Conspicuous Trailers of the Week: Waking Sleeping Beauty Doc & Toy Story 3

Happy Friday, folks!

I happened to stumble upon the Waking Sleeping Beauty documentary last night and I just had to share. I’ve always been a fan of all the Disney’s animated features ever since I was little. Say what you will about the company, but one can’t deny their place in animation history. To this day, I still love all the Disney’s princesses (my bath towel I use every day has The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel on it!), as well as other classics like Bambi and The Lion King. So, no doubt I’m intrigued to see what really went on behind the scenes to bring those masterpieces to life.

The synopsis:

From 1984 to 1994, a perfect storm of people and circumstances changed the face of animation forever. Waking Sleeping Beauty is no fairytale. It is a story of clashing egos, out of control budgets, escalating tensions… and one of the most extraordinary creative periods in animation history. Director Don Hahn and producer Peter Schneider, key players at Walt Disney Studios Feature Animation department during the mid1980s, offer a behind—the—magic glimpse of the turbulent times the Animation Studio was going through and the staggering output of hits that followed over the next ten years. Artists polarized between the hungry young innovators and the old guard who refused to relinquish control, mounting tensions due to a string of box office flops, and warring studio heads create the backdrop for this fascinating story told with a unique and candid perspective from those that were there. Through interviews, internal memos, home movies, and a cast of characters featuring Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Roy Disney, alongside an amazing array of talented artists that includes Don Bluth, John Lasseter, and Tim Burton, Waking Sleeping Beauty shines a light on Disney Animation’s darkest hours, greatest joys and its improbable renaissance.

With Alice in Wonderland being released the first weekend in March – which is three weeks before this doc’s arrival – it’s fun to see Tim Burton working at a drawing board in his early days. I didn’t even know he used to work at Disney before, interesting stuff.

In the mid 90s, 1995 to be exact, the first Pixar feature film Toy Story was released, distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. I had no idea Joss Whedon – the creative guy behind Buffy & Firefly series – was one of the writers for that film! Fast forward to 2010, we’re awaiting the release of Toy Story 3 this Summer. Can you believe it the second sequel was a decade ago? Time flies, man! Well, the trailer looks good, as Toy Story 2 was even better than the first one, we’ll see if this one is even better yet!

Rex the goofy dino is still my favorite, but the new toys look like fun. The Ken-Barbie snippet gets a giggle every time… can’t get any more cheesy than that ‘Take My Breath Away’ song! I guess they’re going pop-culture with having Barbie and Ken in there, but who knows, the geniuses at Pixar can make it work somehow. I love it when Ken protests adamantly, “I’m not a girl’s toy. I’m not!” Ha!

But, but… where is Timothy Dalton’s voice?? Apparently Mr. Pricklepants – the hedgehog toy with thespian tendencies – has yet to be released on the Disney site, as well as a few other new toys. Perhaps the next trailer will feature his silky smooth voice :) Anyway, a Pixar-fanatic at SlashFilm posted a whole list of all the little easter eggs that the animators/designers hide in the films. It’s really quite fascinating.

What do you think, folks? Are you pumped to see either one of these?

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Upcoming Projects Spotlight: BBC’s Aurelio Zen & War of the Gods

I’m excited to hear about these two projects involving two talented but underrated British actors.

Rufus Sewell is set to play Aurelio Zen in BBC’s new detective series

Special thanks to Prairiegirl for the tip. Based on the best-selling novel by the late Michael Dibdin, Rufus will play the fictitious Italian detective that’s set in Rome. According to BBC Press Release the producers behind the BAFTA award-winning Wallander is making the three feature-length dramas with John Alexander (Small Island, Sense And Sensibility) at the helm, and Simon Burke (Sons And Lovers, White Teeth) as the writer who will adapt three of Dibdin’s novels: Cabal, Ratking, and Vendetta.

I’ve never heard of this novel before but it sounds pretty gripping. Here’s a quick synopsis of Vendetta: An impossible murder is recorded on the video system at Oscar Burolo’s Sardinian fortress. Aurelio Zen’s life is endangered as he attempts to resolve the case.

In The Guardian article, an exec producer of the film described the Aurelio Zen novels as “… much loved and they are great detective stories which are both very entertaining and full of insight into Italian life. Zen is handsome, humorous and romantic and Rufus Sewell is the perfect choice to play Didbin’s delightful creation. People love to see Italy on screen and there is a huge appetite for Italian style and culture.”

Well, one thing for sure they’ve cast the right man for the role, the Englishman’s got a versatile dark look about him that makes him fit to play diverse characters, so no doubt he could pass as an Italian. Ever since Eleventh Hour‘s canceled, I’ve been hoping to see Rufus do a really compelling project, whether it’s TV or movies, so this is good news indeed. It’s also nice to see Rufus breaks out of his villainous/bad guy roles (The Illusionist, The Holiday, The Legend of Zorro), even the actor is glad to be playing a nice guy, “I’m thrilled to be a part of this project with the opportunity to play such an intriguing, complex and likeable character.”

