Everybody’s Chattin + Spotlight on ‘Macbeth’ First Official US Trailer

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Hello hello! How is this only Wednesday? I feel like I’ve been at work all week. Well, here in the States we’re anticipating a three-day weekend with Labor Day on Monday. YES!!

Well, I was gonna do this community blogging post last week but somehow time ran away from me so I made sure I do it this week.

So about those links…

Horror maestro Wes Craven died this past Sunday, Rodney said his farewell, while Dan posted a top 10 tribute.

Katy posted a bunch of awesome artwork of Summer movies, what a great find!

Abbi reviewed a book she REALLY loved, see if it’s something you should pick up.

As it’s back-to-school week for a lot of you, Jay posted two uplifting movies just in time for that time of the year.

Khalid paid tribute to the FX series THE SHIELD, which premiered 13 years ago.

Woo hoo!! Brittani reviewed the Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending, which launched my current obsession on the French Adonis Stanley Weber

Now a few reviews of movies I haven’t seen yet but will definitely rent…

Keith reviewed Z For Zachariah | Josh reviewed Testament of Youth | Tom reviewed Straight Outta Compton


Trailer Spotlight

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this film on this blog much. I also thought we’ve seen a trailer but what we got a few months ago was just the teaser, so we finally got an official one. Behold…

Heh, after the high of watching this comes the agonizing wait. Hey at least folks in the UK only has a month to wait when in opens on Oct 2 but this film doesn’t come out until December 4 in the US. WTF??!!

Macbeth, a duke of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

You probably sneered why I even put the film description here but hey, not everyone has the privilege of studying Shakespeare growing up or even see this play live on stage. Wish I had, but I’m not wholly familiar with this story even though it’s been adapted on screen multiple times. So this feels fresh to me, and boy is this going to be an eerily-gorgeous film. I read somewhere that it’s as if the entire film was shot in Instagram, ahah well, it IS rather somber & gloomy looking but it does fit the subject matter which isn’t exactly a sunny, cheerful story.

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In the Summer we had Mad Max and in the Fall/Winter, we’ve got Mad Mac!

All that cunning, deceit and treachery set against such a lush panorama and stylistic slo-mo… a cross between Braveheart + 300 in the battle scenes… lest we forget Michael Fassbender was quite memorable as Stelios in 300, who died alongside King Leonidas and said ‘It’s an honor to die at your side.’ Boy, the career trajectory of Fassbender & Gerry Butler is enough to make one pause doesn’t it? But then again, Fassy certainly is one w/ the chops and he’s much wiser in his film role choices.

In any case, another main draw for me here is Marion Cotillard‘s casting as Lady Macbeth. The French actress can do no wrong in my eyes… and she looks positively radiant in this trailer. I’m also curious to see Jake Reynor who plays Malcolm, the elder son of the slain King Duncan. I interviewed him last year for the latest Transformers movie and really, I wish I could just ask him all about THIS film instead.

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David Thewlis as Duncan & Jack Reynor as Malcolm

I don’t usually say this to many movies, but this one does have that epic quality about it. Reviewers have hailed this film from the film festival rounds, though I try not to read many of them at this point. I haven’t seen anything the Aussie director Justin Kurzel‘s done, but he’s one got one feature film under his belt. Yet he’s working with BOTH Fassbender and Cotillard again in Assassin’s Creed.


So are you excited for MACBETH?

AUGUST 2015 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

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Well, we are officially entering the ‘ber’ month which means ‘brrrrr’ months are upon us. But I do love Autumn here in Minnesota though so let’s not think about Winter yet.

The highlight for me this month is that I’ve kept up on my script and it’s about 70% done now. I mean obviously there’s going to be a ton of rewrites and polishing but I’m just glad I’ve kept up with it almost daily, and thus I haven’t been blogging [and visiting others’ blogs] as much lately. In any case, I might blog even less in the future, but I don’t plan on giving that up completely, at least not yet.

Posts You Might’ve Missed

Liebster Award

A Trio of Casting News
I’m Excited About

Guest Post – Musings from a part-time cartoon artist:
Maybe some comics shouldn’t be movies

five_newtomeactors_2015Music Break: Pride & Prejudice and
Fave Scores from Dario Marianelli

Interview with the filmmakers of
NO ESCAPE: John Eric & Drew Dowdle

Blogathons

Against the Crowd:
a battle of two sword-n-sandals movies

The Five Emotions Blogathon

Thursday Movie Picks #56:
Alien Invasion of Earth

Reviews

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Dark Places [guest review]

The End of the Tour

Solomon Kane

Casting By Documentary

No Escape

New-to-me Movies:

Hitman: AGENT 47 (2015)

Seeking A Friend For the End of the World (2012)

La Banda Picasso (2012)

The Last Flight (2009)

Two Days One Night (2014)

I tried to watch CHERI with Michelle Pfeiffer but just couldn’t finish it. I just think Rupert Friend is so awkward in the title role. Heh, his character is supposed to be a young French Casanova, wish they had cast Stanley Weber who’d be more age appropriate AND perfectly seductive in the role.

Rewatches:

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Pride & Prejudice TV miniseries (1995)

Persuasion TV movie(2007)

Sword of Vengeance (2014)

Top Secret! (1984)

Hot Fuzz (2007)

TV Shows:

Dancing on the Edge

Movie of the Month

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I had been waiting to see Two Days One Night for ages. I thought this was going to hit Netflix back in June. Well, it was well worth the wait. It’s such a compelling human drama, right from the start the story truly sucked you in and Marion Cotillard gave such an amazing performance. It’s an understated role and they made her look so plain her as a young Belgian mother Sandra who discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal. So the title refers to the time she has to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

This is the second film by the Dardenne Brothers‘ work after The Kid with the Bike and it’s definitely a superior one. It’s such a minimalist film in terms of style, the performances are naturalistic, but the story REALLY packs a punch. I was fully invested in the character’s journey and it really pays off in the end. It’s certainly one of miss Marion’s most astounding work in her already illustrious career. I can’t recommend this one enough folks, see it pronto if you haven’t already.

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So that’s my AUGUST recap. What’s YOUR fave movie(s) you saw this month?

FlixChatter Interview with NO ESCAPE filmmakers John Erick & Drew Dowdle

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This past week I got the opportunity to meet up with the filmmakers behind the action thriller NO ESCAPE. So apparently the Coens are not the only brother filmmaker team from Minnesota, and the Dowdles are truly one of the nicest filmmakers I ever had the pleasure to meet. The interview was about an hour late than scheduled, apparently there was a radio interview that ran longer than expected. I was the last of six interviewers scheduled to chat with them, and I had been a bit worried they’d be tired of talking by then.

But as soon as I entered the room of the Marquette Hotel, I was greeted with a big smile from both John Erick Dowdle (director/writer) and his brother Drew (writer). I immediately felt comfortable and at ease with them as I sat down and prepared my iPhone recorder. I’d think that for people who’ve been known for their horror films (Quarantine, Devil, As Above So Below), they’d be all dark and moody, but that’s not at all the case with as they’re all smiles and full of energy.

As soon as I started writing in my notes, John noticed that my Mona Lisa pen is from the Louvre Museum. He remarked that he used to live close to it when he was making As Above So Below in Paris that his then young boy named Henry became so obsessed with the place and started to spell his name H-e-n-r-i. I had to ask about the filming at Paris catacomb, so find that at the end of the interview.


Check out my spotlight & review of their film No Escape, as well as a short bio of both of them after they both graduated from St. Thomas Academy, an all-boys, military, Catholic high school near St. Paul, MN.


