Scene Spotlight: Changing seasons – Notting Hill

I’ve been having a serious case of Spring fever of late – as practically everybody in my neck of the woods – as we seem to be skipping March and goes directly to May. The Twin Cities have had NO SNOW the entire month, not even any real wind chill to speak off. I mean, the typical temp for this time of year is 47˚F (that’s 8˚C for those outside of USA), but yesterday we hit 73 degrees! Today we may even be flirting with 80˚!! I mean, that’s no doubt tank-top-and-sandals weather, people!! Though on the way to work yesterday morning, I saw a woman pretty much freezing her bums off in her short skirts as the wind still made it feel quite nippy.
NottingHillChangingSeasons

Therefore, I thought it’d be fitting to celebrate this definitely welcome the change of season with this scene from Notting Hill. Despite its blatant scmaltzy and lovey-dovey-ness, it’s perhaps one of the better rom-com out there, if not for the terrific all-British supporting cast and charming sidekicks Rhys Ifans and Emma Chambers — as Hugh Grant’s hilarious roommate and googly-eyed sister, respectively.

Set to Bill Withers’ soulful tune Aint No Sunshine When She’s Gone, it follows Grant’s William Thacker walking through the area of Notting Hill during the four seasons: summer, fall, winter and spring, as he mends his broken heart over Julia Roberts’ movie star Anna Scott.

According to IMDb trivia, the long shot was actually four different shots, all filmed the same day. Computer technology morphed the actor seamlessly from one shot to the next. It’s definitely a lovely and clever way to display the shift from one season to the next, a far cry from this ‘imaginative’ way this popular teen vampire flick did to signify the same thing.

I also chose this scene as my hubby and I are planning celebrate our 7th anniversary with a trip to London, yay! Unfortunately, since we’re not US citizens yet, there’s a vigorous UK Visa process we have to go through, including a biometric appointment (where we have to be finger-printed at an immigration office!). God willing everything will go smoothly and within 45 days we’d be walking where Hugh did in the photo above. So pardon the lack of posts in the next few weeks as I’ll be preoccupied with planning our trip, but there might be quite a few of ‘London-themed’ posts from now until mid May! :)


What do you think of Notting Hill and/or this scene?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Tourist

Jolie & Depp in The Tourist

It’s too early to start my Top Ten Anticipated 2011 Flicks, but this one will surely be on that list. I’m certainly psyched more for the supporting cast than the leads. When I first heard about it as far back as last November, it was still a ‘revolving-door’ sort of project with directors and cast coming and going. But it looks like as soon as Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are on board, the project seems to be moving right along and looks like the two are surrounded by a talented British cast.

Dalton & Berkoff

About a month ago or so, Rufus Sewell and Paul Bettany were cast. I’m a big fan of Rufus so that was definitely awesome news, but then last week, yet another fave actor of mine Timothy Dalton is joining the cast, along with another British thespian Steven Berkoff. Just a bit of trivia: Berkoff is the director who took a chance on young Gerard Butler when he cast him in his theater play Coriolanus. Interesting that both actors have acting roots in theater, as well as a James Bond connection (I guess a Bond geek like me would find that amusing :) ) Dalton obviously played the role twice (The Living Daylight & License to Kill), and Berkoff played Bond’s nemesis General Orlov in Octopussy.

German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others) is at the helm of the spy thriller. The plot revolves around Frank Taylor, an American tourist visiting Italy to mend a broken heart. Cara Mason is an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path and throws him into a whirlwind of intrigue and danger.

It hasn’t been revealed what roles the added cast members will play in the movie. News in Film writer recently reviewed a draft script by Julian Fellowes — who won Best Original Screenplay for Gosford Park, and recently penned The Young Victoria — and let’s just say he wasn’t impressed: “Without a strong third act, the script reads like a spy romance novel and a cheap Jason Bourne knock-off.  There are sultry exchanges, multiple chase scenes, and a shootout or two, but the action seems familiar and the mystery leads no where.”

Well, I guess it’s to early to tell how the final film will turns out to be, but based on the characters mentioned in the draft, I’m going to take a stab at speculating who’ll play which role:

  • Alexander Pearce: an international thief and cunning numbers man, personal friend (or lover) of Cara (Dalton?)
  • Ivan Demidov: a particularly angry Russian mobster (Berkoff?)
  • Ackerman: a “Tommy Lee Jones [type] from The Fugitive” (Bettany?)
  • One of the government agents who’s after Pearce (Sewell?)

