Film Review: DARK PHOENIX (USA 2019) ***1/2

Dark Phoenix Poster

Jean Grey begins to develop incredible powers that corrupt and turn her into a Dark Phoenix. Now the X-Men will have to decide if the life of a team member is worth more than all the people living in the world.


Simon Kinberg


John Byrne (story “The Dark Phoenix Saga”), Chris Claremont (story “The Dark Phoenix Saga”) | 4 more credits »

A disclaimer from this reviewer that is to be read before proceeding with this review – I am not a fan of the super action hero film genre, so what is written might not apply to the general public who adore action hero movies.   The 10th of the series of X-MEN films, DARK PHOENIX  has so far been the worst reviewed film of the series.  Critics have complained that the film is boring and the rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing is around 20%. (but the film has a higher 70% approval on imdb).  Personally, DARK PHOENIX is not bad, is entertaining and has a good solid storyline.  The same can be said for the FANTASTIC FOUR films.  But he Fantastic Four films bombed because the filmmakers spent too much emphasis on story and less on action.  Action hero fans DO NOT like that at all.  They want mindless violence and special effects.  DARK PHOENIX falls into the same trap.

DARK PHOENIX concentrates on the life of one X-man or X-woman rather, Grey (Sophie Turner).  There is a lot of story here,  The film opens with her as a child, engineering a car accident that kills her parents making her an orphan to be taken in by Professor Charles Xavier  (James McCoy) in his school of Gifted Youngsters or in other words, School for mutant super heroes.  He mentally blocks the accident from her memories and helps her hone her psychic abilities.

The film shifts to 1992 when the X-Men respond to a distress signal from the space shuttle Endeavour.  The shuttle is critically damaged by a solar flare.  While the X-Men save all of the astronauts, Grey absorbs the solar flare in her body.  Her psychic powers are greatly amplified as a result.  At the same time, the mental block placed by Xavier is destroyed and she travels to Red Hook after discovering that her father is still alive. The X-Men attempt to take Grey home.  Grey meets Vuk, a D’Bari (Jessica Chastain) who explains to her that she possesses the Phoenix Force, which wiped out the D’Baris’ home planet years ago.  Meanwhile, Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), who feels betrayed by Xavier’s manipulation of Grey’s memories, allies with Erik Lehnsherr (Michale Fassbender) and his mutant refugees to bring down Grey in New York City.  Enough said about the plot, though there is much more.  The action amplifies from here, with lots of special effects.

Most of the other X-Men are present like Cyclops, Beast, Storm, Mistique, Quicksilver among others.  They are not given such to do though.  McAvoy and Turner both turn in solid performances bringing in more emotions in the action flick.

The action sequences are well staged, a lot done old school style like exploding real houses instead of CGI (though there is still quite a lot of CGI).  Director Kinberg is fond of using slow motion to allow the audience to appreciate the action.

Regardless of critics approval, DARK PHOENIX should do well at the box-office grossing an expected $50 million for the opening weekend.


Film Review: RED SPARROW (USA 2018) ***

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Red Sparrow Poster

Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. But her first mission, targeting a CIA agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.


Francis Lawrence


Justin Haythe (screenplay), Jason Matthews (novel)


RED SPARROW re-unites Academy Award Winner Jennifer Lawrence with her HUNGER GAMES director Francis Lawrence.  The film is an espionage spy film written by Justin Haythe, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews.  The novel won many literary awards including the Best First Novel prize for its author, Matthews.  The film?  If you remember the HUNGER GAMES franchise, then you would know what to expect for RED SPARROW, the movie.

The film begins impressively enough with the intercutting of a Bolshoi ballet performance by star Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) and an incident in Gorky Park where Nate (Joel Edgerton), a CIA internal-ops officer who recruits and handles intelligence assets for the agency is arrested.   Dominika is injured during her performance (shot in an extremely gruesome ‘accident’ scene).  In order to support her ailing mother (Joely Richardson) and maintain her apartment,  she is forced by her uncle Ivan Dimitrevich (Matthias Schoenaerts) to undergo training at the Sparrow School, where she and other men and women were trained in how to seduce the enemy.  In the words of the film’s best line, uttered by the uncle: “There are no accidents.  We create our own fates.”

