FlixChatter Review: NEWS OF THE WORLD (2020)

First, a confession: I’m not a big fan of Westerns. Yes, there have been some Western movies I liked, most notably The Big Country, The Magnificent Seven, 3:10 To Yuma, The Dark Valley (this last one is an Austrian Western!). But when I received a screener of this one, I was intrigued because of Tom Hanks in the lead role, and later I learned it’s his first Western.

Well, his first foray into the genre proved to be more of a drama than a shoot-em-up action, which I actually prefer. The film is set five years after the end of the Civil War in the late 1800s, a turbulent, dark period in America. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) is a Civil War veteran who now works as a news reader, traveling from town to town and charging a dime per person to read aloud from newspapers. Honestly I didn’t even know such a profession exist before I watched this movie. But what perfect casting, who doesn’t want Mr. Hanks to read news to you in the only way he can.

Capt. Kidd is about to move to another town after he read the news when he came across an overturned wagon, a lynched black man and a young white girl dressed in Native American clothing. He soon realized she’s a German native who had been taken by the Kiowa tribe and able to speak the language. It’s upon meeting the 10-year-old Johanna (German actress Helena Zengel) that the adventure began, as Kidd reluctantly agreed to deliver the girl to the only family she has left. But the hundreds-mile journey to San Antonio proved to be a rough and dangerous one, but provided ample time for the two of them to slowly bond.

I quite love a road movie when it’s done well and News of The World is a road-Western that makes the most of the two strong characters. Even though it’s mostly the two of them on screen for long periods of time, it’s never boring to me. There are a few shoot-em-ups up on a treacherous mountain region when the two were pursued by ex-Confederate soldiers-turned-hoodlums who wanted to purchase Johanna. The wilderness shootout was perhaps one of the few tense scenes in the film that’s also a key bonding moment for Kidd and Johanna. They also face more danger in their next stop when they encounter a radical gang who turns out to be in control of a small mining town. The gang leader obviously wants to keep outsiders out and feels threatened when Kidd disobeyed his orders to only read the news from his own ‘approved’ paper.

The quieter moments prove to be the most emotionally moving, such as when the two were trapped in a ferocious dust storm. The storm itself was remarkably filmed as it felt quite real, but it’s the moment when Kidd thought he’d lose Johanna forever that’s truly memorable. It’s a genuinely surprising moment that got me teared up, and the two actors’ performance truly brought the beautiful moment to life. Which brings me to the major strength of the film, which is the synergy between these two unlikely pairing. Hanks has always been a reliable actor, but it’s the now 12-year-old Zengel that’s the biggest surprise. She’s not only captivating to watch but she’s also able to match Hanks’ intensity and her taciturn role require her to act with her eyes and mannerism, which she pulled off beautifully.

It’s quite a departure for Paul Greengrass (who worked with Hanks in Captain Phillips) who’s known for his hand-held camera style in his action films. I’d say it’s a pretty restrained direction that works well for the story. There are slow moments in the movie, but it never felt tedious, which is a testament to the solid script Greengrass co-wrote with Luke Davies. Working with DP Dariusz Wolski, it’s a stunning film visually that made me wish I had seen this on the big screen. I also like James Newton Howard‘s reflective music that complements the vast open spaces of the American west.

This movie boasts one of the most memorable finale that closes the chapter of the two characters wonderfully. The themes of identity and sense of belonging, especially in regards to Johanna, are explored well here. It doesn’t pass judgment in regards to her dark past and how she ended up being a lost girl, but I feel like it presents the reality of that time period in an authentic way. I also love that in the end, that sense of belonging isn’t just confined to Johanna, but also to Capt. Kidd, and that’s what makes the ending so special.

Have you seen NEWS OF THE WORLD? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Jason Bourne (2016)

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As a fan of the Bourne trilogy, I was dismayed when in 2012, Universal went ahead with the sequel (Bourne Legacy) without Matt Damon. That fact perhaps made me more excited to see Damon teamed up again with director Paul Greengrass for a fifth (well, technically fourth) entry. I guess it’s inevitable that a franchise as lucrative as Bourne will keep on going and going like the Energizer bunny, it’s essentially the American version of James Bond.

