FlixChatter Review: NO TIME TO DIE(2021)

NoTimeToDie-uk-poster

For Bond fans, it has been a long seven year itch since we last saw a new Bond movie on the big screen. Delayed 2.5 years since April 2020, it’s been quite an arduous waiting game… there’s even a rumor at one point that Bond might be coming via a streaming service [gasp!] Well I for one am glad that didn’t happen, and I think this film deserves to be seen on the big screen.

For a franchise famous for its opening sequences–often followed by a music video of its theme song featuring scantily-clad women–this one already sets itself from the pack as it actually does not feature its titular hero. I’m going to keep this review spoiler-free (or clearly mark them as I usually do), so let’s just say the opening features an ‘origin story’ of sort for a female recurring character, which in of itself is quite revolutionary. There is a lot of firsts in Daniel Craig‘s Bond film, starting with the man at the helm, Cary Joji Fukunaga. He’s the first American director to direct a Bond film, which features Lashana Lynch as the first female 007. All of these historic anecdotes are cool, but at the end of the day, did the film deliver?

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One thing for sure, the post-credit opening scene delivers incredible panoramic vistas, as one would expect from a Bond film. Bond is shown living a blissful life with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) as they are on holiday in Matera, a picturesque stone village in Southern Italy. Bond is in love, and for a brief moment seems to live a blissful existence… but of course you know it’s short-lived because suddenly he’s nearly blown to bits and chased in a brutal fashion by relentless goons (well, what else is there?). Fukunaga proves adept in mounting a pretty exciting action sequence early in the film, complete with an insane car chase careening through rocky hills and cobblestone streets that ends with something rather fantastical even for a Bond movie. It reminds me of the Nick Fury’s car attack in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it seems Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is equipped with similar bullet-proof feature!

NoTimeToDie-Matera

Bond fans (me included) loves watching epic action sequences like that, so getting that ‘craving’ satisfied early on is a smart move, as the next hour is relatively quiet as Bond nurses a broken heart and lives quietly in Jamaica. There are plenty of nostalgia here despite its theme of ‘letting go of one’s past.’ From moments recalling integral characters in Craig’s Bond past (as well as those before his era), down to the choice of a melancholic song (one of my top 10 favorites) AND the lines Bond say (which he utters twice in the film). Another theme running through the vein of Craig’s final Bond film is secrets … which as a spy he is obviously well-versed on, but the secrecy isn’t just those of the country he serves, but of the woman (or I should say women) he loves.

As I feel that this is a rather unconventional Bond film, this will be an atypical review. Without getting into too much of the plot, let me just go over the good and not-so-good parts about the film…

THE GOOD:

Firstly, Daniel Craig‘s performance. I haven’t always been super fond of him even though he wowed me in Casino Royale, at times he appears too thug-ish and his sex scenes with the Bond girls can be laughably absurd (the one with Monica Bellucci in Spectre comes to mind)… but over his 15-year span playing the character, he’s able to balance his tough, formidable action prowess with his sensitive, vulnerable side. It’s even more palpable here as he declares his love for Madeleine… Bond is past just showing off his muscular arms as he unabashedly wears his heart on his sleeve.

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Then there’s the oh-so-fabulous Lashana Lynch as Nomi… sassy, smart, sexy, a woman who knows her own power but also has enough confidence in her competency that she doesn’t concern herself with ‘titles,’ or in this case the code name 007. Right from the moment Nomi meets Bond, she’s clear that she’s got no time for the old patriarchy. I love that she is often one step ahead of Bond and unafraid to put him in his place. There are lots of moments where I silently whispers ‘you go girl!’ but at the same time, she’s also empathetic and mindful, which proves that a woman’s strength isn’t about knocking men down as they don’t need to.

