Tag Archives: Movies

Movie Review: Hitman: Agent 47

hitman-agent-47-movie-poster-hdI really think Hollywood should accept the fact – movies based on video games just don’t work! I am not a big time gamer, its only on certain occasions I have interacted with a gaming console, a fact which partly disqualifies me as a geek! As a result, when I walk into this kind of movies, my judgements are based on the film itself, not on how the game has translated on screen. Maybe that’s the reason why unlike many others I have enjoyed and supported the Resident Evil movies. Even though years later I did research on how the original game plot line worked and of course checking out the very under rated anime movies helped. The reason (according to me) why the Milla Jovovich starring series works is because they have attempted to stand as independent properties by just borrowing elements rather than going in for complete fan servicing, I guess the same goes for the Silent Hills based films. But in general the most literal and respective term to use for other games based movies would be – ‘They suck!’. Bad films in general!

One of the main reasons the earlier EuropaCorp film starring Timothy Olyphant in the titular role of a chrome-domed, genetically engineered, emotionless contract killer from not so far back in 2007 failed, was that it went right into the fan servicing department, as a result, for 1st time viewers (like me) who had no idea of the rich history of the characters, were left hazed and confused, & gamers being gamers disapproved the film citing their own reasons. I hate to say it but we’re going to have to wait and see how Warcraft turns out to see if a truly great video game movie can be made. Yet despite all that, I had high hopes for this film from the trailer. It looked like a balls to the wall action flick that didn’t hold anything back. The trailer for this film was done very well. It reeked of blood and guts and fast paced action and I was psyched. Unfortunately, hamstrung by a muddled script the film falls back on a uneven pacing and flashy visuals to gloss over the film’s obvious storytelling flaws.

Yes, despite an intriguing first half-hour that teases the characters’ motivations, the rest of the film is unfortunately as straight-forward as it gets in plotting the uninteresting cat & mouse game. Much like the earlier movie, the plot for this film seems more complex than what it should be. Its not hard to follow but there just seems to be so much to it. The one thing this film does better than the first is the representation of Agent 47 himself, it was much better and closer to the game (based on whatever little I know about it).

While director Aleksander Bach deserves points for style, and seriously there are some really unique shot scenes and he uses color and stark contrasts to create a unique look, but the plot & the pace lacks where it should not have. This should have felt more like The Transporter and less like a Mission Impossible wannabe. The story follows Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), a genetically engineered assassin that possesses enhanced senses, speed, and intelligence. All of these traits make him an extremely deadly force to be reckoned with. He is in pursuit of a woman named Katia (Hannah Ware), who is looking for her father, the Agent programme’s lead scientist Dr. Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds). She gets into the middle of a conspiracy involving a corporation named Syndicate lead by head honcho Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann) who is trying to use her to find the scientist to create more super assassins like Agent 47. Fortunately, Agent 47 doesn’t want there to be any more experiments like him and begins to train Katia to protect herself and find her father. Also in pursuit of them is Syndicate’s very own flawed super soldier John Smith (Zachary Quinto). Anyone who’s ever harbored the dream of seeing Singapore feature prominently in a Hollywood movie will certainly be pleased with this film, which features iconic landmarks such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina South in their full glory. A pivotal supporting character is seen admiring the orchids in the Gardens’ Cloud Forest dome, before taking a stroll along the OCBC Skyway. The headquarters of a sinister group known as the Syndicate Organisation is situated right in the heart of Marina South, against the backdrop of the Marina Bay Financial Centre and Asia Square towers.

The less you think about the plot, the more you are likely to enjoy the visceral pleasures that the film offers. Like I mentioned before, the action here is brutal and pulsating, with heads blown off, bodies sucked into giant jet engines, limbs slashed and blood basically splattering everywhere (and for those who are wondering, much of the bloodletting takes place in interiors rather than exteriors, so don’t get your hopes up about seeing all that happening along our streets). Director Bach choreographs and executes the action with gory flair, and fans of the Interactive game will be glad to know that he makes the effort to retain its aesthetics. The action is brought to us by the same people that gave us John Wick so it’s nice to see some care was put into that part of the movie.Yet no matter how diverting the shootouts or fisticuffs may be, there is no hiding the fact that the characters are under-written.

It’s understandable that the team wanted to create larger than life plot, but the process needs more delicacy than taking and throwing in a bunch of popular gimmicks from Terminator to Minority Report, then hope it would work or audience would suspend their belief. Granted, video games use the same narrative, but then it gets ridiculously over-the-top and even borderline supernatural.

Though Rupert Friend makes for a surprisingly good assassin – and we are not just talking about his looks – the actor best known for his supporting part in ShowtimesHomeland is shortchanged by the script’s reluctance to develop fully the theme of choice versus blind obedience. He is much more emotionless & believable than Timothy Olyphant (the star of the 2007 film). There is no romantic angle which is a very good thing and using the disguises was a great addition to the plot as well. Friend could definitely continue this character very well, provided their is a sequel, which I highly doubt. Hannah Ware is also very good as Katia, the mysterious girl that the Syndicate and 47 want. Ware makes a sufficiently harried female protagonist. She is actually the perfect balance to 47’s serious, emotionless character. Ware also kicks some serious butt and holds her own making her a great hero as well. Zachary Quinto is utterly wasted in a role that doesn’t quite know what to do with him after it is revealed that he is actually working for the Syndicate. For a talented actor like him, this role wasted his potential. Both Thomas Kretschmann and Rolf Kanies should have bigger roles and its hard to say they do good or bad because their roles are so small and yet significant.

