Counting down to X-Men: First Class – 5 reasons I’m seeing this on opening night

In about 72 hours, the wait will finally be over! As you know I’ve been excited to see this movie for some time now. I love the X-Men franchise, I even enjoyed the third one to an extent, despite all the flaws and Brett Ratner’s direction. I just re-watched the trailer of the first one and recalled how much I was so intrigued by the story and particularly the dynamic between Magneto and Xavier. Bryan Singer made a superhero film unlike anything I had ever seen, it was a complex and intelligent thriller that wasn’t all about the ‘Kapow!’ action and special effects, but one that was rooted in a compelling story and heavy on character development. It’s a classic good vs. evil we’ve seen so many times before, but rarely perfected.

Here are just five reasons why I’ll be seeing this on opening night:

1. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy
Two of the brightest British imports working today are perfectly cast to follow the footsteps of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. From the reviews I’ve heard (which currently still stands at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes with 35 reviews), both aren’t simply imitating the two acting greats but they’ve made the roles their own. In an interview on the Den Of Geek site, director Matthew Vaughn said he’s aiming for a Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid type of chemistry. Having just seen that classic film, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that same fun banters between the two. I really enjoy both actors’ work, so seeing both of them squaring off against each other on screen will be such a treat. And the fact that both look so darn handsome in their retro outfit can’t hurt, either :D

2. The compelling back-story
An origins story always have a certain appeal to me, especially when you’ve got such an interesting pair of characters like Xavier and Magneto. The X-Men universe is ripe with endless possibilities to explore, but I’m glad Vaughn and producer Bryan Singer go back to basics and focus on the story that really matter, that is why the two BFFs become arch enemies and how each mutant chooses to be heroes or villains that we’ve come to know.

3. The retro 1960s vibe
I’m really digging the look of the movie so far, the costumes and set pieces really take us back in time. With the backdrop of the Cold War, the filmmaker mixes history with fiction by inserting factual news items during the Kennedy era. My hubby got this iPad fake magazine promo of the movie, check out the spread below and the photo of Xavier with JFK at the White House:


4. The cool special effects and bombastic action sequences

This movie’s got everything you want in a Summer blockbuster, and then some! I have to admit, I love superhero movies for the fun action and logic-defying effects, I mean it’s the ultimate escapism right? Seeing a big submarine being lifted from under the ocean and Magneto dodging all of those missiles whilst still looking as dashing as ever, these are the stuff we go to the movies for! I also enjoy seeing each mutant discover and learn to control their power, which I’m sure will be in abundant display here. The music used so far in the promos sound awesome as well, which should be the perfect companion for all the fanfare.

5. A Cold War setting + a Bond flick + Frankenheimer political thriller… all in one movie!
This came from the mouth of Matthew Vaughn himself in the interview mentioned above:

I think [this movie is] primarily it’s about the relationship between Magneto and X, but set against a backdrop of political espionage and the Cold War. I always wanted to do a Cold War movie, and I’ve been desperate to do a Bond film, always have been. And here I got my cake and ate it, managed to do an X-Men movie, and a Bond thing, and a [John] Frankenheimer political thriller at the same time. But this process has been nuts.

As you know, I love Bond movies! I grew up watching them and that’s one franchise I’ll always have appetite for. So I take it as good news that almost every review I glance through have mentioned the Bond comparison… one reviewer even said that it could pass for a Connery-era 007 spy thriller. I think Fassbender is unofficially the frontrunner for the next Bond, even Vaughn himself mentioned that in the same interview (note: he’s directed Daniel Craig in Layer Cake). Having seen Stardust and Kick-Ass, I have faith in the British director’s ability to deliver on this promise. With Singer’s backing, I expect to see a return to form of this franchise.


Btw, have you seen this inventive (and expensive!) marketing promos FOX is doing lately? FirstShowing reported this yesterday that the studio has hired planes to fly around and make giant X-Men logos in Southern California to generate the buzz. Apparently it worked as now people have been posting photos of them like the one below on Facebook and there’s even a YouTube video of it. Pretty cool stuff!


So who’s with me? Anybody else seeing this one on Friday?

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Weekend Roundup and The Way Back review

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Hope everyone’s had a lovely weekend. I definitely enjoyed my 3-day weekend though it sure went by real fast. I took a much-needed break from my computer which including blogging and reading other people’s blogs, though I had planned on seeing more movies but only managed to see two of them. One of them is a repeat as one of my good friends hadn’t seen THOR and since we quite enjoyed it the first time around, we saw it again but in 2D (which looks just as good as the 3D one). I still like it the second time around, and I absolutely LOVE the music. In fact the soundtrack is playing right as I’m writing this. After seeing the post-credit scene, I’m excited (mostly out of sheer curiosity) to see The Avengers! Check out this fan-art poster already circulating online, I think it’s a pretty decent Photoshop job.

The other movie I saw was The Way Back. I posted the poster and trailer last year and remember being really intrigued by the story, which was inspired by real events. I’ll get to my short review in a moment but first let me just make a couple of announcements. My good pal and fellow cinephile Paula G. has joined FC as a regular contributor! Please extend your warm welcome to Paula and visit her own page on FC to find out a bit more about her. As always, you can visit each FC contributor’s page by clicking the Contributors tab at the top of the homepage. I’m so excited to have her on board as she’ll introduce a new blog series as well as reviews of various movies.

The second announcement is that the highly addictive and fun Anomalous Material’s Hollywood Fantasy Draft has begun, this time in its third installment! Last week, I spent a few hours drafting my cast for my next movie pitch along with other fine movie bloggers, click on the link to see which actors/directors we’ve selected for our fantasy movie. Look for my dream cast post this week ahead of the actual pitch itself that will go up next Monday, June 6.

Now, on to the review…

THE WAY BACK(2010)

This Peter Weir film is inspired by real events, loosely based on The Long Walk written by a Polish POW in the Soviet Gulag (labor prison camp). The film tells the story of about a half dozen men who escaped the Siberian prison in 1941.

