FlixChatter Review – MIDWAY (2019)

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Wes Tooke

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 has inspired many films over the years, most of which center around fictional characters and cheesy love stories. The 1976 Midway is no exception so it was with guarded anticipation I awaited the release of Roland Emmerich’s Midway. I was concerned it would get caught up trying to emulate other popular war films like Pearl Harbor or Dunkirk. However, I think having a German director and Chinese production team offered an interesting perspective.

The film gives a relatively straightforward account of the key naval battles. Beginning with Pearl Harbor and ending with the battle of Midway, it also recounts Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo (April 1942) and the Battle of Coral Sea (May 1942) which to my recollection were not well (if at all) examined in the 1976 version of Midway.

Although the film relies on a famous cast to get people in the theater, it does a much better job than its predecessor at accurately the battles, ships and planes used. The actors (Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, among others) played their roles with respect toward the heroic figures they were portraying. Focusing in on people of lesser rank allowed for deeper interpersonal development, although I didn’t think the film delved into relationships as deeply as it could have.

Many Hollywood based war films have a way of making the US service people look like helpless victims. This film makes sure to express the strength and capability of our country’s military personnel. Although it makes clear we were attacked and left at a great disadvantage it showcases the dedication and skill set of each service member while also expressing Japanese naval superiority.

The production value of the battle scenes are impressive. The bomber scenes concerning Dick Best are no exception. Well placed shots help to create the scale of an expansive world which draws the viewer further into highly realistic battle scenes. Unfortunately, the dialogue was uneven and the weak bits really drew me out of the film.

I felt this film gave equal respect to both US and Japanese service personnel, something that is not very common in war films. The screening I went to was mostly booked for a movie watching organization for veterans, one of whom served in the pacific during this time. It was a very unique and powerful experience watching this film alongside a person who experienced military action during the period portrayed in the film as well as other people currently serving in our armed forces. A timely film to watch, not just during Veteran’s Day. I already greatly respect and appreciate the sacrifices of people in uniform. I know that as a citizen of the US, I greatly benefit, even in ways I am not aware of. I really appreciated this film because it helped me refocus my gratitude.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen MIDWAY? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: VENOM (2018)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

The next Marvel Comics superhero action movie released by Sony Pictures in 2018 is Venom. The movie is the first film in Sony’s Marvel Universe, which is auxiliary to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Think The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming, etc.) This means that the studio intended to start a new shared universe of Marvel characters featuring those which Sony possesses film rights to and they also intend for the film to share the world of Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, alongside Michelle Williams as Anne Weying, and Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake/Riot.

Venom basically centers on the story of Eddie Brock (Hardy), an investigative journalist who is dating Anne Weying (Williams), a District Attorney in San Francisco. Brock scores an interview with Carlton Drake (Ahmed) who is the CEO of The Life Foundation, and their research facility in San Francisco has been hit a lawsuit regarding Drake’s use of human trials to conduct research. When The Life Foundation discovers a comet covered in symbiotic lifeforms, they bring four samples back to Earth, but one escapes and causes the ship to crash. They recover three symbiots and transport them to their research facility, but the fourth escapes and takes human hosts as it makes it way to San Francisco. Brock is approached by Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), one of Drake’s scientists who wants to help Brock expose him because she disagrees with his use of human trails. Skirth helps Brock break into the research facility to search for evidence, but a symbiote escapes from the body of woman used for human trials and transfers itself into Brock’s body. When Drake discovers Skirth’s betrayal, he kills her and sends a team to retrieve the symbiote from Brock. The symbiote takes over Brock’s body and transforms him into a monstrous creature that fights off the attackers.

