Music Break: Independence Day (1996) patriotic score by David Arnold

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!! Hope you’re all enjoying your weekend, wherever you are.

I went up north for a couple of days for a quick weekend getaway and went kayaking around Apostle Islands near Bayfield, WI. On the drive back we listened to the Art of the Score, one of my favorite music podcasts out of Australia and in this episode, they discussed James Bond soundtracks, particularly the later ones by British composer David Arnold. Well, I have to admit I became familiar with Arnold’s work because of his astounding work in Casino Royale (2006), which stands as one of my all time favorite scores (not just for a Bond movie). But then the two hosts Andrew Pogson & Dan Golding talked about Arnold’s filmography and they mentioned Independence Day as one of his most famous work.

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Serendipitously enough, I had just watched like the last half hour or so of ID4 on TV as it happened to be playing on TV in my hotel!

I actually left the end credits rolled before switching the channel and I forgot just how enjoyable the score was, but I didn’t look up the composer. Well since today happens to be America’s birthday, I thought it’s a perfect time to highlight ID4’s score! Let’s start with this one which is a terrific score that perfectly complements one of the most memorable presidential speech in movie history (spoken by Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), one of my top five favorite American presidents in the movies!):

This one is appropriately defiant and patriotic, which has a bit of Superman theme touches in there, another highly patriotic movie involving aliens, ahah.

Independence Day Music Trivia:

  • David Arnold-composerThe score won a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television. Per Wiki, it was recorded with an orchestra of 90, a choir of 46, “and every last ounce of stereotypical Americana he could muster for the occasion”.

    The film’s producer Dean Devlin commented that “you can leave it up to a Brit to write some of the most rousing and patriotic music in the history of American cinema.” 

  • Per IMDb Trivia, according to the liner notes from the recent La La Land Records limited release of the complete score by David Arnold, the drum rhythm heard during the invasion scenes near the beginning of the film are Morse Code letters D-I-E.

  • Struggling to write the score, David Arnold secluded himself in a Los Angeles hotel room for almost four months to avoid the escalating hype for the film. But from his window he saw helicopters carrying banners with taglines to the film as part of a marketing campaign, which only stressed him out even more.

Here are two more tracks from the movie to make it an even four:

Even 25 years later, I think ID4 remains one of the go-to movie to watch on July 4th, which is crazy the fact that per IMDb trivia, director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin got the idea for the film while fielding a question about the existence of alien life during promotion for Stargate (1994). A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a film with content like that if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover fifteen mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the world’s largest cities. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said, “I think I have an idea for our next film.” They penned the script in four weeks. It was sent out on a Thursday, and they started fielding offers the next day. By Monday, they were in pre-production. 

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It made a star out of Will Smith and he + Jeff Goldblum made a pretty fun duo! Of course, given its massive success, a sequel was inevitable, but I still have not seen Independence Day: Resurgence and probably never will.


Hope you enjoyed this music break! What’s YOUR favorite patriotic movie?

FlixChatter Review – Bad Boys For Life (2020)

The original script of Bad Boys was written for Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, for the youngsters out there, Carvey and Lovitz were quite popular comedians back in the 80s and 90s. Surprisingly, both actors weren’t interested and with the rise of hip hop music in the 90s, the script was rewritten for then young and hip comedians, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson were in a time crunch, they needed to turn the script into production in just a few months or Sony was going to pull the plug on the project. Most well-known directors at the time weren’t interested in directing the film, so they decided to hire an unknown music director by the name of Michael Bay. The film opened in the spring of 1995 and it’s a big hit considering its very small budget of about $20mil. Personally, I thought the series was going to have like 6 or 7 sequels by now, but a sequel didn’t come out until 2003 and now we’re finally getting a third sequel.

As the film opens, Det. Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) became a grandfather while his partner Det. Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) still enjoy living the single life. Unbeknownst to Mike, Marcus had decided to retire from the Miami PD. He’s trying to convince Mike to settle down, get marry and have children. But Mike still considers himself the cool cop in Miami and wants to keep taking down the bad guys as long as he could. One night while out celebrating the birth of Marcus’ new grandson, Mike was gunned down by an assassin. The person behind the assassination attempt is Isabel (Kate del Castillo), wife of a deceased drug cartel leader from Mexico. She wants vengeance on those who caused her husband’s demise and Mike happens to be on top of the list. Helping Isabel taking out her enemies is her son Armando (Jacob Scipio).