I’m all for Rufus in a romance so my eyes perked up when I read about the series overview: Zen’s romantic relationships have been as complicated as his cases. Although he and his wife were separated, they remained legally married for many years. For Aurelio this situation was more or less acceptable because it helped him slip out of relationships, yet he seems an expectant, hopeful lover and not at all exploitative. His romances trail off, but the women never totally disappear from his life; stray tendrils from their worlds are still tangled in his. Gemma, a glamorous, well-off divorcee with her own history, has had a longer run than most of the women because she is not particularly possessive. All of this is very Italian.

Filming will begin on location in Rome this Spring. As Prairiegirl said, our fave actor in our fave city, what more could we ask for?? Can’t wait to see this one arrive in the US courtesy of PBS Masterpiece.

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Will War of the Gods finally put Henry Cavill on the Hollywood map?

Frieda Pinto and Henry Cavill

I talked about War of the Gods (which could be retitled as Dawn of War) as far back as last July, at the time I thought it’d be made around the same time as Clash of the Titans. As it turns out, whilst Clash will be released in 3D this April, there wasn’t much news about this one until now.

SlashFilm reported that Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto has joined the cast alongside Henry Cavill (The Tudors). She’ll play Phaedra, an oracle priestess who must join young warrior Theseus (Cavill) to as he leads his men into battle with the immortal Greek gods in order to … what else, save mankind. If you think the story is identical of Clash, well, it probably is, as the same article also said that Warner Bros at one point considered buying the Gods script for their remake of the Sam Worthington movie. Apparently this one will be filmed in similar style as 300, no surprise I guess as it’s produced by the same studio, Relativity Media, and its producers Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton previously partnered with 300 director Zack Snyder.

Now, the reason this movie was on my radar in the first place was because of Tarsem Singh, the Indian-born director behind the visual spectacle fantasy flick The Fall (if you haven’t seen this already, add it to your Netflix queue pronto!). I was really impressed with that movie, which starred Lee Pace, another actor I wish to see more of. A year ago, Tarsem told Empire about his vision of this Greek epic:
“It’s turning into, basically, Caravaggio meets Fight Club,” he said. “It’s a really hardcore action film done in Renaissance painting style. I want to see how that goes; it’s turned into something really cool. This guy who I really love, who’s the only one person in it right now, is the brother in The Tudors, Henry Cavill. I’m going for a very contemporary look on top of that so I’m kind of going with, you know, Renaissance time with electricity. So it’s a bit like Baz Luhrman doing Romeo + Juliet in Mexico; it’s just talking a particular Greek tale and half contemporising it and telling it.”

WOW! That sounds so bizarre, in a good way, and after seeing The Fall, I have confidence we’ll see something extraordinary from this guy. We might even see this in 3D also, which could be the reason for the movie’s year-long delay. The 3D production cost could add about $15 million to the already hefty budget of $115 million. As much as I’m eager to see what Tarsem will bring to the table with this one, I’m more curious if this’ll be the breakthrough role for Henry Cavill. As I mentioned before, Cavill previously lost out to Daniel Craig (James Bond in Casino Royale), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Christian Bale (Batman Begins) and Robert Pattinson (Edward in Twilight). Yikes! That’s four iconic roles, enough to make any actor bitter. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case here, and I’m hopeful this project will boost his career.

Now, Clash has some big name thespians like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes playing the Greek gods, I wonder if War will add the same caliber actors to the cast? Perhaps someone like Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi or my ultimate wishlist: Alan Rickman? A girl can dream! :)

Random Thoughts: What critical darlings you can’t sing praises of?

Happy Tuesday, readers!

Critics everywhere seem to fall all over themselves in declaring The Hurt Locker a landmark movie-making achievement, giving director Kathryn Bigelow one major award after another, which in and of itself is a record as she’s the first female director who’ve won some of these awards. I finally saw it this past weekend – with my my expectation set quite high given all the positive buzz – and well, for the life of me, I can’t figure what’s all the fuss is about.

As I started working on my review, I kept thinking how underwhelming it was. I mean, I thought it was just okay… you could even say it’s a good film, but a milestone? Hmmm, I don’t know about that. I guess this isn’t the first time I disagree with the critics, a couple other recent movies that I had really high hopes for didn’t quite deliver: Up and Bright Star (read my full review). I don’t know if I’ll ever get to writing a full review for The Hurt Locker and Up, but let me just say that despite some great scenes and performances that perhaps merit some acknowledgments, overall I don’t think they’re worth all the critical praises (both of them are almost 100% fresh on rottentomatoes!) and all the awards they’ve reaped.