This movie starts out about eight years after the events that took place in Bourne Ultimatum, where Bourne exposed CIA’s covert ops Blackfriar. As a result he’s been hiding out in Greece, and apparently does bare-knuckle boxing in his spare time. Whilst the previous three films followed Bourne on a journey to find out who he really is, this time around he’s aware of his identity. He knows his real name is David Webb and became the lethal assassin that is Jason Bourne when he joined Treadstone. But of course there are new revelations about his past that the CIA’s been keeping from him, and later we find out the matter is quite a personal one.
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Intense secrecy and not knowing who to trust is at the heart of any spy thriller and that’s the case here. There are obvious antagonists, CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his henchman known only as The Asset (Vincent Cassel), but there’s Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who heads the Cyber Ops Division who’s sort of in the gray area. On Bourne side is his longtime ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who risks herself retrieving classified files about Bourne’s late father.

Now, one major beef I have with this movie is how they handled Nicky. I feel that for someone who’s been with the franchise for that long, the writers (Greengrass & Christopher Rouse) should’ve given her a much better character arc. Heck, I’d love to see just a bit of background to her character that would at least explain why she’s loyal to Bourne. I mean, they did so with The Asset, which explains his personal vendetta against Bourne. At the very least, why not give her the same courtesy?

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But what I did like is that like in previous films, Bourne is given an adversary worthy of his prowess. Jones’ Dewey is ruthless in his pursuit to eliminate him and Cassel is one menacing guy who makes The Asset a formidable foe for Bourne. Dewey’s ruthlessness isn’t just concerning Bourne, but the fact that he’s willing to sacrifice his own people, as well as civilians at large, in order to fulfill his purposes. The film also delves into the state of current tech and geopolitical climate and woven it into the plot. Things like privacy, hacking, the political instability in Greece, etc. are certainly timely things we deal with in our world today. So the subplot involving a social media program called Deep Dream is pretty relevant, and British actor Riz Ahmed is quite memorable here playing its founder.

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The movie is basically a giant chase scene. There’s not much breathing room because of the way Greengrass shot every scene. Even the mundane office scenes are shot in a frenetic style with hand-held camera that gave me a bit of a headache at first. But thankfully after a while I was able to overcome it and it didn’t bother me as much, though I still think it’s a bit excessive.

Going into a Bourne movie, of course you expect a ton of exhilarating action sequences, and this movie delivered! The motorcycle scene through narrow streets, scaling up and down steps through a Greek city gives you such a huge adrenaline rush. But that’s nothing compared to the crazy car chase in the Vegas strip involving a SWAT truck plowing through a bunch of cars. It certainly isn’t aiming for realism, but boy was it fun! Apparently the sequence took five weeks to shoot and ended up wrecking 170 cars.

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Those wanting to see hand-to-hand combat won’t be disappointed though. There’s an extended scene of Bourne vs. The Asset that’s pretty darn intense. I noticed there’s no music going on during that scene, only the sound of bone crunching and flesh tearing to enhance the impact. Damon’s definitely still got it, Bourne is certainly one of my favorite roles of his. At 45 he’s looking more grizzled with bags under his eyes, but he pulls off the physically-demanding role once again. But of course like Bond, Bourne’s got stamina of super-heroic proportion and seems to be impervious to pain.

The finale suggests the strained relationship between Bourne & the Agency remains unchanged. Of course there wouldn’t be a Bourne franchise if the hero’s suddenly in good terms with a big, powerful organization notorious for overreaching its boundaries. Vikander acquits herself well here as the new face who might be present in future installments, and I have no problem with that.

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I think there’s nostalgic elements here that affect my enjoyment. I love that the Moby song Extreme Ways is still used, it’s certainly the defining theme for the franchise. On the whole I think Jason Bourne is on par with the trilogy even if it isn’t as impactful. It could be because the mystery surrounding his identity is no longer there, which was the secret ingredient that makes Bourne’s journey so intriguing. That said, it’s certainly still an enjoyable action thriller because I’m a big fan of this character and Damon playing him. Unlike Bond though, it remains to be seen if this franchise can have as much longevity without Greengrass and Damon.