Well, we’ll see how far off I am once they reveal the info.

Depp & Jolie filming in Venice & Paris – Photos courtesy of Movieweb.com

It’s interesting that in my blog stats several days ago, there’s a particular search term someone used to get to my blog: ‘Why British always villains?‘ Ha! Good question, why are they always playing the bad guys?? In the case of this movie, the Brits are very likely to be playing villains again as Jolie and Depp are the only two American main players.

Anyhoo, judging from the on-set photos in Paris and Venice, this is shaping up to be a good looking film (gorgeous people in gorgeous scenery!) If anything, it’ll make us want to be a tourist at those exotic locations!!

Happy Belated Birthday, Timothy Dalton!

Thanks to Andy from Fandango Groovers who reminded me that last Sunday 3/21 was Timothy’s 66th birthday. In honor of the actor, the James Bond enthusiast blogger posted this brilliant idea about a revolutionary James Bond flick starring Mr. Dalton as the older British spy, with Colin Farrell as 006 and Quentin Tarantino at the helm. It’s a crazy and fanciful concept but wow, that’s definitely something I’d watch in a heartbeat!

Dalton's gritty Bond was way ahead of his time

After playing iconic characters such as Bond, Jane Eyre’s Rochester, Julius Caesar, now the Welsh thespian will add Mr. Pricklepants to his resume. In my tribute to him late December, I mentioned that he’s going to voice Mr. Pricklepants in Toy Story 3, out June 18th. It’s inspired casting I must say, as you don’t expect such a cuddly stuffed animal to have THAT voice. Not sure what role he’d play amongst Woody, Buzz & the gang, though there are rumors he could be the villain?

Earlier this week, its own character poster was released, along with the toy description:

Mr. Pricklepants is a charming hedgehog and the ideal partner for your favorite forest. This hedgehog with its green leather hose comes from the quality Waldfreunde collection and were directly imported from Germany. He may look like there are prickly, but he is made out of down so you can cuddle a lot. Drag your fingers through his hair to the spines back in order after the wash.

We have yet to hear him utter a word in the latest trailer, but you can hear a bit of his iconic, Welsh-tinged brogue in this clip below. I wish they’d feature more of Mr. Pricklepants in next trailer!

In the comment section of Fandango’s post, I said wishfully that someone should get Dalton out of retirement soon. Talk about wish come true! Just yesterday I read that Dalton has joined the cast of The Tourist, the spy thriller starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp (more elaborate post on this topic forthcoming).

So, here’s wishing Mr. Dalton many happy returns and hope to see more of him in other Hollywood movies!

Scene Spotlight: ‘The Grand Entrance’ – The Count of Monte Cristo

Hello, welcome to the first edition of Scene Spotlight. I was looking at this old post I did back when this blog first started, where I list 20 movie scenes I could watch over and over again, and I thought why not make it a regular post? I’m thinking a couple of times a month.

To start things off, I just picked a random movie that somehow had three actors I love who are grossly underused in Hollywood: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pierce and a very young Henry Cavill (who already looks poised to be Superman one day). Interesting that Caviezel was once considered for the Superman role in Superman Returns before Brandon Routh was cast.

The Count of Monte Cristo is a remake of the Alexander Dumas’ tale by the same name. Edmond Dantes (Caviezel), a sailor who is falsely accused of treason by his best friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce), who wants Dantes’ girlfriend Mercedes for himself. Dantes is imprisoned on the island prison of Chateau d’If for 13 years, where he plots revenge against those who betrayed him. With the help of another prisoner, a priest (Richard Harris), he escapes the island and proceeds to transform himself into the wealthy Count of Monte Cristo as part of his plan to exact revenge.

One of my favorite scene is Dantes’ dramatic entrance as the new ‘Count’ flying down from a hot air balloon amidst a spectacular fireworks display on his estate. The tall, dark and handsome Caviezel looks striking and regal in his opulent robe as he strides down the path to greet his guest. It’s kind of sentimental, even corny, but it just works! I couldn’t find the exact scene on youtube, but it starts at around 06:55 on the clip below. 

