Poster of the Week: The King’s Speech

I love quad posters. They’re usually more interesting that the typical vertical format and this one is no different. I thought that the first official poster looked terrible, it’s definitely one of those cases when bad posters happens to good movies. This one however, is regal looking version worthy of an Oscar contender!

The historical drama Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist Lionel Logue, who helped the King overcome a stammer as he led the country through war. I’ve been wanting to see the movie ever since the trailer came out last month. I was hoping to squeeze this movie in over the Thanksgiving break but it wasn’t playing anywhere near me. Bummer! Everything I’ve been hearing about this movie just fuels my anticipation. It currently stands at 92% on rottentomatoes which seems to be in line with the stellar buzz coming out of film festivals all year. If only this had premiered at TCFF last Fall :(

Well, has anyone seen this film? If so, what did you think?

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Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Last of the Mohicans, Social Network

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m actually still enjoying another day off today :D Well, staying in for the holiday break has quite a bit of perks. Besides not having to deal with holiday traffic, I also got to enjoy more movies than I usually around to in a typical weekend. I like mixing up genres when I watch movies, so after watching The Last of the Mohicans on Wednesday night, my hubby and I were planning on seeing Tangled with another friend after a hearty Thanksgiving lunch. We had bought tickets for the Disney flick but at the last minute we decided to see Social Network instead which was playing five minutes after.

Not sure what took me so long, but I’m certainly glad I finally got to see The Last of the Mohicans. As I had just seen Master & Commander just a couple of weeks ago, I kind of saw some similarities not only because both are period films taking place roughly around the same time (only about 50 years apart), but they both have strong leading men who carry the movie on their buff shoulders.

Daniel Day-Lewis is nothing short of electrifying as Hawkeye, an adopted son of a dying tribe called the Mohicans. Set during the French and Indian war in 18th century colonial America, it’s got a wonderful mix of action/adventure and unabashed romance at the heart of the story. It’s probably going to be on my top five Michael Mann films (though not having seen Collateral and Ali yet I probably should wait until I do).

Well, I’m probably the last person to see Social Network. I wasn’t too interested in it as I’m not a regular Facebook user but was intrigued by all the hype and stellar reviews (97% on RottenTomatoes, wow!). It’s hard to keep expectation in check with that kind of buzz but luckily, the film delivered. It truly captured the spirit of our generation and a fascinating look at the rise of the social media phenomenon.

You don’t need to do a ton of research to know the movie took much liberty with the story of FB founder Mark Zuckerberg, which makes Social Network more fascinating than a standard biopic because the subject of the story wasn’t even involved in the making of the film. But I was mostly curious to see the movie as an art form as I really don’t even care much about the subject matter to begin with, and in that regard, David Fincher did an amazing job. The film kept my attention the whole time, it was taut and gripping, more so than a lot of stuff out there billed as a ‘thriller.’ Performances were great all around, particularly Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg and Andrew Garfield as his BFF Eduardo Saverin. I’ve noticed Garfield in Red Riding trilogy and Never Let Me Go and was really impressed by his screen presence. I think the 27-year-old Brit’s got a nice blend of leading man quality with character actor sensibility, not a bad thing to have for any actor. Justin Timberlake also turned in a compelling and humorous performance as the Napster founder Sean Parker.

Alain Delon as hitman Jef Costello

This weekend I also re-watched How To Train Your Dragon that we bought on Black Friday and loved it even more the second time around. So yeah, it was definitely worth every penny! And last night I finally got to see Part I of the Pillars of the Earth 8-part miniseries. I like it so far, but then again I’m always fond of movies with lots of Brits in ‘em… and it doesn’t hurt that Rufus Sewell is involved :) I’ll post my review once I’m done with the whole thing.

Oh, I also want to share that I’ve got a french crime thriller Le Samouraï scheduled to arrive tomorrow that I’m quite excited about. I’ve always wanted to see an Alain Delon movie (who was one of my late mother’s favorite actors) but haven’t got around to it for some reason. Thanks for This Guy Over Here‘s list, I finally added it to my queue.

So, what movie(s) did you manage to see this past weekend?

