Ranking Mission Impossible films on its 25th Anniversary

MI franchise

Boy, don’t I feel old!! Can’t believe the Mission Impossible FILM franchise is now 25 years old. The first film opened on May 22, 1996. I remember watching the TV series, created by Bruce Geller, quite regularly and they were a lot of fun. The TV series is more on an ensemble cast, with Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) as the one receiving the classified recording telling him of his team’s mission, which then self destructs.

Now, I thought the first MI movie felt decidedly much darker, and this time instead of an ensemble, we’ve got the protagonist Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) who always receives the message that he then relays to the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team. Even the poster above only features his famous profile, and he remains the top draw of the entire franchise. The series features more and more daring stunts, given Cruise is such an adrenaline junkie, but fortunately, since Christopher McQuarrie came on board after they had a good working relationship in Jack Reacher, the movies have improved as well.

MI-movies

Now, having seen the latter 3 films fairly recently, I thought I’d rank the six films in the order of WORST (least favorite) to BEST:

6. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II (2000)

Directed by: John Woo

IMF agent Ethan Hunt is sent to Sydney to find and destroy a genetically modified disease called “Chimera”.

I barely remember much about this movie as I haven’t rewatched it since seeing it the first time. I think the opening with Cruise hanging off a rock was pretty cool, but Dougray Scott made for a lame villain as disavowed I.M.F. Agent. He just isn’t menacing and comes across melodramatic and whiny. Poor Thandie Newton also comes across as nothing more than a damsel in distress.

5. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (1996)

Directed by: Brian De Palma

An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.

I actually quite like this one despite being oh-so-serious. For one, I like Kristin Scott Thomas in an action movie and the setting in Old Town Prague is really atmospheric. It’s also got some top-notch actors, i.e. Jon Voigt and Vanessa Redgrave. I have to say that the multiple double-crossing plots questioning Ethan’s loyalty proves to be too convoluted that it takes the fun out of it. But at least some of the action scenes are memorable, especially the server room scene that’s iconic and full of suspense. The final chase scene involving a chopper, bullet train inside a tunnel is beyond ridiculous but of course so exhilarating to watch.

4. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III (2006)

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

IMF agent Ethan Hunt comes into conflict with a dangerous and sadistic arms dealer who threatens his life and his fiancée in response.

Still sad that Philip Seymour Hoffman is gone. He’s an intriguing choice as a villain and he’s believably sadistic. I think I’m just not too crazy about the love story between Ethan and Julia (Michelle Monaghan), though later in the franchise, they figured out a nice closure for the two. It’s still very much an Ethan-centric story that talented people like Keri Russell and Billy Crudup are pretty much wasted here.

3. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – Ghost Protocol (2011) – full review

Directed by: Brad Bird

The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name.

This is the one with the Burj Khalifa and perhaps one of my all time favorite action scenes (not just in a Mission Impossible movies!). It’s also the first time Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is introduced and he’s been an interesting character to follow. I also feel like the tone is decidedly lighter here and feature more of an ensemble piece with Simon Pegg + Paula Patton (who brings such sexy vibe to the team), though I miss Ving Rhames in this one. Despite having a so-so villain (Michael Nyqvist), this one plays like a popcorn Summer blockbuster despite being released during the holiday season. 

2. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – Rogue Nation (2015) – full review

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Ethan and his team take on their most impossible mission yet when they have to eradicate an international rogue organization as highly skilled as they are and committed to destroying the IMF.

Thank you McQuarrie for making an already watchable franchise and truly make it great. Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust is perhaps my favorite casting pick in the entire franchise, she is absolutely dynamite–smart,sexy, no-nonsense–I think she’s Ethan’s equal in the spy game as she’s a former MI6 agent. Ferguson also gives Cruise a run for his money in the charm department, which is why the Vienna Opera House scene stands as one of my favorite action sequences in the MI movies. I quite like seeing Alec Baldwin as a CIA operative, but I can’t say I’m too fond of Sean Harris as the villain, mainly because of his gravely voice. Still, there are more good than bad that I still rate this movie pretty highly.

1. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – Fallout (2018) – full review

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.

I was thrilled to see McQuarrie back directing an MI movie AND to have Rebecca Ferguson back, yay! Pretty much the regular MIF team are back, with Angela Bassett + Henry Cavill added as CIA agents, and Vanessa Kirby as a mysterious woman called the White Widow. Cavill proves to be a pretty darn good addition and I actually enjoy him SO much more than in his role as Superman (aside from Man of Steel). LOVE the sequence in Paris night club, plus it’s got a fantastically-bombastic finally involving in yet another chopper chase. Having rewatched this several times, I definitely would rate Fallout as the best Mission: Impossible film to date. It’s full of humor, great tensions and spectacular actions sequences that you can’t wait to see what crazy Cruise will tackle next!


So, are you a fan of this franchise? How would YOU rank the six MI movies so far?

THIS JUST IN! Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE (2020) trailer

Woo wee!! Can you believe it’s been five months since the first official FIRST LOOK photos of DUNE were released?! I remember hyperventilating then just looking at a bunch of photos, well… finally, the trailer is here!

Behold…


I had been standing in front of my laptop since 10:45 CST… waiting w/ bated breath to see the trailer. Well, as it turns out the studios had a special event Q&A w/ the director Denis Villeneuve and the entire cast, hosted by Stephen Colbert, here’s the convo if you missed it:

 

My reaction is: WOO HOO!!! Cannot. freakin’. wait for this!! As if I weren’t anticipating this enough already, the Q&A w/ the cast/crew really whet my appetite even more! The world building, the set pieces, outstanding ensemble cast… boy, it LOOKS AMAZING! Glorious, atmospheric, mysterious, suspenseful… everything I expect from a sci-fi epic.

I respect Villeneuve as a filmmaker and I trust that he’s going to bring something that’s truly worth the hype!

Hollywood’s it-boy Timothée Chalamet is perfectly cast here as Paul Atreides… the narration of DUNE’s famous quote about fear gives me goosebumps!

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear and I will permit it to pass over me. When the fear is gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

I quite like the pairing of him and Zendaya too as Chani, a Fremen woman.

Full cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem.

Great seeing several of them on the Twitter trailer event Q&A today!! They all look happy, even emotional, seeing the trailer, just like the fans!

Twitter trailer event Q&A w/ director + cast

DUNE’s full synopsis:

A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Chalamet as Paul Atredes with Charlotte Rampling’s Gaius Helen Mohiam

The film is currently set for theatrical release on December 18 in the U.S. and the UK.


Well, what do you think of the DUNE teaser?

Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE – what I’ve learned of the 2020 adaptation so far

Happy um-what-day-is-it? The days have become such a blur lately… and honestly, it’s tough to keep motivated during the lockdown, and the not-knowing when this whole thing would actually end is the toughest part. Summer’s practically been canceled, which if you’ve lived in places like Minnesota, that’s so devastating given how fleeting Summer is and ‘Spring’ is an on-and-off affair (I mean we just got a blizzard in some parts of MN on Easter weekend!).

Ok, venting over. I’d rather focus on the positive and look to the future! Well, since this is a film blog, one of the films that [hopefully] won’t get canceled is DUNE. Its release date is December 18.

Of course, an astute person already saw the glaring similarities of DUNE’s logo to an NBC sci-fi series that aired in 2006, ha! I actually like the look of the original one they posted a few months ago, it looked far more modern w/ an aerial image of sand dunes in the background.

In any case… the photos posted by Vanity Fair yesterday look stunning, they’re mostly the star-studded cast in costumes, but certainly made me even more anxious to see it! You can see them in video form thanks to MovieGasm, and I also posted the photos below.

Honestly, I’m not that familiar about DUNE, which is based on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novels. I haven’t seen the David Lynch 1984 version (I’ve watched the trailer a couple of times but haven’t mustered enough interest to actually watch it), nor the two-part series on Sci-Fi channel. But once Denis Villeneuve‘s attached to direct a two-part films, I’m immediately intrigued. So I’ve been reading a ton of stuff about this adaptation and how this version is supposed to be different.