The symbiote makes contact with Brock, and tells him that it is called Venom. It explains that the comet that The Life Foundation discovered is actually an invasion force that is searching for new worlds where the symbiotes can possess and devour their inhabitants. Venom offers to spare Brock if Brock helps the symbiotes achieve their goal, and he gets to possess the superhuman attributes that the symbiote gives him. Brock soon learns that the symbiote has two weaknesses: high-pitched noises and fire. Weying dumps Brock after she gets fired for helping Brock sneak into The Life Foundation but later she helps Brock when he struggles to cope with Venom’s strengths and weaknesses. Although Venom claims the Brock’s organ damage is a fixable part of their symbiosis, Weying uses an MRI machine to weaken the symbiote long enough for Brock to separate from it. Brock is then captured by Drake’s men. As the fourth symbiote Riot makes its way to San Francisco, it overpowers Drake and makes him take Riot in a Life Foundation space vessel to collect the rest of the symbiotes and bring them to Earth.

Weying reluctantly lets Venom take over her body so that they can free Brock from Drake’s capture. When Venom regains control of Brock’s body, it tells Brock that it has been convinced to help protect the Earth from other symbiotes through his understanding/connection with Brock and the human race, and they attempt to stop Riot (in Drake’s body) with Weying’s help. SPOILERS (highlight to read): Venom damages Riot’s space vessel as it takes off, causing it to explode and kill Riot (and Drake’s body). Weying also believes that Venom died in the explosion and that Brock is no longer taken over by Venom after this. However, Venom did not die and it secretly remains inside Brock and they set out to protect the city from dangerous criminals.

At the end, Brock goes back to investigative journalism and a future plot point is discussed in a mid-credit scene, featuring serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). This is probably the most interesting part of the movie, as the other parts seem like they’ve been used before in Iron Man, Thor or Captain America. I am intrigued to what Woody Harrelson’s character will bring in future installments of this comic universe. Sadly, Venom was not a very strong movie in my opinion. What made it watchable was Tom Hardy, and the crazy voice he used as Venom.

Overall, this was a fun and intriguing movie with a very long and scattered plot line. While Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams tried to make their characters seem interesting and warm, they were not very successful in doing so. Hardy should take a page out of Deadpool and write some of him own lines for Venom 2, just as Ryan Reynolds did for Deadpool 2. Perhaps Hardy’s humor could benefit him more when he is in charge of what he says. Here’s to hoping the inevitable sequel is better than the first Venom.


Have you seen ‘VENOM’? Well, what did you think? 

TCFF 2017 Reviews: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri + Blue Balloons

It’s just two days left in TCFF and I’m playing catch-up with posting reviews! You might’ve noticed I’ve got to post a couple of things in a day at times… too many films too little time (both to watch and to review!)

Well, below are couple of reviews from Day 6 and 7.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
review by Andy Ellis

It’s described as a dark comedy, but writer and director Martin McDonagh’s newest film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has a lot more to offer. The film, led by Frances McDormand who plays Mildred who causes some small town chaos by using three billboards to ask local officials why they haven’t found her daughter’s murderer and rapist yet.

A subject such as this must be treaded upon carefully, and it’s done very well here. The humor comes from the fact that none of the characters hold anything back. Mildred has has no problem telling the local priest how she really feels, or anyone else for that matter. Sam Rockwell shines as Dixon,  a small-minded Sheriff’s Deputy with a short temper ends up costing him dearly in one key scene. If there’s a character who keeps his calm the best in the story it’s Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, the main target of Mildred’s billboard messages.

It’s also a film with a lot of heart in it as well, and it helps round out the characters. One scene causes causes Mildred to switch moods so fast you’ll realize that beneath that pissed-off no-nonsense barrier is a mother that just wants her daughter back. And this role may even earn McDormond some awards recognition, and then same goes for Rockwell.

The rest of the cast rounds out the story pretty well, too, with each one getting their own chance to shine—and they do. Lucas Hodges plays Mildred’s son Robbie who isn’t all on board with his mom’s methods, and Abbie Cornish plays the Sheriff’s wife Anne. Caleb Landry Jones has great scenes as Red Welby the owner of the billboards, and Peter Dinklage has a very small but memorable role. John Hawkes plays Charlie, Mildred’s ex-husband, and Samara Weaving steals the show a couple times as Penelope, Charlie’s young girlfriend.