FCInterviewBanner[SPOILER ALERT: Some of the questions might pertain to some plot details about the film. I’ll be sure to mark that in red to warn you]

Q: Can you elaborate more about how the idea of this story came about? You mentioned at the Q&A after the film that a coup happened whilst you were in Thailand?

JOHN: In 2006 my dad and I went to Thailand and we were traveling all around there. And right before we got there, a coup threw out the prime minister and the generals took over the country. There’s a new regime right as we got there and there had been no advanced warning or nothing like that. I started thinking, what if this… I mean, it went smoothly but I thought, what if it didn’t. What if this went very badly like Phnom Penh in 1975 (referring to the Cambodian genocide by the Cambodian Communist Forces Khmer Rouge). What if this went very badly and I had little kids with me. In my last trip to Thailand, we had two little kids with me like Lucy and Beeze, so basically these two girls (in the film) were based on our little sisters. We started building the story from there. As soon as we got back we started expanding on that. Drew and I returned to Cambodia and traveled around to gather little details to make it more authentic.

DREW: Yes our trip back to Asia was in 2008, that was for location scouting to pick up more details. But we didn’t start shooting until 2013.

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John Eric [left] and Drew [right] in Thailand

Q: This question came when my husband and I were discussing the film after we saw it. The rebel group seems to have been building up for some time, like a time bomb that would explode at any moment. Now, the western corporation in the film where Owen Wilson’s character Jack Dwyer works for, they and the others seem to be caught off guard by this. Is that the case or did they know but they choose to ignore it and just left the Dwyers to fend for themselves? I’m just wondering if there’s something sinister behind that?

JOHN: No, I think so many times in these situations… there’s always someone who wants to manage the situation. When we were shooting in Thailand, there was a coup developing while we were there. The people we’re working with was like, ‘oh no, it’s gonna be fine, it’s gonna be fine.’ And literally, we left and two weeks later there was a coup in Thailand. And looking back I thought this must’ve been worse because our friends and family from the United States were like ‘Are you guys being safe over there?’ and we’re like ‘oh yeah, everyone’s fine, it’s not as big a deal as everyone’s making it…’ But I think it was. It’s just people in that situation tries to manage and deny what’s happening. We’re also guilty of that ourselves.

Q: It’s like you were in denial then? It’s like you just brushed it off, oh it’s not as bad as it looks even thought it is.

JOHN: Yeah, I mean if we have this billions of dollars at stake building this waterworks so there can’t be something that would overthrow us. So that would be the corporate mentality.

DREW: Yeah, our partners when we were shooting the movie, Time Warners, they were like ‘oh this was just newspapers, selling newspapers, it’s nothing to worry about and you believe that, you said ‘yeah ok I’ll buy it.’ In terms of the fictional situation in the movie, not only were they not aware of when this was going to happen nor that there’s this level of unrest but they didn’t take them [the rebels] seriously and what they’re capable of and what they’re capable to do.

Q: Now, switching gears a bit about the casting, because I’m always interested in that topic whenever I interview filmmakers. The casting of Owen Wilson here reminds me of the casting of Steve Carell in Foxcatcher as they’re both known for their comedic work. How about Lake Bell who’s also known for being a comedian?

JOHN: She’s amazing. I think comic actors can do anyting. If you can do comedy you can do anyting. For Owen and Lake, I mean when we cast Owen people were like, ‘are you going to give him a crew cut and make him really tough?’ and we’re like ‘no, we want Owen from Marley & Me in this movie.’ And Lake Bell was sort of the same thing. I mean you don’t usually imagine Lake crawling through the mud like she did in this movie. We like that when people don’t usually imagine an actor doing a certain thing. It took a while to convince their agents… and we’re like ‘no, it’s got to be Lake.’

Q: So you already had these two lead actors in mind for the movie?

DREW: Yes, Owen absolutely. We had been building the character around Owen for several years. Things kept falling apart but he kept saying, ‘hey I’m still with you.’ Lake’s casting came much later. But by the time we saw In A World, we’re like ‘oh it has to be her.’

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She’s also a writer too, she wrote In A World… 

JOHN: Yes she is and she’s brilliant.

DREW: And so is Owen. He’s a brilliant writer himself [he co-wrote three films with Wes Anderson including The Royal Tennenbaums] So to have two actors who knew how to write is such a huge asset for us.

So it’s like they’re allies in the filmmaking process as they can also give you input. 

JOHN: Absolutely, there’s nothing greater for a director than having a smart actor. I mean those two kids were also very intelligent kids. It helps so much when they’re thoughtful about what they’re doing.

Q: Yes I noticed that the kids were very believable in the movie. Usually kids can look bored in scenes of peril, but here they looked like they’re genuinely scared and upset.

JOHN: Yeah, they were amazing. We read hundreds and hundreds of girls but luckily we picked the right ones. [Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare played the two young siblings in the film]

DREW: Working with Lake too, made these kids worked so much better. They knew exactly what we need and what we’re trying to avoid. In the moment it really helps get that from them.

JOHN: From the moment she was on set, she immediately adopted those two girls. She grabbed them, put them on her lap and said, ‘from now on you’re my little turkeys.

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Q: What is the biggest challenge filming in a foreign land (in Chiang Mai, Thailand) and display such treacherous conditions on screen? Even that rainy scene towards the end look quite real.

JOHN: Oh we used a rain machine on that scene towards the end but it only had either off or torential downpour, they didn’t have sprinkles [laughs]

Q: Any memorable moment you’d like to share from filming? 

DREW: The fire was perhaps the most memorable thing. It’s not so much about Thailand, there was an accidental fire that burned a building down. It was a pretty spectacular moment on the set.

JOHN: We were filming in this government office and when the tank shoots the wall, there was a beam that’s supposed to fall and it didn’t and it started on fire. I mean we’re able to get everyone out and thankfully everyone was safe.

DREW: It was the last take of the take and the actors loved being on set and we’re playing playbacks, I mean it was the end of the day anyway. But we’re supposed to shoot the next day and the whole building was up in flames. We’re like ‘oh no, is this gonna be the end of the movie?’

Q: But other than that, did everything else go as planned?

JOHN: Yeah we shoot the next day, we just picked a different location the show must go on, y’know. It actually was fun the next day as we had limited equipments, it’s like back to basic like in film school, like Gilligan’s Island where we have the coconuts, we’re just cobbling everything together [laughs]

DREW: We had like three cameras and one monitor that smells like barbeque. I mean we got everyone out [from the burning building] but we lost some equipments and we had to order a lot of new sound equipments from Bangkok, so it was a logistical challenge. But that was sort of our own doing.

In terms of the challenge of shooting, we’re really surprised how sophisticated the crew was, we had a Thai producing partner who had to deal with all the bureaucracy there which was significant so we didn’t have to deal much with it ourselves.

JOHN: It was a very smooth film.

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Source: Pierce Brosnan Proboards

Q: How long did it take you to shoot the film?

DREW: 39 days.

JOHN: 39 days of shooting. So it was like, in one day we’re like ‘we have THIS much to do?’ So there’s a lot of big things every day. But thank God that all the crew… I mean one the things I found interesting is that in America, all the crews was so unionized that ‘oh this guy can touch the light but he can’t touch the stand, etc.’ there are so many rules as to who can do what. Whilst in Thailand, everyone is there to help whoever needs help. It’s like there’s a symphony of motion where things happened so smoothly. I mean, there’s camera crew helping the art department when the art department needed help… I don’t know, it’s just a wonderful atmosphere to make a film. We had the time of our lives filming there.

