2011 Movies Year in Review

HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody!! What a year it’s been at the movies… sequels definitely ruled Hollywood in 2011 and no doubt this trend is likely to continue. According to this site, the movie industry churned out 28 sequels, the most ever released in a single year! And this Box Office Mojo list shows that 7 out of the top 10 biggest-grossing movies this year have all been sequels (and one remake), topped by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, raking in over $1.3 billion worldwide. That’s just ONE freakin’ movie of the already very profitable franchise!

I’d say it’s been a relatively good year at the movies… despite the slew of sequels and remakes, there have been some inventive and wonderfully creative films like The Artist, Midnight in Paris, Source Code, Tree of Life, just to name a few. Of course I wish there were more arty films released this year to balance all the sequels!!… 

For me personally, I saw almost 40 films released in 2011 (well 60 if you count all the Gregory Peck films I saw in the past two months) with more than half of those seen at the theater. Thanks to the 2011 Twin Cities Film Fest, I got  to see some films that barely made it to our local theaters, such as Machine Gun Preacher and a few good documentaries like Where Soldiers Come From and the Stan Lee’s With Great Power. Not bad at all, though I hope to see more movies in 2012… but with the fantastic lineup like Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, etc. on top of the other non-franchise movies I’m anticipating, next year sure is shaping up to be another awesome year at the movies!

Well, it’s customary for bloggers to sum up the end of the year with their picks of favorite films. So here’s my top ten favorite movies of 2011:… 

10. Thor
Branagh infused witty dialog and draw compelling performances from his actors, whilst still delivering satisfying special effects for fans of the superhero genre. The ending is so satisfying and naturally set up for a sequel. It doesn’t seem forced at all, in fact, Branagh gives us much to look forward to, too bad he didn’t sign up to helm the sequel.
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As I’ve mentioned in my noteworthy performances post, one of the main highlights of this film is the character Rachel Singer, played by both Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain. But John Madden crafted an intriguing WWII thriller with unflinching action and sharp dialog. I don’t even mind renting this one again when it’s out on DVD. It’s not every day I come across a solid espionage piece that’s as taut and well-acted as this one.
… 
Biggest surprise of the year for me as I wasn’t initially interested in seeing this film! It’s an impressive movie that it kept me engaged from start to finish, there’s no slow or ho-hum second act, or unnecessary ‘fillers’… I feel that every single scene in this film is worthy to be included. I commend UK director Rupert Wyatt—a relative newcomer with only two previous feature films under his belt—for creating such a satisfying film with a ‘whoa’ kind of ending.
I never would’ve thought that this sequel to a Mission movie would end up in my top 10, but if you’ve read my review, you’ll know why. Brad Bird’s confident direction and the inventive actions scenes makes this movie work, and Tom Cruise’s definitely in his elements as the super agent Ethan Hunt. Easily the most electrifying action movie I’ve seen in a while!
I made a snafu in including Tangled on this list as it’s actually released in 2010. In its place, I’m including the final film of the mega-successful Harry Potter franchise. Though I had said in my ‘review’ that it wasn’t as epic as I had expected it to be, in hindsight I think it truly was a great finish to a well-crafted franchise. It’s quite something to see how much Harry, Hermione and Ron have grown over the years. These three friends have been through a lot and the finale captures a lot of their emotional moments, as well as other beloved characters, especially Professor Snape! Not many franchises THIS big could’ve ended in such a high note.
… 
5. Hugo
Martin Scorsese’s foray into family movies is an enchanting one. It’s another film on my list that takes place in the city of lights, captured in a brilliant cinematography by Robert Richardson. This film looks beautiful in 3D that’s used expertly to enhance the story instead of hindering it. I especially love the homage to history of filmmaking, intertwined with the story of a lonely boy trying to find his place in the world.
I don’t make a top 40 list like this to just any film, so naturally I LOVE this film. I’m naturally fond of the X-Men story, but Matthew Vaughn took this up a notch and delivered on his promise of putting together a Cold War setting + a Bond flick + Frankenheimer political thriller all in one heck of an entertaining movie. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy’s great performance is also major factor this movie works so well. Even after seeing over a dozen 2011 movies since, I still rank this pretty high on my list.
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3. The Help
This is the last 2011 film I saw this year and what a way to end the year! I never read the book but I’ve heard that it’s one of the few adaptations that lives up to it, and I can see why. The story alone is inspiring and thought-provoking, and the acting is top notch. As I mentioned in my previous post, I sure hope Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis will continue to get recognition during award season. I laughed and cried throughout the film, it’s one of those films that’ll stay with me long after the end credits roll.
This is the kind of movie to get lost into, to be swept off your feet and be magically transported into the charming Parisian world that Woody Allen’s dreamt up. Right from the opening sequence with the jazzy music Si tu vois ma mère all the way to the rainy setting of the finale, this movie is just so irresistibly beguiling. I’m not even an Owen Wilson fan by a long shot, nor am I a longtime admirer of Woody Allen’s work, but Allen’s got a real winner with this one.
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Beautiful. Enchanting. Inventive. I’m running out of adjectives to describe this film. I’m so glad I got to see it this year. Even though I’ve been waiting for this for a while and had a high expectation for it, this film still delivers! Major kudos to director Michel Hazanavicius for creating a film that’s not only delightful to watch but also so refreshingly different from the sequel/remake-laden pack of Hollywood offerings. As I said in my review, there really isn’t a single darn thing wrong with this film and even my husband who isn’t keen on black & white films, let alone a silent one, loves every minuted of it! A truly a magical time at the movies, hands down The Artist is my favorite I’ve seen all year!