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Have you seen ‘Jason Bourne’? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: Captain Phillips

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I’ve been seeing quite a bit of biopic feature films this past year but obviously not all are created equal. I think the BOATS (based-on-a-true-story) sub-genre is best handled when it focuses on a certain period of time and this is a great example of one. The title refers to Captain Richard Phillips, based on his book A Captain’s Duty which detaills his harrowing ordeal aboard cargo ship Maersk Alabama that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.

The film didn’t spend much time on land, there’s perhaps only 10 minutes or so of exposition as the Captain was leaving to the airport with his wife. In the car they talk about their children and that they’re growing up in very different worlds from theirs. It shows that Phillips is just a regular family man who has the same worries as everybody else, and it’s just another day heading to work for the experienced mariner. Then the film contrast that scene with life in a coastal village in Somalia. A young, skinny Somali man is awaken by the ruckus outside his tiny hut of a home, it turns out the mercenaries are upset that the villagers haven’t gotten them any goods for their boss. That young man is Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi), and soon he gathers his team to go out to sea in search of a ship to hijack. It’s an intriguing slice of life of a community that’s rarely portrayed in film or the media, which actually paints these teenage pirates as destitute and desperate people who think they have no other way to make a living.

UK Director Paul Greengrass is no stranger to making an effective thriller, both fictional and non-fiction, but this one is perhaps one of the most gripping thriller I’ve ever witnessed. Right from the time the ship departs its port on its way to Mombasa, Kenya, there’s an eerie feeling that something bad is about to happen. Now, of course we know the horror that lies for the crew of 20 aboard Maersk Alabama, but it doesn’t lessen the sense of dread. Tension keeps mounting from the time the two skiffs show up on the radar and it never lets up until the end.

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The brilliant script by Billy Ray highlights the relationship between Phillips and the pirates leader Muse. He amusingly calls Muse ‘Irish’ after he tells him he’s of Irish-American origin. Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi couldn’t have a more different acting background, but both of them give such a tour-de-force performance. Abdi was plucked from obscurity when he won the role amongst 700 applicants in a casting call in Minneapolis, yet the Somali actor has the chops to goes toe-to-toe with the two-timed Oscar winner on his first feature film role ever. I like the fact that this film gives a layer of complexity to his character, not simply painting him as a one-dimensional devil incarnate but a desperate individual who’s in over his head and nowhere else to go. The other pirates, as well as the Maersk Alabama crew (notably Michael Chernus as Phillips’ first mate) also give a decent supporting role.

As for the main name on the marquee, Hanks puts forward one of his best roles in recent memory. It’s a raw and emotional performance but not without his reliable charm and wit. The third of the film when Phillips was being held hostage in a tiny lifeboat made me feel claustrophobic and I felt my palms getting sweaty during the negotiations scenes. It was at times way too intense for my comfort level, but it was worth seeing Hanks’ in one of the finest acting I’ve seen all year. He captures the human psyche of a man in his darkest hour. Even with all the courage he could muster, it’s obvious Phillips’ mental state is quickly in disarray and it was quite an experience to watch such a convincing, nuanced depiction.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hanks name in the Oscar’s Best Actor roster once again, as well as the talents behind the taut, cerebral thriller. I applaud Paul Greengrass‘ work here, his kinetic style makes me feel like I’m part of the action without rendering me dizzy. He employs some shaky-cam style but he does it well that it doesn’t make the experience unbearable. With the help of an astute script by Billy Ray‘s, meticulous cinematography by Barry Ackroyd and atmospheric score by Henry Jackman, this film offers us a lot more than just dynamic action. It’s interesting to note that Greengrass also work with real life (retired) SEALS for the rescue scenes, as well as the nurse towards the end. Those who have seen the film might enjoy this article.

So if you like your thrillers nail-biting, with white-knuckle tension and fine character study thrown in, then don’t miss seeing this one on the big screen.


4.5 out of 5 reels

What do you think of this film? I’d love to hear it!

