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

Dark Phoenix Poster
Trailer

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.

Director:

Simon Kinberg

Writers:

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.

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

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Film Review: THE SNOWMAN (USA 2017) **

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The Snowman Poster
Trailer

Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.

Director:

Tomas Alfredson

Writers:

Peter Straughan (screenplay by), Hossein Amini (screenplay by)

 

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Film Review: ALIEN: COVENANT (USA 2017) ***1/2

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

alien_coventent.jpgThe crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
ALIEN helmer Ridley Scott (he directed two of the series) proves that at the age of 80, he still has it. The latest ALIEN called ALIEN: COVENANT the second of the prequel before the first ALIEN movie and the sequel to the last PROMETHEUS shows Scott in top form. ALIEN COVENANT is far superior to copycat space horror films like the recent LIFE and PASSENGER. ALIEN: COVENANT is the real thing – with real horrors in the abyss of space that will keep one at the edge of the seat watching face clingers and torso busters (called more mildly face huggers and chest bursters in the film).

The film begins with a short flashback showing Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) while he is still alive; he addresses a synthetic android (Michael Fassbender) who would become part of the Prometheus expedition. Weyland asks the android to select a name for himself and the android selects ‘David’ as his preferred name.

The film moves to the present which is 2104. The crew of the colony ship Covenant is bound for a remote planet with two thousand colonists and a thousand embryos aboard. While en route to their destination, an energy surge damages the ship, killing its captain and waking the crew. As they repair the ship, the crew intercept a radio transmission from a nearby planet and decide to investigate as the transmission is human in origin but the planet is supposedly lifeless. This is when the horror begins.

The first ALIEN film was panned by the critics with the critic at Time Magazine calling it a bastard movie, a cross between STAR WARS and JAWS. One can see why. Like JAWS, the first sight of the alien occurs almost a third into the movie just as the first sight of the shark was never seen till half of the film elapsed – a Hitchcock trait (best example: THE BIRDS). But once the monsters starts bursting out of the victim’s bodies – watch out ! Sound effects, special effects and all the horror instruments filmmakers use are perfectly combined to scare the hell out of audiences and for a fairly lengthy interval of time at that. PASSENGER never achieved that level of effect while LIFE imitated a few of the scares. The alien clinging on the outside of the spaceship as it strives to enter the ship, is seen in both LIFE and COVENANT. There are more characters in COVENANT than in any of the past ALIEN Films or in LIFE and PASSENGER resulting in more grisly deaths as well.

COVENANT is neatly tied in to PROMETHEUS though the audience need not know much about the original film. The film also contains an intricate enough plot, with a sufficient twist at the end, brilliant for the fact that the audience is supposed to guess it.

The only complaint is of the film being a bit confusing, though the confusion can be sorted out with a bit of reflection. One is the use of actor Fassbender to play the two androids David and Walter. The other is the flashback at the start of the film, which is not clearly conveyed to the audience as a flashback. When Fassbender appears on the ship, one assumes he is David, but he is actually Walter. Another disarray arises with the large number of crew suddenly descending on the planet as the film only showed a handful of humans awakened from their slumber.

Scott still uses the gimmicks of the past ALIEN films to ensure the film’s success. Katherine Waterston as Daniels, a terraforming expert looks like a younger Sigourney Weaver, especially in her sweat-soaked undergarments. The sight of the alien eggs before hatching still looks as eerie as before. A few new additions are added like the bath scene (looking almost pornographic) which is comical in a way as the alien strikes like a snake-like creature.

ALIEN: COVENANT returns the franchise to its roots and to what works. Fans and audiences would shriek in delight!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0VW6sg50Pk
 

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Film Review: SONG TO SONG (USA 2017)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

song_to_songDirector: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Terrence Malick’s films have been accessible to some and highly inaccessible to others. The best example is Malick’s TREE OF LIFE that the Toronto Film Critics association awarded Best Film of the year that most of the public hated. Malick’s last film was his indulgent ode to the Universe which he made though the man is neither a scientist of physicist. That was a complete mess.

His latest indulgent film SONG TO SONG begins at a concert of some sort where the crowd is wild and violent. It is an energetic scene that provides some promise of an exciting film that never comes to fruition. As the film unfolds, it is revealed that SONG TO SONG is supposedly a film about life that is led from song to song or from kiss to kiss.

SONG TO SONG is a love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, with two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress whom he ensnares, Rhonda (Natalie Portman) — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal. The betrayal involves Faye who hides her affair with Cook from BV. BV has a fling with Amanda (Cate Blanchett) while Faye also experiments with same sex with Rhonda. The film intercuts frequently among the couples, without any meaning or direction.
The film contains a lot of voiceover, particularly from Rooney Mara at the beginning of the film.

SONG TO SONG is stunningly shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki with credit also going to Malick. The best spectacular scenes are the ones with the rooftops, the crystal clear waters, the beaches including interior scenes like the gorgeous decorated and furnished apartments.