Joe Pantoliano back as Captain Howard

Of course, Mike survived the attack and after spending six months in recovery, he wants revenge. Hoping his partner would be more than willing to help him track down the assassin but Markus told him he’s retired from the Miami PD and that he can’t be part of the “Bad Boys” team with Mike anymore. Now feeling betrayed and angry, Mike decided to beg his captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) to let him investigate his own assassination attempt. So Howard decided to let Mike be involve with the AMMO team that’s in charge of the case and Mike needs to follow the order of its leader Rita (Paola Núñez), as it turns out Rita and Mike were once a couple but broke up because Mike’s fear of falling in love. That’s pretty much the set-up of the story, this being a buddy cop action picture, you’ll get the usual car chases and shoot outs.

The screenplay was credited to three writers, Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan. Carnahan was actually tapped to direct the picture, he left because of the constant delays in production but still gets credited as a writer. There’s nothing really new in this sequel, instead of having Mike and Markus battling drug dealers like the previous films, this one is more personal to Mike. But the film still contains elements of the last two films. What’s kind of refreshing to me was that the story took its time before unleashing mayhem on screen. Since we’re now living in a more PC world, the gay jokes aren’t there anymore and the racist and sexist jokes have been tone down a bit. With both Smith and Lawrence are now in their 50s, the film contains more old people’s joke than other offensive ones.

I consider BAD BOYS 2 to be one of the worst films of the 2000s. It’s a loud and obnoxious film with no redeeming quality whatsoever. Basically, it’s Michael Bay’s first journey into Bayhem. So, I was glad he decided to not return and direct this one. Taking over the helm are two unknown and untested directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. While the look and style of the film is very similar to Bay’s, the two directors did tone down the flashy camera works and fast editing that Bay seems to love incorporating into his films.

Unfortunately, both Arbi and Fallah just couldn’t shoot proper action scenes. There were two big set pieces that should have been exiting but they were so badly staged and shot that the scenes looked like some film student actually shot them. Now if the film was a low budget production, then I can give it a pass, but with a reported budget of $90mil, it’s inexcusable to me. I think maybe they should’ve hired Bay just to shoot action scenes. Say what you will about the man, he does know how to set up proper action sequences and make them look exciting on the screen.

The two leads w/ supporting cast Charles Melton, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, and Paola Núñez

Performances were fine all around. Smith and Lawrence always have a good chemistry, and there are some of their scenes together in the film that made me laugh out loud. In order to attract younger audiences, young actors Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig and Charles Melton were part of the action and of course they’re there to make fun of Mike’s and Marcus’ old age.

While I wouldn’t call it the “best” in the series, this three-quel was definitely an improvement over the last film. It’s less mean-spirited and has more laughs. If you’re a fan of the series, then I think you’ll enjoy this one. It’s just a shame that the action scenes were the weakest part of the film.

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So have you seen Bad Boys For Life? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Disney’s live-action ALADDIN (2019)

Can you believe it that the original Aladdin animated feature came out 27 years ago? To be honest, I barely remember it as I was more into the Princess movies growing up (esp. Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid). When they first announced they’re working the live-action remake, I was skeptical, which wasn’t helped at all by the ‘blue-not-blue Genie’ debacle. So I went in to the screening really hoping to be pleasantly surprised. You know what, I was!

The opening sequence of Arabian Nights sets the right mood, though it took me a little while to get used to Will Smith‘s singing. By the time we meet Aladdin (Mena Massoud) in the streets of Agrabah with his loyal monkey friend Abu, I have a good feeling I’d enjoy the movie. The Egyptian-Canadian Massoud is instantly likable and is light on his feet as he runs, jumps, leaps from building to building while flashing his movie-star smile. He can sing too, his song One Jump Ahead is dynamic and fun, offering great views of the town.