Musings on ‘Uncharted’ movie casting news

I normally don’t make a special post on just one casting news, especially on a project I’m not even familiar about. But I was at a giant retail store yesterday and the video game Uncharted 2 was featured on one of those giant TVs and I actually stopped for five minutes to watch it. I’m not a gamer so suffice to say last night was the first time I saw this Indiana-Jones/Tomb Raider type of action adventure game. It’s amazing how realistic today’s games are, its environment/setting looks gritty and life-like and the characters are darn near as expressive as those of real actors.

Apparently I was oblivious at the various casting news about this movie a few days ago, as I said to my husband as we were watching the promo that Hollywood’s probably turning this into a movie real soon. It’s not until after I got home and Googled more about Uncharted that I realized Mark Wahlberg is the frontrunner to play the main character Nathan Drake!

The fictional protagonist Nathan Drake & the actors vying to play him

Heh, I don’t know about you but I definitely didn’t have Wahlberg in mind when I watched the character. Not even close. I imagined someone tall, lean, dark-haired, rugged-looking guy in the mid-late 30s who looks fantastic sporting scruff and dirt on his face. More on that in a bit. Then I also found out from this site that Nathan Fillion had wanted to nab the role, he even hinted about it via Twitter back in October. Man, I’d be happy if he indeed got the role. If you’ve seen Serenity or even just one episode of Firefly, you know he’s certainly got the physical resemblance and personality for the character. Plus, Nathan playing Nathan would’ve had a nice ring to it :D Oh well, Wahlberg’s obviously got more clout and the fact that David O’Russell’s going to helm the project might have something to do with it. He’s done at least 2 movies with O’Russell: Three Kings & the upcoming boxing flick The Fighter. But I’m not as interested to watch it now with him in it. No offense to Wahlberg, I generally like the guy and he’s a decent actor, I just don’t think he’s right for the role.

[Updated 7/7/11 – Apparently O’Russell is now out and Limitless director Neil Burger is now set to direct [per THR], so I’m hopeful Wahlberg might not be doing the role after all!]

For what it’s worth, the actor that did come to my mind right away was Richard Armitage, one of my favorite British actor who’s just been cast in The Hobbit and is now starring in Strike Back in UK’s Sky 1 Channel. He’s not American nor has he done much (if any) American roles so far, though I’m sure that’s not as big as an issue other than he’s not exactly a household name.

GB, Armitage and Trucco

I also came across a few posts online suggesting Gerry Butler in the role, which of course I totally can see. I personally would rather see him play Nathan Drake than Afterburn, the comic-based sci-fi saga he’s been rumored to take on. And just for the heck of it, I’d also like to throw another name into the mix: Michael Trucco from Battlestar Galactica who, interestingly enough, has had a few stint on Fillion’s ABC show Castle lately. He’s an even more obscure actor obviously, but if you’ve seen him as Sam Enders (Starbucks’ one-time husband) in Battlestar Galactica, you probably know why I think he’d be suitable for the role.

Well, those who play this video game or at least familiar with this project, what do you think about the casting decision? Who would you rather see portray Nathan Drake?

A Thanksgiving Post: 25 things in movies I’m thankful for

Those celebrating Thanksgiving today, hope it’s been lovely and lively. To those in other parts of the world, I bid you happy-almost-weekend day :D Well, it’s not as if you need a special day to give thanks, right? But just for the sake of being timely, I’ve been pondering about my love of movies and I’d post 25 random movie miscellanea I’m thankful for:

1. Cate Blanchett’s narration in the Lord of the Rings trilogy

2. Spanish Buzz in Toy Story 3. I’d never want to switch him back!

3. Smashing Pumpkins’ The Beginning is the End is the Beginning song in Watchmen trailer

4. 1999 Mansfield Park‘s lovely quote: “There are as many forms of love… as there are moments in time.”

5. Timothy Dalton and Alan Rickman’s silky voice and their signature inflection when they speak.

6. The amazing train station staircase scene in The Untouchables.

7. The stunning visuals of Tarsem’s The Fall.

8. Pixar movies… particularly these in my top five.

9. Gabriel Byrne’s soulful portrayal of D’Artagnan in The Man in the Iron Mask.

10. Scorching chemistry between Christian Bale and Emily Watson in Equilibrium.

Click the photo to watch the scene in a music video clip on youtube

11. Fantastic opening credits by Danny Yount (Rocknrolla, Sherlock Holmes, etc.)

12. The awesome clay-mation of Chicken Run

13. When Lizzie first meets The Stranger in a cafe in Dear Frankie … The brooding glances, the awkward silence, the husky voice… ‘Americano. Strong.’ YUM!