The Flix List: Top 5 Action Spectacle Endings

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I love big tent pole movies and Hollywood love to make them. Studios spent hundreds of millions of dollars on these movies and we the audience expect nothing but big spectacles when we go see them. I hate it when I go see big action films and the climax action scenes were quite lame (Mission: Impossible 3, The Saint, Pirates of the Carribean 4 and Spiderman 2 were some good examples.) Most directors understand that action films needs to close out with a bang; in an interview with Sam Mendes he said he first only wanted to have a basic shoot out for Skyfall’s climax, but then he realized this is a James Bond film and so he needed to included some sort of spectacle. He decided to have a big helicopter shooting up Bond’s old house and then clashing into it.

Iron Man 3 already kick-started the hot box office Summer season, followed by the upcoming big action flicks such as Star Trek: Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, Man of Steel, World War Z, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, The Wolverine, and Elysium. I expect most, if not all, will have some sort of big over-the-top action sequences for the film’s climax. With all these films coming out, it got me thinking of the best spectacle climax I’ve seen throughout the years. It’s hard to come up with just five but I think most people will agree with me on these scenes. I think all these action scenes were quite creative, well-staged and of course exciting to watch.

5. The boat chase in Face/Off

After directing two mediocre films to start his career in Hollywood, John Woo was able to convinced the studio to give him more than $80mil and made his best film since Hard Boil. Face/Off is probably one of the best action films of the 1990s and Woo’s top 3 best films ever! I loved this movie, I went to see it three times in opening weekend in the summer of 1997. The film’s full of spectacles, from the opening shootout in the airport hanger to the shootout in the apartment building of Castor Troy’s gang. But the best one is the big boat chase near the end of the film, it started with a shoot out at the church then the boat chase that ended with a clash that sends the film’s hero and villain flying through the air. I love it!

4. Shootout on top of snowy mountain in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

I can’t make this kind of list without a James Bond movie. In this sequence, Bond, his future father in law Draco and his men were on their way to rescue Draco’s daughter and Bond’s soon to be bride, Tracy. She’s being held captive by film’s villain, Blofeld. Bond and the men were in two big helicopters and once they reached Blofeld’s lair, there were shootouts, explosions, hand to hand combats and then it ended with a bob sled chase that would rival any modern day action sequences. Since this is Christopher Nolan’s favorite Bond film, he decided to copy this sequence for his film Inception, fans of that movie will see some similarities.

3. The car chase through the streets of Moscow in The Bourne Supremacy

The film that kick started the crazy hand held shaky cam and quick editing craze that plagued most action films the last few years. I’m not a fan of this kind of style, as I already ranted about it a while back. BUT for this film the style fits perfectly and the car chase near the end was one of the best car chases ever put on film. Paul Greengrass and his crew staged the whole sequence so well that it was exciting to watch and I love how the sequence ended. Since I’m quite sure most people have seen the film, I won’t have to describe it.


2. The final shootout in The Wild Bunch

This Peckinpah’s masterpiece pretty much kick started the over the top shoot outs in films we’ve seen through the years. The film opened in the summer of 1969 and it’s now considered one of the best films ever made. Up until this film, most westerns and action films didn’t have this kind of action sequence and that’s why Peckinpah’s been known as a revisionist. I assume most film buffs have seen this movie so I won’t have to describe the scene. I just love how Peckinpah move his cameras and how well he staged the action. I think this scene should be shown to any directors who needs to learn how to shoot action scene properly.


1. The final battle in Terminator 2

This summer hit has so many climax sequences that I couldn’t just name one. First the shoot out at Cyberdyne building where Arnold blew up a few of the police vehicles, he then kneecapped about dozen of the cops. After that, there’s a chase involving a swat van and a helicopter; then a big chase between a truck and semi-truck. It finally ended in a factory where the two Terminators engaged in a hand to hand combat.

James Cameron is a master of spectacle and this film is a good example of that. It’s the first film that actually cost $100mil to produce and it shown on the screen. There were so many big action scenes in this film and all of them were quite impressive.


