FlixChatter Review: Sylvie’s Love (2020)

I saw this movie at Twin Cities Film Fest back in October and it’s one of the few films I had the privilege of seeing on the big screen. It’s also one of the rare romantic dramas I get to see this year. I’d say the world could use more love stories, and this one is set to lovely jazz music in 1950s Harlem.

The movie opens outside a Manhattan theater as Sylvie Parker (Tessa Thompson) sees her former lover Robert Halloway (Nnamdi Asomugha) outside a concert. It seems time has passed since they’ve seen each other, but clearly the flames haven’t clearly burned out. The movie then cut to a flashback when Sylvie was working on her father’s (Lance Reddick) record store where the two lovers have their meet cute.

At the time, Robert was a young musician with equal talent and ambition who happened to be looking for a part time gig. Sylvie on the other hand, loved watching TV, which seemed random at first, but as it turns out it’s a harbinger for her TV career that’s revealed later in the movie. Sylvie’s also been betrothed to a man with excellent prospects who’s currently away overseas. Despite such an obstacle, including the disapproval of her etiquette-teacher mother (Erica Gimpel), Sylvie and Robert fall breathlessly in love.

From the moment they meet, there’s such a playful, sweet chemistry between the two leads that we instantly want them to be together. Writer/director Eugene Ashe set up the romance in a dreamy fashion… a slow dance on a street corner beneath the moonlight, even the streets and its surrounding sparkle as if to enhance the mood. It certainly helps that both Thompson and Asomugha are both incredibly gorgeous and look fabulous in retro fashions designed by Phoenix Mellow.

But as the Bard said the course of true love never did run smooth, though labeling Sylvie and Robert as star-crossed lovers might be a bit strong. Each have certain ambitions that keep them apart… Robert goes away to Paris for a steady gig with his band, and Sylvie gets a producing job at a cooking show. One thing I notice is that social issues of the time, such Civil Rights and Women’s movements, are not really a factor in the story, but only mentioned briefly in passing. I suppose that is a deliberate choice on the filmmaker’s part, though perhaps it’s a missed opportunity.

While I was invested in the characters’ journey initially, by the film’s halfway point, it kind of lost its luster. I just don’t feel like there’s enough substance in either Sylvie nor Robert to really get caught up in their lives. The script also seems to sidestep characters/plot that no longer serves its narrative. Sylvie’s mother suddenly disappears when she seemed like an obstacle in the beginning. The breakdown of Sylvie’s marriage with Lacy (Alano Miller) feels rather convenient instead of being an important part that happens in Sylvie’s life. SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read)we later learn that Sylvie’s daughter turns out to be Robert’s, but even the reveal and subsequent reunion between father + daughter doesn’t have the same emotional weight as one would expect.

In terms of performance though, I love Tessa Thompson here as a romantic lead… so refreshing after seeing her kick ass in the MCU movies. She’s obviously a strong woman, but nice to see her inner strength being the focus here. This is the first time I saw Nnamdi Asomugha but I’m really impressed with him. Nice to see a new proper romantic leading man, and this film offers us not one but two fresh, talented and extremely handsome black actors who I’d love to see more of. The other one is Regé-Jean Page who plays Robert’s best friend and fellow band member Chico. His supporting role is pretty small here but he’s now the star of Netflix’s juicy period drama series Bridgerton and I can’t wait to see more of him on TV AND films. I also quite like Aja Naomi King as Sylvie’s bestie Mona, who formed a fun, playful couple with Page.

In the end, I find this film resplendent and swoon-worthy, but there’s something wanting. As I mentioned above, it doesn’t quite have the depth I was expecting. I suppose not every drama has to have such high stakes to make us care, but I think better character development would make us more invested in their story. That said, there are still plenty to recommend in Sylvie’s Love. DP Declan Quinn shot this beautifully and the music by Fabrice Lecomte sounds lovely. Given that Ashe is a musician himself, naturally the jazzy music is one of the best parts of this movie. I’m glad this movie is on Amazon Prime, I should like to revisit this one again one day.