Caviezel_CountMonteCristoThe grossly-underrated Caviezel makes for a convincing and sympathetic flawed hero, whilst Pierce plays the devious villain with aplomb. Their relationship from friend to foe is fascinating to watch. At times Pierce is a bit over the top but still fun to watch. It’s also got a great supporting cast: Richard Harris as the priest who lets Dantes in on the treasure, and Luis Guzmán as the count’s right hand man provides comic relief.

I wonder if Mel Gibson saw this movie before he cast Caviezel as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. In the beginning of the clip above, he definitely has the right look to play the Savior! Though Cristo isn’t a “Christian” movie, yet it has the underlying theme is that ‘vengeance is Lord’s': “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” – Romans 12:19.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely a poignant and entertaining period swashbuckling flick that warrant repeated viewings!


What do you think of this movie and/or this particular scene?

Top Ten Chat-Worthy Irish Actors

I haven’t done a top-ten list in a while. I meant to post this last week around St. Paddy’s day, but took me a while to finish it. Well, as the green dye in the Chicago river hasn’t completely washed out, I hope you don’t mind reading another Irish-related post. Here’s my list of ten Irish actors that have done some buzz-worthy projects (including TV work) in the past decade, as well as those ‘rising stars’ that I really hope to see more of. I’m going to limit my list to just those born and bred in Ireland (at least for most of their childhood), so not those of Irish-descent as it’d take this entire blog to list them all.

Here they are in random order:

  1. Colin Farrell
    Of all the vile things Joel Schumacher is known for as a director, you could say that he has an eye for talent. He cast Farrell in Tigerland which got the Dublin native noticed. I first saw him in the sci-fi action Minority Report alongside Tom Cruise, and then the Terrence Malick’s The New World. His foray into historical action hero in Alexander was ridiculed panned by critics, and he nearly became a Hollywood cliche with his womanizing ways and drug/alcohol abuse, but he manage to maneuver a career comeback with his Golden-Globe-winning turn in the Irish black comedy In Bruges (2008). He recently had a small-but-memorable role in Crazy Heart, and a lead role in the Irish drama Ondine.
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  2. Liam Neeson
    Probably the most famous Irish actors of the bunch, Neeson is one of the hardest working actors right now. His diverse resume is impressive by any thespian standard. From historical figures (Michael Collins, Rob Roy, Schindler’s List), comic-book villain (Batman Begins), to playing bad-ass action star hell-bent on revenge (Taken), Neeson adds gravitas to any role he’s in. Can’t wait to see him as Zeus bellowing ‘Release the Kraken!!!’ in Clash of the Titans.
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  3. Saoirse Ronan
    She may be only sixteen, but Ronan’s got that wise-beyond-her-years thing going for her, plus enormous talent to boot. She was phenomenal in Atonement as the little girl who couldn’t quite figure out how to channel her attraction to the opposite sex that led to disastrous consequences. She pretty much comes out unscathed even when The Lovely Bones bombed artistically and financially. She’s currently re-teaming with her Atonement director Joe Wright in Hanna as a 14-year old assassin, talk about range!
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  4. Cillian Murphy
    Most people recognize him as Scarecrow in Batman Begins, but his memorable role is perhaps in the zombie flick 28 Days Later. His impossibly chiseled cheekbones and dramatic eyes somehow make him the perfectly creepy yet sophisticated villain, as he displayed in the horror/thriller Red Eye. Renowned directors such as Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle obviously like working with him, as he’s done two movies for Boyle (Sunshine & 28 Days Later) and Nolan also cast him in Inception.
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  5. Michael Fassbender
    (Ed note: Though he’s born in Germany, Fassbender is half-Irish and was raised in southwest Ireland)
    I’ve mentioned this guy A LOT on my blog lately and for good reason, he’s definitely eye-candy material but with acting chops to boot. Thanks to Zach Snyder for casting such great actors in 300 even in smaller roles, as I definitely noticed Fassbender as the loyal and valiant Stelios. He’s then proved his amazing range in transformational role in Hunger, and another indie darling Fish Tank which won him several nods from various European Film Festivals. He’s currently starring in a Roman actioner Centurion where he again displays his versatility. His next projects are definitely chat-worthy, there’s that darker Jane Eyre adaptation where he’ll play my favorite literary hero Rochester, and the historical drama The Talking Cure where he’ll play psychoanalyst Carl Jung alongside Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud.
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  6. Gabriel Byrne
    I first noticed Byrne in The Point of No Return as Bridget Fonda’s sympathetic mentor. He may not always get the lead roles, but you always remember him (The Man in the Iron Mask, Little Women, The Usual Suspect) The charismatic 60-year-old actor definitely still got the looks and is currently starring in the well-received HBO drama In Treatment as a psychotherapist where he won a Golden Globe last year. I certainly hope he’ll do more movies in the future!
    ….
  7. Ciarán Hinds
    You may not know his name, but you certainly recognize this tall, dark and handsome Belfast native. His dark look makes him suitable to play people from different nationalities: English (Phantom of the Opera, Amazing Grace), (Israeli (Munich), Roman (as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome), Russian (The Sum of All Fears), and that’s just a sampling. His new indie flick set in his native homeland The Eclipse (NOT Twilight 3) is to be released this weekend. Glad to see him get the lead role for a change.
    ….
  8. Kenneth Branagh
    For all the Shakespearean work he’s done (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet), I initially thought Branagh was an Englishman. The RADA-educated actor had his start in theater when he joined The Royal Shakespeare Company at 23. Soon after he formed his own performance art company called The Renaissance Theatre Company, which counts Prince Charles as one of its royal patrons. Surely he’ll inject some of that artsy and sophisticated sensibilities to a comic book adaptation, Thor, that he’s currently helming.
    ….
  9. Pierce Brosnan
    He may not be my favorite James Bond, but Brosnan has proven before and after his 007 role that he’s not to be type-cast. He balances the ‘suave, elegant, sophisticated men in suits’ roles (Bond, Thomas Crown Affair) with small indie dramas (Evelyn, Married Life), quirky comedy (The Matador), gritty Western (Seraphim Falls), even musical (Mama Mia!). He’s currently starring as a British PM in Roman Polanski’s latest The Ghost Writer, which was lauded by the critics.
    ….
  10. Jonathan Rhys Meyers
    I first noticed Meyers in the wholesome soccer flick Bend It Like Beckham as Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra’s coach. But he rose to fame as soon as he’s cast as the ruthless, womanizing King Henry VIII in Showtime’s The Tudors. His confidence swagger and devilish charm makes him a perfect seducer and unabashed casanova (Match Point). His recent foray into blow-em-up action From Paris With Love bombed, but it’s more of a reflection of John Travolta’s box office clout than his. His next project At Swim-Two-Birds is definitely an Irish production. It’s fellow Irishman Brendan Gleeson’s writing/directing debut about a playwright who begins to mingle with the fictional characters he has created. His co-stars all appear on this list: Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell and Gabriel Byrne!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS: Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn, Michael Gambon


Again, with this kind of list, it’s likely that I’m forgetting someone, so please do clue me in, readers :)

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The Bounty Hunter review (a.k.a. my open letter to Gerard Butler)

From the first time I heard about this project at its conception last year, I wasn’t psyched that my fave actor once again entered rom-com territory. Not because he isn’t funny or charming enough to pull it off, but after the abysmal The Ugly Truth, the script is likely going to be another stinker. TUT was a box office hit sure, but it was downright trashed by critics (14% rotten). Well, The Bounty Hunter actually managed to ‘beat’ that Tomatometer, barely moving past a single digit!!

The RT consensus says: Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston remain as attractive as ever, but The Bounty Hunter‘s formula script doesn’t know what to do with them — or the audience’s attention. No doubt the script was terrible, but so was the direction by Andy Tennant, the same guy who brought us Fool’s Gold, so no surprise that this movie earned a similar Tomatometer for the exact same faults: little chemistry among the performers (Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey), humorless gags, and a predictable storyline.