DREW: It was so cooperative and everyone moved so fast. We got the feeling that, I mean this is such a wonderful thing for us, we got the feeling that everyone on the crew really wanted this to be a good movie. I mean there were other times when they’d do a good job but they don’t really care about the movie, they’re just punching the clock, they’re not invested in a kind of creative emotional way. Here it seems like everyone there wanted to have their creative fingerprints on this so it was nice that they really cared.

[spoiler] Q: When you’re watching the film, some people might make the generalization that it’s the natives, who’s being portrayed as evil, chasing this innocent family that happens to be from the West. But then there’s the conversation between Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan’s character that seem to offset the perceived prejudice against the enemies/villains of the film. So is that a deliberate thing you did or a natural flow of the story?

DREW: It was very deliberate.

JOHN: Yeah, we really wanted the rebels in the city to have a reason. I think so often when something horrible happened, the tendencies just chug it as ‘oh these people are evil, those people are good’ but we wanted to ask the question why. Why would somebody do this, why would somebody act this way. Not to say that violence is acceptable but these are people who are fighting for their families, their lives and their futures, too. They’re trying to get rid of the foreign influences that were hurting them so we wanted to give a rationale for them.

DREW: Yeah, to use John’s example with Phnom Penh in ’75, y’know, I mean you can’t really justify what the Khmer Rouge did in any kind of rational level, I mean they were really really violent and took a lot of lives. But there’s a reason they were doing what they were doing in terms of the foreign involvement in their country, they’ve suffered through a lot of bombings in a war they had nothing to do with. There’s reasons that caused it and again, I mean again you can’t justify their reaction to it but there’s a source to it, they didn’t just do it because they liked to kill people or that they’re just bloodthirsty. Now that’s an extreme example. In our movie, it isn’t just ALL about the natives versus the foreigners, it’s a certain subset of the natives that were in a war path to get rid of the foreigners. There were locals who helped the family and there were locals that also got killed by the rebels.

JOHN: So the Dwyers family is caught in a crossfire. I mean our focus is the Dwyers, just like in Titanic, the focus is on Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s characters but it doesn’t mean you don’t care about everyone else in the movie. But the film has to have a focal point and for us, having gone to Thailand, my focus has to be from the family.

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I’m curious about the process of casting Pierce Brosnan and how he worked with the other cast?

JOHN: We love the idea of Pierce here. Pierce is the kind of guy who could say and do anything and you’d just love him more. He could say the worst, most horrible things and you just love him more. I mean there’s a couple lines in this movie where I think Pierce might be the only human being alive who could deliver those lines and make you like him more. We like turning that James Bond thing on its head, I mean make him an alcoholic with a beard and sort of scuzzy, so we had a lot of fun. Pierce found this documentary Beware of Mr Baker about the [Cream and Blind Faith rock band] drummer Ginger Baker who’s sort of this old surly Brit, so Pierce brought that to the character.

DREW: He’s got so much charm, we grew up loving Pierce Brosnan so to have him in our movie was like a dream.

JOHN: To meet him for the first time was like, ‘ok come on, stay calm.’

So you both were a bit starstruck then?

Oh yeah we were.

AsAboveSoBelowPosterOk last question, about your last film As Above So Below, how did you manage to get the permission from the French government to film in the Paris catacomb?

DREW: That was not easy. I mean we shot in five different parts of the catacombs and some were easier than others, but the main one that we wanted which was the roughest but the most interesting looking, we got the permission literally the night before we’re supposed to shoot. Their bureaucracy doesn’t move very quickly but thankfully we got a French producing partner but we were the first film to shoot inside the catacombs.

JOHN: And probably the last [laughs] We were down there shooting for five weeks, it was a long time to be underground.

DREW: It was cold and wet. It was a lot colder in there than we thought even thought it was in the middle of Summer. It was freezing down there.

Surrounded by skulls too.

JOHN: Yeah, it’s funny there are some parts in No Escape where we found this small space and we thought it was the perfect location and some people were saying, ‘no this is way too small, you can’t film here’ and we’re like ‘we filmed inside the catacomb, this is tons of space!’ I mean once you shoot there, you can shoot anywhere.


Thank you to John & Drew for taking the time to chat!

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No Escape is in US theaters now and opens in the UK on Sept 4.


Thoughts on the interview and/or No Escape?

Music Break: Pride & Prejudice + fave scores from Dario Marianelli

I don’t normally do a Music Break post on the weekends but I’ve been listening to the 2005 Pride & Prejudice score lately so I figure it’s as good a time as any.

A little bit about the composer…

DarioMarianelliDario Marianelli was born on June 21, 1963 in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. He studied piano from the age of six, and also sung in a boy’s choir from that age. In his mid twenties he moved to London, where he enrolled at the National Film and Television School.

He’s worked with director Joe Wright on four films, some of which have become my favorites. Apparently he’s introduced by one of the producers of Pride & Prejudice where he and Wright hit it off straight away. One of the producers, Paul Webster, remembered the work I had done for him on The Warrior, a few years earlier. He introduced me to Joe Wright, the director of Pride & Prejudice, and we hit it off straight away. Per M Online interview, in their very first conversation they ended up talking about Beethoven early piano sonatas which became a point of reference and starting point for the score.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

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The score for Joe Wright’s feature film debut has become one of my favorites ever, and so it’s about time I feature it here on Music Break. It’s as lush as the landscape in Derbyshire, England, as swoony-romantic as the classic love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I’d think if Jane Austen were to listen to this score, a smile would form on her face.

I had to include the score used in the helicopter-shot scene when Lizzie standing on the precipice of a large cliff, the wind blowing her hair and the sun shining down… it’s an iconic scene made even more perfect by this score.

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And of course, the dawn scene… it’s the kind of scene that just never gets old for me. I’ve seen it countless times and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lizzy and Darcy more ravishing than in this very scene. I LOVE how Wright filmed Darcy walking in his long, cape-like robe towards Lizzy… you could practically breathe the crisp morning air in this scene… the scenery & the music… it’s just absolutely luscious.

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Pride & Prejudice remains my favorite of Marianelli’s work so far, followed by Atonement which he deservedly won an Oscar for, two years after his first nomination for Pride & Prejudice. In 2013 he’s nominated again for Anna Karenina. I remember seeing one comment somewhere, might’ve been on youtube, that says how an Italian guy could make the perfect Russian music. Well, according to that article above, Marianelli regarded it as his best work as he said he learned a lot from that experience.

So here are four more scores I love from Marianelli… so definitely made beautiful music in all of his collaboration with Wright. I thought they’d be working together in Wright’s next film PAN, but my other favorite John Powell is scoring that. Marianelli is working on a film where Keira Knightley appears once again, EVEREST.

V For Vendetta (2005)

Atonement (2007)

The Soloist (2009)

Anna Karenina (2012)


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Hope you enjoyed today’s music break. What’s YOUR favorite score(s) from Dario Marianelli?

Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2015 viewings

I saw this list on Variety on 10 Actors To Watch in 2015 and I realized I dropped the ball on this Actor Discoveries post last year. I mentioned in the first post back in 2012 that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. I planned on making this post an annual thing but alas, the last time I did this post was in 2013.

On that list, I included Lake Bell, Daniel Brühl, Riz Ahmed, Andrea Riseborough and David Oyelowo. Since then, most of them have been getting more prominent roles, with the exception of Riseborough which I think is so criminally under-utilized. Since I didn’t make a list last year, certainly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid would’ve made my 2014 shortlist.

