“Gemini Man” stars Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Benedict Wong. Released on October 11, 2019, the film is about an assassin who fights a younger version of himself.
The film is directed by Ang Lee, who also directed films such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hulk”, “Brokeback Mountain”, and “Life of Pi”. A lot of people usually face their own pasts in order to grow, but in some cases, they face their past selves in order to survive. Since 2012, director Ang Lee has been utilizing 3-D technology to immerse the audience into his cinematic art, starting with the film adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel, “Life of Pi”. He even took his art of cinematic experiences to the next level by using the high frame rate of 120 frames per second for the war drama, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”. While the former received critical praise and went on to win four Oscars at the 85th Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects, the latter earned mixed reviews and was a box office failure, proving that lightning doesn’t strike twice. This year, Ang Lee is once again utilizing this type of technology for something that’s a bit more action-packed. I’m one of the group of people who appreciate Lee’s use of 3-D and cinematic technology to enhance his storytelling. I thought “Life of Pi” was visually gorgeous and deeply engaging. As for “Billy Lynn”, all I could really say about it is that it looked nice, cinematography-wise, but that’s really about it. So now we have the latest film from Ang Lee that showcases a thrilling matchup between Will Smith and his younger “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” self in state-of-the-art high frame rate 3-D. The film had been in development for at least two decades with numerous directors and actors signing on and signing off time after time leading up to Lee and Smith confirming to tackle the project for Paramount and Skydance Media. Now that it finally made its way to the screen, does it live up to its expectations? Let’s find out.
The story follows Henry Brogan (Smith), an aging assassin who decided to retire from his career. He later finds out that his target from his last mission was innocent, leading him to realize that his former agency is deceiving him. What’s even worse is that he’s targeted by Clay Varris (Owen), the head of a top-secret black ops unit who created a younger version of Henry to eliminate him. With his life on the line, Henry will have to use his skills once more in order to survive. The premise of having a character face off against a younger version of one’s self isn’t entirely new as it has been represented in other types of media before “Gemini Man”, such as Rian Johnson’s sci-fi thriller, “Looper”, so you might find yourself stuck in a “been there, done that” scenario while watching this film. Despite that, however, it did its part in providing an entertaining action thriller that literally puts two Will Smiths against one another. Like his last two films, Ang Lee puts his cinematic tools to good use as he envisioned each and every scene with absolute care and sharp detail, especially the action scenes. Seeing how extremely well they were shot without the cheap editing that most action films rely on made me realize that Ang Lee and “John Wick” director Chad Stahelski should make an action film together. Just imagine the possibilities with these two behind the camera. Another main selling point for the film is Will Smith himself. He pulled double duty with flawless results as both Henry and Junior, a younger version of Henry. It’s far from Oscar-worthy, but his performance proves that he still has some charm left in him when it comes to the action genre. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was also decent in her role as Danny Zakarweski, another former agent who is also targeted by the agency. I also thought that Benedict Wong was surprisingly enjoyable as Baron, Henry’s colleague. I’m not kidding, he had a couple of moments that I thought were actually more humorous than Smith's moments. As for Clive Owen as Clay, his performance was pretty tolerable despite his character being a mediocre villain. The film’s visuals were quite convincing, especially the de-aging effect for Smith’s character Junior, which was completely spot on from top to bottom. It just goes to show that the process of this type of technology is still going strong, which means we could be seeing more of this in other films in the future. As for its flaws, the film did suffer a bit from its by-the-numbers screenplay. “Gemini Man” deals with the aspect of cloning someone as well as facing the demons of one’s past. The effort that was put into displaying these types of themes were almost completely overshadowed by its predictable and simplistic script, but that doesn’t mean the story didn’t catch my interest. Yes, the story doesn’t offer anything new to the genre, but it does deliver on the entertainment value and to me, that’s all that matters. The film also had some pacing issues during a couple of scenes. Nothing too drastic or anything like that. Just don’t expect it to be as fast-paced as a Michael Bay film.
Overall, “Gemini Man” isn’t quite as deep as its themes, but it’s an entertaining and well-shot action thriller that represents Ang Lee’s cinematic style. With a suitable cast, sharp cinematography, solid visuals, and some engaging action sequences, the film is a minor improvement over “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”. However, it’s nowhere near as groundbreaking as “Life of Pi”. I can see that it’s not going to be beloved by everybody when it comes to its subpar screenplay, but I don’t think it’s as disappointing as most people are saying it was. It’s one of those movies that I wouldn’t mind watching again just for the sake of being entertained. I’m still serious about Ang Lee and Chad Stahelski doing a movie together, by the way.