NoTimeToDie-Nomi

Ana de Armas is fantastic as Paloma, a Cuban CIA agent working with Felix who’s assigned with Bond to track down a scientist at a Spectre party. Having seen her with Craig in Knives Out, their meet-up is actually quite hilarious. She’s shown as a rookie who’s still excited for her first big mission but comes out surprising everyone’s expectations, especially Bond. Wish she had more screen time here though… I want more Paloma! This is perhaps the most playful shoot-em-up in this movie, harkening back to a scene from a Roger Moore Bond flick, but it’s a lot of fun to watch!

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Another returning character is Jeffrey Wright‘s Felix–the actor has a consistently formidable presence in so many franchises … Bond, Marvel, DC (I so look forward to seeing him as Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming The Batman). After five years in retirement, Bond ends up teaming up with the CIA with Felix, along with a Jack Ryan type ‘state department guy’ Logan (Billy Magnussen). Wright is undoubtedly the best and most memorable Felix in the whole 007 franchise.

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All the returning cast in the MI-6 camp, Naomie Harris‘s MoneyPenny, Rory Kinnear‘s Tanner, Ralph Fiennes‘s M and Ben Whishaw‘s Q are all wonderful. Bond is so fortunate to have such phenomenal friends, esp. Q who’s willing to give up his date in order to help his friend out. So good to see MoneyPenny and Q collaborating again. I also enjoyed the rather talky scene between Bond and M in London, mulling over the dire consequences of Safin’s grand plans.

Now, I didn’t care for Christoph Waltz‘s Blofeld in Spectre who I described as nothing more than a clichéd, petulant psychopath. Well somehow he actually fares better here even and manages to rile Bond up even while he’s contained in a box within an extremely high-security prison. Somehow Blofeld still have control over his organization who’s now got a lethal DNA weapon using nanobots… which connects him with the main Bond baddie-du-jour Safin, that brings me to the…

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THE NOT-SO-GOOD:

Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer (is this just another lame way to say Lucifer??!) Safin just falls short in comparison to former Bond villains of the past. He seems dangerous on paper but kind of underwhelming on screen. Malek comes across more creepy than menacing, I actually think of him as a tragic character given what happened to his family, leaving him as the only survivor. His eerie connection with Madeleine from when she was a young girl just isn’t fully realized. At first I thought it might have involved a Stockholm Syndrome or akin to Phantom of the Opera’s obsession with Christine , but in the end I’m not exactly sure just what they’ve got going on here.

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Speaking of Madeleine, I generally like Léa Seydoux as an actress in other films but I just didn’t care for her as Bond’s love interest. For one, she always looks like she’s about to cry every two seconds, even when she’s on holiday in a sensational location! Looking at Madeleine just makes me miss Eva Green’s Vesper so much, and I feel like Bond has a genuine chemistry with Vesper and they look like they’re having fun together as a couple. Now, even though she’s given an origin story, a privilege very few Bond girl is afforded to, it’s hard for me to be invested in her narratives.

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SPOILER ALERT! [highlight to read] Then there’s Madeleine’s daughter that got Bond transfixed upon meeting her. ‘She’s got my eyes… Am I the father?’ Now, Bond didn’t right out say it, but he’s so obvious about it that Madeleine kept saying ‘she’s not yours’ a couple of times. I don’t know why the writers think the scene is supposed to be romantic, but it’s so cringe-worthy!

As for using nanobots to infect certain people based on their DNA, essentially making certain people to be killer weapons is quite eerie during pandemic as certain people can be ‘silent killer’ if they’re carrying the virus and spreading them unknowingly. The fact that a psychopath like Safin having access to this and harvesting them in an island somewhere does sound scary. At the same time, the whole villain hellbent on taking over the world just gets tiresome, I mean you’d think after 50+ movies they’d find a more creative reason for compelling villainy. Also, what’s up with the scientist Obruchev (David Dencik) who’s portrayed in such a silly, cartoonish manner. Let’s just say I wasn’t sad when he meets his inevitable end.

