Film Review: MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL (MIB: INTERNATIONAL) (USA 2019) ***

Men in Black: International Poster
Trailer

The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

Director:

F. Gary Gray

The fourth of the franchise and a spinoff rather than a sequel, loosely based on the Malibu/Marvel comics of the same name by Lowell Cunningham, the series sees the cool black guy persona replaced by a cool black young female (Will Smith replaced by Tessa Thompson), teaming up with a handsome white guy played by Chris Hemsworth.  The tactic works.  Thompson and Hemsworth pair very well together.

The film begins with a family scene as if to ensure that all sci-fi films now have a more personal and family touch.  The recent two super hero action films followed suit as in DARK PHONIX with the super hero first scene in a car as a little girl with her family and in the family picnic scene in AVENGERS ENDGAME.  Molly is a little girl who witnesses men in black in action from her bedroom window while helping an alien at the same time escape.  It takes Molly a lifetime before she finds the MIB organization.  Infiltrating into the headquarters, she convinces the head, Agent O (Emma Thompson reprising her role) into recruiting her.  She teams up with Agent H (Hemsworth) to save the world from the scum of the universe, MIB-style.

The film clearly aims at style.  When asked the reasons to wanting to join the MIB organization, Molly responds among other reasons that she looks good in black, the comment also echoed by Agent O.  The fights are also stylized, the most impressive of all being the one where Molly battles Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), an intergalactic arms dealer who also has three arms. Gray’s (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS) film trudges along  too slowly for an action flick, which also seems derive too much off the KINGSMAN and other sci-fi movies.

The plot adds in a thinking element.  The MIB organization has a mole.  Though it is not difficult to guess who the mole is, the plot (this one) often runs too complicated and is too fast to follow.  

The film is shot in exotic locations like London, Marrakesh, New York City and Italy, as the titles proudly announce.  The coolness of the locations is reflected in several very cool scenes the best of which is the dance floor scene with the alien Twins (performed by Laurent and Larry Bourgeois, well renowned dancers from France aka Les Twins) a shape-shifting alien un-killable duo who appear a number of times in the story doing their moves.  All the MIB agents can do is look and stare.

Has the MEN IN BLACK franchise run out of steam?  Quite a few people think so from the well below 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the current wiring of this review.  But not for want of trying.  Despite the film containing the new MIB U.K. branch, more hilarious and imaginative alien creatures, politically correct updates and exotic location settings, MIB: INTERNATIONAL has regrettably only achieved minimal results.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOdWVqhDOj8

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Film Review: BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (USA 2018) ***1/2

Bad Times at the El Royale Poster
Trailer

Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption – before everything goes to hell.

From the music, songs and vintage cars, the film’s setting appears to be the 60’s – a time when political correctness are not in place.  This might explain the girl cat fight (for male chauvinist audiences to get off on) scene in the middle of the film – similar to the gypsy girl fight put on for the entertainment of 007 James Bond in Terence Young’s (Young a director who loves to put in cat fights in his films) FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

The film arrives with quite the bit of hype that anything can happen and the film is quite the mind-f***.  That said, audiences will be pleased to note that they will not be disappointed.

The film involves seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, who meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale of the film’s title, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption – before everything goes to hell.

The film begins with an unseen stranger renting a room at El Royale.  He removes the carpet and floorboards to hide a bag of loot before being blown (shot dead) away.  The film moves forwards 6 months with the arrival of the seven strangers.

First to arrive is Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges) entering the empty hotel foyer only to be greeted by vacuum cleaner salesman Sullivan (Jone Hamm) and backup Motown singer, Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo).  They are eventually greeted by the desk clerk, Miles (Lewis Pullman – yes, Bill Pullman’s son).  Later arrivals include a bad ass female, Emily (Dakota Johnson) with her even more bad ass sister (Cailee Spaeny) in tow.  Every person has a secret and no one is who he or she seems.  Father Flynn is no priest.  Sullivan is no vacuum cleaner salesman and Miles is no ordinary hotel clerk either.  One by one, the guests are done off, pretty much as in Agatha Christie’s TEN LITTLE INDIANS but with a difference.  This is a bad ass fucked up movie and be prepared to jump  out of your seats.  Not once but may times.  Director Godard, who also wrote the script ensures that there are lots of surprises around every corner.  So, be a little patient as the film has a bit of a slow start.

There are a few segments that could have been left out like the politically incorrect cat fight scene, without much change in the story.

All the actors appear to be having fun, hamming up their roles, especially THOR star Chris Hemsworth (a regular in Godard films) playing the villain, Billy Lee.

For a 60’s setting, the atmosphere is well created and believable.  All details from wardrobe, vintage cars to music are in order.