HONORABLE MENTIONS:



As for worst films of the year, well I’m quite fortunate that I’ve been avoiding a lot of duds this year like Cowboys & Aliens, Green Lantern or Battle L.A. But if I were to name one disappointing film I saw this year, it’d be Somewhere by Sofia Coppola. Fortunately I didn’t waste my money seeing that at the cinema!

Another major disappointment is how Relativity Studio mishandled the distribution of Machine Gun Preacher, as my friend Sherry articulated in this article. It’s hard for any film, let alone a small indie like this one, to have a chance at success when most people I talked to didn’t even know it existed! I hope more people see it when it’s out on dvd.



Before I sign off, I just want to say have a HAPPY NEW YEAR and THANK YOU for your continued support and readership. It’s been a fun blogging year for me and ‘meeting’ new people who love movies as much as I do.

I hope to chat more about movies in the years to come… why don’t you start now by sharing your favorite movies of 2011.

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Counting down to 2012: Musings on Noteworthy Performances of 2011

The final days of 2011 is upon us, and it’s time to reflect on memorable performances I saw this past year. I resist on making a top 10 list because I haven’t seen everything released this year, yet I still want to share with you some of the performances I’ve enjoyed. Now I know some of my choices probably aren’t shared by most critics, with a couple of exceptions these names probably aren’t considered on the award ballot, let alone being nominated. It’s a shame because for the most part, these actors made the movie for me, even if the film itself might be less than stellar. So without further ado, here are my picks:

Starting with the FEMALE PERFORMANCES, the first thing that came to mind is Bérénice Bejo as I had just seen The Artist… she’s not only beautiful but has the grace and whimsy to carry the role from an struggling actress to a famous movie star. Her more emotional performances where she’s simply just sitting still with tears in her eyes are so evocative, it takes special skills to act with just one’s facial expression and she definitely has that talent in spades.

Now, once in a while a role comes along that requires two separate actress to play the same role, such as when both Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart were both nominated for an Oscar for playing Rose in Titanic. In The Debt, Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain played Rachel Singer in two different stages of her life. I LOVE Mirren whilst it was the first time I saw Chastain in anything. Mirren’s got the flashier role, especially towards the end, but I think both are impressive in their own right.

Now, if I were to pick one breakthrough actress of the year, it’d be Chastain. I saw her again in Tree of Life and The Help and no doubt she is all over the place, this girl’s got talent! I especially love her performance in The Help, she can be both giddy and desolate believably and looks effortless doing it.

What one could consider her breakthrough performance, Felicity Jones in Like Crazy is worth mentioning. She’s in virtually every scene in that romance drama and she has such convictions in her role as a love-sick young student that it often feels unbearable to watch. It definitely paid off for director Drake Doremus to cast her after she sent her audition tape (listen to my interview with the director here), it also helps that she and Anton Yelchin have a believable chemistry together.

Saiorse Ronan is no stranger to great performances despite her youthful age of 17. She was impressive in Atonement and The Lovely Bones in the previous years, but this year she tries on an action role for size… a bad ass killing machine in Hanna who could kill men twice her size with her bare hands. Though the film wasn’t quite as engaging as I thought, I think her performance is really outstanding. I do believe she’s poised to have an established career like Cate Blanchett who’s her co-star in Hanna.

Another impressive young performer is Elle Fanning in Super 8. She seems light years ahead of the other child actors in that film, just like her sister Dakota, she is so comfortable and confident on screen. The film itself has too many plot holes and is overly sentimental to be considered a great movie, but she came away with quite a memorable performance.

Now last but not least, since I finally saw The Help last night, I definitely can’t leave out Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Such warm, poignant, and strong performances, their portrayal as house maids in the 1960s are so full of heart and will linger long after the film ends.  So far both of them deservedly receive Golden Globes nominations, I’ll be darned if neither of them gets nominated for an Oscar this year.

Moving on to the MALE PERFORMANCES, and again I’ll start with the performer in this year’s big hit The Artist. Dean Dujardin is likely a shoo-in at this year’s awards, having won the César at this year’s Cannes, and rightly so. He just fits the part so perfectly, it’s as if he was born in the silent Hollywood era. He acted all the way through with just his facial expressions and body gestures, quite a cinematic high-wire act if there ever was one. Oh, and if there were awards given to animal performances in the movie, the Jack Russell terrier that plays Dujardin’s beloved dog definitely ought to be a front-runner!