On the whole, Hitman: Agent 47 has some very intensely choreographed fight scenes going for it, but yet falls in the same category of failed movies based on video games thanks to its corny script and abysmal plot. Underneath all its pretty looking cinematic effects, the film is sadly a misfire.

Overall Rating: 3.2

Director – Aleksander Bach
Starring – Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto
Rated – R
Run Time – 96 minutes

Disney Posts New Star Wars Teaser

There has been an awakening… #StarWars #TheForceAwakens

A video posted by Star Wars (@starwars) on

We’re counting down the months, and get excited for each new tidbit. Disney today posted a new teaser for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on Instagram.

Movie Review: We Are Your Friends

tumblr_static_4nowwyx8nla88cs0gcww00cw4 Walking out of the special screening of this Zac Efron Emily Ratajkowski starring Max Joseph directed film about a DJ, I thought to myself – ‘When was the last time I got this so called goosebumps, a feeling of intense satisfaction and happiness after watching a film which I had expected nothing from? I know, what a surprise! Well I don’t know much about Electronic music or the specialized artists of the field except for famous names such as Armin Van Braun and David Guetta. Judging by the trailers all I had expected this film to be about a bunch people doing drugs and dancing around on loud music, but to my surprise, the film is much more than that! Unlike most film nowadays, the film has soul.

At heart, it’s your-standard underdog story. A young man wants to succeed in a given field, finds a mentor, faces a few obstacles, falls in love with the wrong person, has some hardships along the way, and ultimately triumphs. We’ve seen this happen before a thousand times. But what makes this film work is its delicate balance of irony and earnestness. Yea, its not perfect, the film slows down in the second act with some humor thrown in here & there, plus it knows it’s being corny sometimes, with its underlying message about the power of creativity and authenticity, and it calls itself out for it, and yet it still totally believes in its message. So there might be jokes about hashtags and sound like a douche bag, it doesn’t take anything away from what it really wants to say.

1432068339_emily-ratajkowski-zac-efron-zoomWhich is – it’s hard to find your place in the world, and when you’re young everyone will try to tell you what you should be doing and push you into things you don’t agree with, but ultimately the kind of person you are and the kind of work you create is down to you. I have rarely seen movies based on electronic dance music work well, 2009’s very enjoyable Notorious (even though now I don’t remember much about the film) was probably the only film which came close to the success it aimed for. The few movies that have been made about the electronic dance music scene in the last ten years have come and gone with the wind, in part because of weak plots and sub-plot and bad casting choices but also because techno music (in my humble opinion), like drugs or sex, tends to make for boring on-screen subject matter.

What works mainly in favor for this film is that there is something familiar at the heart of first time director Max Joseph’s film (named after a track by Justice Vs Simian), although we may have seen this story in various different guises over the years, there is enough charm and good humor here for the film to work on it’s own. The story follows Cole Carter (Zac Efron), an aspiring DJ who lives & works with his three child hood friends Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) & Squirrel (Alex Shaffer). Spending most of their nights hooking up small time DJ jobs by tirelessly promoting college club nights & of course by selling drugs, followed by working for Paige (Jon Bernthal), a shady finance broker. In order to fulfill his dreams Cole befriends the hugely successful DJ Paul Reed (Wes Betley), who takes him under his wing. As Cole and Paul’s friendship strengthens, Cole becomes closer to Reed’s girlfriend/ assistant Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), an Ivy League dropout. Their romantic triangle is offset by the hustle of Cole and his friends, whether it’s promoting club nights or hustling swamped mortgage holders for a shady finance company. The tale of a man taking a day job he hates in order to make rent is a rather familiar track, as is the story of a group of friends torn apart when someone new comes into the mix. All of this familiarity is saved through the lead character being just charming and engaging enough to keep the audience interested, plus some wonderful scenes where paintings come to life and Cole explains his life through voice over and on screen graphics. The film is a story about growing up and letting go of the dreams that are holding the characters back, as well as fighting for the ones they believe in, while dancing and drinking the night away with pretty people in pretty places. This is a delicate balance done well, and the final moment of redemption is an engaging and touching one, with everything tying up neatly but in a poignant way.

635674833151027402-XXX-WAYF-17271R-3-1-73067458First-time director Max Joseph is best known for holding the camera on MTV‘s Catfish, but here he demonstrates that he’s really got an eye for beauty. This is a seriously good-looking film, and not just because he’s got Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski and Wes Bentley in lead roles. The music is strong, the sets and costumes bright and colorful, and the relationship between the three central characters is engaging. Ideas come and go, however, with the stylistic touches being dropped fairly soon into the film; this allows the film to focus on the story being told, even though it feels more generic than it needs to.