This film is a great mix of everything, and throws more than a few a surprises in there as well. The acting is superb and it’ll leave you wanting more. Now if only more films would grab a hold of you like this one did.


BLUE BALLOONS
Review by Ruth Maramis

This is one of the films with a Minnesota connection that I actually didn’t know much about. So I pretty much going in blindly about the story, other than the fact that the story deals with a terminal illness.

Right from the start, this film feels deeply personal. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but Blue Balloons is an honest, realistic story about a family gripping with the complexity of cancer. Written, directed and produced by Emily Troedson, who also acts as the eldest daughter Claire of the Kippson family, the story is told from her perspective. I like that it paints the day-to-day life of the family in a matter-of-fact, candid way… especially in the way Claire is questioning her faith and her existence in a devout Lutheran community.

Chari and Emily in Blue Balloons

The film’s pacing is a bit slow and really tries your patience at times. I have to say some of the acting by the supporting cast aren’t convincing (crying with no tears visible??), but overall it’s a well-crafted piece with genuinely poignant moments as well as interesting artistic choices. I wish there were more mother-daughter relationship being explored here, though I think the dynamic of the family is portrayed pretty well.

Chari Eckmann as Joanne

I connected most with Emily’s character and she did an amazing job juggling so many roles in the film. Being a daughter who dealt with an ill mother at a young age, there are parts that was hard to watch for me. I also have to commend Chari Eckmann‘s performance (as the cancer-stricken Joanne), her emotional transformation and deterioration throughout the film is believable.

Glad to see so many talented writer/director like Emily having their films at TCFF! I sure hope she continues to make films in the future.


There’s more films and festivities to be had at TCFF!

 

FlixChatter Review: John Hillcoat’s TRIPLE 9 (2016)

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Triple9Poster

I’m a big fan of crime action thrillers of the 70s, 80s and 90s, so I was excited to see this new film by Aussie director John Hillcoat. As we all know, the last decade or so the superhero genre has been dominating the box office so crime action thrillers are rarity these days.

The movie opens with a bank robbery that didn’t go as smoothly as planned. The bank robbers weren’t there to steal money but a case in the safe box. In a pretty impressive opening action sequence, the robbers were able to escape unscathed. We then learned that two of the robbers named Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge Ridriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.) are cops and one is an ex-cop named Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul). The rest of the robbers are ex-military men named Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell Welch (Norman Reedus). They were tasked to steal something very important for a Russian mob boss named Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet, sporting a very 80s hairdo and weird Russian accent). Irina has a sister named Elena (Gal Gadot), who happens to be Atwood’s ex-girlfriend.

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After Atwood delivered the steal goods to Irina, she told him that she has another job for him and his team. Atwood of course wasn’t interested but Irina told him she won’t pay him for the job he’d just finished unless he gets the second one done. With no other choice, Atwood got his team together again and try to come up with a plan to make the biggest heist of their lives. We then were introduced to a detective named Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), he’s in charge of finding the bank robbers. Allen has a nephew named Chris (Casey Affleck) who’s also a cop and Belmont’s new partner. As the story progresses we learned more about each of these characters and how they’re all some-how connected and we found out meaning of the movie’s title.

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With so many well known actors in one movie, I wasn’t sure if they’re all going to get enough screen time, but to my surprise all of the big players got equal screen time and they played their respectively role quite well. This is the kind of movie that doesn’t really have a central character you want to “cheer” for, each of the characters has their own motivation and there’s no good or bad guy in the story. I had my doubts about Casey’s casting as the supposed “hero” of the story but his character played a central role in the plot and he’s pretty convincing.

John Hillcoat is one of my favorite newer directors and he didn’t disappoint with his direction for this movie. He staged some pretty good action sequences including his signature bloody violence. What really impressed me was how he avoided making the movie into a super dark and serious tone that has plagued most action movies the last few years. This movie feels like a thriller from the 80s and 90s.