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So, based on this year’s viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Carmen Ejogo

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The Oscars not only dropped the ball on several counts when it comes to SELMA last year. Much was made about the omission of Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo from the nomination list, but I think Carmen Ejogo was equally deserving to be amongst the Best Supporting Actress nominees.

Like his co-star, she’s from the UK but she effortlessly portrayed an American. She’s been working in a variety of TV and film, so I feel kinda bad that I hadn’t seen her until this year. There’s a certain elegance and tortured soul about her that makes her so intriguing to watch. I’m hoping her career would benefit from the Oscar buzz and that she’d be getting more and more prominent roles.

What’s Next: Jazz biopic Born to Be Blue with Ethan Hawke

Jack Huston

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I noticed Jack Huston when I saw American Hustle, but it wasn’t until Night Train in Lisbon that I became a fan. Huston has quite a Hollywood pedigree, being the grandson of famed filmmaker John Huston and nephew of Anjelica Huston. But the 32-year-old Londoner is a talented actor in his own right.

I like that he has one of those *ethnically hard to pin down* look about him that makes him suitable to play different kinds of ethnicity. In Night Train to Lisbon he played a Portuguese doctor and an American mobster in American Hustle. As many actors who grew up in the UK, he’s got a knack for accents which makes him even more versatile. I wasn’t thrilled at all when they announced they’re remaking Ben-Hur, but since they cast Huston in the titular role, I’m actually intrigued! I’d love to see more of him in a variety of roles, as he’s far more interesting to watch than a lot of Hollywood A-listers working today.

What’s Next: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (as Mr. Wickham) and the Ben-Hur remake

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Rebecca Ferguson

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My friend Ashley had told me about the Starz’s miniseries The White Queen a while back, but I haven’t got around to seeing it. Well, it’s on the top of my Amazon Prime queue now after I saw Rebecca in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. I really couldn’t shut up about how impressed I was with her in that role. It was surely a kick-ass performance but she didn’t just pull off the physicality of the role, but she elevates the role into so much more. She’s equally as intriguing as Tom Cruise if not more so, and no doubt she’s the most memorable part about that film.

As I’ve blogged about here, I’m thrilled to see her cast in The Girl on the Train and I’m glad she didn’t end up becoming Channing Tatum’s love interest in Gambit. She’s so much more interesting to be pigeonholed into action roles, and so I hope Hollywood realizes that.

What’s Next: I just saw this trailer of an upcoming espionage drama Despite The Falling Snow! She’ll be starring with Sam Reid, wahoo!!


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Sarah Snook

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Sometimes it only takes a single film for you to become an instant fan of a performer. That’s the case with Sarah Snook, who single-handedly stole the time travel sci-fi film Predestination with her outstanding performance.

As I mentioned in my review, it was a revelatory performance from the Aussie actress whose educated at National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. It’s quite a complex role with multiple layers but it’s so rewarding to see how she tackles each one convincingly and with so much heart.

What’s Next: She has a small role in the Aussie-set drama starring Kate Winslet, The Dressmaker. She’s also in the Steve Jobs film with Michael Fassbender. I hope she lands a leading role soon, she deserves it!
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Stanley Weber

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Well I think this one doesn’t need much introduction if you’ve been reading my blog this year. I have mentioned him practically every week since I discovered him on April 5 in the Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending (yes I even remembered the date!). It’s one of those spellbound moments that doesn’t happen very often, but once it did, well, it’s REALLY hard to snap out of it :P

I’ve posted a full tribute for him here that list five of my favorite roles of his so far. It takes more than a pretty face for me to be obsessed with someone, and Stanley certainly is a dedicated actor who can handle stage, TV AND film roles, in fact that’s what he’s juggling this year alone. I LOVE actors who loves to mix things up and not afraid to look unglamorous for a role. It’d be tough to make this Frenchman look ugly though, I mean he’s still so beautiful even with THIS haircut for his upcoming role as a Jesuit priest in Pilgrimage.

What’s Next: I can’t freakin’ wait to see Stanley in STARZ’s Outlander season 2, the adventure drama Pilgrimage, and the French WWII drama L’origine de la violence. Hopefully all of them will be out next year!!
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Honorable Mentions:

I hadn’t heard of any of these five impressive performers prior to 2015, but I’m glad I saw them and I hope they continue to find prominent roles in Hollywood.

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Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

The Swedish actress seems to have had quite an astronomical rise to stardom in Hollywood. She had been working in her native country until about 2012 when she was cast with Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair. I didn’t see Anna Karenina until earlier this year on the plane, in which she had a small role, but it wasn’t until Ex Machina that I really took notice of her. She has this delicate physique but a formidable screen charisma that makes her so lovely to watch. It’s no surprise she is one busy girl, with three more films scheduled to open later this year, as well as the untitled Bourne film with Matt Damon next year.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man)

As I was watching the John le Carré spy drama, one of the performances that intrigued me was by the actor who portrayed the mysterious Issa Karpov. I found out later that Dobrygin is a Russian actor who’s a classically-trained ballet dancer. He apparently won a Silver Bear award for Best Actor at Berlin Film Festival for Russian film How I Ended This Summer.

I definitely would love to see more of him in Hollywood, hopefully he will continue acting and not go back to go back to ballet. Per The Guardian, he has just finished on Susanna White’s Our Kind of Traitor, with Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris.

Karidja Touré (Girlhood)

Another French actor who caught my eye and this was her feature film debut! The 21-year-old has that undeniable charm and screen presence on top of her acting talent. Her parents are from the Ivory Coast but she was born in France and grew up in Paris. I hope she’d get the same opportunities as fellow French actor from north African origin, Omar Sy, who had a breakout role in The Intouchables. He’s gone to big budget route such as Jurassic World, but I’d like to see Touré in smaller films that would offer her a chance to show what she’s capable of.

Maika Monroe (The Guest)

The Guest feature two awesome performances from relative newcomers. I’m already familiar with Dan Stevens from his period drama days in the UK, though most Americans probably saw him here for the first time. I hadn’t seen Monroe before however, and right away I thought she has an uncanny resemblance to Gwen Stefani. She also has that cool factor, that effortless swagger of a rock star that makes her fun to watch. She’s also in the buzzed-about horror flick It Follows, so I think the 22-year-old Californian has a long career ahead of her.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman)

Speaking of swagger, there’s plenty of that to be found on the 25-year-old Welsh native. There’s a devil-may-care attitude in him that I find endearing, which reminds me a bit of Tom Hardy when I first saw him on screen. I haven’t seen him in a serious drama yet so I’m curious to see how he fares in that. Hollywood’s certainly taken notice of him, as he’s been cast as the Robin Hood reboot. We’ll also see him along with Hardy in LEGEND later this year.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd)

The Belgian actor has been working pretty steadily since the early 2000s but for some reason I just never got around to seeing any of his films until earlier this year. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting him in the role of Gabriel Oak, a classic romantic hero in Victorian England, but he won me over with his sensitive portrayal. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him. I said in my review that he reminds me a bit of Viggo Mortensen, and that’s a good thing. Curious to see what role he’d tackle next, but I probably should go back and check out his older films.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

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Film Spotlight + Mini Review of Action Thriller NO ESCAPE

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When I first saw the trailer of NO ESCAPE, it definitely promises to be a highly intense action adventure. I have to admit though I was quite surprised by the casting of two actors known mostly for their comedic work: Owen Wilson and Lake Bell, but hey, we’ve got James Bond er Pierce Brosnan in it, whom I associate with this types of films. But it’s the unlikely casting that got me intrigued. The fact that the film is set in South East Asia also piqued my interest.