Honorable mentions:

  • The motorcycle chase in Mission: Impossible 2 – I would’ve included this sequence on my top 5 but I thought Woo just recycled the sequence from Face/Off.
  • The final chase in Fast Five – This over-the-top chase to close out the film is one of the craziest car chases I’ve ever seen and it was a lot of fun to watch. I just thought it went a bit too long and some sequences weren’t that creative.
  • The final battle in Avatar – I’m one of the few people who didn’t really care for this movie but again Cameron showed that he’s the master of spectacle and the big action scene near the end is top notch. It didn’t make my list because I didn’t like the film.
  • The battle sequences in Star Wars Ep.1: The Phantom Menace – I love the light sabers fight between Darth Maul, Obi Wan and Quai Gon Jin and the space battle with little Anakin. But I can’t stand the sequence with Jar Jar Binks and his clan battling the robots, it annoyed the heck out of me so I couldn’t include it on my top five list.

– Post by Ted S.


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Those are some of my favorite big action sequences for tent pole pictures, do share your favorites in the comments section. I’m sure I’ve left out some good ones.

The Bourne Legacy – Ted’s Review

After they couldn’t convince both Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon to come back and do another Bourne film, Universal Pictures decided to go ahead and make another one without them. Was this a good move or an ill-advised one? Read on.

The film opens with a similar scene to the beginning of the first film and the end of the last film, if you remember Bourne was floating in water in the beginning of the first one and then he was swimming away in the last one. Were the filmmakers thought the audience wouldn’t know they’re watching a Bourne film had they opened this new film with a different scene? Well it turns out the person in the water wasn’t Bourne but a new hero, Aaron Cross played by Jeremy Renner. We learned that he’s somewhere in the Alaska wilderness and in training. I have to commend Renner for his performance during these opening scenes, he didn’t have any dialogue and only he let his body do the talking.

We also found out that Bourne’s public exposure of CIA black ops “Treadstone” and “Blackbriar” causes the powers that be to take desperate measures to save additional programs and their own behinds. In came Edward Norton who plays some sort of an advisor to the higher ups at the CIA, his advice was to wipe out all traces of the company’s latest secret agent program, “Outcome”.  So all of the undercover agents were terminate except our hero, Aaron Cross. Along with the getting rid of all the agents, anyone who’s involved with the “Outcome” project also gets their life terminated. Fortunately one of the doctors played by Rachel Weisz was able to escaped and later Cross came to her aid and for the rest of the film, both of them are trying to stay alive by evading the assassins sent  by the agency to kill them.

Unlike the previous films where our hero Bourne was trying to recover his memory of he was and why he’s an assassin, Cross knows who he is and why he’s doing what he’s doing. Because he’s some sort of a super agent, he needs pills to keep going. And this is one the reasons why I think this film didn’t work, it reminds me way too much of Van Damme’s Universal Soldier. Cross is just not an interesting character, we already know why he’s an assassin so it’s kind of pointless to care about him. Bourne on the other hand, because of his memory loss, he’s trying to figure out why his employer wants to kill him and most importantly, why he’s so good at killing people. We the audience also want to know that too, and so we went along and follow his journey.

Another reason why I thought the film didn’t work was the lack of a true villain. Edward Norton is wasted here. Even though he ordered the hit on all the agents, he’s somehow have some kind of connections with Cross, they showed a few flashback scenes with two of them talking; I’m not quite sure why those scenes were included, someone have to explain that to me.

The film was directed by Tony Gilroy, he wrote the first three films and now he’s decided to shoot the film himself. Gilroy blew me away with his first film, Michael Clayton, but his next one Duplicity was a self-indulgent mess. I feel that’s what he’s done with this film, it seems Gilroy and his brother came up with all these great ideas to kick start this franchise with a new character. But somehow they couldn’t execute their ideas, I think this is where the studio should’ve hired a director who can actually expand or tighten the script a bit. I remember Greengrass actually hired a couple of writers to clean up Gilroy’s scripts of The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum.