Even though I was very impressed with the performances and direction of the movie, I had some problems with the script. Matt Cook is a newcomer in Hollywood and I was surprised his script didn’t get rewrites or more polished by other screenwriters. The story is filled with so many layers that I think a well-established screenwriter could’ve made it into a great script. I’m not saying that Cook’s script is bad just that it needed a lot of fixing. My biggest beef with the script was how the story wrapped so neatly by the movie’s end. I won’t spoil anything but if you saw The Departed then you’ll know what I mean when you see this movie.

Triple 9 is a well made action thriller that could’ve been a classic had the script been more polished. Fans of the buddy cop action and crime thrillers from the 80s and 90s will be pleased with it.

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Have you seen TRIPLE 9? Well, what did you think?

Thursday Movie Picks #29: All in the Family Edition – Married Couple Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I’ve been seeing posts on the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog, but I haven’t been able to participate. Well until now that is.

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. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today is the the first theme for the edition… 

Married Couples

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Well, for this edition, I decided to pick three movies that feature married couples in three very different marital circumstances. Having been married for 11 years, I consider marriage a blessing I don’t take for granted, but it’s also not a walk in the park. For this blogathon, I deliberately picked three different genres just to mix things up, so here goes:

Julie & Julia

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Movies depicting a positive marriage is rare in Hollywood, perhaps they think it just doesn’t make for an interesting story. Well, I always go back to this movie as a good example of a healthy marriage as it actually features TWO loving married couples. People may only remember this movie for all the food/cooking scenes, and they certainly are scrumptious. But for me I always remember the relationship between Julie & Paul Child (Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci), as well as Julie & Eric Powell (Amy Adams & Chris Messina). Both husbands are so supportive of their wives, and they’re depicted in such a real and sincere ways by all the actors. In fact, Paul Child made my list of Best Movie Husbands that I did for my 9th wedding anniversary.

 

Indecent Proposal

indecentproposalI saw this film ages ago with my brother, I think I might’ve been in high school at the time. I thought that the pairing of Demi Moore & Woody Harrelson worked well here and there’s a real chemistry between the two. The film shows how temptation and desire can quickly tear apart even the strongest bond between two people, and their marriage crumbles as a result. But the film doesn’t just show the fragility of marriage, but also the power of love that can piece things back together again, no matter how shattered the bond may have been. The story made such a big impression on me and to this day, the beautiful finale scene by the beach never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The heart-wrenching theme song by John Barry is one of my all time favorite.

Mr & Mrs Smith

MrMrsSmith

This is the infamous film that serves as the origin story of Hollywood’s golden couple. Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie fell in love during filming and their scorching chemistry is palpable on screen. Playing two skilled assassins who kept their secret identity from each other, it’s perhaps the most preposterous portrayal of marriage, but it sure was fun to watch. The real-life couple could barely fake their disdain for each other in the opening scene at a marriage counseling session:

 


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen these films?

[Arctic] Weekend Roundup & Quick Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It’s truly one of the c-cc-coldest weekend ever. It’s way too early to have an arctic weather conditions here and it lingers way too long!

CurrentWeatherMplsWe’re talking about several degrees below zero (Fahrenheit that is, so it’s a few dozen degrees below zero in Celcius!), with Wind Chill Advisory issued by National Weather Service when the wind chill is low enough that it poses a threat to human health and life if adequate protection is not taken against hypothermia and frostbite! Now, where I live, I don’t just look at the temp, but the ‘Feels like’ part is far more important, and so it feels like -21˚ out there right now. This is the time I ask myself time and time again, ‘Why the heck do I still live here?!’ 😉

Well, we didn’t stay cooped up inside because of the snow and frigid temp, so we did see Catching Fire on the big screen, finally!

