FlixChatter Review: NEWS OF THE WORLD (2020)

First, a confession: I’m not a big fan of Westerns. Yes, there have been some Western movies I liked, most notably The Big Country, The Magnificent Seven, 3:10 To Yuma, The Dark Valley (this last one is an Austrian Western!). But when I received a screener of this one, I was intrigued because of Tom Hanks in the lead role, and later I learned it’s his first Western.

Well, his first foray into the genre proved to be more of a drama than a shoot-em-up action, which I actually prefer. The film is set five years after the end of the Civil War in the late 1800s, a turbulent, dark period in America. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) is a Civil War veteran who now works as a news reader, traveling from town to town and charging a dime per person to read aloud from newspapers. Honestly I didn’t even know such a profession exist before I watched this movie. But what perfect casting, who doesn’t want Mr. Hanks to read news to you in the only way he can.

Capt. Kidd is about to move to another town after he read the news when he came across an overturned wagon, a lynched black man and a young white girl dressed in Native American clothing. He soon realized she’s a German native who had been taken by the Kiowa tribe and able to speak the language. It’s upon meeting the 10-year-old Johanna (German actress Helena Zengel) that the adventure began, as Kidd reluctantly agreed to deliver the girl to the only family she has left. But the hundreds-mile journey to San Antonio proved to be a rough and dangerous one, but provided ample time for the two of them to slowly bond.

I quite love a road movie when it’s done well and News of The World is a road-Western that makes the most of the two strong characters. Even though it’s mostly the two of them on screen for long periods of time, it’s never boring to me. There are a few shoot-em-ups up on a treacherous mountain region when the two were pursued by ex-Confederate soldiers-turned-hoodlums who wanted to purchase Johanna. The wilderness shootout was perhaps one of the few tense scenes in the film that’s also a key bonding moment for Kidd and Johanna. They also face more danger in their next stop when they encounter a radical gang who turns out to be in control of a small mining town. The gang leader obviously wants to keep outsiders out and feels threatened when Kidd disobeyed his orders to only read the news from his own ‘approved’ paper.

The quieter moments prove to be the most emotionally moving, such as when the two were trapped in a ferocious dust storm. The storm itself was remarkably filmed as it felt quite real, but it’s the moment when Kidd thought he’d lose Johanna forever that’s truly memorable. It’s a genuinely surprising moment that got me teared up, and the two actors’ performance truly brought the beautiful moment to life. Which brings me to the major strength of the film, which is the synergy between these two unlikely pairing. Hanks has always been a reliable actor, but it’s the now 12-year-old Zengel that’s the biggest surprise. She’s not only captivating to watch but she’s also able to match Hanks’ intensity and her taciturn role require her to act with her eyes and mannerism, which she pulled off beautifully.

It’s quite a departure for Paul Greengrass (who worked with Hanks in Captain Phillips) who’s known for his hand-held camera style in his action films. I’d say it’s a pretty restrained direction that works well for the story. There are slow moments in the movie, but it never felt tedious, which is a testament to the solid script Greengrass co-wrote with Luke Davies. Working with DP Dariusz Wolski, it’s a stunning film visually that made me wish I had seen this on the big screen. I also like James Newton Howard‘s reflective music that complements the vast open spaces of the American west.

This movie boasts one of the most memorable finale that closes the chapter of the two characters wonderfully. The themes of identity and sense of belonging, especially in regards to Johanna, are explored well here. It doesn’t pass judgment in regards to her dark past and how she ended up being a lost girl, but I feel like it presents the reality of that time period in an authentic way. I also love that in the end, that sense of belonging isn’t just confined to Johanna, but also to Capt. Kidd, and that’s what makes the ending so special.

Have you seen NEWS OF THE WORLD? Well, what did you think?

Thursday Movie Picks 2021: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Picture

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy first full week of 2021! It’s also the first TMP of the week. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Oscar Winners Edition – Best Picture.

Well, Oscar nominations isn’t coming out until March 15 this year, but naturally Oscar talks have already begun and film fans are likely making their predictions already. For this Best Picture edition however, I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane and pick from three different genres released in three different decades. I’m also picking those that I actually enjoy watching more than once.