Since Gilroy gets to direct this time, he’s probably thought his script was perfect and didn’t need a clean-up. I get the feeling that he’s trying to make the film similar to that of the 1970s espionage thrillers but totally failed. The film also didn’t deliver on the action front, in fact there weren’t many action in it compare to the previous three films. The mistake Gilroy make was to try and imitate Greengrass’ frantic style of action scenes. Now the action scenes weren’t as bad as say, Safe House, but the big chase near the end of the film went a bit too long and sometimes it’s hard to see what’s going on. I think the only good thing I can say about this film was Rachel Weisz, she looked beautiful and really played her role quite well. It’s unfortunate that her character was nothing more than another damsel in distress.

Was The Bourne Legacy a bad film? I don’t think so, it’s just wasn’t that interesting and the lack of action didn’t help considering fans of the franchise expect to see hand to hand combats and crazy car chases. Legacy only delivered half of that.

– post by Ted S.

2.5 out of 5 reels


Well folks, what did you think of this film?

TAKE TWO: How would these films turn out had these directors made them?

Many of us who follows Hollywood knows that a film goes through several writing stages before it hits the big screen; we also know that many directors were involved in this process, most of the time these directors decided to leave the project on their own terms or get fired by the studio. Then the studio would bring in another director to take over the project, sometimes it works out, many times the second or third director would end up leaving or get fired from the movie.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Mission Impossible 3 playing on TV and thought to myself, this film really blows and I really wished Cruise and Paramount went with David Fincher’s version. (You can read here as to why that didn’t happened).

So I decided to come up with a list of films that could’ve been directed by a different director and maybe the final product might be better than the ones we got.

Watchmen

Back in the late 80s, Terry Gilliam was put in charge of bringing the popular graphic novel to the big screen. The studio hired Sam Hamm to write the script, for those of you who are old enough, you probably remember Hamm; he wrote Tim Burton’s Batman and was the most popular writer in Hollywood at that time. But after several attempts at rewriting the script, Gilliam determined that the project just won’t work for the big screen and suggested that it should be made into a mini-series. Well, the studio disagree and so he left the project. By the way, if you want to read Hamm’s Watchmen script, I believe it’s available online but be warned, it’s quite awful.

So in early 2000s, Paramount hired Paul Greengrass to take over the project and his version was going to take place in our modern day society. In fact Paramount has so much faith in the movie; they even set up a website for it, well over a year before the film’s release date; it was scheduled to open in the summer 2006. Well in early 2005, Paramount then CEO Sherry Lansing decided to step down and Brad Grey took over. When Grey became the CEO, his first priority was to cut many of Paramount’s big tentpole projects, of course this includes Watchmen. Originally Paramount was going to have two big films opening in summer of 2006, Grey decided to just release one and the one he chose was Mission: Impossible 3. Now, I don’t blame Grey for making that decision because the M:I films are a well known franchise while not many people know anything about Watchmen.

I do feel bad for Greengrass and his team though since they worked on the project for several months trying to bring Watchmen to the big screen and suddenly they’re jobless. Of course things turned out well Greengrass, after he lost the gig he went and made United 93, which he got nominated for an Oscar and then he made The Bourne Ultimatum, which became the highest earning film of that franchise. M:I-3 on the other hand was a box office disappointment. I couldn’t stop thinking though, how would Watchmen turn out had Greengrass directed it? I’m pretty sure it would’ve been much better than Snyder’s bloated and too much slow motion crap fest.

Mission: Impossible 2

After the massive success of the first M:I film, Paramount and Tom Cruise wanted to move quick and make a sequel. They got Oliver Stone to come on board as the director after Brian De Palma declined to come back to do another one. Stone and screenwriter Robert Towne came up with plot about a big pharmaceutical company trying to spread a deadly virus to the world and the M:I team has to stop them. I remember Stone even tried to convince Paul Newman to come out of retirement and appear in this movie, he would’ve played Cruise’s Ethan Hunt’s boss, which went to Anthony Hopkins in the final film. The film was scheduled to open in the summer of 1999 but Cruise was stuck shooting Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, so they had to push the shooting date of this film way back. After several months of waiting, Stone decided he couldn’t wait any longer and left the project so he could shoot Any Given Sunday.

After Stone left, the project was handed to John Woo, who’s still high on the success of Face/Off. When Woo took over the movie, he told Robert Towne to rewrite the script and make it more of action/romance which is what we got. Now I enjoyed M:I-2, but I really would have love to see what Stone could’ve done with the movie. I’m pretty sure his version won’t have tons of doves flying around, slow-mo shootouts and cheesy love triangle storyline.