14. The haunting music of Somewhere in Time.

15. John Williams’ scores… too many to name just a few!

16. The final redemption scene of Ben Hur.

17. Disney Princesses and their gorgeous, indelible songs… particularly this one

18. Michael Keaton’s hilarious performance playing four different characters in Multiplicity.

19. My Favorite Things scene in The Sound of Music.

20. Stan Lee’s cameos in various Marvel movies.


21. Audrey Hepburn’s breathtaking beauty in practically every film I’ve seen her in.

22. Since today’s his birthday… Dougray Scott’s dashing portrayal of a fairy tale prince in Ever After. Happy Birthday Mr. Scott!

23. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery’s fun rapport in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.

24. Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride for his awesome name and indelible declaration: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

25. The cinematography of Terrence Malick’s films (Days of Heaven, The New World).

Let me also take the time to thank you all for reading and commenting on FlixChatter. Do keep ‘em coming :D

Now, what are you thankful for this holiday season?

Wishing all a blessed Thanksgiving. Travel safe!

Clooney as the travel expert Ryan Bingham

It’s Thanksgiving eve… or here in America is also known as travel-headache day. Fortunately, I don’t have to travel anywhere this time, but I feel for all of my American friends who have to be on the road, be it by car, train or worse… planes! Air travel seems to be made worse this year with all that enhanced security stuff, which to a lot of people means enhanced groping :( Yeah, I know, I know… this is all for the sake of passengers’ safety. And considering the alternative, I guess I’d rather have extra security than no security.

Perhaps you might want to take some travel tips from Up in the Air‘s Ryan Bingham who travels constantly around the country firing people. You might not like the guy, but man, does this guy know how to travel! Not only does he’s extremely skilled in efficient packing (travel light is his mantra), he’s got some foolproof tips on getting through airport security. The movie is peppered with memorable lines, and this one certainly counts as one of them:

Ryan Bingham: Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Bingo, Asians. They pack light, travel efficiently, and they have a thing for slip on shoes. Gotta love ‘em.

Natalie Keener: That’s racist.

Ryan Bingham: I’m like my mother, I stereotype. It’s faster.

Heh, I wonder what Bingham would think about all this pat down stuff. Anyway, just looking at the snow storm that’ll hit my neck of the woods any minute now, I’m definitely glad I’m not going anywhere. Definitely looking forward to a mellow 5-day break in town, hang out with friends, do some holiday shopping and catch a few movies. We have The Last of the Mohicans that’s supposed to be arriving from Netflix today. Been wanting to see that Daniel Day-Lewis movie for ages, not sure what took me so long. Oh, and we’ve also just got the Avatar: Extended Collector’s Edition recently (the packaging is sooo pretty!), so we might watch some of the bonus features there.

Well, to those who are traveling to be with friends/families this weekend, I pray for safe journey and may your travel headache be little or none. For comic relief, here’s a trailer from a classic comedy Airplane! from 3 decades ago. If anything, be thankful you don’t have to fly in THAT plane with THOSE nutty people :D

WISHING YOU A BLESSED THANKSGIVING!

British Acting Royalty on Harry Potter Movies: My Top Ten Favorites

Last week, Roger Ebert tweeted ‘Why haven’t Helen Mirren and Judi Dench ever made a Harry Potter film?’ Hmmm, good question, Mr. Ebert… why haven’t they? I certainly would LOVE to see both of them in at least one or two installments.

Fiennes, Bonham Carter, Gambon w/ Radclife on HP set

Then a few days later, I read a piece of news report about Harry Potter beating Star Wars as the biggest movie franchise of all time. The George Lucas sci-fi saga stands at $1.9 billion in worldwide gross over the course of six films, whilst the last six HP films have earned $1.7 billion. Given HP7’s $300+ worldwide gross just on its first weekend alone, no doubt this franchise will take the top spot way before the 2nd final installment is out next Summer.

