FlixChatter Review: ENOLA HOLMES (2020)


When I first saw the name of this film, I didn’t think right away that it’s somehow connected to Sherlock Holmes. Well, the trailer sure revealed she is indeed the teen sister of that famous literary sleuth. Apparently it’s also based on a book series by Nancy Springer called The Enola Holmes Mysteries.

Well, let’s just say the cast for the role of Enola is spot on! Millie Bobby Brown, who at 16 is exactly the age of the character she’s playing (at least by the time of its release) is the kind of smart, spunky heroine that can carry a movie on her own able shoulders. Even with co-stars such as Helena Bonham Carter as her mom, Henry Cavill as Sherlock and Sam Claflin as Mycroft, Millie is the one who commands attention and I was immediately invested in her journey.

The movie shows young Enola (Sofia Stavrinou) who grows up with her mother Eudoria in an English cottage as her two older brothers are off studying abroad. Naturally the two are close and Eudoria practically teaches her gifted daughter everything she knows, from literature, art, physics, to martial arts. With a mother who’s also her best friend, things are rosy for Enola… until one day, her mother goes missing.

Now, as someone who actually lost a mother at the exact age of 16 (actually my mother passed on my sixteenth birthday), the film resonates with me in a strong way. In fact, I remember tearing up a bit as Enola is in distress when she can’t find her mother. Naturally, Enola isn’t going to be in mourning for long, her mother didn’t raise her to simply wallop in self pity.

Soon she summons her older brothers, and the meet-up by the train station is quite amusing as neither of the brothers recognize her. Granted she was just a baby when they went away. I love that the movie emphasizes the sleuthing aspect in a fun way, and I cheer every time Enola figures out a clue left by her mother. The playful way of Harry Bradbeer‘s direction, where Enola often breaks the fourth wall and address the viewers, made for a fun, entertaining family movie. Though there are certain intense fighting moments, this is a safe movie to watch with the whole family, especially young girls, given the uplifting message of female empowerment.

I don’t want to give too much away with the plot, but given election time is near in the US, the film’s message is perfectly-timed. Yet it doesn’t feel preachy, but comes organically as Enola discovers more revelations about her mother’s disappearance. Along her journey, she encounters a mysterious young Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who somewhat distracts her from her mission to find her mom. But the one person I find the most memorable, and also essential in Enola’s personal growth, is when she meets Edith (Susan Wokoma) at a martial art class.

If you want to stay in London, be tough… be tough! Live the life. But don’t do it because you’re looking for someone. Do it because you’re looking for yourself. – Edith

Wokoma sure has some of the feminist-friendly quotes in the film. Upon meeting Sherlock himself, she astutely points out this observation…“Politics doesn’t interest you because you have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well.” Touchè!

I wish there were more interactions between Millie and Bonham-Carter, but certainly, the few times they do meet feels quite special. Much has been made about Cavill’s softer, more emotional portrayal of Sherlock (Netflix was sued by the Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate for this exact reason). I actually laughed when I read that. Yes, Cavill’s Sherlock portrayal is certainly ‘nicer’ here, but compared to Claflin’s callous and overbearing Mycroft, naturally he seems far more sympathetic. I was actually more distracted by Cavill’s ginormous torso that threatens to bust out of that form-fitting Tweed suit. Sorry but I prefer skinnier/leaner Cavill before he bulked up as Superman. His acting skills is pretty average that his Sherlock isn’t really anything special (nowhere near as fun as Benedict Cumberbatch’s version). It’s no hyperbole to say that Enola doesn’t just outwits her highly-educated older brothers, but Millie also runs circles around those two actors effortlessly. But Claflin at least manages to act and portray a character quite different from his usual roles. Oh and despite playing Cavill’s older brother, Claflin is actually 3 years younger than him.