 Matthews’ novel was praised for its insight into the mundane aspects of the intelligence field, various techniques and its “high drama”.  The same cannot be said for Lawrence’s film.  At best, it glamourizes the violence and techniques used by both the Russian and American sides.  The best instance can be observed in the almost unwatchable torture scene when Nate has the outer skin of his back  pealed off by a skin grafting device.  Lawrence need not show the actual action  but the audience gets the message from the Nate’s screaming and the scene’s set-up.  Another more graphic torture scene is Dominika’s torture with her constantly hit with a melt rod..

The sex scene between Lawrence and Edgerton could have been shot with more credibility.  It is laughable to see a riding scene in which the lovers perform their act fully clothed.

Unlike spy films such as TORN CURTAIN and TOPAZ directed by Alfred Hitchcock, RED SPARROW is noticeable devoid of suspense.  Plot twists replace suspense in this spy thriller.  Critics attending the promo screening were requested not to real any plot points in their reviews.  But running at 2 hours and 20 minutes (Lawrence’s HUNGER GAMES films were also unnecessarily lengthy),  plot twists can also turn ordinary unlike suspense set-ups.

The best thing about RED SPARROW is Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts.  With make up to look like Vladimir Putin, he is the most fun to watch.  The second prized performance comes from Charlotte Rampling playing the school headmistress with totally cool lesbian charm.

RED SPARROW the film is more outrageously camp in its violence and portrayal of real world espionage.  If one can take and believe Jennifer Lawrence playing a Russian ballerina and emotionless spy, then  this film is for you.  RED SPARROW is entertaining camp, but for those who expect a serious spy experience it would be wiser to read the book.


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Film Review: PASSENGERS (2016). Jennifer Lawrence. Chris Pratt

passengers_movie_poster.jpgDirector: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen

Review by Gilbert Seah

PASSENGERS arrives at the height of the success of polished looking sci-fi hits like THE MARTIAN, GRAVITY and ARRIVAL. PASSENGERS also looks stunning, thanks to the awesome art direction, wardrobe, cinematography and sets. But unfortunately, the film soon gets lost in space, unable to wake up from its initial promise.

The film’s action takes place aboard the Starship Avalon, on a 120-year voyage transporting over 5000 colonists to Homestead II, a planet so far from earth the journey takes 120 years. The colonists are placed into hibernation for the journey. The ship hits a meteor storm. A malfunction wakes up a passenger, mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), 90-years early. The film spends a lengthy first 40 minutes or so with Jim roaming around the spaceship alone discovering the horror of not only being the only one alive but knowing he would be dead by the time the ship reaches its destination. Humorously, he tries to send an S.O.S. message back to earth but realizes that it not only takes 5 years for the message to reach earth but that it will cost him several thousand dollars.

He gets some companionship (and free drinks) from a bartender android (Michael Sheen). Preston notices a beautiful sleeping writer in another pod, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) and decides to wake her up from hibernation to keep him company. (The script could also have been more imaginative than naming the heroine Aurora.) This means a death sentence for her as well. They fall in love and things go smoothly till she learns the truth. This is when the film falls apart.

The couple eventually get back together with Aurora finally saving Jim from being lost in outer space very much the same way Matt Damon almost got himself lost in THE MARTIAN. Things get even more ridiculous with an oasis present complete with birds (yes, birds – where did they come from?) by the 90 years the ship reaches Homestead II.

PASSENGERS is directed by Morten Tyldum who made the World War II thriller THE IMITATION GAME. In PASSENGERS, he and the scriptwriter Jon Spaihts cannot decide if the film is supposed to be a thriller, horror, romance or sci-fi adventure. They decide on ‘all of the above’. This is basically a story of a really intelligent writer and a creepy stalker who should pay for his sins. Instead, he is forgiven and saved and made a hero. PASSENGERS would have succeeded as a horror flick close to what ALIENS was.