In any case, I saw this only because Prairiegirl and I have planned for it weeks ago, though I looked forward to hanging out with my friend more than the movie itself. To my surprise, the theater was packed. In fact, not only did we have to wait for about half an hour to get in, once we sat down, we’re told that the show was nearly sold out so we had to move towards the center of the theater. Though it opens at #3 this weekend with $21 mil, it’s actually a pretty decent number considering the production cost is only twice that. I told my friend that this kind of turn-out is exactly why silly rom-coms continue to be made in spite of the negative reviews (i.e. Valentine’s Day). Either people were oblivious to the reviews or they just chose to block it out.

So what’s the verdict?

Well, it pretty much confirmed my dread from the time the trailer comes out, and what it promises not to be, which is a smart, witty comedy. The only thing the two leads should be hunting down relentlessly is a decent script! Oh, and an adept director while they’re at it, too. Ok, so I didn’t abhor it as much as TUT — perhaps only because Jen, believe it or not, is the more watchable blond between her and Katherine Heigl —but to say it ‘sucks less’ is really not saying much. As for Butler, let’s just say when an actor comes across as much more likable and charismatic in his late-night interviews than his movie character, that’s just a really bad sign. There are some amusing bits here and there, but a lot of those came from the supporting cast, especially Siobhan Fallon Hogan as the manager of the bail bond office, Terese, that delivers the most laugh, and Christine Baranski as Aniston’s showgirl mother. I’m not going to be as generous as the average audience’s grade of B-, as it barely cracks a C for me.

Instead of a full review, I’d rather just take the time to get my long-overdue open letter to my fave Scottish actor:

Dear Mr. Butler,

GB as the disfigured tragic anti-hero

I’ve been a fan of yours for the last five years now. The first time I laid eyes on you in Phantom of the Opera, I was struck by your mesmerizing performance. I immediately tried to get my hands on as many of your previous work, only to realize I had seen you in other movies but didn’t recognize who you were. For the next couple of years, I always got a ‘Gerard who?’ every time I mentioned your name, but that all changed with the success of 300, when all of sudden Hollywood took notice of you and a slew of offers came your way.

As a fan, I was more than delighted to see your face splattered all over magazine covers, and it was no longer a challenge to find articles/video interviews of you like it used to. Best of all, I was psyched to see more of you in movies, which I thought was long overdue. I was tired of the go-to movie stars like Pitt/Clooney/Cruise and having ‘unknown’ actors like you on the big screen is a welcome change. What I love about you is how chameleon-like you are, as I’ve outlined in my Top Five Fave GB Roles post, and that you continue to mix things up: action, thriller, comedy, drama, kiddie flick, rom-com, you tackle ‘em all. But it seems that genre-jumping just isn’t enough when the script leaves much to be desired.

GB as the romantic 'ghost'

With that in mind, allow me to respectfully offer this plea request as one of your avid admirer: Please don’t waste your talent on sub-par scripts, especially those that require you to be a neanderthal/ chauvinistic/ boorish/ obnoxious (and in the case of TUT and TBH, all of the above). I’m inclined to say ‘get off the rom-com’ trail, but to be fair, I quite enjoyed P.S. I Love You and your ‘Gerry’ character is both charming and sexy, a perfect combination of being manly and hopelessly-romantic at the same time. What I do want to say is, stay away from bad scripts! It doesn’t matter what genre, a bad script is a bad script, and it’s just not going to help your career.

Gerry the struggling alcoholic

GB as the struggling alcoholic in BBC's The Jury

You’ve always been open to the public about your passion for acting from such a young age. Even to the point of sacrificing your hard work and training in law to pursue your dreams. That determination and fearlessness are what your fans love about you and we truly believe you’ve got the chops to be a successful actor. So, let us see that ‘passion for acting’ come alive again, when you displayed such fire even in an obscure short film like Please! when money wasn’t obviously the driving force. I miss your dramatic and gut-wrenching performance (Phantom of the Opera), your nuanced finesse (The Jury, Dear Frankie), your regal and macho-guy-with-a-heart side (300, Timeline), and your delightfully funny & charming side (P.S. I Love You).

Oh another thing, if you want to be taken seriously as an actor, please try your best not to be a tabloid fodder like your co-star. Of course that isn’t something you as a celebrity can always control, but I do feel the more low-key a celebrity is, the less interested the paparazzi are in feeding the frenzy. In Hollywood, there are two camps of performers: the actor and the movie star. It’ll take a whole entire post to go in-depth on that topic, but let’s just say the former cares more about the craft of acting than the fame/privilege that goes with it. You’ve come a long way since you started over a decade ago, I’d love to see more of Gerard the actor and read more about your work and less about who you’re dating in a given week!

