Weekend Roundup: Quick thoughts on BAFTA 2015 + review of Predestination

Happy Monday everyone! Well it’s quite a busy weekend for me but I got to see two new-to-me movies, yay. I also got two reviews done on Sunday, so expect to see a review of Jupiter Ascending tomorrow.

BAFTA

Here are my top five things I’m happy about from 2015 BAFTA Awards:

  • Emmanuel Lubezki winning Best Cinematography for Birdman
  • The LEGO Movie winning Best Animated Film
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel winning Best Original Screenplay
  • Citizenfour winning Best Documentary
  • Alexandre Desplat winning Best Original Music for The Grand Budapest Hotel

But really, who cares about the winners, check out these dreamy guys at the BAFTAS 😉

Ehm, okay so Boyhood wins big at the BAFTAS including Richard Linklater winning Best Director. But hey, Alejandro González Iñárritu won Best Director at Directors Guild Award so there’s still a chance Birdman comes out on top come Oscar. Boy the race is REALLY neck and neck between the two movies. Both has the same one-word title with exactly six letters too, that’s gotta be a first. The THE EE RISING STAR AWARD went to Jack O’Connell whose work I still need to see. It’s a bummer that Gugu Mbatha-Raw didn’t win but I hope one day she’d win an actual BAFTA!



PredestinationBnr

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

I was intrigued to see Predestination as I was impressed by the Spierig Brothers’ previous film Daybreakers. It offers a novelty twist to the popular vampire genre and this time, they tackled another popular Hollywood theme, time travel. This is my impression after I saw it:

I’m not going to say much about the plot as the less you know about it the better the experience. All I’m going to say is that it’s based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story All You Zombies. I thought at first there’s some similarities to Minority Report about the preventing-a-future-crime from-happening plot, but the story is completely different. In fact, it makes that Spielberg film seems more straight-forward if you can believe that. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey.

PredestinationStill

Hawke is solid here once again, as he was in Daybreakers. I always think he’s an underrated actor as though he’s not the most charismatic actor but he’s always reliable. There’s something soulful about his performance and he’s not afraid to show his vulnerable side. But it’s Snook who’s quite a revelation here. I’ve never seen the Aussie actress before but she is absolutely astounding. It also helps when she’s given a strong character arc here, and she tackled her role as The Unmarried Mother, which is the name of her magazine column she writes for. It’s quite a complex role with multiple layers but it’s so rewarding to see how she tackles each one convincingly and with so much heart.

SarahSnook_Predestination

There’s also Noah Taylor as the enigmatic Mr Robertson but for the most part, the story revolves around Hawke and Snook’s characters. This film will leave you scratching your head, as most stories dealing with time travel paradox often do. But how the plot unravels is captivating, keeping you guessing whilst you try to grasp just what you’re actually witnessing.

If you like sci-fi AND time travel movies, this one is a must-see. The cinematography and art direction is wonderful, featuring unique camera angles and excellent production design. It’s impressive considering the relatively tiny budget (about $5 mil according to Deadline, as it’s part of a three-picture deal worth $17 mil). It’s another proof that one doesn’t need an astronomical budget to tell a good story. I’m curious to see what the Spierig brothers will tackle next!

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So what did YOU see this weekend? Anything good?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Special: Premium Rush & Looper Reviews

It’s been quite a year for 31-year-old young thespian Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s got four movies opening this year alone, including one mega-blogbuster The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a testament to his versatility that he’s played a supporting role in two (TDKR and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, out later this November), and a starring role in two action thrillers released within a month of each other. Here are the reviews of those two, starting with the review from FC contributor Cecilia Rusli:

Premium Rush (2012)

I really think that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is currently Hollywood’s shining star in skinny-guy category. He has pretty much impressed me on 500 Days of Summer, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises which actually affected my curiosity on Premium Rush and Looper where I end up with watching both of them this week.

Premium Rush tells the life of Wilee as a bike messenger who received a package which made he chased by a dirty cop. The main idea of the whole movie is about chasing and running. With a bike.

