Thursday Movie Picks #33: All in the Family Edition – Mother-Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

ThursdayMoviePicks

Happy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Mother/Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

This week’s TMP topic is a bittersweet one for me. I had a loving, albeit brief relationship with my late mother. In fact, we were very close up until she died on my 16th birthday. I have to admit at times I feel a pang of sadness whenever I see a mother and daughter depicted on screen, I often still wonder how life would be life if she were still around. In any case, for my three picks, I try to have a variety of mother/daughter relationship, so here are my three picks:

BRAVE (2011)

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Pixar’s first *Princess* movie centers on a headstrong n spirited girl who like many of today’s girls her age tend to rebel against what’s expected of her. I love that the movie is centered on her relationship with her equally headstrong mother, Queen Elinor, instead of the typical romantic pursuit. I LOVE Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson who provide the voice work for Merida and Elinor. In case some of you still has seen this movie, let’s just say there’s a magical physical transformation that happens that drastically changes how they have to relate to one another. Through it all, the two end up forging a bond that’s even stronger than ever before. It’s quite an adventure that’s full of humorous & even peculiar moments, but also poignant ones that made me laugh and cry. It’s definitely one of my fave cinematic mother/daughter relationship that truly moved me.

1000 Times Good Night (2013)

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Juliette Binoche plays a war photographer who often risks her life on the job, but even after a nearly fatal accident, she still can’t give up her career. Her eldest daughter Steph looks up at her and is obviously drawn to her mom’s globetrotting career that certainly looks cool and glamorous on the outside. The daughter in this film is a young teen and so immediately picture myself in her shoes, as my late mother was an amateur photographer. She kind of had the same free spirit personality and I always thought my mom was fearless. One key scene is when she ended up tagging along with her mom to Africa, much to the chagrin of her marine biologist dad. A traumatic incident made Steph realize just how dangerous her profession really is. The mother/daughter moments in the scene that followed really connected with me, and there’s a wonderful chemistry Binoche and Lauryn Canny who plays Steph.

August Osage County (2013)

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Now this is an example of the kind of mom I’m glad I didn’t have. Meryl Streep‘s Violet Wetson is a venom-spewing, pill-popping mother of three daughters who seem hellbent on driving a stake between her and everyone around her. That also includes her own husband, and the film takes place during his funeral. Violet has mouth cancer, partly due to her years of chain smoking, but even so it’s really hard to sympathize with her. Out of the three, Julia Roberts’ Barbara is the one who has the biggest conflict with her mother. The fact she herself is dealing with her own issues with her estranged husband and angsty teenage daughter adds to her exasperation. The Wetson family is as dysfunctional as they come  – they constantly bicker with each other, and the more things are said, the more secrets are revealed that made things worse. The screaming match are quite overwhelming, and it made me appreciate my own family. The craziest scene is when Barbara literally hurls at her mother trying to prevent her from taking any more pills, it was pretty bizarre and quite hilarious. I think it’s an especially interesting film to watch for mother and daughter, if anything, it’d make each of them think of what NOT to do to one another.

BONUS PICK:

Beyond the Lights

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This is one of my fave films I saw last year, and the casting of Minnie Driver and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as mother/daughter is one of the reasons I love it. Glad Paskalis included this movie on his list, I couldn’t believe I almost didn’t include that here. An ambitious and driven single mother who wouldn’t take failure as an option, Macy succeeds in turning her daughter into a star. But at what cost? Macy’s controlling behavior ultimately drives Noni away and there’s a heart-wrenching moment when Noni finally said enough is enough. It’s not that Macy didn’t love her daughter, but sometimes, some people just don’t know how to love. Apparently, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s search for her own birth mother was the catalyst of the mother/daughter story in the film (per this indiewire article).


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

FlixChatter Review: Cinderella (2015)

CinderellaPosterGrowing up watching Disney fairy tale movies, I have to admit Cinderella wasn’t my favorite heroine. Over the years though, as there are more and more adaptations of this quintessential underdog story (more so than any other Disney “princesses” it seems), the more I appreciate the animated classic. Lately the cinematic trend is reinvention, giving a classic tale a new twist or perspective, such as Snow White & the Huntsman and Maleficent, and so naturally I thought we’d see the same thing with Cinderella. Well, it turns out that this film stayed true to its classic story, you could even say it paid tribute to the animated film, with some surprises thrown in. But by going the conventional route doesn’t mean it’s dull and boring, in fact the opposite is true. There’s something so lively and refreshing about Kenneth Branagh‘s vision that even some of its most sentimental moments aren’t without charm.