Consider this a summary of what I’ve read so far, that some of you might find helpful.

Thanks to this comprehensive Reddit post, here’s the official synopsis:

A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Timothée Chalamet is definitely Hollywood’s boy du jour right now, and I think he’d be good as the young protagonist. I like the idea of Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac as Chalamet’s parents!

The amazing ensemble cast!

Here’s the full cast list (thanks to that Reddit post):

Character Actor Films Actors’ Known For
Paul Atreides Timothée Chalamet Ladybird, Call Me By Your Name
Lady Jessica Rebecca Ferguson Mission Impossible, The Greatest Showman
Duke Leto Atreides Oscar Isaac Ex Machina, Star Wars
Gurney Halleck Josh Brolin No Country for Old Men, The Avengers
Duncan Idaho Jason Momoa Game of Thrones, Aquaman
Dr. Liet-Kynes Sharon Duncan-Brewster Rogue One, Sex Education series
Reverend Mother Mohiam Charlotte Rampling Broadchurch, The Verdict, 45 Days
Baron Harkonnen Stellan Skarsgård Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Good Will Hunting
Feyd-Rautha Tye Sheridan Ready Player One, Dark Phoenix, Mud
Piter De Vries David Dastmalchian Prisoners, Ant-man
Count Glossu Rabban Dave Bautista Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049
Dr. Wellington Yueh Chang Chen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Assassin
Stilgar Javier Bardem No Country for Old Men, Skyfall
Chani Zendaya Spiderman, The Greatest Showman
Jamis Babs Olusanmokun Black Mirror, The Night Of, The Defenders
TBA Stephen Henderson Fences, Ladybird, Lincoln
Harah Gloria Obiano High Life, Good Omens

The House of Atreides - Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
The House of Atreides

Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac
Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac – Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

What is the story about exactly?

Per Vanity Fair article… Villeneuve sees this story of a planet being mined to death as something prophetic “No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt,” It’s hard to argue that our earth has been overexploited no matter which spectrum you are in the climate change debate. Villeneuve, who’s producing his own film for the first time, sees the story as a ‘call to action for the youth.’ I can see Greta Thunberg liking this movie a lot!

Villeneuve on set with Javier Bardem as Stilgar, leader of the Fremen tribe – Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Since the French Canadian filmmaker is set on ‘going back to [Herbert’s] book and going to the images that came out when I read it’ (per Yahoo article), here’s a brief summary of the novel per SparkNotes:

Dune is based on a complex imagined society set roughly 20,000 years in the future. The setting is the year 10,191, and human beings have spread out and colonized planets throughout the universe. On the planet Caladan, Duke Leto of the House of Atreides is preparing to leave for his new position as the governor of Arrakis, a desert planet with valuable resources of melange, a spice drug that is extremely popular with wealthy people. Leto and his family, including his concubine, Jessica, and his son, Paul, suspect a trap by their rivals, the Harkonnens, led by Baron Harkonnen. Leto decides to settle on Arrakis because of its rich supplies of melange, despite warnings from his men, including his adviser, Thufir Hawat, and his master-of-arms, Gurney Halleck.

The Atreides arrive on Arrakis and the duke quickly moves to secure the planet from a Harkonnen attack. His main plan is to enlist the Fremen, the tough natives of the Arrakeen desert, as soldiers and advisers. Meanwhile, Paul’s and Jessica’s special abilities intrigue the Fremen. Jessica is a member of the Bene Gesserit, a school of quasi-mystical witches with strange powers. The Fremen believe that Jessica and her son are saviors who have come to lead them toward creating a lush paradise on the dry Arrakis.