Now, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50 probably isn’t going to beat Dujardin at the Globes as both are nominated for Best Performance in a Comedy/Musical, but he’s a close-second favorite in that category. It’s quite a challenging role to pull off playing a cancer-stricken young man trying to cope with his condition. It’s a delicate balance between whimsy and heart-wrenching poignancy that only a skilled actor like Gordon-Levitt can pull off. Even he could make Seth Rogen bearable to watch!

I’m in the camp that thinks motion-capture acting IS acting, therefore Andy Serkis‘ performance Rise of the Planet of the Apes deserves to be amongst other male actor nominees in this year’s major awards. The movie is perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise of the year for me and mostly because of Serkis’ spectacular performance as the ape Caesar. All those special effects, as marvelous as they are, would not have worked without an affecting performance behind them.

My next pick is sure to be absent from other people’s lists and it’s a shame really. Gerard Butler gave quite a bold and stirring performance in Machine Gun Preacher, taking on quite a challenging role of real life preacher Sam Childers with an inspiring story worth telling. Butler’s obviously believable in the action stuff, but his dramatic range is also on full display, especially in the tender scenes with his adopted African children. I also give him props for giving his all to this project, and did it for only a fraction of his usual salary.

You probably won’t find Mel Gibson name on today’s ‘best list’ but I think his performance in The Beaver is worth considering. The film itself has some flaws but Gibson gave a fearless performance as a man plagued by his own demons. Yes you could say it could be a case of ‘art imitating life’ but nonetheless it’s still a compelling performance from a capable actor who can pull off both drama and comedy seamlessly.

One actor that’s notably absent from this year’s Golden Globes is Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Now I’m not as in love with this film as I thought I would, but one of the major strengths of this film is the fine acting. Oldman anchored the cast as George Smiley, the anti-Bond type of British spy in trying to uncover if there really is a mole in the echelons of the secret service bureau. But I have to call out the rest of the stellar British acting royalty, especially Mark Strong, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch.

I also want to give a quick mention about Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in X-Men: First Class. Magneto and Xavier’s relationship is the heart of the X-Men films and both actors pull off their roles perfectly. I know Fassbender’s name will likely be on everyone’s list for his performance as a sex addict New Yorker in Shame, but I’d have to take your word for it as I don’t know if I’ll be seeing that film.

Memorable Supporting Performances…

Who’s to say that a limited screen-time is less important than those who appear in every single scene? So here are ten notable supporting performances I’m impressed with this year:

    • Tom Hiddleston in Thor
    • Jennifer Lawrence in Like Crazy
    • Tommy Lee Jones in Captain America
    • Anna Kendrick & Anjelica Huston in 50/50
    • Helen McCrory in Hugo
    • Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris
    • Emma Stone in The Help
    • Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2
    • Souleymane Sy Savane in Machine Gun Preacher


So there you go folks, any thoughts on my picks? I’d love to know which actors’ performances impressed you most this year.

Counting down to 2012 – Ted’s Top Five Movies of 2011

I have to confess that I haven’t seen many of the more prestige films this year, only the big-budget tent pole type. So I don’t know how credible I am by naming the top film best films of 2011 even though I haven’t seen a lot of the films that came out this year. So I guess you could say these are my five favorite films that I saw in 2011:

5. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

I’ve seen this film twice now and I thought it was a lot of fun. To me the film feels like an old James Bond flick from the 60s but with 21st century action sequences and gadgets. Brad Bird did a great job of staging some of the most exciting action sequences ever put on film, my favorite has to be the car chase in the sandstorm. By filming all of the action scenes with IMAX cameras, audiences felt like they’re part of the action once those scenes unfolds on the tall giant screen. It’s hard to make an action film without lots of explosions and shootouts, but believe it or not, this latest Mission film only has one explosion in the entire film and hardly had any gun play. In fact, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character never even fires a gun the film, while in the last two films he was like a madman with machine guns and pistols. Again, a great fun action thriller and see it on a real IMAX theater if you can.

[rtm note: read my full review of MI4]

4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I thought this film was the best reboot/prequel since Batman Begins. Yes it has some plot holes and the human characters were underdeveloped but the film was about the ape Caesar and Andy Surkis did such a great job portraying that character through motion capture. The big climax sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge was one of the best action sequences I’ve seen all year. I think the reason I put this film up so high on my list is because I didn’t expect much from it when it was first announced. I thought to myself, really another Planet of the Apes film? Didn’t the Tim Burton’s remake already ruined the franchise? Well when I finally saw it, I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed it. Fox did a great job of switching the release date by moving it up from November of this year to August, the film was one of the biggest hits of the summer.