The movie definitely would appeal to fans of single-speed bikes (fixies) and if you’re one of those people, I’d think you won’t be disappointed in this one. Levitt succeed in showing the best he’s got as a cyclist, riding in a crowded traffic in style. There are plenty of edge-of-your-seats moments here which made me think that this is the bike-version of Fast and Furious. It has a story, but people should not expect much from it. The action parts on the traffic is very entertaining, especially those moments when a biker comes really close to having a deadly accident. However, there was one scene that’s quite disappointing as it appears as if there was going to be a bike-outbreak, where a bunch of bikes suddenly came out of a garage to deceive their enemy, but I don’t think that scene wasn’t handled very well.

As Bobby Monday, Michael Shannon plays his role pretty well. He managed to show his persistence as a tough villain who never stop his fight. Big guy as a dirty cop versus the skinny bike messenger is quite entertaining to watch.

One fun thing about Premium Rush is the graphic design. I really love how Wilee’s GPS shown on the screen, indicating which one is the best way to reach a certain place. The director, David Koepp, also shows some possibilities might happened in route that Wilee’s take. It feels a bit like playing a video game.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a movie which will pump your adrenaline with fun visuals with not much concerns about the story, Premium Rush will suit you just fine. A breath of fresh air for those who are bored watching car chase scenes.

P.S: Stay on seat after the movie ends for some additional footage in the end credits

– Review by Cecilia R.

…..

3 out of 5 reels


Looper (2012)

Time travel sci-fi movies are inherently intriguing to me, so when I first saw the trailer with THIS cast, I knew I wanted to see it. The hype surrounding this film is quite strong, at least if I’m using Twitter as a barometer, but I’m glad to report that I’m not disappointed.

As in the trailer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a specialized assassin, in an outfit called the Loopers. He lives in the year 2042 but the mob he works for lives 30 years ahead where time travel would’ve been invented. When his employer from the future wants to get rid of someone, they zap that person back 30 years where someone like Joe would be waiting with a big gun in hand, ready to blow them up to oblivion. The only rule is: never let your target escape… even if your target is you. The job seems easy enough, I mean, the targets are blindfolded, so it’s not like they could really escape. That is, until one did, and that target happens to be his older self, in the form of Bruce Willis.

Now, before the action begins in full throttle, Director Rian Johnson sets up the story by introducing the Looper doing their jobs and how these junkies hit-men spend their lives in a dystopian future (is there any other kind in the movies??). “Loopers are well paid, they lead a good life…” Joe said in his narration, but what he means by ‘good’ doesn’t mean a happy one and it’s clear that Joe is disillusioned with his life.

Let me just say the less you know about the plot the better as I went in pretty much ‘blind,’ other than seeing the trailer weeks ago, and it’s fun to see the story unravel in ways I didn’t really expect. There’s really a lot to chew on here, as do most time-travel movies, and I have to admit it was a bit mind-boggling to digest it all as I’m watching it, but now that I’ve processed the movie more, Johnson actually told the story well enough without an overly drawn-out exposition.

The strengths are in the performances, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who seems to only get better and better as he grows to be a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Seems like every time I see him, even in minor roles like in Inception or The Dark Knight Rises, he never fails to impress. I’ve got to admit though, his prosthetic make-up to make him look like Bruce Willis is distracting at times, but once I get into the story, I got used to it. In fact, in some scenes Gordon-Levitt’s mannerism and expressions really do remind me of Willis!

Now, I’ve always been a fan of Bruce. He’s a bad ass guy with a heart and I feel that he sold me on the emotional moments as well as on the action front, in which he channels his iconic John McClane in the Die Hard franchise. In fact, I kept waiting for him to yell ‘Yiippiikayee’ during some of the shootout scenes!

I’m also impressed with Emily Blunt and child actor Pierce Gagnon who plays her little boy. Both played two key roles that serve as the emotional center of the story. Their paths crossed with both the younger and older Joe in a way that not only affect their own lives but the lives of Joe’s fellow Loopers. Their scenes with Gordon-Levitt are well-played, though it could perhaps be tightened a bit as it does feel dragging at times. Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano also lend memorable supporting performances, Daniels is sort of a comic relief as Joe’s manager who happens to be sent by the mob from the future.