Well, one thing for sure, I think the Harry Potter franchise has the best ensemble cast in movie history. I must admit that the supporting cast are a huge factor of what drew me in to check out HP movies in the first place. I excluded HP in my top five notable ensemble cast movies because the supporting actors don’t have equal screen time as the principal cast of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, but as a franchise, I can’t think of any other one that boasts THAT many award-winning British thespians (you can see all of them on Wikipedia). Nearly all of the who’s who of British cinema seem to have done a Harry Potter film. Man, how fortunate are those young actors to be working alongside such massively talented actors!

My top ten list is based on a combination of the actors’ previous work and their stellar performances in the Harry Potter movies. Here they are on alphabetical order:

Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart

What fun it is to see the Shakespearean actor/director hamming it up as a self-observed celeb wizard.

I first saw Branagh in Much Ado About Nothing, but he’s also known for his other Shakespeare-related work such as Hamlet, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and As You Like It. He’s one of the rare artists who’ve been Oscar-nominated for acting, writing and directing. Talk about a real triple threat!

Jim Broadbent as Horace E. F. Slughorn

As a Potions teacher, Slughorn was a key character in revealing who Voldemort really is and his way of attaining immortality.

Broadbent is one of those character actors whose presence always add something special to any movie. He won an Oscar for his Best Supporting performance in Iris, but he was also adept in comedy, as he displayed in Moulin Rogue! and Hot Fuzz. His most recent movie Another Year has been constantly gaining positive reviews from critics and audiences alike.

Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange

One of the most powerful evil witches in Voldemort’s inner circle, she’s one of the most loyal ally to the dark lord.

Having just seen her all demure and sweet in A Room with a View, it’s fascinating to see her get her freak on as Bellatrix. She’s done more than her fair share of costume dramas, hence her ‘corset queen’ nickname. But I remember her most from her contemporary fare Fight Club and her small cameo in Terminator Salvation.

Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort

Even if you have not seen a single movie, no doubt you’ve seen his nose-less, pale face spewing all kinds of evil towards Harry & his pals.One of my fave British actors, there are too many movies I remember him for. Perhaps the most iconic is his portrayal in the despicable Nazi Amon Göth in Schindler’s List, but he’s proven his versatility in other dramatic fares. The English Patient, Constant Gardener, and The Reader are just some of my faves.

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore

The wise and caring headmaster of Hogwartz Wizarding School is perhaps one of the most sympathetic of all HP characters.To tell you the truth, I didn’t immediately warmed up to Gambon when he replaced Harris, but by the end of the 3rd film, he’s won me over. His immense theater experience is beyond impressive, but did you know he was asked by Bond producer Cubby Broccoli to audition for the 007 role to replace John Lazenby? I had no idea. Some of his memorable roles pre HP were The Insider, Gosford Park and Amazing Grace.

Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore

The minute I saw Harris on screen leaving baby Harry upon the doorstep of the Dursley home, I thought he was perfect for the role. I also love him as Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator, Abbé Faria in The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as his earlier role in Camelot. I had no idea he could sing so well but apparently the late Irish actor was a singer-songwriter who have recorded several albums.

Gary Oldman as Sirius Black

The famed escaped prisoner of Azkaban who’s the loyal friend of Harry’s parents. There’s not many actors as freakishly talented and versatile as Mr. Oldman. I can’t remember when I first saw him, but one thing for sure, he’s always wowed me every time he’s on screen. Famous for playing dark roles (in Dracula, Leon, True Romance, Air Force One) as well as real-life characters (Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy, Beethoven in Immortal Beloved, Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK). I love his portrayal as Commissioner Gordon in Nolan’s Batman flicks, definitely one of my fave cast of that franchise.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape

One of the revered professors at Hogwarts, Snape is easily the most layered and complex character in the whole franchise. You never really know whether he’s good or bad and where his true loyalties lie.I’ve mentioned Mr. Rickman numerous times on my blog for good reason. Not only is he an excellent actor, he’s got that perfect, iconic voice. I practically turn giddy watching him deliver his signature inflection, especially when he’s portraying bad guys. Love him as villainous Hans Gruber (Die Hard) and hopelessly romantic Col. Brandon (Sense & Sensibility). Not to mention his hilarious turn in the sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest.

Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall

The warmhearted Deputy headmistress who’s loyal to Dumbledore and his mission to protect Harry. Dame Maggie Smith is practically royalty in the acting territory. She’s won practically every major acting awards, including BAFTA, Oscar, and Golden Globes. I’m not familiar with her earlier work, but her most memorable roles to me are in A Room with a View, Gosford Park, Keeping Mum and Becoming Jane. 

Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney

I could hardly recognize her with her frizzy hair, nerdy glasses and gypsy getup as professor of Divination. Her character is sort of a comic relief and pretty fun to watch.As Sense & Sensibility stands as my favorite film ever, I’m always grateful for Thompson’s excellent script. I also love her sensitive portrayal of Elinor Dashwood as well as her roles in Stranger than Fiction and Last Chance Harvey.


Just to go a step further, here are eight other actors (besides Dench and Mirren) I’d love to have seen in Harry Potter films: Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, Daniel Day-Lewis, Colin Firth, Alfred Molina, Rufus Sewell, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Kate Winslet.


Well, now that’s my list, now your turn. Which British cast are your faves from Harry Potter and whom would you like to have been cast?

Musings on Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part I

After months anticipating this, I wasn’t going to wait another week to check this out. Early Saturday afternoon, hubby and I made our way to the cinema to see an HP movie for the first time on the big screen.

The gist of the story of the last installment of the series center on how Harry and his two BFFs, Ron and Hermione on their quest to find the evil Voldemort’s horcruxes, which are objects in which the dark lord has hidden a fragment of his soul into for the purpose of attaining immortality. Obviously, if you have not seen any of the HP movies, the plot wouldn’t make any sense to you, but basically, finding these objects is the key for Harry to destroy his nemesis. The movie picks up where the 6th movie (HP & The Half-Blood Prince) left off, which ended with a terrible sadness of Dumbledore’s death, which led the three main characters to quit school and hunt for horcruxes instead.

  • Alan 'Snape' Rickman

    Though the movie starts out pretty comical—which explains what in the world is going on with these multiple harrys in various outfits—this movie is dark and brooding through and through. I mean, I can’t imagine little kiddies not being terrified of this even if they had been a fan of the books. The scenes of Voldemort and his cohorts and that humongous cobra is pretty hair-raising stuff, though it’s great to see many of the series’ top notch supporting cast in one room. And man, that Professor Snape certainly knows how to make an entrance :D

  • It starts out pretty strong and action-packed, what with that intense aerial battle with the Death Eaters as Harry & crew fled his home. And then there’s the sudden attack at one of Ron’s brothers’ wedding, which leads to an exhilarating chase in downtown London. But then the movie sort fell into a lull as Harry, Hermione & Ron (I’ll just call them HHR for short) hides out in the forest for a long period of time.

    Harry & his BFFs

    Part of me wish there had been a bit more ‘action’ in the second act, but at the same time, the quieter scenes kind of allow me as the audience to get into the characters’ head so to speak, which help me relate a bit with what they’re going through. The bickering, jealousy and tension between these friends practically ricochet through the small tent they share, but isn’t that what real friendship is all about? Given the circumstances, things wouldn’t have always been so rosy even to the best of friends. The long, slow scenes really put the young cast’s acting chops to the test. I must say that in all of HP movies, the most intriguing sequences usually involve the more mature supporting cast members. Yet because I’ve grown to truly care for these three main characters, I still enjoy those slower scenes. If anything, you can take your time enjoying the beautiful cinematography of the lush British landscape.