The film contains a good satisfactory ending where the deserving characters get to live and the bad ass guys get their come-uppance.  BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE should satisfy bad ass movie fans with bad ass entertainment, Tarantino/Rodriguez style.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7wzBVARwaU

Film Review: 12 STRONG (USA 2018)

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12 Strong Poster
Trailer

12 Strong tells the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11; under the leadership of a new captain, the team must work with an Afghan warlord to take down the Taliban.

Director:

Nicolai Fuglsig

Writers:

Ted TallyPeter Craig | 1 more credit »

 

There are two kinds of action hero movies – those based on comic book or fictional heroes and those based on real life ones.  Warner Brothers Studios have done well on both fronts, the latter with Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER standing as the best example. 12 STRONG tells the true story of 12 American heroes who took on major Taliban targets after 9/11 that possibly prevented other attacks on the United States.  (February also sees the upcoming WB real action Clint Eastwood movie The 15:17 TO PARIS.)

Based on the non-fiction book “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton and adapted for the screen by Ted Tally and Peter Craig, 12 STRONG the film tells the declassified true story of the Horse Soldiers made up of CIA paramilitary officers and U.S. Special Forces i.e. the US Army Green Berets Operational Detachment Alpha 595 (ODA 595) sent to Afghanistan on October 16, 2001.  The Americans, 12 in number join forces with General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) of the Northern Alliance to help conduct unconventional warfare against Taliban forces.

The 12 are led by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), a character inspired by Mark Nitsch.  Among the 12 that the script pays attention to are his Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spencer (Michael Shannon) and Sergeant Sam Diller (Michael Pena).  The others are given little to say or do but to show their faces in the action scenes.

The film does not contain much plot except to illustrate the difficulty and accomplishment of the mission.  The state of New Mexico stands in for the sandy and rocky landscape of Afghanistan.  The atmosphere looks convincing enough.  The battle segments with too much artillery and gunfire make the real enterprise a little too gung-ho.

Good intentions aside, the film contains some preposterous moments, the most obvious being the climatic scene with the American (Captain Nelson) on horseback leading the Afghan Alliance.  (Really?) “He is charging, follow him,” says an Afghan and then comes the glorification of America.

The best thing the film achieves is placing the audience in a totally foreign atmosphere and educating in what is involved in an almost impossible successful mission.  The audience sees the 12 all gung-ho, angry at 9/11 and wanting revenge to do their best for their country.  But when the film first shows them dumped into foreign territory in the dead of night, with practically no knowledge or bearings, one can tell that heroics is often just in the mind waiting for a reality wake-up call.

The film necessarily has to go through the cliched process of showing the soldiers with their loved ones before and after the mission.  Wife and kids are upset at them while the soldiers have made up their minds to put duty over family.  Of course, the promises that “I will come home!” are uttered and made, regardless of reason.

The film obviously displays the real 12 in a photograph at the closing credits.  The film also mentions the monument of the 12 in a statue that stands in NYC.  For a film based on true events with the fact that all 12 survived, it still looks too implausible.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Denciie5oA

 

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Film Review: THOR: RAGNAROK (USA 2017) ***

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Thor: Ragnarok Poster
Trailer

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

Director:

Taika Waititi

The third THOR film, the sequel to THOR:THE DARK WORLD and the seventeenth (not that anyone can really keep count) film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the massive $180 million production arrives with all the extravaganza expected.  With a host of top Hollywood and British stars, lots of characters and action super heroes and tons of special and visual effects, THOR: RAGNAROK should please fans of the MCU but for the more serious cineaste, it is quite the chore to watch.

To recap who this Thor (Chris Hemsworth) person is…  Thor is the crown prince of Asgard based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name, who has become a “lone gunslinger” while solving universe-ending perils in his search to learn more about the Infinity Stones.

The filmmakers have decided to make a few changes to the THOR universe.  Immediately recognizable is Thor’s new look which includes his shorter hair and new outfit.  He is more vulnerable in the third film with him plunged to the ground many times including the loss of his hammer.  His enemy and half-brother Loki is now his aide and friend as also seen in the last scene when they ponder on how Earth will accept both of them when they arrive.

When the film opens, it is two years after the Battle of Sokovia,  Thor’s quest for information about the Infinity Stones leads him to the fire demon Surtur, from whom he learns that his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating their father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) since the Dark Elf conflict.  Surtur taunts Thor with knowledge of the coming Ragnarok, the foretold end of Asgard that Surtur will bring about when he unites his crown with the Eternal Flame that burns beneath the city, but Thor defeats Surtur and claims his crown, seemingly forestalling the prophecy.  And this is just 5 minutes into the film.  Thor then returns to Asgard and exposes Loki’s treachery, before travelling with him to Earth to recover Odin.  The story goes on and on with Thor’s eventually battle with his sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) and his saving of his people.  What is good about the script by Eric Pearson and the writing team of Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost is that it can be complicated that one can have a fine time dissecting the story, or one can totally ignore it and still enjoy the grandiose battles in the film.  Pearson ties into the picture a multiple of other action heroes that include the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Skurge (Karl Urban), Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) among others. 