“Judy” stars Renée Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, and Michael Gambon. Released on September 27, 2019, the film chronicles Judy Garland and her five-week concert tour.
The film is directed by Rupert Goold, who also directed “True Story”, and it is an adaptation of the stageplay “End of the Rainbow” by Peter Quilter. It’s times like this where at first, you’re at the top of your game and then all of a sudden, you get bombarded by the likes of drugs, alcohol, and depression. It just goes to show that being a star isn’t always full of sunshine and rainbows. The next film I’ll be looking at today is yet another biographical drama that centers on a popular celebrity. This time, it’s based on the final days of Judy Garland, an actress/singer who is widely known for appearing in films like “The Wizard of Oz”, “Meet Me in St. Louis”, and the 1954 version of “A Star Is Born”. In addition to starring in films, she also made concert appearances and recorded several songs that have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. But alas, her stardom came at a price as it affected her both physically and mentally. During her adulthood, she was plagued by her addiction to drugs and alcohol until 1969 when she tragically died from an accidental barbiturate overdose. This is why we keep telling our kids to stay away from that kind of stuff. These things are downright deadly. I only knew this actress from “The Wizard of Oz” (which is still one of the best films from my childhood), and I actually didn’t realize that she was also a full-time singer until I saw the trailer for this film. I guess I should have realized this sooner when I saw her sing in “The Wizard of Oz”. The film already premiered last weekend and has so far gained positive reviews, with most critics praising Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland, and this weekend, it finally made its way to my closest cinema. So if you’re wondering why it took me that long to review this film, there’s your answer. So without further ado, let’s see if this trip over the rainbow is worth taking.
The story depicts Judy Garland (Zellweger) in her 40s as she’s performing a series of sell-out concert performances in London while struggling with her personal issues, such as substance abuse and her family. Not only that, but it occasionally showcases Garland as a 14-year-old star via flashbacks. Using the familiar biopic formula, the film clearly examines how her stardom is affecting her own personal life as well as her health during the final days of her career. As expected, the film offered an interesting and suitable look at Judy Garland’s struggles, although it didn’t do anything else to make this performance as special as the character herself. It’s far from a disappointment since it had plenty of good moments to keep me engaged, but when it comes to its topic, it’s definitely far from a masterpiece. Renée Zellweger did wonders in delivering a near-perfect portrayal of the title character. Not only that, but she also has a pretty good singing voice. The other actors were also good in their roles, including Finn Wittrock and Michael Gambon as Mickey Deans and Bernard Delfont, respectively. While the dramatic elements weren’t able to dig even deeper into the film’s themes, the concert sequences made up for those mistakes thanks to Rupert Goold’s direction and its glamouring sense of ecstatic and color. It definitely felt like I was actually watching some of her concert performances in the late 60s, so major props to the filmmakers for creating that feeling.
Overall, “Judy” didn’t shine as bright as the character herself, but it has enough glamour and charm to carry this concert performance forward with ease. Despite its familiar formula and its weak exploration of its topic, the film is bolstered by Zellweger’s performance and its concert sequences. Not fantastic, but not overly disappointing either. If you’re wondering why this review is so short and straight to the point, it’s because I really don’t have that much to say about it. Plus, I saw this film after “Joker” and my mind was set on that film rather than this one. Hope this review helps either way.
“Joker” stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais, and Shea Whigham. Released on October 4, 2019, the film is about a stand-up comedian who descends into a life of crime and chaos.