It’s refreshing to see a movie based on an original script, not an adaptation nor a remake. Despite all the time travel elements, the film also doesn’t feel too science-fiction-y. I’m also glad Johnson doesn’t pile on one action set pieces after another, instead there are a lot of quiet moments to establish character development that help you get immersed in Joe’s journey.

Final Thoughts: Looper is a thrill ride that has a nice blend of thrilling action and matters of the heart. There are brutal action and some totally-unnecessary nudity here, but fortunately not so much so that derails my overall appreciation for it. At the core of this movie lies a heartfelt love story between a man and a woman, and also between a mother and his son. I like what Ryan @ The Matinee said in his review about how our decisions have a ripple effect that might impact people in ways we don’t intend or understand. It reminds me a bit of another time-travel movie Frequency which also deals with this theme, but this one is much less melodramatic.

I haven’t seen Brick yet, but I might give that a shot to see Johnson + Gordon-Levitt’s previous collaboration. I have an inkling this won’t be the last movie of the pair and that’d be a welcome project in my book!

4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on Premium Rush and/or Looper? Let us know in the comments!

Weekend Roundup: Frequency and Headhunters reviews

Ahhh… Fall is in the air. I LOVE Autumn, it’s my favorite season. Growing up in a tropical country where it’s 80+ degrees all year long, I’ve come to appreciate the changing seasons and I’m really looking forward to the cool, crisp weather.

It’s another week where we opted for home cinema viewing once again. The only movie that opened wide was the fourth Resident Evil movie which I never had any interest in seeing, and The Master hasn’t opened yet where I live. Fortunately, the three movies I saw were both excellent, reviews below.

Sunday night I re-watched one of my all-time Disney favorites, Sleeping Beauty. The plot is pretty thin but the visuals are so gorgeous! I still need to see the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty that explores the art of modern animation and the stormy days of Disney’s animation house. Even 53 years later, amongst a plethora of other animated features, I think that it still stands as the most strikingly beautiful. Princess Aurora remains one of my favorite Disney princesses!

Anyway, here are my reviews:

FREQUENCY (2000)

I don’t know why it took me so long to finally saw this. My friend at work raved about it and lent me her DVD nearly a year ago. The premise about a rare atmospheric activity marked by the appearance of Aurora Borealis that somehow allowed a NYC firefighter Frank Sullivan to communicate with his son John 30 years in the future via a ham radio. Frank supposedly died in a warehouse fire, so John used the opportunity to warn his dad of his impending death, which was to happen the day after the two talked on the radio. Frank survived the fire and they’re overjoyed, but what they didn’t realize is that the alternate history also meant that a new set of events are triggered, including a horrific serial murders that affect the fate of Frank’s wife. So the father/son must work together to somehow change history again and hopefully prevent the murders from happening.

As with any time travel/alternate history movies, the logic behind the story is tough to grasp. I mean the film never really explained how the Aurora Borealis caused the radio reception to function in such a way, enabling the Father/Son to communicate 30 years apart. But hey, obviously the sci-fi fantasy element asks the viewer to simply accept that fact, so I was willing to go with it. The movie starts out being more of a drama, but the last third it becomes more of a thriller as the father/son worked together to catch the Nightingale killer, named for his penchant for killing nurses. The fact that John’s mother is a nurse—which ironically saves the killer at the hospital in the alternate universe—obviously made her a target. At times it felt like a procedural suspense drama, like an episode of Criminal Minds or CSI, but the father/son bond is what makes the whole thing intriguing. Shawn Doyle as the psychopath is undeniably creepy, relentlessly terrorizing both father/son in parallel timelines.