Let’s talk about The Hurt Locker as it’s still fresh in my mind. Castor at Anomalous Material highlighted some of the preposterous scenarios in the movie, which practically echoes the sentiments voiced in this Huffington Post article. Now, I don’t claim to know much about military facts, so my critique is more about how the movie’s done and whether it works as an engaging/stimulating cinematic experience for me. The answer to that is not quite. In the end, it just didn’t leave that big of an impression on me. Sure it’s got some intense, edge-of-your-seat thrills, but I didn’t come away forming any emotional attachment with any of the major characters (in fact, I was easily distracted by the cameos of big-name actors such as Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes). For instance, I have no idea why the protagonist was indulging in such risky behavior (somewhat recklessly at times as he risked his fellow soldiers’ lives), is it because he’s addicted to the adrenaline rush of war (like the opening line of the movie suggested) or was there something more? I find that another war-themed movie that shares a similar sense of realism and grittiness, District 9, tugs at my heart strings more. Somehow I felt more ‘connected’ to and thus care more for Sharlto Copley’s Wikus than Jeremy Renner’s James, it’s that bond with the character that I find lacking in The Hurt Locker.

Hmmm, I guess that’s a cliff-notes version of my review. What I meant to do with this post is to pose this question to you readers: what critically-acclaimed movie(s) have you seen lately that are somewhat of a letdown? Whether the hype is from film critics/bloggers or perhaps the movie is from your favorite genre or by a director you love, so you’ve been somewhat predisposed to liking. And, on the flip side, are there movie the critics trashed that you actually like? Let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: Inglourious Basterds

InglouriousBasterdsPoster
Ok, 2 down, 10 more to go. As I mentioned in my Oscar nom musings, I’ve got twelve movies to catch up on by Oscar time (both nominated for Best Picture and those that feature Oscar-nominated performances). In the past 2 weeks, I finally caught this one and The Hurt Locker, here’s what I generally think of it.

Since the movie is divided into five chapters, I thought I’d break down my review into five main parts just for the heck of it. Now, I’m not hugely familiar with Tarantino’s work, nor did I know much about his movie influences as this LA Times article pointed out. I have no qualms with him ‘borrowing’ certain aspects from obscure or foreign movies, as long as he’s able to make those scenes his own with his own actors and approach/style, which is exactly what he did in this movie.

Before I continue, here’s the plot:

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds”, led by Lt. Aldo Raine, are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.

PART I: The Story

Before I saw this I expected it to be an ultra-violent anti-Nazi flick, a revenge fantasy with Tarantino’s brand of panache and style. Well it was all that indeed, but it’s also so much more. The Basterds are absolutely hell-bent on revenge, but there’s more to the story than what Lt. Aldo (Brad Pitt) and the gang are up to. Their mission is cleverly interwoven with the story of Soshana Dreyfuss (Melanie Laurent), the sole survivor when his family was ambushed early on. There are many layers to the story, one knotty predicament after another — thanks to the shrewdness of Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) — keeps on unfolding until it builds to a gratifying climax.

PART 2: Direction

It’s quite obvious that Tarantino must’ve paid homage to old-school film-making style in the opening sequence. It’s a long continuous shot of just two people – a French farmer and Col. Landa – conversing. That scene runs for a good 10-15 minutes with the camera focusing between the two characters and not much else, yet the dialogue (switching from French to foreign-accented English) and the expression of the French farmer  is immensely tense. This is one of the three segments of the movie where I literally had to get away from the room and distract myself in order to calm my nerves. Of course after my husband assured me it wasn’t “that bad” that I came back and he re-wound the scene for me to watch. It’s an absolutely brilliant opening sequence that pretty much establish Christoph Waltz as one extraordinary actor. I was in for a surprise how much dialog-centric the script was, not so much a gore-fest merely to satisfy fans of the Saw franchise, despite Hostel director Eli Roth’s involvement. Yet, even the more talky scenes are so charged with suspense that my every nerve was stretched to its snapping point.

PART 3: Acting

The marvelous Christoph Waltz

There’s no doubt that Christoph Waltz is a revelation in this movie. He practically steals every single scene he’s in, he’s got that delicate combination of being comical yet deranged, a Nazi Patrick Bateman, but with less affinity for business cards surely. Many times during the movie I actually stopped and marveled how good his performance was, and the Austrian actor’s  knack for languages is even more mind-boggling, such a talent that’s as potent a weapon as any rifle. I could write an entire post on him the way I did for District 9‘s Sharlto Copley, he really is that good! According to NY Times, the Tarantino admitted “I knew Landa was one of the best characters I’ve ever written and probably one of the best characters I will ever write” and  thus “I literally had to consider I might have written an unplayable part.” Without Waltz, Tarantino might’ve given up making this movie and I agree, under less capable hands, Col. Landa would’ve been nothing more than a sadistic caricature villain. No wonder he’s nabbed just about every award given out this year, with last night’s BAFTA being the latest, and he’s definitely a shoo-in for Oscar.

Besides Waltz, the rest of the cast is also terrific. It’s no secret that I’m not a Brad Pitt fan, but he actually suited his character perfectly. Just like Ben Affleck, he’s got a real gift in comedy as I liked him more here than his more serious roles. Diane Krueger proves she’s more than a pretty face here, but it’s French actress Melanie Laurent that truly stands out to to me. Her scenes at the restaurant is such an exquisitely-controlled and affecting performance, her expression as Col. Landa finally leaves the room is one that stayed with me for a long time. She’s definitely overlooked in this year’s award season. Major eye candy Michael Fassbender is fantastic here and his bar scene is soooo full of suspense. LOVE a man in uniform and he definitely looks great in one. German actor Til Schweiger is quite good as one of Basterds’ allies, oh, even Mike Myers has a pretty memorable cameo.

Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender

PART 4: Accent, accent, accent

If I wrote this post about movie accents after seeing this movie, I’d have listed it as one of the best examples of using subtitles. The way a person speak is an integral plot point here so naturally the actors have to pull off the various accents believably. I really enjoyed listening to the different languages spoken here (most notably by Mr. Waltz who speaks French, German, English and Italian fluently), it makes the movie all the more richer and adds a tinge of ‘foreign film’ flavor to it. Accent truly becomes a matter of life and death during the meeting point of “Operation Kino” at the basement of a French tavern, it’s one of the most nerve-racking and violent scenes in the movie, but the dialogue is absolutely to-die-for. Best movie sequence I’ve seen in a long time!

PART 5: Other observations: music and costumes

1940s costume is utterly fabulous!

The music is as quirky as the film itself. It doesn’t exactly fit the period but it certainly fits the scene and when put together, it just works. I mean, you’d never think of pairing renowned composer like Ennio Morricone (Cinema Paradiso) with cuts from David Bowie, that’s exactly what Tarantino did. This L.A. Times blog wrote about the method of how the Tennessee native went about choosing the right song for a particular scene, and how unlike other directors, he doesn’t work with a songwriter to custom-made a song for his movies, “… he handpicks each song and painstakingly injects them into scenes instead of simply hiring a music composer to do the work.”

Tarantino also pays careful attention to the beautiful costumes in his first period film, as costume designer Anna Sheppard said in this interview. The fabulous 1940s fashion provides a nice distraction from all the violent scalping and shooting scenes, there’s almost a Cinderella moment (with a nasty twist of course) with Col. Landa slipping on her pump on Bridget von Hammersmark’s delicate foot. The red dress that Melanie Laurent wore at the pivotal night at the cinema is almost as memorable as her iconic performance.

All in all Inglourious Basterds is a glorious film that truly exceeds my expectation in many levels. If you have reservations about this as you’re not really a ‘Tarantino fan’, give it a chance. Trust me, you’d be glad you did.


What are your thoughts of this film?

Happy Birthday Alan Rickman!

Mr. Rickman turns 64 today.

Thought I’d give a short tribute to him as he’s one of my favorite British actors. I first saw him as the captivating villain Hans Grubber in Die Hard, stealing scenes from action hero Bruce Willis. He also plays another memorable villainous role as the tyrannical Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, again nearly outshining the lead actor Kevin Costner. But he’s just as wonderful in his more tender roles, as the romantic ghost in Truly, Madly, Deeply (thanks to my ESL teacher who introduced me to that film) and of course my all-time favorite, as the noble Col. Brandon in Sense & Sensibility. How could Marianne fall for the young, impetuous Willoughby when she’s got such a regal man with silky, smooth voice like Christopher Brandon swooning over her?!

Just the way he looked at Marianne here practically melts the heart of every woman everywhere:

To prove his versatility, Rickman also shines in his comedic roles, most notably in the hilarious sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest. He’s also adept at singing in Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp. Is it any wonder he’s chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#34) in 1995? We can see hear him next as the voice of Caterpillar in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Here’s wishing for a lasting acting career for Mr. Rickman!

Friday Guilty Pleasure Flix: The Man in the Iron Mask

Happy Friday, everybody! It’s a short week since I got Monday off but boy has it been a hectic one.

Back in November, I revealed one of many guilty pleasure flix, and since Shutter Island opens today in theaters after being delayed for four months, I thought it’d be fun to feature one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s work. In anticipation of the Scorsese’s film, my blogger friend M. Carter has started a countdown ten days ago, Rotten Tomatoes featured DiCaprios’s top ten best movies and another blogger wrote a fan-appreciation post for the 35 year-old actor. Now, The Man in the Iron Mask is unlikely to end up in such best list, or even merit an honorable mention. But isn’t that the point of a guilty pleasure? You love it anyway even if it’s ‘rotten’ :)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen this one, the story is basically a follow-up to the legendary tale of The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas where Leo plays a dual role of the cruel King Louis XIV as well as the imprisoned secret twin brother Phillipe. Curiously, this is his follow-up movie right after Titanic, when he was pretty much the Rob Pattinson of his day. What’s impressive about this movie is the cast. I mean, it’s mind-boggling how many Oscar and Golden Globe winners/nominees are in this flick: Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich and Gerard Depardieu make up the musketeers: Aramis, Athos, Porthos; Gabriel Byrne as the courageous d’Artagnan; Hugh Laurie as the King’s advisor and Peter Sarsgaard as Raoul, Athos’ only son.