The film is directed by Todd Phillips, who also directed films such as “Road Trip”, “Old School”, “The Hangover”, and “War Dogs”. It is based on the DC Comics character created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson. Throughout DC Comics history, Batman has been battling numerous criminals to keep Gotham City safe from crime, ranging from the muscular Bane to the sexy, plant-loving Poison Ivy. However, none of these battles can compare to his battle with the clown prince of crime himself, the one and only Mr. J. The Joker has been known as one of the most iconic supervillains in comic book history due to his psychotic personality and his sadistic sense of humor. These traits, along with his obsession with causing chaos, make him the perfect adversary to the Caped Crusader. Given how popular the character is, it’s no surprise that he went from the pages to the screen. Whether it’s film, television, or video games, the Joker has been successfully brought to life by some notable popular celebrities, such as Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Mark Hamill. There were also other actors who either played or voiced the character in the other media incarnations, but none of them really match the same amount of impact as the people I mentioned. This year, Joaquin Phoenix is now the latest actor to take on the anarchic persona of the makeup-wearing criminal in what seems to be a more grounded and violent take on his origin story. I have been looking forward to this film for a long time. Not just because of how much I adore the Joker, but also because of how Todd Phillips, the film’s writer and director, is given the opportunity to share his own version of the character without following the comics step by step. So far, this strategy managed to pay off quite well as it received plenty of positive reviews as well as a Golden Lion from the 76th Venice International Film Festival back in August. However, it also gained plenty of controversy in terms of its depiction of violence and how it could inspire real-world violence, which was pretty surprising considering the fact that we have other R-rated films that showcase strong violence. 2019 has been a pretty weird year for us. Thankfully, this didn’t stop me from seeing how this new vision unfolds. Is it as good as its reviews? Let’s dive into the madness and find out.
For those who have read a lot of comic books, the most common origin story for the Joker has him falling into a tank of chemical waste, which bleached his skin white and turned his hair green and his lips bright red. You know, the traits that make someone an actual clown. In this film, they’re ditching the chemical waste and putting more focus on the character’s mental illness. Set in the year 1981, the film follows Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a man who pulls double duty by working as a clown-for-hire and taking care of his mother (Conroy) in Gotham City. Fleck is also suffering from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh uncontrollably. His life soon starts to spin out of control thanks to the amount of unemployment, crime, and financial losses that is plaguing the city, forcing him down a darker path in which he may never get out of. The most important thing you should know about “Joker” is that it’s not like any other superhero movie we’ve seen for who knows how long. It’s more along the lines of a cautionary, character-driven tale of a person’s broken life that’s set in the same universe as “Batman”. It showcases a mentally unstable person who was driven mad by society’s negative influence as well as his self-discovery. After watching it for myself, I can fully understand why people are starting to feel concerned over it. It’s because of how much this film’s world is reflecting our own society in this day and age due to the amount of mass shootings we had in the last couple of months. While it’s obviously clear that it’s not for everybody because of its disturbing and depressing nature, the film handles that nature with masterful filmmaking and a strong cast. Inspired by the films from Martin Scorsese like “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy”, Todd Phillips has crafted a deeply haunting and engrossing portrayal of a man’s transformation into the infamous character that we know and love from the comics and how that transformation sparked an anarchic revolution. Phillips’ sense of direction was far from perfect, unfortunately, since it had a few dramatic moments that felt a bit too safe for its intended tone. Other than that, he offered the right amount of shock and uneasiness to make the film stand on its own against the other “Joker” incarnations. The biggest highlight for me has to be the cast, especially Joaquin Phoenix, who absolutely dominated his role as Arthur Fleck. He wasn’t able to top Heath Ledger as my personal favorite live-action Joker performance, but I’m happy to see that he came extremely close. He accurately mastered the character’s persona and emotions and his “Joker laugh” was honestly quite unique and a bit uncomfortable. It makes me feel bad that I haven’t watched any of Phoenix’s other films before this one. Robert De Niro and Frances Conroy also delivered some riveting performances as Murray Franklin and Penny Fleck, respectively, two of the supporting characters who played a role in Arthur’s emotional turn to the dark side. Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond, Arthur’s love interest, was a hit-and-miss for me. On the one hand, her performance shows that she could do pretty well in drama films, whether they’re superhero-related or not. On the other hand, her character’s role in the film wasn’t exactly as big as the roles of the other characters. I was a bit disappointed that Sophie didn’t have a bigger part to play in Arthur’s relationships with those around him, but I was also fine with the bold direction they took for her. The cinematography by Lawrence Sher beautifully captured the gloomy and discomforting world of Gotham City, and the musical score by Hildur Guðnadóttir was just as haunting as the film’s tone.
Overall, with its irresistible amount of uneasiness and social commentary, “Joker” successfully expresses Todd Phillips’ creative and gritty storytelling. It is another daring accomplishment for the superhero genre thanks to some strong performances (particularly Phoenix), Phillips’ direction, and its emotional story. It might not be suitable for people who don’t want to be reminded of the world we live in now, but it works well as a crucial reminder of what will happen if we don’t do something about this type of negativity. I believe that this film should be looked at as a source of discussion in this day and age instead of something to blame for the violence in the real world because talking about it helps us learn to be better people. If you’re still unsure about seeing it because of the film’s concept, all I can say about it is that you don’t have to see it if you don’t want to. Otherwise, it’s worth checking out if you want a different take on the superhero genre.