The arduous casting process for this movie paid off, not only in finding Massoud but Naomi Scott as well as princess Jasmine. The Anglo-Indian actress got so much flak because she isn’t of Arabic descent, but I think people would be impressed by her performance here. She has such a regal air about her but also a charming earthiness that made you believe Aladdin would mistake her for being the princess handmaiden. She and Massoud have a lovely chemistry as they relate to one another that they feel trapped in the life they’re born into. She too can belt a tune and actually sound fantastic together in the gorgeous duet of A Whole New World.

Now, as for Genie. The comparison with the iconic Robin Williams is inevitable, and Will Smith has such giant shoes to fill. But all things considered, I think his ‘Fresh Prince’ interpretation of the character surprisingly works. His Friend Like Me rendition has touches of hip-hop and it’s pretty catchy. The A-list star has an infectious energy that works perfectly as Genie, and some of the jokes (mostly directed at his naive master Aladdin) is genuinely funny. Massoud’s comic timing is adorable, playing up the state of being discombobulated to great effect. It mostly works as this version of Genie also has a good rapport with Aladdin and their relationship plays like an unlikely buddy-comedy with some emotional moments for good measure. I actually enjoyed Smith more when Genie is in human form, which shows up quite a bit in this movie.

It’s ironic that initially I was most excited by Jafar’s casting (Marwan Kenzari) but he’s actually the weakest link here. It’s not exactly his fault however, as he’s a talented actor based on the few things I’ve seen him in (especially The Angel on Netflix). I just think his character is underwritten and bland. The Dutch-Tunisian actor is stripped off his hotness charisma playing a trite, one-note villain. The finale when he’s got his last wish is practically laughable and way over the top as the CGI team went nuts with the magic dust effects.

As for the supporting cast, Iranian-American actress Nasim Pedrad provides comic relief as Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia (and Genie’s love interest). I also like the fact that Dalia is more of a friend to the princess which is lovely to watch. Turkish-German actor Numan Acar as chief soldier Hakim has a memorable scene towards the end, while Billy Magnussen as a goofy Caucasian prince with a hilarious accent drew plenty of laughs. I’m glad his screen time is basically a cameo as he’s so unnecessary. In any case, it’s gratifying to see a diverse cast in this movie. As someone of Southeast Asian decent, I’m always glad to see actors of color shine in a big-budget Hollywood production.

Guy Ritchie seemed a rather odd choice as director, given that he’s mostly known for his R-rated action movies set in London. But to be fair, he’s been stretching his filmmaking horizon a bit with movies like Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., etc. And as he often make movies about inner city working class people, I suppose it’s fitting that he tackles a Disney version of a street hustler. Ritchie also co-wrote the script with John August.

Stylistically, Ritchie’s trademark hyper-stylized filmmaking style of frenetic pacing, quick camera work and kinetic editing is visible in some of the chase scenes, but overall it’s tamed down a bit here. It’s definitely nowhere near as dizzying as his reimagining of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which was a major flop. The way he directed the musical numbers however, is a bit hit and miss.

I’m a huge fan of Alan Menken‘s classic songs, and those are still the main highlights here despite some of the wonky directions. For one, some of these numbers seem to be Bollywood-inspired despite the story is set in the Middle East. The Prince Ali sequence is supposed to be all festive and celebratory but at times feels more topsy-turvy. I do love the A Whole New World number atop the magic carpet which feels appropriately dazzling and romantic, boosted by the terrific aerial effects. The one that make me cringe is the main scene of Speechless, mostly in how it’s directed. I loved the new song the first time I heard it, sung beautifully by Naomi Scott. But the second time around, the musical number felt off despite the defiant message. It’s a pity as it’s such an empowering song and the lyric is organic to the story of a smart, capable woman who’s a natural leader of her Kingdom. I credit Scott’s charismatic performance that somehow she still made the scene work.

I went to the press screening with my best friend’s 12-year-old daughter. In the car she said she’s disappointed by Disney that they keep remaking old things instead of coming up with new materials. Well, she definitely shares my dread about the lack of creativity from behemoth studios. Alas, these live-action remakes are here and they’ll keep on coming whether we like it or not, but as a critic I still ought to judge each of them based on its artistic merit.