Have you seen SYLVIE’S LOVE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: CREED II (2018)

The first Creed film was a big hit with both audiences and critics, so of course a sequel must be made. I was skeptical with the first film, but it blew me away and when it was announced that the sequel will be about Creed vs. Drago, I was pretty excited. I’m sure most fans of the Rocky franchise will tell people that Rocky 1 or 2 is their favorite because those films were considered more prestigious than the later sequels. But Rocky 4 is my favorite in the series. So, a rematch of Creed and Drago got me all pumped to see this film.

After becoming a world champ boxer, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is living the high life with his beautiful girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thomson) and father figure Rocky (Sly Stallone). While in the Ukraine, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) trains his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) to take down Creed. With the help of a boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby), the Dragos challenges Creed to a match that the boxing world has been waiting to see for over three decades. Adonis is considering taking up the challenge because he believes this will be a revenge for his father’s death he always wanted. Rocky on the hand, fears that Adonis might not be able to beat Victor and don’t want to lose another person who is very close to him and basically the only family he has left.

The screenplay by Stallone and Juel Taylor were very well-written. Even though the storyline is pretty straightforward, they were able to focus more on the characters and it worked for me. The focus this time around is family and we see the struggle Adonis and Bianca is going through once they got married and became parents. Rocky and Adonis also have to deal with their sometime difficult father and son like relationship. I really appreciate that they gave the Dragos some backstory, so they’re not just one-dimensional villains. Fans of the franchise will probably recognize some of the elements from Rocky 3 and 4 were integrated into this one.

Stepped into the director’s chair this time is Steven Caple Jr. and I thought he did a pretty decent job. With the template set by the first film’s director Ryan Coogler, Caple just have to follow it. I thought he should’ve come up with a better way of filming the fight scenes though. The boxing scenes weren’t bad, I just wish they came up with something more creative.

I was most impressed with the performances by the lead actors. Jordan and Thomson have such an amazing chemistry that I really believe they’re real couple. Mid way through the film, they both shared a dialog free and heartbreaking scene that almost made me tear up with them. Stallone could play Rocky in his sleep. He’s more of side character this time around, but he’s always great when he’s on screen. I really enjoy his chemistry with Jordan. Both Lundgren and Munteanu didn’t get a lot of screen time but I thought they delivered a pretty decent performance.

I’ve seen this film twice now and I feel like it’s as good as the first one. I gave that film 4.5 stars but I’m giving this one half a star less mostly because there’s nothing new we haven’t seen before and it’s predictable. But it’s well made and I truly loved the performances by the three leads. If there’s another film, I’m pretty sure a third Creed film will get made, let’s hope they come up with a more refreshing storyline like the first one.

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So have you seen CREED II? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – ANNIHILATION (2018)

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Directed By: Alex Garland
Written By: Alex Garland
Runtime: 1h 55min

Annihilation, based on the book trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, follows biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) join a group made up of an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a linguist to investigate mysterious environment after her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) returns from an unexplained year-long disappearance. Lena, along with Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny), and Josie (Tessa Thompson) soon learn that the laws of nature don’t apply in this strange and dangerous location.

This movie made me want to read the books immediately, because the screenplay is so well-written, and I can only imagine how fantastic the source material must be. It’s such an imaginative and suspenseful story. It’s tense and unpredictable without feeling messy. I especially like that it’s a female-led sci-fi movie, which is rare. It’s not the focus; it’s commented on once toward the beginning of the film, but otherwise the characters are interesting and well-developed without being defined by their gender. The fact that they’re portrayed by phenomenal actors makes it even better. The group has amazing chemistry, and they all give strong performances, although Gina Rodriguez as Anya is definitely the stand-out; she goes from likable to terrifying to heartbreaking seamlessly.

This film is visually stunning as well. The CGI is incredibly detailed, but not overused to the point of being over-the-top. The designs are beautiful, unsettling, and in some cases, horrifying. Even the more mundane scenes are beautifully shot; there’s a moment with a close-up of Lena holding Kain’s hand, filmed through a glass of water distorting the image, that is so subtle but so effective.

That said, it’s not a perfect film. There’s a subplot about Lena cheating on Kane with her colleague, Daniel (David Gyasi) that doesn’t really have any effect on the overall plot and doesn’t fit the movie’s tone. Maybe it’s more important in the books, but it doesn’t feel necessary in the movie, and the time wasted on it could have been better used developing the alien nature the group is exploring.

