FlixChatter Review – MIDSOMMAR (2019)

Written & Directed by: Ari Aster

When I heard Ari Aster had a new horror movie coming out, I was excited, especially since he described it as a companion piece to last year’s Hereditary. While I didn’t want to go in comparing it too much to last year’s hit, I still had high expectations.

Following a heartbreaking family tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) tags along with her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), and his friends Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) to an idyllic commune in a remote part of Sweden to experience their mysterious summer solstice festival. The longer they stay, however, it becomes more evident that there is a more sinister meaning behind the celebration.

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This movie is nearly TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG and my goodness, it does not need to be. A slower pace can work in creating an unsettling, suspenseful tone (it was super effective in Hereditary), but it this movie goes beyond that, and it’s not like the plot is complex or dense enough to warrant that long of a run time. The movie has serious Wicker Man vibes-the 1973 one, not the baffling 2006 remake (although weirdly enough, this movie also has a man in a bear suit). That’s partially good-both films have these hauntingly beautiful soundtracks and a unique aesthetic for a horror movie-but Midsommar doesn’t do anything particularly new or creative with the “unsuspecting outsiders are lured to a strange, rustic community for nefarious purposes” plot, despite having a ridiculous amount of time to do so.

Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper & Will Poulter

Fortunately, this film gives us a lot to look at over its long run time; it is absolutely gorgeous. Midsommar is full of creative editing and camera work and beautiful set and costume design. Even the gory parts are fascinating. The cast is solid too; lead Florence Pugh is easily the standout, although Will Poulter gives an enjoyable performance as well, despite his character being a one-note frat bro-type.

While I was mostly underwhelmed with this movie, I would still watch it again, just to see if I missed any interesting details or clues in the lush visuals. If you were curious about Ari Aster’s style after hearing about Hereditary’s success but aren’t a huge horror fan, Midsommar might be worth checking out- as long as you have a decent amount of time to kill.

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Have you seen Dead Don’t Die? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Revenant (2016)

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I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Alejandro González Iñárritu. I think he’s a very good filmmaker but many of his films are way to depressing to me. Heck I have yet to see his awarding winning film Birdman, so I was hesitant to see his latest picture. But after seeing a stunning trailer a few months back, THE REVENANT became of the films I most looked forward to seeing this winter.

Set sometime in the 1820s, frontierman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a fur tracker who’s part of a pelt gathering expedition that’s being lead by Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). As the film begins, Glass and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are deer hunting in the forest while his group are gearing up to get on their boat. Suddently out of nowhere, a pack of Native Americans starts attacking them. In an intense battle sequence, some of the crew were killed but Glass and the rest of the gang were able to get away. Later the group came to a rest at a camp site. While out scouting for any potential dangers, Glass was attacked by a bear. He’s badly wounded but was able to kill the creature. Moments later, Henry and some of the men found him. They stitched him up but realized he might not live for long.

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One of the crew members named John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) suggested that they leave Glass to die on his own since he’s badly wounded. This of course upsets Hawk and Henry refuses to leave anyone behind. As the crew are heading back to their settlement across the mountain, it became clear that they can’t carry Glass all the way back. So Henry offer money to any volunteers who will stay with Glass until he dies and give him a proper burial. Glass’ son Hawk immediately volunteered and so did a young crew member named Jim Bridger (Will Poulter). The third person to volunteer was Fitzgerald, his only reasoning was that he wants the cash. What Henry doesn’t know is that Fitzgerald didn’t care for Glass and he never intended to wait until Glass dies. What follow is a story of vengeance and survival in the harsh winter landscape.


DiCaprio didn’t have a lot of dialogue in the film but his performance really shines as he uses all of his body and emotions to convey a man who’ll do anything to get vengeance at the people who left him for dead. It’s obvious he wants another shot at that golden statue, I’m sure he’ll get nominated again but I don’t know if he’ll win it. Hardy turned in another stellar performance as the antagonist. I wouldn’t call him a “bad” guy, his action and reasoning are quite understandable, although I don’t agree with some of the things he did in the film. The two young actors, Goodluck and Poulter, also shines as sort of the innocent characters in this harsh time.