For a film of this genre, its hard to expect some good meaningful dialogues – “This is the best part…the moment before it starts” and “Is it ever going to be better than this?” are sure to find themselves some GIFs or Memes online. Performance wise, Zac Efron leads the way! With last year’s Neighbors, Efron proved how far he has come from High School Musical days. He is just in terrific form here. Although the character is slightly generic, he is warm and engaging in the lead role as Cole; he quickly gets audience sympathy on his side and, even though he loses it at times, he quickly gains it back. Wes Bentley finally gets a good role! The talented lad wasted in B grade thriller flicks, is in fine form here. As the alcohol and drug addled success who has got lost in his own myth, he is very believable. Emily Ratajkowski proves she is much more than just a pretty face. Sure her sultry looks are her most prominent plus or an arguable distraction, she plays her part well without coming out on the wrong side. The supporting cast of Jon Bernthal, Shiloh Fernandez, Jonny Weston and Alex Shaffer do a good job.

On the whole, We Are Your Friends, is dramatic and fun enough to be entertaining. With strong performances and excellent music, the film is sure to succeed provided it hits the right kind of audience, mainly if they decide to look past its misjudged notions from the trailer. Honestly  I was one of them! and guess what I may check this out again.

Overall Rating: 7.5

Director – Max Joseph
Starring – Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski
Rated – R
Run Time – 96 minutes

Movie Review: Pound Of Flesh

Pound of Flesh_Web-While growing up in the 90s, I was a huge fan of mindless action flicks especially the ones starring Steven Seagal, Jackie Chan, Jet li and of course Jean-Claude Van Damme. After running his career down with some really cringe worthy films, his comeback film JCVD (2008) was everything his fan could ask for! He followed it up with an equally enjoyable Universal Soldier sequel Regeneration (2009). And yet again he continued his repetitive act with half a dozen film with his antagonist turn in the Expendables 2 (2012) being probably his most redeemable character.

While I have enjoyed watching films like Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Replicant and Universal Soldier, I have always appreciated his amazing stunt works and despite his age he continues to be in great physical form. Probably the only reason I decided to check this film out, considering it has been an eternity since I’ve seen him in a starring role despite its negative reviews, is to support one of my favorite distributors of the region (Front Row Filmed Entertainment). And as the opening credits rolled in, the nostalgia factor kicked in, well not exactly in the good sense.

The story follows Deacon (Van Damme) who wakes up in a hotel room in Philippines, naked in a bathtub full of ice. He recalls spending the night with a woman named Anna (Charlotte Peters), whom he had saved in an alley near his hotel from an attacker (Darren Shahlavi).  Upon discovering that his kidney has been removed, Deacon calls his old friend Kung (Aki Aleong), who immediately shows up to offer his assistance. Deacon, an ex special force is in the country to visit his brother George (John Ralston), a college professor in order to donate his kidney to his dying niece.  So the quest for his missing kidney begins as he decides to return to the bar where he met the woman and try to connect things from there on.

0002_Movie Still-Here’s the thing: there are quite a few twists in here and some may surprise you and they don’t stop until the very end. When you think you know something up comes something else to consider. Action movie collaboration between west and east has produced mixed results in recent year, even the ones with high production. The film with its modest budget is actually a welcomed change of pace as Van Damme delivers a different kind of action flick. It makes do with the quirky antic, decent plot and the tendency for humor on its own expense. Unfortunately, there are also few jarring basic errors which might decrease the entertainment value and the moral message isn’t appealing enough. This movie was somewhat hyped as the “Van Damme is back in full action force” or something like that. I was expecting an action showcase, with spin kicks and fights all the way true. Instead the movie seem to focus a lot on story. Don’t get me wrong, the story is not bad, its not stellar either but this is more what would i expect from a Pierce Brosnan movie in 2015 (like the very enjoyable November Man, not Survivor), not a Van Damme one. The first fight of the movie despite being very short is actually one of the best, it shows kicking and what we are use to see from Van Damme. The rest seem to mainly focus on MMA type of ground and grappling attacks, which if done right can be fun on screen, but here i tough it didn’t suit Van Damme at all. There’s a club scene early on, part of which is in the trailer, where Deacon (Van Damme) literally beats up some people with a Bible. This is probably the best fight in the movie, and Van Damme doesn’t really get another good one until the end when he faces off against Darren Shahlavi‘s villainous Drake (for the second time, actually). Between then, it’s just a lot of exposition interrupted by some relatively uninteresting gun play. Generally speaking, the action was well-filmed and choreographed, but there wasn’t enough of it, in my opinion. The fights just appear to be slow, clunky and lack luster in general. Even though he proves he can still split his legs! Unfortunately, the film is very front-loaded in this respect. The film is basically a conventional revenge film with a low production value and some absurd revelations. The pacing of the film dragged whenever they tried to force the relationship between the two brothers which wasn’t interesting despite the fact that the story depended on it to build the tension. Say what you will about the quality of films that go direct-to-DVD, but it should be commended that they manage to sneak in social issue commentary from time to time. The premise for this film is actually an intriguing one, but to my disappointment the execution of said premise was trite at best, ludicrous at worst. It should also be said that one doesn’t usually go into Van Damme films expecting great acting, but aside from Van Damme, who has actually gotten better with age, the entire cast was actually not bad.

