JULY Movie Watching Recap and Movie of the Month

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Happy August everybody! I missed June’s recap because it was such a whirlwind month for me, but it’s back now!

Whoah, it’s the last month of the year before we get to the ‘–ber’ month (or brrrrrr month if you’re in Minnesota!)… and that also means the end of Blockbuster Movies is near. I think there are only a couple of Summer movies left, Smurfs 2 this weekend, and We’re The Millers & Elysium next weekend.

Now, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from this past month:

New-to-me Films Watched:

ACatinParis

A Cat in Paris (2010)

PacRim

Pacific Rim

DespicableMe2

Despicable Me

Tremors

Tremors

RED2RED 2

TheWolverine

The Wolverine

WereTheMillers

We’re The Millers (review next week)

ActOfKilling

The Act of Killing (2012)


Rewatches:

MansfieldPark1999

Mansfield Park

XMen

X-Men (2000)

BatmanYearOne

Batman: Year One

BatmanBegins

Batman Begins

VicarsOfDibley_ChristmasSpecial

The Vicars of Dibley (Christmas Special)

July seems to have gone by pretty quickly. I didn’t see any film the first weekend of July, but I guess I was able to see quite a bit of movies in about three weeks. The surprise film of the month for me has been Pacific Rim, which I saw twice in a month, with The Wolverine being the most disappointing.


Movie of the Month:

JulyMovie_TheActOfKilling

I was going to put down Pac Rim as movie of the month but that was before I saw this film.

The Act of Killing is a chilling documentary that recounts the mass-killings in 1965, which is the darkest moments in my homeland Indonesia’s history. I saw this a couple of nights ago and well, all the adjectives you’ve probably heard about this film: harrowing, disturbing, shocking, brutal, mind-blowing, etc. are no hyperbole. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before and one that I won’t soon forget.

This is what Werner Herzog, who was one of the producers of the film, said about it:

“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, & frightening in at least a decade.”

I’ll be interviewing director Joshua Oppenheimer tomorrow afternoon, so stay tuned for my review and the interview post next week!


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in July?

Weekend Roundup: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones cast appearance & X-Men rewatch

Happy Monday everybody! Hope everyone’s had a great weekend.

CityOfBones_onesheetWell, it’s a fairly mellow one for me up until Sunday morning as I went to what’s called the the Mall-tour kick-off of the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie that’s coming out on August 21. It’s the latest movie adaptation of a popular, supernatural-themed young adult novel which my three nieces are really into right now. In fact, all they talked about when I visited them last month was Hunger Games: Catching Fire and THIS movie. They’ve read most of the books by now, by author Cassandra Clare (who was supposed to attend but had to cancel due to illness), so of course I had to be at the event on their behalf!

It was quite an experience to be amongst screaming fans at Mall of America, as hundreds of fans (mostly girls of course) have been waiting for hours. The two girls at the front of the line told me they’ve actually camped out in front of the mall since noon the previous day!! I can’t post the interview yet until closer to the film’s release, but here are some pics from the MOA event. Stars of the movie, Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Kevin Zegers were in attendance for the Q&A and autograph signing. I couldn’t stop starring at Lily’s stunning black stilettos! 😀


I didn’t see anything new this weekend, as I’ve already seen The Wolverine earlier in the week (check out my review). Apparently even with $55 mil to top the box office, it’s still the lowest opening for an X-Men franchise. Not that I’m gonna shed a tear for Wolverine though, as I’m not too impressed with the latest movie. If anything, it made me wish X-Men: Days of Future Past were to be released this year already!

XMen_charactersbanner

Now, speaking of the X-Men franchise (easily my favorite from the Marvel canon, though it’s still owned by FOX), I did rewatch the first movie from back in 2000. Bryan Singer practically kicked off the superhero genre with his compelling comic-book adaptation, and it still holds up well to this day.

