FlixChatter Review – INFINITE (2021)

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The last time Mark Wahlberg and director Antoine Fuqua teamed up was for underwhelmed action thriller SHOOTER back in 2007. Now they’re back together and hoping to start a new sci-fi/action adventure for Paramount Pictures.

Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) has been living a tough life, he couldn’t hold a steady job because of his illness. He keeps seeing visions of people in the past that he doesn’t know and was told by doctors that he’s suffer from schizophrenic. Needing medications to calm down his visions, he decided to build a samurai sword for a local drug dealer in exchange for the meds. Unfortunately, the deal went south and Evan was arrested by the cops. While waiting in an interrogation room, a man named Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) came in and starts questioning Evan about his past lives. Not knowing what’s going on and suddenly his life is in danger, came to his rescue is Mora (Sophie Cookson).

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After evading Bathurst and his men, Mora took Evan to a hidden place called The Hub. This is where Evan learns about his past lives and the ongoing war between the two rival groups of reincarnated, the Believers and Nihilists. The Believers wants to preserve lives on earth, while the Nihilists, along with its leader Bathurst, wants to destroy every living thing on this planet. Bathurst wants a dooms day device called The Egg and he believes Evan knows where that device is located. Once Evan learned about his past lives and self-defense skills, he must save the world and take down the baddies.

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The script is written by Ian Shorr and Todd Stein and it is loosely based on a book named The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz. I’ve never heard of the book before, so I don’t know how faithful the script is to the book. Reincarnation has been explored in other films, but I don’t think it’s been incorporated into a big budget action picture until now. While the story is kind of interesting and silly at times, it never tried to be original. The structure of the script is very similar to The Matrix, basically Evan and Mora are Neo and Trinity. Tasked with bringing the script to the screen is director Antoine Fuqua. The film has a sleek production design and globe-trotting locations thanks to its big budget. Although, I thought some of the visual effects looked a bit amateurish. Just like the script, Fuqua didn’t do much to elevate the visual side, for the action scenes, he borrowed a lot of elements from The Matrix, Fast & Furious series and the big showdown between Evan and Bathurst looks very similar to the climactic scene from James Bond: Die Another Day.

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When it comes to performances, Wahlberg was a total miscast here as the lead. His character was supposed to be this fish out of the water type but it’s kind of strange watching a man in his 50s just learning about his “purpose”. Chris Evans was originally cast as the hero but had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Evans probably would’ve been a better choice here. Cookson didn’t do much either as the second lead, I thought her acting was sort of strange, she always had this smirking look on her face in every scene. Dylan O’Brien also has a small supporting role and was featured in the big opening action scene. The only main cast member that looked to have a good time was Ejiofor, whose villainous role was the only best thing in the film. He stole every scene he’s in and outshone the hero Wahlberg.

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Despite the flaws in this film, I did enjoy it for what it was. A silly action adventure that has some cool and thrilling action scenes. It didn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes this type of genre ,but if you have Paramount + then I think it’s worth a watch. I probably would’ve been mad had I paid like $20 to see it in theater though. 

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

FlixChatter Review – WITHOUT REMORSE (2021)

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The journey of turning Tom Clancy’s WITHOUT REMORSE into a film was a long one. Originally, it was supposed to hit the big screen way back in holidays season of 1995. John McTiernan as attached to direct and Keanu Reeves, hot of the success of SPEED, was offered the lead role. Reeves was reportedly offered a salary of $7-10mil, pretty high for the time but he didn’t want to do back-to-back action pictures and declined the offer. Then Gary Senise, still in high demand because of his role in FORREST GUMP was attached to star as the lead and Lawrence Fishburne also signed on to be the second lead. But the production was shut down because Savoy Pictures, the studio that was producing the film, went bankrupt. In the 2000s, the late director John Singleton tried to revive the project, he was looking to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the lead, but the project never came to fruition. In the 2010s, Christopher McQuarrie was assigned to write and direct with Tom Hardy being eyed as the lead. But again, the project just couldn’t get off the ground.

Now almost 30 years later, Clancy’s second action hero (behind Jack Ryan) is finally getting his own film.