I was also a little distracted by how many times different characters exclaimed over how impossible everything in this alien area is. I understand expressing surprise and initial disbelief, but they are so adamant about things being impossible that it’s kind of ridiculous. I wanted to yell “You just saw a mutant crocodile attack your friend in a fairy garden swamp, all surrounded by a shiny bubble of science fiction! Maybe accept that everything you’ve learned until this point doesn’t apply anymore!” Maybe I’m being nitpicky, though.

Overall, though, Annihilation is excellent. It’s beautiful, it’s frightening, it’s brilliantly acted, and if the two-hour movie is that good, I can only imagine how amazing the story is when it’s fleshed out over three books. Definitely check this out.

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

FlixChatter Review – THOR: Ragnarok (2017)

It’s been almost two weeks since I saw Thor: Ragnarok and I’m still giddy thinking about it. In fact, I had just seen Justice League two nights ago and honestly I’d rather write about the latest Thor movie, and this is one I’d readily watch again.

Let me preface this review with the fact that I’m a huge fan of its director, New Zealander Taika Waititi, ever since I saw What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople a year later. Those two rank as one of my favorite films of all time. In fact, even with an all star cast that includes my personal cinematic heroine Cate Blanchett, I’m most excited about Thor: Ragnarok because of Waititi. And boy did he deliver!!

It opens with our Asgardian hero, sans his Mjölnir hammer, being chained by a creature named Surtur who plans to destroy Thor’s planet by fulfilling the propechy of Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth is definitely much more comfortable in the role, having played Thor half a dozen times by now. But here he gets to show off his comic chops as well. He manages to escape, gets his Mjölnir and fighting mojo back and he returns to Asgard. It’s always a hoot seeing Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (I actually like him more than Thor from the previous films). I’m not going to spoil it for you but what he discovers there is one of the most comical bits of the movie. Let’s just say Taika made a great use of a famous A-lister that could’ve played like an SNL skit if it wasn’t handled properly. Love seeing Sam Neill making a quick appearance too.

The following scenes takes Thor and his half brother Loki to earth, trying to figure out the wherebouts of his father. The scenes involving them and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is funny stuff as well, peppered with Taika’s brand of quirky humor. As it turns out, it itsn’t just Loki who wants to take over the rule of Asgard, and this time she wouldn’t stop at that. With a name like Hela, of course she wants to rule the entire universe and unleash hell! Miss Blanchett relish on the opportunity to be a sexy, leather-clad, rockstar-ish goddess from hell, with another easy-on-the-eyes actor from Down Under Karl Urban as her lackey. Yes she seems to be purposely chewing the scenery but it works, and it’s fun to watch.

It’s clear the two brothers are no match for Hela and so Thor gets banished to a planet of scraps where his next crazy adventure begins! The new characters Taika introduced here, Valkyrie (bad-ass Tessa Thompson), the Grandmaster (the eternally amusing Jeff Goldblum), a rock creature Korg (voiced in a hilarious high-pitched voice by Taika himself) are all memorable! Even Rachel House (who was hilarious in Hunt for the Wilderpeople) got some hilarious one liners in the movie. I LOVE Valkyrie and Korg I wouldn’t mind seeing more of both of those characters in future Thor movies or even a spin-off! I also love seeing Idris Elba back as Heimdall, who became the loyal guardians for Asgardians. This is perhaps my favorite ensemble cast of all superhero movies.

I read that Taika has always wanted to make the latest Thor movie more comedic, whilst making some creative updates the character and its universe. Well he certainly’s done the job smashingly well! Yep, the term ‘Hulk Smash’ would apply to this movie and all the scenes with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), both as Bruce Banner and the big green creature, are massively entertaining. Everyone seems to be having a blast making this and it shows. But just because it’s chock full of hilarious bits, it doesn’t mean there’s no plot here. The story actually holds up and there’s even some nice moments between Thor and Valkyrie that points to her past as Asgard’s defender. There’s a hint there might be something less-than-platonic between these two and you know what, I’d welcome it! It’s certainly more interesting than Thor and Natalie Portman’s Jane.