A fair share of the budget must have gone into the CGI and special effects.  It shows!  The film looks amazing and is visually stunning.  The music is by Mark Mothersbaugh and the soundtrack is not too loud to give anyone a headache.

The film is predicted to  take in $100 million plus the opening weekend and to eventually gross domestically a goal of $250 million bringing Disney and Marvel a hefty profit.  So that it is a big win against the serious cineaste who basically can be told to take a hike.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?>

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Happy Birthday: Chris Hemsworth

chrishemsworth.jpgChris Hemsworth

Born: August 11, 1983 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Married to:
Elsa Pataky (26 December 2010 – present) (3 children)

I love the adventure that comes with this work, the travel and all that. But also the craft, the storytelling. From a kid, I remember enjoying certain books and getting swept away in movies.

 

TOP 10 CHRIS HEMSWORTH Roles videoWATCH – TOP 20 CHRIS HEMSWORTH VIDEOS
THORTHOR
dir. Kenneth Branagh
Stars:
Chris Hemsworth
Anthony Hopkins
Star TrekStar Trek
2009
Directed by
Abrams
Starring
Chris Pine
Zachary Quinto
A PERFECT GETAWAY Movie PosterA Perfect Getaway
2009
dir. David Twohy
Starring
Jovovich
Steve Zahn
Timothy Olyphant
MOVIE POSTERTHE CABIN IN THE WOODS
2012
dir. Drew Goddard
Stars:
Richard Jenkins
Bradley Whitford
sexyTHE AVENGERS
2012
dir. Joss Whedon
See over 100 pages of photos and videos!
MOVIE POSTERSNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
2012
dir. Rupert Sanders
Stars:
Kristen Stewart
Chris Hemsworth
MOVIE POSTERRED DAWN
2012
dir. Dan Bradley
Stars:
Chris Hemsworth
Isabel Lucas
MOVIE POSTERSTAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
2013
dir. J.J. Abrams
Stars:
Chris Pine
Zachary Quinto
MOVIE POSTERRUSH
2013
dir. Ron Howard
Stars:
Daniel Bruhl
Chris Hemsworth
MOVIE POSTERTHOR: THE DARK WORLD
2013
dir. Alan Taylor
Stars:
Chris Hemsworth
Natalie Portman
SEE TOP 100 CHRIS HEMSWORTH PHOTOS
Abs
and Anthony Hopkins
and Brad Pitt
and Brothers
and Charlize Theron
and Chris Evans
and Chris Pine
and Daniel Bruhl
and Daughter
and Eiza Gonzalez
Elsa Pataky
and Heather Ledger
and Jeremy Renner
and Kristen Stewart
and Liam Hemsworth
and Luke Hemsworth
and Megan Gale
and Olivia Wilde
and Robert Downey Jr.
and Scarlett Johansson
and Tom Hiddleston
and Wife
Animation
as Christian Grey
as James Hunt
as Kim Hyde
as The Huntsman
Back
Beach
Beard
Before and After
Black and White
Blonde
Body
Buzz Cut
Chest
Close UP
Collage
Dark Hair
Drawing
Ears
Empire
Esquire
Eyebrows
Eyes
Face
Fashion
Feet
Goatee
Gorgeous
GQ
Hairstyle
Handsome
in Cyber
in Home and Away
in Jakarta
in Red Dawn
in Rush
in Snow White and Huntsman
in Star Trek
in Star Trek 2
in The Avengers
in The Cabin in the Woods
in The Perfect Getaway
in Thor
in Thor 2
Jeans
kissing Natalie Portman
Leather Jacket
Long Hair
Measurements
Men’s Health
Model
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on Dancing with the Stars
on Ellen
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OUT
Photoshoot
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Wallpaper
Wedding Day
Workout
Young

Movie Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)

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the_huntsman_winters_war.jpgTHE HUNTSMAN – WINTER’S WAR (USA 2016) **
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt

Review by Gilbert Seah

The prequel to SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN is a film that is written for no reason but as an excuse to milk the box-office for more money in the fairy tale blockbuster special effects genre. The plot involves the sister, Freya (Emily Blunt) of the Evil Queen, Ravenna (Charleze Theron) that was the enemy of Snow White, becoming queen and training kidnapped children to be her army so that she can conquer more lands. Her Kingdom has only one rule – no love is allowed.
Love inevitably blossoms between two children that grow up to become Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain. Eric and Sara marry in their own way. The Ice Queen Freya separates them. Eric embarks on a quest to find the magic mirror (that mirror, mirror on the wall who can tell the fairest of them all mirror) in order to save Snow White’s Kingdom. The clumsy story goes on with the quest looking similar to Frodo’s in LORD OF THE RINGS, complete with 4 dwarfs as well.