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A group of Navy SEALS is Syria trying to rescue an American prisoner, one of the SEALS named John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) feels there’s something fishy going on. He thinks that CIA operative John Ritter (Jamie Bell) is hiding something from his team. The only person that’s on his side is SEAL’s leader Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). Despite his protests, the team did rescue the prisoner, but it turned out the bad guys weren’t Syrians but a bunch of Russians. Kelly wanted to know what’s really going on, but Ritter basically told him it’s out of his pay grade. A few months after the rescue mission, members of Kelly’s SEAL team were assassinated.  When the assassins came to kill Kelly, he was able fend them off but not before his pregnant wife was killed during the attack at his home. Filled rage and vengeance, Kelly is on a mission to find who’s behind the attack that killed his unborn child and wife.

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Loosely based on Tom Clancy’s early 90s novel, the movie has little resemblance to the novel. The only similarity was that Kelly’s wife and unborn child were killed in the beginning of the story and that’s it. The screenplay is credited to Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. By stripping away all of Clancy’s source material, there’s not much that we haven’t seen before in this kind of story. Sheridan even repeats himself here by writing a plot that’s similar to the last SICARIO film. The most sinful thing the writers commit on this script was that they didn’t include a central villain. A good action film needs a good antagonist and here we don’t really find out about the villain until the last 10 minutes of the film. And I’m pretty sure most audiences can figure out who’s really behind the attack on Kelly’s SEAL team. I don’t mind that the writers decided to come up with their own version of this story, but I thought Clancy’s novel could be adapted into a great action thriller. There’s so much material in the novel that’s still relevance in today’s world.

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Director Stefano Sollima, who directed the underwhelmed SICARIO sequel, didn’t really elevate the not-so-exiting script. His style of direction is very mundane and by the number. A story like this need someone that can inject energy into the picture. But Sollima either don’t have that kind of talent or didn’t really care to make this into an exciting action thriller. Even the big action scene was lacking creativity and excitement.

Jordan really poured his heart and soul into this role and he’s great as John Kelly. Unfortunately, his co-stars were miscast. I didn’t believe that a young-looking Jamie Bell is a seasoned CIA operative and Turner-Smith just didn’t look tough enough to be a SEAL leader. I’m glad that her character is not a romantic lead or damsel in distress, and she can take care of herself. Guy Pearce has pretty much played that same sleazy character for the last 10 years or so and again his role as the sleazy politician in this film is no different.

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Clancy’s Without Remorse is one of my favorite novels and I’ve been waiting to see film version for a long time. Despite some good talents involved in this film version, it’s an underwhelming and disappointing adaptation. If the proposed sequel Rainbow Six do happen, I hope they’ll hire a better team of writers and director.

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FlixChatter Review – MORTAL KOMBAT (2021)

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As a teenager back in the 1990s, I was a fan of the video game Mortal Kombat. It was the most popular game in the early 90s, then a film version came out in the summer of 1995 and it was a big success. So much so that the studio fast-tracked a sequel that would come out two years later. Unfortunately, the sequel was so bad and failed at the box office that it killed the film franchise. Now, almost 30 years later a new reboot of the franchise is hitting the big and small screens.

The story kicks off in 17th century Japan, Hanso/Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) is living a quiet life with wife and children. Suddenly, assassins show up and kill his men and family. The man who’s in charge of the attack is Bi-Han/Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). A brutal fight between Hanso and Bi-Han ensued and unfortunately Hanso was not able to defeat Bi-Han. It’s unclear why Hanso and his family were attacked, the filmmakers somehow assumed that people already know their back stories. That’s one of the many mistakes they made for this reboot.

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Fast forward to present day and we’re introduced to a has been fighter named Cole Young (Lewis Tan), he’s in an underground fight and got his butt whooped. While getting dinner with his wife and daughter at a restaurant after the fight, Sub-Zero suddenly showed up and started attacking them. Then Jax (Mehcad Brooks) came to their rescue, he instructed Cole to find Sonya (Jessica McNamee) who has the answer as to why suddenly his family’s life is in danger. Once Cole tracked down Sonya, she informed him that he’s one of the chosen fighters to defend earth from the evil lord named Shang Tsung (Chin Han) who lives in an Outworld and wants to rule our world. Sonya tells Cole that they have to find a hidden temple that house the world’s best fighters that can defend our world from the evil fighters from the Outworld. Cole agreed because he wants to save his family from danger. There’s not much else when it comes to the plot, the rest of the movie is full of bloody fights and special effects.