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Iñárritu directed the film with some interesting camera work, particularly in the battle/action sequences. He also paid a lot of homage to Terrence Malick’s films. Some might call it pretentious but I don’t see it that way. The movie is quite brutal when it comes to violence, the bear attack scene was the most intense and realistic thing I’ve ever seen on screen. Then there’s the eventual showdown between Glass and Fitzgerald, it’s brutal and bloody but believable to me.

The film was shot by the always-great Emmanuel Lubezki and of course it looks spectacular. See it on the biggest screen you can find. Also, I have to mention the sound design, it’s one the best I’ve heard all year. The film was recorded in Dolby Atmos, but unfortunately the advance screening I saw was at a 7.1 surround sound. But I’m planning to see it again at a Atmos theater. So find a nice big screen theater with great surround if you can and be amazed by the sight and sound of this film.

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I don’t pay attention to any award shows but I won’t be surprised if this film get lots of attention from Oscar or Golden Globe voters. It’s one of best films of the year and as of now, it’s my favorite of 2015.

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So have you seen The Revenant? Well, what did you think?

Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2013 viewings

Since I started last year, I’m going to make this post an annual thing (well, for as long as I have this blog that is). I mentioned in the first post that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. Again, I may not necessarily love the film they appear in, but the actor(s) in question could still make an impression to me to make the list. The obvious case for me this year is last year’s Honorable Mention Oscar Isaac (who in hindsight should’ve been on my MAIN list) in Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m not terribly fond of the film but I LOVE his performance and I’d love to see more of him in Hollywood.

So like last year, I’d like to focus on those I either wasn’t aware of prior to 2013, or that for some reason I just didn’t notice them until last year. Some of these actors have been working steadily and relatively well-known to some, but they were ‘obscure’ to me until recently. It’s perfect timing that I had just read the BAFTA Rising Star nominees earlier this week, and a couple of their nominees make my Honorable Mentions.

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In any case, based on my 2013 viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Riz Ahmed

FiveNewFaves_AhmedI had never heard of Riz Ahmed before but apparently the British Pakistani from Wembley London is a pretty well-known actor and rapper. Well he didn’t rap in the movie I saw him in, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, but he gave a pretty soulful and affecting performance as a Pakistani man pursuing the American dream. I was pretty mesmerized by the 31-year-old, though apparently he also had a bit part in Michael Fassbender’s swashbuckling actioner Centurion in 2010.

What’s Next: Well according to IMDb, he’s got supporting roles in Nightcrawler and Violent Talent, not sure yet about the release dates. I hope he’d get a leading role again in the future as he definitely has the talent AND gravitas to pull it off.

Lake Bell

FiveNewFaves_BellApparently miss Bell has been acting in various movies and TV shows like The Practice and Boston Legal, but I haven’t seen a single film of hers until her directing debut where she also starred. The film was this comedic gem In A World … which I saw at the MSP Film Festival in a sold-out showing.

The leggy and beautiful actress could’ve been a fashion model (and she probably was at some point), but she made herself to be a disheveled mess in her own movie, but yet she’s so fun to watch! I hope she does more comedies as she’s so naturally goofy and has quite a knack for physical comedy. As a voice over talent trying to break into a male-dominated industry, she proves her mettle both in front and behind the camera. I love that she explored a plot that hasn’t been explored much but definitely ripe for a hilarious comedy!

What’s Next: I just saw her in the trailer for sports drama Million Dollar Arm with Jon Hamm, and she’s also up for a thriller with Owen Wilson (??) and Pierce Brosnan called The Coup. But what I’m looking forward to is Bell teaming up with Simon Pegg in British comedy Man Up, now I don’t know what the premise is yet, but it sounds like fun!

Daniel Brühl

FiveNewFaves_BruhlNow, I’ve already been aware of Brühl from his memorable supporting role as a Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. But everyone’s performance in that movie was practically eclipsed by that Austrian Christoph Waltz. But this year, I was impressed by the 35-year-old German actor in not one but THREE films: RUSH, The Fifth Estate, and Joyeux Noël. I’m thrilled that he’s nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Niki Lauda in RUSH, but hopefully Oscar won’t overlook him.