In any case, here are my three picks:

The Sound of Music – 1965

Directed by Robert Wise

I’ve mentioned this a few times on this blog that this is one of the three VHS my late mother brought home from a European trip when I was in my early teens, which also marks my introduction to big Hollywood movies. The other two are also Oscar Best Picture winners: Gone with the Wind and My Fair Lady. 

I’ve since watched The Sound of Music at least a dozen times. I know a few of the songs by heart to this day, and there’s such a timeless quality to the story and obviously the music. Irwin Kostal also won an Oscar for Best Music in this movie, his second one after scoring West Side Story a few years prior. Well, both of the lead actors are still working today. In fact, it’s quite amusing to hear Dame Julie Andrews’ voice in Bridgerton series as Lady Whistledown.

Fun Trivia:

Christopher Plummer accidentally said the word “Captain” to Julie Andrews during the argument scene. Despite the error, producer and director Robert Wise thought it was that amusing, and liked it so much, he kept it in the movie.


Forrest Gump (1994)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

I actually haven’t seen this one in a while but I’ve definitely seen it at least 2-3 times. It’s crazy that this movie is 26 years old already and Tom Hanks is still one of the best and most prolific actors working today. This is easily one of Hanks’ most memorable performance even in his illustrious career filled with indelible characters. It’s also one of the most quotable movies, some hilarious and some profound. It’s nice to see a character like Forrest Gump being such a popular icon… an earnest, good-to-the-bone human being that’s lacking any kind of malice, you could say he’s the modern day George Bailey.

Fun Trivia:
Tom Hanks signed onto this film after an hour and a half of reading the script, but agreed to take the role only on the condition that the film was historically accurate. He initially wanted to ease Forrest’s pronounced Southern accent, but was eventually persuaded by Robert Zemeckis to portray the heavy accent stressed in the novel, and he patterned his accent after Michael Conner Humphreys (young Forrest), who actually spoke that way.


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Directed by Peter Jackson

It’s quite rare for a big franchise film to get an Oscar nomination and this one won 11 Oscars, rivaling Titanic and Ben-Hur, the latter is one of my all time favorites. I actually think The Two Towers is as good if not better, which was also nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture. The Battle of Helm’s Deep is perhaps one of the most amazing battle scenes ever filmed. But of course, The Return of the King is a spectacular end to the trilogy, with Aragorn leading the forces of good against Sauron’s evil army. This was the first fantasy film to ever win Best Picture. It’s still a rarity for fantasy films to nab the award, though The Shape of Water did win Best Picture in 2017.

Fun Trivia:

The last shot of principal photography was when the newly-crowned Aragorn bows to the four Hobbits. Although Viggo Mortensen did not need to be on-set for that day, he nevertheless insisted on attending. He didn’t have a crown (it wasn’t necessary, he wasn’t being filmed), so he fashioned one out of paper. With each successive take, the crown was becoming more ornate and sillier as crew members kept decorating it, so the four actors playing the Hobbits often had difficulty suppressing their giggles.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

FlixChatter Review: TOY STORY 4 (2019)

When Pixar Animation Studios released the animated feature Toy Story on November 22, 1995, it probably could not have imagined in its wildest dreams that the animation studio would be acquired by Walt Disney Studios, and would be releasing its fourth Toy Story movie, Toy Story 4, after the first three films received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike and made close to 2 billion dollars in the worldwide box office. Fortunately for Pixar President Jim Morris, and Pixar Chief Creative Officer (and Minnesota native) Pete Docter, all of these things did come true, and the release of the last Toy Story film, Toy Story 4, could not have come at a more perfect time.

Pixar has become synonymous with genuinely heartfelt, often hilarious, high-quality animated entertainment. And Toy Story 4 delivers just that for the Disney-owned animation studio. It’s a sequel to the massively successful Toy Story 3 movie of 2010, following the adventures of Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), among other toys who reside with their human child owners, and try to bring them as much joy and laughter as possible.