Overall Aladdin is a pretty fun movie, though overlong at 2 hours 8 minutes. The production quality is naturally top notch given the hefty Disney budget. I love the set pieces of Agrabah and especially the fabulous costumes. Jasmine’s intricate dresses are especially breathtaking. I think this princess would be a good role model for young girls as she’s not just beautiful on the outside but also has something to say. This movie is far from perfect, but it’s got enough going for it that warrants a recommendation. One thing for sure, Menken’s iconic songs still sound as wonderful as the first time I heard them, and Speechless is a great addition. I don’t even mind seeing this movie again and that speaks volumes about its entertainment value.


Have you seen ALADDIN? Well, let me know what you think!

Guest Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)

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Directed By: David Frankel
Written By: Allan Loeb
Runtime: 94 minutes

After reviewing a couple unimpressive comedies last week (Office Christmas Party and Why Him?), I was ready for seeing something a little weightier, so I was excited to get the opportunity to see Collateral Beauty. I was a little nervous it would be overly-sentimental, and while I did find some problems with it, I still thought it was very well-done.

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In Collateral Beauty, advertising mogul Howard (Will Smith) writes letters to Love (Aimee, played by Keira Knightley), Time (Raffi, played by Jacob Latimore), and Death (Brigitte, played by Helen Mirren) following a family tragedy. At the same time, three of his friends and work colleagues- Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) – worry that Howard’s mental state may cost them their jobs and devise a desperate plan to prevent it from happening, all while simultaneously fighting their own personal battles. I realize this is a vague synopsis, but saying more would spoil a lot of the plot.

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While I don’t think this movie will go down as a classic, it was a solid film. It was creative and handled the subjects of loss and grief well, without being too heavy-handed. The acting was, of course, phenomenal; how could it not be with such a strong cast? The stand-outs for me were Helen Mirren, who gave a both humorous and poignant performance, and, naturally, Will Smith; he barely has any dialogue in the first half of the movie, but his facial expressions and body language alone is striking, and if he doesn’t make you cry (or get a little choked up, at the very least), you are made of stronger stuff than I am. Naomie Harris as Madeline, the leader of a support group for parents who have lost their children, was excellent as well; she was able to bring both strength to the character as well as an underlying sense of grief without being too obvious.

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I did have a couple issues with this movie. One of the twists seemed way too obvious-there were too many pregnant pauses and significant glances hinting toward it- so when it was finally revealed, it felt a little underwhelming. I also thought the plan Howard’s friends come up with to prevent them from losing their jobs was really convoluted; admittedly, it was needed to get the plot moving, but suspension of disbelief can be stretched only so far.

Overall, though, Collateral Beauty was an enjoyable movie, thanks mainly to the fantastic acting. If you’re looking for a light, heartwarming film with some tearjerker moments, check it out.

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Have you seen ‘Collateral Beauty’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

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Not every year we get not one but two highly-anticipated DC superhero films where the hype is simply overwhelming. I personally have not been anticipating either movies, and I tried with all my might to avoid watching every damn clip/trailer/featurette, etc the studio releases practically every single week. Well, you already know how I feel about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now we’ve got the DC ensemble cast about supervillains instead of superheroes.

Now, it certainly helps if you have seen BVS, as this film starts out in the aftermath of that film. “What if the next Superman is a terrorist?” intelligence operative Amanda Waller (the always solid Viola Davis) asks a team of officers and general. She argues that mere mortals won’t stand a chance against such formidable foe, so she assembles a team of incarcerated supervillains and send them off on a deadly black ops mission in exchange for clemency.

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The first act of the movie pretty much consist of character introduction: hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), deranged former psychiatrist Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Aussie thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), pyrokinetic former gangster Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and monstrous cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). They’re to be placed under the command of Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), whose girlfriend June Moore (Cara Delevingne) is actually possessed by a witch known as “Enchantress.” If you think that’s already impossible to keep track, we’ve also got Flag’s bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and of course, one of the most [over]-hyped character of the year, The Joker, played by recent Oscar winner Jared Leto. Now, as tedious as the intros may be, it does help someone like me who isn’t familiar with the comics to figure out just who the heck everybody is.