Some interesting trivia about DUNE 2020

(thanks to Reddit, Vanity Fair, Nerdist, THR, Inverse.com

  • Denis Villeneuve confirmed that his adaptation of Dune will be split into at least two films, in order to ensure that the original story would be “preserved and not cut into a million pieces.”
  • Budapest is one the primary shooting location for the film. Denis will once again be working with Origo Film Studios who provided many of the stages and facilities used in the shooting of Blade Runner 2049. The other location for the sand dune landscape is remote regions outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates where temperatures can reach 100 degrees.
  • Zendaya is playing Chani, seen here wearing the signature Fremen stillsuit. The suit’s designed to recapture the maximum amount of moisture and the nose tube is to reclaim vapor from every breath. As for those piercing blue eyes, it’s a condition caused by consuming melange (a.k.a. spice), a drug produced in Arrakis’ sands.

    Zendaya as Chani – photo courtsey of Vanity Fair
  • Charlotte Rampling, who will star in this upcoming adaptation of the 1965 novel, originally wanted to play Lady Jessica in Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s failed Dune project, but declined the offer due to a scene that involved 2,000 extras defecating at once.
  • Rampling will play the Reverend Mother Mohiam, the emperor’s truthsayer, a person who can divine intentions, suss out lies and manipulate people’s emotional states.
  • In an intriguing change to the source material, Villeneuve has also updated Dr. Liet Kynes, the leading ecologist on Arrakis and an independent power broker amid the various warring factions. Although always depicted as a white man, the character is now played by a black British actress Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Rogue One).

    Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet Kynes – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
  • Hans Zimmer is set to score the film, having worked with Villeneuve previously on Blade Runner 2049.
  • In June 2019, a TV spinoff titled Dune: The Sisterhood was announced, which would be overseen by Villeneuve and focused on the mysterious Bene Gesserit, a key social, religious, and political force in the fictional Dune universe.

Splitting Dune into two films

Now, about the part that the film will be a two-part series. We’ve seen that in major finales of lucrative franchises like Harry Potter, Hunger Games and The Avengers are split into two movies. Honestly, I’m not too fond of that idea as it’s really a money-making scheme. But with this one, I feel like there is merit.

Per the VF article, Villeneuve said “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie…The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.” I haven’t read the book but I can see how such a dense, multi-layered story would be challenging to adapt. The director has said this project has been the most difficult thing he’s ever done… “It’s a book that tackles politics, religion, ecology, spirituality—and with a lot of characters,”

I’d even think making it as a miniseries might be the best format, but then again, the grand visuals would be something amazing to see on the big screen. Oh man, to actually be able to experience movies with fellow film fans again in a movie theater… those are simple joys we’ve all taken for granted!


Ok that’s all I’ve got on Dune so far… but speaking of power in the details, let me just end this post with this um, epic photo…

Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

I bow to thee Duke Atreides… yowza! 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

Sorry, just got to get that out of the way… man, can’t wait to see the trailer for this!!


Are you excited about this new DUNE adaptation? Let me know your thoughts!

FlixChatter Review – Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

The Mission: Impossible film franchise is one of the few that somehow got better and better after its third sequel struggle to make a dent at the box office. Not only did the later sequels were financially successful, they’re also critically darlings. Looking at Rottentomatoes.com, Mission: Impossible 4-6 received mid to high 90% rating.

After a mission gone wrong and three nuclear missile heads are in the hands of a new group of terrorists known as The Apostles, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his teammates Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) must retrieve the weapons. When Hunt was getting an intel briefing from his boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), as to where he can find the nuclear weapons, they’re both got interrupted by a new CIA director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett). Sloan is upset that the IMF team lost the nuclear heads and insists that her agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) must go with Ethan to retrieve them.

First on their task is to capture and impersonate a man named John Lark (Liang Yang) and meet with a mysterious woman named White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), in Paris who has the connection to the Apostles. But when Hunt and Walker met with White Widow, she insisted that they must break out an international terrorist and Hunt’s nemesis Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) from prison or they won’t get the nuclear weapons. Of course this complicates the mission but both Hunt and Walker went along and helped Lane escaped. Along the way, Hunt ran into an old friend Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). She’s also has her own mission and that is to eliminate Lane for good. Well, things never go as planned and Hunt must use all of his skills to try to save the world from chaos and also save those who he cares about.