0005_Movie Still-Despite this type of film usually being an excuse to string together a bunch of fight scenes, they actually tried to make a story that you would care about. I mean, who wouldn’t root for a guy to reclaim his kidney so that his young niece would survive? Its like Crank mixed with Taken! Seeing as how they expected you to take this story seriously, one would expect some logic in the plot, but alas there was little to be found. Characters weave in and out of the story as needed, basically showing up to say their lines and deliver some piece of information that the main cast needs. I could go on, but I’d be here all day. I also found the film lacking from a technical standpoint. Since it was probably filmed on digital video, every scene that isn’t stock/time-lapse footage had this cheap, soap opera look. The only time that this really worked was in some early flashback scenes that were desaturated to the point of being black and white. With some selective color flourishes, it had a Sin City vibe that I kind of liked.

Re-teaming with his Assassination Games and 6 bullets (none of which I have seen) director Ernie Barbarash has tried something else with Van Damme, meaning the film is just not focused on the action, violence and fighting but tries to tell an emotional tale as well, even though it doesn’t work I shall give him points for that. Van Damme proves that he is that rare breed of muscular action hero that can not only fight but can perform as well. He more than proved his acting abilities with his amazing turn in the 2008 film simply titled JCVD and personally, out of the three Expendables movies to date, his bad guy role in Part two was by far the very best out of the three. He has always been an exceptional martial artist but with a missing kidney in this film’s story, naturally, his fighting abilities are severely impaired.

On the whole, Pound of Flesh, is a run off the mill action flick which tries to be more than its supposed to be, but even with an aging action star at its helm, the poor production values & the impaired screenplay brings the film down. If you are huge Van Damme fan and don’t mind watching 90s style action flick, this is the film for you, while rest can avoid.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Director – Ernie Barbarash
Starring – Jean-Claude Van Damme, Darren Shahlavi, Charlotte Peters
Rated – R
Run Time – 104 minutes

Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E

zz51This year seems like a good year for lovers of the spy genre. We’ve had the awesomely funny (Spy), the blockbuster (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), the stylish (Kingsman: The Secret Service), the poorly made teen comedy (Barely Lethal), and we’ve still got historical drama (Bridge of Spies), and classic Bond (Spectre) ahead of us and now we have something from director Guy Ritchie (One of my favorites) who seems to have blended in all the goodies from the above mentioned films (well of course the poorly made teen comedy part) and give a film which is surprisingly very delicious & entertaining. Based on a show from the 60s, which obviously I have never seen, the film apparently just borrows the title and the basic concept of the show, and provides a fresh take on the spy game. Placed on the backdrop of the cold war and the 1960’s, director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes) incorporates a style of film making that is less Bourne and more retro-Bond. Well-dressed, cliched agents with well-timed dialogue that takes front stage over action. Not that there is not action, but the action that is provided is more stylized and methodical & of course fun! The director elaborated every detail down to the bits, each item corresponds to the time shown on the screen: attire, weapon, cars, bugs and spy tactics. Compared to Kingsman, the technical hardware we see here would be described as less spectacular. Compared to Spy, the wit we see in here would be described as less riotous. Compared to M:I Rogue Nation, the stunts we see in here would be described as less breathtaking. However judged on its own, this film by Guy Ritchie is awesome on its own. The 60s-inspired production design, hair and costumes were so fab. (Those huge yellow subtitles can be distracting and hard to read though.)

the-man-from-uncle-cast-imageDespite having tentative pacing in some scenes, it was still fun and entertaining to watch overall. The story follows American CIA agent, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) has been tasked to extract a beautiful auto mechanic Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikander) whose long lost father Udo Teller, a now American former Nazi nuclear scientist who might be helping the wrong people develop a nuclear warhead.  However he is being shadowed by a KGB operative, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) who also has orders to not let the woman be taken. Through unforeseen circumstances we see both Solo and Kuryakin paired up to help young Gaby rescue her father. This sets the stage for Kuryakin and Solo to one up another and “cordially” meet, as their bosses force them to set aside their differences and work together on finding the people who are hiring Gaby’s father to make the the nuclear weapon. The people in question can stand aside the best of the Bond villains as well, as they each have their one unique fashion statement or “skill” that sets them above the rest. This all sounds like quite the fun movie, right? Like I said before, this film is very enjoyable! Solo uses these vintage gadgets and cars to get around Europe, which is sure fun to watch as he finds Gaby, only to have Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), the Russian spy with psychotic episodes that cause him to wreak havoc on anyone and anything near him, try and capture Gaby for himself and his boss, which ensues in a fairly excellent car chase that is similar to something we would have seen in Sin City.