But the escape itself was just the beginning, the much more grueling task is ahead of them as they’d have to find a refuge in a land that’s not yet conquered by the Communist regime. That means covering 4000 miles of treacherous trek that includes the Gobi desert and the Himalayas mountain on foot! If you’re doing a marathon or triathlon this Summer, you might want to watch this film for inspiration… whatever journey you think seem impossible to conquer will undoubtedly pale in comparison to even half of what these people had to go through. Check out the map of their journey from Google map. Seems too good to be true, isn’t it? Well, again it’s said it’s inspired by true events, so we don’t really know what the actual length of the walk really happened.

The time in the prison itself felt rather fast, perhaps even a bit rushed. Presumably because the filmmaker would rather focus on the harrowing journey, which naturally is the heart of the film. The small band of escapees are led by a mild-mannered Polish man Janusz  (Jim Sturgess) who was accused of spying, his own wife turned him in by way of torture. In the camp, he met an American transportation engineer Mr. Smith (Ed Harris) and a tough Russian criminal (Colin Farrell), among others, who later became part of the seven-band of people who made the prison escape. Australian director Peter Weir always aimed for realism in his films, so the film looks appropriately gritty and somber. The actors speak using the accent of their characters’ nationalities, supported by subtitles, which I think is an effective way to get the audience absorbed in the environment.

The acting is really good all around, British young talent Sturgess is quite compelling as the kind-hearted Janusz, whilst Colin Farrell stole scenes in the relatively small screen time he’s in as the brutish Russian criminal who isn’t exactly a people person. It’s quite problematic when you’ve got a small band who must stick together to survive, but he later proves to be a loyal man and actually pretty funny as well, I grow fond of his character as the film progresses. Ed Harris is someone you can always rely on to provide screen gravitas in anything he’s in, and he’s perfectly cast as the weary and cynical Mr. Smith. Speaking of reliability, 17-year-old Saiorse Ronan once again impresses as a runaway girl Irena, who joins the group midway through the journey. In fact, it’s Irena who lets us in on the back story of each escapee, providing us some of the most memorable and heart-wrenching scenes. The other lesser-known actors are pretty good as well, especially Zoran, the Yugoslav accountant who provides the much-needed comic relief.

Another strength of the film is the cinematography by Russell Boyd, whose attention to detail to the overwhelmingly beautiful yet harsh scenery adds so much to the film. National Geographic Society is one of the film’s sponsors, so I guess that’s to be expected. This movie is impressive in many levels, but in the end, I didn’t find it as engaging as the previous Peter Weir’s film I saw, Master and Commander (view trailer). Don’t get me wrong, I’d still give this one high marks, I’m just surprised I wasn’t as emotionally-invested in the characters as I thought I would considering what they had gone through. Nonetheless, it’s a worthy survival tale that paints a convincing narration about human endurance.

4 out of 5 reels

Any thoughts about the movies I mentioned above?  What movie(s) did you get to see this weekend?

THIS JUST IN! First look at Pixar’s first female protagonist in ‘BRAVE’

Finally! After releasing a dozen feature films with all male protagonists, Pixar’s 13th feature film will have a female heroine! And not just an ordinary girl, she is a Scottish princess called Mérida.


Photo courtesy of BleedingCool

Ooooh, a spunky redhead who rivals Robin Hood with her bow and arrow? I like her already! :D There’s a lot of milestones associated with this project… this is going to be Pixar’s first fairy tale story, conceived by animation filmmaker Brenda Chapman who was originally going to be Pixar’s first director, but now she’s listed as co-director with Mark Andrews. Chapman envisioned the concept to be in the vein of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.

Here’s the premise per Wikipedia:

Brave is set in the mystical Scottish Highlands, where Mérida is the princess of a kingdom ruled by King Fergus and Queen Elinor. An unruly daughter and an accomplished archer, Mérida one day defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to the kingdom. In an attempt to set things right, Mérida seeks out an eccentric old Wise Woman and is granted an ill-fated wish. Also figuring into Mérida’s quest — and serving as comic relief — are the kingdom’s three lords: the enormous Lord MacGuffin, the surly Lord Macintosh, and the disagreeable Lord Dingwall.

Back in March, EW.com has released some concept art from the project, such as the two below:

The voice cast is appropriately Scottish: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson. First reaction: Where is Sean Connery and Gerry Butler? :D Glasgow-born MacDonald replaced Reese Witherspoon due to scheduling conflict and I must say I’m glad she did. A Scottish princess ought to have an authentic Scottish accent! Oh, there is also a bit of a Harry Potter cast reunion as Emma Thompson, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane will also provide voices for the film.

I pretty much love anything from Pixar, I think the only one I haven’t seen is Cars, which interestingly enough is the lowest scoring Pixar feature on RottenTomatoes (which is still high at 74%). That is amazing that for the past 16 years, the studio manages to keep a stellar record of producing quality films embraced by critics and audience alike. I have a feeling I’d have to update my Top Five Pixar Characters list after watching this one.

BRAVE is set for release in Summer 2012 and the teaser trailer will be released along with Cars 2 next month. I really can’t wait for this!


What do you think, folks? Are you looking forward to this latest Pixar original feature?

Guest Post: The rise and fall of Kevin Costner’s career

With the news that Costner will play Jonathan Kent in the new Superman film, Man of Steel, I thought I should write up about his rise to super-stardom and his fall from that status.

You see I never thought of Costner as good actor and yet I’ve seen every single film of his from 1985 to 2003, starting with Silverado and end with Open Range. It’s kind of ironic since both the first and last film I saw him are both Westerns.

To me, Costner was never a strong leading man, even though a lot of his films in the late 80s and early 90s were box office hits. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of his early films, The Untouchables, Field of Dreams, Revenge and Dances with Wolves were quite good. In those films, he just never stood out; I felt like he was there but not really ‘carried’ the movie but somehow he made it worked. Especially in Revenge, I always thought had someone like Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise starred in it, the film could’ve been even better.