For the first time in franchise history, the same director and writer Christopher McQuarrie of the previous film has returned and take charge of this new mission. To my surprise, McQuarrie has exceeded what he created in the last picture. He crafted a complexed storyline that’s full of twists, drama, humor and big action sequences. By hiring new crew members, notably a new cinematographer and composer, he was able to differentiate this film from the last one. It’s clearly that he used Nolan’s The Dark Knight as his inspiration for this outing. The film even contains a big chase that’s very similar to a chase sequence from The Dark Knight. A big bathroom brawl, a spectacular motorcycle and car chase through the streets of Paris and a helicopter chase are the highlights of the set pieces.

Cinematographer Rob Hardy is having a good year. He shot the excellent Annihilation for Alex Garland earlier this year and again for this film, he did a tremendous job. This film contains so many wide shots in the series since Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2. This is good because we the audience can actually see the action and not trying to figure out what’s going on super chaotic scenes. Shout out also goes to composer Lorne Balfe who apparently is the understudy of Hans Zimmer. So, of course this film’s score sounds like it’s was composed by Zimmer. There’s still the well know Mission: Impossible theme but Balfe made it sounded like something very original. Just a little trivia, Hans Zimmer did compose a Mission: Impossible film, he worked on the second one.

With three box office bombs in a row, Cruise poured all of his performance into this film. He did the usual crazy stunts but was willing to show his character’s age and flaws by having him get his ass whooped a few times in the film. The rest of the cast members were pretty good too. I was afraid Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust might just be nothing more than a cameo but her role was an integral part of the story and as usual she saved Hunt’s life couple of times in the film. Simon and Luthor didn’t really have much to do except to be comic relief. Luther did have a touching scene with Ilsa, I really liked that scene. I liked the addition of Alec Balwin’s character and he even got involved in one action scene with the team members. Bassett and Cavill were a nice addition and I hope we see more of Bassett’s character in the next Mission film. Kirby’s White Widow is an interesting character and I thought she played the role quite well even though she didn’t get a lot of screen time.

Having seen the film twice already, I can declare Fallout is the best Mission: Impossible film yet. It’s full of humor, great tensions and spectacular actions sequences. If there’s an IMAX, Dolby Cinema or other large vendor theater near you, go see it there. It’s definitely my favorite film of the summer and maybe even of the year.


So have you seen Mission Impossible: Fallout? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: The Greatest Showman (2017)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

The upcoming original musical The Greatest Showman is directed by Michael Gracey, and written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. First time Australian director Gracey made a wonderful decision to turn The Greatest Showman into a modern-musical, opting for modern day pop style songs over 1800s tunes. Convincing 20th Century FOX, Gracey was instrumental in hiring songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Tony award winners for the original musical Dear Evan Hansen and then Golden Globe and OSCAR winners for the La La Land song City of Stars). Pasek and Paul wrote eleven original songs for The Greatest Showman, each more emotional than the last. Their original song This Is Me, has so far been nominated for a Golden Globe and could be in play for the Best Original Song category at this year’s OSCARS.

The film is inspired by the life of circus creator and father of modern show business, P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman). Supporting Barnum are his supportive wife Charity (Michelle Williams), his business partner Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the acrobat & trapeze-artist that Carlyle scandalously falls for. Broadway star Keala Settle stars as the Bearded Lady and she sings This is Me to perfection. She nearly runs away with the whole movie.

When Barnum struggles supporting his circus made up of freaks and bizarre acts, he invited and hires Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), a famous Swedish opera singer to perform in America for the first time. Barnum called Lind “The Swedish Nightingale” and she ended up being a big hit and performing over 90 concerts for him before quitting the tour and breaking her contract with Barnum. Lind had wearied of Barnum’s assertive marketing of her and that she would end up like Barnum’s circus. When Barnum returns to New York after the tour, the building housing his circus catches fire and while no one is hurt, the building is a total loss. Barnum then figures out that he doesn’t need a whole building to house the circus but rather a very large tent.