FINAL VERDICT

No Time to Die is the first Bond film to come out in the #MeToo era and Time’s Up movements, so the producers enlist Phoebe Waller-Bridge as one of the screenwriters to steer the franchise to be more progressive. Now, I have no problem with that, and having someone like Nomi is a great addition to the franchise as her character arc still feels organic to the story. I’m not sure everything about the more ‘radical’ storyline works for me though, SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] honestly I’m not sure about the whole ‘Bond being a father’ narrative. I mean, given the plethora of women he’s bedded, you’d think this shouldn’t come out as too much of a surprise, but still it feels a tad forced, especially since the big reveal comes as Bond is about to be killed off.

As for Fukunaga’s direction, I feel like it’s going to be a divisive one as despite some dynamic action sequences and Bond himself being put through the wringer, it’s a largely melancholic and somber affair. The Japanese-American filmmaker has said in interviews that being an ‘outsider’ gives him an advantage that British filmmakers might not have in making this film. The bombastic car chase in the beginning and the shoot-em-up in Safin’s nanobot factory in the third act feel familiar but with an edge. I appreciate the way he shows Bond’s weariness and defiance with style (like when he didn’t care if he live or die when his DB5 was riddled with bullets), but yet manages to make the super-spy human. For a super long 2 hour 43 minutes running time, it actually didn’t feel overly tedious, which in and of itself is quite a feat.

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Visually speaking, the film is gorgeous to look at, shot by DP Linus Sandgren. It’s got all the globe-trotting vistas to tick off the escapism box. Hans Zimmer‘s score has some decidedly familiar sounds, blending Monty Norman’s iconic Bond theme, one of John Barry’s famous motif and Billie Eilish’s theme song, fusing a rousing, suspenseful score with tender, sentimental elements.

I mentioned that there was no compelling human drama in Spectre and that it was a largely soulless affair. Glad to report that it’s quite the opposite here as it’s one of the most emotional Bond movies where things comes full circle for Craig. So to answer my question if the film delivered, the short answer is YES. Unlike his predecessors, Craig’s Bond films shares a plot thread that connect them all, which is quite unprecedented for the franchise. Thus, while Craig’s tenure does not end in an all-time-high fashion, I can say that it’s a bold and memorable finale for a game-changing Bond era.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen NO TIME TO DIE? Let me know what you think!

Guest Post: The Little Things (2021)

Set in the early 1990s, The Little Things centers around Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington), a deputy sheriff in Bakersfield, California. One day he is suddenly called to Los Angeles to retrieve a piece of evidence. It quickly becomes clear he has a deep and troubled past with the LAPD. When the evidence is withheld due to the bureaucratic process Deke is forced to stay longer than intended.

He crosses paths with his successor detective Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek) who is working a new set of serial killer cases eerily similar to one Deke had previously been assigned. They initially butt heads but Baxter warms to the idea of working together when Deke finds some important clues. The two men eventually come to the conclusion repairman Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) is their most likely suspect. As the film progresses, Deke becomes increasingly obsessed with catching the killer, while Jimmy follows his lead.

It was difficult for me to get through this film. Although I know noir films are known for ‘overcooked’ performances, in this case it didn’t work well. The film is a very classic take on noir. All three actors are successful, Oscar-winning talents, but whether it was the script or the stylized performances, the characters fell flat and seemed dated.

This is a huge divergence from the style of films John Lee Hancock is known for. He typically makes bright, upbeat films about hard work and success such as The Rookie, The Blindside, and The Founder. In those films the characters are well-developed and we are given a clear structured tale. The Little Things on the other hand, lacks information and boundaries that would have been paramount to grounding us in any sense of reality.

While his films typically make use of bright natural light, this film makes good use of darkness and filters in light from flashlights and headlights creating an ominous look. I could see how much respect the director has for the genre. It is clear he wanted to make an homage to classics but it ended up getting lost along the way. This could easily be attributed to the nearly 30 years this film was left to gestate. I think the mistake was trying to emulate the classics instead of draw inspiration while creating something new. For me recent comedy/ thrillers that draw inspiration from noir, such as Promising Young Woman and Parasite were much more successful than Motherless Brooklyn or this film.