On that note, I am psyched about your next two major projects: Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher. Surrounding yourself with serious thespians and great filmmakers are definitely a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping for more substantial projects shaping up in the future, perhaps one day you’d bring your homeland hero Rabbie Burns to the big screen while you’re at it, too?

Sincerely,

your ardent fan, rtm

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Anticipated Flix Updates: The Expendables’ new poster & Coriolanus’ Concept Art

The Expendables

Normally this isn’t my go-to genre, but hey I did grow up with 80s and 90s action flicks starring most of actors that make up the cast. I first heard about it earlier this year that I just had to blog about it, and now a new poster’s been released that is as clever as it is bad ass!! In fact, my husband quipped that it should’ve been called that. It’s one of the best looking poster I’ve seen in a while, it’s like the butterfly of death that you can’t take your eyes off. I like the tagline, too, it fits the visual perfectly. It’s brutally simple, in your face, subtlety be damned – which is what could be said about the movie.

Click poster for a larger version

Lionsgate also released the official plot details: The Expendables is a hard-hitting action/thriller about a group of mercenaries hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator. Once the mission begins, the men realize things aren’t quite as they appear, finding themselves caught in a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal. With their mission thwarted and an innocent life in danger, the men struggle with an even tougher challenge – one that threatens to destroy this band of brothers. (more official synopsis on SlashFilm)

I don’t see Arnie Schwarzenegger’s name on the poster, but Petter Sciretta of Slash Film saw the trailer at ShoWest Cinema Expo and has this to say: “It was incredibly cool, showcased all the big action star names that pack the cast. It even shows a clip from the scene with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, which drew huge cheers from the crowd. If I have any complaint it is that the trailer was lighter on action than I would have expected.”

So I guess the Governator will be making a cameo? We’ll see if the trailer – and the flick itself for that matter – will be as awesome as the poster. I just might see this one on opening night come August 13.

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Coriolanus

Even as a fan of Gerry Butler, ‘psyched’ isn’t a word I’d use to describe my reaction to The Bounty Hunter‘s release. The single-digit Tomato-meter doesn’t help matter, it actually confirms my dread after seeing the trailer a few months back. The only thing the two leads should be relentlessly hunting down is a decent script, oh and a new agent while they’re at it! Alas, I’m actually going to see it tonight as my friend and I have planned this weeks ago (I’m not backing out, Prairiegirl!), if anything it’s ample material for an amusing review.

Enough about that one, there is a silver lining in Butler’s career – whom even Roger Ebert calls “… a hunk who can also act” in his double-thumbsdown review. One of them is Ralph Fiennes’ directing debut Coriolanus. I just found out via Twitter there’s a new blog dedicated for the film version of Shakespeare’s political tale, started by Fiennes’ personal friend.

Here’s what the British thespian (who’ll direct and star in the movie) revealed about the project:

“When I performed it theatrically, I knew there were nuances and visual aspects that could emerge more strongly on film. I want to bring out the biting political nature of the piece, and the story’s great panoramic potential. The People, for example, play such a leading role in Coriolanus. It’s hard to capture that sense of a clamoring multitude in the theater… It never left me that I wanted to see this play on film.”

As for his rationale for opting to make it contemporary, instead of the swords & sandal version:

Coriolanus is a strong, complicated, gritty piece,” Ralph explained. “I thought about whether it should be Roman with swords and sandals, or even 19th century. But ultimately, I believed it had to be set in today’s world. It should have a high momentum and earn its ability to suddenly be still for one or two key moments when the human element has to have space to breathe.”

Thanks to GB.net, I was able to view these hi-res concept arts and on-location photos in Serbia. Click the photo for a larger version.

Coriolanus Concept Art

Set location in Serbia

Film shoots already begun yesterday (March 17) in Belgrade. Can’t hardly wait for this one!