Well, later this afternoon I’ll have the opportunity to interview the filmmakers behind the film, John Erick Dowdle who directed the film based on the script he wrote with his brother Drew Dowdle.

Film Synopsis:
An intense international thriller, NO ESCAPE centers on an American businessman (Wilson) as he and his family settle into their new home in Southeast Asia. Suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a violent political uprising, they must frantically look for a safe escape as rebels mercilessly attack the city.

It’s always awesome to see Minnesota filmmakers making movies in Hollywood!

Per IMDb, John grew up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. After graduating St. Thomas Academy, an all-boys, military, Catholic high school, John moved to Iowa City to attend the University of Iowa. There he would make the move from writing to film. Two years later, John moved to Manhattan to attend NYU’s film program. After graduating NYU, John moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in filmmaking. John wrote and directed his first feature, Full Moon Rising (1996) just out of college. For his sophomore effort, The Dry Spell, John was joined by his brother Drew, who produced the film as John wrote, directed and edited. They now live in Los Angeles, working together as The Brothers Dowdle.

 


My mini review of NO ESCAPE

I must say that these types of thrillers are not usually something I’d see on the big screen as I have such feeble nerves. Given their horror background, there’s definitely nerve-wracking terror and sense of dread, as well as genuine jump scares in this edge-of-your-seat thriller.

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I think the less you know about the plot the better, and there’s definitely more emotional resonance than what the trailer/poster have you believe. I’m very impressed by Owen Wilson‘s casting, he’s not an ‘action hero’ or macho tough guy, he’s just an ordinary family man who’s driven to extremes to save his family. His ‘everyman’ persona definitely make you sympathize with him right away, and Lake Bell as his wife is quite convincing here as well, in a role I haven’t seen her portray before. Even the two little girls played by Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare are both terrific here. Kudos to John E. Dowdle for coaxing such a convincing performance out of them, to display authentic sense of terror for such young actors must’ve been very challenging.

How we feel about this survivor-thriller hinges on whether we care or not about Wilson’s family and this film definitely delivers. Pierce Brosnan‘s quite memorable here in a key role. He’s not in the film much but when he’s on screen, he’s definitely memorable. There’s a conversation between his and Wilson’s character that offer an interesting perspective on what’s going on. The film is billed as a coup-gone-horribly-wrong (as the title was going to be The Coup), but there’s more than meets the eye.
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The film is bloody but thankfully not gory. The filmmakers wisely choose to show the reaction after a violent act is committed, and what it means to them, rather the act itself. It makes it all the more effective and suspenseful. I think do horror/thriller fans would appreciate the filmmaking style of the Dowdles, and the convincing performances of the actors definitely immerse you in their predicament. Wilson and Bell certainly have dramatic chops on top of being talented comedians.

The scene on the roof is one of the craziest, most intense scenes I’ve ever seen. I think it’d be especially tense if you are a parent, as it’ll make you REALLY think about what you would do in such a dire situation.

The fact that the film was shot on location in Chiang Mai, Thailand certainly makes it look authentic. But the film is set in a fictitious SE Asia country as to not offend the Thai government. Given the recent bomb attack in that country though, it certainly adds to the nightmarish quality of the film. If you like the experience of having your nerve stretched to its snapping point, then this is a film for you.

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NO ESCAPE opens in the US on 8/26 and in the UK on Sept 4.


Stay tuned for my interview post with the Dowdle Brothers!


What do you think of this film? Which film of the Dowdle Brothers have you seen?

Liebster’d once again…

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Firstly, THANKS to Jay, Vinnie, Paskalis and Anna for kindly nominating me this lovely award. I’ve done this once before in 2012, but hey, it’s always fun to do these kinds of posts. 

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11 things about myself:

  1. I originally wanted to be a journalist, that was initially my major in college (Mass Communication with emphasis in journalism). But after taking a few classes, I decided that I’m more suited to graphic design and so I switched. In hindsight, I think that’s a good decision.
  2. Most people who followed this blog from the start might already knew this, but I originally did this blog because I was constantly emailing my friends and colleagues about my mini review of movies. Some of my co-workers said I might as well start a blog and so one day, whilst designing a blog for a client, I started a WordPress blog myself as a test and FlixChatter was born.
  3. My favorite cuisine (aside from Indonesian of course) is Thai. I’d have Thai food several times a week if I could.
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  4. Europe_bandI used to LOVE 80s heavy metal bands like Guns ‘N Roses, Warrant, Skid Row, Poison, as well as the Swedish rockband Europe, which my hubby’s a huge fan of as well. To this day, I still listen to ’em from time to time.
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  5. I used to create romantic *graphic novel* in Junior High, which basically were simple black/white pencil-drawn stories with talk bubbles. I think I might’ve made a half dozen of them that would amongst my class mates. It was mostly out of boredom, and I’d often be sent to detention for my drawing hobby ;)
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  6. I took French with one of my best friends in High School but we only managed to finish a couple of classes before promptly giving up. It was just too difficult for our tongues, far more difficult than English and even German, which was part of our High School curriculum. I wish I hadn’t given up so quickly, as it’d have come in handy in watching Stanley Weber’s French movies without English subtitles :(
  7. My taste in music is pretty old fashioned. I basically listen to two genres regularly: classical and soundtrack. I’m also a big fan of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. Ocassionaly I listen to contemporary music, currently I’ve been obsessed with Emeli Sandé. I don’t usually like going to concerts but I’d definitely go see her if she comes to town!
    EmilieSande
  8. I’m not proud to admit this but I was a huge fan of New Kids of the Block when I was 14/15. My room was practically a NKOTB *museum* filled with paraphenaphilia and posters that covered every inch of my room wall. But by the time I saw them in concert, my interest had already waned. In fact, they sort of put my enthusiasm for boy bands for good. I never ever like boy bands ever again since then.
  9. FloppyI used to have many pets growing up, both cats and dogs. One of my favorites is a Pekingese dog named Floppy which was given from one of my late mom’s friends who was a Catholic nun. But since I moved to the US I never adopted a pet, but maybe we will in the future.
  10. Both my hubby and I are Indonesian, and we actually went to the same Jr High. But we didn’t meet until college, thousands of miles away from our home. I never thought I’d marry an Asian guy once I go to the US for school, let alone someone from my own country. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
  11. I LOVE social media, especially blogging (natch!) and Twitter, but I can’t stand Facebook. I only have a FB account for my blog and I’m rarely on there. I’ve recently taken up Instagram (thanks partly to my French crush Stanley) and been enjoying it so far.

Jay’s Question:

What is the most fun you’ve ever had in a movie theatre? What movie were you watching?

I already answered this on Jay’s blog: One of the most fun I had at the theater was when I saw Pacific Rim on IMAX a while back, that movie was so darn entertaining and it looked great on those huge screens.

I also enjoyed watching The Dark Knight Rises and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on IMAX, there’s nothing more immersive than watching great action movies in those huge, enveloping screen!