Zendaya and Zac Efron have a wonderful connection onscreen, especially when they perform the acrobatically-demanding musical number Rewrite The Stars and when he defends her in front of his parents. They share some terrific chemistry, but it’s hard to beat the moments when Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman share the screen. One of the best scenes in the film is when Barnum talks Carlyle into joining the circus, and they try to out-dance each other. They do this during the song The Other Side. There are also beautiful renditions of Tightrope by Michelle Williams and Never Enough, performed by Loren Allred who provides Jenny Lind’s singing voice in the movie.

The Greatest Showman feels a little predictable and disjoined at times, but the emotions in the movie feel true and very authentic. The movie make you want to care for Barnum and what happens with his family, so you probably won’t care if it is a little over the top – musicals are supposed to be that way. It’s the perfect film to enjoy with the whole family over the holidays; even if you’re someone who hates musicals this one might be the one that convinces you to give it a try. At least one can appreciate the hard work it is to write a whole new, original musical. I have to give them props for a job well done.


Have you seen ‘The Greatest Showman’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: LIFE (2017)

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Directed By: Daniel Espinosa
Written By: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Runtime: 1 hr 43 minutes

I wish I could at least pretend to be as cool as the other writers who sit around me at these press screenings. I wish I could go to a genuinely scary movie like Life and calmly take notes, looking up at the screen dispassionately as I mentally critique some of the lamer dialogue. But I’m not cool, so instead I sit there cringing for an hour and a half, fighting the urge to put my hands over my eyes during a couple especially gag-worthy moments, “ohmygodohmyohmygodohmygod” written all over my face. On the bright side, any movie that can elicit this kind of reaction is pretty impressive.

Life follows a crew on the International Space Station (Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Murakami, Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams, Rebecca Ferguson as Miranda North, Jake Gyllenhaal as David Jordan, Olga Dihovichnaya as Ekaterina Golovkina, and Ariyon Bakare as Hugh Derry) that has obtained a Martian soil sample containing a living organism dubbed “Calvin.” While initially thrilled at their discovery of life on another planet, the crew soon has to fight for their lives as Calvin quickly evolves into a terrifying creature that threatens both them and, if they don’t stop it, life on Earth.

While fighting a terrifying extraterrestrial is hardly an original concept for a film, it is still incredibly well done here. Both the pacing of the movie and the soundtrack create a suspenseful atmosphere the whole hour and forty-three minutes. The CGI is impressive, and Calvin is a truly spooky creation; the design isn’t over the top, but it’s still genuinely scary, and the way it moves is so unnerving. The whole cast gives a strong performance, especially Hiroyuki Sanada and Jake Gyllenhaal, who have a couple stand-out moments during some particularly emotional scenes. However, the actors do tend to mumble some of their lines, making them hard to understand at times. There is also some lazy dialogue-clichéd jokes, comments stating the obvious- that falls flat and sometimes distracts from the overall feel of the movie.

Despite the couple issues I had with this film, I really enjoyed Life. I can see myself watching it again and being just as creeped out as the first time, which, for a sci-fi/horror movie, is no easy feat. If you want to be on the edge of your seat for most of the run time, definitely check this one out.

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Have you seen ‘LIFE’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Girl on the Train (2016)

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When this project was first announced, I was hoping I’d finish the book by the time the film comes out. Well I didn’t get to the book, but I was still anticipating this one, largely for the female-driven story.

Comparison to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (which I reviewed almost exactly two years ago) is inevitable, given that both involve a missing person and is told from a female perspective with some mental, emotional turmoil. Reading the character descriptions in the novel, where the protagonist Rachel Watson is described as ‘not beautiful and can’t have kids,’ it seems that the stunning Emily Blunt, who’s actually pregnant with her second child during filming, doesn’t seem to fit the role. That said, I think Blunt did a terrific job in making Rachel a believable train wreck (pardon the pun). She rides the train every day and passes by the same neighborhood, a leafy, posh Hudson River Valley where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux).