There is as much battle of wits and actual physical battle here, especially for Millie. There are at least two really intense fights between her and Burn Gorman who plays a hired assassin. Given Millie is also a producer in this movie, she must have wanted to do more action-y roles. It’s quite a feat to watch her fight not only a much older man + a skilled fighter, but she does it in a Victorian dress! I recognize that one of the locations used in the final action scene, also involving Frances de la Tour as the Dowager, which is the Hatfield House. I immediately remember the Armoury’s black and white checkered floor as it’s also used in various movies, most recently Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I thoroughly enjoy this movie and as I mentioned before, Millie’s portrayal is definitely a huge factor. I love that she fully embraces her fearless spirit, but her rebellious nature isn’t simply to get attention, but it’s part of who she is. Yet she’s also not heartless, and I appreciate certain moments where she gets emotional. Now, I am glad the movie resists a full-on romance between her and Tewkesbury, while there’s obviously a hint of a crush between the two attractive teens. It’s definitely a beautiful movie for the senses, thanks to cinematography by Giles Nuttgens and music by Daniel Pemberton. The witty script by Jack Thorne and Bradbeer’s energetic direction sure makes for a delightful adaptation. I don’t even mind seeing more of Enola Holmes’ adventures!

4.5/5 stars


Have you seen ENOLA HOLMES? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Charlie’s Angels (2019)

I have to admit I hadn’t paid attention to the movie adaptations of Charlie’s Angels, though I did enjoy the original tv series. There’s no particular reason why, I just was never enticed by it. But when they announced Kristen Stewart as one of the Angels, as well as Naomi Scott who I like as Princess Jasmine in Aladdin, plus Elizabeth Banks directing, my interest was piqued.

It was quite fun watching Kristen Stewart in an action movie, having seen her in mostly smaller/indie features like Clouds of Sils Maria, Certain Women and Personal Shopper. The opening sequence opened with her being a seductive bombshell (in a blond wig) in a sequence in Rio with international smuggler Chris Pang (Crazy Rich Asians). The mission was led by senior operative John Bosley (a code name for top leader, equal to a lieutenant, in this detective agency), played by Patrick Stewart, who we later learn is retiring.

Similar to a Bond flick, the film moves from one glamorous city to another. From Rio, they’re off to Hamburg on a mission involving a tech company that’s about to release a energy-saving device called Callisto. One of its programmers, Elena (Naomi Scott) figured out that Callisto’s flaw can be deadly, as it can be weaponized and potentially be sold to criminal organizations. Of course, given Elena is a woman (an attractive one at that), her boss undermines her and ignores her request to report her findings to the company’s founder Mr. Brock (Sam Claflin). The ‘me too’ references isn’t exactly subtle in this one, but I guess it’s to be expected in a movie that celebrates female bad-assery and girl power.

This is the first time I saw a movie that Elizabeth Banks directed (whose debut Pitch Perfect 2 was pretty well-received), and color me impressed. Apparently Banks also wrote the screenplay, based on the story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn. I gotta say the action sequences are a lot of fun to watch–it’s dynamic, energetic and quick on its feet. I especially enjoy the chase sequence in Callisto headquarter in a Hamburg skyscraper in which the Angels manages to outwit a team of [male] security guards in a whimsical fashion. Banks infuses the sequences with lighthearted humor and most importantly, lively camaraderie from her cast. It’s all about sisterhood and learning to work together as a team, and the three Angels have a nice chemistry.

I think the casting of Stewart as Sabina with two relative newcomers Naomi Scott (Elena) and Ella Balinska (Jane) work well here. I enjoy seeing the lighter, even comical side of Stewart who seems to have a blast making this movie. Balinska is easily the most physically imposing of the three, while Scott makes the most of her often-baffled role who takes a bit of time adjusting to life in the fast lane with the Angels. I like that the film shows that on top of their sheer intelligence and formidable physical prowess, these Angels are ‘just like us’ in that they want to feel supported and loved, which is what the team does to each other. While the Bond flicks have gadget guru Q, the Angels have a ‘healer’ appropriately named Saint (Luis Gerardo Méndez) because no matter how much heavy artillery one has, it’s useless if you’re not in a proper mental state. Unlike the Mission Impossible series that pretty much puts Tom Cruise front and center, I like that Charlie’s Angels franchise is all about teamwork and collaboration.