Ultimately, I think this project should have been left on the shelf as it brings nothing new to the table.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen THE LITTLE THINGS? Well, what did you think? 

BOND 25 NEWS – New Title, Synopsis & Release Date

Well, well, well, it’s been a while since last April since we saw the Live Reveal of the cast/crew at Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s legendary Jamaican villa. Earlier today a tweet came announcing the title AND when we’ll see the movie!

Here it is again in the 16:9 format:

My first reactions is, ‘Hmmm, I thought they’re gonna have another one word title like Skyfall and Spectre, but No Time To Die isn’t terrible, though the word ‘die’ has been kinda overused in this franchise. In any case, I quite like the retro font here and the title plays on the fact that Bond has left service. Well, temporarily anyway, the synopsis tells us he’ll take up the spy mantle when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

Despite rumors of numerous set problems, the 25th Bond film continues production in Jamaica and Pinewood Studios, UK. I follow director Cary Fukunaga on Instagram and he posts stuff pretty regularly. Last June, they even released a set video featuring Daniel Craig with Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) and Lashana Lynch (Nomi) on set. I for one can’t wait to see miss Lynch being introduced as a female 007 (as I mentioned in this post).

No sign of Rami Malek just yet though, who I think is an inspired choice as a Bond villain. Apparently Malek signed on to do the role on one condition, and it totally make sense given his background.

Per EW, “It’s a great character and I’m very excited,” Rami, who is of Egyptian descent, is quoted as saying. “But that was one thing that I discussed with Cary. I said, ‘We cannot identify him with any act of terrorism reflecting an ideology or a religion. That’s not ­something I would entertain, so if that is why I am your choice then you can count me out.’ But that was clearly not his vision. So he’s a very different kind of terrorist.” 

I’m curious to see how Malek fares as a young Bond villain, let’s hope he’ll do much better than poor Toby Stephens in Die Another Day (which basically the same meaning as No Time To Die?). I guess we’ll find out when the movie opens on Wednesday, 8 April 2020.


Well, what do YOU think about the new title?

Musings on #BOND25 news – New Director, Writers + Cast

Ok, as a massive Bond fan, today’s a big day. Somehow I missed the news that they were going to do a LIVE stream right from Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s legendary Jamaican villa. Yep, the same exact location where Fleming wrote all those 007 novels.

Apparently next week on April 28 the cast/crew will begin to shoot the still-nameless Bond movie and Daniel Craig will be back to reprise his role as 007.

Bond25 cast and crew at the Jamaican LIVE reveal event

Yeah, so much for all those rumors about who’ll be the next Bond. I mean, the 25th Bond film isn’t out in the US until April 8, 2020 (April 3 in the UK and internationally), but of course the rumor mill will continue endlessly.

In any case, below is the video of the Live Reveal, which honestly isn’t the most exciting video despite it being in such a glorious location. Even most of the cast seemed in a rather gloomy mood, and Craig himself struggled to give a shit explain about the enduring appeal of James Bond when he’s asked that question, ha!

Before I get to the cast, well the main things are who’s making the movie. It’s been confirmed that Cary Joji Fukunaga will direct the film. I’ve only seen one of his films, Jane Eyre, but he’s well-known by US audiences since Beast of No Nation (starring fan-favorite for Bond, Idris Elba) and True Detective series. I gotta say the Japanese-American filmmaker is handsome and dapper enough to actually play 007 (that is in a world where someone of his ethnicity could actually be cast as James Bond)

As for the script, longtime Bond writers Neal Purvis & Robert Wade wrote the original script but now they’re bringing in Scott Z. Burns (Bourne Ultimatum, Contagion, The Informant!) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (creator of Killing Eve series). I actually knew that Scott Z. Burns is involved in Bond 25 when I attended a panel honoring him at the Minneapolis St Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF) where he talked about his roots growing up in Golden Valley, Minnesota and went on to be one of the most acclaimed and prolific writer/director in Hollywood. He might be the first writer to tackle Bourne AND Bond, and I for one am excited to see what he’ll bring to the table.