  • Watching a group of kid actors grow up on-screen is definitely something I’ve never experienced before, which is fascinating. Most of HP fans have seen Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up in the span of 10 years, but as I just saw them as kiddies less than a half a year ago, it’s funny to see them now sporting scruff and dealing with grown-up issues such as sexuality. They’re definitely not kids anymore and that passionate kissing scene in one of the crucial scenes in the movie will definitely remind you of that ;)
  • The action sequences and special effects are top notch, which is what you’ve come to expect from a HP movie. Some of the tense scenes are also quite funny, which usually involve some form of disguise. I’ve mentioned the first one with the the multiple Harrys, and the second one was when HHR disguise themselves as adult civil servants of the Ministry of Magic. The three actors playing the real ministry bureaucrats did a smashing job capturing the nervous mannerism of the young cast, which makes for an amusing yet edgy scenes. For each of the comical scene though, there is a grim and melancholy one for good measure. The scene at Harry’s place of birth and parents’ graveyard really resonates with me and reminds me why the story of the orphaned Harry appeals to me in the first place.
  • Actor Rhys Ifans holding the Deathly Hallows symbol

    One of the most memorable sequence was the shadow-puppet animated sequence of “Tale of the Three Brothers” that explains the origins of the deathly hallows. It kind of reminds me a bit of Indonesian Wayang (which literally means shadow puppets). According to this site, apparently it’s created by a guy by the name of Ben Hibbon (there’s a video video featuring one of his work). The animation is stylish and beautiful, though it did take me away from the movie a little bit as I was transported into a world of its own.

  • If you ask me if I like this movie or not, I won’t hesitate to say yes. The fact that this is the first time we pay full price (and more for an IMAX viewing), I’d say the movie didn’t disappoint. Though it wasn’t thoroughly captivating, I did enjoy it for the most part. One thing though, as Andrew has pointed out in his review, the trailers might have been slightly misleading as they seem to promise a whole lot more, but most of them haven’t been shown in Part I. The despair and destruction of Hogwarts depicted in this poster is all to follow in Part II (to be released in July 2011), as there’s not one scene takes place in that Wizarding School here. But as my friend Ted who’ve read all the books told me, “…nothing really happened much in the first half from the book and then on the second half, all hell broke loose.” Well, in that case, the best really is yet to come. As of right now, what Part I does well is it makes me anticipate the FINAL movie all the more. The eight-month wait better be worth it!

***

Those who’ve seen HP7, what do you think of the film?

Everybody’s Chattin': Five blog links for your reading pleasure

Happy Friday, all! Man, I can’t believe this is the last weekend before Turkey Day. My company gives away free frozen turkey every year, and the voucher is already available for pickup.

I had a Harry Potter-related post for today but I couldn’t finish it in time, so save that for early next week. Anybody else excited for HP7? Well, you already know my answer… I hope I get to see it Saturday afternoon. I have deliberately been avoiding too much HP overload, no more clips or even trailer viewings in the past week, though I did peek at RottenTomatoes just to see what the critical reviews look like and it’s kind of on par with my expectation. I’m so excited for this as it’s going to be the first time I see a HP movie in the cinema, and having just discovered it this past Summer, it’s a good thing the other six movies are still somewhat fresh in my mind.

Anyway, instead of blabbing on about, why don’t I let you check out these fine blog posts from my blog friends around the world:

  • Well, though HP is probably on a lot of people’s minds, there are still people who have absolutely no clue about this kid wizard. Well, Dan has a comprehensive Harry Potter guide, pretty much everything you need to know about the franchise in one post, even jargon such as muggles, horcruxes, etc.
  • This week is definitely the week of trailers. ScarletSp1der has got a bunch of them in his Trailer Time Tuesday post so you can easily catch up on one you might’ve missed. I think the best one has got to be the sci-fi/western Cowboy & Aliens! Iron Man + John Wayne + 007 = strangely intriguing! :D
  • If you need to catch up this week’s movie news, go no further than to my buddy Castor’s Weekly News Roundup. While you’re there, be sure to wish him a happy 1st blog anniversary!
  • In light of Darren Aronofsky working on the Wolverine sequel, Darren @ The Movie Blog ponders if indie directors are the best choices for superhero cinema.
  • Andrew at Encore Entertainment recently saw the Australian crime thriller Animal Kingdom starring Guy Pearce and had some nice things to say about it. Check out his review. I posted the gripping trailer back in May. It’s the one with the peculiar song choice of All Out of Love from Air Supply.

Well, before you go though, tell me what movie[s] will you be seeing this weekend?