While we did not review any of the previous Toy Story movies here, back in 2016 blog owner Ruth Maramis did a weekend roundup after having just watched The Secret Life Of Pets and re-watched Toy Story 3, where she said she was “blown away by how good and emotionally-compelling it was. It’s definitely much more than just a fun, feel-good kids movie. The Toy Story trilogy still reign supreme as the best animated movies ever, it won’t be a hyperbole to call it Pixar’s masterpiece.” Well I have good news for you, Ruth! Toy Story is no longer a trilogy but rather a list of feature film series with four entries (and probably one of – if not the – best four animated feature film series) and its will most definitely NOT be a hyperbole to call the Toy Story franchise Pixar’s masterpiece. In fact, Toy Story 4 could be considered the crown jewel of the franchise because it manages to maintain its superb animation qualities and the emotional complexities of its predecessors, while adding a major element of humor to its repertoire.

Ducky & Bunny – voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele

By adding the strong comedic writing style of Rashida Jones, among other writers, Director Josh Cooley added new toy characters such as Ducky and Bunny (voiced respectively by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) to a freshen up the animated toys used in the franchise. These two – a duck named Ducky and a rabbit named Bunny – make friends with Buzz Lightyear after he finds himself as a prize in a carnival booth. They exist simply for being plush toy prizes, and not belonging to any child. They long for the chance to escape their monotonous existence on the wall of a carnival booth someday and get the shot at an exciting life, belonging to a child, and of being a part of a family of toys. These are just two of the new and exciting toys in Toy Story 4, but probably the most ordinary yet magical new toys is Forky (voiced by Tony Hale). Forky was created by new child Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw) when she goes to kindergarten for an orientation. Bonnie instantly falls in love with Forky and it is the only toy she can ever think of when she wants a friend. But Forky… well Forky is much interested in the simpler life, one where he is quite simply trash. He was made from trash, and feels most comfortable when in the trash can. In fact, Woody spends the majority of the first half of the movie trying to keep Forky from ditching Bonnie for a less exiting existence in the trash. But by doing so, Woody also finds meaning to his own existence and understands that not all toys are meant to belong to just one single child.

One of the most exiting toys that I’m sure will be talked about long after Toy Story 4 finishes its theatrical run is named Duke Caboom and he’s voiced by Keanu Reeves. Duke Caboom may just be a Canadian daredevil toy with a white outfit, a mustache, and a toy motorcycle. But Duke Caboom is also a major hero, where he risks everything just so the toys he just met could be saved.  You see, Duke suffers from low self-esteem due to believing that he let down his previous owner (a Canadian child), unable to do the stunts that his commercial ads had promised. His current state is that of being confined to the shelved as an antique, but his backstory is equally tragic. When Woody and Bo Peep (voice by Annie Potts) meet Duke in pinball machine inside the spooky antique shop, the daredevil openly pines for what he once lived and lost. He tells them “You have a kid? I had a kid. I let him down!” You see, he wasn’t able to perform the stunts that his TV commercial promised. But he is given the chance to redeem himself and boy does he ever. You could say that Duke Caboom is my favorite new toy to appear in Toy Story 4.

Keanu Reeves-voiced Duke Caboom

The main arc of the story also introduces us to a doll named Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks). While at first, Gabby Gabby and her henchmen at the antique store (a group called the Bensons, who are silent but sentient puppets) aren’t very friendly to Woody and Forky. We learn that there is a very good reason Gabby Gabby is interested in Woody and taking something that is very personal to him. But Gabby Gabby is a vintage 1950’s doll that doesn’t get almost any attention from children, and this is what motivates her to take her existence into her own hands and find the one child who will love her like she deserves. This helps Woody, Bo, Buzz and the whole gang to ultimately find their place in life, whether it’s with one child or one that helps other toys, sometimes lost toys, to find their owners. This is where Toy Story 4 succeeds. It doesn’t try to be overly sentimental in its approach to humanizing these animated toys, but rather it draws on the emotions we feel as human beings on a daily basis; the desire to belong, to be loved, to help others. I think this will be the legacy that the Toy Story franchise leaves its admirers – to accept others and treat others like you want to be treated.

Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendricks

There is a touching tribute at the end of the credits – to thank and acknowledge the passing of actor Don Rickles, who voiced Mr. Potato Head in the previous movies. Also stay in your seats after the credits for a special bit involving the Pixar Logo and Duke Caboom. I can’t tell you more but I promise you that you won’t regret it. Overall, Toy Story 4 succeeds where the other three Toy Story movies also succeeded, but it also builds upon the franchise with great humor and a great ending. Perhaps the Disney and Pixar bosses will try to make a fifth movie in this franchise (just take a look at what Disney has done with the Star Wars franchise) but it would be beneficial for everyone if they just let Toy Story 4 be the movie that concludes the franchise. Maybe take some time and reflect on the Toy Story legacy, and what it brought adults and children alike in the past 24 years. Then take another one of Pixar’s troves of films (maybe Inside Out 2?) or just go with an original concept (what a novelty!) and hope that it turns into Disney and Pixar’s next animated perfection and makes them “a bajillion dollars” in the process. Because by this time, you would be foolish to ever doubt Pixar, wouldn’t you?


Have you seen TOY STORY 4? Well, what did you think? 

Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) + SULLY (2016)

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How was your weekend everyone? It’s been a busy one for me, but a productive one. I actually did go to the movies, which is rare actually for me as I usually go to press screenings on week nights. But after dinner my hubby and I felt like checking out the new AMC theaters with the new reclining seats, which are indeed awesome! SULLY was the only one we’re interested in that is less than 2 hrs long, though it felt a bit eerie watching a plane crash scene in NYC on the weekend of 9/11.

In any case, on Friday night, we also rented a movie we’ve been curious about for some time…

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

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The story of the life and academic career of the pioneer Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his friendship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy.

I have to say that being terrible at math, I’m not that familiar w/ the subject of this biopic. But Of course, just checking on Wikipedia, he’s an extraordinary man whose math theories are still being used today.

Stories about geniuses are popular biopic subjects in Hollywood, i.e. A Beautiful Mind, The Imitation Game, etc. The film traced his humble beginning in Madras, India and how he ended up at Trinity College, Cambridge in the 1910s. Dev Patel bears no resemblance to the real Ramanujan, but he seems to be the only actor of Indian descent working the British film industry could think of to cast. He’s a likable actor, and I think he’s quite believable in the role.

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Jeremy Irons plays G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan’s mentor who invited him to Cambridge to the first place. The film began with Hardy’s voice over saying how much he owed Ramanujan, which suggests there’s a deep friendship between the two. The rapport between the two characters is a bit of a slow built. The main friction between the two is that Hardy refuses to publish Ramanujan’s theories without proofs, whilst Ramanujan’s convinced all his theories add up. There’s also the fact that Hardy didn’t seem sensitive enough to the challenges Ramanujan faces at Cambridge, including his sense of alienation the fact that he’s an Indian studying amongst British intellectual elites.

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As far as biopics go, this one is pretty straight forward. Though the subject matter deals with theorems and formulas, I wish the film is less um, formulaic. The film could’ve been really engrossing under a skilled/experienced filmmaker, but this is director Matt Brown‘s sophomore work, so overall it’s pretty dry. It’s an intriguing journey about a brilliant person, but yet I just wasn’t as involved or moved by his story as I expected. The performances are pretty good, though I’ve seen more impressive work from everyone involved, including Toby Jones as J.E. Littlewood, one of Ramanujan’s advisers. Stephen Fry barely made a dent though as he only appeared briefly in the film.

I do appreciate the spirituality aspect of the protagonist who’s a devout Hindu. Contrast that with Hardy who’s a professed atheist, there’s a few interesting banters between them. Ramanujan said at one point that “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” He still prayed regularly when he’s at Cambridge, so faith certainly played a big part in his life. The film also showed his selfless nature that he hid his illness from his friend. The fact that the university was being used as a hospital during World War I, he also felt that his condition just wasn’t bad enough as the soldiers that he deserved care.

I suppose the film is still worth a look if you’re curious about Ramanujan’s story. Though it wasn’t a great film, I’m still glad I saw it and the protagonist no doubt has a story worth telling.

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SULLY (2016)

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The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.

The last Clint Eastwood-directed film I saw was Invictus which was back in 2009. It also happens to be the shortest film he has directed at 96 minutes, which is the reason we picked this one when my hubby and I was deciding on which new release movie to see on Saturday night.