The opening sequence chase scene featured heavily in the previews, but surprisingly the trailer did not ruin the scene. It actually came across even more crisp and clever in the theater and was a great beginning for the movie. It perfectly sets the tone of the two spy characters and establishes their respectful rivalry. The movie isn’t wall-to-wall action, but there are enough action scenes to keep the pace lively. There is also a second chase scene towards the end of the movie that is perhaps even better than the opening scene’s chase. One thing that sets it apart from other recent spy thrillers is it staying set in the 60s time period and not being “modernized”. From the opening “spy jazz” music, it sets the tone for what will be a fun ride. The star of the show is undoubtedly the director, Guy Ritchie and like most film buffs, was more curious than excited about films arrival. I was curious to see what Ritchie could do with a television program that has been dead and buried for over fifty years. Was it going to be a serious take on the lighted-hearted spy genre? Who was going to be in it? I am really glad I am getting the chance to review one of Guy Ritchie‘s films because I am a fan. I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes and his gritty London underground films but was I going to enjoy this. He seems to be the go to director when Hollywood needs a relic dug up and brought back to life. Ritchie‘s unique directing style fits perfectly with this slick/stylish film and he proves once again to have the right touch when it comes to blending humor with serious moments (one example being in the most morbidly amusing torture sequence I’ve seen since Bond’s in Casino Royale). Guy Ritchie‘s trademark is everywhere on this film, from the stylish sets, to the retro fashion. The catchy score, the swagger, and the witty banter, all are part of the Guy Ritchie experience. His ability to take the audience back to the 1960’s was a master stroke and will keep the film unique when compared to the many other spy franchises that hit our cinema screens all too often. Ritchie was able to find the right balance of subtle amusement, keeping true to the television show, without making it into an obvious comedic sketch. Since this is a period piece, I think it’s important to point out that they went through a lot of effort to get things right. Fortunately, they did such a good job that it, that it didn’t feel like I was being beaten over the head with the 60’s. There were a number of iconic outfits, but overall it was subtle enough that I wasn’t jarred out of the movie, which says a lot about the great job they did. Director Guy Ritchie has taken a gamble on his two leading men with both heavily criticized in recent big budget roles but it pays off as Cavill and Hammer look comfortable in their roles with neither outshining the other, apparently the roles were written with George Clooney & Tom Cruise in mind. The two agents continually strive for superiority, mimicking their own countries need for supremacy in the volatile world of the 1960’s.

the-man-from-uncle-0012Hammer‘s short tempered psychopath is perfectly balanced to the cool, slick ladies man of Cavill. Henry Cavill with his elegant chiseled looks, Cavill credibly portrayed the cool and capable spy Solo, as much as he was able to credibly portray Superman last year. He also succeeded in pulling off the smart-alecky personality of Solo, a man with a bristling sense of humor, something we would not have expected from his deadly serious Superman performance. Henry Cavill was suave personified here. Armie Hammer could not really lift his career off the ground after his breakthrough role as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. Forgettable films like Mirror Mirror and worse The Lone Ranger”did not do his career any favors. Here he is so original and genuine in his Russian spy performance. Of course his persona is a perfect match for the role – with his innocent boy face and haircut and that massive energy of a muscular Russian spy. The juxtaposition of his sweet vulnerable personality and massive destructive energy is also irresistible. Eventually we learn more about his past, making us (the audience) care for him and love him even more. The symbolism of his father’s watch ties the beginning of the movie with the end. At first his character is reminiscent of a slight terminator-ish sort of spy, but it is through his rivalry and later his forced cooperation with Solo (Henry Cavill) and Gaby (Alicia Vikander) that his humanity evolves. And we learn that, he too, has a big heart under an iron fist. Alicia Vikander recently gave us a great performance with Ex-Machina —- now we see her here, a prickly rose amongst steel thistles (Solo and IIlya). Alicia, as Gaby, brings balance and contrast – a young passionate girl that appears to be innocent later on in the movie surprises us when we discover who she really is. But her personality – sweet and explosive and delicate make her a great match for the trio. She brings the softness in Armie Hammer‘s character, she teaches him to be more human. And of course, she learns to be a better human too. The high fashion she wears throughout the movie is also delightful. Elizabeth Debicki makes a good impression as the main villain Victoria, with her towering beehive, striking haute couture and naked ambition. She is chilling, sexy and cold as the she-devil villain we all would love to fall for. In a minor role, Hugh Grant is used to perfection by Ritchie. Grant adds a bit of star recognition to the film but comes across as rather likable with well timed appearances. His charm and mature wisdom with his natural lovable British sense of humor make him completely adorable to watch. He is now the boss of this nascent discordant team!

On the whole, The Man from U.N.C.L.E (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) is a very enjoyable popcorn flick with a clear intention to just provide fun to its hungry audience.  A ride that engrossed the audience from start to finish with enough action to keep the doubters glued to the screen. Towards the end of the movie, Henry Cavill‘s Napoleon Solo asks, “How’s THAT for entertainment?” (when teaching the movie’s villain a lesson about monologueing), and my answer regarding this movie would be very much indeed!! Being a member of the audience, I just didn’t want the movie to end! In the last scene I was convinced these characters are here to stay. Even though it unfortunate the film is not doing well at the U.S. Box Office, hopefully an excellent foreign haul will guarantee a sequel. Meanwhile, I will be seeing this film again sometime soon.

Overall Rating: 9.2

Director – Guy Ritchie
Starring – Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 116 minutes

Movie Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

teenagegirlposterBased on the autobiographic graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a brutally honest movie that shows that a film based on a comic can honor its source, but take itself seriously. The film may be the best movie based on a comic… ever.

Like most teenage girls, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment.