Being that it’s the origin story of Cinderella, the movie begins with young Ella whose blissful existence is cut short when her dotting mother suddenly fell ill. Before she passed away, she instilled in her daughter to ‘have courage and be kind,’ a life motto young Ella takes to heart. And so, as life kept coming at her with one terrible blow after another, especially after the arrival of her stepmother and two step-sisters, Ella never gives up hope. I was skeptical at first about Lily James‘ casting in the titular role, but I quickly warmed up to her. There’s a pleasant countenance about her that makes her believable as a benevolent and sweet-tempered girl equipped with inner strength to face the cruelty inflicted upon her by her new *family.* Instead of running away from her problems, she choose to endure.

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Ella’s no damsel in distress either. I love how her sweet and swoon-worthy meet-up with the dashing Prince, who refers to himself as Kit to hide his true identity, reveals her independent spirit. “Just because it’s done doesn’t mean it’s what should be done,” she tells Kit in protest of him hunting deer for sport. The prince was immediately smitten by her, perhaps he’s also impressed that she rides her horse without a saddle! Richard Madden effortlessly steals Ella’s heart, and every maiden in the audience, with his impossible good looks and almost indecent sex appeal. As if the filmmakers weren’t sure of that, they had to outfit him in those distractingly tight white pants! I don’t know why they need to digitally enhanced his blue eyes though, I mean he’s already hunky enough with his eyes the way God made ‘em!

Cinderella_PrinceCharming cinderella_prince_firstmeetIn any case, I like that he fell for her whilst Ella’s still dressed as a maid, though I actually think she’s the most attractive this way, so fresh-faced and full of life. Unlike the animated version, the Prince also gets a back-story here, and the father/son relationship depiction is quite moving. The Ella-Kit meet-up is my favorite scene of the entire movie! Yes, more so than the entire ball scene or even the transformation scene. In fact, I’m not too fond of Cinderella’s look for the ball — her hair is huge, the ball gown is huge, it’s just overwhelming. Overall there’s more chemistry between her and the Prince in that brief meet-up.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be Cinderella without the wicked stepmother and Cate Blanchett is an absolute delight to watch in the role. Looking as stunning and regal as ever, the great Cate was scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness. The Aussie thespian is obviously having fun with the role, there’s a twinkle in her eye and sense of mischief as she relish in being bad.

Holliday Granger and Sophie McShera are ok as the two vile stepsisters, they’re a bit over the top at times, yet not nearly as memorable as Cate was even when she was standing still. It’s fun seeing Helena Bonham Carter being the comic relief as the fairy godmother and the film’s narrator. Derek Jacobi adds Shakespearean gravitas as the Prince’s ailing father, whilst Ben Chaplin is affecting as Cinderella’s doting father. In attempt to making the cast a little more diverse, Branagh cast Nonso Anozie as Captain (who’s in his previous movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and the guests at the ball are racially-diverse.

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The production design is really something to behold. This is easily one of the best looking movie I’ve seen in a while, and I’m not just talking about the beautiful cast. The costume design by Sandy Powell is simply amazing, especially Cate’s jewel-toned, richly-embroidered dresses, blending 1940s with 19th century style. Everyone’s talking about Cinderella’s gorgeous ball dress – and Lily James’ teeny-tiny waist – but I think Cate’s outfits are equally breathtaking to look at. Oh and those glass slippers… well, that’s fairy tale for ya, the funniest bit was when the fairy godmother say they’d be comfortable, ha! Apparently they’re made of real Swarovski crystals fit only for mannequins. So the scene of Cinderella having those on is made possible by the magic of CGI.

Chris Weitz‘s script might seem simple and conventional, but it’s quite challenging to somehow make the story fresh without making it unnecessarily dark or edgy just for the sake of it. I’ve been a longtime fan of Patrick Doyle‘s gorgeous music and Branagh’s longtime collaborator once again delivered! The music fits the genre perfectly, it has that elegant, sweepingly lush feel to it, but also with a bit of whimsy.