There is a quiet charisma about him that I like, not to mention his versatility. Apparently he’s part Spanish as his full name is Daniel César Martín Brühl González Domingo (wow!) and he’s fluent in German, Spanish and French on top of English, of course. No wonder he’s able to pull off different accent, which is key to being offered roles of various nationalities.

What’s Next: I saw him in the John le Carré’s spy thriller A Most Wanted Man with Philip Seymour Hoffman, but looks like he’d have a more prominent role in the drama The Face of An Angel with Kate Beckinsale.

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David Oyelowo

FiveNewFaves_OyelowoHe’s one of the trio of British-African actors I’m really loving lately, along with Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor. I first noticed him in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and then The Help, but last year I saw him in Jack Reacher and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Now, it’s the latter that REALLY made me take notice as the 37-year-old actor somehow can pull off playing a teenager and college freshman believably. Not only that, the Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) graduate also has the on-screen charisma to match his natural acting talent.

Like many British talents, Oleyowo are often mistaken for being an American as he effortlessly pulls off various accent. In fact, most of the roles I saw him in was him playing an American. Many Brits might recognize him from earlier season of Spooks (MI-5) as well, so he’s perhaps one of the most successful Spooks-alum as Hollywood’s taken notice of him.

What’s Next: He’s got no less than seven projects listed on his IMDb page, yay! One of them is Interstellar. But what I’d love to see is him in leading roles as he surely deserves it. Sounds like he’s the protagonist in Nightingale and Five Nights in Maine, and a supporting role (rumored) in Jurassic World.
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Andrea Riseborough

FiveNewFaves_RiseboroughWhen I first saw Riseborough in Disconnect, I was blown away by her performance… only to be floored later on when I realized she’s British!! I’d say her role as an ambitious journalist was one of the most grossly-overlooked performances of 2012! Later in the year I saw her in OBLIVION where she uses her natural accent and she was truly the best performer in that entire movie!

The third film I saw her in, Shadow Dancer with Clive Owen, she plays an IRA member-turned-informant and pulls off an Irish accent beautifully. She reminds me of my favorite actress of all time Cate Blanchett, who has the same chameleon-like ability with not only her looks but her accent, demeanor, etc. The 32-year-old English actress was trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), so I guess we can expect quality work from this future thespian.

What’s Next: She’s part of an ensemble cast of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming film Birdman (also starring Emma Stone, Ed Norton and Naomi Watts), as well as The Silent Storm with Damian Lewis. Hopefully she’s got a bigger role in the latter.


Honorable Mentions:

These five names did an impressive performance last year, though two of them (Robinson and Nyong’o had not acted before). Poulter and Nyong’o are one of this year’s BAFTA Rising Star nominees year’s nominees, too.

Tye Sheridan (Mud)

Somehow I didn’t notice him much as Brad Pitt’s son in The Tree of Life, but here he’s definitely memorable. As one of the two young boys in MUD who befriended a man with a shady past (Matthew McConnaughey), Sheridan’s character was the heart of the film. I’d love to see what else he’s got going on next.

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

It’s definitely one of the most talked-about performance of the year but her sensational performance hopefully won’t be a one-hit wonder. The Mexican-born Kenyan actress was a graduate of the Yale University School of Drama’s Acting program and she has a pretty extensive stage credits. She’s starring with Liam Neeson next in the actioner Non-Stop [sigh], let’s hope Hollywood finds a project worthy of her talent soon enough.

Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer)

Soulful. That’s how I’d describe this newcomer. Though it’s his feature-film debut, the 18-year-old has a certain confidence and charisma to carry off a leading role. He also seems wise beyond his years which made him so perfect in this coming-of-age tale.

Will Poulter (We’re The Millers)

Here’s another young Brit who manage to fool me as an American. I totally forgot he was in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader but the tall, lanky 20-year-old was absolutely convincing as an geeky American teenager who somehow got entangled with a small-time pot dealer pretending to be a family vacationing in Mexico. His rendition of TLC’s Waterfall alone proves that this kid has amazing comic timing, it’s worth seeing just for that part (I’m sure it’s on Youtube).