While the movie has plenty of fun moments, sadly it’s also riddled with clichés and lacking any character development. The main plot is far from original, and the intrigue (if you can call it that) lacks any real suspense. Most of the guys in this movie is also reduced to three basic types: dumb/clueless, evil criminal or cute nerdy type (hello Internet Boyfriend Noah Centineo), as if women can only be strong in a world where all the guys are pathetic. Oh, I also think the henchmen Hodak (Jonathan Tucker) looks like a poor imitation of Robert Patrick (as it T-1000, still the scariest villain in all of the Terminator franchise). I think my biggest issue is with the twist in the third act. I’m not going to elaborate for fear of spoiler, but let’s just say it’s so incredulous, eye-rolling stuff that I blame it on lazy writing. A good story doesn’t always need a twist, especially when the ‘surprise’ isn’t all that clever.

That said, the movie does have its moments and is well worth seeing for the main cast alone (most notably Stewart). It sure looks gorgeous, boasted by excellent cinematography by Bill Pope (who shot The Matrix), slick production design, and fun action sequences/car chases designed for pure escapism. So yeah, despite its flaws, I still wish it did better at the box office (at the time of this posting, it bombed with a disappointing $8.6 million debut). It’s true that nobody wanted this reboot, but to be fair, there are plenty more male-oriented franchises that went on forever. The movie was sort of set up for a sequel, and I’d be willing to see it, but I doubt that would be happening.

– Review by Ruth Maramis


Have you seen Charlie’s Angels? I’d love to hear what you think.

FlixChatter Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Hi everyone! We’ve got another review from FlixChatter’s newest contributor Ashley Steiner. Check out her bio if you haven’t already.

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To make a long story short, I loved it! Wired.com is calling The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the The Dark Knight of young adult films. Let me liken it in a different way. Catching Fire is to The Hunger Games as Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2 were to the Harry Potter films. This is the point in the series were the themes, actions and motivations of the characters make the “young” in young adult, disappear. Gone are the poignant heartfelt scenes (e.g. Katniss singing Prim to sleep after a nightmare, Katniss volunteering in Prim’s stead and Katniss’ reaction to Rue’s death). This film means business. It’s darker, grittier, and meatier.

Now that Jennifer Lawrence is an Academy Award winning actress, I had my reservations about how her performance would live up to her newly acquired title. I wasn’t disappointed. She greatly improved upon her character from the first film and really dug deep to pull off the tortured, traumatized and, quite frankly, pissed off character that is Katniss Everdeen.

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The film gave a respectful nod to the world Gary Ross built in The Hunger Games; however, new director Francis Lawrence wasn’t afraid to bring his own interpretation—and it paid off. I think fans of the series will sleep better knowing Lawrence (director) will be returning to finish his work for the remaining two films. It’s truly regrettable they couldn’t secure him from the start.

 One of the biggest critiques from Ross’ direction was the lack of a love story between Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Plus, let’s not forget the not-so-wise shaky camera syndrome. I agree wholeheartedly. I’ll admit; I’m Team Peeta, but watching their chemistry, or lack thereof, unfold in the first film was a joke. Ross didn’t help Lawrence and Hutchinson foster enough of a relationship for the audience to even understand there was an internal struggle for whom Katniss should love. That’s not the case in Catching Fire. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) definitely gets a run for his money! Attaboy, Peeta!

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I understand the director’s choice to be cognizant of children killing children, but the novel already laid out all of the horror this entails. Out of the dark, darker and darkest themes from the novel, it just seemed Ross was afraid to really show the inhumane corruption of the government, and, instead, chose to focus on the themes of poverty, hunger and deprivation. To be fair, his tributes were all noticeably much younger children; whereas, in Catching Fire, we are dealing with previous victors, that are mature adults (some well into their 60s), with the exception of Katniss and Peeta.