I’ll list the films that made him a superstar and films that ruined his career as a leading man. Here goes:

  1. The Untouchables
    This was his first starring role in a big summer movie, co-starring with Robert De Niro and Sean Connery. The movie was a big hit at the time and catapulted Costner into an A-list leading man status. Looking back, this was a big gamble for Paramount, having a relatively unknown actor as the leading man for a summer film. Of course it paid off for both the studio and Costner, it didn’t hurt that they surrounded him with veterans like Connery and De Niro.
  2. No Way Out
    This film also came out in the summer of 1987, two months after The Untouchables, in fact. Even though it wasn’t a huge box office hit, it cemented Costner as a sex symbol to a lot of his female fans. I saw this film when I was in my early teens and I fell in love with Sean Young, who’s quite sexy in the film.
  3. Bull Durham
    Now that he’s an elite leading man, Costner decided to tackle romantic comedy and his first baseball theme film. This film was released in the summer of 1988 and again it was a box office hit. I didn’t particular like this movie, I thought the chemistry between Costner and Susan Sarandon didn’t really click.
  4. Field of Dreams
    Costner decided to do another baseball theme film and I thought this one was much better than Bull Durham. Again this one was a box office success and Costner can pretty much do whatever he wanted in the Hollywood.
  5. Revenge
    After two lighter films, Costner decided to star in a dark thriller and this was his first box office misfire since becoming a Hollywood star. I did like this film but I thought Costner was wrong for the part. He just wasn’t strong enough for this role and apparently many people agreed since the film barely made more than $20mil at the box office. Also, I think maybe because of the film’s violent content, it might’ve turned off many of his fans.
  6. Dances with Wolves
    He turned down the role of Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October so he could star and direct this Western. Well, I guess it was great a move on his part because the film made close to $200 mil at box the office and won him an Oscar for best director. (Scorsese should’ve won that year, but that’s another debate at another time.)
  7. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
    By this time, Costner was on the top of world and it seemed everything he touched turned to gold. This film came out in the summer of 1991 and again it was a huge hit.
  8. JFK
    In this film he teamed up with another A-lister, Oliver Stone, the film did pretty well in theaters and also got several Oscar nominations. I thought this was a very good movie, just a tad too long in my opinion.
  9. The Bodyguard
    After several serious films, he decided to come back and make a romantic-themed film. He teamed up with Whitney Houston (she was a huge pop singer at the time) and of course the film was a box office gold. I really hated this movie, the chemistry between Costner and Houston just didn’t click and the plot was more of a TV movie of the week than a big screen film.
  10. A Perfect World
    So after a few box office hits, he decided to team up with another A-lister, Clint Eastwood and make this film. I believe this is the film that started his downfall as a box office leading man. The film didn’t do well in theater and it didn’t receive any praises by the critics. I’m sure the studio executives probably thought, hey we got Eastwood who’s just won an Oscar for Unforgiven and a young hot box office star, it’s a sure box office gold. Well it didn’t turn out that way and the film got zero Oscar nominations. Personally I thought the film was okay, the plot’s really uneven and again Costner just wasn’t a strong enough leading man to carry the film.
  11. Wyatt Earp
    After the disappointment of A Perfect World, Costner’s back doing a Western. This time he played the title character and it’s a big budgeted summer film. Unfortunately most people have already seen a similar film a few months earlier, Tombstone. So this movie barely made back it’s $60-mil plus budget and again Costner’s bankable leading man status went down fast. Now I actually like this film better than Tombstone, I know I can’t believe it either, I really dug the whole back story of the Earps family and I thought Dennis Quaid played Doc Holliday in a more realistic way than Val Kilmer’s version.
  12. Waterworld
    Even though his last two films were box office duds, Universal still believed Costner was a bankable star, so they greenlit this $100 mil plus action/sci-fi film. The film was in trouble right from the beginning, Lawrence Fishburn left the project a few weeks before shooting starts and they had to scramble to find his replacement. Dennis Hopper ended up with the role. Then just a few weeks into shooting, a hurricane destroyed the sets and so they had to rebuild them. By now the film’s budget had ballooned up to $150 mil, some even said the film’s final budget was somewhere between $170 to $200 mil, this was the mid-90s when that kind of numbers was unheard of.

    Then towards the end of shooting, director Kevin Reynolds and the studio people were in disagreement over the tone of the film. The studio wanted him to cut down the violence so it could get a PG-13 rating; Reynolds on the other hand wanted a more gritty and violent film. Costner stepped in and sided with the studio and Reynolds left the film before editing even started. He still received a directing credit even though Costner finished the movie in post-production. The film opened in the summer of 1995 and of course it tanked big time and pretty much ruined Costner’s cred as a bankable leading man.
  13. Tin Cup
    After a string of box office misfires, Costner decided to go back and starred in another romantic comedy. The film opened in the summer of 1996 and it did a pretty decent business at the box office. I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit, probably because I was madly in love with Rene Russo at the time and not because of Costner. A lot of people in Hollywood around this time still think that he’s a bankable star. Which explained why his next film got made.
  14. The Postman
    Warner Bros. somehow believed that Costner could still open a movie with just his name alone, why else would they give him $80 mil to shoot this movie, right? This film was based on some little-known novel of the same name, which I had never heard of the book until they announced the movie. I assumed Warner Bros. thought Costner can make another Dances with Wolves since they scheduled the film to open on Christmas Day of 1997.

    Well, a few months prior to the film’s release date, the trailer was shown and a lot of people in theaters around the country laughed out loud at the title and the test screening didn’t go too well either. A friend of mine got selected to the test screening at the Mall of America theaters and he told me to stay away from it at all cost. I didn’t listen and went to see the movie anyway; after I saw it I wish I’d listened to him. A few months before the film open, it got such a bad word of mouth that Warner Bros. decided to not to even spend big money promoting it. The film made about $17 mil and pretty much destroyed Costner’s career as a bankable leading man.