The film is also basically a two handler. Lawrence and Pratt are fortunately two fine looking actors that audiences can look at for two hours. But the introduction of Lawrence Fishburne as Gus, an engineer also woken up by pod failure, adds a welcome change to the proceedings.
There are a few action sequences such as Jim’s race against time to repair the ship before it explodes in heat and his rescue from outer space. These are two of the film’s most ridiculous segments. PASSENGERS ends up both ridiculous and plain silly.


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Happy Birthday: Jennifer Lawrence

jenniferlawrence.jpgJennifer Lawrence

Born: August 15, 1990 in Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Yesterday, I had to do an interview. I was in a horrible mood. I couldn’t think of basic words. I could see my publicist in the background, mouthing things to say. They want you to be likable all the time, and I’m just not.

dir. James Oakley
Lena Olin
Rosamund Pike
dir. Jodie Foster
Mel Gibson
Jodie Foster
dir. Matthew Vaughn
James McAvoy
Michael Fassbender
dir. Gary Ross
Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
dir. Mark Tonderai
Jennifer Lawrence
Elisabeth Shue
dir. David O. Russell
Bradley Cooper
Jennifer Lawrence
dir. David O. Russell
Christian Bale
Amy Adams
dir. Francis Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
dir. Susanne Bief
Jennifer Lawrence
Bradley Cooper
dir. Debra Granik
Jennifer Lawrence
John Hawkes
dir. Bryan Singer
Patrick Stewart
Ian McKellen
and Bradley Cooper
and Darren Criss
and Emma Stone
and Josh Hutcherson
and Liam Hemsworth
and Marion Cotillard
and Mother
and Nicholas Hoult
and Oscar
as Katniss Evergreen
as Mystique
as Norah
as Raven
as Rosalyn Rosafeld
as Tiffany
at Comic Con
Black and White
Black Dress
Black Hair
Dior AD
Entertainment Weekly
Gold Dress
Golden Globes Dress
Green Dress
in American Hustle
in Catching Fire
in House at the End of the Street
in Like Crazy
in Mockingjay
in Serena
in Silver Linings Playbook
in The Beaver
in The Bill Engvall Show
in Winters Bone
in X-Men
Lana del Ray
Long Hair
Marie Claire
Mini Dress
On The Street
One Piece
Oscar Dress
People’s Choice Awards
Photo Shoot
Red Carpet
Red Dress
Red Hair
Rolling Stone
Short Dress
Trips at Oscars
Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair dress
White Dress
Yellow Dress

Movie Review: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (USA 2016) ****

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xmenapol.jpgX-MEN: APOCALYPSE (USA 2016) ****
Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Oscar Isaac, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult,

Review by Gilbert Seah

From the first 15 minutes of X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, it appears that director Bryan Singer, the director of the new X-MEN movie (and the director of all the others except for X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) is going all out to outdo all the other X-MEN films in terms of yes, everything. The film begins with the first mutant born in ancient times (3600 B.C.) in Egypt. He is none other than En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), and if that name is too difficult to remember, he is also called Apocalypse. He is entombed. Singer has the volume up full blast, the special effects at full throttle, 3D included, so there are tons of rocks, sharp objects and metal thrown out of the screen. If you think Singer will give audiences a break, forget it! The film is nonstop action, effects, noise and explosions all the way – the way an action super hero film should be. But he also builds in the storyline (script by Simon Kinberg), so that it is not just meaningless action.

The story involves Apocalypse resurrected in 1983. There is some humour and irony in him being disgusted by the human race ruled by weaklings. So, he decides to take over the world and rid the world of weaklings. This actually sounds not too bad an idea. So Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is conned into joining him. If Apocalypse gains the power of Professor X (James McAvoy) he can rule the world. So, it is up to Professor X aka Charles Xavier and the good X-Men to save the day. It is also good to see so many super heroes (or mutants) in a single movie – enough to satisfy any action fan. And it seems that it must be a requirement to look good to be in this film. Every male and female are drop dead gorgeous.