Vinnie’s Questions:

  1. Do you prefer watching films in the cinema or at home?
    Depends. If it’s action movies, I prefer seeing them on the big screen. But for dramas, I prefer seeing them at home.
  2. Do you have any tattoos?
    No. Though I’ve always wanted one on my shoulder. Maybe one day.
  3. What is your favourite sport?
    I’m not much of a sport person at all. I always get bored watching any televised sports games.
  4. Who is your man crush or woman crush?
    Right now it’s all about this French Adonis Stanley Weber
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  5. How good are you at keeping secrets?
    Very good. But I haven’t had to keep too many secrets in my life
  6. What movie do you love that everyone else seems to hate?
    Ahah, I just blogged about this last week.
  7. What do you enjoy the most about blogging?
    Meeting fellow cinephiles from all over the world, sometimes I get to meet them in person, too!
  8. What is your star sign?
    I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I think it’s Aquarius
  9. How many languages can you speak?
    Two. Indonesian (my mother tongue) and English
  10. What is your most valuable belonging?
    Not sure I have any.
  11. Describe yourself in five words.
    Loner, imaginative, candid, emotional, emphatic.


Paskalis’ Questions:

  1. Please name a movie that can describe you or what you feel now!
    Persuasion.
    Because my script deals with long lost love and second chances, so that’s what’s been on my mind lately
  2. What’s your all time favorite movie OST?
    John Williams’ Jurassic Park
  3. Choose one: Jurassic World, Terminator Genysis, or Star Wars Eps. VII?
    Simply because it’s the only one I saw that I remember but I don’t think it’s a good movie.
  4. Choose one: annoying cliffhanger or super-twisted bad ending?
    I’d say none, but if I must pick one, at least the latter won’t make me guess what the ending is
  5. Choose one: European movie, Asian movie, Australian movie or South American movie? Name a title!
    I have a fondness for British movies, and I just recently rewatched this wonderful Scottish gem Dear Frankie that’s just been added to Netflix. Everyone should check this one out!
    DearFrankiePhoto
  6. What’s the best Indonesian movie you ever watched?
    I haven’t seen any Indo movie in a long time. The last one I saw was Ada Apa Dengan Cinta which was pretty good.
  7. If your life were a movie, what other movie might look similar to it?
    Unfortunately, I never saw my life reflected in any film I’ve seen
  8. If your life were still a movie, who will portray you best?
    Again, this is a tough one. I don’t think I can answer this.
  9. As a movie blogger, what kind of comment you loathe?
    Comments that clearly prove they don’t even read the post at all
  10. As a movie blogger, do you follow foreign blogger and interact with them? Why yes, why not?
    Ahah yes, most of my blogger friends are *foreign* as a lot of them live outside of the USA. Interacting with my fellow bloggers is one of my fave parts about blogging.
  11. Now, please describe your blog in a sentence!
    A blog of movie musings, commentaries, reviews, artists interviews, top ten lists and more!
    …..

Anna’s Questions:

  1. Favorite TV show(s)?
    I hardly watch any TV but the last shows I saw that I REALLY enjoyed was Netflix’s Daredevil and BBC’s Broadchurch.
    NetflixDaredevil
  2. Last movie you saw?
    Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  3. Book you’re currently reading?
    None at the moment, but hoping to catch up on The Girl on the Train
  4. Comedy or drama?
    Drama generally.
  5. Classic or contemporary?
    Contemporary.
  6. SenseSensibilityDvdWhat’s that one movie you always recommend to anyone who asks?
    Sense & Sensibility (1995).
    Even to those who aren’t fans of period dramas as the story is just so beautiful, and it’s superbly acted, writen and directed.
  7. You’re able to go back in time and be an extra on the set of any movie. Which one is it?
    Any movie starring Stanley Weber (for obvious reasons) ;)
  8. Favorite foreign film?
    In terms of replayability value: Cinema Paradiso
  9. Book version or movie version: which is better?
    I know generally book version is better, though I don’t have as much patience for certain books, so in terms of Jane Austen adaptation, I enjoy the film/tv versions better.
  10. Best performance from your favorite actor/actress?
    This is way too hard as I have so many faves. But I just rewatched Mrs. Brown with Dame Judi Dench and I think it’s definitely one of her many best performances.
  11. Watching movies alone or watching movies with someone?
    Depends. I enjoy watching movies alone or with my hubby equally, though I prefer watching my guilty pleasures by myself ;)


Now the easy part… the nominations!

Well it seems that everyone’s been nominated already, but I’ll do it anyway and you can choose to participate or not, it’s entirely up to you.

  1. Cindy @ Cindy Bruchman’s Blog
  2. Margaret @ Cinematic Corner
  3. Jordan @ Epileptic Moondancer
  4. Tom @ Digital Shortbread
  5. Steven @ Surrender to the Void
  6. Alex @ Alex Raphael Blog
  7. Abbi @ Abbi Osbiston Blog
  8. Natalie @ Writer Loves Movies
  9. Andina @ Inspired Ground
  10. Mark @ Three Rows Back
  11. Rodney @ Fernby Films

Should you take part in this Liebster Award meme, please answer these 11 questions*:

  1. Have you ever made a fanfic? If so, what is it about?
  2. What’s your favorite dish/desert to make?
  3. Who’s your favorite movie actor who’s currently starring in a TV show?
  4. If you can only listen to ONE film soundtrack for a whole month, what would it be?
  5. What musical instrument do you play (or wish you could play)?
  6. Name one film you initially love but eventually grow to dislike?
  7. Favorite quote you find inspiring?
  8. Which is your favorite movie writer [could be a journalist, novelist, etc.]?
  9. Has your cinematic crush ever inspire you to do something you otherwise wouldn’t even consider?
  10. Favorite outfit/costume from a movie?
  11. What’s your latest cinematic/music obsession?

*I’m cheating a bit and use a few questions I asked in my last Liebster post, but since I’m tagging new people, I figure that’s ok :P


Sorry for the super long post! Thanks for reading everyone, now you know a little bit more about yours truly :D

A trio of casting/directing news I’m excited about

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A trio of casting/directing news piqued my interest this past few days that I thought I’d blog about it. I’m supposed to be doing this casting news roundup every month but obviously I’ve dropped the ball a few times :P

Rebecca Ferguson joins Emily Blunt for
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN adaptation

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YES! Another female-centric thriller based on a female author is getting a cinematic adaptation. The Girl on The Train is based on Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel.

The story follows Rachel, a woman devastated by her recent divorce who spends her commute fantasizing about a seemingly perfect couple who lives in a house that her train passes every day. One morning, she sees something shocking there and becomes entangled in a mystery.

Naturally there’s the Gone Girl comparison given the unreliable narrator and marital dysfunction storyline. Emily Blunt was already cast as Rachel and Rebecca Ferguson apparently will be playing the role of Anna, the wife of Rachel’s ex-husband. There are apparently three prominent female characters in the novel.

In any case, I LOVE this casting bit! I’m a huge fan of miss Blunt and so I was already excited for this film for her, but given how Ferguson is my new girl crush thanks to MI: Rogue Nation, this has shot up to my must-see list for 2016! Well, I hope it’ll be released next year anyway. I’m glad that Ferguson passed on playing Channing Tatum’s love interest in Gambit according to Deadline. Ugh, she’s WAY too good for that role anyway. This sounds like two juicy roles for both talented actresses.

Now of course it’ll be interesting to see who’d be cast as Tom. He’s a douchebag so we’d need an actor who’s charismatic enough to go against these two. Maybe Jake Gyllenhaal or if they want someone older [who’s still smoldering], how about Clive Owen? He needs a REALLY memorable role right now, pronto!

Christian Bale to star in Michael Mann’s Ferrari Biopic

Apparently this film has been a passion project for Mann for the last 15 years. Per Deadline, the he even partnered with the late director Sydney Pollack to bring the story of the Italian auto magnate to life. Apparently the film’s being packaged to be sold at the upcoming Telluride, Toronto and Venice Film Festivals and I can’t imagine this NOT being a lucrative project.