I could tell the other audience members had a great respect for Lawrence’s (director) choices as well. There were no, “That wasn’t in the book!” shrieks from 15-year-old girls, or squeals whenever Gale (Liam Hemsworth) came on screen. People were watching this movie with such anticipation and anxiety, almost as if they were watching a stand-alone non young adult film. There was drama, intrigue and perfectly timed comic relief. However, once in the arena, it was almost hard to catch your breath after repeatedly getting hit over the head with roadblocks and new psychological challenges.

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Now let’s talk about the brilliant editions to the already rock star cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Jena Malone (Johanna Mason), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), and Sam Clafin (Finnick Odair). The first film primarily cast no-name actors—and it worked. However, this film covers significantly darker subject matter, and I’m not sure that’s something inexperienced actors can pull off in a film of this magnitude. Nonetheless, this cast was amazing! A special shout-out to Jena Malone, who, if she’s anything like her character, needs some serious mental help.

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Jenna Malone as Johanna Mason, Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, Donald Sutherland as President Snow & Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee

While we were introduced to the bizarre and frightening world of the Capitol in the first film (e.g. crazy neon hair, skin mutations, out-of-this-world makeup, and Oompa loompa-ish costumes) the makeup and costume designers went above and beyond. Katniss’ hair was purposely darker (almost jet black) and her makeup was more bold and daring to match the darker themes of the film. It was almost as if you were watching a fashion show of nightmares.

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Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci are back as Effie Trinket and Caesar Flickerman

All in all, Francis Lawrence and the cast really hit this one out of the park. I encourage you to see the film—even if you aren’t a HG fan. I’m already planning when I can see this again.

four and a half stars out of five
4.5 out of 5 reels

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So folks, did you see this movie? Would love to hear what you think!

Weekend Roundup: Snow White and the Huntsman review

Hope your first June weekend was a good one, folks. I finally made my way to the cinema since The Avengers a month ago. That movie is still box office gold as it still place third this weekend with over $20 mil, so it’s overall worldwide gross now stands at 1.3 Billion, wow, hulk smash all right! The reigning champion is Snow White and the Huntsman which beats expectation with $56 mil, which actually beats the Universal studio’s expectations.

I was quite looking forward to this movie because of Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth’s casting, and the trailer was pretty impressive. Well, did it live up to my expectations? Read on…

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN

With TWO Snow White movies released within the same year, this one promises to be the grittier and perhaps takes the most liberties with its ‘re-imagined’ version of the fairy tale. Well, one thing for sure this one offers more twists than the curliest branch in its mythical dark forest.

The first part of the ‘origins’ story starts off promisingly. It opens with a beautiful shot of Snow White’s kingdom in the Winter time, and where her beauty and her name comes from. She seems to have merry childhood with his valiant father and beautiful, kindhearted mother. But soon tragedy strikes with the death of her mother and her father being drawn into a peculiar battle, followed by a hasty marriage to an equally mysterious beautiful blond named Ravenna in the form of Charlize Theron.

Unlike in the Disney animated feature, we get somewhat of a back-story of how the evil queen becomes obsessed with her looks and why she is so threatened by Snow White, whom she locks in a dark tower until she reaches adulthood. To her chagrin, her inept brother somehow lets her get away as he’s about to retrieve her for Ravenna. How the frail-looking princess is able to outrun Ravenna’s army is perplexing, but I chug it out to this being a ‘fairy tale’ after all, so anything is possible, ehm.

With the help of a pair of little birds and a white horse conveniently waiting for her to aid her escape, Snow White manages to outrun the evil horsemen riding bareback into the dark forest. Impressive indeed! Good thing she’s got some rugged boots under her dress though, instead of some flimsy slippers like Cinderella’s, as those come quite handy in the muddy and damp environment she now finds herself in. I have to admit I was quite spooked by the scene where Snow White is haunted by visions of a terrifying forest in the animated feature, but it’s nothing compared to the horror our heroine is facing here.