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But the biggest kudos has to be given to Kenneth Branagh and his impeccable directing style. He somehow made something *old* feels new again. I think it starts with his vision for the main characters, with an empowered Cinderella who, despite being mistreated, remains true to her moral principles. In this article, “[Branagh] likened it to the nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi.” Ok so that might’ve been a bit of a stretch, but I get the point. The love story feels richer and more emotionally involving because you believe there’s more than just the obvious physical attraction. Branagh’s quoted in the article as saying, “When you watch this film, you see Cinderella is such an amazing woman. My biggest thing was how do I create a man that is worthy of her?” I came away from the movie thinking that Cinderella rescues the Prince just as much as he rescues her.

I enjoyed this movie so much I just might see it again on the big screen as it’s such a visual treat. But I wouldn’t say it’s style over substance, there’s a nice balance of drama, humor, and even action to please the young and the young-at-heart. Though the movie is infused with such an infectious sense of optimism with its bright, lush colors and lavish set pieces, there are genuine poignant moments to keep it grounded. The scene when Ella receives news of her father’s sudden passing is one of those scenes that made me tear up.

If you’re on the fence about this one, I’d say give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised. I think I’d get the Blu-ray as I could see myself enjoying this for years to come.

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Have you seen Cinderella? Well, did you like it more or less than I did?

Weekend Viewing Roundup + The Two Faces of January (2014) review

Well last Friday was the first weekend of Spring but Winter’s still not done with us yet as it was the Winter Wonderland again Sunday night. I didn’t think the snow was going to stick but here’s what my neighborhood looked like as I left work this morning! I do love those snow-covered branches!

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Skipped the cinema again this weekend, but rented a few things from Netflix: Shaft (the 2000 version with Samuel L. Jackson – review upcoming) and The Two Faces of January. Apparently The Phantom of the Opera (2004) w/ Gerry Butler and Emmy Rossum is now on Netflix streaming so of course I had to rewatch that again. In fact, I also watched half of the 2006 BBC Jane Eyre w/ my dahling Toby Stephens. Wintry night in is meant for viewing indulgences ;)

RoyalDeceitOh, on Thursday night also rented what’s supposed to be a Danish re-telling of Hamlet called Royal Deceit. I couldn’t believe how horrible it was, it’s simply ghastly in terms of direction, script (if you can even call it that), production design, as well as acting. I only saw it because of the stellar cast: Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Tom Wilkinson AND a young Any Serkis (this was apparently his film movie), all of them were absolutely wasted in one cringe-worthy scene after another. I honestly thought the cast might’ve lost a bet or something to star in this movie, what a criminal waste of talents! If I were to rate it, it’d get a big fat ZERO reel as there is nothing redeemable about it.

Anyway, here’s my review of …

 The Two Faces of January

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A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.

This film seems to have the making of a great psycho thriller, given that it’s from the writer of great mystery thrillers The Talented Mr Ripley Strangers on a Train. I haven’t read Patricia Highsmith‘s novel, but I’d think the book might’ve been more exciting. It has its moments but it suffers from a rather sedate beginning and sluggish second act before it finally picks up in its third act.

I haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen in anything new in a while so it’s always nice seeing him here, playing an older, elegant businessman Chester Macfarland traveling with his young wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst). Mortensen is a solid actor and he does a great job here, but I find myself drawn to the tour guide/con-artist Rydal (Oscar Isaac) with his brooding good looks and dark, enigmatic eyes. There’s a palpable sexual chemistry between Isaac and Dunst, and Isaac also has some great dramatic scenes with Mortensen, especially towards the end.

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The breathtaking cinematography in Athens and Crete is practically a character in itself and it serves as a fine distraction during some of the film’s slower parts. The finale’s foot-chase scene in Istanbul was stylishly shot and that’s definitely the most exciting part of the entire film. Iranian director Hossein Amini made this film with a Hithcockian flair to it, and the use of light is quite dramatic, especially in the night time scene in a Greek ruin. Apparently this is Amini’s feature film debut so that might explain the uneven tone, but I think he did a pretty good job for a first timer and I’m curious what he’d do next.