The action sequences especially the climax in which all the X-MEN have to join powers to destroy Apocalypse, are super well executed, much better than all the recent super hero films. The film also works because all the actors seem to take their roles seriously. But the oddest is Jennifer Lawrence as the blue Raven. She looks as if she does not want to be in the film, as she is making so much money being famous right now. She gives Professor X the kind of look: “You want to recruit me again to save the world? I have better things to do.”

Unlike DEADPOOL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA, Singer’s film has action segments that are imaginative and cinematically stunning. The best of these has Quicksilver (Evan Peters) save his fellow X-Men amidst slow motion or stopped background to the song “Sweet Dreams”. The final fight scene in which a big silver X falls from the sky would definitely draw cheers from a packed house of elated fans. The one with Professor X’s wheelchair pulled backwards with his head tilted to the side is yet another inspirational storyboarded sequence.

The film also contains great scenes of the world being destroyed. The dialogue also contains lots of quotable lines like: You are no longer students, you are X-Men”, “I have never felt so much power in my life, “ etc.

APOCALYPSE costs a whopping $234 million to make. Singer makes sure it shows. And the results are worth it. This is the best Super Hero Action Movie so far this year. Let’s hope it pays off at the box-office.


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Movie Review: JOY (2015)

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JOY (USA 2015) ***** TOP 10
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, Donna Mills, Elisabeth Röhm, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd

Writer/director David O. Russell has been known to made films with strong family content like SPANKING THE MONKEY, THE FIGHTER and. His last movie AMERICAN HUSTLE shows him successful in a completely different genre – business. JOY, a film about a housewife named Joy Mongano (Jennifer Lawrence), a struggling single mother who with the help of family and friends succeeds in inventing and marking her miracle mop invention combines the best of the two genres.

Joy has not the typical family. Her grandmother (Dianne West) who narrates the story, her TV-addicted mother, Terry (Virginian Madsen), two children live with her in her house together with her divorced husband (Edgar Ramirez) who lives in her basement. Her dad (Robert de Niro) suddenly moves in, and causes some havoc. But to survive, Joy decides to manufacture and sell her magical mop, going all out – to make it or go completely broke. This is a film about mending broken dreams and making them finally come true. JOY is a true joy to watch, a feel-good Christmas film with all the peers and quirkiness found in a Russell movie. The film moves at a manic pace, especially in the beginning, capturing the spirit of AMERICAN HUSTLE.

Jennifer Lawrence (MOCKINGJAY) delivers another knock-out performance capable of winning her another Oscar nomination for Best actress. Her two memorable segments especially the one where she freaks out in front of her daughters is enough to make one cry. The other has her telling her stepsister in words that will eventually go into movie history: “Never ever speak on behalf about my business … again!” Bradley Cooper has a smaller supporting role but one cannot get enough of his character on screen. Ramirez as the divorced husband is surprisingly good and truly as in the words of the film, they make ‘the most awesome couple in America”, despite not being married.

There is also some neat words in the script. In one scene, Joy’s father tells Joy that it is to possible to have the same dream, to which she replies she has had the same dream twice. If one has the same dream, that means having that dream twice, so how may times is the dream dreamt if one has the same dream twice. Funnier still, is the fact that what that dream is, is never revealed in the film. Also, Joy’s business financier and father’s girlfriend, Trudy’s (Isabella Rossellini) four rules of business success is a real hoot.

The trailer has a scene with Joy blasting off a rifle. In the film, she is upset and blasts the file taken in a rifle range next to the father’s shop. The trailer leads the audience to think Joy has shot someone, especially with anther scene with two cops handcuffing her and taking her away. But tis is not really what transpires in the film. It is a clever editing of the film to form a trailer to look more exciting with events imagined by the audience. Thought his to be a brilliant touch.

JOY has got mixed reviews so far from critics. I have read a few but am unconvinced of the reasons that JOY is faulted with. JOY to me, is a smart fell-good movie, appropriate for Christmas
and shows director Russell in top form.

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