“Downton Abbey” stars Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, and Penelope Wilton. Released in the United Kingdom on September 13, 2019, the film has the residents of Downton Abbey preparing for a royal visit by the King and Queen.
The film is directed by Michael Engler, who also directed “The Chaperone”. It is based on the television series of the same name created by Julian Fellowes. Every once in a while, we ask ourselves this simple question: What happens after our favorite show comes to a close? When a popular series ended its run, it left fans to wonder what their favorite characters are doing next when they’re not on their television screens. There were also some fans that wanted their favorite shows to come back in some shape or form, either as a television film, a theatrical film, a new season, or a reboot series. Most of the revivals never came to fruition, but some of them were able to see the light of day. One of the examples of the latter is a small series known as “Downton Abbey”. “Downton Abbey” is a British drama series that chronicles the lives of an aristocratic family and their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era between 1912 and 1926. It premiered in the United Kingdom on September 26, 2010, followed by the United States on January 9, 2011 and lasted for only six seasons, ending its run with a Christmas special on December 25, 2015. During its run, it received acclaim from critics and audiences and received numerous awards, including a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy Award. Three years later, a feature film adaptation of the show was confirmed to go into production, which will serve as a continuation of the series, and the rest is…dare I say it…history. I haven’t exactly watched the series that this film is based on, mostly because I’m not exactly a huge fan of historical drama shows. But I wound up checking it out anyway because I want to know what made the series so popular in the first place. If you’re wondering why I didn’t watch the show first before I watched the film, well…it’s because I didn’t feel like it. With that said, let’s see if it’s worth my time.
Much like the show it’s based on, the story in “Downton Abbey” involves the main characters, such as the members of the Crawley family, and how their lives are impacted by a certain historical event as well as their own personal problems. This time, the Crawley family received word that the King and Queen are visiting their English country home as part of their tour through the country. During the visit, the family and their servants are pitted against the royal entourage over an inheritance issue and there’s also an assassin who attempts to kill the monarch. All I can really say about this film with the best of my abilities is that the overall story is a real-life drama that offers nothing more but a relaxing and safe experience for people who needed a break from the real world. From my own perspective, having a story that’s light-hearted and devoid of any hard-hitting conflict can work wonders for an older audience, especially long-time fans of the show, but it can also be a weakness for newcomers, especially me. The film has a central plot that’s rather endearing and simplistic, but the sub-plots that appear pretty often didn’t quite capture the same impact as the main storyline and came off as a series of slow-paced fillers that were needed to meet its desired two-hour runtime. If this type of narrative is exactly like the one from the show, then I’m 100% sure that fans will enjoy this film more than I did. For what it’s trying to do, it did its job quite well, but I couldn’t help but feel that it played itself a bit too safe for those who haven’t watched or heard of the show to begin with. While its story wasn’t my cup of tea, I did find a few moments that were able to impress me, such as its engaging cast. Much of the original cast from the show returned to reprise their respective roles, including Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley and Jim Carter as Charles Carson, and they all did their part in successfully bringing their characters to life once again. The best part of the cast has to be Dame Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley for her amusing banter. After watching the film for myself, I can understand why everyone love the show that much. I believe it’s because of the characters that people can easily get attached to. They often make conversations with one another through witty bantering, they deal with their own personal problems, and they express their feelings towards historical events. They’re basically like us, but classier. I could be wrong about this since I didn’t watch the show, but right now, that’s just how I see it. I also thought the film’s set designs and the costumes were top notch given its preferred timeline. It’s almost like I was actually looking at England in the year 1927.
Overall, the film adaptation of “Downton Abbey” serves as a respectable and delightful reunion for long-time fans of the show, but it also serves as a tough sell for plenty of newcomers. Even though the charismatic cast and the set designs made the visit worthwhile, its flawed sub-plots and pacing prevented me from staying a while longer. Maybe if I watched the show first and then watch the film, I might like it a bit more than I did. I would highly recommend it to people who watched the show. As for the newcomers, I would say they should watch a couple of episodes of the show first.
“Abominable” stars Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, and Michelle Wong. Released on September 27, 2019, the film is about a group of misfits who set out to reunite a Yeti with its family.