After The Postman, Costner made a few films with similar genre that made him a big star in the first place but none of them were big hits. By the late 90s and 2000s, leading men weren’t really necessary to open films anymore, people went to see big films for only certain genres. Of course, some big-named stars could still open films on their names alone, i.e. Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Will Smith and Tom Cruise, just to name the few. But around this time, it’s clear that Costner is not in that club anymore. As I mentioned earlier, the last film of his that I saw was Open Range and I thought it was great. It didn’t wow many people so it didn’t really help Costner’s career at all.

I’m curious to see how big a screen time he’ll get for the new Superman film, it’s hard to believe how his career has fallen so fast as it did. [rtm’s note: Deadline has just reported yesterday that he’s working on a TV miniseries for the History channel]


What do you think of Kevin Costner? Are you a fan or do you feel the same way as I do that he’s just not a strong leading man?

Happy Birthday Cillian Murphy! 35 reasons I’m a fan of the Irish actor

A few weeks ago, my friend Novia from the awesome blog Polychrome Interest asked me and a few other bloggers to write a tribute to her all-time favorite actor. Of course I agree to do it. I like Cillian, he’s one of my top ten favorite Irish actors whom I first noticed in Batman Begins as the creepy Jonathan Crane, a.k.a Scarecrow. I have seen about a half dozen of his movies since and he continues to impress me. So for his 35th birthday, here are a list of 35 reasons why I’m a big fan:

(Facts obtained from IMDb and Wikipedia)

  1. I love that his name is unique… there’s no other actor w/ his name in Hollywood. Btw, his first name pronounced “Kill-ian” not “Sil-ian”
  2. He’s got a nice, deep voice… always a plus in any man
  3. Cillian’s got the world’s most gorgeous piercing blue eyes ever…
  4. … not to mention the enviable chiseled cheek bones
  5. On top of being so easy on the eyes, he’s an intelligent and talented actor…
  6. … if I were to use three words to describe his acting ability, it’d be versatile, charismatic & daring
  7. He’s a family man… he’s been married since 2004 and lives in London with his wife and two sons
  8. I love that he puts his family first… it’s said that he does not want to move to Los Angeles because of the cultural differences and distance from his family
  9. Always watchable even in a small cameo in Tron: Legacy, if only he had more screen time in that movie
  10. Seems like a sweet and romantic guy… I read that he proposed to his then longtime-girlfriend while hill-walking in Ireland
  11. He starred in three really good sci-fi movies I like: 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Inception
  12. His great iconic shots in 28 Days Later… such as this one:
  13. He strikes me as a down-to-earth guy who goes into acting for the craft, not for the fame and money…
  14. He’s not a primadona. He doesn’t have a stylist or a personal publicist, travels without an entourage, and has said that he has no interest in the celebrity scene
  15. “I’d probably have been wealthier if I had stayed with law, but pretty miserable doing it,” he’s been quoted as saying. I respect people who take a leap of faith to pursue their dreams
  16. There’s an air of mystery about him that I find intriguing
  17. Just like my favorite actor Gerry Butler, he was planning a career in law until he discovered the world of acting
  18. He’s quite the chameleon, even able to pull off a role as a cross-dresser in Breakfast on Pluto
  19. Love his intense but soulful performance in The Edge of Love with Keira Knightley
  20. He’s quite the linguist, fluent in French and Irish, as well as English of course
  21. He has a knack for accent. His American and British accent comes out natural and convincing…
  22. … yet his native Irish lilt is darling!
  23. He’s obviously got a strong work ethic on top of his massive talent, as big directors like Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle cast him repeatedly in their movies
  24. He’s got stage-cred on top of his Hollywood career, he’s done more than a dozen theater work and has worked with Tony-winning directors, such as Garry Hynes and Neil LaBute
  25. He looks good with glasses… especially as Jonathan Crane in Batman Begins… I like cute guys in glasses :)
  26. Men who are musicals appeal to me… and Cillian played in a rock band The Sons of Mr. Greengenes, named after a Frank Zappa’s song
  27. Equally convincing as a sociopath (in Red Eye) and as a hapless guy on the run from zombies (28 Days Later)
  28. Though he’s starred in highly successful Hollywood blockbusters, he still balances his resumes with indie fares, such as Perrier’s Bounty with Brendan Gleeson (his co-star in 28 Days Later)
  29. Awesome in Inception, his scenes with Pete Postlethwaite as his father was heart-wrenching
  30. He may be known mostly for his villainous roles, but still he’s not typecast in those roles…
  31. He’s intelligent enough to pull off a character of a brilliant physicist in Sunshine
  32. His role Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow is one of the most memorable in Chris Nolan’s Batman films
  33. Despite all the kudos and awards he’s received, he remains humble and always have a positive thing to say about his co-stars
  34. He doesn’t forget his Irish heritage and where he came from … he recently gave an interview in his hometown of Cork, Ireland. Check out my friend Olive’s blog about the event
  35. And last but not least, I made new friends because of him… Novia found my blog through my top 10 Irish actor post and we’ve become friends ever since. Oh, did you know she’s from my hometown Jakarta? :D

    So thanks Cillian and I wish you a wonderful and blessed birthday!

So what are your thoughts on Mr. Murphy? Please join me in wishing him a happy birthday or share your favorite Cillian Murphy role(s).

Weekend Roundup: Five Minutes of Heaven and JJ Abram’s Star Trek

I hope y’all had a lovely and storm-free (weather or otherwise) weekend. Boy, the weather’s been strange this weekend, it couldn’t decide whether it wants to be rainy or sunny, so it alternated back and forth practically every half an hour! There’s even some strong storms hitting our neck of the woods, even a tornado touched down last night about 20 miles north of my house! I think some people in North Minneapolis are still without power now, man it certainly makes me feel blessed to wake up with a roof over my head.

Hemsworth as George Kirk

Well, we had planned to see Thor again on Saturday with some friends but didn’t end up going. We did see a Chris Hemsworth movie though, JJ Abram’s Star Trek, well he’s got a much smaller part in it as Capt. Kirk’s heroic dad.