I Am Legend

Back in the late 1990s, Warner Bros. was gearing up for their 75th anniversary celebration and they wanted to release two big films in the same year. The new Superman film was supposed to come out in summer of 1998 and for the holiday season they were going to release a remake of I Am Legend. Ridley Scott signed on to direct and Arnold was inked as the leading man. Mark Protosevich wrote the script that was truer to the original novel, minus the one liners intended for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Everything was ready to go until they did some math and realized the film would cost well over $100mil to make. Remember this was back in the 90s, so a $100mil film was rare. By comparison, today the average cost to make a tent-pole picture is $150mil. Well, after they couldn’t figure out how to bring down the price tag, the project was put on hold.

The film finally opened in December of 2007, almost ten years after its original release date. Of course we all know it starred Will Smith and directed by Francis Lawrence. I enjoyed this version but I think Scott would’ve done a better job than Lawrence.

Dune

Alejandro Jodorowsky spent years in the 70s trying to bring this popular sci-fi book to the big screen, but after he spent millions on pre-production, he ran out of money and couldn’t shoot it. According to Frank Herbert, the author of the book, Jodorowsky’s script was the size of a phone book and it would’ve been a 14 hours movie, which was one of the reasons why it never made it to the big screen.

So in the late 70s, the film rights were sold to producer Dino De Laurentiis and he hired Ridley Scott to take over the project. Scott intended to split the book into two movies but after realizing it would take over 2 years to complete the movie, he decided he didn’t have the strength to do it. Also, his older brother has just passed away around that time, so he needed time off to grief.

In the early 80s, De Laurentiis decided to hire David Lynch to direct the movie because he was so impress with Lynch’s previous movie, The Elephant Man. Lynch decided to take over the screenwriting duty as well, even though he’d never read the book. After a 135 pages script was finished, Lynch started shooting the film in early 1983. The film finally came out in December of 1984 and it was a huge box office failure. Lynch was so distraught by the film’s failure, he vowed to never again work on a big budget movie.

Dune is one of a rare film where I didn’t hate it but didn’t really like it either, but every time it’s on TV, I’d watch it. In fact I bought a Blu-ray version last year and watched the entire thing again. I always wonder what kind of film it would be had Jodorowsky or Scott directed it.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Originally Stanley Kubrick was going to direct this movie, in fact he started developing the concept of the film way back in the 70s. By the 80s, he thought the technology was ready and he hired a few writers to write the script for him. He didn’t want to hire a kid actor to play the lead role, so he went to automobile manufacture such as Honda and Toyota and asked them if they could build him a realistic child robot that he can use for filming. Of course they told him that was impossible, so he decided to put the project on hold until the technology would be more advance.

In the early 90s after he saw Jurassic Park, he thought the technology was indeed ready and he again started working on the script. But when he saw some CGI pre-visualizations, he was not impressed and again he put the project on hold. He decided to start working on his other movie, Eyes Wide Shut, hoping by the time he finishes this film, the technology would be advanced enough so he could start shooting A.I. Unfortunately he passed away in early 1999 and we never know what his version of the film would’ve been like. From what I remember reading, his version would have been much more darker than Spielberg’s and it wouldn’t have included that “happy” ending with the super intelligent robots ruling the earth.

– Post by Ted S.

You can find all of Ted’s contributions here.


So folks what do you think? Do you wish these films were directed by another filmmaker or are you a fan of the final product? Also, feel free to name other films you thought could’ve been better with a different director behind the camera.

Attention action directors: Shaky cam and fast editing needs to go away

This is my rant to action some action directors in Hollywood who thinks that by having shaking cam and fast editing style will make your action scenes look cool. Please stop doing that right now! Those kind of sequences made some of us the viewers dizzy and a lot of times distract us from enjoying your movies.

I tweeted Brad Bird the other day asking him what’s his take on these kind of new style of shooting actions scenes and here’s what he tweeted back:

In the hands of a talented filmmaker (like Greengrass) it can be great. But a lot of hacks use it because they can hide bad staging.”