I LOVE that opening scene between Professor X and Magneto at a Congressional hearing, which sets the tone for the whole film. I love how the underlying themes of racism and prejudice vs understanding and tolerance are still relevant to this day. It’s what I LOVE about the X-Men story, and despite how I feel about the latest adaptation of its most famous mutant, I’m still super stoked for Days of Future Past. I’m even more thrilled that Singer is back at the helm this time, too!

Oh, I also rewatched Batman Year One this weekend, as my pal Ted mentioned it recently. Watch for an indulgent, wish-list post based on that tomorrow 😀


Well, that’s my weekend recap, folks. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

FlixChatter Review: The Wolverine

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I’ve been a huge fan of the X-Men universe ever since Bryan Singer’s X-Men movie back in 2000. That was the first time I ever saw Hugh Jackman and he’s certainly the most intriguing character of the mutant ensemble. When the spin-off movie came along, it certainly wasn’t off to a good start, though I actually didn’t abhor X-Men Origins: Wolverine as much as people did. Now four years later, the fury mutant with indestructible metal alloy adamantium bonded to his skeleton is back, angrier than ever.

This movie takes place right after the third sequel of X-Men: The Last Stand, where in a heart-wrenching finale, Wolverine (Logan) had to kill the love of his life Jean Grey to save humanity. Constantly tormented by her death, Logan’s now retreated in the Canadian wilderness where his only friend is um, a grizzly bear. His past suddenly catches up with Logan when a Japanese girl turns up at a bar one rainy night, and invites him to meet Yashida, a man he once saved in a Nagasaki bombing in 1945.

It’s nice to see a superhero movie nary of a megalomaniac hellbent on destroying humanity. No exploding buildings/world landmarks by aliens/monsters taking over earth, etc. There is a huge atomic bomb at the opening sequence in Nagasaki, which was an intriguing start that shows us the incredible healing power of the titular hero. The plot of this movie certainly promises something truly riveting, as Logan not only has to confront his past and inner demons, but also has to grapple with losing his immortality. The setting in Japan adds that cool novelty factor, and I was prepared for an engrossing journey as the stakes become really personal for Logan.

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Unfortunately, apart from a few exciting scenes, I find myself feeling quite bored by this movie. Let me start by the character itself. Now, amongst his fellow mutants in the X-Men movies, Wolverine easily stands out with his brooding sarcasm and the whole tortured-soul persona. But take the group away, watching him brood, sulk, snarl, and growl for two hours straight doesn’t exactly translate to riveting entertainment. Hugh Jackman‘s a good actor but he’s not given any opportunity to display much range here, and an actor’s charisma can only do so much. There is only one truly hilarious moment [also an excuse to show off Jackman’s buffer-than-buff physique], but the rest of his expressions range from solemn to dour. It doesn’t help that the rest of the supporting characters are one-dimensional or less, as most of the supporting cast (especially the female ones) are acting novices.

The tomboy red-head Yukio (Rila Fukushima) seemed a lot of fun at first but as soon as we arrive in Japan, we’ve got another Japanese girl to contend with, Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). It’s too bad as Yukio had just shared an interesting back-story of her own, but oh well, the script dictates that it will be about Mariko and Wolverine. It’s even more frustrating as Mariko is barely as interesting as a door knob, and even the relentless chase by the the Yakuza assassins fails to give her a character. By the time these two got together, the romance between them feels so awkward and entirely unconvincing. Oh, lest not forget the ‘phantom romance’ between Logan and Jean Grey, haunting him in lacy négligée, inviting him to join her in the after life. It’s excruciating to see Famke Janssen being so utterly wasted in this movie.

The one Japanese character that I was most intrigued with is Mariko’s ambitious father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), but his role is underwritten and ultimately he becomes just another subject for Wolverine to fight with. Logan’s main mutant nemesis is Viper, a supermodel-like blond with prehensile tongue (Svetlana Khodchenkova). Sure she’s sexy but she’s nowhere near as fun as Mystique, nor as memorable. There’s a hint that perhaps there might be some kind of personal connection between the two but it doesn’t amount to much.