I think the strength of the film lies in Mortensen and Isaac, and the film’s main conflict is ultimately between these two. Mortensen convincingly displayed the jealousy and paranoia that constantly haunted Chester, whilst Isaac’s character couldn’t seem to shake his lust for Colette that sucked him deeper and deeper into this dangerous predicament. I’ve been a fan of Isaac for some time and I sure hope he’d get more leading roles as he’s got such an effortless screen magnetism.

Given the intriguing plot and the cast, this could’ve been a really compelling and riveting noir thriller. As it is now, the film dragged in parts and felt longer than its 96-minute running time. It’s also hard to care about the unlikable characters, even if there’s a hint of redemption in the end. But overall I still think it was well-worth renting, especially if you’re a fan of Highsmith and Hitchcock and/or any of the cast.

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So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen The Two Faces of January, I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: The Gunman (2015)

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Sean Penn has been out of the limelight for a few years, so in order to get people talking about him and promotes his new movie; he decided to tell some lame joke at the Oscars. Kudos to his PR team, after the so-called “offensive” joke, Penn is relevant in Hollywood again. Now it remains to be seen if his off color joke will get people to go see his new action picture.

The movie opens with a flashback to 2006, Jim Terrier (Penn) is a humanitarian working in Congo with his buddies Felix (Javier Bardem) and Cox (Mark Rylance). Terrier also has a girlfriend named Annie (Jasmine Trinka), she’s also part of his team of do-gooders. What she doesn’t know is that Jim, Felix and Cox are a bunch of assassins working undercover. They’ve been assigned to take out an important political figure that their boss wanted to get rid of. After he assassinated Congo’s Minister of Mines, Jim disappeared and told Felix to look after Annie.

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Fast forward to present day, Jim is still working as a do-gooder in Africa, but things got dicey when some armed men came after him, of course being a super assassin, he took them out easily. Alarmed after the attack, Jim sets out to London to see his old buddy Cox, who’s now working as a top executive at some big corporation. Jim suspects that their mission back in 2006 has been compromised and it’s the reason why he’s being targeted. Cox is skeptical but assured Jim that he’ll look into this matter. After a brief stay in London, Jim heads to Spain to see Felix, who’s now married to Annie. Things got messy when assassins showed up at Felix’s house and now Jim and Annie are on the run. The rest of the movie is about Jim trying to figure out who’s after him and keeping Annie safe. This being an action movie, there has to be some shootouts and explosions between the boring scenes. And that’s the problem with this movie, it’s so boring! There’s nothing interesting about the plot or any of the characters, by the time the true villain is finally revealed, we the audience already figured out before the hero did. Not only was the movie boring, it also took itself way too seriously.

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Not known for being in action pictures, Penn was actually decent as an action hero. It’s obvious he worked out for a long time to prepare for this role, because he can’t seem to keep his shirts on in a lot of scenes. He also looked good in fight scenes, particularly a brutal hand-to-hand combat in the climatic sequence. But again he seems to take the role too seriously and doesn’t look like he has any fun with it. Being that he’s also the producer and co-writer, he must’ve demanded that he’s on the screen 99% of the entire run of the movie. I’ve never seen Jasmine Trinka in anything before this movie and she was okay as the damsel in distress, but it’s kind of creepy seeing her as the leading lady to a man who’s old enough to be her father. Bardem pretty much phoned in his role since it’s nothing more than a cameo. Ray Windstone might be the only one who seems to get what the movie should be about and had a lot of fun with his sidekick role. Fans of Idris Elba will be disappointed, he didn’t show up until the last 20 minutes or so of the movie and he’s more like a cameo. Although for those who wants to see him as 007, the filmmakers did give a little wink by naming his character with initials JB.

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I don’t know how much control director Pierre Morel has during the production, but he was going for the 70s espionage thrillers mix in with the Jason Bourne flicks and the result was a disaster. The pacing was very slow, about 20 to 30 minutes should’ve been edited out. What’s worse was that he shot most of the action scenes in that shaky cam up close style that I can’t stand. I still don’t understand why some directors still uses this kind of style, what’s the point of making action movies if you’re not going to show the action? The only good action sequence was the bloody hand-to-hand combat between Penn and an assassin. I won’t even go into the script because it’s so generic that most people can figure out what’s going on.

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This could’ve been a good action thriller if it didn’t take itself too seriously because I think Penn was believable as the action hero. But it’s obvious he has hidden agenda by making this movie. By masking it as an action picture, he probably thought he could get the message out to a wider audience. Unfortunately though, the movie was poorly written and directed. With a better script and tighter editing, it could’ve been good.