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Rachel still can’t reconcile with her past and she drinks away the blues, filling up her plastic water bottle with booze whilst she voyeuristically watches Megan Hipwell from the train. In Rachel’s eyes, Megan lives the life she’s always dreamed of. A beautiful woman married to a handsome, rich guy who seems to love her, as they’re shown being constantly lovey–dovey. But one day, Rachel sees Megan kissing another man and she goes berserk. It’s as if something snaps in her and she somehow felt *betrayed* that Megan would stray.

Watching this film makes me want to pick up Paula Hawkins’ 2015 best-selling novel, as surely there are tons of story/character nuances that are simply lost in a feature film. Certain internal things, such as the moment Rachel got upset by Megan’s infidelity, is conveyed visually by her lashing out in the bathroom of Grand Central Station. While her chronic drinking problem might’ve made her prone to destructive behavior, this scene made her seem like a deranged, violent person.

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Though the film did manage to keep me engrossed throughout, thanks largely to Blunt’s performance, the narrative feels disjointed. I don’t know if it’s meant to make the audience empathize with how the protagonist is feeling but it can be quite frustrating. Director Tate Taylor (who directed The Help with a multi-narrative plot) adapts the film from Erin Cressida Wilson‘s screenplay. Her last script was Men, Women & Children, which I wasn’t at all entertained by, though this one is far more watchable by comparison. I was rather skeptical when Taylor signed to do the film, as I was expecting someone more like David Fincher who made Gone Girl such a gripping and visceral film that’s also wildly entertaining. The Girl On The Train is a dark and somber tale, but the film itself could’ve been less drab.

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Performance-wise, I find it odd that we’ve got a British actress playing the protagonist when the filmmakers moved the story from London in the novel to NYC. She keeps her British accent throughout though it’s never clear where she’s actually from. In any case, Blunt approaches the role with razor sharp precision, not just by looking unglamorous but she also embodied Rachel’s tormented peace of mind. Newcomer Haley Bennett as Megan has the most screen time out of the supporting cast. I think she has some screen presence, but at times I find her scenes too melodramatic. Later we find out her life isn’t so dreamy after all, and she too has a dark past that haunts her, but yet I can’t find myself to sympathize with her. To be fair, none of the privileged people who love to indulge in their own misery is easy to root for.

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The rest of the characters are pretty much one dimensional. Rebecca Ferguson‘s good as Tom’s second wife Anna, but her acting skills seems underused here. Luke Evans is all rugged perfection as Megan’s husband Scott but he seems to be more eye-candy than anything. Another handsome actor, Venezuelan Edgar Ramírez, seems oddly cast here as Kamal Abdic, who’s from Serbia or Bosnia in the book, but he’s speaking Spanish in the film. Ramírez seems charismatic enough but his character is so boring it barely made any impact. I also have to mention Lisa Kudrow as Tom’s ex boss Amanda whose role is basically a cameo, but an important one.

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Lastly, there’s Tom the antagonist, who actually seems untrustworthy from the start. Initially, the only image of Rachel comes from his point of view and she’s portrayed as a truly unhinged woman with drunken, violent outbursts. I think Theroux a skilled actor but there’s not much to work with when he’s given a paper-thin character who’s more of a caricature douchebag than a menacing sociopath. I’d think in the novel there’s more to his character than presented here?

The reviews haven’t been kind for this, sounds like another case where the book is much more superior than its cinematic adaptation. The novel might be a ‘thriller that shocked the world,’ but I don’t think the film lives up to that. I do think it’s still worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Blunt who proves herself once again that she’s a versatile and skilled actress. The movie itself isn’t quite as thrilling as it could’ve been, though I wasn’t exactly bored by it. It works more as a psychological drama than a taut whodunit murder mystery.

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Have you seen ‘The Girl On The Train’? Well, what did YOU think?