I’m glad that Marvel once again took a chance on an indie director (following the success of the Russo brothers with the Captain America movies) and Taika Waititi is one of recent filmmakers I discovered who I REALLY want to see making it big. I love that he pushed for more Indigenous representation in his films. Apparently he hired many Aboriginal crew members and the film was shot in Australia. There are quite a few in-jokes for Kiwis and Australians, like the Aboriginal flag colors and the spaceships named after types of Holden, Australian-made cars. My relative actually owned one of those when I was growing up in Indonesia!

SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read) I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but the plot has a bit of social commentary about how the White people conquered a lot of the Indigenous land. When they’re inside the Asgardian palace, Hela said something about the dark history of Asgard… how Odin used to conquer different planets and wanting to rule the universe, with her by her side. But then Odin gained a conscience and became a benevolent ruler, thus banishing Hela because she didn’t share his vision. She said ‘where do you think we got all of this gold from?’ When I heard that, it sounded like a commentary about colonial privilege, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being the ‘stolen generation’ and white Australians living on someone else’s land. Even the Grandmaster’s line ‘slaves is such a harsh word, I prefer “prisoners with benefits”’ sounds like a sarcastic jab against people calling an awful thing differently as if that would actually lessen its awfulness.

Well, I’m curious if people notice those things or not. One thing for sure, this has become one of my all time favorite movie, not just my favorite Marvel movie. The actions scenes are definitely fun to watch. There are bombastic fight scenes but they don’t feel overlong or overdone like in some other superhero movies. There’s even an entertaining spaceship chase and of course the Thor vs Hulk battle promised in the trailer is still epic and fun! That ‘friend from work’ line is one of the many quotable quips from Taika Waititi’s movies I’d use again and again.

You would think it’d be tough to live up to the super fun trailer w/the rousing Led Zepellin’s Immigrant Song, but the movie manages to do just that… and then some! So yeah, Thor doesn’t just get a spunky new haircut but Taika gives him a whole new attitude and refreshing new take on his franchise. The funniest bits in the trailer is still hilarious in the movie, there’s so much joy and laughter in the whole theater. Like a joyful, thrilling amusement park ride, you can’t wait to get on it again as soon as it’s over!


Well, what did you think of ‘THOR: RAGNAROK’? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

FlixChatter Double Review: CREED (2015)

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I had trepidation about seeing this film as I’ve only seen one Rocky film and I’m not really a boxing movie fan. But my hubby really wanted to see it, and so we went and am I glad I did. Here’s our review:

Ted’s Review

Doing a spinoff of a franchise that hasn’t been a box office hit for long time could be risky but somehow director/writer Ryan Coogler was able to convince not only the studio executives but its star Sly Stallone to revive this once box office gold of a franchise. What’s even more surprising was how good the film turn out to be and it’s one of favorite films of the year.

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Adonis Johnson/Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is a young man who wants to be professional boxer; he found out early in the story that his late father was a fame-boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Creed’s widow Mary (Phylicia Rashad) took in the young Adonis and raised him as her own son. Unlike other boxers who needed to box in order to make a living, Andonis grew up in a privilege lifestyle but he yearns to be a boxer. Even a promotion at his corporate job won’t keep him from pursuing his dreams. So he quit his job, moved to Philly and tried his hands at a professional level boxing. But after he got beat badly in a “friendly” bout, he realized he’s not ready and asked Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him. Rocky has walked away from the ring after his last victory match and never wants to be back. He’s now happily running his Italian restaurant.

But the young Creed is persistent and wants to create his own image, he doesn’t want to be known as the son of the great Apollo Creed. He even found time to romance a local musician named Bianca (Tessa Thompson). The story of this film is similar to that of the original Rocky, it’s about an underdog who’s determined to be the best. The film features the usual training montage, great fight sequences and fans of the franchise will happy to know that we do get to hear that famous Rocky’s theme. But Creed does have his own theme though.