Now the cast…

Returning cast are Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Léa Seydoux, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw and Jeffrey Wright.

I pretty much love every single one of those returning cast members. I do miss Dame Judi Dench as M, but Fiennes is terrific as M. I also love Harris as Money Penny, Whishaw as Q and Wright as Felix. A truly solid group there in Bond’s corner.

INTRODUCING new cast members:

Ana de Armas, Dali Benssalah, David Dencik, Lashana Lynch, Billy Magnussen and Rami Malek.

Now, out of the new group, I’m most intrigued by Lashana Lynch and Rami Malek’s casting. I quite like Lynch as Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel. I didn’t even know she’s British until I saw her speak in this video, super cool! She and Naomie Harris both have Jamaican roots, so this project must be extra special for them.

As for Rami, this is his first high profile role he’s doing since he won an Oscar for Bohemian Rhapsody AND looks like he’s going to play a Bond villain. He said in a video message that “I will be making sure Mr. Bond does not have an easy ride of it in his 25th outing.” 

I know a lot of people are probably excited for Malek’s casting but at this point it’s kind of meh. Yes I like the diverse casting here. He is Egyptian-American and a good actor, but I don’t see the boyish-looking 38-year old as having the kind of gravitas I expect as a classic Bond villain. Heck, it would have been awesome to see Idris Elba as a Bond villain, now THAT’s a guy that could give any Bond actor a run for his money and he’d probably steal all his ladies, too. If they were bold enough, why not someone like Viola Davis as a Bond villain?

In any case, there are rumors that Christoph Waltz would also be returning as Blofeld. Now I like him as an actor, but he’s so rubbish in Spectre I really don’t care to see him again. So I guess it remains to be seen how Malek would fare in the role, I suppose I should give him the benefit of the doubt.

One thing I am excited about is that Bond is returning to his Jamaican roots. Not only did Fleming wrote his Bond novels in Jamaica, but that’s where the entire franchise kicked off as Dr. No with Sean Connery was filmed there in 1962. Barbara Broccoli gave some hints to the plot in the reveal, “Bond is not on active service when the film starts. He is enjoying himself in Jamaica. We consider Jamaica Bond’s spiritual home. He starts his journey here.” According to Fukunaga, they already shot parts of the movie in Norway (due to weather), but they’ll resume filming in Jamaica the following weeks, Matera in Southern Italy and also Pinewood studios in London.


Well, what do YOU think about Bond 25 news? Let’s hear it!

Oscars 2019 – Reflections on winners, memorable moments

Quick confession: I’m copying this post from 2015. Well whaddayaknow, four years later, I am still loyal to tradition of watching the Oscars in my PJs live tweetin’ with my laptop!!


Well, first things first…

How did I do on my predictions?

  1. Best picture: ROMA Green Book
  2. Best director: Spike Lee Alfonso Cuarón
  3. Best lead actor: Cristian Bale Rami Malek
  4. Best lead actress: Olivia Colman
  5. Best supporting actor: Sam ElliotMahershala Ali 
  6. Best supporting actress: Regina King –If Beale Street Could Talk
  7. Best animated feature: Spiderman: Into The Spider-Verse
  8. Best adapted screenplay: Can You Ever Forgive Me? BlackKklansman
  9. Best original screenplay: The Favourite Green Book
  10. Best original score: Black Panther
  11. Best cinematography: A Star Is Born ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón)
  12. Best Foreign Language Film: Shoplifters ROMA
  13. Best original song: Shallow (A Star Is Born)
  14. Best Film Editing: BlackkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody
  15. Best Make Up and Hair Styling: VICE
  16. Best Production Design: Black Panther
  17. Best Costume Design: Black Panther
  18. Best Sound Editing: First Man Bohemian Rhapsody
  19. Best Mixing: First Man  First Man Bohemian Rhapsody
  20. Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War First Man

Well, I did a pretty awful job this year, ahah. I only got 7 right out of the 20 categories I predicted.

