Film News I’m excited about – Olivia Colman, Helen Mirren, Julia Roberts + George Clooney

It’s been a while since I actually curated recent movie/casting news that I’m excited about. I was reading one after another involving filmmaker/actors I love so I thought I’d include them here. 

Sam Mendes, Olivia Colman Team for Love Story Empire of Light

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Per THR, the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes will be directing his own script (his first solo outing as a screenwriter), with Olivia Colman set to star in what sounds like a romantic drama. Mendes will once again be teaming up Roger Deakins in this feature project, the acclaimed cinematographer he worked with on 1917, Skyfall and Revolutionary Road.

The premise is described as a love story, “set in and around a beautiful old cinema, on the South Coast of England in the 1980s.”

Aawwww…. I absolutely LOVE the sound of Empire of Light… even the title sounds enchanting. With Deakins as the DP, surely the film would look absolutely beautiful. Nice that they’re making love, not war, this time around.

I also love seeing love stories involving women in the prime time of their lives (not gonna say older woman, as she’s only a year older than I am, and women in mid 40s are NOT old). I wonder who they’ll cast opposite Colman. I actually like the pairing of her with Rufus Sewell in The Father, though they barely shared a scene together.

 Searchlight Pictures is the studio behind this and the movie is set for a Fall 2022 release. Can’t wait!!


Helen Mirren to Play Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in ‘Golda’

Golda Meir-Helen Mirren

Another intriguing biopic starring one of my favorite leading ladies!! Per The Wrap, Dame Helen Mirren will play another iconic historical figure, this time it’s as Israel’s only female Prime Minister, Golda Meir.

Guy Nattiv, an Israeli director (Oscar winner for the short film Skin) will direct the film from a screenplay by Florence Foster Jenkins‘ writer Nicholas Martin. The film is called Golda and focuses on the intensely dramatic and high-stake responsibilities and decisions she faced during the Yom Kippur War.

Here’s the full synopsis:

On October 6th, 1973, under cover of darkness, on Israel’s holiest day and during the month of Ramadan, the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan began a surprise attack on the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Outnumbered and outgunned, Golda Meir confronts the immediate, clear and present danger of a ticking time bomb that she hoped never to face. Surrounded, isolated, and frustrated by the infighting of her all-male cabinet, with little hope of rescue, one woman is in a race against time to save millions of lives on both sides of the conflict.

Per the article, Nattiv was born during the Yom Kippur War, so naturally this is a personal story for him. Apparently during the final chapter of Meir’s life where this deadly surprise attack occurred, she was undergoing secret treatments for her illness. I personally am not familiar with the legendary leader, known as the Iron Lady of Israel, so I’m looking forward to seeing her story brought to life!


George Clooney & Julia Roberts re-teaming in rom-com Ticket To Paradise

George Clooney and Julia Roberts

Two of my favorite rom-coms are Notting Hill and One Fine Day, starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, respectively. The two had only done the Ocean Eleven movies and a thriller called Money Monster (which I haven’t seen), so I like the idea of seeing them together in a romantic comedy!

Per Variety, director Ol Parker (the Mamma Mia movies) will direct this from a script he co-wrote with Daniel Pipski. Here’s the premise:

Clooney and Roberts will play a divorced couple that teams up and travels to Bali to stop their daughter from making the same mistake they think they made 25 years ago.

I was wondering if the film will be shot on location in Bali (an island in my home country Indonesia), but apparently it will in Queensland, Australia. Obviously they have good tax incentives there from the Australian federal government and from Screen Queensland’s Production Attraction Strategy. In any case, this sounds like a fun movie!


Now, as a film as well as theatre lover, THIS is something I cannot wait to watch!! National Theatre Live brings the best of British theatre to cinema screens all over the UK and beyond and this time they’re adapting another Shakespeare classic.

The National Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet

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This stylized film of Shakespeare’s masterpiece from the National Theatre celebrates the theatrical imagination. In this contemporary retelling, a company of actors in a shuttered theater bring to life the tale of two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and hate. Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley star as Shakespeare’s immortal star-crossed lovers. Check out the trailer below:

Another actor from The Crown continues to be making waves I’ve been enchanted by Josh since he played Prince Charles in The Crown. I’ve only seen Jessie in a couple of movies and she’s pretty memorable, so this is quite an intriguing pairing. I notice British actor Adrian Lester in the cast as well, love his work. Per PBS’ website, Great Performances Executive Producer David Horn is quoted as saying “During the ongoing performance shutdown in London and New York, we’re delighted to participate in this compelling hybrid of theater and film that brings an exciting contemporary perspective to one of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays.” 