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: The Switch

I first heard about this flick when I blogged about Jason Bateman last September when it was still called The Baster. Yeah, no doubt they went with a ‘safer’ title though it sounds so generic now (there are eight other movies with that exact title on IMDb!).
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The plot: An unmarried 40-year-old woman (Kassie) turns to a turkey baster in order to become pregnant. Seven years later, she reunites with her best friend (Wally), who has been living with a secret: he replaced her preferred sperm sample with his own.
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Hmmm, is it just me or this could very well be Jen’s own life story? It’s a terrible thing to say I know, but then again she looks like she’s playing herself here (what else is new). What is it about Jen that she keeps snatching my fave leading men: Clive Owen (
Derailed), Gerry Butler (The Bounty Hunter out tomorrow) and now Bateman. But you know what, the trailer made me laugh, mostly because of Bateman though, who’s probably the saving grace of the movie. In fact it looks more like his movie than Aniston’s.
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The most amusing scenes are between Wally and Kassie’s cute munchkin (Thomas Robinson) who bears an uncanny resemblance to him – and perhaps share his neurotic problems. And check out the supporting cast: Jeff Goldblum (in a Judy Greer-type role as the ‘best friend’), Juliette Lewis, and Patrick Wilson.
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The Switch
is released in theaters on August 20th. What do you think folks? Does this appeal to you in any way, shape or form?

St. Patrick’s Day Flix Spotlight: Circle of Friends

Hello readers, are you wearing green today? I’m not the least bit Irish but hey, everyone’s Irish on March 17, right? At least that’s what this Guinness Storehouse sign in Dublin says :)

Well, I was going to post a clip of a movie with the word ‘green’ on the title, as there are quite a few: How Green Was My Valley, Green Acres, The Green Mile, Green Card, Fried Green Potatoes, and the one playing in the theater right now, Green Zone. Well, the only one I’ve seen and liked out of these is Stephen King’s prison drama The Green Mile, but given the subject matter, it might be a bit too morose to celebrate this day.

CircleOfFriendsPosterSo instead, I picked this one set in Ireland that happens to be one of my favorites: Circle of Friends. I’m a big fan of Minnie Driver, and this is her first lead role in a feature film after numerous TV work in her native England. Set in the 50s, it centers on only child Benny Hogan (Driver) and her childhood friends Eve Malone (Belfast-born Geraldine O’Rawe) and Nan Mahon (Saffron Burrows) as the three begin college life in Dublin. It’s there that she meets the handsome rugby star Jack Foley (Chris O’Donnell) and she falls for him … hard. It’s a touching movie that speaks about friendship, love, family, betrayal, and ultimately forgiveness.

I just saw this again for the second time not that long ago and I just realized Colin Firth plays the cad Simon Westward and another Belfast native Ciaran Hinds as Professor Flynn whom every female student has a crush on.

This fan-made video features the song is You’re the One sung by Shane McGowan and Maire Brennan, which played during the film’s credits:


Alan Cumming
is also pretty memorable (not exactly in a good way) as the creepy slime-ball who has the hots for Benny. The location is definitely a star in its own right here, with the lush Irish hills and the ever-so-charming small Irish towns. Oh and the music definitely puts you in a Gaelic mood.

Dear readers, whatever you’re doing today, may I leave you with this Irish blessing:

May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

(courtesy of IrishPath.com)

DVD Picks: Easy Virtue and A Good Year

Easy Virtue

I’ve wanted to see this when I saw the trailer early last year, but wasn’t fast enough to make it to the theater. Adapted from Noel Coward’s 1924 play, it’s a comedy that pokes fun at the stifling British upper class. Jessica Biel stars as a feisty American divorcee Larita who re-marries a young man from a wealthy family, and immediately causes a stir as soon as she arrives at his parents’ crumbling stately home. She’s surrounded by mostly British cast (always a good thing in my book): Ben Barnes as her young husband John, and Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas as Barnes’ parents, the Whittakers.

I have to admit, I was baffled at first by her casting but Biel is quite a revelation here. Not only does she look really good in the retro costumes – they look flattering on her bodacious figure – but she’s also quite believable in her role. Best of all, she seemed to hold her own against the more experienced actors. She did seem a bit of an outcast at times, but in this case it’s actually a good thing as as her character is meant to feel that she didn’t belong.