The one I’m surprised by the most is Mahershala Ali as his first Best Supporting Actor win was just a few years ago, but hey I’m by no means disappointed.

 

Red Carpet Stuff

I didn’t actually watch this LIVE on TV, just following Twitter for the Oscars red carpet coverage, as I do year after year.

These are some of my favorite dresses of the night:

I LOVE seeing colors on the red carpet. There might be some I missed but of the ones I saw in my timeline, these are the ones that I think are the prettiest.


I feel like Cate Blanchett often wear sea-foam green color on the red carpet and she looks absolutely gorgeous in this floral number. Amy Adams looks like a mermaid in that pearl gown and it highlights her figure nicely. Michelle Yeoh & Angela Bassett both proof you can look perfectly glamorous at any age!

Dapper men on the red carpet!

Well, let’s just get to the main event shall we?

Favorite Speeches:

Olivia’s reaction when she heard her name was priceless… then came her speech. Endearing. Adorable. Humble. Hilarious. Moving. If there’s a Best Speech award, this Queen wins it hands down!

“God is Good ALL the time… and ALL the time, GOD IS GOOD!” – AMEN Regina King!!

I so wanted Ruth Carter to win because I adore every single one of those Black Panther costumes!!!

This is the one category I want A Star Is Born to win… Shallow is a beautiful, emotional song and boy… that Oscar performance was something else!


Fave Moments

Woo wee!! Captain America is my fave hero of the MCU… and Chris Evans is the absolute embodiment of him. Not to mention he’s looking dapper af!! 😉

I literally just watched BlackKlansman last night, just in the nick of time before the Oscars telecast. Thrilled to see it won Best Adapted Screenplay! But that great moment is topped by Spike Lee jumping Samuel L. Jackson on stage before he received his award. Yeah!!!

Confession: It’s only my second Spike Lee movie (yes I gotta rectify that soon, starting with Do The Right Thing!)

Is there a more iconic musical performance duo??

Final Thoughts

I know lots of people are upset with two of the categories… Best Actor (Rami Malek) and Best Picture (Green Book).

Haven’t seen BohemianRhapsody yet but can’t help but really astounded/baffled/ bewildered by Malek’s win. Was hoping anyone but him in this category, especially Bale.

As for Best Picture… well I actually enjoyed Green Book and didn’t learn about the controversies until later. I still stand by that it’s a good movie (it’s on my Top 10 of the year) though after having seen BlacKkKlansman last night, I think that Spike Lee film should’ve won over Green Book!!

We can debate endlessly about who should or more deserving to win, etc., but y’know what, it makes me glad to see the diversity of the winners. Here are four of the acting category winners…

Rami Malek, Olivia Colman, Regina King, Mahershala Ali – Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

Let’s hope the diversity and inclusion extends to FEMALE FILMMAKERS in the future!! Come on The Academy, there are a plethora of great work by female filmmakers worth to be in the Best Picture category, especially Leave No Trace.

Lastly, about the host-less Oscars… I don’t really miss it, but hey if we have to have a host again, we should have these three funny ladies host next year!


So what’s your thoughts on the 2019 Oscar winners and what’s your pick of best/worst moments?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Mr Robot, ‘A Hologram for the King’ & The Wine Show

weekendroundup

How’s your weekend everyone? It’s another glorious weekend weather-wise… Summer is so fleeting here in MN so we’ve got to make the most of our time being outside.

I didn’t go to the cinema this weekend, trying to finish up Mr Robot Season 1 and we’ve got four more episodes to go. I’ll defer my final judgment until I finish all episodes of the first season, but I’m impressed w/ it so far. It keeps me guessing just what the heck is going on and it always ends on a suspenseful cliffhanger.