[rtm note: read my full review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes]

3. 13 Assassins

Technically this film was from 2010 but it didn’t get released in the States until April of this year, so I can include it on this list. I used to watch so many Samurai films when I was younger and seeing this film reminds me of my childhood. Takashi Miike, whose films mostly were known for their weirdness and extreme violence, made one heck of an epic Samurai film. The story’s pretty simple and easy to follow and that big battle at the end rivals any $100mil action films made in Hollywood in recent years. If this film doesn’t get a nomination for best foreign film at the Oscars next year, then I think the Oscar voters has lost their minds.

2. Tree of Life

I decided not to go see this film in theater because the last time I saw a Terrance Malick’s film in theater, The New World, some of the audiences just didn’t have the decency to shut the hell up and enjoy his visual story telling style. So I waited till it hits Blu-ray and watch it on my mini home theater. It’s pretty much what I expected from Malick and since I already read the script I sort of knew what I was getting into. He didn’t disappoint and yes it’s one of the most pretentious films he’s ever made but it’s a damn good one. I’ve only seen it once, so I can’t decide if it’s one of Malick’s best films yet but I think it’s better than The New World.

1. Drive

Another film that some have said it’s quite pretentious and I won’t argue with that, but it’s damn good pretentious film. I was never a fan of Ryan Gosling, in fact this is only the second film I saw with him as the lead. He was totally in command as the nameless Driver and pretty good as an action hero too. But I believe the film work so well was because of director Nicolas Winding Refn. He took a pretty straight forward genre and turned it into a cool hypnotic action thriller, reminds me of the old action films from the 70s and early 80s. In fact, I wonder if Refn watched Walter Hill’s 1978′s The Driver before he made this film. They both have similar style of storytelling and the main character was never mention by name except being call the Driver. I haven’t seen The Driver in a while but I believe Drive is a much better film. The film comes out on DVD/BD late next month and I can’t wait to see it again.


Stay tuned for Ruth’s Year in Review coming up this Saturday


Thoughts on any of my picks? I’d love to hear it.

Counting Down to 2012 – Top Five Favorite Posters of 2011

Three more days until 2011 wraps, folks… so between now and the end of the year, I’ll do various top five/ten list that’ll end with a year in review.

Today, I’ll share my favorite official posters of movies released this year. I’m not including posters for movies released next year and beyond, but if I did, ScarletSp1der’s #1 favorite would make my list. So anyhoo, here are five posters I wouldn’t mind hanging in my entertainment room:

5. My Week With Marilyn

I haven’t seen the film yet and I’m not even a big fan of Marilyn Monroe, but something about this poster just works. It makes me curious to learn a bit more about what’s going on in that scene depicted in the poster, so in a way the design is quite successful. A lot of movie posters seems motionless with just people’s heads photoshopped together, this one gives a glimpse of the action happening in the subject matter’s life and I find that intriguing.

4. Page One Documentary

Another one I haven’t seen but it’s just so well-designed! I normally despise posters with promo quotes on them but in this one it seems like a cohesive piece that complements the main image.

3. The Artist

Ah the artistry of this whole project… If you’ve read my review, you know I’m enamored by the film, and this poster is just as gorgeous as film. I love the simplicity, it’s dramatic and elegant. That tiny dab of red stands out nicely against the black and white design.

2. Tree of Life

The main draw of seeing Tree of Life— or pretty much any Terrence Malick’s films—is the glorious visuals. So why not tantalize people with them… Can’t choose? Well just show as many as one could in one poster!! Fortunately, whoever designed this did it beautifully and an otherwise super busy layout actually looks beautiful to behold. I enjoy seeing every tiny picture, though if you look too closely you might get a spoiler or two :)

1. Midnight in Paris

I never would’ve put Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Owen Wilson walking along the Seine together… that’s my initial reaction when I saw this poster. But y’know, once I saw the film this design just grew on me. The amount of celebs in Woody Allen movie certainly is star-studded indeed, and the Parisian scenes definitely did not disappoint (my friend Castor even created a travel guide post inspired by the movie!). What I love most about this poster is the colors… I’m a huge fan of blues + yellow mixed together. It’s just downright gorgeous and makes you want to book your next vacation to the city of lights pronto!

By the way, I also saw this minimalist version someone posted on Flickr. I think it’s pretty cool though not as dramatic as this Van Gogh-inspired one.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

I was gonna include the Tinker Tailor poster on my top 5 list but realized that it’s technically not an official poster. It’s part of a series designed by Paul Smith for charity, you can see the rest on this post. I think they deserve a mention though as they’re so excellently crafted.

As for Ghost Protocol, I think it’s brilliant that the designer choose to highlight the major highlight of the film, that is Tom Cruise scaling that Burj Khalifa tower! It’s an awesome scene indeed, so the promise of this poster definitely delivered!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol


So what are some of your favorite posters of 2011? 