Frequency‘s strength definitely lies in the emotional bond between the father/son roles. Dennis Quaid as Frank and Jim Caviezel as John palpably displayed a heartfelt bond despite not sharing the screen together pretty much the entire movie. The first time they realized the identity on the other side of the radio, you immediately connect with these two characters and the love they have for each other. I love how the movie depicts such a loving family life, not just between father and son but also between Frank and his wife Jules (Elizabeth Mitchell). Andre Braugher as John’s partner in the force who’s been trying to solve the Nightingale murder case also gives a memorable performance.

It’s not a perfect movie by any means, in fact, there’s perhaps overly sentimental at times, down to the unbelievably happy ending. But overall, the performances of the leads are what made the movie work so well. It’s a sci-fi thriller that’s full or heart, and one that confirms me even more how underrated both Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel are. Caviezel in particular has this charismatic presence and that ‘quiet hero’ sensibilities about him that would make him a perfect candidate to portray Superman. I think he was considered by Bryan Singer at one point and I think he could pull off such a role [at times his looks and mannerism actually reminds me a bit of Christopher Reeve]. Obviously he has convincingly played humanity’s hero in The Passion of the Christ, a role that in a fair world should’ve nabbed him at least an Oscar nomination.

Frequency is definitely worth a watch for fans of time travel movies, or anyone who appreciates a heartfelt family drama with a twist. Fans of baseball might get a kick out of all the World Series facts used throughout the movie, at times it becomes a plot significance as well.

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Headhunters (2011)

This independent Norwegian movie has definitely shot up to be one of my favorites of the year! I’m so glad I gave it a shot despite it being more violent and gory than I’m usually comfortable with.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is one of Norway’s most powerful headhunters. You’d think he makes pretty good money to live a good life, but if you want to live like a prince, then certainly one must pay for it. Roger lives an incredibly extravagant lifestyle: multi-million dollar house, top of the line Lexus and he could buy his beautiful wife Diana a 98,000 Krone (about $17K) earrings! The secret? Well he’s also an art thief, which is ironic since his wife is a gallery owner. With the help of his security guard friend Ove, Roger’s perfected his heist method, replacing the originals with forgeries which often goes undetected for years and the trails have gone cold.

It’s an interesting character study and Roger is definitely an intriguing individual. By self admittance, he realizes that he overcompensates his relatively short stature (5’6″) with an outward panache and marrying a tall, beautiful blond (Heidi-Klum lookalike Synnøve Macody Lund). He’s more in love with what the Diana represents than the woman herself, which explains why he hesitates to have a baby with her. He also has a mistress who’s much less glamorous than Diana, perhaps because internally, Roger feels inferior to his own wife.

Early in the film, the VO during one of Roger’s heist says that everything is fine until one gets caught. Well, unbeknownst to Roger, there’s apparently an even bigger danger lurking. The movie quickly gains momentum the moment Diana introduces her husband to a powerful man in the name of Clas Greve (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). A former elite soldier and former CEO of a surveillance company HOTE. It turns out Clas wants to be the CEO of HOTE’s competition, Pathfinder, which is a position that Roger happens to be recruiting. Clas soon becomes the target of Roger’s thieving plan, as Clas apparently inherits a rare Rubens painting worth close to a hundred million, along with his grandmother’s apartment.

What happens next propels this movie into a relentless cat and mouse game beyond anything Roger could’ve imagined. It’s full throttle action that involves a brutal shootout, dog attack, car/tractor chase and a breathtaking accident involving a truck going in full speed! The action is quite vicious and relentless but none of it feels gratuitous to me as it moves the plot along. One particularly disgusting scene rivals the one in the Slumdog Millionaire (you’ll know which one it is when you watch it). Roger is in deep sh**, and I don’t just mean that figuratively speaking. Yet beneath all that bloody action sequences, the film is not without heart. There’s a conversation between Roger and his wife that’s particularly striking for its emotional honesty.

36-year-old Aksel Hennie carries the movie with aplomb. Initially he’s not a sympathetic character but he grows on you as the film progresses. The only actor I’m familiar with, Coster-Waldau, definitely fits the role of a charming but deadly former military guy who’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead. I picked the tall, gorgeous Danish as one of the actors I’d love to see as James Bond, and I stand by that pick after seeing him here.