Going into the film I was aware of the topic at hand, but I was somehow still unprepared for the raw and honest portrayal I was about the witness. Running at 101 minutes, the film feels a little long at times, but that’s partially because I couldn’t figure out where it was going, how it was going to end. Unlike so many movies based on comics, there’s not some climactic showdown to signal the end. There’s showdowns, but in this case it’s of the emotional kind. When the 101 minutes were up, I felt like I had been punched in the gut… and immediately wanted to see the film again. Set in 1976 San Francisco, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is an amazing crossroads of the end of free love, feminism, punk rock and all contrasted with the trial of Patty Hearst. This is really a film you can dissect and talk about for hours on end.

At the center of it all is 15-year-old Minnie played by Bel Powley who is a star in the making. Whomever found her deserves a raise, as the film is completely on her shoulders. Her out there performance bares it all (literally) as she balances between being a child and her impending adulthood. She’s a fascinating mix of child/woman/id/manipulative/and feminist, all rolled into one. Hers is a coming of age story that is as poignant as it is unsettling.

Skarsgård and Wiig are amazing in their roles on Monroe and Charlotte. Both can easily be justified for best supporting actors and Wiig especially is more than just a comedic actress.

Writer/Director Marielle Heller has also done the impossible. While we should be scolding Monroe for taking advantage of young Minnie, Heller has somehow crafted a story where everything and everyone is in a bit of a gray area. Who’s to blame? Is it Minnie? Is it Monroe? Is it Minnie’s mother Charlotte? While the law is clear, everything else isn’t.

While I haven’t read the graphic novel it’s based on, I can’t say how closely the film lines up with the source material, but the film itself is beautifully adapted. The use of animation, as well as weaving in art at times reminds you of what it’s based off of. The film reminds me of American Splendor (also based on a comic) in many ways, except instead of a grouchy man it stars a very liberated woman.

Expect some nominations when award season comes around. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is my favorite film based on a comic, and also my favorite film of the year so far. You may think you’re prepared for the subject and film before you see it, you’re absolutely not prepared for how brutally honest and shocking it is. The film is fearless in so many ways, a coming of age story that’s unsettling and beautiful at the same time.

Overall Rating: 10

Movie Review: She’s Funny that Way

SFTW_Diversions_Banner-330x221This Peter Bogdanovich directed film is exactly the kind of film that isn’t made any more; a manic, silly comedy helmed by an ensemble cast made for adults. The film adheres to the wry comedic style of Woody Allen, who rigorously churned out films like these in his earlier days, and a style that Allen continues to play with with more subtlety. With a breezy eighty minute run-time and a comedic cast who seem to be having a great time with one another, this is a film that can skate by and leave you with a goofy grin on your face as the end credits roll in. This mixed-genre film was ultimately a pretty clever one – and ultimately an enjoyable watch.

The entire concept bases itself upon accidents and spontaneity, when pondered upon idly, may seem random, but from the perspective of the end interactions, it’s coherent, total movie-making stuff, something which may click with audiences of all ages, and although the basic point of the film – prostitution, may seem deviated-from-norms at first, it’s actually not. Its clearly visible the style of Wes Anderson (who has also produced this film) has been embargoed in this film especially the light-heartedness. The story follows Hollywood dreamer, Isabella “Izzy” Patterson (Imogen Poots), who has become a prostitute in order to make ends meet before her big ticket kicks in. Her regular client Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson), a very popular Broadway director, a filthy rich, has been gifting $30,000 to escorts for their services & to get their life moving in the right direction.  One Grecian evening, Arnold Albertson, finds himself in the precarious position of casting Izzy in the play, even though he knows her from her career as an escort.

Jennifer-Aniston-Rhys-Ifans-Imogen-Poots-Will-Forte-Kathryn-Hahn-and-Owen-Wilson-in-Shes-Funny-That-Way-slice-1024x469The female lead of the stage production is his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) and her ex-lover Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans), which leads to a surreal series of inter-connected, comedic situations. Adding to this bizarre narrative is a playwright named Joshua (Will Forte) begins to fall in love with Isabella, despite dating Jane Claremont (Jennifer Aniston), a bitter and hot-tempered therapist, who Isabella has been seeing. This collection of characters make this a film that consistently moves and never slows down. The persistent weaving & connection of each and every character in the film is what largely makes the film such a good time. While the characters may often be  despicable, the situational humor mimics the sort of awkwardness which is often missing from comedy films now days. The character development—Derek to Arnold, Izzy to Isabella, Piccadilly to Oh-my-Billy, doctor/client privilege, private detective to private detective father, judge to perverted, stalker judge, so on and so forth—is basically the integral part. It wouldn’t really have thrived. Every character has a particular, distinguishable performance associated, which defines him/her. With Jane it’s the frantic, tormented, and egocentric psychiatrist, who’s only good at being rude, illogical, and stupid, quite frequently so. With Delta, it’s a lively, bold, but frighteningly mad when it comes to revenge (remember the prolonged kiss, pretty awkward, yeah?)