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Have you seen The Gunman? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: FRANK (2014)

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Jon, a young wanna-be musician, discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.

I have heard so many great things about this film and the quirky aspect of the story appeals to me. I have to say that Michael Fassbender‘s casting intrigues me most as he spends 99% of the movie wearing a giant papier-mâché head. Thankfully, that part wasn’t just a silly gimmick, but there’s an intriguing story behind it.

The film took its time in revealing what the story is with Frank (Fassbender) and why he refuses to reveal his face. Yep he even sleeps and shower with it, which drives Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) bonkers with curiosity. In fact, since the story is told from his perspective, we identify with Jon in how he feels about suddenly being thrown into this quirky mix of people. Frank is an enigmatic figure to be sure, but he’s actually the most likable personality of the entire band who pretty much treats Jon like dirt. I get that he had to earn his place in the band, but still, the contempt was quite uncalled for.

FRANKmoviestillsIn the first two acts, we pretty much spend time with the band as we witness their creative process in a remote cabin in Ireland. It’s full of quirky moments, some works and some don’t, and plenty that leaves me scratching my head. But it’s the third act where things sort of goes off the rails. As it turns out, Jon has been posting their recording sessions online and been tweeting about it constantly. Somehow that got them an invite to South by Southwest and it’s here that we learn just what’s really going on with Frank. The third act at SXSW is where I felt that the film went off the rails a few times, though the finale did reveal more about the main character in a way that still surprised me.

I have to admit that my initial response to this movie by Lenny Abrahamson was not overly positive. I was left irritated and frustrated by the pacing, the mostly unlikable characters and how sometimes the weirdness seems more gimmicky. I’m a big fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal, but here her character seems to go out of her way to be utterly unlikable. That sex scene is absolutely mental and I have to admit, it’s a bit revolting. But the more I think about this movie and read some articles on it, I appreciate it a bit more. Props to Fassbender for giving such a nuanced performance without the use of an actor’s main asset – his facial expression. Aside from Gleeson, who’s got a natural charm about him, Fassbender is truly the star here.

FRANKmoviestillThe story’s so much more than just about music, but more of the creative process, as well as a commentary about true art vs commercialism. The use of social media here is interesting too in how that could give people a false sense of fame and notoriety. I wish I had been as invested in the story however, the only time I found most emotionally involving was the finale. There are intriguing and memorable moments throughout, but I’d say that the movie itself is less than the sum of its parts. If you’ve been curious about this one though, I’d say give it a shot.

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Have you seen FRANK? Well, what did you think?

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Thursday Movie Picks #36: Movies adapted from a Young Adult Novel

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Today the theme is… 

Movies adapted from a Young Adult Novel


How I Live Now (2013)

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An American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, finds love and purpose while fighting for her survival as war envelops the world around her.

I saw this film three years ago at TCFF. It’s definitely one of the darker young-adult adaptations that sort of flew under the radar. I didn’t give it a stellar review as it seems more elusive than suspenseful but I think it’s worth a look for it’s intriguing survival story in a doomed distant future based on a YA novel by Meg Rosoff. I’ve always been impressed by Saoirse Ronan and her casting was the main draw for me to see it. She didn’t disappoint, even if the uneven tone of the film prevents this from being a truly compelling film.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

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Four kids travel through a wardrobe to the land of Narnia and learn of their destiny to free it with the guidance of a mystical lion.

Seems that it’s been ages since I saw this movie but I remember being enchanted by it. There’s mystery, adventure and magic, a proper fantasy film of good vs evil filled with interesting characters. One of those characters is no doubt Mr. Tumnus, played by then-unknown James McAvoy. The child actors were wonderful but it’s the supporting cast who are the truly memorable, especially Tilda Swinton as the White Witch and Liam Neeson‘s voice lending gravitas to the godly lion Aslan. This is director Andrew Adamson‘s live-action debut, but I think he did C.S. Lewis’ beloved work justice.