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The performances by the leads were quite excellent. Jordan excels in his first leading role; his fierce demeanor is very similar to that of Weathers’ Creed from earlier films. Thompson’s Bianca is not just another pretty face love interest, she has her own ambitions and chemistry between her and Jordan were quite believable. The person who steals the show for me though is Rocky himself. Here I think Sly gave maybe his best performance of his career. Rocky is now an old man and he realized he doesn’t have much in life; all of the people he cared about are all gone. By training the young Creed, he can have a family again and maybe have one last glory as a trainer to a champ. I won’t be surprised if Stallone gets an Oscar nomination.

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I’ve never seen any of Coogler’s previous films but after this one, I’ll have to check out his work. I was surprised how well he put this picture together; I was involved in the story from beginning to end. He even shot a single take for one of the boxing matches in the film; it’s an incredible sequence. What really impresses me was the way he’s able to blend in the nostalgic feel of the earlier films and then injects some 21st century style into this film. He’s a real talent and I’m looking forward to his next film.

Creed is a great spinoff/reboot of a once popular franchise. It contains great performances, tight direction and reminds you to never give up your dreams. I can’t wait to see the next chapter in Creed’s pursue of becoming the best boxer in the world.

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Ruth’s Review

There has been far too many reboots and spin-offs and more often than not, it’s just a money-making scheme. But once in a while, emerged a gem that actually earns its merit and Creed is no doubt one of them.

Though I’ve only seen one Rocky film, I read a little bit about the friendship of Rocky and Apollo Creed, the father of the film’s protagonist, and it certainly helped me understand the story better. The film began with a brief but meaningful introduction of Adonis, who clearly has his father’s talent, as well as ambition as a boxer. Determined to make his mark in the sport, Adonis moved to Philadelphia. He ended up finding an aging Rocky Balboa at his restaurant, naturally named after his beloved wife Adrian. It’s a memorable scene that promises great things to come from this eventual mentorship.

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The relationship between these two is the heart of the film and filmmaker Ryan Coogler is wise to keep that be the focus of the film. He didn’t squander it by over-complicating things or adding unnecessary subplots, and that’s largely why the film worked so well. There’s an effortless chemistry between Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan almost straight away. There’s an interesting banter between the two that’s funny and heartfelt, and it gets even better as the film goes on.

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One of Adonis’ journey involves a love story with a beautiful up-and-coming singer Bianca (Tessa Thomson), but I’m glad she’s given an intriguing character arc and not simply just a ‘pretty girlfriend’ role. Yet the film paid more attention to Adonis’ relationship with Rocky, which ultimately is what the film is all about. Most of conversation takes place during training and it certainly will please people who love boxing and boxing films. But even for someone like me, I find those scenes extremely dynamic and entertaining.

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Much had been made about Stallone’s excellent performance and you know what, it lived up to the hype. It’d be interesting if he did end up being nominated for an Oscar, as he did in 1976 for the first Rocky film. I’d think would mark some kind of record that the same actor is nominated twice playing the exact same role. He’s definitely my pick to win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. He obviously had lived and breathed this role for many years, and if this were to be his swan song to the franchise, well he couldn’t have left on a higher note. His performance is convincingly heartfelt, showing a gentler, wiser and more vulnerable Rocky who thinks he’s got nothing much to live for anymore. What started out as a mentorship slowly builds into a genuine friendship between him and Adonis, and they both end up helping each other when they need it most.

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For a boxing film, the film isn’t graphically violent. There are basically only two major fight sequences but both are done VERY well. There’s one that was done in a single take and it was quite a scene to behold. Real-life professional boxers Andre Ward and Tony Bellew play two of Adonis’ oponents which adds a touch of authenticity to the scenes. The script by Coogler and Aaron Covington have a wonderful balance of humor and emotional touches, which honors the original Rocky story that breathes life into the new hero. But nostalgia could only work so much and so it’s wise that Coogler didn’t drown the film with it and lets it stand on its own merit. Even its use of the Rocky theme is perfect, it’s brief but it came just at the right moment.

Ultimately this is Jordan’s film and he’s certainly perfect in the role. He’s reunited with Coogler who directed him in Fruitvale Station. I haven’t seen that one yet but clearly this has been quite an erm, fruitful collaboration between the two and I look forward to seeing more from both of them, together or separately. This movie is such a pleasant surprise of the year, an entertaining as well as inspiring film that should please loyal fans and win new ones.

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