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Though billed as an ensemble cast, the two leads of the film are actually Will Smith and Margot Robbie. The rest are pretty much relegated to supporting roles, with the Joker’s role ends up being nothing more than a glorified cameo. Even as I’m watching the movie, I could just feel the wrath of the Joker’s (or Leto’s) fans seeing how little his screentime is. Now Batman is barely shown here but that’s understandable as this is a movie about the villains. It seems a ton of Leto’s scenes has ended up in the cutting room floor.

Now I wonder if the filmmaker thought that the Joker is such an an overpowering figure that he easily steals the spotlight from everyone else. The longer he’s on screen, the film might no longer be about the Squad, but more about the iconic DC villain. Even the scarce number of scenes between him and his lover Harley (a case of doctor/patient relationship gone terribly wrong) is no doubt one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. I think from those deleted scenes they could probably create a Harley & Joker movie that would likely be a massive hit.

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For a movie built on ‘it’s good to be bad’ principle, I expect a lot of fun with the characters. Well, there were some amusing scenes and some that made me laugh, but overall it’s not that joyful of a ride after all. First of all, none of these supervillains are really that bad in this movie. Heck even one of them didn’t want to perform his abilities because he’s developed um, a conscience. Then there’s the drab and dour look of the movie popularized by DC’s purported *savior* Zack Snyder. Director David Ayer pretty much adopts a similar style, with occasional garish, candy-colored color-scheme in some scenes. Oh and there’s sheer lack of originality in the music department too, pretty much copying Guardians of the Galaxy in its overuse of pop music. Heck they even used the exact same song Spirit in the Sky! At least in Guardians, the music is actually part of the plot involving the lead character, but here it’s just used haphazardly seemingly just to fill up dead space.

That said, I was actually surprised that I wasn’t bored watching the movie despite its 123-minute running time. I guess that would be the one pleasant surprise about this, oh and the fact that there weren’t as many cringe-inducing scenes as BVS. Unfortunately, the more I think about this movie, the less positive I feel about it.

As for the performances, I was quite surprised that I didn’t mind Smith here despite my growing apathy towards him (interestingly enough I also quite like him in Concussion). Courtney didn’t irritate me as he usually did in other roles, and Kinnaman is pretty good despite being a rather vanilla character. It should be no surprise to anyone that the scene-stealer here is Robbie. The Aussie actress is on the brink of overexposure these days as she seems to be everywhere. But she does have talent and personality that matches her beauty.

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Her Harley Quinn is fun to watch when she’s bad, but she also has a certain vulnerability that she lets out when there’s no one around. Now, Leto’s Joker didn’t really wow me. He’s nowhere as phenomenal as Heath Ledger in the role, but I think that’s unfair to expect him to be, simply because the two Joker characters are quite different. Ledger’s more of a sadistic psychopath who in Nolan’s version ‘just wants to see the world burns.’ Leto’s version is a deranged maniac, more of a warped prankster than merciless criminal mastermind. For one, I can’t imagine Ledger’s Joker to ever be in a relationship with any human being, romantic or otherwise.

The third act of the movie is the most problematic. It’s ironic that in a movie about bad guys, the actual villain is irritatingly absurd. Whilst the enchantress starts out rather intriguing, it seems to have gotten more ridiculous as the movie goes on. Nary of a compelling backstory, this diminutive witch spews out an army of blob-headed creatures that are so gross to look at. The finale looks as if Warner Bros and Sony are sharing the same SFX department to create the effects as it looks so similar to the one in Ghostbusters! Just like Man of Steel and BVS, once again the final battle is nothing more than a mind-numbingly loud and bombastic CGI fest.

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Plagued by multiple reshoots, perhaps the movie was doomed from the start. As the writer and director of the movie, it was risky for WB to hire David Ayer, known for modest-budgeted, gritty crime dramas who has never done a blockbuster film. Now, hiring filmmakers with indie-cred can pay off (as in the case of the Russo Brothers for Marvel), but I don’t think it pays off as well here. I wouldn’t call Suicide Squad a huge mess, and it truly IS better than BVS, but really that’s not saying much.