The screenplay is credited to Greg Russo and Dave Callahan, it’s a not bad script but not good either. By making the story more “grounded” and serious, it just took the fun out of it for me. The original 1995 film wasn’t great but at least it knows that it’s silly world they’ve created and just had fun with it. Here they tried to go all Nolan’s Dark Knight route and just didn’t work for me. Also, I thought there’s way too much fan service. I don’t mind if the filmmakers decided to include things from the source material, but this is a different medium and I expected something better from the creatives that are involved in making a film version. First time director Simon McQuoid moved things along by including brutal and bloody fights that fans of the video game will be happy to see. But narratively, he didn’t do a good job here. The movie also suffered from some very sloppy editing.

There’s not much to say when it comes to the performances. Some were cringeworthy and many were just wooden performances by the actors. The lead hero Cole is one of the weakest heroes I’ve seen in an action film. I don’t think it’s Lewis Tan’s fault since the character was so poorly written. The only stand out performance is Josh Lawson’s Kano, he’ basically the comic relief in an otherwise grim story.

Despite the shortcomings of this reboot, I still enjoyed it and of course the movie ended with tease of more sequels. Many fans of this video game are mostly in their 30s and 40s now, so I think some will enjoy it while many of us who expected more will likely be disappointed with this version. Me personally, I prefer the 1995 film version because it didn’t take itself too seriously and I had a lot of fun with it. I still think that original version is the “best” film based on video game.

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So have you seen MORTAL KOMBAT? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – Judas and The Black Messiah (2021)

The script of the life of Fred Hampton has been floating around Hollywood for many years but it never got made into a film until now. Hampton was one of the leaders of the Black Panthers movement and the youngest of the group back in the 60s and his assassination by the FBI is well known and that’s probably the reason the film of his life has had trouble making it to the screen. Maybe, because of our current political climate we’re living in now, his life story is finally being told, and I think it’s more relevant than ever.

The film starts out with an interview footage of the real Bill O’Neil in 1989 and then flashes back to 1968 when the young O’Neil (LaKeith Standfield) poses as an FBI agent to steal cars from locals in Chicago. One night, his antics got him arrested and while being held in the interrogation room, an actual FBI agent named Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) showed up and offered a chance to turn his life around. Since O’Neil likes to pretend to be someone he’s not, Michell offers him to be a mole for the FBI.

He tells O’Neil that the Black Panthers are terrorist groups, and he’s needs an inside man to be his eyes and ears in order to bring them down. Of course, O’Neil doesn’t have a choice, if he doesn’t take the deal then he goes to prison. He reluctantly accepts the offer and goes undercover and meets Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), a young charismatic leader of the Chicago Black Panthers division. Once O’Neil became part of Hampton’s group, he realized that the Black Panthers aren’t the people that Michell told him about. They’re a group that tries to give a better life to the black community in the rough part of Chicago. But because O’Neil doesn’t want to go to prison, he keeps feeding the FBI information about the Panthers’ activities that eventually led to Hampton’s assassination.

I actually watched a documentary about Hampton’s life a couple of years ago, so I knew the story and while I’m sure some of the events has been alter for dramatic purposes for this film, it’s still pretty accurate account of what happened. The screenplay is written by Will Berson and Shaka King, the latter directed the picture. It’ a well written story and I wish the actual film is longer. At only 2 hours long, I feel there’s so much we don’t know about Hampton and O’Neil and I would have liked to see more of their lives explored in the film. I’ve never seen any of King’s work but I’m very impressed with what he did with this film. The only negative thing I see here is how he depicted the FBI director Hoover (Martin Sheen in poorly prostatic makeup), he’s like a cartoonish Bond villain and I don’t think that’s very accurate.

Performances were excellent. Standfield, who I think looks a lot like a young Dave Chapelle, is very good as the conflicted person who sees the Panthers as a group of peaceful activists who wants to better the lives of black people. But he knows that he can’t back out of a deal he’d made with the FBI. Kaluuya is excellent as Hampton, a passionate man who sees himself as peacemaker but knows what the authority sees him as a threat. Dominique Fishback (who was terrific in Project Power) continues to impress me with her performance, here she plays Hampton’s lover. As mentioned earlier, I wish the film were longer, so we get to see more of their relationship. Plemons is always good, and he’s great here as the father figure to O’Neil. He uses O’Neil to impress his bosses at the FBI and also advances his career. At first, he acted like a friend to O’Neil but when he didn’t get what he wanted, he became a very nasty person who holds a lot of power.