The production of this modern Shakespeare adaptation looks positively mesmerizing!

Romeo & Juliet Premieres Friday, April 23 at 9/8c on PBS.


Are you excited about these projects?

FIVE best cinematographers in Hollywood (not named Roger Deakins)

The process of making films is very difficult, whether it’s a short or full-length feature, one needs to put together a team of talented people in order to produce something that one can be proud of. One key component to make any film work is the person who does the actual shooting. The director tends to get all the credit when it comes to making a film but in a big or small production, a cinematographer is the real star behind the scenes. The director is in charge of the entire production crew, so he/she can’t oversee each and every shot during the shoot. That’s where the cinematographer comes in, this person must know the ins and outs of the cameras, which lens to use for each scene, set up lightings for each location and most importantly this person needs to be on the same page as the director. Basically, the cinematographer is the second most powerful person during the shoot.

I do feel that cinematographers tend to get over look when people are talking about certain films. One of the most well-known cinematographers in Hollywood is Roger Deakins and I won’t put him on my list here since his work deserves a list of its own. Here, I’m listing some of the best but not that well-known cinematographers working in Hollywood today.

In no particular order, here’s my list:

1. Robert Richardson

I was hesitant to put Richardson on the list since he’s won 3 Oscars for his work on JFK, The Aviator and Hugo. But I don’t think most film fans know much about him. Known to be a hot head in Hollywood, there were reports that he actually took over the directing tasks when Marc Forster lost control of the troubled shoot of World War Z. He then asked him name to be taken off the credits for that film because he wasn’t happy that the studio decided to convert the film to 3D and changed the color lutz of the footage that he shot. Richardson sounds like a man who don’t have much patience for inexperience directors in large productions, which explains why he mostly work with famous director like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone.

Here are some clips of his work that I think are great:

2. Oliver Wood

Wood has been working as a cinematographer since the late 60s. He shot several episodes of the TV show Miami Vice in the 80s and got his first big Hollywood production gig by shooting Die Hard 2. He’s been busy shooting big blockbusters ever since. But I don’t think many people knows much about him at all. You’d be surprised that some of the well-known films were shot by him, Rudy, The Bourne Trilogy and Face/Off are some of the films he shot. Now some might say that he started the whole fast editing and shaky cam action shots that plagued many action films of the 2000s, but I think that blame should go to Paul Greengrass.

Here are some shots of his work that I think are great:

The snowmobile chase/shootout in Die Hard 2. I’m pretty sure this scene was a very difficult shot to set up, it contains snow and set at night time.

The opening intro of Castor Troy in Face/Off. John Woo apparently fired his original cinematographer for this film because that person couldn’t keep up with his demands. Wood took over the gig and this scene is one of the many great shots in the film.

The epic car chase through the streets of Moscow in The Bourne Supremacy. One of the best car chases ever filmed and I assume wasn’t easy to film:

3. Ellen Kuras

Sadly, this is the only female cinematographer on my list here. As most of everyone knows, this is still a male dominated field and many female cinematographers are having a hard time breaking in. Kuras is one of the few that have been working in this field for a long time. She started out doing mostly short films and documentaries in the 90s. Her big break came when Spike Lee hired her to lens He Got Game starring Denzel Washington for him. Apparently, she worked well with Lee and they shot two more films together, Summer of Sam and Bamboozled. Some of her best-known films are Blow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Ballad of Jack and Rose. In the late 2000s, Kuras decided to go back and direct mostly documentaries and short films. I hope she comes back and shoot more feature films because I think she’s very talented.

Here some samples of her great work:

Summer of Sam trailer, I couldn’t find any clips on YouTube but you can see her work on this trailer. An underrated gritty drama that should’ve been seen by more people:

Train ride sequence in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A simple sequence but probably very difficult to set up, shooting scenes in a tight spot is never easy. There were many great shots in this film, but I’ve always enjoy watching this scene.

4. Steven H. Burum

Probably the oldest cinematographers on this list, in fact Burum hasn’t been working much since the early 2000s. But I’m sure you’ve seen many of his great work. He’s a constant collaborator of Brian De Palma and some of his famous work were Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire and The War of the Roses.