FlixChatter Review: The Artist

Every once in a while a film comes along that ends up becoming the ‘talk of the town’ so to speak. This year, that film is this The Artist. I’ve been waiting to see this since I saw the trailer last May. A silent black and white film in this day and age is obviously a novelty, but fortunately, that format alone isn’t simply a gimmick, French director Michel Hazanavicius offers us something more.

The story centers on a 1920s Hollywood silent film era star George Valentin, he started on as being at the top of his game, being adored by his fans the world over and Valentin loves every minute of it. Jean Dujardin plays Valentin with a sly smile and a twinkle in his eye, the quintessential debonair movie star with the world on his feet… little did he know.

Valentin encounters an up-and-coming starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in one of those ‘meet cute’ moment, and later Valentin ends up helping Miller catch a small break in one of his films. Sparks fly and it’s obvious they had a thing for each other, but circumstances drive them to go their separate ways. Before Valentin realizes — as he choose to ignore the obvious — a change is coming as talking pictures (talkies) is taking over. Pretty soon, Miller’s career in gaining ground whilst Valentin’s crumbling right from under him.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about the plot, in fact it’s quite predictable, but the inventive way it’s told is what makes this film so remarkable. Oh the joy of silent film, where the tiniest body movement and every little facial gesture like a raised eyebrow means everything. The right expressions can be as powerful as any dialogue and all the actors here did an outstanding job in conveying their intention and emotion without overdoing it.

The entire time I was watching this I was truly enthralled by everything happening on the screen. I was in awe of the gorgeous visuals which was unlike any other film I’ve seen in years, but on top of that, I also connected with the characters, with their joy, their despair. You’d think a film this stylish would be a victim of style over substance, but that’s not at all the case here, and for that reason alone this film is a triumph.

If this is playing in a cinema near you, I highly recommend you seeing this its big screen glory… the set pieces, the costumes, the cars, all the vintage ambiance will transport you to a bygone era that’s long departed but hopefully not forgotten. There’s also a few wonderful dance sequences by the two leads that were done in a long, uninterrupted take… it’d make even Gene Kelly stand up and cheer.

As for the performances, I thought this would be more of Dujardin’s vehicle, but I was pleasantly surprised that Bejo’s role is equally substantial. In fact, it’s nice to see that the female character isn’t the one that needed saving. I’d definitely be rooting for Dujardin and Bejo come Golden Globes and Oscar time, they are both electrifying! Dujardin has the panache and whimsy to carry off the charming movie star role, as well as the ability to evoke real pathos when things aren’t so rosy in Valentin’s world. Bejo is radiantly beautiful yet affable, you can’t help but like her character straight away. She really imbues so much heart into this film… her affection towards Valentin appears genuine and sincere.

I have to give props to the supporting cast as well. John Goodman is excellent as a Hollywood studio mogul, and James Cromwell is sympathetic as Valentin’s chauffeur. Penelope Ann Miller seems a rather odd choice as Valentin’s unhappy wife but I think she acquits herself well in the role.

Major kudos to Hazanavicius for creating a film that’s not only enchanting and delightful but something so refreshingly different from anything we’ve seen lately. This is the first 5 out of 5 rating I’ve given this year, and I really can’t find a single darn thing wrong with this film. One review I read said he didn’t want the film to end, and that when the lights came up, he didn’t feel like facing the world outside. I can certainly relate to that… The Artist is an exquisite blend of artistic visual style and engaging storytelling, a truly a magical time at the movies!

5 out of 5 reels


Have you seen this film? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Christmas Weekend Viewing Roundup

Hello all, happy Monday! I hope a lot of you get today off as well as Christmas fell on a Sunday. Well, it’s been a nice, mellow Christmas weekend for me but boy did we watch quite a lot of movies!

The three new movies I saw this past week couldn’t be more different from each other… a silent film, an espionage thriller and a motion-capture adventure based on a beloved comic series. All of them are movies I’ve been waiting to see for a year or more!

Earlier in the week I got a pair of advanced screening tickets to see The Artist, thanks to my pal Ted. I’ve got the review done and ready to publish tomorrow, that’s the first film I gave a five out of five star this year. I highly recommend it if it’s playing near you, trust me you won’t be disappointed.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy lives up to the ‘smart thriller’ promise though if you don’t like a ‘quiet’ film where not a lot of things are happening, this might not be a movie for you. I watch it mostly for the top notch British ensemble cast and for that reason it did not disappoint. I should have the review up later in the week.

Now, The Adventures of Tintin is still pretty fresh in my mind as I had just seen it yesterday afternoon. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Hergé’s comics and I’ve been waiting for this movie for almost two years! The fact that I was at the Tintin panel at Comic-con made me even more excited for this, which is really quite a build-up leading up to finally seeing the movie. Well, I’ll write a full review for this also but for now I can tell you that I’m glad Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg did the comics justice! They are both fans of Hergé’s work and it shows.

Now, I also had time to watch a couple of Gregory Peck-related stuff for my Peck marathon… one is The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which was based on Ernest Hemingway’s short story. It’s the second collaboration of Gregory and his friend, the beautiful Ava Gardner.