The dwarfs do enliven the sorry plot. But nothing really keeps one really engaged despite the glossy production, Snow white is noticeably missing in this prequel to Snow White. Her name is only mentioned and that she had been usurped the throne from the Evil Queen. But Snow White was nevertheless unmemorable in the first film and I would bet many would even have forgotten who played that role (Kristen Stewart), so leaving her character out might have been a good decision.

The prequel instead adds Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt, two hot actresses of today. The former plays the huntsman’s love interest while the other, the evil queen sister, the ice queen (similar to FROZEN), which the audience can foresee will end up with a battle of the siblings. This does happen at the film’s climax.

Theron continues the bitchiness with royal effect while Blunt has to settle with a milder villainous performance. Hemswoth does what he is paid to do – look his best and that he undoubtedly does well. Sloppiness shows in the filmmaking when the actors speak with different accents – English, Irish and American.

Cedric Nicolas-Troyan who was on the special effects team in the first film takes over the director’s reigns in this one. Colleen Atwood who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design returns to do the elaborate costumes. No doubt the gowns of the two queens are nothing short of stunning with gold, icy white and feathers while the huntsman dons metal and silver. Whenever on queen appears, it seems like a fashion show is about to commence. But these costumes are not sufficient to make the film.

The climatic fight scene is a battle in which all the heroes and villains (male and female) come together in a special visual effects extravaganza that is more a show of lights and magic than action and suspense. It is inevitable who wins here, so no surprises here at all.

The film ends with the narrator saying that while fairy tales come true, none truly ends, promising an unwelcome sequel to this mess. If that is not enough, director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is already in the process of a reboot for HIGHLANDER.

 

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Movie Review: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (2015)

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (USA/Spain 2015) **
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, Tom Holland

Review by Gilbert Seah

Ron Howard, the Hollywood director best known for playing Richie Cunningham in HAPPY DAYS is also known for his blockbuster films like SPLASH, PARENTHOOD, APOLLO 13 and A BEAUTIFUL MIND. The films share one common characteristic. Box-office successes though they may be, they are all very forgettable films. After a year of viewing any of his films, there is not much one can remember from any of the films’ scenes.

Based on the 2000 non-fiction book In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick and adapted by Charles Leavitt to the script, this is supposed to be the story that inspired Herman Melville to write the classic tale Moby Dick. In 1820, the whaling ship Essex is crewed by the Captain George Pollard, Jr., (Benjamin Walker) first officer Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), second officer Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy) who has nothing much to do but sit around and grow a beard, and cabin boy Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland). During their voyage, the ship is sunk when it is rammed and split in half by a very large and enraged bull sperm whale, ultimately leaving its crew shipwrecked at sea for 90 days and more than a thousand miles from land. After the attack, the crew sails for South America and is forced to resort to cannibalism. The tale is told by a very reluctant older Matthew Joy (Brendan Gleeson) to budding author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) pressured by his good wife (Michelle Fairley) in order to exorcise his demons. Apparently it is the cannibalism that is the problem but the wife seems to accept it after overhearing the story, thus undermining its importance in the story. The audience is neither shocked at her acceptance. The events of the Essex crew are intercut with Matthew telling the story to Herman in his house.

This intercutting is annoying and serves to interrupt whatever suspense or action the film has built up. Director Howard keeps nagging the audience to remind them fact that Herman really does not want to tell the story, as every time the film cuts back to the two men, Herman complains or changes his mind. Yes, the audience has got the point.

The special effects and CGI are lacklustre. The 3D looks like back projection and one can see the various layers and shadows in the scenes. And with CGI use these days on all the Hollywood films, one can hardly get excited when a CGI action scene appears on the big screen.

The film also contains some of the worst acting in a film on this side of the Atlantic, where the whales are. Chris Hemsworth and relative newcomer Benjamin Walker look totally uninterested in the material. They are supposed to portray two shipmates ready to kill each other. The usually excellent Brendan Gleeson is largely wasted in a role in which he just mopes, drinking and complaining.

For an action film, Howard’s film can hardly be called exciting. The whale attack scenes with the monster splashing around the Essex creates less tension than a goldfish in my bath tub.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA might turn out the most memorable of the Ron Howard films. But for all the wrong reasons.