It really is quite a feat that a film where the ending is well-known, given that it happened only seven years ago, still manages to be quite riveting. Of course Eastwood got the best man for the job, there’s practically no other actor of his stature who’s as skilled AND as likable as Tom Hanks. He’s the perfect actor to play the quiet hero whose selfless and humble traits are something to aspire to. I also think Aaron Eckhart is pretty good here, though I wish Eastwood had given someone as talented as Anna Gunn more to do.

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I didn’t see this movie in IMAX but it was filmed with IMAX cameras so I bet it looked even more spectacular on screen. The plane landing scene on the Hudson river is as suspenseful as it is stunning to watch. Kudos to Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki for keeping SULLY afloat when it could’ve easily been a tedious based-on-a-true-event types of movie. Just remember this is a film, not a documentary. There’s likely a great deal of creative license taken in the way the NTSB investigations played out.

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

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Mr Robot, ‘A Hologram for the King’ & The Wine Show

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How’s your weekend everyone? It’s another glorious weekend weather-wise… Summer is so fleeting here in MN so we’ve got to make the most of our time being outside.

I didn’t go to the cinema this weekend, trying to finish up Mr Robot Season 1 and we’ve got four more episodes to go. I’ll defer my final judgment until I finish all episodes of the first season, but I’m impressed w/ it so far. It keeps me guessing just what the heck is going on and it always ends on a suspenseful cliffhanger.

It’s certainly one of the most diverse cast of a TV series, with the lead Rami Malek himself of Egyptian descent. No shortage of interesting characters in this series, Mr Robot himself (played by Christian Slater) is definitely an enigma, but the Swedish-speaking Tyrell played by Martin Wallström is the one who gives me the creeps. He reminds me of American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman with his steely gaze and violent tendencies.

Looking forward to finishing Season 1 hopefully next week!


HologramFortheKing

Saturday night I watched the new Tom Hanks drama set in Saudi Arabia. At first it made me think of Lost In Translation mixed with Learning to Drive, though it’s quite different from either. Cross-cultural stories always appeal to me, though this film is more about a personal journey for the lead character. Alan Clay is a washout American sales rep who’s sent to Riyadh to do a major pitch for his company to a wealthy-yet-elusive monarch.

I have to say I’m not sure what to make of this movie. I was amused one second, discombobulated the next. The novel by Dave Eggers (which Hanks reportedly loved) might have been very interesting, but it feels like it might not have translated as well on screen. Now, it’s not that I wasn’t entertained, there are some amusing moments and Hanks was likable as always, I just felt that the humor felt a bit forced at times. They also hired another White guy (an American) to play an Arab. Alexander Black plays the taxi driver Yousef who predictably becomes friends with Alan. There’s a running joke about him checking the hood of his car for a bomb, not in a terroristic way he said, but from a jealous husband who suspects he’s having an affair with his wife. It was amusing the first time around, but it became repetitive. I feel there’s a lack of genuine rapport between the two actors, but it’s more because of the way they’re written.


There’s a budding romance between Hanks and his female doctor, Dr. Zahra (Sarita Choudhury) who treats him for the cyst on his back. I’m not really feeling the chemistry between them however, just like Alan and the taxi driver. Oh and the scene between the two towards the end is very um, unexpected. Let’s just say I didn’t expect to see a topless underwater scene in this movie, though I don’t think that alone warrants that the R-rating. Interesting that Choudhury was also in Learning To Drive, it seems like she’s got that ambiguous ethnicity where she could play an Arab, an Indian or Italian believably. I like that her character defies the stereotype of what we, in the Western world, think of an Arab woman. There’s another female character, a Danish woman working in the region who came on very strong to Alan, but her storyline seems grossly under-developed.

The pacing of the film seems off, though the story did manage to surprise me a few times. I can’t judge how accurate its portrayal of Arab culture as I’m not from that region, but I feel that the filmmakers did attempt to do it respectfully and not resorting to simple stereotypes. Filmed in Morroco with some exterior shots of Riyadh, it blends the traditional and very modern aspect of the Arab world.  The actual hologram presentation to King Abdullah itself is a non-event, apart from a rather odd cameo from Ben Whishaw playing a Q character of sort.