This is easily the smartest, most gripping thrillers I’ve seen in years. The acting is understated and the script, based on Norwegian author Jo Nesbø’s novel Hodejegerne (The Headhunters), is taut and unpredictable. I was at the edge of my seat the whole time and a few times I thought I knew where the story was going, but fortunately the movie still managed to surprise me. I’m not very familiar with Scandinavian cinema, but the stark minimalism packed with maximum efficiency is definitely a breath of fresh air.

There’s apparently a US remake in the works (surprise, surprise) as Mark Wahlberg was reportedly so impressed by this movie that he already bought the remake rights. Meh, I doubt it’ll ever live up to the original. So I advise you to watch this one instead before the US one comes out. Kudos to director Morten Tyldum who’s only made less than a half dozen feature films. This is what every thriller movie should be as it really was a thrill ride in more ways than one.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on either one of these movies? Did you see anything good this weekend?

Somewhere In Time … Everybody’s Chattin’

Happy Friday everyone!

It’s kind of a short week for me as I took Wednesday off but still it feels hectic so I’m definitely glad the weekend is just around the corner. I found time to re-watch one of my old time favorites last night, I guess I was feeling rather melancholy, but I wanted to watch something with gorgeous music and Somewhere In Time fits the bill perfectly.

I love the Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour match-up… both of them are so ridiculously stunning but it’s Chris’ earnestness that really won me over. It proves that he’s sooo much more than just a Superman actor. This gorgeous film is no doubt one of the most heartbreaking time-travel romances ever made and John Barry’s music is sooo hauntingly beautiful.

Well, it’s time for links! I’ll start with the ladies first of course…

Lesya’s New York City in Genres
I always love a great blog-a-thon and in this one Lesya @ Eternity of Dream invited a bunch of bloggers to share their recommendations of a variety of films set in New York City.
Kristin asks a great question whether comic book films should be serious, or not so serious
As a fan of superhero movies, I certainly think there are room for both interpretation. But what do YOU think?

Lady Sati’s August Movie of the Month EARRINGS
I’m attempting to hit two birds with one stone here… one of my favorite bloggers Lady Sati just posted her review of another talented cinephile and burgeoning filmmaker Alex from And So It Begins blog. Check out his short film debut EARRINGS and its production notes here. Congrats Alex!
Fogs’ Top Ten Comic-Book Superhero Movies
Now this is my kind of list!! I can’t believe I haven’t made one like it yet but I agree w/ a lot of his picks. How about you?
Michael’s review of Field of Dreams
This is perhaps the only movie about baseball that I like. I still have no clue about th sports but I like the story and Kevin Costner’s performance. Plus, a post with an awesome word like felicitous is certainly going to get a link love from me! 🙂
Mark’s gave Gladiator another shot!
Hurray! Most of you know how much I LOVE this film, so I’m so thrilled that my pal Mark was willing to give this film another go despite not being wowed by it the first time. He now has a better appreciation for it, find out why.
Ryan’s review of To Rome With Love
How does Woody Allen’s latest love-story-ensemble-cast-set-in-a-European-city fare? Is it as delectable as the best Gnocchi alla Romana on Thursdays? Ryan investigates.
Nostra summarized the results of the fun-tastic Movie Confessions blog-a-thon
Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks Meryl Streep is a bit overrated and there are others who have not seen anything by Kurosawa.


Now lastly… are you on Facebook? Then so is FlixChatter! 😀


So what are you going to see this weekend? Whatever you do, hope you have a good one!

Groovers & Mobsters Present: Time Travel Movies – TIMELINE

Groovers & Mobsters event is upon as again and this time it’s all about Time Travel Movies!

This blog-a-thon was started by Heather from Movie Mobsters and Andy from Fandango Groovers where various bloggers join them in exploring a select genre in the only way we know how, talking about our favorite movies. This is the second time I join on the fun, the first one was about one of my favorite Bond movies, and I picked The Living Daylights.