It’s certainly one of the most diverse cast of a TV series, with the lead Rami Malek himself of Egyptian descent. No shortage of interesting characters in this series, Mr Robot himself (played by Christian Slater) is definitely an enigma, but the Swedish-speaking Tyrell played by Martin Wallström is the one who gives me the creeps. He reminds me of American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman with his steely gaze and violent tendencies.

Looking forward to finishing Season 1 hopefully next week!


HologramFortheKing

Saturday night I watched the new Tom Hanks drama set in Saudi Arabia. At first it made me think of Lost In Translation mixed with Learning to Drive, though it’s quite different from either. Cross-cultural stories always appeal to me, though this film is more about a personal journey for the lead character. Alan Clay is a washout American sales rep who’s sent to Riyadh to do a major pitch for his company to a wealthy-yet-elusive monarch.

I have to say I’m not sure what to make of this movie. I was amused one second, discombobulated the next. The novel by Dave Eggers (which Hanks reportedly loved) might have been very interesting, but it feels like it might not have translated as well on screen. Now, it’s not that I wasn’t entertained, there are some amusing moments and Hanks was likable as always, I just felt that the humor felt a bit forced at times. They also hired another White guy (an American) to play an Arab. Alexander Black plays the taxi driver Yousef who predictably becomes friends with Alan. There’s a running joke about him checking the hood of his car for a bomb, not in a terroristic way he said, but from a jealous husband who suspects he’s having an affair with his wife. It was amusing the first time around, but it became repetitive. I feel there’s a lack of genuine rapport between the two actors, but it’s more because of the way they’re written.


There’s a budding romance between Hanks and his female doctor, Dr. Zahra (Sarita Choudhury) who treats him for the cyst on his back. I’m not really feeling the chemistry between them however, just like Alan and the taxi driver. Oh and the scene between the two towards the end is very um, unexpected. Let’s just say I didn’t expect to see a topless underwater scene in this movie, though I don’t think that alone warrants that the R-rating. Interesting that Choudhury was also in Learning To Drive, it seems like she’s got that ambiguous ethnicity where she could play an Arab, an Indian or Italian believably. I like that her character defies the stereotype of what we, in the Western world, think of an Arab woman. There’s another female character, a Danish woman working in the region who came on very strong to Alan, but her storyline seems grossly under-developed.

The pacing of the film seems off, though the story did manage to surprise me a few times. I can’t judge how accurate its portrayal of Arab culture as I’m not from that region, but I feel that the filmmakers did attempt to do it respectfully and not resorting to simple stereotypes. Filmed in Morroco with some exterior shots of Riyadh, it blends the traditional and very modern aspect of the Arab world.  The actual hologram presentation to King Abdullah itself is a non-event, apart from a rather odd cameo from Ben Whishaw playing a Q character of sort.

Once I finished the film, I found out that the film’s director is Tom Twyker. I love his German film Run Lola Run, but his last Hollywood movie is the even more puzzling Cloud Atlas. I did praise it for its valiant effort, though I honestly don’t know if I’m going to like it as much upon rewatch. Now, what I can say for this one is, give it a shot if you’re a huge fan of Hanks (as he’s in virtually every single scene). Overall it’s lacking a certain oomph to make it a memorable movie. But at only 138 minutes, at least it didn’t overstay its welcome.

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WineShow

I saw on Twitter there’s a new reality show called The Wine Show arriving on HULU. It’s got the two gorgeous Matthews, Matthew Goode & Matthew Rhys, who played Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley. The show was originally done for British ITV. Filmed in beautiful locations all over the world, The Wine Show is informative, entertaining, humorous and surprising, with something for everyone who enjoys a glass of wine. I love that the wine expert is called Obi Wine Kenobi, ha!

I love this, definitely will be watching all 13 episodes!

 


So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?