This is probably one of the better films I’ve seen in the early part of 2021, I just wanted it to be a bit longer. I feel it’s too condensed, but it’s very well made with great performances by the lead actors.

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FlixChatter Review – The Midnight Sky (2020)

The success of GRAVITY back in 2013 led Hollywood to fall in love with the sci-fi space adventure genre again. I’m talking about non-Star Wars and Star Trek related films of course. Within the 2010s, there were some great space films such as INTERSTELLAR, THE MARTIAN, AD ASTRA and FIRST MAN. But there were also some clunkers like PASSENGERS, LIFE and THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX. The latest space adventure is THE MIDNIGHT SKY directed by and starred George Clooney.

In the year 2049, a catastrophic event has caused the earth to become inhabitable. A lone scientist named Augustine (Clooney) decided to stay at his post at the Barbeau Observatory in the Arctic Circle while everyone was order evacuate the area before the “event” happened. A few months later, Augustine realized that he might be the only survivor living on earth. He soon learned that a group of explorers on a spaceship called Aether are heading back to the now dangerous earth. He needs get in contact with the ship and tell them to turn around. While on Aether, the crew lead by Captain Adewole (David Oyelowo), Sully (Felicity Jones), Sanchez (Demian Bichir), Maya (Tiffany Boone) and Michell (Kyle Chandler). The crew is worried because they haven’t had any communications from earth in a long time.

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Augustine is unable to communicate with Aether from his current observatory. So he needs to travel to another station that’s more well equipped, but things got complicated when he discovered a child named Iris (Caoilinn Springall) who was left behind during the evacuation. Now the two lone survivors on earth must make a long trip through the freezing temps of the arctic in order to reach another observatory station. The crew on Aether also ran into their own trouble as the trip back to earth was thwarted by some unforeseen dangers.

Based on an excellent novel called GOOD MORNING, MIDNIGHT written by Lily Brooks-Dalton, the screenplay by Mark L. Smith stays pretty close to the source material. Smith did change a couple things up, like the names of the crew of Aether and added some set pieces that didn’t exist in the novel. I loved the novel and appreciated that the filmmakers decided to stay true to the source, but I think this is where I think they should have taken some liberties and change the story to make it more exiting and cinematic. I feel like there’s not much urgency in the story to make people care about the characters’ survival. I get that Clooney wanted to make a slow-paced character study piece, but I don’t think he’s talented enough to pull it off. What worked in the book doesn’t mean it’s going to work on screen. I think a more talented filmmaker like Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Afonso Cauron or David Fincher could’ve turn this into something special.

Even though he fell short on the storytelling part, Clooney and his cinematographer Martin Ruhe shot a beautiful looking film. I’ve said many times before, most of Netflix’s films tends to have that made for home video look to them but with a high budget of over $100mil, Clooney and his crew delivered a stunning looking film. Kudos also goes to composer Alexandre Desplat who composed a very beautiful and haunting score.

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Performances by the actors really saved this film for me. Jones, Oyelowo and the rest of the supporting actors are memorable in their respective roles. Clooney whose character is in his 70s in the book, decided to lose a lot of weight for the role to make himself look older and I thought he’s great here. Also, in a memorable role is Ethan Peck as the young Augustine in flashback scenes. But the scenes stealer belongs to Caoilinn Springall and she only has one line of dialog in the entire film. Her performances consist of body language and eye contacts, for such a young actress, she’s quite excellent here. I predict she’ll have a long career in Hollywood.

Netflix is obviously hoping this will their big Oscar film this year, but it seems most critics and audiences don’t really care for it much. If you’re a fan of the novel or enjoy sci-fi space adventure, then I think this is worth your time.

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So have you seen MIDNIGHT SKY? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – 21 Bridges (2019)

Before the superhero genre dominated the box office, super cop action thrillers were the blockbusters of the 80s and most of the 90s. Films such as Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and Beverly Hills Cop spawned several sequels and earned millions back in the days. 21 Bridges tried to bring that genre back to the big screen and it starred the late Chadwick Boseman as the action super cop.

The story takes place in one night in NYC as two low level criminals Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Michael (Stephen James) decided to steal some cocaine from a local mob restaurant. Things didn’t go as planned when the cops showed up and a shootout ensued. Ray ended up killing several cops at the scene and he and Michael was able to escape. Police Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) is furious and wants justice for the fallen officers, so he called in Detective Andre (Chadwick Boseman) to track down the two criminals. Andre is forced to partner up with another cop named Frankie (Sienna Miller).