Arnold’s humanitarianism is the root of all social affairs—the trauma everybody faces, who are apparently distinct, but mutually affecting each other and each others social behaviors. He’s generous enough to call escort services for call-girl, and to her own pleasure, not his; it’s not the “sex” he’s looking for, although it being an eventual outcome of his endeavors wouldn’t be bad at all. His help, consequent adventure into the restaurant to have peppery-ass Indian food, (which was actually supposed to be mild), nuts-to-the squirrels, squirrels-to-the-nuts, and his own nuttily-charming and positive self, bring down the intellectuality of Midnight in Paris itself. And although only remotely related, his ventures into absolute philanthropy, coupled with the fact that he is a Broadway director, gives elevation of the meager plot of being somebody for no absolute reason. His good deed, however, originates from cheating, secrecy, covering-up, and ends up with the victims-of-his-revolutionary-cause showing up at his desk, appraising his deeds of compassion, altruism, and spending romantic, self-free nights. And these victims, unfortunately, become in deliberate snitches by Arnold’s wife’s overhearing—and the difference in interpretations of the exactly same dilemma is the root to absolute chaos.

shes-funny-that-way-movie+(1)She gets that he calls prostitutes, but not why he does so. This, along with Seth’s mocking smile, taunting-presence, and playboy-calls to Arnold’s wife is something supernatural, so to say. There’s a “naughty” aroma, per se, and that aroma brings a very funny smile that you just can’t help. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with R-rated comedies, they are rarely well structured, for example films like Get Hard and The Hangover sequels (films which I actually love) have jokes that make us laugh out loud, but their is line of crass and vulgarity which is usually crossed in order to generate such laughs. This film has its own crass but in a way that isn’t over-the-top or in love with the idea of making the viewer uncomfortable based on situations involving bodily fluids or intercourse.

The cast here feels right at home. We have low-key performers that go under the radar far too often and we have seasoned veterans trying their hand at the personalities they accentuate the best. Moreover, though, everyone feels like they’re enjoying themselves. I love Imogen Poots! I loved her weirdly attractive accent trying to copy the Brooklyn accent but with her British tongue it came out so thick. So sexy and adorable. Owen Wilson is his usually funny self with his hesitant personality character. Kathryn Hahn, Jennifer Aniston and Will Forte have smaller but very enjoyable roles. Its good to see Rhys Ifans try out comedy, he is a blast in every scene he appears in. Well the appearance of Quentin Tarantino was unexpected and nice though.

On the whole, She’s Funny That Way is isn’t a film to take very seriously, nor is it a film that gets hung up on vulgarities and stupidity. This is a smartly written film, one that really is elevated by the performers. Give it a watch!

Overall Rating: 8.2

Director – Peter Bogdanovich
Starring – Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston
Rated – R
Run Time – 93 minutes

Straight Outta Compton Tops Chart, Man From U.N.C.L.E. Stumbles

Straight Outta ComptonStraight Outta Compton ruled the weekend box-office coming in at number one with an impressive estimated earning of $56.1 million. It knocked Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation out of the top spot into second place where it added an estimated $17 million to its total. Another high profile debut, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. didn’t fair so well, earning just $13.535 million for its first week at the domestic box-office.

Straight Outta Compton looks to have debuted as the sixth best August opening of all time, and adds to a stellar year for its distributor Universal which has crossed the $2 billion mark at the box-office on Saturday. It beats the previous record holder Warner Bros. by four months. They hit that mark December 25, 2009.

When it comes to comic movies Fantastic Four dropped to fourth, losing 68.9% from the previous week. While that might seem like a lot, it’s not the worst for a movie headlined by a Marvel character. Elektra, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Hulk all did worse. Fantastic Four added $8 million to its total to bring its domestic earning up to $41.96 million. The film has earned $102.1 million worldwide so far.

Ant-Man was in sixth place adding an estimated $5.5 million to its domestic total. The film has earned $157.6 million domestically and $336.5 million worldwide. The film still sits in second to last as far as earnings for Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl which is based off a graphic novel expanded its opening to 22 theaters and earned $112,000. The film earned a lot of buzz at Sundance and was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics for $2 million. The film has earned a total for $195,000 so far in its two weeks.

For the yearly totals, Jurassic World still reigns supreme. The film is at the top of the domestic box-office grosses with $637.9 million. It’s still earning a decent chunk, so that number has a ways to go before it’s done. It’s followed by Avengers: Age of Ultron in second with $457.2 million, Furious 7 in third with $351 million, Inside Out in fourth with $339.4 million and Minions rounds out the top five with $313 million.

The worldwide grosses are a little different with Jurassic World still on top with $1.6062 billion, and Furious 7 in second with $1.5117 billion. Avengers: Age of Ultron has earned $1.3988 billion to be in third place. Minions is fourth with $957.5 million, and Inside Out is fifth with $639.5 million.

Movie Review: Cop Car

cop-bannerThis film is a very good example of a film that keeps things simple while never forgetting to entertain and surprise. Starring just five people, it’s well acted, photographed and directed. It has well-handled suspense and characters you actually like. While many films use the device of a “real time” narrative for effect (ie, where the viewer is given the sense that he/she is a participant in real time in the story) very few films run the device for the full length. A perfect example of this would be the awesome Tom Cruise – Jamie Fox starrer Michael Mann directed Collateral.