James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3, Parkland)

Here’s another actor who I’ve never heard of before then suddenly I saw three of his movies in one year (same as Riseborough above). I didn’t really remember him in World War Z but he was definitely memorable in Iron Man 3 and Parkland, two VERY different roles that he pulled off nicely. In the former, he somehow reminds me a bit of Robert Patrick in Terminator 2, though perhaps not quite as iconic. As in Parkland, as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, the 35-year-old displayed his dramatic chops. I hope he won’t get stuck playing supporting roles in the future.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

FlixChatter Review: We’re The Millers

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When I first saw this trailer, I’ve got to admit that I found the premise to be quite hilarious. Former SNL cast member Jason Sudekis plays a small-time pot dealer David, who has to assemble a fake family for a mission to transport a ‘smidgen’ of pot from Mexico. He’s convinced that under the disguise of a family on vacation, they wont run into scrutiny by the border crossing guards.

The first 20 minute or so sets up each of the ‘family’ member and how they ended up agreeing to do this crazy journey together. One of the movie’s highlights was when the ‘family’ first met on the plane on the way to California before they drive to Mexico. I think the situation itself lends to hilarity as they tried to conceal their identity. Though she has such a limited range, Jennifer Aniston is more watchable in comedies than rom-com. There’s a comical moment when she arrives on the plane looking like a demure suburban soccer mom, complete with sensible shoes, but then again she was not believable as a stripper to begin with.

Interesting that I first saw Sudekis in another Aniston movie The Bounty Hunter where he’s basically reduced to a pathetic admirer of her character. This time he’s got the leading role, though his character also pines for Aniston’s Rose, a stripper who’s desperate for cash after she gets evicted from her apartment. I think both Sudekis and Aniston have a natural chemistry together, though for me, the scene stealer is Will Poulter as Kenny, the virgin teen who lives in the same building as David and Rose. He kind of reminds me of Tintin, so maybe he’d be a good fit if they want to make a live action movie of the Belgian comics, ahah. Kenny is instantly likable and hilarious, the scene of him singing the Waterfall song by TLC is a hoot! I just realized that the 20-year-old actor is English who was in The Chronicles of Narnia, which totally floored me as he was so convincing as an awkward Midwestern kid. Emma Roberts is just ok as the Millers ‘daughter’, she’s the least memorable of the ensemble, I think a more comedic young actress would bring something more to the table.

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To me the funniest moments are when the Millers get to Mexico in that giant RV, especially when they encounter a fellow RV-travelin’ tourist family after they managed to cross the border in Mexico. Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn play this squeaky clean, longtime husband and wife who are eager for some adventure to spark up their marriage. Offerman is one of my favorite comedians working today, the guy is naturally hysterical with his deadpan humor. I’d love to see him in a leading role for a change. French actor Tomer Sisley, whom I quite like in The Heir Apparent, was sadly wasted here, playing a stereotypical drug lord as the lame villain of the movie.

I’m usually not into raunchy R-rated comedies, I don’t know, endless profanities just don’t translate to entertainment for me. No doubt there are tons of that here, with vulgar scenes galore and some are quite offensive. The scene with Luis Guzmán as a Mexican cop asking for sexual favors in return of monetary bribe is just downright crude, but nothing could prepare me for the scene when Kenny’s um, testicles get bitten by a Tarantula! Aniston’s stripping scene doesn’t seem risqué by comparison, heck, it’s really nothing more than her showing off that she’s still got a hot bod at 44. One thing for sure, this is a comedy about family that’s definitely NOT for the whole family.

Overall, despite some hilarious moments, I feel like the premise has a lot more potential than what a team of four writers came up with here. I think under a more deft script and direction, this road trip movie could’ve been a comedy classic. At the same time, there’s enough going for it to keep me engaged throughout and some moments actually had me in stitches. So for that I’m going to be pretty generous in my rating. Comedies is tough genre to recommend as what people find funny vary so much, but I’d say this one is at least worth a rental.


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Thoughts on this movie and/or the cast?