I gotta admit I saw this movie because of Leo Jack Dawson (like most girls I too fell under his spell, just briefly though, I find him too boyish looking now). But in this flick, I totally fell for Gabriel Byrne as the dashing and regal d’Artagnan. Though billed as a DiCaprio movie due to his massive popularity, Byrne’s the heart & soul of the movie, his performance as the conflicted man carrying a pivotal secret is absolutely terrific, he brings a surprising depth to this archetypal character. The rest of the cast was great too, John Malkovich is a bit over-the-top at times but hey, it’s John Malkovich, what do you expect? Jeremy Irons play his Jesuit priest with wit and whimsy and Depardieu is the fun comic relief. Leo himself is pretty convincing playing the tricky dual roles, especially as Louie where he often has to act with his eyes alone. It’s not Oscar worthy by any means, but enough to prove he is one pretty boy with acting chops to boot. It also proves DiCaprio can’t do accent, a French king with barely a hint of a French burr, and he sounds exactly the same as both characters.

The script is cliche-laden and the story is all too familiar, but there are some amusing dialogue here and there, especially between the three musketeers who have good chemistry with each other. The movie’s also gorgeous to look at (except perhaps Leo’s ghastly haircut), lush setting + beautiful costumes, especially at the grand masquerade.

I find this movie highly entertaining and the soundtrack is pretty great, too. Hmmm, I wouldn’t mind re-watching this one again soon!


Have you seen this one folks? Well, what did you think?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: CENTURION

I’m all for swords & sandals flicks, so naturally I’m intrigued by this Roman empire feature Centurion when I first read about it in Empire a couple of months ago. The fact that it stars one of my top ten actors to watch Michael Fassbender doesn’t hurt, either. I first noticed the rising German/Irish star as Stelios in 300, which was then followed by acclaimed indie projects Hunger and Fish Tank, and more prominently Inglourious Basterds. In this movie, he’s starring alongside another 300 alum Dominic West, both seem to have better success retaining their buff physiques than King Leonidas himself (but I still love you Gerry Butler!) ;)

Anyway, the trailer arrives last week, check it out below:

Synopsis: Based on the legend of the Ninth Legion, an army of 3000 unstoppable Roman warriors who vanished without trace, Centurion is the tale of their vicious conflict with a murderous adversary, the Picts. Quintus Dias (Fassbender), a Roman corporal, is taken hostage by the Pict King, Gorlacon and the Ninth are charged with bringing him home and ending Pict domination of Britain. Led by General Virilus (Dominic West) and guided by a Pict prisoner and warrior woman named Etain (Olga Kurylenko), the army marches towards enemy territory and finds itself in the midst of a perilous battle with a mysterious foe.

Most blogs featuring this trailer raved about it, but my initial reaction is meh, it’s like a poor man’s Gladiator. I mean I’m not dissing it for it’s low-budget as a movie obviously doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. I just feel like I’ve seen it all before, and again the Romans are depicted as the good guys here. The beginning reminds me of the opening scene of the Ridley Scott epic when the Maximus-led Romans attacked Germania, it’s probably was filmed in the exact same forest! The intensely brutal fight sequences are to pretty typical in this genre, though given the director Neil Marshall is known for bloodthirsty/gory flicks like Doomsday and The Descent (neither of seems like something I’d enjoy watching), the level of savagery level might be off the charts.

The cliché-laden catchphrases are kind of ho-hum, “We live united or die divided!” and “I’m a soldier of Rome! I will not yield!” They just don’t carry the same gravitas as “At my signal, unleash hell!” or “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Then there’s every male’s favorite tough-chick Olga Kurylenko, who didn’t impress me much in Quantum of Solace (and even less so in the dreadful Hitman). She seems nothing more than eye candy for the dudes and from the reaction of the male bloggers out there, that’s probably all she needs to be.

Fassbender looks like he fits the part well, but it’s hardly a far-reaching role for him. I’m more interested to see him as Rochester in the latest Jane Eyre adaptation, which has lined up a pretty impressive cast, apparently Judi Dench, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) and Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) have just been added.

Anyway, no US release date is set for Centurion, but the UK release is April 23, 2010. What do you think, folks? Yay or nay for you? It’s definitely a rental for me just on account of Fassbender.

Casting & Misc. News: Superhero Edition

With the way Hollywood’s been at it these days, every news might as well be a Superhero edition. Here’s what’s been circulating so far, and let’s start with the biggest shocker of the bunch (and because I’ve always had a soft spot for the Man of Steel for as long as I can remember):

  • Christopher Nolan to ‘mentor’ the new Superman movie

    The famed Superman illustration by Alex Ross

    Most of you’ve probably heard and mulled over this one. As a Superman fan, I kind of have mixed feelings about this. The first time I heard it though, I took it as good news, as I adore Nolan and that everything he touches seems to be gold (clearly I have super high hopes for Inception). To those just tuning in, it’s been widely reported that the British director of the Batman franchise has been tapped by Warner Bros. to ‘save’ the Superman franchise, so more like an ‘advisor’ instead of actually directing the movie. Superman Returns has been regarded as a ‘flop’ (despite the $391 million worldwide gross) and critical dud by critics and moviegoers alike. Perhaps because of it that Bryan Singer’s moved back to the X-Men franchise, leaving the DC hero franchise in serious limbo.