Apparently the latest Pirates of the Carribean movie ruled box office again. I actually had the [dis]pleasure of seeing the last installment before this one, can’t remember what it’s called, it was playing on TV when we were at our friend’s house. It is mind-boggling to me how this movie could be such a smashing success. There’s sooo much going on but yet there is very little story, let alone character development. Things seem to be happening at random for no apparent reason and by the end of it, we all just looked at each other and said, ‘just what in the world was all of that all about?’ It was utter rubbish I’d say, Johnny Depp was the only saving grace as Jack Sparrow, but still not enough to make it bearable.

Anyway, now on to the two real good movies I did see this weekend:

Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

When I saw this description on Netflix, I was immediately intrigued to add it to my queue:

A powerful meditation on guilt, forgiveness and reconciliation, this potent drama stars Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt as two men on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political struggle: one a killer, the other the brother of the man he killed. In crafting his keenly sensitive film, director Oliver Hirschbiegel eschews the predictable to deliver a work of tremendous insight and emotional complexity.

It’s a relatively short film, clocking in at 89 minutes, but man does it pack an emotional punch! The film starts out in flashback mode of the two main characters in a small town in Ireland at the height of the region’s civil war. They’re at the opposite end of the spectrum and one fateful night, their path is about to cross in the most tragic ways. It’s an amazingly effective set up to the scenario we see decades later, the day when  the two now grown-up men are about to face one another.

Both Neeson and Nesbitt are fantastic in this character-driven drama. Neeson as Alistair (speaking in his native Irish brogue) is a picture of inner turmoil – he may seem calm and composed but inside he’s a wreck, forever tormented by the sin he committed decades earlier. Nesbitt’s Joe Griffin is the same way, as his mother somehow blamed him for his brother’s death, he carried that insurmountable guilt with him all his life. There are so much emotions going on in the scenes leading up to their meeting, but amazingly, despite the nail-biting intensity, there are still elements of humor infused in them. There are so many mixed emotions you don’t know whether to laugh or cry at times, but throughout you really feel the anguish of both of them.

I really appreciate the poignant message against violence and terrorism. Alistair confesses repeatedly during his counseling sessions that it’s not only the victim who suffer greatly from the ordeal, but the perpetrator is also forever scarred by it and the psychological toll can be unbearable. And revenge isn’t the answer either… “My five minutes of heaven, how can that not be good for me?!” Griffin screamed, rationalizing his vengeful plan. But the filmmaker wants us to think that only through letting go, and perhaps even forgiveness, that one can achieve inner peace.

4 out of 5 reels


Star Trek (2009)

The crew of SS Enterprise

When I saw this at the theater, I remember how much I really enjoyed it. I’m not a Trekkie mind you, so I don’t know all the details about any of the characters other than knowing the names of the actors who played Capt. Kirk and Spock in the original TV series. So it’s a good thing this JJ Abrams’ feature film is an origins story, going back to the history of the USS Enterprise’s crews and how they got there.

The original and the new Spock

And what an entertaining journey it is! Much like X-Men: First Class where there are many characters involved but the main story really boils down to Professor X and Magneto, the story here is centers on the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are both perfectly cast as the eventual BFF. Pine has the wit, swagger and rebellious streak as the inherently smug but lovable Kirk, whilst Quinto is appropriately calm and unruffled as the ultra-intelligent half Vulcan/half human who feels trapped between the two worlds. The exchange between the two characters are the highlights of the movie, including the Leonard Nimoy as the elder Spock. (Thanks to Gowiththeflow blog for the two Spocks photo)

But just like any massive ship, it can only function properly when all the crews does its job well. Abrams runs a tight ship with this movie, the ensemble cast work nicely together and make for an exceptional team. My favorite New Zealander Karl Urban is awesome as the amusingly grumpy Dr. McCoy, his screen presence is undeniable, more than capable for more leading man roles. I like Zoe Saldana as Uhura as well, she’s definitely got the ‘it’ factor and has the sex appeal without looking like a bimbo. Oh, and Bruce Greenwood as the wise Capt. Pike is wonderful as well, he is a great character actor whose presence is always welcomed in any movie. Eric Bana is unrecognizable as the villain, playing a Romulan creature with a personal vendetta against the Vulcans and humans. He was decent, but he doesn’t seem menacing enough. Simon Pegg also does a memorable turn as Scotty, he might have overdone his Scottish accent a bit but still his bit parts are a hoot.

This movie is massively entertaining from start to finish, just don’t think too much about the plot. It’s technically impressive as well, no wonder it nabbed four Oscar nominations including sound editing and visual effects (it deservedly won an Oscar for Best Makeup). I’d think this movie would satisfy any Trekkie out there. Even I get a bit giddy when Spock did the Vulcan salute and said, ‘Live long and prosper.’

4 out of 5 reels


So what movies did you watch this weekend? If you’ve seen either one of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or! Congrats to 2011 Cannes Film Festival Winners!

What an interesting journey Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life has been at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. Just a week ago, it was booed in its first screening (read the story on Entertainment Weekly), but today it’s won the top honors the Palme d’Or for Best Picture! This isn’t the first time he nabbed top honors from Cannes, he actually won a directing prize for Days of Heaven back in 1979.

Apparently Malick is notoriously press-shy and is often absent from film festivals or even film premieres. This time is no different, so producers Dede Gardner and Bill Pohlad were on hand to receive the awards. “Why isn’t he here? I’m not saying it’s an easy question to answer, but he personally is a very humble guy and a very shy guy,” Pohlad said after the awards ceremony (per Washington Post). “He just very sincerely wants the work to speak for itself.” Minnesota-native Pohlad was actually at the Twin Cities Film Festival (TCFF) last year to promote the CIA drama Fair Game which concluded the festival. I’ve mentioned in my coverage of the event that he was producing this epic drama under his production company Apparition.

Check out the trailer below if you haven’t already:

After reading the reviews from Cannes, I must say I’m even more intrigued by this film (it’s one of my most anticipated movies this year). I came across this ScreenDaily article while checking out those reviews and found out that Malick is a devout Christian (Episcopalian to be specific) and according to Martin Sheen’s Wiki page, had a big influence in restoring the actor’s faith while filming Badlands. I guess I’m not terribly surprised by that and it certainly makes me like him more. I kinda thought that Days of Heaven had some Biblical allegory in it as this article suggests, so I wonder if the reason for the boos at Cannes is that the audience aren’t keen on the deeply spiritual aspects of the film? I won’t be surprised if that’s the case, either.