Top Five Favorite Movies about British Monarchs

I’m sure you’ve all heard about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement this week. I had no idea they’ve been dating for more than eight years, sounds like their romance is the stuff that dreams are made of. I haven’t been following news about them pretty closely, but from the occasional tidbits I heard, they seem like a good match and it’s nice to see they truly choose to be with each other. It’s cool that William gave his mother’s engagement ring to Kate… I kinda teared up when I read William saying that the giving Diana’s ring to his fiancé “… was my way of keeping her close to it all.”  (Updated 4/26/11 – well, since the royal wedding takes place this weekend, my prayer is for William & Kate to have a wonderful and lasting marriage as grand as the wedding itself!)

In honor of the happy couple, I’m picking five favorite movies about the British monarch of the last couple of decades (I figure there’ll be too many if I don’t put a 20 year limit!). Here they are in order of release:

  1. Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (1997)
    I have to admit this movie was on my radar because it’s Gerry Butler’s feature film debut. Butler didn’t have a big part, but he was pretty memorable as Archie, John’s supportive brother. But I’ve come to love this movie for the beautiful story of love and friendship between a grieving Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) who’s still mourning her dead husband and her servant John Brown (Billy Connolly) who adores her. It’s through their special friendship that she ‘comes back to life’ again, but their relationship caused quite a stir.

    Dench and Connolly are both wonderful as the Queen and Mr. Brown  (Dame Judi was nominated for an Oscar for her outstanding performance). Connolly is known for his comedic work but he proved to have some dramatic chops here. This movie is touching, funny and heartwarming, helped by a tight script and beautiful cinematography. The scenes of Balmoral Castle and the Highlands could double as a Scotland tourism promo.
  2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
    Not exactly a film about a particular royal family, but Queen Elizabeth I plays a big part of the plot as a prominent supporter of English theater. It’s arguable whether Gwyneth Paltrow deserved her Oscar as Viola, the cross-dressing actress who auditions for the part of Romeo. No matter, I think the movie itself is enjoyable, it’s more of a rom-com set in the late 16th century London that focuses on the Bard’s forbidden romance that provides rich inspiration for his play. I guess even Shakespeare can get writer’s block :D

    According to Wikipedia, Daniel Day-Lewis and Kenneth Branagh passed on the lead role, but I quite like Joseph Fiennes in this, he’s a passionate and captivating actor. This movie boasts a fabulous, mostly British cast: Judi Dench (again – and she won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her mere eight minute of screen time!), Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Everet, Colin Firth and Ben Affleck.
  3. The Queen (2006)
    The story takes place post Princes Diana’s death. The Queen’s decision to retreat to her hideaway in Scotland’s Balmoral Castle upset the heartbroken public and puts pressure on newly elected PM Tony Blair, who constantly tries to convince the monarchy to address the public.

    The film itself isn’t perfect, but I was captivated by Helen Mirren’s sympathetic but believable portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II. She truly owned this film and elevated it above what it would have been under a lesser talent. It’s not just the amazing makeup work, but Helen Mirren had her mannerism and body language down to a science. The monarch is often portrayed in less-than-favorable light, but I like the fact that this movie didn’t seem to pass judgment on the Queen and carefully illustrated her as a truly complex character. Michael Sheen is also stunningly convincing and charismatic as Blair, I guess it helped that he has an uncanny physically resemblance with the real guy.

  4. Elizabeth: The Golden Age – (2007)
    There is a good reason why I adore Cate Blanchett and considers her my all-time favorite actress. Her versatility is mind-boggling, in the same year she portrayed Queen Elizabeth I, she was also Bob Dylan in I’m Not There… both of which were nominated for an Academy Award in 1998 (she should’ve won both, IMO!)

    Just like The Queen, Blanchett’s the best part of this sequel of the 1998 version. Queen Elizabeth I endured various political crises late in her reign of nearly 45 years, court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada; as well as a personal dilemma as he fell for Sir Walter Raleigh, played by the ever-s0-dashing Clive Owen. It’s arguable if this one lives up to the original, some call it style over substance. But I think it deserves to be on this list merely on Blanchett’s phenomenal acting.
  5. Young Victoria (2009)
    This is the only one out of the five that I saw at the theater. I am a big fan of Emily Blunt and intrigued by the fact that this is about the younger version of the same queen in Mrs. Brown. Blunt at 26 with her luminous skin was quite believable as the teenage Queen who came to the throne at 18. The movie dramatizes the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria’s 63-year rule and her enduring, almost fairy-tale romance with Prince Albert. Rupert Friend is quite charming and sympathetic as Albert, who admired and respected the young queen when everyone wanted to control and manipulate her.