The film is written and directed by Jill Culton, who also directed “Open Season” and served as a storyboard artist for films such as “Toy Story”, “A Bug’s Life”, and “Shrek”. After spending weeks encountering nothing but adult-rated material, we are finally getting another animated family film courtesy of DreamWorks Animation. What’s even better is that it’s an original project that’s not based on an existing source material. This is actually the first time that DreamWorks Animation decided to come up with an original story since 2013 when they released “Turbo”, which wound up being a financial disappointment for the studio. That means they spent at least six years adapting source materials into feature films and expanding their popular franchises like “How To Train Your Dragon” and “Trolls”. So it’s actually quite nice to see that they’re still coming up with some original ideas for their audiences. This is also the latest DreamWorks Animation film to be produced by Pearl Studio (formerly known as Oriental DreamWorks), a Chinese production company that distributes the studio’s productions in China since their partnership began in 2012, such as “The Croods” and “Kung Fu Panda 3”, which was set in China like “Abominable”. I guess for DreamWorks, the art of animation is the best way to showcase some Chinese culture to the children. This was something that I was looking forward to this month because the trailers made it look like a cute adventure for all ages, but does it offer more than just its cuteness? Let’s find out.
The story centers on Yi (Bennet), a teenager in Shanghai who encounters a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building. It turns out that the Yeti is hiding from an organization lead by Burnish (Izzard), a wealthy man who’s obsessed with finding it. With the help of her friends Jin (Trainor) and Peng (Tsai), Yi sets out on an incredible journey to reunite the Yeti with its family while attempting to stay one step ahead of Burnish and his zoologist assistant Dr. Zara (Paulson). Even though it’s safe to say that it’s an original film from DreamWorks, the concept of having a human befriending a creature is obviously a “been there, done that” scenario, resulting in the film having plenty of plot elements that don’t pack any big surprises in its storytelling, especially its generic antagonists. It’s almost as if the studio wanted to make another “How to Train Your Dragon”, but with Chinese elements. The poster said “From the studio that brought you ‘How to Train Your Dragon’” for a reason. If you go into the film expecting it to be the next “Shrek” or the next “Kung Fu Panda” or even the next “How to Train Your Dragon”, you’re not going to be completely satisfied with what it brought to the table. However, that doesn’t exactly mean that it’s not watchable. This is another film from DreamWorks Animation that focuses a bit more on its charm and simplicity rather than its in-depth storytelling, and while it’s something that might not appeal to everyone, it can surely appeal to people who wanted to take their kids to see a harmless animated feature. Ranging from its likable characters to its relatable message about the importance of family, the story in “Abominable” is just as fun and adorable as one might expect from a film about a four-legged magical Yeti. The voice cast did a very good job voicing their respective characters, especially Chloe Bennet as Yi. For those who don’t know, Bennet is mostly known for her role as Daisy Johnson from the ABC show, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, which I still thought was very enjoyable, by the way. I believe that this is her first big role in a feature film, let alone an animated film. If that’s the case, then I must admit that I highly respect her first impression. Tenzing Norgay Trainor and Albert Tsai were also wonderful in their roles as Jin and Peng, respectively. These two characters, along with the cute and furry Yeti Everest, offered the right amount of humor to entertain the little ones and their parents without being labeled as the bane of one’s existence by people who are very strict on this type of humor. I’m obviously one of the people who liked the film’s humor because even though it’s silly and childish, it had enough cuteness to make me crack a smile every few seconds. I’m just a sucker for films that made me laugh at their innocence. The animation also plays an important part of the film, and it played the part extremely well. It looked absolutely beautiful from start to finish. Not only was it filled to the brim with eye-opening visuals, but it also resembled the film’s Chinese culture with some respectable amount of detail. It would be interesting to see if the studio can make more of their animated films that take place in China.
Overall, like its furry four-legged creature, “Abominable” is a lovable ball of fluff that’s impossible for me to resist. The film’s plot might not reach the same heights as the other animated gems from DreamWorks Animation and its villains didn’t put that much of an effort to make themselves memorable, but its sense of adventure and wonder has enough magic in its soul to make itself a dazzling trip that’s worth taking. Thanks to its enjoyable and harmless story, likable characters, and gorgeous animation, the film is another fine addition to the studio’s collection. I would gladly recommend this film to those who are in a mood for an original animated film as well as kids who are still waiting for “Frozen II” to come out.