Here are some of my favorite shots of his work:

The mission gone wrong scene in the first Mission: Impossible. By killing off each of the team members early in the film, fans of the TV show were pretty shocked by it. The way this sequence was shot was quite spectacular. I think this whole film was full of great shots, most people tend to forget that the first Mission film was more of a suspense thriller and didn’t have a lot of action like its sequels. Most of the scenes were shot in tight spaces but Burum was able to make them look cinematic and big in scope.

The climatic foot chase/shoot out in Carlito’s Way. One of the most underrated films of the 90s and this sequence alone is worth the price of admission. Just watch and be awed by it.

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PART 2:

5. Matthew Libatique

Out of the people listed on here, Libatique might be the most well-known cinematographer working today. He’s been working with Darren Aronofsky since the early 90s and has shot all of Aronofsky’s films ever since. Probably his most famous work are his shots in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Inside Man and the recent remake of A Star is Born. I think Libatique is maybe the most generic of all these cinematographers that I’ve listed. It doesn’t mean that he’s done average work, it’s the opposite. I think he really catered to the style of the directors he’s worked with. Some of the clips from his work will show you what I mean. One is a film from Aronofsky and other is a Spike Lee’s film.

Here’s a clip of Aronofsky’s The Fountain:

Here’s Spike Lee’s Inside Man:

If you’re a fan of either Aronofsky or Lee then you can see how Libatique really catered to both of the director’s style.


These cinematographers didn’t quite make the list, but I think they will have have long career in front of them:

  • Rob Hardy
    He’s a constant collaborator with Alex Garland and has shot all of Garland’s directing projects including Ex Machina, Annihilation and the current TV show DEVS. But Hardy’s biggest success was 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
  • Zoe White
    She’s young and most of her work were short movies. But I think her work will get more recognition in the upcoming years. She’s already shot several episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and the recent episode of Westworld. Let’s hope some directors will hire her to shoot their upcoming films soon.

  • Hoyte Van Hoytema
    He’s young and has shot some of the biggest event films in the last few years. He’s also working with the most popular director right now, Chris Nolan. Pretty sure you’ve seen his work in Interstellar, Dunkirk, Spectre, Her and Ad Astra. His next film is Nolan’s Tenet.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


So, those are some of the best cinematographers working in Hollywood today. Did I miss any of your favorites? If so, please name them in the comment section.

FlixChatter Review – 1917 (2020)

When I heard that Sam Mendes, the Oscar winning director of American Beauty and one of my favorite “James Bond” films, Skyfall, was releasing a World War I film, I was beyond intrigued. Centered around the spring of 1917 during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich, Mendes wanted to incorporate a story his grandfather Alfred Mendes told him about a messenger and his heroic task during the war. The film, appropriately titled 1917, is takes place on the front lines in northern France, as the British 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment is planning to mount an attack on the retreating German forces. The Germans have mounted a retreat to the Hindenburg Line, but are planning to ambush the 2nd Battalion, a company battalion of 1,600 men, in hopes of catching the British forces by surprise.

Colin Firth in 1917

The movie opens on two young British soldiers, Lance Corporal William Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) napping underneath a tree at the edge of the British trenches in northern France. Suddenly, Lance Corporal Blake is awaked by his commanding officer, telling him to pick a partner and report for further instructions from British General Erinmore (Colin Firth). General Erinmore tasks the two Lance Corporals to deliver a message to halt a British force of the 2nd Battalion before they walk into a trap laid by the German army. The General informs Blake and Schofield that among the 1,600 men of the 2nd Battalion is also Blake’s own brother, Lieutenant Joseph Blake (Richard Madden), and that they must to do the impossible: cross over No Man’s Land, evade enemy forces, and stay alive long enough to deliver a message to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) at the front line that his 2nd Battalion is walking into a trap, set by the German Army.