I have to admit, that even though the story was engaging and the cast were great to watch, but the fake backdrop used in the studio-sets are quite distracting! Apparently the studios only sent the photographers to the actual locations but the actors all remained in the studio lot. What a pity considering the filming were supposed to take place in Africa (hence the title), Spain and France!

I also finished Gregory’s well-written biography by Gary Fishgall. It’s the first actor biography I ever care to read and it’s quite a page turner. It offers a pretty good history all the way to his childhood and his start on Broadway, as well as a plethora of trivia on his illustrious acting career and his numerous philanthropic efforts. Here was a man who had a big heart and admirable persona to go with that devastatingly handsome good looks. I also watched this warm and candid documentary done by his daughter Cecilia called A Conversation with Gregory Peck (part of the 2-disc of To Kill A Mockingbird), another fascinating glimpse into the life of a true Hollywood legend. You can watch the full doc on You Tube, here’s the first part if you’re interested:


l love that the opening sequence is done in the style of To Kill A Mockingbird, which understandably is the film he’s best remembered for. Oh how I wish I had been able to attend one of those Q&A sessions, but watching the doc allowed me to live vicariously through some of his fans.


So what did you happen to catch this weekend? Please share your own weekend viewing roundup in the comments.

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas!

It’s Christmas eve and the sun is shining outside with no hint of the white, fluffy stuff outside. So yeah, this year there’s no White Christmas in Minnesota, I’m sure travelers and last-minute shoppers rejoice not having to deal with extra traffic caused by bad weather, but there is something so charming about snow-covered streets that make those Christmas lights sparkle even brighter… like this dramatic fan-art rendition of Bedford Falls, George Bailey’s hometown in It’s A Wonderful Life (from fanpop.com). I so love that movie, no wonder it’s a Christmas tradition for a lot of you… more on that in a bit.

Unlike last year where I traveled to New England to spend time with my in-laws, this year is a pretty mellow one for me. We’re going to an afternoon church service later today, followed by a get-together at a friend’s family dinner. The rest of the weekend’s plans will probably include lots of movie-watching, yay! I’ve got The Help dvd and we might catch The Adventures of Tintin on Christmas day. I also got to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (finally!) which was somewhat unplanned, we were just at dinner and checking out what films are playing nearby. As soon as we saw this title playing in an hour at a nearby theater, we immediately decided to watch it. I should have the review of that and The Artist next week.

Well, I managed to squeeze in a Christmas classic this week based on the recommendations of people at the MTOS Twitter event, that is The Bishop’s Wife. It’s a cute and heart-warming movie starring Cary Grant, David Niven & Loretta Young where Grant played an angel (talk about the ultimate fairy tale!). I enjoyed it but it’s definitely not going to replace It’s a Wonderful Life as my favorite Christmas classic. I’ve been reading a bunch of wonderful posts dedicated for that Frank Capra masterpiece:

Of course there are other great Christmas classics for your holiday viewing:

  • Iba at I Luv Cinema explored a few of them in her Tuesday’s Overlooked Films post
  • The master of Top 10 Lists Dan Stephens have various Top 10 Christmas Movies from the 1980s all the way to the 2000s
  • Oh and don’t forget to check out Lesya’s Christmas in Genres, a collaborative effort with many movie bloggers including yours truly

Let me close with this wonderful score from It’s a Wonderful Life‘s opening sequence. There’s an interesting story behind that music however, which apparently is not exactly a joyous one.

With that, I want to wish you all a blessed and merry Christmas and thank you for being such loyal support of FlixChatter!

Music Break: Five Fave Scores from Gregory Peck Films

Hello all, I’m kind of taking a blogging break today… I was going to write a review of The Artist but I’ll save that for next week. So how about a bit of movie music to perk up your day.

Peck on the set of 'Duel in the Sun'

As you already know, my recent Gregory Peck marathon has been a blast. Out of the eighteen films of his I’ve watched so far, quite a few of them actually have a memorable soundtrack. Here are five of my favorites so far:

To Kill a Mockingbird

Elmer Bernstein crafted this beautiful, evocative score to match the poignant masterpiece. This particular one in the opening sequence captures the childlike wonderment of Atticus Finch’s kids, Scout and Jem. Such an amazing melody that makes me well up with tears of joy every time I hear it.

The Big Country

This one reminds me of the Marlboro theme song used in the TV commercials I saw growing up. I LOVE this score and it’s just perfect for this epic Western, it captures the lush and majestic feel of the American West. It makes me want to go out there and ride a horse into the sunset… preferably with Mr. Jim McKay by my side ;)

Spellbound

I heard on NPR a while ago that Hitchcock knew that music can convey emotion in ways images cannot, hence the music in his films almost like a character on its own. This particular one by Miklós Rózsa is quite memorable, it’s mysterious & suspenseful, though at times it feels a bit overwhelming. According to Wiki, Hitchcock actually wasn’t fond of this music, saying that “…it got in the way of his direction.”