Harry Potter films (2001-2011)

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Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I got into the Harry Potter franchise rather late, in fact it was around the time the first of the two final movies was released that my hubby and I started watching. Well, the first few were good but thankfully they got better in future installments, and I’d say my favorite is The Prisoner of Azkaban when Sirius Black appeared. Even amongst a stellar all-British cast, Gary Oldman still stood out in the role. It doesn’t hurt that the film was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I have to give props to Daniel Radcliffe and the rest of the young cast for being so watchable across 8 movies and made me care about their journey. The last two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows final films are adventurous, properly dark and emotionally-engaging. I might revisit these movie again and this May I’m actually visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios :)


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Everybody’s Chattin’ and Music Break: Awesome songs from P.S. I Love You

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Happy Wednesday all! March almost ran away from me again and I just realized I haven’t done a community post yet this month. Well, did you do anything fun on St. Paddy’s Day? Or should I say, have you recovered from all the parties & green beer? ;)

Well I didn’t do much last night since I’m still recovering from this stubborn cold. I saw a fantastic episode of The Flash, which is my hubby and my favorite show right now. Then I watched The Importance of Being Earnest which was fluffy good fun. Somehow I thought I had seen that movie but turns out I hadn’t.

So here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

SherlockPugV celebrated St Paddy’s Day by posting a vid of The Story of St Patrick, along w/ adorable pics of pugs!

Mark confirmed my dread about Chappie, whilst Natalie reviewed a charming drama X+Y about an autistic math prodigy.

Abbi compiled some mini reviews for Film Friday, including Woody Allen’s Manhattan, meanwhile Stu let us know what he thinks about Dirty Dancing which he just saw for the first time!

Irene reviewed Playroom, a drama about dysfunctional families, and Dell reminisced about a movie he grew up with: Coming to America

Last but not least, Ryan gave us a preview of Hot Docs 2015. I wish I had more time to watch documentaries, as he said, truth is often more interesting than fiction.

 


Now time for some awesome music …

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This movie is still fresh in my mind as I included it in my St Patrick’s Day post. I have no qualms in saying that P.S. I Love You is one of my favorite rom-coms. Yes even now that I’m no longer a fan of Gerry Butler, I still LOVE this movie and his performance here. Straight out of being a lethal bad-ass King in 300, he made an effortless transition into a romantic hero, albeit an unconventional one.

Besides the gorgeous NYC and Ireland’s scenery, there are plenty of eye candy in this movie! I’d say, a movie featuring both Gerry Butler AND Jeffrey Dean Morgan (as Irish lads no less!) and have both of them sing with such passion can’t be a bad movie! ;) Heck, I went to see it at the theater with my hubby and a guy friend, and BOTH of them admittedly enjoyed this flick!

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One thing I LOVE about this movie is the awesome soundtrack. I actually got the CD in my car as I love listening to most of the songs in the album. I don’t even usually like James Blunt’s voice but I like his song Same Mistake here. Now, the Camera Obscura song wasn’t included in the CD, which is a shame as that’s such a lovely song played in the movie’s opening sequence.

Five Fave Songs:

Kisses & Cake theme by John Powell

On top of the songs, the instrumental theme is gorgeous! John Powell‘s one of my fave composers, who’s done a bunch of work for animated films like How To Train Your Dragon (another fave of mine), Ice Age, Rio, etc. But looking at his resume, he’s also done a bunch of action genres like The Italian Job, X-Men: The Last Stand, as well as the Bourne films.

 


Hope you enjoyed the music break!  Have you seen P.S. I Love You?

St Patrick’s Day Special: Five memorable scenes set in beautiful Ireland

HappyStPatricksDayAre you wearing green today? Today we’re all Irish, right? ;) I celebrated last year’s St Paddy’s Day by paying tribute to some of the best Irish actors working in Hollywood today. Today I thought I’d set my eyes on some gorgeous Irish sceneries in movies, which is always one of the best things about the film itself. Ireland is one of those places I haven’t got the good fortune to visit, hopefully one day in the near future I could spend hours walking in those wonderfully lush hills. For now I guess I’d just admire the scenery on screen.