Dean-Charles Chapman + George MacKay

After Blake and Schofield cross into No Man’s Land, with some careful instruction from a Lieutenant Leslie (Andrew Scott), they reach the original German front, finding the trenches abandoned. Their worst feelings come true, as they find that the abandoned trenches turn out to be booby-trapped by the Germans in hopes of killing as many British soldiers as possible. Thanks to some (extremely large) rats who set off one of the booby-traps, the ensuing explosion almost kills Schofield. Thankfully, Blake is there to help Schofield out and they manage to run out of the collapsing bunkers just in time. Having to take shelter in ruined buildings, and sidestepping over unseen obstacles, Blake and Schofield arrive at an abandoned farmhouse and witness a dogfight between British and German planes nearby. SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) – As a German pilot is shot down and crash lands near them, Blake and Schofield try to rescue the pilot from the burning wreckage, but the German soldier turns his knife on Blake and mortally wounds him.

As Schofield is now tasked to deliver the message to Colonel Mackenzie alone, he is picked up by a passing British contingent and dropped off near the bombed-out village of Écoust-Saint-Mein. Dodging snipers and climbing over collapsed bridges, Schofield is injured and gets knocked out by a ricocheting bullet. As he wakes up hours later, it is nightfall and Schofield tries to navigate the bombed out and collapsed buildings of Écoust-Saint-Mein, as the German soldiers set fire to large building, creating a giant blaze in the middle of the night and helping Schofield light the way around the town. Unfortunately, he also becomes the target of numerous German snipers, managing to evade them before he finds shelter in an abandoned basement, where he stumbles into the hiding place of a French woman and an infant. He leaves them some canned food and milk he had found at the abandoned farmhouse that he and Blake had found.

Bound by completing his mission, Schofield leaves the woman and infant, but not before learning that the place he is looking for is just down river from the village he was in. He runs past more German soldiers and snipers, and ends up jumping into the river, going over a waterfall and finding more dead bodies of soldiers from both sides. In the morning, he comes across a part of the British 2nd Battalion, as they wait and prepare to go into battle.

From them, he learns that they are actually a part of the second wave, and that while attack has already begun and Blake’s brother is among the first wave to go over the top, he still has time to reach Colonel Mackenzie before it’s too late. He sprints across the trenches and actually climbs onto the battlefield to reach Colonel Mackenzie, who is at first reluctant to call off the attack, but ends up relenting and follows General Erinmore and British Command’s instructions. Schofield is left to find Lieutenant Joseph Blake, SPOILER (highlight to read): and to inform him of his brother’s death. Lieutenant Blake thanks Schofield for his efforts and leaves Schofield to sit by a tree, finally able to rest after successfully completing his mission.

 

For 1917, Mendes collaborates again with award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, award-winning composer Thomas Newman and co-wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Mendes and Deakins decided to shoot the movie as one long take, without cutting between scenes. Since it’s told from the point of view of Blake and Schofield, Mendes and Deakins rely on lead actors George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman to take the audience from the trenches, to the battlefields and abandoned farmhouses and other building. Both MacKay and Chapman tackle this challenge with much success, but it is really MacKay that makes the emotional connection needed to make his character relatable yet resilient. Chapman plays on the youth and inexperience of Lance Corporal Blake to make it seem like he needs Lance Corporal Schofield to succeed.

Even though we don’t see much of Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden or Colin Firth, they each fulfill their roles to advance the plot line and bring the notion of familiarity and comfort to the audience, who has been carrying along with the two relatively-unknown lead actors. Not knowing the fates of the two lead British soldiers was a clever tactic used by Mendes, and losing one or both soldiers in battle would not be as big of a setback to the viewers if their message would somehow end up reaching its destination. Had Mendes cast household recognizable actors in those roles, it would have been much harder for the story to develop in the direction that it did. Thomas Newman’s score is also very memorable and fits perfectly into the wartime arc of the movie.

This is one my top-10 movies of the year and I’d be surprised if it didn’t get nominated for multiple Academy Awards. It just won the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama this past Sunday, and Sam Mendes won the Golden Globe for Best Director. I’d also like to see nominations for Thomas Newman’s score, Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ screenplay and perhaps most of all, Roger Deakins’ cinematography.

This is a deeply memorable film that will be remembered as one of the best World War I movies of all time, and it ranks as perhaps one of the best war movies ever made. It is not to be missed, especially in an IMAX theater and I give it my wholehearted, unabridged endorsement.

– Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen 1917? Well, what did you think? 

BEST OF THE DECADE LIST: 20 Best Shots of the 2010s

Happy first weekend of the New Year, folks!