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The film takes place in 1957, a year where passion, failure, success and death and life all collided. I’m not familiar with Ferrari’s life, but a quick check on Biography Channel tells the story that in 1957, a Ferrari car driven by Alfonso de Portago blew a tire and crashed into the roadside crash at the Mille Miglia. The driver, co-driver and nine spectator including five children were killed. In response, Ferrari and tyre manufacturer Englebert were charged with manslaughter as they chose to let the car continue for an extra stage rather than stop for a tire change. It was dismissed in 1961.

EnzoFerrariPer THR, the project adapts the 1991 book Enzo Ferrari: The Man, The Cars, The Races, The Machine, which details the rise of the auto mogul. Now, Bale’s casting definitely piqued my interest. He’s worked with Mann in Public Enemies, which I wasn’t crazy about, but hopefully this would be a more intriguing film. As disappointed as I was with Mann’s Blackhat, I still consider him one of my fave directors. Plus Bale is a heck of a lot better actor than Chris Hemsworth so even though he looks nothing like the real Enzo Ferrari, I think he could do this role justice.

Speaking of Hemsworth though, the last film involving car racing was RUSH which I think was pretty good. I grew up with a brother who’s a huge car fan so I’ve always loved watching car scenes in movies.

George Miller in talks to direct Man of Steel 2?

Now, file this under rumor that I wish were true! I hadn’t even been remotely excited for Man of Steel 2, nor that I thought it was still in the works. But with Mad Max creator George Miller’s involvement, color me intrigued!

GeorgeMiller_ManofSteel2

If you’re into comic book adaptations, you probably are familiar that Miller was at one point going to direct a Justice League film with Armie Hammer as Batman and D.J. Cotrona [who resembles Henry Cavill a bit] as Superman back in 2007. It’s perhaps best that the project never came to fruition, but obviously Miller is interested in doing a comic-book film. Given the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, I’d think he’s in Warner Bros good graces to come back to the DC world.

Of course even if there’s a remote chance of this project happening with Miller, it’s still a loooong way off as Man of Steel 2 isn’t part of WB superhero slate until 2020. Per EW, what we can expect include movies like Shazam and Cyborg [??] Heh, I tend to agree with Rich in this article that perhaps some comic-book movies should NOT be movies.


Well, any thoughts about any of these news?

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My entry to the Against the Crowd Blogathon: A battle of two Sword-and-Sandals Movies

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Wendell over at Dell on Movies is reprising his blogathon from a year ago. Since I didn’t participate at the time, I knew I had to do it this time around. Dell’s idea is that this is our chance to tell the world about our love for a movie everyone else hates and the other way around.

1. Pick one movie that “everyone” loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of at least 75% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that “everyone” hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of less than 35% on rottentomatoes.com. Should a movie you select not have a grade on rottentomatoes.com, use a score of at least 7.5 on imdb.com for ones you hate and less than 4.0 for ones you love. Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

I always like this ‘against the crowd’ idea because it happens all the time that my taste doesn’t align with critics or other moviegoers. Heck I actually enjoyed the latest video game flick Agent47 but I kinda knew the critics’ gonna trash it.

Well, I’ve sort of already made a list for both categories, Ted & I collaborated on 12 *rotten* movies we secretly adore and I picked five movies everyone loves that leave me cold. But for the purpose of this blogathon, I thought it’d be fun to pick a film of the same sword-and-sandal genre.

Now, let me preface this list with the fact that I think *hate* is a strong word. But it baffles me why this movie is regarded so highly as I could barely finished watching it. I have already included it the ‘movies everyone loves’ list above, but I’m going to pick it again because out of that list, this is the reigning *king*  as I even shudder thinking how much I don’t care for it…

Spartacus_RTscore

I’m a fan of swords & sandals genre and I LOVE LOVE Ben-Hur which came out the year before. Now, whilst I saw Ben-Hur years ago as a young girl and it has since became one of my favorite films of all time (not just from this genre), I could barely made it through this one. My jaw dropped when I found out just how high the score is after seeing the film. I saw this a few years ago and I could barely made it to the end.

Firstly, I simply don’t buy Kirk Douglas as a gladiator slave for a second. He just isn’t tough nor ruthless enough I’d imagine the character to be and he (as well as Tony Curtis) looked way too healthy to play a supposedly desolate and malnourished slave. Despite what some may called wooden acting from Charlton Heston, it was easy to root for him to get back at all the injustices that befell him and I was fully invested in Ben-Hur journey throughout the film. I really didn’t care for Spartacus as I was too distracted by how I think Douglas was miscast. Even the great Laurence Olivier and couldn’t save this movie and it didn’t help matters that Douglas had zero chemistry with the lovely Jean Simmons. I couldn’t stop laughing at the awful, fake looking backdrop wallpaper they used for the romantic scene.

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As of 2008, this movie was ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Epic.” Seriously?? The only epic thing about it is the epic squabbles behind the scenes that you can read on IMDb trivia about the falling out with not one but TWO directors and all the studio meddling due to everyone having a huge ass ego.

In regards to his casting, later on Douglas himself admitted that he made this film partly because he didn’t get the role as Ben-Hur (he was offered the role of Messala but refused to play second banana to Heston). “That was what spurred me to do it in a childish way, the ‘I’ll show them’ sort of thing.” Heh, clearly Ben-Hur‘s director William Wyler made the right decision as I doubt Douglas could do a better job than Stephen Boyd as Messala, let alone the title role! It’s common knowledge that director Stanley Kubrick disowned this project as he didn’t have complete creative control over it, well that pretty much explains it.


Now, I’m going to contrast that with a much lesser-known film that’s released last year. I know that most of you haven’t even heard of it as it barely got a theatrical release and went straight to VOD/Blu-ray.

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Yes ok so naturally the fact that Stanley Weber is in this automatically makes me want to defend this movie to the death, ehm. But hear me out. I initially doubted this too, thinking that even my undying love for this French Adonis still wouldn’t make me enjoy it. But then it came to Netflix earlier this month and I decided to check it out. Voilà! I actually like it a lot and have seen it four times since.

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It’s a visually-driven genre film that doesn’t pretend to be deep or philosophical. The mysterious protagonist, only billed as Shadow Walker, quipped ‘Vengeance is my only belief.’ And you know what, he lived by that rule in the movie. He didn’t seek out to be a hero or has aspiration to lead a nation or anything like that, he just wants vengeance. It’s as minimalistic as it gets, so if you go in expecting a whole lot more, then you set yourself up for disappointment.

Stanley Weber is freakin’ bad ass in the lead role, sporting a historically out-of-place corn rows but who cares, it looks so damn cool! Apart from that hairstyle, he looks suitably grim and gritty, and his rugged costumes look believably soiled and grubby. His character is the strong silent type who’s as efficient with words as he is with his sword fighting. He’s like an 11th century John Wick!

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The movie has the look and smell of the dark ages, the set pieces look appropriately harsh and gritty, the fact that it was shot on location in Serbia in the middle of Winter. Even from the opening sequence when we first met Shadow Walker slaying off people in the rain, I love Jim Weedon‘s style and his use of music. It’s decidedly modern, even sounds a bit like John Wick‘s score, but somehow fits perfectly with the action. Weedon started out as an award-winning commercials director who also worked on some SFX work for films like Gladiator (the Elysian Field sequences).