    The assassination attempt towards the end took a lot of liberty from reality, but it sure makes for a dramatic scene. Mark Strong plays one of his many villainous roles as the queen’s adviser John Conroy, he portrayed him so convincingly that I really loathed him in this movie! The movie feels tedious at times, though those moments allow you to marvel at the beautiful scenery and intricate costumes. The music is beautiful too, I’m even considering buying the soundtrack.

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Please note that at the time I made this list, I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, but I predicted that it might very well make my list. Sure enough I was right, I even championed for it in this Oscar Best Picture Fight Club and it won!


So, what are your favorite movies about British royals?

Guest Post – From Vision to Film: American Gangster

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Welcome to a new edition of From Vision to Film, courtesy of my pal Ted S., the movie connoisseur and walking movie encyclopedia :D We always try to be timely with this post series, so we’re posting it today to coincide with Russell Crowe’s new movie The Next Three Days (read my full review) and Denzel Washington’s train flick Unstoppable currently in theaters. Oh, and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Brooklyn Finest) has been in this week’s news as he’ll be directing a Tobey Maguire’s produced sci-fi thriller Afterburn, with recent b’day boy Gerard Butler in talks to star (check The Wrap for details, thanks to ScarletSp1der for the tip!)

 

Here’s the story behind the Ridley Scott’s thriller American Gangster:

After directing a big budgeted version of King Arthur, director Antoine Fuqua was attached to direct another big budgeted film, American Gangster. The film was supposed to start shooting in the fall of 2004, and released in the holiday/Oscar season of 2005. Unfortunately, King Arthur tanked at the box office that summer and the executives over at Universal Studios were quite nervous about green lighting a $150 mil movie with a director whose recent film has just gotten awful reviews and worse, didn’t make much money in theaters. So they asked the writer to rewrite the script to cut some costs and also move the filming from NY to Canada. Fuqua didn’t have problems with the script being rewritten, but he refused to move the production to Canada. He said he wanted to shoot the whole film in NY so it’s authentic; unfortunately for him, he didn’t have any power to demand such a thing from the studio considering the circumstances of King Arthur‘s box office bust.
After a couple of months of bickering, the studio decided to fire Fuqua and pushed the release date back to 2006. Had Fuqua directed the film, the cast would’ve been Denzel Washington and Benicio Del Toro (Russell Crowe got the role in the actual film). Both Denzel and Benicio got a pay-or-play deal, which basically means they both got paid for doing nothing as the film was put on hold in late 2004.

Scott with his lead actors on the set

So in early 2005, Universal hired a new director Terry George to get the film back on track. They were hoping it could still make the release date of summer 2006. George wanted to cast Don Cheadle as Frank Lucas and Joaquin Phoenix as Richie Roberts. I’m not sure why George left the project in mid-2005, but my guess is that either the studio didn’t like his casting or they didn’t agree on the budget, or both.

After Terry George left the project, Peter Berg came on board in late 2005 but left the project by year’s end. I think Berg just wasn’t that interested in making the film and again budget was a big concern. Universal didn’t want to spend more than $100 mil on the movie and all these directors were asking for $150 mil or more.

So with three directors off the project, Universal decided to cancel the film entirely by early 2006. In came Ridley Scott in late 2006, this was after A Good Year had failed at the box office. Scott told the studio that he can finish the film and that he could make the release date of the holiday season of 2007. He has one condition, he wanted to cast Russell Crowe as detective Richie Roberts. The studio agreed and Denzel ended up coming back on the project. (Well, he never actually left the project to begin with since he spent quite a bit of time prepping for the role before the production was shut down). So not only did Scott finished the film on time and on budget, the film was a box office hit. I think the studio was hoping for Oscar glory though, but it only got two nominations (for Art Direction and Best Supporting Actress nod for Ruby Dee). But nonetheless, I think you could say the movie was a success.

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Have you seen American Gangster? Well, what did you think of the film?