Everyone loves lists right, and since we’re entering a new decade, it’s a great excuse to make loads and loads of lists 😀 I’ll be working on various Best of the Decade throughout the year, and I thought I’d start with cinematography since Brittani just listed her 10 top best of 2018 over at Rambling Film blog (hey it’s also her blog 10th anniversary so head over and wish her a blog anniversary!)

I chose these images based on instinct… the one I think is the most indelible and leaves a lasting impression, as a film likely has a bunch of beautiful visuals (esp. those shot by the legend Roger Deakins!) Most of these films have the best cinematography of the decade, but I consider these images iconic in that people would likely know right away where it’s from. Now, it’s tough to whittle it down to just 10 and as we’re entering the [roaring] 20s, there’ll be plenty of Top 20s list this year.

So without further ado, here are my picks in the order of the film’s year of release:

Inception (2010) 

DoP: Wally Pfister

Life of Pi (2012)

DoP: Claudio Miranda

Skyfall (2012)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Gravity (2013)

DoP: Emmanuel Lubezki

Ex Machina (2014) – dance

DoP: Rob Hardy

The Assassin (2015)

DoP: Mark Lee Ping-bing

Sicario (2015)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

DoP: Robert Elswit

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

DoP: John Seale

La La Land (2016)

DoP: Linus Sandgren

Moonlight (2016) 

DoP: James Laxton

Rogue One (2016)

DoP: Greig Fraser

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Dunkirk (2017)

DoP: Hoyte van Hoytema

Shape of Water (2017)

DoP: Dan Laustsen

Cold War (2018)

DoP: Łukasz Żal

Black Panther (2018) 

DoP: Rachel Morrison

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

A Hidden Life (2019)

DoP: Jörg Widmer

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) 

DoP: Dan Laustsen


Hope you enjoy my list. Now it’s your turn, what’s some of your favorite shots of the past decade?

BLADE RUNNER 2049 review

I’ve seen the original Blade Runner countless times, I’ve bought the movie on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Bluray and recently 4K Bluray Disc. So yes, I’m obsessed with it and to say that this sequel is my most anticipated movie of the year is an understatement. Back in the early 90s, Ridley Scott was rumored to have pitched a sequel idea to the studio folks but he couldn’t get it off the ground mostly because he’s been churning out box office duds at the time. Now finally we get to see a sequel to one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time.

Set 30 years after the event of the first film, LA is still a hellhole with constant rain and cloud looming over the city. Many of its citizens are now filled with new breeds of replicants and Blade Runners are still active and hunts down the older models of replicants who are considered illegals. As the movie opens, one of the Blade Runners K (Ryan Gosling) has found his target, a replicant by the name of Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). Morton is living outside of the city and wants to be left alone but since he’s illegal, K was forced to retire him. After surveying Morton’s place, K found out about something that could put society into chaos. He informed his boss, Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) and she ordered him to find out everything he can and get rid of any evident so no one can know about what he’d found.

Unfortunately for K and his boss, the city’s new replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) knew what K has discovered and he order his right-hand woman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to shadow K’s every move. As K digs deeper, it leads him to an old Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) who’s now living in an isolated location way out of the city. I think that’s all I can say about the story of this film, it’s got some good surprises and fans of the original film will be very pleased with the final results.

Dennis Villeneuve has created a world that’s similar to Scott’s vision but he enhanced it with his own style. Clocking in at around 2 hours and 40 minutes long, it’s a bit too long but Villeneuve did an amazing job of setting the mood and reveal the surprises as the story progresses. Roger Deakins should finally win an Oscar for this film, it’s one of the best-looking films ever made, you need to see it on the biggest screen you can find. His lighting and shot of each sequence is drop dead gorgeous. The script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green is pretty good, they introduced some new ideas and I thought the story is much better than the original film. Although, I’m not exactly sure what kind of “message” they’re trying to say in this film. The score my Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is excellent, they incorporated Vangelis’ score from the first film and then introduced some new one for this film.

I’m not the biggest fan of Gosling and was a bit skeptical when he’s cast as the lead in this film but I thought he’s pretty good here. His character is kind of mystery and we audience follow his quest to find out who he really is and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I don’t want to give out any information about his character but Gosling’s one note performance fits this character. Even though he’s only in the film for less than an hour, Ford gave a pretty emotional performance as Deckard, let’s just say he finally got some closure.