Once I finished the film, I found out that the film’s director is Tom Twyker. I love his German film Run Lola Run, but his last Hollywood movie is the even more puzzling Cloud Atlas. I did praise it for its valiant effort, though I honestly don’t know if I’m going to like it as much upon rewatch. Now, what I can say for this one is, give it a shot if you’re a huge fan of Hanks (as he’s in virtually every single scene). Overall it’s lacking a certain oomph to make it a memorable movie. But at only 138 minutes, at least it didn’t overstay its welcome.

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WineShow

I saw on Twitter there’s a new reality show called The Wine Show arriving on HULU. It’s got the two gorgeous Matthews, Matthew Goode & Matthew Rhys, who played Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley. The show was originally done for British ITV. Filmed in beautiful locations all over the world, The Wine Show is informative, entertaining, humorous and surprising, with something for everyone who enjoys a glass of wine. I love that the wine expert is called Obi Wine Kenobi, ha!

I love this, definitely will be watching all 13 episodes!

 


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

Weekend Roundup + Mini Review of Bridge of Spies (2015)

What a weekend it’s been! It’s just three days until Twin Cities Film Fest kicks off Wednesday night 10/21 so naturally my week and the entire weekend is filled with preparation for the festivities.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen me tweeting up a storm about TCFF, so yeah clearly I’m excited 😛

The TCFF programmers have traveled to Austin, Los Angeles, & New York in search of great movies this year… the result is an awesome lineup of more than 100 premieres, including a bunch that have huge awards buzz. I’ve highlighted some of those must-see films here, but I’ve also made a list of MN-connected films that I can’t wait to see – from comedies, dramas, thrillers, docs, there’s definitely something for everyone, cinephiles or otherwise.


This weekend happened to be a perfect Fall day here in MN, with seasonably cool temps and ample of bright sunshine both Saturday and Sunday. So I did get a chance to get out and be outdoors before I’m cooped up inside a theater watching a whole bunch of movies. I LOVE Autumn in Minnesota… the fall colors is just absolutely gorgeous!!


BridgeOfSpies

The last Steven Spielberg film I saw was War Horse, which was back in 2011. I haven’t got around to seeing Lincoln but for some reason, I haven’t been um, compelled to see it. Spielberg is back to yet another based-on-a-true-story historical drama, about an American insurance lawyer who’s recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help arrange a prisoner swap when a rescue a pilot is detained in the Soviet Union.

Bridge of Spies is the kind of slow-burn espionage thriller in the vein of a John le Carré’s adaptation, so if you’re expecting an action-packed movie a la James Bond or Jason Bourne then you’re likely disappointed. But the lack of action doesn’t mean there’s lack of suspense and the Cold War intrigue is ever present. I don’t think a film needs to be violent to build tension, and Bridge of Spies is proof of that. The film lives up to the title as well as the pivotal scene on the Glienicke Bridge is certainly memorable.

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Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as James B. Donovan, channeling Jimmy Stewart as a virtuous and effortlessly likable everyman who’s more shrewd and skillful than meets the eye. There’s an unsubtle message about defending an American value that everyone deserves a fair shake, but yet it doesn’t feel preachy thanks to Hanks’ portrayal. Hanks is in nearly every frame of the film, but English actor Mark Rylance is equally brilliant as the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. In fact, he’s quite the scene stealer right from the opening scene. Abel’s relentlessly-unperturbed demeanor is part of what makes his character so intriguing. I love that the film also takes the time to show us the unlikely friendship of these two characters.

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Out of a decent ensemble of supporting cast, Amy Ryan stood out as Hanks’ wife, a role that would’ve been utterly forgettable in less capable hands. The script is co-written by the Coens, who infused it with a dose of wity humor to break the tension that make all those dialog scenes sprightly. Visually speaking, the set design looks realistic, especially all the Berlin scenes just right after WWII. The cinematography by Spielberg’s frequent collaborator Janusz Kaminski is stunning to look at, especially the rainy scenes that echoed a memorable scene in The Road to Perdition that also starred Hanks. The music by Thomas Newman perfectly complements the tone of the film, I’ve come to expect that Spielberg movies usually have memorable scores.

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There are slower moments, but overall this film was pretty engrossing. This is definitely another Spielberg/Hanks fruitful collaboration and clearly the two have formed a great rapport over the years. I didn’t know anything about the protagonist, but Mr. Donovan’s story is definitely worth telling. Unlike some of le Carré’s spy stories though, this film is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. There’s an earnest quality about Spielberg directing, the lack of cynicism in the way he tells the story that some people might call conventional. But I admire that sincerity that Spielberg and Hanks are known for, and there’s a great deal of measured and astute work from the both of them.