It is difficult to judge performances when a film has no narrative or direction. But Malick, has assembled, besides the main stars mentioned above, other famous names in his cast like Val Kilmer, Iggy Pop, Tom Sturridge, Holly Hunter and Lykke Li.

The film’s first cut was 8 hours and shortened to two hours with huge snips that included singer Patti Smith totally removed from the film. Even Fassbender thought he would have been totally cut out of the film leaving only his voiceover.

In SONG TO SONG, Malick delves into romantic relationships in an experimental type film where narrative is thrown into the wind. The film is often all over the place. incoherent and senseless.

The critical response to the film has been pretty bad so far with only a few praises. It currently stands, at the point of writing, at just the 50% mark on meteoritic and rotten tomatoes. SONG TO SONG is also one of the lowest rated Malick films.

As in almost every Terrence Malick film, SONG TO SONG is undeniably, a visual treat. But that is all that can be said about the film. It also runs too long at 129 minutes.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8Yo2e8AzgA
 

_________

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ASSASSIN’S CREED (2016) Michael Fassbender. Marion Cotillard.

assassins_creed_movie_poster.jpgDirector: Justin Kurzel
Writers: Michael Lesslie (screenplay), Adam Cooper (screenplay)
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Assassin’s Creed is an action-adventure video-game series created by Ubisoft that consists of nine main games and a number of supporting materials. The games have appeared on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and many other platforms. The games are set in a fictional history of real-world events and follows the centuries-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace with free will, and the Templars, who desire peace through control. From the game came the book series and it is inevitable that a film follows. Very bad idea! For a game about peace, the film is quite violent. Even with Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender starring and producing it, ASSASSIN’S CREED for all its $125 million production cost and star power like Marion Cotillard (barely recognizable), Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling, the film comes out incredibly dull. For one, moviegoers know the famous adage: “It is hard to get excited over a movie made from a video game.” Yes, no matter how much the filmmakers try.

Cal Lynch (Fassbender) is about to be executed as his capital punishment. But he ends up travelling back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA. There, he lives out the experiences of Aguilar de Nerha, a distant ancestor who is also a member of the Assassins, a secret society that fights to protect free will from the power-hungry Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to battle the oppressive organization in the present. There are lots of fighting with Fassbender shirtless showing off his super-toned body.

That is about it for story and plot. The visuals are mainly done though Computer Graphics with the film looking much like a video game with computer generated figures fighting or shown in large crowds. The visuals are nothing out of the ordinary. There are lots of action scenes with characters running about on rooftops, firing arrows or jumping around. These hardly generate any excitement.

The key prize that the Templars and Creed both seek is the apple, supposedly the one from the Garden of Eden that Eve ate, and so released the knowledge of Good and Evil. The audience is supposed to believe that the non-rotting apple has survived through the years and that anyone who possesses it can control man’s free will. So, the Templars wish to control humanity by owning the apple.

The film is directed by Australian Justin Kurzel who directed Fassbender in last year’s MACBETH. He did a good job, rising to fame with SNOWTOWN, but none of his talent is observable in this poor effort.

So during the Christmas season, it is a hard toss which is the worst film of the season or for the year for that matter. The three contenders are PASSENGERS, COLLATERAL BEAUTY and this one!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfJVoF5ko1Y

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

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

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.

 

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
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Happy Birthday: Michael Fassbender

michaelfassbender.jpg width=”214″ height=”317″ />Happy Birthday Oscar Nominated Actor Michael Fassbender

Born: April 2, 1977 in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Read reviews of his best films:

megan foxTOP 10 MICHAEL FASSBENDER Roles

revengeBest of BAND OF BROTHERS
2001

300300
2007
dir. Zack Snyder

HUNGERHUNGER
2008
dir. Steve McQueen

EDEN LAKEEden Lake
2008
Directed by James Watkins

2012 Movie PosterInglourious Basterds
2009
dir. Quentin Tarantino

JONAH HEXJonah Hex
2010
dir. Jimmy Hayward

X-MEN: FIRST CLASSX-MEN: FIRST CLASS
2011
dir. Matthew Vaughn

MOVIE POSTERSHAME
2011
dir. Steve McQueen

MOVIE POSTER A DANGEROUS METHOD
2011
dir. David Cronenberg

Jane EyreJANE EYRE
2011
dir. Cary Fukunaga

MOVIE POSTERHAYWIRE
2001
dir. Steven Soderbergh

MOVIE POSTERPROMETHEUS
2012
dir. Ridley Scott

MOVIE POSTER12 YEARS A SLAVE
2013
dir. Steve McQueen

MOVIE POSTERTHE COUNSELOR
2013
dir. Ridley Scott

MOVIE POSTERFRANK
2014
dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Stars:
Michael Fassbender
Domhnall Gleeson

MOVIE POSTERX-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
2014
dir. Bryan Singer
Patrick Stewart
Ian McKellen

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