    Anyway, now that I think about it, I’m not so sure anymore if bringing Nolan to reboot (ugh, I’m so tired of hearing that word!) Superman is such a grand idea. I was going to post my thoughts but this article kind of summed up my reservations about it, especially his first point that Supes isn’t a ‘dark’ hero like Batman is. I mean, in all seriousness, he wears his underwear on the outside for crying out loud. And he represents what’s good in society with his “truth, justice, and the American way” motto, and Clark Kent is a bumbling nerd (which is what I love about him), he’s the polar opposite of the sullen, conflicted but suave Bruce Wayne.

    Brandon Routh as Superman

    In any case, even long before the project secures an actual director, the rumor mill is spreading faster than a speeding bullet in regard to this burning question: Who should play the Kryptonian hero? Superman Returns‘ Brandon Routh’s contract has expired a while ago (though that didn’t stop him from making the most of his role in his guest stint in NBC’s CHUCK), and since WB is considering going to a whole new direction, I don’t think there’s any chance Routh will be back. Before I go on, let me just say that I actually think Routh is pretty good as Supes (particularly as Clark), but given that the movie is supposed to be a continuation of the first two of  Christopher Reeve’s version, he was simply told to ‘channel’ the late actor’s performance (a herculean task for any actor). Let bygones be bygones I guess. Some sites have started to post on Superman casting (such as  this one from The Geek Files blog and this one with some rather unconventional choices… I mean Joseph Gordon-Levitt?? Spidey maybe but Supes??). I must say I’m leaning towards The TudorsHenry Cavill, who’s almost cast as Supes (he even wore the cape according to MTV movie news) that ended up going to Routh. As I said in a previous post, Cavill also lost out to Daniel Craig as Bond. Check out this fan-made Photoshop work of Cavill in the blue suit. Well, he certainly looks the part, and the fact that he was considered by Singer might give him an edge. Who knows.
    ….

  • Batman 3 in motionhmmm, really?
    There’s probably no other film of any kind as buzz-worthy as Batman 3. Even as soon as The Dark Knight is released, the rumor mill hasn’t let off! Well, the latest ‘news’ is that Nolan will still to be at the helm as soon as he wraps Inception. According to /Film, his brother Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer (who co-wrote Batman Begins & The Dark Knight) are currently working on the draft of the untitled Batman flick based on Chris Nolan’s story idea. I don’t particularly care who the villain(s) are going to be, just so long as Nolan and the original cast are in, that’s good enough for me. 

  • James Cameron to assist Marc Webb in bringing Spiderman to 3D
    I mentioned in my last news post that (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb has been tapped to reboot the Spiderman franchise. Well, looks like the relatively newbie director (500 Days was Webb’s debut) gets a mighty collaborator in bringing the web-ed superhero (pun intended) into the third dimension. It’s no secret that Cameron is a huge fan of the franchise, even as far back as early 90s, he even did a storyboard of it. But I guess now he’s happy enough to live his Spidey directorial dream vicariously through somebody else. Reportedly, Cameron is a big fan of Webb’s work, ““Jim loved (500) Days of Summer,” according to [Avatar producer] Jon Landau. “It’s not something that you would think is necessarily in his wheelhouse, but he really enjoyed that.”(Collider).
  • Sam Worthington is the next Bond? Say it ain’t so!
    Not another week go by without rumor of Sam Worthington in some new project. Ok, I like the guy and he’s probably one of the most promising young actors working today but seriously, must he be involved in e-v-e-r-y single project out there?! The last few months alone, he’s been rumored to be get this: Captain America, Dracula, Flash Gordon, and now… James Bond? Well, according to this article, the Aussie actor might step into Daniel Craig’s shoes as he’s delayed shooting the latest Bond film to do other projects (he’s currently filming Dream House in Toronto with Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts). Ah, even without a Bond movie he’s still surrounded by beautiful women. Sorry I digress.
    >>
    I’m not too keen on this idea. I think even though Quantum of Solace is kind of a mess, I still think Craig makes for a great Bond and it’s just silly to replace him after just two outings. Especially with Sam Mendes directing, it definitely has a lot of potential. As much as I like Worthington – and he may be all right in the role – I really hope this is just a pesky rumor and that the Bond producers have the good sense to think this through.

So what do you think about any of these news, folks? I’m particularly curious what you think about the whole Superman reboot with Nolan.

Five Memorable American Movie Presidents

Happy President’s Day, folks!

PresidentsDayMtRushmore

In celebration of American presidents in the past 234 years, here are five actors who’ve played the role of U.S. Commander in Chief in the past couple of decades:

  1. Michael Douglas – Andrew Shepherd in The American President (1995)
    This movie is full of great scenes between Douglas and his love interest played brilliantly by Annette Benning, but this telephone banter that ends up with the prez asking her out is absolutely endearing. Of course there’s also the rousing speech that’s arguably one of the best movie speeches ever, and one that’s worthy to be in one of my top 20 favorite scenes list.
    ….