Anyway, here are the other major winners at the festival (per Yahoo News), chosen by a jury headed by Robert De Niro:

  • Best Director: Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive
    I haven’t seen any of the Danish director’s work (still have to check out Valhalla Rising). His star is definitely on the rise and perhaps this movie will make him a household name? The story is certainly intriguing: A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong. It also has two super talented actors: Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Reportedly Gosling handpicked Refn to direct the movie.

  • Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
    Awesome! I just put up the trailer last week and I must say Dujardin’s performance is a must-see. I hope this silent movie will find a decent audience here in the States.
  • Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
    Happy for Kirsten but I don’t really care for the movie nor the filmmaker… as Castor reported last Thursday, Cannes’ organizers banned Melancholia‘s director Lars Von Trier from the festival for his remark about sympathizing with Hitler. I must say I’m glad they did, though I doubt he learned his lesson.

Big congrats to all the winners!


Well, what are your thoughts about the festival winners and specifically Tree of Life? Are you looking forward to seeing the film?

The Flix List: Top Ten Favorite Scene-Stealing Bad Boys

To conclude the trilogy of our Movie Villains post, I’ve resurrected the post I did nearly 2 yrs ago after I saw Public EnemiesI found the Michael Mann movie to be rather disappointing, but one thing is certain, Johnny Depp makes for a charming bad boy, the notorious bank robber John Dillinger. Hollywood does this all the time, making a ‘hero’ out of otherwise shabby characters. These are the kind of bad guys (obsessive stalkers, con artists, psychopaths, what have you) that makes us root for them despite their wickedness as we’re mesmerized by them more than we should be. In many cases, they not only steal the movie, they steal your heart in the process. Yes some are popular picks but I decided to include ‘em because their performances hold up well after repeated viewings. So here they are listed in random order (it’s hard enough to pick just ten, I spare myself the task of ranking them):

1. Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
I don’t even like Westerns but I saw this one at the theater because of the cast. No doubt Crowe is a charismatic actor who is just as compelling as a hero or a criminal, but as a bad boy, he certainly looked like he had more fun. The Bible-quoting outlaw played by Russell Crowe is a complex yet sympathetic character. Even Dan Evans (Christian Bale), the good guy who escorts Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma, can’t help being drawn to the guy. The battle of wills between the two of them is the essence of the film right up until the end, with Wade having the last close-up and the one we remember more long after the movie is over.

2. Castor Troy in Face/Off (1997)
This despicable character is fascinating to watch, played by both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. When playing Troy, each actor get the best lines and both seem to have more fun playing that character than the good guy Sean Archer. I probably give Cage the edge over Travolta as Troy, he is so over the top with his crazy eyes and flamboyant swagger, he seems to truly relish being a deranged maniac. I do enjoy Travolta’s performance in the prison-visit scene though, torturing the utterly-deflated Archer with utmost glee… “Ohhhhhhhhweeee, you good-lookin.” Man, I love this John Woo flick!

3. Phantom/Erik in Phantom of the Opera (2004)
When I saw this movie back in December 2004, I had no idea who Gerard Butler was. But just one look at this seductive brooding ‘opera ghost’ and you’ll know why Christine’s lured by him. Despite being the world’s biggest stalker, the Phantom’s extreme obsession is beguiling, yes even tantalizing. “Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation…” The Phantom sings, and with that Christine is cast under her spell… along with practically every woman watching that scene. The half-deformed rogue is supposed to be an ugly creature not much to look at, but it’s hopeless to try take your eyes off this Phantom. He’s the kind of bad boy who makes it impossible to root for the suitor. Raoul who??

4. The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)
The role that eclipsed the Dark Knight himself, The Joker steals literally every scene he’s in from the moment he appears on screen. With his maniacal laugh and strange gestures, the agent of chaos is obviously a scary creature but also pretty darn funny! That pencil ‘magic trick’ for example, it’s both comical but unsettling at the same time, and that interrogation scene with Batman when he’s got his head slammed onto the table, “Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy.” I laugh so hard every time! The more I watch this movie, the more I become fascinated by Heath Ledger’s incredible performance, he was practically ‘lost’ in the quintessentially evil character that might’ve cost him his own life.

5. Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988)
The masterful performance by Alan Rickman always made the list of ‘best villain’ and rightly so. He’s cruel and ruthless but yet so refined, elegant and polite that I can’t help being strangely attracted to this ruthless criminal. Oh, there’s the voice, too, that silky smooth delivery that only Rickman could do. Gruber offers such a stark contrast to the crass and ‘everyman’ John McClane (Bruce Willis) and made the game of cat and mouse so much more fun to watch. Oh and that death scene, still one of the most memorable movie climax ever!

6. Vincent in Collateral (2004)
I’ve never been a huge fan of Tom Cruise, but reading the good reviews intrigued me to see this one. I’m sure glad I did, it’s a great thriller and Cruise is astounding as Vincent, a contract hit man on assignment one fateful night in L.A. The mega star rarely plays bad-guy roles throughout his career, but he really should do more of ‘em. Sporting scruff, salt-n-pepper hair, and shark-gray suit, it’s a striking look on the naturally handsome actor. Vincent is meticulous with his craft but he manages to appear amiable on the surface. Even his victims fall for his charm… only to realize too little too late that the person right in front of them is pure psycho ready to take a life without a hint of remorse. Jamie Foxx is excellent as the ill-fated cab driver, but Cruise definitely steals the show.

7. Dr. Octopuss in Spiderman 2 (2004) 
Alfred Molina is one of my favorite character actors, so when he was cast as the villain in this movie, I was in for a treat. The biggest nemesis often start out as friends, and the same with scientist Otto Octavius and Peter Parker. In fact, Peter looks up to Octavius, but one devastating scientific experiment gone awry changes all that. I see Doc Ock as much a victim as he is a villain — he’s overpowered by those mechanical tentacles he helped create that despite his brutal shenanigans, I never quite despite his character. His fight scenes with Spidey is so awesome that it deserves to be on this list. I think Spiderman 2 is easily the best of the franchise largely because of the compelling villain.