My pick is an underrated film called TIMELINE (2003), I posted a shorter version on the Groovers & Mobster’s post, so this is my full review:

All right so perhaps I enjoy this movie more than I would otherwise because of Gerard Butler’s involvement, but the time travel aspect of it is intriguing. I mean, imagine what you’d do if for some reason you find yourself stuck in the Medieval era and stripped off of every single ‘modern’ item we now take for granted day in and day out.

Well, that is what happens to a group of archaeological students working on a dig at a castle in Castlegard, France when they suddenly received a message from their missing professor. It turns out the message was dated 600 years prior, and sure enough, somehow the professor had become trapped in the 14th century. Turns out that Prof. Johnston had been on a time-traveling mission for the company that fund the dig, a dubious company called the ITC. How does the time travel work? Well, it’s done through a ‘3D fax machine’ technology (yep, that is what they call their time machine) which happened to open up a wormhole directly to the year 1357. So with the help of a few Marines, the group now has to go and retrieve the professor, and they must survive the warring regions of the era and return back to 2003 safely.

As if that’s not a crazy enough idea, Johnston had to be stuck right in the midst of bloodiest battle between French vs. English. The adventure begins as soon as they step on the soil of Medieval France and it doesn’t take long before peril strikes the group as they’re suddenly attacked by a group of horsemen that resulted in an explosion destroying the chamber which is their ‘bridge’ that transport them between the two timelines.

It’s based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, what makes the story unique is the mix between futuristic elements and Middle Ages setting. As with a lot of time travel movies though, the concept is often better than the execution. If we were to nitpick, there are internal logic and inconsistency issues with the plot about whether the past/history can or cannot be altered. The romantic plot between André Marek and Lady Claire that transcend chronological time has been the subject of quibbles about this movie, such as what this reviewer said on a blog aptly named Chronological Snobbery.

But y’know, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and not over-analyze every single little thing, this movie is pretty good fun. It’s pretty fast-paced with a good amount of chase and battle scenes to keep action fans happy, with an endearing romance thrown in for good measure. The setting is also beautifully-filmed by acclaimed cinematographer Caleb Dechanel (The Patriot, The Passion of the Christ).

The movie was apparently plagued with all kinds of problems, from script rewrites all the way to finding a shooting location (per IGN Movies). But the biggest issue was of course, adapting the 500-page book into a two-hour movie, which is a daunting task for any director to tackle. I haven’t read the book so I can’t say if it lives up to that, but I think Donner did a decent job making it entertaining. He also created a believable look for the Medieval era without using too much CGI. In fact, he’s said to have built a real medieval castle for much of the battle scenes and the action scenes seemed pretty authentic to me. The night battle scenes with the volley of fiery arrows is pretty impressive. Not quite in the same league as LOTR’s Helms Deep battle in the night storm, but it felt believable enough, and the ending of the final battle is central to the romance I spoke of above.

Apart from Paul Walker, I quite like the cast. I don’t care that he got top billing for this movie (coming off of The Fast & the Furious fame), but he’s just not a convincing lead and he comes off really whiny. You know I’m a big fan of Gerry Butler, but when I saw this movie I actually had no idea who he was. It was after I saw The Phantom of the Opera a couple of years later that I realized the Phantom was actually played by the same actor in the role of André Marek! Butler’s portrayal of Marek is the highlight of the movie for me, he gets to keep his Scottish brogue here which is always a plus, and Marek’s romance with Lady Claire (Anna Friel) definitely appealed to the hopeless romantic in me. The rest of the cast turn in pretty decent performance as well, Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park) as Johnson’s favorite student Kate, David Thewlis as ITC’s exec, and Michael Sheen as the villainous Lord Oliver. Billy Connolly as Prof. Johnson is perhaps underused a bit and it’s hard to imagine him as Paul Walker’s dad.

So yeah, it’s really not as bad as the critics make it out to be. This movie is worth a rental if you like time travel sci-fis or movies about archaeology.

Check out the trailer if you’re interested:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Do you like time travel movies? If you’ve seen this one, let me know what you think.