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Now, my friend Ashley has written a full review of this last week and I agree with her praises on the movie. I enjoyed the first film but I’d actually give this one more of an edge. I had only read the first book so going into Catching Fire, I tried not to read any of the plot points so it was a pretty different experience. I must say I like being surprised, and there are some moments here that made me go WHOA!

Here are some of the things that I enjoyed from the sequel:

  • The darker themes explored more boldly that shows just what’s at stake for the characters, especially Katniss. Director Francis Lawrence was bolder in showing the brutality of the oppressive Panem regime (well as much as PG-13 would allow for it, that is), such as the whipping scene and the Hunger Games itself. I like political intrigue and the casting of Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch add so much gravitas to the story.
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  • In regards to Hoffman, I feel that he elevates the film every time he appears. I sure hope he would have more screen time in the third film given what we now know about his character.
  • Speaking of supporting actors, besides Sutherland and Hoffman, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci are equally memorable. Tucci never fails to entertain no matter how over-the-top his character is, if anything he makes the games’ host Caesar Flickerman so darn amusing.
  • I’ve warmed up to Peeta in this movie, seems that his character is more fully-realized and Josh Hutcherson is given more to do in the role. I like that he’s more assertive and confident with himself, but yet he’s got this inherently likable quality about him that won me over. Hutcherson has a more effortless chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence here, and I could see how Katniss is even more torn now between him and her childhood love Gale.
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    The brief scene where Peeta comforts Katniss when she has nightmares is one of my favorites. It shows just how much the stress of these brutal games take a toll on these kids.
  • All the hoopla about Jena Malone‘s scene-stealing performance as fellow tribute Johanna Mason is justified, especially the elevator scene which is a hoot! Sam Claflin is convincingly slimy as Finnick Odair, perhaps a little too convincing, ahah. Glad to see him show his chops as he’s so bland in Snow White & The Huntsman, but then again look who he had to act against, ahah.
  • Speaking of costumes, as atrocious as some of them are, the Mockingjay dress is pretty darn cool. Ok so it seems to be inspired by Black Swan but man, when Katniss twirls and the white *wedding* dress turns to black I literally gasped [I think costume designer Trish Summerville ought to be nominated for her work] Btw, when President Snow saw that and his expression immediately soured, it was a pretty chilling moment.
    CatchingFire_MockingjayDress
  • Interesting to see the likes of Jeffrey Wright as one of the tributes. I guess it made sense that some of the tributes are older as they’re picked from a pool of past victors.
  • The set pieces are fun to watch. The arena where the tributes are being introduced to the crowd reminds me a lot of the chariot scene in Ben-Hur.
  • I like how the ‘circus freak-y’ character Effie Trinket’s humanity is revealed more in this film. I think there’s a glimpse of it in the first film but it’s more apparent here. I think Elizabeth Banks did a fine job here, and she barely gets a mention other than for all the crazy costumes and makeup she wears.
    CatchingFire_EffieTrinket
  • The games itself is beautifully-shot. I didn’t see it at the IMAX but my pal Ted who saw it there said it was marvelous. I was pretty caught-up in the games and it reminded me just how vicious and unpredictable it can be!
  • Last but not least, Jennifer Lawrence still owns the role as Katniss Everdeen. She is a heroine worth rooting for as she’s as vulnerable as she is bad ass. No doubt that a large part of the franchise’s success is due to her casting and it’s easy to see why.
    CatchingFire_KatnissEven in her already illustrious career long before she even hit 25, I think Katniss would be regarded as one of her best roles. It’s interesting to see her effortless acting alongside people close to her age (Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth) but she looks just as comfortable in the presence of veteran actors like Sutherland and Hoffman. She has the confidence of someone well beyond her years but there’s also certain nuances that she brings to the role that I notice more now that I’ve seen more of her work.