I enjoy the whimsical comedy and witty banters, but as the movie progresses, I find that there’s more to the story than it seems to be. Firth’s melancholic but earnest performance adds gravitas to this movie, he plays a rather glum war vet and distant husband, increasingly weary of his nagging wife. He welcomes the new addition to the family with open arms, especially because his wife detests her. Their interaction slowly sheds a light as to who he, as well as Larita, really is. Perhaps it’s Firth who brings out the best in Biel, the great repartee between them is fun to watch.

The fairy-tale-free ending isn’t quite what expected, but in hindsight I quite like it. Larita’s old secret has been revealed, which led to her being dismissed by John, leaving her all dressed up with no one to dance with at the party.  Mr. Whittaker steps in and the two wounded souls finally come to terms with their predicaments as everyone around them watch them dance the tango together passionately and defiantly. It’s a great scene not only because I enjoy the sequence itself, but because of the significance of what their action/choices mean to them and the people inside that house.

Jessica & Colin's tango scene is one of the movie's highlights

The thing I find a bit odd is how the movie switches from comedy – laden with slapstick scenes – to a more weighty subject almost abruptly. But overall it’s still a pretty charming movie. Like Firth said in the premiere interview, “it’s a substantial movie that’s surprisingly light in tone.” That about sums it up.
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A Good Year (2006)

Thanks to loyal FlixChatter reader Samantha — who shares my fondness for Russell Crowe — for urging me to see this movie. This is Crowe’s second collaboration with Ridley Scott after Gladiator, but unlike the first one, A Good Year was trashed by the critics, with most of them basically lambasting him for his lack of comedic talents. Now, Sam’s theory is that it was panned seemingly for no other reason than that people were weirded out by an Aussie tough guy actor and a director known for doing intense thrillers doing a ‘soft’ movie. She might have a point there, it’s their own expectation that prevent them from enjoying the movie for what it is. I actually enjoyed it and it’s refreshing to see the gentler side of Crowe.

Maximillian may share a similar name to Maximus, but there’s no resemblance of that Roman general here. This successful investment broker Max is self-serving, ruthless, and unfeeling. In fact, all Max cares about is himself and as his best friend says, what Max Skinner does best is make money (the kind that’d give Gordon Gekko a run for his millions). He hasn’t spoken to his only surviving family member who helped raise him, uncle Henry. One day, a letter arrives informing him of his uncle’s passing and that he inherits his chateau and vineyard in Provence. Max doesn’t think much of that gift, and inclines to immediately sell it for profit.

Marion Cottilard

But it’s when Max visits the vineyard to renovate the place that things take an unexpected turn. Despite his initial reluctance, eventually Max begins settling in with the leisurely life, buoyed by his fond childhood memories he shared with his uncle growing up. He also meets a beautiful woman whom he unknowingly ran over the road as he was fumbling with his phone whilst driving, played by the ravishing French beauty Marion Cottilard, whose almost as gorgeous as the picturesque French countryside. As luck would have it, Max’s lucrative job is suddenly put in limbo pending an investigation into a questionable bond transaction, so the seemingly ‘trivial’ inheritance could become a life-changing matter. To complicate matters though, a young California girl suddenly shows up at his doorstep claiming to be Henry’s illegitimate child (the radiant Abbie Cornish).

Based on a best-selling novel of the same name by Peter Mayle, Scott’s personal friend, the story speaks about making the most of life’s simplest joys. The critics bark at the unhurried pace of the movie, but that’s kind of expected given the moral of the story where the protagonist takes a break out of his high-intensity life and discover there’s more to life than monetary success. Besides, the quieter scenes give you a chance to marvel at the lush scenery —  it’s almost worth renting this movie just for the cinematography alone, which might compel you to book a trip to France pronto.

The excellent Aussies Cornish & Crowe

Crowe is quite charming as Max, and he’s got a nice chemistry with Cottilard. It also boast terrific supporting performances from British-Indian Archie Punjabi as Max’s saucy assistant, Tom Hollander as Max’s best bud Charlie and best of all Albert Finney as uncle Henry. I particularly liked the flashback scene with him playing tennis with the young Max (Freddie Highmore) and his wise words: “You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is, uh… how much more enjoyable it is to win. It’s inevitable to lose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it.”

Turns out there are quite a few good things going for this movie. It might not be Scott/Crowe’s best work, but it’s definitely worth a look.