But I think the most disappointing part is that for a movie that strives so hard to be different, the result is pretty much more of the same as the previous DC movies. Though I’m glad I did see it so I can judge it for myself, it’s not something I’m keen on watching again anytime soon. This one makes me dread the other DC ensemble movie Justice League even more, once again promoted in the post-credit scene featuring Bruce Wayne. I have said in the past that I’m more of a DC than Marvel fan, but sadly DC still has SO much catching up to do to match its arch rival.

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So what do YOU think of Suicide Squad?

Thursday Movie Picks #56: Alien Invasion of Earth

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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… 

Alien Invasion of Earth

This month’s theme turns out to be pretty easy as there are actually not that many to pick from for me. A lot of the scifis I like are more about humans & robots, not aliens.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.

When someone says ‘alien invasion movies,’ the first thing that came to mind is this. In fact, I asked my hubby and that’s the first thing that came to his mind as well. It’d also my pick for apocalyptic blockbuster as it’s just so much fun! I remember when I saw it on the big screen for the first time, there’s a sense of awe and intrigue when those big spaceships first appeared hovering above the sky.

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I mean, all the action set pieces like the White House blowing up, Will Smith punching the ugly, slimy alien in the face, and that bombastic aerial battle at the end are still memorably epic to this day! It’s an awesome ensemble cast too, Jeff Goldblum has the snark and swagger to make any role memorable. And of course there’s that rousing, albeit corny, presidential speech from Bill Pullman… “We won’t go quietly into the night!” There’s nothing quiet about this flick and I love it all the better for it!

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SIGNS (2002)

A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.

Let me preface this pick with the fact that despite the atrocity of The Happening, I actually still have hope for M. Night’s career. He’s made two excellent films you could consider a classic (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) and the other two in his resume, The Village and Signs, left a lasting impression that I thought about them for days after seeing them. I know his films have their share of ardent fans and equally passionate detractors.

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I’m not saying SIGNS is a perfect film, there are some preposterous, even laughable moments. But I like that it’s really not so much about alien invasion, but he took some of the classic elements of that genre and turn it on its head. In the same way that Sixth Sense isn’t your typical ghost story and Unbreakable offers a compelling twist in the crowded superhero genre, Signs deals with a broader theme. It’s an intimate film about a close-knit family, led by a former pastor dealing with a crisis of faith. The mystery and suspense surrounding the aliens themselves was pretty fun to watch the first time around, but it isn’t the heart of the film and it’s not what stuck with me afterwards. I like the emotional and spiritual aspect, and how a dire predicament actually helps restore a man’s soul and brings his family together. It’s been ages since I saw this but I definitely want to see this again. Excellent acting all around too by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Pacific Rim (2013)

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

I love LOVE this movie! I never thought I’d love a big monster movie THIS much but what can I say, it’s awesome. Or as one character in the movie said, “That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’😀 I don’t think it’d be a major spoiler to say that it’s as much an alien invasion movie as it’s a big monster flick. The Kaijus are obviously not from this world, they’re mammoth biological weapons sent by an alien colony through a portal for a specific mission: wipeout humankind. Guillermo del Toro did an amazing job making these creatures look organic like a dinosaur, but with thick, gunky blue blood that actually looks cool the bloodier the darn thing is.

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All the fight scenes between the Kaijus and the massive human-powered robots called Jaegers are wonderfully staged. But I love that we constantly see the humans powering these machines and some of the scenes are actually quite emotional. I like the father-daughter dynamic between Idris Elba‘s and Rinku Kikuchi‘s, and a flirty banter between Rinku and hunky Charlie Hunnam, as well as a slew of fun supporting characters that enrich the movie. Just like ID4, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s something so giddily-amusing about the fight scenes, like when a Jaeger named Gypsy Danger swung a huge, Titanic-sized ship and hurl it at the Kaiju. You just want to get up and cheer when those moments came on!

I saw this movie twice on the big screen and loved every minute of it. I’ve since bought the Bluray and it’s gotten a lot of play in my house.