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I saw this years ago and I’ve always thought of it fondly. Set in 1950s Ireland, Minnie Driver starred in this coming of age story on an Irish university student, Benny Hogan and her circle of friends, Nan and Eve. Chris O’Donnell is quite dreamy as the handsome lad Benny’s in love with. The scene of their first kiss is wonderfully moving and sweet, you can’t help but root for the two to be together. I can’t find the exact scene but it’s in this fan-made vid below. The scenery of Ireland countryside is absolutely gorgeous, the film is set on location in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

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When I visit Ireland one day, I just might have to go on a P.S. I Love You tour. Yep it does exist! Wicklow National Park is soooo gorgeous, I LOVE the scene when Gerry & Holly first met as she was trying to get the the park she’s already on, ahah. The scenery is so picturesque it’d distract you from Gerry Butler‘s hilarious Irish accent, ha!


LeapYearI have to admit that the Irish scenery – and the beauty that is Matthew Goode – is what kept me from turning off this mawkish drivel.

Goode_LeapYearThe premise alone should put off anyone, even the most loyal rom-rom fans, I mean a girl who believes it’s tradition to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day?? [facepalm] And of course she’s gonna end up with the gorgeous Irish dreamboat ;) But ok, let’s focus on the positive, one of which is the scenery really that makes the movie so worth watching, especially the scene at Ballycarbery Castle. 

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Ok so I’ve actually never finished watching this one, though it’s been on my Netflix queue for ages. It sounds like another one of those films to see just for the scenery and atmospheric, moody harbor in County Cork. Colin Farrell is a convincing romantic hero and here he plays an Irish fisherman who discovers a woman in his fishing net whom his daughter believes to be some mythical creature. The film is like a love letter to his homeland from Irish director Neil Jordan.

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This film takes place mostly in Dublin and we get to see the less glamorous side of the Irish capital. In fact, the gritty cinematography shows the dingy streets and slums of the city as the late Irish reporter Veronica Guerin took on a dangerous cause of exposing Dublin’s powerful crime barons and drug lords in the mid 90s. It’s one of Joel Schumacher‘s better works, featuring the great Cate Blanchett in yet another chameleonic role. Being shot on location definitely adds much realism to the gripping and tragic story.


The Secret of the Kells

Even in animated form, Ireland is absolutely breathtaking to look at. This mythical, ethereal film would be a great one to watch on St. Paddy’s Day, given that the story has such deep Irish roots. Per Wiki, the story is based on the story of the origin of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament located in Dublin, Ireland. It also draws upon Celtic mythology. Apparently the filmmaker Tomm Moore and the artists who drew the film were inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s works, so they decided to do something similar to Studio Ghibli’s films but with Irish art. There are too many great scenes to mention, basically the entire film is absolutely gorgeous.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone! So what’s your favorite film(s) set in Ireland?

Weekend Roundup: Coherence (2013) Review

Happy Monday everyone! Well, in case you noticed, I haven’t been blogging much lately as I’ve been sick with a stubborn cold for over a week now. One of my coworkers apparently got pneumonia and he has to be off work for a whole week. So just for precaution, I was at urgent care Thursday night for 3.5 hours checking to make sure I don’t have it. Well now I’ve passed on my cold on to my hubby, so we’re both sick during one of the warmest and gorgeous Minnesota Spring :(

Well suffice to say, I didn’t really get much blogging done, but I did get to rewatch Stardust last night which was more fun than the first time I saw it. Boy the cast is really amazing in that one and they’re all fun to watch. Interesting to see baby-faced Charlie Cox is playing Daredevil and in the beginning of the movie he had a fight with another British cutie Henry Cavill aka Superman ;)

I also saw two sci-fi movies from 2013 this weekend. Here’s a review of one of them:

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Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.

This movie came highly recommended from my husband’s coworkers and I have to say the premise sounds intriguing. It starts with a woman driving in a car whilst she’s on the phone with who appears to be her boyfriend, then when she hangs up, the phone suddenly cracks. Does the comet passing overhead have something to do with it? Well, that’s the question everyone, both on and off screen, are wondering about.

I wish I could get into the story more but the camera work is so nausea-inducing it’s hard to concentrate on what’s going on where you’re trying not to vomit. In fact I had to close my eyes several times to reduce my headache but the hand-held camera bounces around the entire time, blurring and focusing, zooming in and out, often so close you could practically see the actor’s pores. I don’t know why filmmakers think this found-footage style would add anything to the story.