Ok, there are lots to love here but I’m not saying the movie is perfect. I thought the pacing was off in the first hour. I actually glanced at my watch a few times as it felt rather long. I’m not fond of Willow Shields as Katniss’ sister Prim and their scenes didn’t quite resonate with me. There are also very little character developments with any of the tributes. Yes I know this story is more about Katniss and Peeta, but the tributes are almost an afterthought here that by the time the games begin, it felt like the games was actually lesser in scope than it’s supposed to be in the book. Also, am I the only one creep-ed out by Finnick and Mags at one point of the game? It’s just bizarre and not in a good way.

CatchingFire_GamesStartThe games itself isn’t as gripping as I expected, though there’s a big tense moment at the start of the game when everyone got dropped to the island. But overall it just wasn’t as riveting, and the fact that Katniss had so many allies right off the bat seems to lessen the gravity of the games, if you will.

That said, I’m still looking forward to the third film. Boy that ending made me wish Mockingjay will be released next month instead of a year from now!

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4 out of 5 reels

This weekend I also watched Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (read my review)


So that’s my weekend roundup folks! Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Or you can also share what you watched this weekend.

Weekend Roundup Reviews: Now You See Me & The Kid With a Bike

First weekend of June and apparently the box office came crashing down after a strong Memorial weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, Fast & Furious 6 fell 65% to about $34 mil, but yet it still took the top spot with Now You See Me ($28 mil) and After Earth ($27 mil) rounding up the top three. I had no interest in seeing the Will Smith (& son) movie, so even with two press screenings, I didn’t attend either one of them. Anyway, here are my reviews of the two I saw this past weekend:

NowYouSeeMePosterNow You See Me (2013)

An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.

This movie wasn’t even on my radar until I saw the trailer in front of Oblivion last month. It looks like a fun caper with a pretty decent cast, though I was mostly amused by the fact that Christopher Nolan’s Batman alums Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are together again on screen. Well, after seeing the movie, I actually find this interview of the two of them where Freeman dozed off right in the middle of it far more entertaining, ahah.

The movie started off promising enough, with a brief ‘origin’ story of sort how the world’s most popular team of illusionists The Four Horsemen came into being. Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Woody Harrelson made up the four of them, with Harrelson being the most amusing of them all by a small margin. The first magic trick that takes place certainly piques your interest and makes you go, ‘how the heck did they do that??‘ If you’ve seen the trailer, you might’ve seen the clip of thousands of dollar bills showering the audience of a live magic show. Well, the trick is a pretty cool one involving a French guy being teleported to his bank in Paris! A theft this big surely gets the attention of the FBI and the agent assigned to the case, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is hot on their trail. He gets help from pretty Interpol agent Alma (Mélanie Laurent) and there’s a hint of romance in their interaction which falls flat to me.

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The last movie by French director Louis Leterrier was the horrible Clash of the Titans. Now this isn’t as bad as that one but really, that’s not saying much. I usually like caper action films and with the whole magic theme interwoven in it, the story is definitely promising. But Leterrier’s direction is so scatterbrained that the movie elicits eye rolls and gaping yawns [no wonder Freeman dozed off promoting this movie, ahah]. A few times during the movie I whispered to my hubby that this movie has a serious identity crisis. I mean, it’s trying to hard to be a mystery thriller, fast-paced action, romance drama, but it fails in all fronts. It also shifts its focus from the various characters in such a frenetic fashion that I barely care just who’s tricking who and what’s really at stake here. Then, as the heists gets even more daring and the action more bombastic, the film throws this big twist at the end that’s supposed be this huge shocker. Unfortunately, I’ve stopped caring by that point. The climax just isn’t all that rewarding after all the disconcerting ride this movie’s put us through. Plus, the flashback reveal is so lame and preposterous I practically threw my hands up in the air.