I agree with what he said 100%, besides Paul Greengrass I don’t believe any other directors has done a good job of shooting those crazy hand held shaking cam action set pieces. It seems like after The Bourne Supremacy came out, there has been an onslaught of action films with unwatchable action sequences.

I wonder if these kind of style are now being taught in film schools or that the studio big bosses are demanding that an action film needs to be done in fast-editing and hand-held-camera style. To me, it seems some of the newer filmmakers tend to take these kind of style to heart, for example I recently saw Safe House which was directed by a new young director Daniel Espinosa. The action scenes he shot were overly-done with that fast editing and shaky cam that I couldn’t really tell what the heck was going on. Another director who seems to love to make people sick while watching his film is Jonathan Liebesman. I dare you to watch his masterpiece pile of poo, Battle: Los Angeles, without getting a little dizzy.

But the worst offender to me was Sly Stallone, he shot so many bad action sequences in The Expendables that I thought he was high on something.

Take a look at this car chase scene from that film, it was so badly-edited and shot that I got dizzy from watching it:

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When I saw it in the theater, I wanted to yell out: “Stallone pull the darn cameras back and let us see what the hell is going on!”  The scene was so tightly-shot and the hand held shaking cam style didn’t help at all. I love car chase scenes but I was begging for this particular one to be over fast. The sad part is, had Stallone and his cinematographer pull the cameras back a little and forgo this overused filmmaking style, that scene could’ve been very exciting to watch.

Another experienced action director who seems to now love this kind of style is Tony Scott. His last few films were pretty bad and the action scenes in those films were even worst. Take a look at the shootout scene from Domino:


If I didn’t know it was Scott who directed it, I would’ve thought it was some amateur filmmaker who tried too hard to make that scene look exiting. I couldn’t even finish watching that scene, I had to fast-forward it because I felt sick watching it. What’s so depressing was that Scott actually shot two similar scenes in his earlier films, True Romance and Enemy of the State, but in those films he did a great job of creating chaos during a shoot out scene in a tight space. And those films were very good while Domino was an awful movie.

Then there are some directors who’s now jumping into doing action films. For example, Marc Forster, who made Quantum of Solace and most of the action scenes in that film were badly shot. With the exception of the opening car chase and the foot chase/shootout during the opera, the rest of set pieces in that film were incomprehensible. Hopefully he’ll do a better job on his next big action film Word War Z. Now I haven’t seen the film yet but I read that in The Hunger Games, Gary Ross used too much of the hand held shaky style on a lot of scenes.

Another director I need to mention is Christopher Nolan (don’t hate me Nolan fanatics, I’m a huge fan of his too), the man still doesn’t know how to shoot a well-crafted action sequence. Apparently Nolan is the only big name director in Hollywood who doesn’t have a true second unit director working for him. He wants to shoot every scene for his films and so he’s there for all of the big action sequences. I love Batman Begins but I thought all of the action scenes in that film were poorly shot and edited. His style improved in The Dark Knight but some of the action scenes in Inception were so-so. Hopefully he’ll give us some great action set pieces in The Dark Knight Rises. Although after seeing the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises last winter, my gut feelings tells me Nolan might still needs to improve his skills as an action director.

I think these directors needs to study how to shoot great and exiting action scenes from the directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson and Sam Peckinpah. I thought Brad Bird did an amazing job of shooting the action scenes in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, instead of giving us the usual shaky hand-held and fast-editing look, he built the tension up and the results were some very cool and exciting set pieces.

One of my favorite action scenes is from the final shoot out of Extreme Prejudice (which Jack Deth reviewed here), here’s the clip:


The film was directed by Walter Hill and I think this scene should be shown in film school everywhere on how to shoot an action sequence properly. I love this scene and can watch it over and over again. It’s an homage to Peckinpah’s classic The Wild Bunch, which has, in my opinion, the best finale shootout in film history. Check it out here:


Well that’s my rant to Hollywood action directors about shooting bad action sequences. Do you agree that this kind of style needs to go away or do you find them to be quite exciting to watch?