Obviously I dug Stanley in the lead role but I also like his fellow French actor Edward Akrout who co-starred with him in BBC’s The Hollow Crown Henry V. There’s a great mano a mano sword fight between the two that’s fun to watch, but my favorite scene is the one in the woods where the Shadow Walker get to show his action hero prowess. Annabelle Wallis might not be as convincing as a leader of exiled rebels, but she has a nice enough chemistry with Stanley.

Sword of Vengeance is stylishly-shot and the decidedly stark, bleak color scheme actually looks quite artistic in contrast to all the red of the spurting blood from those who get in our hero’s way. But I think the simple, no-frills plot suits the piece. I mean the title says it all, obviously the protagonist is seeking vengeance and once it’s revealed what’s taken from him, you get why he does what he does. Yes, a bit more character development is always nice, but at a brisk 87 minutes, it was entertaining enough without overstaying its welcome.

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Glad that I’m not the only one liking this flick, this THR reviewer also said nice things about Stanley: “…the chiseled, handsome Weber, whose beautifully coiffed cornrows suggest his character had time for long hairstyling sessions between battles, is a suitably taciturn, macho hero in the Eastwood tradition, even managing to make such declarations as “Vengeance is my only belief” sound convincing.” Indeed!

So yeah, I have no qualms about liking this flick. It’s not for everyone but if you like this type of genre flick, I’d say give it a shot. I love seeing Stanley as an action hero, it just shows just how versatile he is as an actor. He did this movie whilst juggling a yet-to-be-released French WWII drama and a French stage adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie, so obviously he can handle a variety of roles.


Ok so I’m sure you have an opinion about my picks. Let’s hear it!

Guest Post – Musings from a part-time cartoon artist: Maybe some comics shouldn’t be movies

Special thanks to guest contributor Rich Watson from the film blog
Wide Screen World for today’s post.


During the opening weekend of the new Fantastic Four movie, I saw a discussion on Facebook in which people were putting it down, and more importantly, praising the original incarnation – the comic book created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961 which signaled a sea change in the industry. Among the comments included one by my cartoonist buddy Scott Roberts, whom I’ve talked about before on my blog. He questioned a notion that, in this age of comic book superhero movies, we’ve perhaps taken for granted:

“Maybe some properties are better left as they were. We’ve become conditioned to thinking that everything that was ever written, drawn, sung or even thought MUST MUST MUST be made into a movie (or “the” movie) ASAP, or it will never be an official, top tier part of our pop culture.”

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I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Fantastic Four was the comic that got me into comics, long ago during my youth – the art, the writing, the cosmic-scale adventure and the unique family dynamic all appealed to me from the start – and like many fans, I had hoped that this new movie, directed by young turk Josh Trank, would be an improvement over the Tim Story duology from less than a decade ago. It mattered to me, for what amounts to the same reason that Scott brought up, though I never admitted it to myself: I wanted it to be “legitimate” somehow. I wanted an FF movie that I could hold up next to Avengers, Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man and Superman and have it judged as good as those movies, for the sake of my childhood memories of enjoying the comic. Instead, it looks like it’s going to be one of the year’s biggest bombs.

On the one hand, this attitude is indicative of the exalted place movies still hold within our culture. In a time in which television and video games have improved their standing in the eyes of Fandom Assembled, movies are still considered the gold standard. Even with the prose novel I’m currently working on, in the back of my mind, I’ve thought about who would play which character if it ever became a movie. However, are we so in thrall to the spell movies cast on us that it blinds us to the inherent value of “lesser” media – especially when comics are concerned?

F4ComicsComics were considered “lesser” for years, looked down upon by many as juvenile and inferior. Then groundbreaking titles like The Dark Knight Returns, Maus and Sandman got noticed outside of the industry, and the way the public thought about the medium began to change. When more fans permeated Hollywood, the current wave of comic book adaptations took off: superhero material like Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man; avant-garde films like American Splendor, A History of Violence and Ghost World; and small-screen adaptations like The Walking Dead, Agents of SHIELD and Daredevil. Even Broadway has caught the bug now, with the lavish spectacle Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and the Tony-winning Fun Home. Still, for many fans, movies are the default medium of choice when imagining live-action adaptations. But why do we expect Hollywood to come calling for every hit comic?

Watchmen scribe Alan Moore has said that when he created that book with artist Dave Gibbons, he did it with an eye towards taking full advantage of the strengths of the medium – things like the deliberate nine-panel-per-page pacing, the visual transitions from one scene to the next, the way words can tell one story and pictures another simultaneously, etc. – and the result was a work that was resistant to a movie adaptation for many years, though Hollywood tried its best. Director Zack Snyder finally succeeded in 2009, and while certain elements were unable to make the original theatrical cut, such as the comic-within-a-comic “Tales of the Black Freighter” – which ran throughout Watchmen and provided a counterpoint to the main story – he came about as close as any filmmaker possibly could to capture the book’s spirit. And the film’s existence, while it may be anathema to some, doesn’t negate that of the book.

WatchmenWas it inherently wrong of Snyder to have made a Watchmen movie? Moore thought so; he had his name taken off the credits. And while some have mocked him for what could be considered an absolutist view, he’s been burned by Hollywood before. He saw no need for a Watchmen movie, but many people, many fans of the book, did. Personally, I was ambivalent at most on the matter. I didn’t really believe it would happen, and once it was announced, I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of Snyder directing it – his heavily stylized visual aesthetic, to me, seemed all wrong for an adaptation of a book by Moore, whose work is highly cerebral – but once I saw the first teaser trailer, I was as eager to see it as everyone else. Why? Because I was in thrall to the idea of a Watchmen movie, too – no matter how questionable an idea it may have seemed.

I think what it comes down to is the simple excitement one gets upon seeing what used to be static images on paper come to life – especially images first encountered as a child. That’s a terrific experience, no doubt about it, but what has happened within the past fifteen years or so is that we’ve become like the kid who loves ice cream so much, he pigs out on gallons of the stuff. We’ve become spoiled from so many successful film adaptations of beloved comics, plus adaptations in other media – but not every comic book film is an Avengers, or an American Splendor, or even a Watchmen. Sometimes we get a Fantastic Four, and when that happens, the disappointment seems more acute – especially when all three FF films have been underwhelming at best (four if you count the Roger Corman movie). And yet, Fandom wails, if only they would get X director and Y writer who will do A, B and C, they’d have the perfect FF movie! How hard can it be?

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We expect that comic-as-movie. We demand it. Appreciating comics as comics – appreciating the things they can do that set them apart from other media, like we did with Watchmen – is no longer enough anymore, in part, because we come from a very recent history of comics being under-appreciated and disrespected. I could be wrong, but I believe the idea that comics are “less” than movies remains within our collective psyche today, if only on a subconscious level.

So do we need to take a step or two back from this insatiable demand for our favorite comics to become movies? Do we need to rebuild our self-esteem when it comes to our faith in comics-as-comics? Maybe, though given how profitable comics-as-movies (and television) have become, and continue to be, for Hollywood – due partially to the slow increase in quality – this would be difficult to achieve. Fandom Assembled pores over the tiniest aspect of the development of each new comic book movie, dissecting each detail down to the microscopic level. The studios know this, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

And while there will always be those who don’t need a movie adaptation to love a particular comic… is it possible this notion is beginning to become a quaint one?


Rich Watson is entering his sixth year as the creator of the film blog Wide Screen World. As a writer, his work has been recently published in the anthology magazine Newtown Literary. As a part-time cartoonist, his works include the graphic novella Rat and the comic strip City Mouse Goes West. He can be reached at ratzo318@yahoo.com.


Well, any thoughts on this topic? Let’s hear it!