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What do you think of my alien-invasion movie picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

FlixChatter Review: Winter’s Tale

WintersTale

Let me preface this review by saying that Akiva Goldsman should stick to writing screenplays or producing films instead of working behind the camera. In his debut feature, Goldsman’s wearing multiple hat as producer, writer AND director. The film takes place at the turn of the century New York City, where the protagonist, Peter Lake, has a Moses-like beginning. His immigrant parents [Russian?] were denied admission at Ellis Island and his dad set baby Peter adrift in NY harbor in a miniature model ship called City of Justice. Fast forward to about 30-some years and we find Peter (Colin Farrell, sporting an odd looking haircut) being on the run by some Irish gangster led by Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe, trying his best to mimic Farrell’s Irish accent). Miraculously he’s saved by a winged white horse who later doubles as his guardian angel plus transportation. All of this sounds quite enchanting on paper but the plodding pace of this film didn’t exactly stimulate me, but I was hoping the story would pick up soon enough.

The horse then somehow leads Peter to a house where he’d inevitably meets the love of his life. As Peter is a burglar, he’s about about to rob her mansion when the chance encounter happens. It turns out that the beautiful but frail Beverly is dying, but that of course doesn’t get in the way of the two falling in love. Now I don’t know if her disease causes her to speak in some kind of poetic language because that is how she talks in this movie. I quite like Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sibyl from Downton Abbey) but the script made it tough to relate to her character and the schmaltzy-ness of it all is starting to get on my nerves. To top it off, I still have no clue what’s the deal with Pearly’s vengeance against Peter, and suddenly he now wants Beverly dead. It’s never fully explained why, but it’s quite obvious that this mission is a personal one for Pearly. He’s even more upset as Peter then snatches Beverly away from his grasp, thanks once again to the winged horse.

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The supernatural elements of the story just gets weirder, not to mention incomprehensible, as we meet Pearly’s boss named Lucifer. Yep, you read that right, the fallen archangel/devil himself, played by Will Smith. It’s quite an odd casting choice but really that’s the least of this film’s problem. So the the lord of ALL evil beings in the universe lives in a dingy tower with only a twin bed and lit by a single lightbulb?? [shrugs] Neither Pearly nor Lucifer are the least bit menacing nor sinister enough to make any real impact, and the whole conversation is so cringe-worthy that my mind kept wandering just how much Crowe and Smith got paid to star in this stinker. Both actors (as well as Jennifer Connelly) have worked with Goldsman before so I wonder if this is some kind of favor they’re doing for him or something. I read somewhere that Goldsman wrote the role of Pearly with Crowe in mind, hmmm not sure that’s a compliment for the Aussie thespian after seeing the film.

Farrell and Findlay did their best to sell their romance and I have to admit there are some touching moments but overall it just wasn’t as gripping than it could’ve been. By the time the film takes place in present day, I’m still barely invested in any of the characters and the story remains a huge mystery to me, and not in a good way. Apparently Peter is immortal as he doesn’t age a day in his life and here he meets a couple of new people, as well as someone from the past, played by Jennifer Connelly and Eva Marie Saint. Despite the A-list ensemble’s (especially Farrell at his most earnest) best efforts to win us over, they’re all wasted here by the cloying and over-sentimental script that drags early and repetitively. The behind-the-scene talents are equally first rate but none of them can really save this film. Hans Zimmer‘s score is pleasant to the ear but it also heighten the lovey-dovey mood of the whole thing. Caleb Deschanel‘s gorgeous cinematography of New York City is quite a feast for the eyes, but it makes my brain desperately ache for something meaty to feast on as well.

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The agony is complete with an ending that is utterly predictable and so gratingly mawkish that would make any of Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation seems gritty. There are themes of good versus evil, love, life, loss and redemption here, but the narrative is neither cohesive or compelling. Plus it’s chock full of trite dialog with dreary lines about *destiny* and *everything is connected* mumbo jumbo. It leaves me scratching my head as this comes from the writer of A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man, but this mishmash script is perhaps more akin to Batman & Robin which Goldsman also wrote. 

Final Thoughts: All the talks about miracles, stars and magical moments amounts to a film that is totally devoid of magic. It’s really a shame as reading the premise of the novel later on (which was altered quite a bit for the film) makes me think that Mark Helprin‘s mythical story deserves so much better. We don’t get enough romance fantasy so I was really hoping this would be a decent enough movie even if it’d probably fall short of Goldsman’s grandiose ambition. Well, I really wasn’t expecting to see one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time.

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What did you think of Winter’s Tale?