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Now, even if the camera work weren’t an issue, I’m not sure that I’m all that impressed with this film. I’m surprised of the high rating to be honest. I mean yes, the story has potential and there are some really creepy and eerie moments, but overall it’s quite tedious. The strange happenings get weirder and weirder and the entire dinner party were gripped with paranoia and started freaking out. With the right cast, it might’ve been fun and amusing, but I find myself being irritated by most of the rather unlikable characters or trying to figure out where I’ve seen some of the actors before. I might’ve recognized one of them from Buffy but not sure about the rest.

It’s billed as a sci-fi thriller but it’s more of a drama as hardly anything happens, mostly people chatting during a dinner party. The third act is slightly more interesting when one of the characters realized what’s going on and decided to do something about it. The movie is only about an hour and a half long, though it felt slightly longer than that. The finale felt rather anticlimactic but by that point I was glad the film was over. I kind of think that the story might’ve worked better as an episode of Twilight Zone or something like that.

Now, given that this is a low-budget indie film, I don’t want to be too harsh on it as I think the filmmaker have potential and this story could’ve been quite gripping. Interestingly, writer/director James Ward Byrkit was the writer of the animated film Rango which I quite enjoyed. If only this film had a bit more wit and humor, perhaps it might’ve been more palatable.

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So what did you see this weekend? If you seen Coherence, curious to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: Run All Night (2015)

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Liam Neeson has struck gold with TAKEN and he’s been doing the same kind of movie since. It could be that he’s now being typecast or that he prefers the big paychecks; I’m thinking it’s a little bit of both. Whatever the case, he’s great as the action hero who can take down countless baddies and he would’ve been perfect as Jack Reacher. For many action stars in Hollywood, we kind of have to suspense of belief that they can beat down a bunch of bad guys, I don’t see Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt or Matt Damon take down anyone in real life. But Neeson I can believe he can kick ass on the big screen and in real life.

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The film opens with a wounded Jimmy Conlon (Neeson), he’s been shot and then the film flashes back 16 hours earlier. Conlon is now at some bar in NYC and asking the bar owner Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook) for a loan. Danny is the son of a powerful Irish mobster Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). We later learned that Conlon and Maguire are childhood friends and that Conlon is his hit man. Conlon also has a son named Mike (Joel Kinnaman) who doesn’t want to have anything to do with him because of his involvement with the mob. Mike is a limo driver and on this night happens to be driving Danny’s drug dealing partners; he drops them off at Danny’s condo and waited outside. Danny owes his partners a lot of money and since he can’t pay them back, he decided to kill them. Mike witnessed the carnage and barely escaped when Danny went after him. If you’ve seen the trailer then you pretty much know the basic story set up, Jimmy came to his son rescue and killed Danny. This of course pissed of his old friend Shawn so he sends out his henchmen, including dirty cops, to take out Jimmy and his son. True to the title, both of them ran all night.

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Unlike his role as Bryan Mills in Taken, Neeson is more of a loser in this film. But he’s still kick a lot of butts and shoots tons of people. Basically he’s a poor man’s version of Bryan Mills. Harris took his role a bit too seriously but he’s effective as the villain. I’m still not sure I like Joel Kinnaman, he’s okay in last year’s Robocop remake and he’s okay here as the sidekick. There aren’t any other memorably performances in the film, although rapper Common showing up as the main antagonist was kind of weird and interesting. Also, there’s a nice cameo from a veteran actor whom I haven’t seen on the big screen for a long time, so keep an eye out for him.

The script by Brad Ingelby is pretty generic, there’s nothing that we haven’t seen in this kind of film before. In fact I think he must’ve watched some early 90s crime thrillers before he wrote this script, the film reminded me of State of Grace, Out for Justice and Heat. There’s even a scene where the two veteran actors Neeson and Harris facing one another in a restaurant just like the scene from Heat with De Niro and Pacino. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who worked with Neeson previously in Unknown and Non-Stop) did a good job of keeping the action moving fast and never lingered on useless scenes. He used some interesting transitions between each scenes, not sure if I’m a fan of the technique but it’s definitely interesting. He didn’t really include any over-the-top action sequences, but I did enjoy an action sequence set in the housing project. He also shot the movie on film, a rarity these days and I think it looks great.

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This isn’t a film that’s going to win any awards and don’t expect any originality. If you like seeing Liam Neeson kicking ass then you’ll enjoy this one. It reminded me of the 90s action thrillers and most importantly, I was never bored while watching it.

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Have you seen Run All Night? Well, what did you think?