Arabesque

This fun score is reminiscent of 1960s Bond-esque theme songs. A longtime Stanley Donen collaborator Henry Mancini added a bit of Middle Eastern flair and a sense of whimsy to fit the plot. It may not be as memorable as his other works such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Charade, but I think it’s as entertaining as the movie.

Guns of Navarone

I wasn’t familiar with Dimitri Tiomkin’s work before my Gregory Peck’s marathon, but he wrote the score for Duel in the Sun and this one. He apparently wrote the score for It’s a Wonderful Life as well. This rousing score captures the bravery and adventure of the six Allied troops portrayed in the film, no wonder this stands as one of the most celebrated war movie themes.


Hope you enjoy this music break. Any particular favorite from the list?

Random Thoughts: The agony & ecstasy of [film-release] anticipation

Yuu huu… it’s raining trailers this week isn’t it? First we’ve got the final Batman saga The Dark Knight Rises from Christopher Nolan, I’m sure y’all have seen the epic trailer by now. Well, I was watching The Artist [a flawless movie, review to come] on an advanced screening last night so I missed all the festivities around The Hobbit trailer release, but as soon as I get home I just had to fire up the trailer… see it below if you haven’t already:

Before I go on, here’s my two-cents on this trailer:

This beautiful trailer brings back memories of why I LOVE Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy in the first place. The trailer captures the visual style and mood of the trilogy that we’ve come to love, but this time there’s one cast member I’m SUPER excited about… Richard Armitage! I announced his casting news in October of last year, so I kept waiting for Gandalf to announce the dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield… Whoa, he still looks hot under the dwarf make up, and boy he gets to sing, too!! One of the things I love about Richard is his deep baritone voice (just like Gregory Peck, he’s truly got the whole package on top of being tall, dark and handsome!). I REALLY hope this will bring more Hollywood roles for him. Come on, more casting agents ought to see BBC’s North & South already. Mr. Thornton FTW! Sorry, I just have to get that out of the way…

The rest of the ensemble cast is nothing short of phenomenal as well, on top of the original LOTR cast like Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, etc. I’m thrilled to see Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans and of course Martin Freeman as young Bilbo Baggins. By the time the Howard Shore score comes on, I’ve got goosebumps all over again, I’m so ready to be transported to Middle Earth right about now!

Man oh man, there’s too much cinematic excitement this week I could spontaneously com-bust! I’m still recovering from the awesomeness of The Dark Knight Rises, and now this! My pal Terrence @ ScarletSp1der just had a mind-boggling poll asking us to do the impossible… that is to choose between Batman 3 or The Hobbit. Oh man that’s like Sophie’s Choice. I can’t, I can’t… and I won’t! I am excited for both equally despite those being two very different films. Fortunately, we don’t have to as they’re released a half a year apart!

With 2011 coming to a close, surely more trailers are to come as studios are hoping to build up the hype for their 2012 movies. Now, as a film lover, the contrasting emotion of agony & ecstasy of anticipating movies can be unbearable! With every joy we get of seeing a movie trailer/clip/featurette what have you, it’s always followed by the agony of waiting for its release! I mean, I’m already complaining about the 7-month wait for The Dark Knight Rises but The Hobbit won’t be out until next December 2013, a stinkin’ FULL YEAR from now!! Oh Mr. Jackson, the agony….

And that’s just two of them, there are a whole slew of movies I’m anticipating next year, here are just a shortlist I can think of right now (release date is for USA).

  • The Avengers –  May 4, 2012
  • Great Gatsby – December 25, 2012
  • Prometheus – June 8, 2012
  • Skyfall (Bond 23) – November 9, 2012
  • Total Recall – August 3, 2012

Not including other ones which release dates haven’t been announced yet such as All Things to All Men and two of Gerry Butler’s sports-themed movies Of Men and Mavericks and Playing the Field. As you can see, the earliest movie to be released on the list is The Avengers, and that’s almost a half a year wait.

As I’ve just seen The Artist, it makes me think people’s attitude about upcoming movies back in the day in the pre-Internet and social media era, before movie marketing constantly bombards us the way they do today. I mean, the average moviegoers probably didn’t know a movie was coming out until like  a month before. The only ‘hype’ the movie’s got is only through newspapers, radio and occasional TV spots. Back then going to the movies were such big events, people got dressed up and line up to see the new marquee film playing in their local theater, waiting to ‘escape’ into the world of the movies, forgetting their troubles for a couple of hours. Unless they’re the film critics, I bet they weren’t picking apart each scene or fuming that so and so sequence they saw on the trailer wasn’t included, etc. Today, we often come with certain preconceived expectations about a given movie long before the opening credits roll, so for better for worse, our experience of movie-watching is undoubtedly very different.