8. V in V for Vendetta (2006)
I’ve written an entire post on this very character, giving my homage to Hugo Weaving’s spectacular feat of acting entirely behind a mask. As I said before, no matter how you look at it, V is a ruthless and dangerous terrorist. Saying that he’s morally ambiguous is putting it mildly, because no matter how you look at it, the masked vigilante is basically a radical extremist. But anyone watching the movie will be hard-pressed not to root for the other guy and be mesmerized by Weaving’s masterful performance. His inimitable speaking voice sounds even more distinct and hypnotizing under that Guy Fawkes mask. That self-introduction scene when he rescues Evey from the corrupt police is one of my favorite scenes of all time (see the clip on the V post above).

9. Elijah Price in Unbreakable (2000)
This is the movie that makes me believe M. Night Shyamalan is not a lost cause. Unbreakable is one of my favorite mystery thriller of all times and boasts not one but two of the most intriguing cinematic characters. Price is the ultimate tragic figure, a man disillusioned and embittered by his debilitating brittle bone disease to the point of becoming a mass murderer. But watching the comic book dealer, you can’t help being drawn to his sophisticated and cultured persona… it also seems customary that memorable villains are impeccably dressed and his fashion style isn’t just stylish, they say something about who they are. I enjoy watching both Samuel L. Jackson’s and Bruce Willis’ unusually nuanced performances as they’re sort of playing against type as polar opposite individuals who cross path under the most incredible circumstances.

10. Col. Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino’s got a knack for casting charming bad boys (Hello Mr. Blonde), but he outdid himself when he cast Austrian veteran actor Christoph Waltz as the villain that practically ‘dwarfs’ every other actors in the movie. He is such a nasty piece of work who only cares about his well-being. He’s not even loyal to the Third Reich because he firmly believes in its cause, he’s just in it because it benefits him at the time. If another leader with a totally different viewpoint comes along, I don’t think he has qualms about switching his allegiance so long as there’s something in it for him. He’s spine-chillingly sinister but yet so darn charming and quite hilarious, sometimes he conveys all three at the same time in just the way he delivers a line! The suspenseful opening scene stretched my nerves to their snapping point, but  Every award the film industry had that year for Supporting Actor, they gave ‘em all to Waltz and rightly so. He’s one of the major reasons I was rooting for Basterds to win Oscar’s Best Picture!

Honorable Mentions:

  • Neville Sinclair and Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton) in The Rocketeer and Hot Fuzz, respectively
  • Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) in The Matrix
  • Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in Wall Street
  • Keyser Söze (Kevin Spacey) in The Usual Suspect
  • Dracula (both Gerry Butler and Gary Oldman) in Dracula 2000 and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, respectively
Please note that I decided to leave out female villains and those from animated features as they deserve to have on their own list.
… 

What do you think, folks? Any particular cinematic bad boy(s) stood out to you?

Guest Post: Top ten movie villains from the 80s – today

Well, now that you’ve read my villains analysis post, these are my top ten favorite/best villains in films since the 80s, I know I left out some well known ones but that’s because most people have already chose them. So I decided to go with some not so well known or no that popular villains in the last 30 years or so. Here goes:


1. Chad from In the Company of Men (1997) – Aaron Eckhart’s first leading role and wow was he great in this movie. He played one of the most despicable characters I’ve ever seen on screen. I truly hated his character and by the end of the movie, I wanted to beat the crap out of him. What’s more disturbing is that these kinds of people do exist in real life. In fact, I had a friend who has the same characteristics as that of Eckhart’s character. I got so annoyed by him that I’m no longer friends with him. But back to this movie, if you’ve never seen it, please give it a rent. And if you didn’t want to smack Eckhart’s character by the time the film’s over, then you may have a problem.

2. Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) – Alan Rickman is a great actor and of course he always played a great villain. Since most people named his Hans Gruber or Snape character as their favorite villain, I’m gonna go with his Sheriff of Nottingham character from 1991’s Robin Hood film. The role wasn’t as memorable as Gruber or Snape but he was the only good thing in the movie.

3. Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs (1991) – I saw this film when I was very young and that mirror scene disturbed me so much that I lost my appetite every time that scene came to my head. It’s still disturbing to me now if watch that scene again. Many people would pick Dr. Lecter but he wasn’t the villain in this movie, he was actually helping our heroine trying to capture Buffalo Bill. I was glad the film version cut out the backstory of how Bill became a killer; it made him more mysterious and scary. The book gave away too much information about his life and you ended up symphonizes with him.

4. Clarence Boddicker from Robocop (1987) – Out of all of Kurtwood Smith’s roles, his most memorable one to me has to be this nasty crime boss, he played a stone cold killer with no remorse whatsoever. The scene where he and his gang of thugs tortured and killed Alex Murphy was probably the most disturbing scene in the movie for me. I saw the film when I was ten years old so yeah it was quite disturbing at the time.

5. Magneto from the X-Men films (2000, 2003, 2006) – I loved The X-Men cartoon from the 1990s and Magneto was my favorite villain from the show. So when they finally announced the film version, I was a bit skeptical when they cast Ian McKellen as Magneto. In the comics and cartoon, he’s this muscular character but McKellen pulled it off and now I think of him as Magneto. Let’s hope Fassbender can play the role in the new X-Men film as well as McKellen did.

6. Annie Wilkes from Misery (1990) – Kathy Bates did such an amazing job that every time I see her in other films or TV show, I’d always think of her as Annie. If you think Annie was nasty in the movie, give the novel a read, oh boy she was 3 times nastier in the book.