  2. Morgan Freeman – Tom Beck in Deep Impact (1998)
    Cool and collected even in a major crisis. With a regal stature and deep, soothing voice, Mr. Beck is the kind of leader we all wish to have suppose a giant meteor threatens to wipe out the entire humanity. ‘We will prevail. Life will go on,’ he said in the movie, and as implausible and absurd as the circumstances seemed to be, we’re somehow inclined to believe him.


  3. Kevin Kline – William Harrison Mitchell in Dave (1993)
    One minute Dave Kovic is just a regular guy who does uncanny impersonation, the next he’s in the same bedroom in the White house with the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver). Kline’s brand of mischievous humor is perfect for this role, and this scene where he sings the entire chorus of Anne in the middle of a traffic stop is a real hoot! Equally memorable in this flix is Frank Langella as Chief of Staff Bob Alexander. A decade and a half later, he scored an Oscar nomination playing a historical president Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

    Apparently isn’t the only time he plays the prez, he played the role of the 18th US President Ulysses S. Grant in the Western action-comedy Wild Wild West with Will Smith.
    ….

  4. Bill Pullman – Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day (1996)
    Whitmore’s freedom speech is unabashedly mawkish, sure, but hey, if some giant aliens were about to annihilate the entire earth population, I think one’s allowed to get just a tad sentimental, no?
    ….

    ….
  5. Donald Moffat – President Bennett in Clear and Present Danger (1994)
    The confrontation between President Bennett and an infuriated Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) in the Oval Office remains one of my fave scenes of the movie.
    ….
    The President:
    How dare you come in here and lecture me!
    Jack Ryan:
    How dare *you*, sir!
    The President:
    How dare you come into this office and bark at me like some little junkyard dog? I am the President of the United States!
    ….
    I couldn’t find the exact scene, but it’s embedded in the trailer below:
    ….

    ….
    Of course my favorite line comes from the heroic CIA analyst himself after Bennett’s spiel on who gets punished for ‘Reciprocity’ (from IMDb quotes page): “I’m sorry, Mr. President, I don’t dance.” Bennett’s expression as Ryan walked out is priceless! The 80-year-old Brit has played a US president twice, the other time as historical prez Lyndon B. Johnson in The Right Stuff.

Hmmm, I just realized all of them on this list are from the 90s. It’s pure coincidence really, I guess I can’t really remember one memorable movie prez of the last decade. They all seem to be the daft caricatures: the doofus version Dennis Quaid played in American Dreamz, the sleazeball one in Love, Actually (Billy Bob Thornton), and Tim Robbins in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Any other movie president(s) stick out to you?

My favorite unconventionally romantic flix

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, readers!
Whether or not you’re spending it with a special someone — be it spending time with friends/family or simply doing something you love — I hope your day’s filled with things that bring you joy.

As I’ve mentioned in my Friday post, below are some of my favorites that don’t exactly follow the conventional formula of courtship. I certainly would rather re-watch these ten times over before I shell out my hard earned $$ to see the ensemble crap cast rom-com Valentine’s Day in the theater (but apparently I’m in the minority as it’s the number movie at the box office this weekend.

Anyhoo, here they are:….

  • Jane Austen’s movies: Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice

    Col. Brandon & Elinor in Sense & Sensibility

    Ok, so all of Austen movies do end happily. But slow-burn romances mixed with a few misunderstandings thrown in seems to be a reliable recipe for irresistible love stories. S & S is one of my all-time favorites of all genres as it’s features not one but two bewitching characters: Elinor Dashwood & Col. Brandon, whose love for Edward Ferrars and Marianne Dashwood respectively seems for a time hopelessly unrequited. But that doesn’t make them bitter or unkind, in fact, their love seems to exemplify this Bible verse: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4 … Though I’ve seen this movie a gazillion times, the scene towards the end where Elinor’s whimpering uncontrollably as she can’t contain her emotion any longer never fails to get me sobbing as well!

    On a related note, I adore Persuasion‘s story of second chance at love, though since the 1995’s version with Ciaran Hinds, there hasn’t been a decent film adaptation. The BBC version left much to be desired, mostly the lack of chemistry between the two leads (though hunky Rupert Penry-Jones makes for a striking leading man) and uninspired direction – having the heroine Anne Elliot running about town is just plain silly. With a ton of trite remakes of flicks that shouldn’t even be made in the first place, I long to see the beguiling love story between Anne and Capt. Wentworth gets a chance to come alive again on the big screen!
    ….

  • BBC’s miniseries North & South
    Mill owner John Thornton and Margaret Hale didn’t meet cute the way most rom-coms start with. In fact, they met under the most brutal of circumstances as she witnessed him beat the living daylight out of his mill employee. But love works in mysterious ways. Evidently nothing – not his possessive mother, initial prejudices, even economic collapse – can keep these two apart. When we saw this on one of our gals’ monthly movie nites, every girl in the room pretty much fell for Richard Armitage’s mesmerizing Mr. Thornton. Thornton and Margaret’s restrained passion definitely gives P&P’s beloved couple Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennett a serious run for their money! If I were to make a list of best movie kisses like Hatter did, this breathtaking one at the end of this miniseries definitely takes the cake.