Leto didn’t really stand out that much, he’s hardly in the film and whenever he appears, he seems to be doing the typical villain who thinks of himself as some kind of God. Hoeks gave a pretty intense performance as the ruthless killer who’ll do anything to please her boss. Robin Wright who seems to be in a lot big movies these days, kind of gave an over-the-top performance as the tough police boss, again her role’s very small and didn’t make much impression on me. The only person who was on the screen as much as Gosling was Ana de Armas, she’s his “girlfriend” and I thought she did a decent job of playing the worried girlfriend/supporter of the hero.

This is a film that would probably divide some audiences, just like the first one did. It’s not action-packed as it’s advertised, pretty much all of the action scenes were shown in the trailers. I do recommend that you see the original film before going to see this one and if you’ve seen it but don’t remember much about the first film then you might get confused a little bit. My recommendation is to watch the original again before seeing this one.

With jaw dropping visual effects, tight direction and some good performances, this is one of my favorite films I’ve seen this year. I’m not going to call it a masterpiece like some critics did but it’s a great film and I’m planning to see it again a couple of more times. If there’s an IMAX or Dolby Cinema theater near you, go see it there.

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So have you seen BLADE RUNNER 2049? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: SICARIO (2015)

SicarioPoster

Director Denis Villeneuve loves to make films about dark subjects, in his latest one he decides to tackle the dark world of war on drugs here in United States.

After a raid that’s gone terribly wrong on a home that belongs to a very powerful drug cartel, young FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) decides to volunteer to be part of a secret mission that’s being lead by a mysterious agent named Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). She’s on a need-to-know basis on this mission, she also meets another mysterious agent named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro); who tells her that they’re going to find the biggest drug dealer in the world and take him down. Their first task was to transfer a prisoner from Mexico back to the States but some thugs decided to attempt the break the prisoner free.

Sicario_Cast

This lead to a shootout that killed all of the thugs in the middle of the highway and Macer was not too happy about it. She’s a by the book type of an agent and thought what happened during the shootout was illegal. But both Graver and Alejandro told her this is how it’s done in the real world and she has to deal with it. As the movie progresses, Macer starts to wonder if she’s in over her head and not sure if she could trust either of the men she thought had her back.

Sicario_EmilyBlunt

I can’t say that I’m a fan of Emily Blunt since I haven’t seen many of her work. But she’s very good here as the ambitious young agent who thinks she can make a difference. Basically she represents us the audience, she’s seeing this ugly world of drug war for the first time, there are no rules and innocent people gets kill in the middle of it. Brolin is his usual self; he’s a mysterious character that you don’t really know which side he’s on. Del Toro on the other hand, really shines in this movie. His character is a cross between James Bond and Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. He’s a cold blooded killer that can’t stop, but there’s a reason behind his madness.

Sicario_Benicio

Director Denis Villeneuve did a great job of setting up the tension of every intense scenes but chose not to show the graphic violence you’d expect in this kind of film. The script by Taylor Sheridan is very well-written and full of twists and turns. For example, there’s a potential love story that I thought would derail the movie but then it turned ugly real fast. You think you figured something out, but he threw a curve ball at you.

Last but certainly not least is Roger Deakins‘ excellent cinematography, just like his other famous work, the shots in this film were all jaw dropping. There were a lot of wide shots of landscape and city that you have to see on the big screen to appreciate his beautiful work; maybe the Oscar voters will finally give him the golden statue this year.

With great performances, tight direction, well-written script and superlative cinematography, this is one of the year’s best films and I can’t wait to see it again. It’s very highly recommended.

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TedS_post


So have you seen SICARIO? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: PRISONERS

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Prisoners_bnr

When I first saw the trailer of Prisoners, I thought it looked like a made for TV movie that you’d see on TNT or some cable network. So I didn’t really have much interest in seeing it on the big screen, well after reading several high praised reviews online, I changed my mind.

The movie starts out with hunting trip between a father Keller and his son, Keller and Ralph Dover (played by Hugh Jackman and Dylan Minnette respectively). They caught a deer and drove home, during the ride back, Dover gave a speech to his son about survival of the fittest and such. Basically the filmmakers wanted us to know that this is a tough guy who worked very hard for everything he has gotten in his life and for his family. Also, he’s God fearing, a true patriot and a bit of a paranoia. Later, his whole family, including his wife Grace (Maria Bello) and young daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) walked over to their friends and neighbors’ home for a Thanksgiving dinner. Here we’re introduced to their friends Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Voila Davis), they too have two young kids.