Thumbs up for director Jon Watts for pulling off an awesome Indie and a salute to Kevin Bacon, who not only helped produce the film but also provides the balancing act between malice and satire. Nobody does it better this year. The story follows two rebellious kids Harrison (Hays Wellford) and Travis (newcomer James Freedson-Jackson) who have run away from their homes. Their reasoning is never made clear, or even discussed. Nevertheless they stumble upon an abandoned cop car in the middle of the woods & decide to go on a joy ride, kids now days seriously! The car belonged to the corrupt Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), who had parked his car in the woods to dump a body while the boys abscond with his car.

0f2f63eb-aa67-438c-a2d9-2208d968c64e_34999082_imageIf things where not bad enough, the kids are spotted by on going driver Bev (Camryn Manheim) who calls it in, causing more trouble for the Sheriff who is worried about the contains of his trunk, a nameless dude (Shea Whigham). The adults are bogeymen from any boy’s nightmare, and the boys are innocently bad experiencing their own mischievousness and their fascination with irresponsibility—such as high-speed driving and loaded guns.  Rather than filling us in on the likely depressing blanks of these boys’ home lives, Watts smartly drops us right into their rebellion. Do not let the simplicity of the set-up put you off though, as this is a lean film with a lot of good things about it. Firstly, we have the two young boys who are a great central pairing; they really act like genuine kids and are very sympathetic and humorous throughout. Secondly, we have Kevin Bacon giving yet another good performance as the bad cop. Thirdly, this is well-paced and builds quite a bit of tension as events escalate to an ending that is a little surprising. Fourthly, it’s a rather well photographed and scored affair, with the sparse Colorado plains scenery shot nicely in widescreen. The film moves at a slow pace, showing us the dull reality that these kids inhabit instead of making their imaginations flow out aesthetically. Their escape: a cop car with two guns. They pretend to shoot bad guys and look down the barrels like they’re searching for something that may not be there. Of course, these kinds of acts are passed off in a darkly humorous and uncomfortable fashion. We know something is going to go wrong with two pre-teens and a couple of handguns, but we don’t know when or how. That’s the conceit here. It’s what director/writer Jon Watts wants to play around with until the tension becomes unbearable. And for the most part, it totally works. Director Jon Watts is less interested in plot detail than mood. The only problem here in my opinion was the end. When Kretzer finally catches up with the boys and the secret is let out (literally), the film becomes something totally different. What started as these kids’ escape from reality turned into a rushed, coming-of-age third act, totally contradicting everything that happened before it. I’m not saying that the final act should have turned out as an eye opener for the childish duo, just that it shouldn’t feel so forced into such an easy conclusion that settles on a predictable twist. I’m unclear on what to make of the film’s ending. I understand it is meant to be ambiguous and, given the lack of information dispensed throughout, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

cop-carEven so, I felt it lacked the gravitas it appeared to be going for. It’s a possible result of investing so much only to be left hanging, or hell, maybe I’m just a sucker for an ending. In any case, this one is worth the journey. Kevin Bacon seems to be having the most fun in years as the near mustache-twirling seedy sheriff. Every single time his character has some serious character beat that’s meant to show off how dangerous and serious he is, the moment is directly followed up with him bumbling over something to try to track these kids down. Breaking down that self-serious masculinity that occupies so many films today. After all, this is a movie about the imagination of two kids running rampant. The kids are great as well, perfectly showcasing the ecstasy caused by pulling off dangerous stunts and then the deep-seated fear when the ramifications come calling. In addition to Bacon, there are brief and admirable performances by both Shea Whigham and Camryn Manheim, the film hinges on its two lead actors. On the whole, Cop Car is a fun edge of a seat drama which manages to pack a lot in its around 90 minutes run time. The film is a really promising feature from Watts, whose next feature is the upcoming Spider-Man reboot over at Sony and Marvel. Give it a watch if you are into slow burn Indie thrillers!!

Overall Rating: 8.5

Director – Jon Watts
Starring – Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford
Rated – R
Run Time – 86 minutes

‘Allegiant – Part One’ has finished filming

Via E! Online

Via E! Online

The Divergent Series... There is so much controversy surrounding this franchise and whether it’s good or bad. Many people call it a Hunger Games rip-off, others — a mediocre YA film. What matters is that Lionsgate get to make money off this series. It’s true, Insurgent made domestically almost as much as Divergent, while surpassing it worldwide with about 7 million more at $295 million, almost hitting the $300 million mark.

This week the principal photography for The Divergent Series – Allegiant: Part 1 has officially wrapped up after beginning few months back in the end of May. Ansel Elgort, who plays Tris’s brother — Caleb, took it to his Instagram to announce it by also borrowing a line from his other movie last year, called The Fault in Our Stars, but reiterates it a bit by saying the following:

“ITS A META”FOUR” #Allegiant we are WRAPPED! I know we’d all rather see theo shirtless I’m sorry.”

Here is the photo he posted on the social network:

11410378_156590138008785_1268304539_n

He also posted another behind-the-scenes photo with his stunt double:

So what do you guys think? Will you be seeing this one when it hits theatres? We will be. Also, do you want the ending of the book to be changed or not? Make sure to let us know what you think in the comments, or by filling the poll.

The Divergent Series – Allegiant: Part 1 comes out on March 18, 2016.

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