  • A Walk in the Clouds
    Whaddayaknow, one of my favorites Keanu Reeve’s movies is a chick flick! He isn’t the most expressive actors of the bunch, but he’s quite convincing here as a soldier who finds love when he least expects it. Paul Sutton’s just on the way home from war to be with his wife when he bumps into (literally) Victoria Aragorn on a bus who’s pregnant out of wedlock. Paul offers to pose as her husband after she tells him her traditional father would kill her if he knew her condition. He and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón share a warm chemistry, and the lush and romantic scenery of the Napa vineyards she aptly refers to as ‘the clouds’ definitely gets you in head-in-the-clouds frame of mind.
    ….
  • P.S. I Love You
    I’m still puzzled as to why the critics hate this movie so much. Everyone I talked to, even my guy friends + my hubby, actually enjoyed it, even if they won’t openly admit so. The opening scene of a married couple bickering in their apartment is both funny, sweet and surprisingly real. I also LOVE the catchy tune “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” by Camera Obscura in the beginning credits! At first I thought Hillary Swank is miscast in the role of Holly but given the weighty subject of dealing with the loss of a husband, she actually offers the right balance of pathos and exuberance her character needs. Gerry Butler follows his ultra-machismo role in 300 by playing the goofy but tender-hearted dead husband. The flashback scenes show him at his funniest and most appealing, he’s so darn charming you’ll be more than willing to forgive him for his ghastly Irish accent :) The best part is, I love how this movie leaves the ending open for possibilities, instead of rushing to pair Holly with another soul mate that sweeps her off her feet.

  • Lost in Translation
    Arguably one of Bill Murray’s best roles – and perhaps Scarlett Johansson’s as well – it’s a poignant tale of an unlikely friendship of a jaded movie star and a young neglected newlywed that grew into something more. I know this movie’s kind of an acquired taste as some people actually loathe it, but I though it’s not exactly ‘entertaining’ from start to finish, this movie had me in tears both in laughter and sadness. The ‘lip my stocking’ and other thigh-slapping scenes are obviously hilarious, but they’re not just ‘ha-ha’ funny as they’re tinged with heartache. Their unconsummated May-December romance is heartfelt and beautifully acted, and the unsugar-coated ending is exquisitely touching.
  • Return to Me
    I’ve written a whole post dedicated to this movie for good reason. The relationship of Bob & Grace is as unconventional as they come, and David Duchovny and Minnie Driver definitely deserves a spot in top ten movie couples list..
    ….
  • (500) Days of Summer (full review)
    I don’t think I need to explain this one. Billed as the anti rom-com, it’s a fresh and inventive look at relationship and how expectations hardly ever translate to reality. Great performances, witty script and innovative direction makes this one of the best modern love story of this generation.
  • Roman Holiday
    I absolutely adore this movie! The best love story is the unexpected kind, and neither Princess Anne nor American reporter Joe Bradley ever set out to fall for each other. Two extremely charismatic actors, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, plus the enchanting city of Rome they wander though makes for a lovely, whimsical and downright romantic classic. Despite the dreamy quality, I love how this movie has the good sense of not resorting to some fanciful, far-fetched denouement. In fact, the movie is all the more sweeter and meaningful because of it.
    ….
  • The Painted Veil
    Unlike a lot of romances, this one actually happens after the wedding.
    The story takes place in China in the 1920s, which tells the story of a mid-class doctor (Ed Norton) who marries an upper-class woman (Naomi Watts) and moves to Shanghai. As I said in my full review, it’s a rare gem that tells a wonderful human drama without being too cutesy or overly romantic. Love is more than a bed of roses or candlelit dinner, sometimes it’s mystifying and even thorny, but always worth fighting for.
  • Somewhere in Time
    For the hopeless romantic in all of us, this fantastical time-travel love story gets me every time. It’s an absolute requirement to have a box of tissue handy when you watch this movie. Forget Lois Lane. Christopher Reeve’s most heartbreaking movie romance is with Jane Seymour, as he won’t let the 60-year span between them get in the way.

    After falling in love with a photo of the beautiful actress Elise McKenna, playwright Richard Collier self-hypnotizes and wills himself to be transported back to 1912. He ends up meeting the woman of his dreams and they fall in love, but between Elise’s jealous manager (Christopher Plummer) and the time matter itself, can their love survive? If you’re not moved by John Barry’s lush score and the haunting Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini that runs throughout the film, you ought to check your pulse.

….
I realize with a list like this, I probably commit a ‘sin of omission’ either because my memory fails me, or I simply have not had the pleasure of seeing those you don’t see on this list, as some fellow bloggers have already pointed out last Friday.

So readers, what else have I missed? Please sound off in the comment section.