While the parents were prepping dinner, the kids went outside and walked around the neighborhood. They came upon a suspicious looking RV, the two young girls wanted to play with it but the older kids told them not to go near it since they heard someone’s voice inside. Later after dinner, the two young girls wanted to go back to the Dovers’ home and pick up a toy, their parents told them they need to get the older kids to walk back with them. The girls said yes and left the room. Minutes later the parents couldn’t find their young ones and went down to the basement to ask the older kids where their sisters are? They said they haven’t seen them since dinner. Of course everyone got panicked and eventually they called the police.

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We then were introduced to Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who’s having dinner alone at a Chinese restaurant and tried unsuccessfully to hit on the waitress there. He got a call from his boss about the missing girls and was told about the RV. The police patrol men were able to find the RV and Loki arrived at the location and arrest the driver, a simple minded looking young man Alex Jones, played wonderfully by Paul Dano. Loki questioned Jones for hours but he refuses to tell him anything. Also, the forensic team couldn’t find any traces of the girls in Jones’ RV. So of course without any evidence to keep him, the police eventually have to let him go free. Dover heard the news that the police was going to let Jones go and decided to confront Jones while he’s leaving the police station with his aunt Holly (Melissa Leo). Upon the confrontation Jones mumbled something to Dover and he’s convinced that Jones is the person who took his daughter and her friend. I think people already know what happens after that since the trailer pretty much gave it away, so I won’t go much deeper into the plot. And to be clear, I’ve only described the first 30 minutes of the film, it’s two and a half hours long, I think you should go see it with as little knowledge as possible.

I mentioned earlier that the movie feels like a made for TV movie and I still believe that it is. But since it’s made for the big screen, the scope is much larger and with the great cinematographer Roger Deakins behind the cameras, the movie looks great. Deakins was able to the capture the dark and gritty feel that fits the tone of the movie. He was able to somehow made the usual boring American suburb neighborhood into a very creepy place, kind of reminded me of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Kudos also goes to Denis Villeneuve‘s direction, I’ve never seen any of his other films until this one and he did a good job of creating tensions and excitement. There were talks about how dark and violent the movie was, well I didn’t think it was that bad. Yes there were some intense moments but they didn’t show much, which is good. I thought it’s pretty tame compare to some other films in this genre, such Se7en or Silence of the Lambs.

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As for the script, it’s the usual by-the-book whodunit thriller and if you’re paying attention, you’ll able to figure who did it early on, but you’ll still enjoy the ride even though you won’t be surprise by it. There’s no M. Night’s “twist” ending here if you’re expecting that kind of thing.

Despite it being promoted it as a Hugh Jackman‘s vehicle, the main the protagonist’s actually Jake Gyllenhaal‘s character. I thought Gyllenhaal was serviceable as the lead detective but somehow I can’t buy him playing that role. I think I would prefer maybe an older or some not-so-well-known actor playing this role. Same goes with Jackman’s character, he really poured his heart and soul into the role but I still kept thinking of him as The Wolverine every time he got angry. When he started screaming, I expected to see those claws to come out. Again, maybe with a less-known actor who hasn’t played a superhero, he might work better as the hard working all-American suburban dad. As for the supporting cast members, Howard and Davis got their fair shares of screen time and they did a good job with their respective roles. Maria Bello unfortunately was relegated to just being the worried mother and didn’t have much to do. I thought Paul Dano was excellent as the main suspect, he didn’t have many lines in the movie but what he did with his eyes and body fit quite well of the kind of perverts and child molesters you see on TV.

My biggest gripe with the movie is the running time. I know they wanted to give all the famous actors some screen time but at two-and-a-half hours long, that’s way too much for this kind of movie. They could’ve cut out a couple of unnecessary scenes and made the movie a bit tighter. Despite the long run-time and the miscasting of the main leads, I still thought the movie was a very good suspense thriller. If you enjoyed movies like Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone or Zodiac, then I’m pretty sure you’ll like this one.

Just a warning for parents out there, you might not want to take your young kids to see it, they might get nightmares. At the screening I went, some parents brought their kids to the movie, I just went “WTF!”, did they think it’s a kind of movie their children would enjoy!? Seriously, what the heck is wrong with some of these parents?

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


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What are your thoughts of this film? Let’s hear it!