have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them and also on Mr. Clooney.