Wolverine_stills2

There are some really promising moments in the movie. The reunion between the dying Yashida and Logan is inherently intriguing, as Logan learns the real reason why he’s invited to Japan. But soon things turn hugely convoluted as family crisis turns into a deadly chase between the Yashida family and the Japanese Yakuzas. The fight scenes at the funeral display Wolverine’s bad-assery, though the hero is perhaps not as impervious as he once was. The already fast-paced action goes even faster, bullet-train fast to be exact, as Logan has to fight off a bunch of Yakuza goons at 300 MPH, whilst the damsel in distress is sitting inside blissfully unaware. I have to admit the action in this scene is thrilling to watch, perhaps one of the highlights of the movie.

To call this movie wildly uneven would be a giant understatement. Now, I don’t mind the slower pacing that allow the characters to breathe, so long as it doesn’t become tedious. By the time we get to the third act, the movie seems to have lost its footing entirely. Starting with Logan being showered by arrows like a pin-cushion, all the way to the final battle with a giant mechanized robot that resembles the Silver Samurai in the comics. The whole fight sequences are loud and relentless but somehow they had little impact to me.

Wolverine_SilverSamurai

I read a comment in one of the major blogs saying something about how this film “…fetishize and exotic-ize elements of Japanese culture for Western consumption” You know what, I kind share that sentiment. But the biggest letdown for me is that I was hoping that the Japan-setting is an integral part of the Wolverine story as in the comics, how his time in that country shapes who Logan is as a character. Instead, we get more of an overdone fish-out-of-water story of a reluctant hero feeling ‘trapped’ in a place he doesn’t want to be in. Not exactly a groundbreaking story by a long shot. Director James Mangold and writers Scott Frank and Mark Bomback tried too hard to create an introspective and something of substance, but in the end it proves to be quite a superficial endeavor. I don’t think if I knew more, nor cared for, the character than I did before seeing the film.

Final Thoughts: So much promise… but ultimately a letdown. I expected a great deal of emotional gravitas from the story, but I didn’t connect with Wolverine’s Japanese journey as much as I had hoped. Even the big reveal that sort of brings Yashida and Logan’s relationship full circle lacks an emotional bite.

Yes, I think this one is an improvement over the first Wolverine film, but unfortunately, only by a smidgen. Hugh Jackman said he’s achieved the best physical form in this movie than he’s ever before. Indeed he’s in the best shape of his life, and it’s impressive to behold, if only the film itself were in as good a shape.

Thankfully, this movie doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the X-Men franchise. In fact, the post-credit scene that ties it to the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past is easily my favorite part! I think this one curmudgeonly mutant who ‘doesn’t work well with others’ is actually far more watchable in an ensemble than as a lone wolf.

2.5 out of 5 reels

Thoughts on this movie? I’d love to hear it!

Five for the Fifth: May 2013 Edition

fiveforthefifth

Hello folks, welcome to the 5th Five for the Fifth of the year!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Happy Cinco de Mayo! I’ve made it a tradition of sort to feature a Mexican filmmaker/actor on the May edition of Five for the Fifth. Last year I featured director Alfonso Cuarón, but this year, I turn the spotlight on Guillermo del Toro since Pacific Rim is coming out later in July.

GuillermodelToroA short bio on the 48-year-old director: Guillermo del Toro was born October 9, 1964 in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. Raised by his Catholic grandmother, del Toro developed an interest in filmmaking in his early teens. Later, he learned about makeup and effects from the legendary Dick Smith (The Exorcist (1973)) and worked on making his own short films.

I quite enjoyed the first Hell Boy movie, though I haven’t seen the sequel, but his film that really made an impression on me was the captivating but often violent fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth. I’m still not sold on his sci-fi alien adventure Pacific Rim yet, I mean I love Idris Elba and I’m thrilled he got the lead role, but the movie looks like a combo of Independence Day and Transformers to me. As Tim outlined in his trailer review, it does look promising, but I guess it remains to be seen how captivating the movie will be.….

So what’s your thoughts on Mr. del Toro and/or Pacific Rim?