To make matters worse, now Ravenna has hired a Huntsman to track her down. Despite all her powers, she doesn’t seem to have any power in the dark forest, and we’re left to our imaginations as to why that’s so. The Huntsman is no other than Thor, er I mean Chris Hemsworth, who’s now lived as a mischievous drunkard following his wife’s death. But the evil queen gives him an offer he can’t refuse so off he goes to retrieve Snow White. The movie is true to its title in that the seven dwarfs take a backseat to the Huntsman as the protector and mentor of the princess. The movie even hints at something more perhaps, as Prince Charming (Sam Claflin), despite his Legolas-like archery skills, is not given much to do in the entire movie.

Before I get to the um, shortcomings, I have to hand it to newbie director Rupert Sanders [so new he doesn’t even have a bio on IMDb yet!] for making a visually-arresting spectacle. The cinematography is beautiful, offering a stark contrast between a dark and eerie mythical world and that of a bright, enchanting realm where the fairies live. The costumes are spectacular, especially those worn with such exquisite grace by Theron. No surprise as the costume design is done by triple Oscar-winner Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland, Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago).

But looks alone doesn’t make a movie. And the pretty scenery can’t possibly makes up for the terribly uneven pacing, uninspired acting and gaping plot holes all around, and I’m already setting aside the fact that Ravenna already IS fairer than Snow White! There are too many unexplained circumstances but the biggest one involves a magical white deer with tree branches as antlers. That scene itself is breathtaking to behold and for a while I was quite engrossed in it. It reminds me of the scene where Lucy meets Aslan in the Narnia movie, except that we’re never told just what that deer represents and its significance to the story [scratch head]

Now, the acting. Theron makes for a fierce villainess but her range is not utilized at all as the script only requires her to be a slithering and conniving beauty. She even looks bored in some scenes, all that scenery-chewing surely gets to be laborious after a while. Hemsworth is much more captivating, his character seems to have more depth compared to the rest (though that’s not saying much), plus the Aussie actor has such strong screen presence and undeniable magnetic charisma. He’s the saving grace in the movie for me, and every time he comes on screen, the movie seems to ‘pick up.’

Can’t say the same thing about Kristen Stewart. In fact, the opposite is true. My husband said that she was mediocre in the beginning of the movie and he’d be ok with it as long as she just stays that way. Alas she seems to progress downward as the movie goes on, and the worse part is when she has to give a rousing speech to a flock of people to fight against the evil queen. Ok, I’d be hard pressed to believe Stewart can inspire a four-people book club, let alone an entire village to take back her country! I mean, suspension of disbelief is a given in any movie, but this is just too much. She’s also not believable as a kindhearted princess that everyone is immediately drawn to, as she comes across cold and standoffish most of the time. I’m even more baffled why Stewart is in such a high demand as she seems to only have two forms of expression, one of nervousness and one of sorrow, that’s it. She alternates between those two no matter what scene she’s in.

Last but not least, it’s really a crime to hire some of the best of British actors to play the dwarfs and not give them hardly anything to do. We’re talking about the likes of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones and Nick Frost, and they’re all practically wasted here. They all seem a surly bunch and there’s no sense of fun other than a couple of wisecracks by Nick Frost.

Final Thoughts: I think if they had cast someone else besides Kristen I’d have been kinder on the movie, but there are some scenes with her that remind me of the Twilight and that’s NOT a good thing at all. At least the visuals keeps it from being a complete waste of time, but I can’t give it a high mark just for that. I’d say my rating is mostly for the visuals, Hemsworth and Theron, in that order 🙂

2.5 out of 5 reels


Have you seen this film? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and the cast, particularly miss Stewart.