There are some cool scenes here and there but overall Now You See Me‘s is such a big waste of talents and material. I don’t care about any of the characters either. I mean, the fact that I kept referring to Freeman and Caine’s characters as Lucious Fox and Alfred should tell you just how memorable these characters are. I only remember Ruffalo’s character’s name as it’s cool enough to be a superhero alter ego, but Rhodes is so daft that his superiors must’ve been in a trance when they hired him, ahah. Apart from some cool scenes of the magic show that made me feel as if I were actually in Vegas watching a show, there’s barely any cinematic magic to speak of here. Even the action scenes are nothing groundbreaking, even the rather long car chase scene is nowhere near as exciting as the one Leterrier did in the first Transporter movie. Eisenberg’s character said that the first rule of magic is always be the smartest person in the room. Well, seems like such a person went ‘poof’ in the making of this movie!


2 out of 5 reels


TheKidwithaBikePosterThe Kid With a Bike (2011)

Abandoned by his father, a young boy is left in a state-run youth farm. In a random act of kindness, the town hairdresser agrees to foster him on weekends.

This film came highly recommended by a few of my closest bloggers. The story definitely appeals to me and right of the bat it reminds me of one of my favorite indie Dear Frankie as the protagonist is also abandoned by his father. The difference is, the 11-year-old Cyril doesn’t have a mother either and he reluctantly lives at a foster institution. Kids like Cyril are so broken that a life of delinquency seems inevitable, even if the stubborn and impulsive boy is actually a good kid at heart.

Seemingly by chance, Cyril runs into Samantha [literally!] as he was running away from his foster counselors. He’s been looking for his missing dad and his bike. Samantha (Cécile De France), a hairdresser in town, somehow finds out where his bike was sold and buys it back for Cyril. Her kind gesture doesn’t end there, she even offers to take Cyril with her on weekends, and she even agrees to take Cyril to find his dad.

What strikes me about this French film is how matter-of-fact the story goes right from the beginning. It doesn’t pull any punches on showing the pain and despair Cyril (Thomas Doret) goes through in his young life, and the cruelty of his own father in when he gives him up in order to start a fresh new life. Even as someone who grew up without a father myself, I don’t think I could fathom being deserted by my own parent in this manner. The scenes of Cyril and his dad who’s now moved to another town and works at a restaurant is heart-wrenching. It’s not just painful to see how his dad blatantly rejects him, but more so because Cyril refuse to accept that fact and is denial that his dad no longer wants him in his life.

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It’s almost inevitable that a kid like Cyril would fall into a bad crowd. So when a charismatic gang leader known as The Dealer practically recruits Cyril, I was terrified for what’s in store for this young boy. Thankfully, the film didn’t descent into some real sinister territory, and the resolution proves to be quite a turning point for the young protagonist. Even though it has an open-ended finale, I think we could guess just which path Cyril is finally on to. It’s nice to see something of substance after the vapid one I saw days before. It’s a simple film with barely any frills, but the story is really the *star* of the film.

I must admit though, that I didn’t quite connect with Cyril as much as I had hoped I would. I find myself quite frustrated with Cyril as he doesn’t warm up to Samantha despite her kindness towards her, and Doret’s not an expressive performer (I guess this being his first film is understandable). I do appreciate the fact that the filmmaker is perhaps presenting his character just the way he is, without manipulation or making him to be a sympathetic character. As with Samantha, I wish there’s more background on her character as there could be more time spent on why she was so adamant to help Cyril.

That said, I’m curious to see more from the Belgian filmmaker duo, brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Since making films in the late 70s, they’ve been garnering numerous awards and multiple Palme d’Or honors. This film won the Grand Prix at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe in Best Foreign Language Film. The cinematography of the city of Seraing (which happens to be the birthplace of the Dardennes), a French-speaking region in Belgium, is pretty scenic. Now, the use of music is so sparse that when it appears it almost took me out of the movie. From what I read about the filmmakers, they apparently rarely use music in their films which I find quite odd.

According to Wikipedia, the screenplay had a structure inspired by fairy tales. No wonder Samantha is portrayed like a fairy godmother. Yet the message of humanity in this film is quite inspiring, we could use more people like her in this world.


4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear what you think!