Knowing that Ray and Michael are still in Manhattan somewhere, Andre order all of the 21 bridges in the island to be closed. As the night progresses, it’s a cat and mouse game between Andre his new partner Frankie and the two criminals. To anyone who’ve seen this kind of genre before, the story is pretty simple and most the audience will figure out what’s really going before the hero does.

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The screenplay by Adam Mervis and Mathew Michael Carnahan started out pretty well, it has the potential to be a great action thriller with the real time chase element. But as the story progresses, they couldn’t help but to bring in eye-rolling clichés that’s been done in several cop action thrillers of the past. Also, not helping was how the climatic sequence was written, it’s basically something out of a Steven Seagal’s films of the 80s and 90s. My guess is that the scene was probably a reshoot after test audience didn’t like the original ending.

Director Brian Kirk did a decent job with keeping the story moving along with some good action sequences and didn’t try to make it into some super serious action thriller that plagued too many action films in the last decade.

Being that the script was kind of weak, Boseman was good as the action hero even though he didn’t really have much to do except to chase the criminals. Same can be said of Sienna Miller’s Frankie, although her NY accent was pretty bad. As for the rest of cast, they played their part well but nothing spectacular.

This is a good example of a film that has good ideas, but the execution just wasn’t there. Probably another round of rewrites of the script would help. I think with a better talented group behind the scenes, it could’ve been a really good suspense and thrilling action film.

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FlixChatter Review – Netflix’s PROJECT POWER (2020)

With the pandemic still ravaging throughout most of the world, the summer movie season has pretty much been non-existent. Thanks to streaming services, we’re able to keep entertained with shows and movies while in lockdown. Netflix in particular has been busy churning out big movies throughout the summer season. Their latest is another take on the superhero genre and it’s also the lamest title for a movie that I can remember in a long time.

In New Orleans, a drug called Power has been going around the city giving its users superpowers for about 5 minutes. The head of the distributor is named Biggie (Rodrigo Santoro), the pills is growing popular with criminals around the city and local cop named Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is fed up and wants to put an end to the madness. He enlisted the help of a small-time drug dealer named Robin (Dominique Fishback), not only is she helping him taking down small time criminals, she also supplies him with the Power drug to enhance his abilities to fight the bad guys.

One day Robin is kidnapped by an ex-ranger named The Major (Jamie Foxx), he wants Robin to take him to the head of the drug operations. As it turns out, The Major is looking for his daughter whom he believes is somewhere in New Orleans and he ended up begging Robin for help. Things didn’t go as planned when they connected with one of the top drug dealers and The Major ended up saving Robin’s life. Now that she’s knee-deep in the whole scandal, she decided to help The Major and Frank even came along to take down the mysterious corporation that’s producing the drug and it’s being led by a doctor named Gardner (Amy Landecker).

The screenplay by Mattson Tomlin is sort of an allegory to how African Americans are being treated by the government here in the States. By setting the story in New Orleans, I assume he wants the audience to remember what happened to the residents of that city when hurricane Katrina destroyed it back in 2005. Tomlin also understands that people who’ll watch this film will want to see the actual power of the drug and there’s no shortage of that. If you’re a fan of superhero films then you’ll recognize some of the powers from other superhero films that’s being shown on the screen.

Before this film, I’ve never seen any previous work of duo directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Their style is nothing new, they pretty much copied the look and feel of Michael Bay’s films. Lots flashy cuts and heavy saturated colors on the screen. This is an action film, but I thought the action were kind of lame. Joost and Schulman tried to be “creative” when they shot the action scenes but when people watches action films, they want to see the action and not trying to figure out what’s happening on the screen.

The performances by the actors were pretty good. Dominique Fishback is the actress to keep an eye out for. Robin is the heart and soul of the story and I thought Fishback was a delight to watch on the screen. Since they’re both veterans, I thought Foxx and Gordon-Levitt did a fine job in their respective roles.

Of the recent big action films that’s been released by Netflix, this one maybe the most forgetful one to me. It’s not bad but it could’ve much better. If you’re bored on a Saturday afternoon, then you might want to check it out.

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So have you seen PROJECT POWER? Well, what did you think?