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Have you seen Bridge of Spies? Well, what did you think?

Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2015 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! 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. Since this months’s edition falls on Easter Sunday, I think it’s the perfect time to highlight films with redemptive themes. They don’t have to be spiritual films per se, it could be from any genre, so long as it contains films where the character realize the error in his ways and become a changed person. Some of the ones that have memorable redemptive themes Road to Perdition, Michael Clayton, Schindler’s List, Gran TorinoLéon: The Professional, Children of Men, Star Wars, those are just at the top of my head.

But the one that I always find profoundly moving is the finale of Ben-Hur

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Judah: Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Esther: Even then.
Judah: Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.

It’s a perennial favorite around Easter time, but really, I’d recommend one of the greatest epics in cinema history any day of the year.

Which film(s) with redemptive theme resonate with you most?

….

2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Steven Spielberg‘s WWII drama Bridge of Spies.The name refers to a bridge across the Havel River in Germany used by the Americans and Soviets for the exchange of captured spies during the Cold War.  

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This marks the fourth Spielberg – Tom Hanks collaboration and the Coen brothers are apparently polishing the script originally written by Matt Charman. Wow, with such a pedigree and an intriguing premise, I can’t wait to see this! 

Too bad John Williams won’t be scoring the film though, apparently due to “a minor health issue that’s now been corrected,” (per EMPIRE) and replaced by Thomas Newman. The article also provides a caption of the image we see above: James Donovan (Hanks), a lawyer who was pushed headfirst into the Cold War during the 1960s when he had to negotiate for the release of downed U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers after the airman was shot down over Russia. Alongside him is Mark Rylance’s Rudolf Abel, a suspected KGB spy who was defended by Donovan in a US courtroom in 1957.

What’s your initial thoughts of Bridge of Spies?

3. I just read this over at Slash Film that series creator Steven Moffat wants a crossover of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Now, though I’m not obsessed with either show, I totally get the appeal and I think both are fun and well-written. Crossover ideas are nothing new in pop-culture, we’ve seen ’em in a lot of comic-book adaptations like CW’s Arrow and The Flash, and of course the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universe are full of them.

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Photo courtesy of Geek Tyrant

Well, apparently Moffat is the only one excited for the crossover idea as the lead cast Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman, as well as the series’ co-creator Mark Gatiss aren’t keen on the idea, saying “Look, it will never be as good as they think it’s going to be.” You know what, I kind of agree with them. It seems like a fun idea, but whether it’ll actually work or not is another story. Though if there’s anyone who could somehow make it work, it’d be Moffat. So never say never I guess.

What do you think of this Sherlock/Dr.Who crossover or other crossovers on film/tv?

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4. This question is inspired by my recent roundtable interview with the two lead cast of The Longest Ride: Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood (I will post the transcript next week). Also, I saw A Woman in Gold last week in which Max Irons has a supporting role (I first noticed him in The Riot Club trailer) and Colin Hanks was just on MPR’s Wits, a live public radio show filmed here in town. Well, just looking at the last names, you might be able to deduce that all three have famous dads who are practically screen legends: Clint Eastwood, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hanks. Boy, they all seem to be splitting images of their dads, aren’t they?

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Scott Eastwood, Max Irons, Colin Hanks

Now, I haven’t seen enough of their work to judge their talent as an actor, but they seem to have a decent career so far in Hollywood. It made me think of other famous Hollywood actors’ offsprings who’ve made it in showbiz. There are no shortage of them, and some have even match or even surpass the success of their parents, Angelina Jolie, Michael Douglas, Jeff Bridges, those are just a few that come to mind.

So I’m curious, who are your favorite famous actors’ offsprings?

5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Stu from Popcorn Nights blog!

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The Final Cut of Blade Runner has just been re-released in cinemas in the UK, and stands as Ridley Scott’s definitive version of the film, and far better than the 1982 cinema release. Here’s the trailer:

Which director’s cut of a film do you think is the biggest improvement on the original work?


Well, that’s it for the April 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