7. The Terminator from The Terminator (1984) – No one thought that a small budget movie about a time travelling killer cyborg would spawn three sequels but it happened. Thanks largely to Arnold’s turn as the memorable cyborg killer; the film has become a pop icon in American cinemas. Oh yeah this was the film where he uttered his most famous line “I’ll be back.” Here’s a little nugget, Cameron wrote the part of The Terminator as a regular looking person and wanted Arnold for the role of Kyle Reese. Lance Henriksen, who played the cop in the movie, actually auditioned for the Terminator role. But when Cameron finally met Arnold in person, he decided to he wanted Arnold to play The Terminator and offered the role to him. Unbeknownst to Cameron, Arnold wanted to play The Terminator from the beginning and he was going to ask Cameron if he can take that role instead of the Kyle Reese role but Cameron offered him The Terminator role right away and as they say the rest is history. It worked out for great for both of them since both became famous and quite rich after they made this film together.

8. Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men (2007) – Another unstoppable killer on my list, except this one was not a robot but he’s sure act like one didn’t he? I know that this film has its fans and haters; personally I thought it’s a near masterpiece. I’ve seen the film at least 20 times now and I’m always fascinated with the Chigurh character. He’s killer who enjoys killing for the fun of it, in a way he’s very similar to The Terminator. He wants that case of money and he’ll kill whoever was in his way.

9. Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode 1 (1999) – I only include him on this list because he’s the only good thing in this film and I love that light saber battle at the end. The pod race sequence was pretty cool too. That’s all I can say about this film without offending the Star Wars fanatics out there.

10. Karen Crowder from Michael Clayton (2007) – Tilda Swinton’s role as a tough corporate climber executive was one of the most realistic take I’ve ever seen in a film. Why did I say her character was so realistic? Well I’ve worked in big corporations in the last 10 years or so and I dealt with that kind of person many times. In a scene where she first met Clooney’s character and she wasn’t too happy of what Clooney had told her; sort of brought back some bad memories for me. You see I do web design for a living and I have to present my designs to top level executives, a few years back I worked at a large corporation, I won’t name which one, I had to present my design comps of a new site. Well a couple of the executives just told me flat out that they hated the design and didn’t even bother to see the rest of them. Mind you I’d spent hours working on the comps so that was quite a painful experience. Anyhoo, I thought Tilda did a great job playing this kind of character. Now in the movie her character ordered a hit on someone, I don’t know if any of the executives I used to work for did that. I just wanted to make that clear.


Well, that’s my list. Any thoughts about any of my picks? Feel free to share who you think is a memorable movie villains.

Guest Post: Musings on Action Movie Villains from the 80s-Today

I love action films, when I was little I watched so many kung-fu and samurai films that I thought I was gonna grow up and be a kung-fu or samurai master. We all had silly dream when we were young right? Then in my teens I started watching shoot-em-up action flicks, a lot of John Woo’s earlier films and of course Arnold’s and Sly’s flicks of the 80s and 90s.

[rtm’s note: I found this fantastic illustration by artist Justin Reed, aptly titled 80s Action Heroes that’s perfect for this post!]

Click on image to view Mr. Reed's other works

You’re probably wondering why I told you that little story of my childhood, well I consider myself to be an action film junkie/expert. I kid you not, I probably have seen most if not all of action films Hollywood has made since the 1980s, some in 1970s too. Name any action films that came out in the last 30 years or so and I probably have seen it. Here are a few titles of action flicks that I guarantee not many people have seen or even heard of: Let’s Get Harry, Blind Fury, Extreme Prejudice, The Dogs of War and Freebie and The Bean. If you have seen some or all of those films, then I welcome you to the action junkie/expert club.

Anyhoo, now that I’ve got my history of action films viewing out of the way, I thought it would be a good idea to write up an analysis of sort about the villains in those films through each decade. I’ll break down the trend of bad guys in films in the 80s, 90s, 2000s and today. So here goes:

1980s – Bad guys were mostly drug dealers

Gary Busey in Lethal Weapon

The buddy cop action flicks were the big trend in Hollywood back in the 80s, and of course the bad guys were mostly drug dealers ran by old dudes with lots of henchmen with machine guns. Look at the villains in films such as Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, Tango & Cash, Red Heat, To Live & Die in L.A., Beverly Hills Cop and Raw Deal. Most of those films were big hits at the time and drug dealers were the main antagonists.

1990s – Domestic terrorists

Nic Cage & John Travolta took turns to play bad boy Castor Troy

The buddy cop action trend was dying down in the early 90s, and with that came the trend shift in action movie villains. The bombing in Oklahoma City and the Unabomber were the big stories of the 90s and so Hollywood decided to use domestic terrorists as their villain in action films. Look at the bad guys in these films: Die Hard 2 & 3, Speed, Cliffhanger, Blown Away, Under Siege, The Rock, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Face/Off and Con Air; the villains were either bombers or domestic terrorists. I recently watched The Rock again for the first time in 10 years and I thought to myself there’s no way the film would have been a big hit like it was in 1996 had it been released in today’s market. The concept was just way too ridiculous for today’s audience to buy into it. Now don’t get me wrong, I think The Rock was quite entertaining and it’s the only decent Michael Bay’s film. I also blame the first Die Hard for this trend, most of the big action films in the 90s were about a group of armed men holding hostages and demands huge ransom and of course our hero/heroes swooped in and killed them all and rescued the hostages. But the main trend was still domestic terrorists.

2000s and today’s villains

Action film villains shifted again in the 2000s with the success of comic book based and fantasy films. The successes of films such as X-Men 1-3, Spiderman 1-3, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Matrix Trilogy, Avatar and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, villains in those films were mostly fantasy characters. After 9/11, spy films were also big hits, The Bourne Trilogy and James Bond films raked in big money at the box office. I think this trend will stay throughout this decade too, since comic book films are still making big money and the new Bourne, Bond and Mission: Impossible films are on their way to the cinemas. Also, Avatar sequels and The Hobbit are also coming later this decade.

[rtm’s note: Ted’s picks for Ten Best Movie Villains from 1980s – Today is now up. Stay tuned for the final post of the Villains Trilogy Series out tomorrow]


Well do you agree with my analysis of villains in films? And do you think we’ll see another trend in few years from Hollywood?