……


2. Now, many of you likely have seen Iron Man 3 by now which I happen to enjoy quite a bit. You’ve perhaps also heard about the Chinese version of the movie, which according to this Beijing-based Kotaku site said featured four-minute added content and the Chinese character Dr. Wu had a more prominent part in the film. In the film version, Dr. Wu (played by Chinese movie star Wang Xueqi) only had a few seconds screen time, basically a blink-and-you-missed it type of cameo. I since learned that apparently those footage was NOT filmed by director Shane Black.

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Truthfully, when I first heard about the existence of this Chinese version, I shook my head in dismay. I mean, as if we didn’t need more proof that Hollywood honchos only care about the bottom line, this is yet another reason creative integrity is just thrown away by the wayside. I mean, I realize some films have multiple cuts that are released in the DVD/Blu-ray versions that feature alternate scenes and/or ending than the theatrical release. But I feel that this is an entirely different ball game that is purely motivated by profit.

Apparently the Kotaku writer Eric Jou shares my dread, “It literally offends me as an American in China and as an ethnically Chinese person that Hollywood would attempt to sell this to the Chinese audience… It undermines Chinese people’s intelligence and movie savvy.”

I’m curious to hear what you think on this matter folks, so please chime in below.

……


3. Well, looks like the negotiation with Tom Hiddleston to play The Crow fell through 😦 I was so thrilled to see him possibly getting cast in that role, especially since the hot Brit seemed keen on playing the role. I really think he’d have rocked the role, though Brandon Lee would perhaps remain as my favorite Eric Draven.

Now it looks like the deal is set with Welsh actor Luke Evans (one of my picks to play 007) has nabbed the role. According to Deadline, Evans was actually director F. Javier Gutierrez’s first choice for the role but scheduling conflict made them consider other actors. But apparently “… they have decided to push the start date to early next year to accommodate his schedule in order to secure Evans.” 

LukeEvansTheCrow

Well, I still would rather see Hiddleston but Evans is a thousand times better choice than Alexander Skarsgard, for me anyways. I think he’s got the look as the dark and lean rock star, let’s hope he can bring something fresh and perhaps even iconic in this reboot.

How do you feel about Luke Evans’ casting as The Crow?


4. Hugh Jackman is really a jack of all trades, the ultimate quadruple threat as he’s not only a ruggedly gorgeous hunk of a man, but he can sing, dance, act, and with a good business sense as he’s also the producer of the film. He’s the kind of actor who could pretty much do any kind of genre believably, you name it, drama, rom-com, comedy, action, mystery, etc. he’s done it all. But his most famous role happens to be the same one that gave him his breakthrough in Hollywood, and that is X-Men’s Wolverine.

HughJackman_TheWolverine

Check out the latest International trailer:

This is surely one of my most-anticipated movies of the Summer. The Wolverine reboot will mark his fifth time Jackman will reprise the comic-book character (not counting the cameo in X-Men: First Class). I think that’s the highest number of superhero character portrayal by a single actor to date. It’s notable just on that front alone, but also the fact that somehow Jackman has not overstay its welcome as that character. Far from it in fact, as this James Mangold-directed origin story (yes, again) set in Japan seems to present the character in a whole new light.

Thoughts on Mr. Jackman and/or his upcoming movie The Wolverine?


5. Now, last but not least, I’d like to make the fifth question be a forum for movie recommendations. I’ll limit the genres to foreign thrillers and/or dramas as I had just been impressed with the Danish thriller The Hunt. As you probably know if you read my blog regularly, it’s my pick for Movie of the Month in April (full review coming later this week), and that’s the second Danish thriller I was VERY impressed with after Headhunters. Interesting that both have the word ‘hunt’ in it though they’re two very different films. As for foreign dramas, I was delighted by Intouchables recently, which I also highly recommend.

Please share your recommendations of foreign thrillers/drama that you think everyone must see!


For those with a Reddit account, would you be so kind as to submit this post?
I’d sincerely appreciate it folks! 😀


That’s it for the May 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these subjects.