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FlixChatter Review: A Call To Spy (2019)

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FlixChatter Review: A Call To Spy (2019)

There have been numerous films about WWII and spies made in Hollywood, but those that highlight the significant contribution of women during the war are still a rarity. I’ve been wanting to see this film that was released in 2019, but for some reason, it wasn’t available to rent until recently thanks to Netflix.

At the start of WWII in 1941, German has just invaded France. As things become increasingly desperate, prime minister Winston Churchill orders a new spy agency Special Operations Executive (SOE) to start recruiting and training women as spies. Originally called Liberté: A Call to Spy, the movie centered on Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), dubbed SOE’s spymistress, and the two women she recruited, Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas) and Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte). It’s worth noting the women’s diverse circumstances and backgrounds that subjected them to discrimination: Hall is a woman with a physical disability, Atkins is Jewish-Romanian and Khan is a British-Indian Muslim.

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The movie immediately puts us in a harrowing scene of a woman being waterboarded by men in Nazi uniforms. As she was gasping for air, she doesn’t relent or give in, and soon we find out the woman is Virginia Hall. That scene shows just what a daunting mission these women have, which is to conduct sabotage, send secret information, and build resistance in France. As if it weren’t enough to be a spy in a foreign land, Hall has a wooden leg, a disability that has kept her from being a diplomat which is her ultimate dream. But still, she wanted to serve the world, and becoming a spy was her way to do so.

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There are way too many films about superheroes, but true heroes are those who have the courage to do extraordinary brave things against insurmountable odds. I feel so ignorant that I have not heard of these women prior to seeing this film, but now I realize just how huge of a role each of them played in undermining the Nazi regime in France. In fact, even the Gestapo regarded Hall as the most dangerous of all Allied spies.

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The three female leads are all outstanding in their roles. Fans of Castle series would likely recognize Katic, but this is the first time I saw her in anything and I was impressed with her performance. I had only seen Apte in The Wedding Guest and this role proved her versatility as an actress. The talented Sarah Megan Thomas wore multiple hats as she also wrote and produced the film. This is the second film she wrote that I’m impressed with, the first is Equity, one of the few movies about women on Wall Street. Her extensive research as a screenwriter has likely helped her shape a deeply empathetic portrayal of the ambitious and valiant Virginia Hall who later became a pioneer at the CIA. British actor Linus Roache and Canadian Rossif Sutherland lend credible supporting roles as Atkin’s SOE boss and a Hall’s French ally, respectively.

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Director Lydia Dean Pilcher did a splendid job placing the audience right in the middle of the action, pushing the PG-13 rating limit in showing the brutality of war without resorting to blood and gore. It might not be a flashy depiction of a war movie with all-out action, but there’s definitely enough spy craft action and clandestine operations. The French scenes were shot in Budapest but I think the visuals look pretty believable despite obvious budget limitations. Suspense, thrilling tension, adventure, compelling performances, and strong emotional impact… the movie has everything one looks for in a spy drama. I was thoroughly engaged in the plight and sacrifice of these women and their allies, and the 2-hour running time is well-paced. 

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I’m so glad I finally got to see this inspiring historical drama that highlights the untold story of three phenomenal women who made an impact in WWII. Having a female team in front and behind the camera made A Call To Spy extra special as it highlights women’s voices given wartime is a largely male-dominated sphere. I think each of these women deserves its own biopic given their unmistakable legacy, and reportedly there’s an upcoming film to be made about Virginia Hall based on Sonia Purnell’s biography.

It’s too bad there seems to be so little fanfare made about this film as the filmmakers did these heroic women justice with this film. Now that it’s streaming on Netflix, I hope more people will check it out.

4/5 stars


Have you seen A Call To Spy? What did you think?

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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