Anyway, that’s just an observation I just want to share with you. I guess it’s up to us to keep our excitement and anticipation in check, which is getting harder to do given the increasing ferocity of social media marketing. The studios certainly are making the most of ‘em as my Twitter feed is abuzz with film updates almost every minute!!


What are your thoughts on this topic, folks? And while you’re at it, what are the top five films you’re anticipating next year?

Weekend Viewing Roundup

Hello folks, I’m assuming it’s a short week for most of you? For sure I won’t miss this 3-4 day work-week like this come January when the hustle and bustle returns at the office.

Well, The Dark Knight Rises trailer pretty much sidelined this post, but I still want to give y’all a rundown of the movies I saw this week. I’ve been averaging about 4-5 movies a week since my Gregory Peck marathon started and I’m still having a blast watching his movies!

I’ve posted my Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol review so here are my mini reviews of the others:

Twelve O’Clock High (1949) 

I actually saw this the week before but forgot to include it in my roundup post

Peck played a tough-as-nails general who takes over a bomber pilot unit suffering from low morale and whips them into fighting shape. Those who think Peck as the romantic Joe Bradley or calm-as-a-cucumber Atticus Finch will see a whole different side of him here, he lends credibility to Brig. Gen Frank Savage who’s based on a real life General Frank Armstrong, and the fact that he looks ruggedly handsome in those bomber jacket is a major plus :D
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His performance was nominated for an Oscar (his fourth in five years) and I wish he had won. His transformation from the stern, uncompromising leader to the moment of his breakdown at the end is compelling to watch… it’s a controlled performance Peck is known for, and the supporting cast is great as well, especially Dean Jagger and Hugh Marlowe.  There’s not a heck of a lot of air battle scenes despite the title but the ones that appear in this film were actually  photographed in actual combat by members of the United States Air Force and the German Luftwaffe, as stated in the opening. No wonder Savage’s leadership style is used as an example in US Navy and Air Force schools, as well as leadership training in civilian non-military seminars. Even though I’m not generally a fan of war films, I really enjoyed this one as it’s more character-driven and focused more on the psyche of the troops.

The Valley of Decision (1945)


Ok, back to the sweet & romantic Gregory in this one set in 19th Century Pittsburgh. Oh man, talk about a fairy tale, forget Cinderella, I want to be Mary Rafferty!! Get this, she came from a poor family of steel mill worker, when she goes to work as a maid for the wealthy Scott family, the eldest (and of course the most gorgeous) son Paul Scott falls for her. 29-year-old Peck turns on the charm big time, in only his third film, he displayed such magnetic presence on screen. His romantic scenes with Greer Garson just made me melt, and it’s really impossible for you not to root for these two to be together.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen Garson (never even heard of her!) but she comes across very likable, I might check out her other films after this. She reminds me a bit of Lucille Ball with curly her hairstyle and giant eyes, and she had a nice chemistry with Peck. I confess that even if the story is terrible, it’s still well worth buying this DVD just to stare at Gregory, ahah, but fortunately I find the story really engaging. Paul & Mary’s romance is complicated by the bitter strike among the mill workers, and a tragic incident involving both their families. Lionel Barrymore co-starred with Peck again here as Mary’s father, but his character is pretty much a variation of Mr. Potter. In any case, this one now stands as one of my top 10 favorite Gregory Peck movie now. Boy, it’ll be tough to make that list as he’s got so many great classics.

Bourne Supremacy (2004)

The second installment is perhaps my favorite of the Bourne franchise. Yes perhaps the presence of the über hunky New Zealander Karl Urban as the baddie Kirill has something to do with it, but I think the film is just more enjoyable than the first. We’ve got British director Paul Greengrass at the helm this time and the movie starts off with a dynamic chase scene almost right away. Damon confidently reprises the title role, growing more weary and exasperated by the relentless pursuits of the CIA. Of course he always managed to get one step ahead of them every single time.

Urban as Kirill

Bourne is on the run once again, this time flying solo across Goa India, Berlin, and Moscow. Hot on his trail is the CIA led by Deputy Director Pamela Landy (the always excellent Joan Allen) who’s immediately suspicious that Ward Abbott (equally compelling Brian Cox) knew more about the ‘Neski files’ case than he let on. The battle of wills between these two are great to watch and once again this film benefits from a great combo of gripping action and tight script, woven together nicely by Greengrass’ dynamic directing style. It’s also nice to see Julia Stiles’ getting more screen time this time around also. Both she and Allen are such underrated actresses.

Btw, my favorite action sequence is this killer car chase scene in Moscow, with Bourne driving with only one arm after Kirill shot him. Oh man, it’s downright gripping and it stands as one of my favorite movie car chases of all time!

Helvetica documentary (2007)

A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.

As graphic designers naturally the subject matter appeals to us and we both love typography. This documentary focuses on evolution of the ubiquitous type formerly called Neue Haas Grotesk, it’s developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann. You may not know what type face that is but you sure are surrounded by it, everywhere you look you’ll likely to find a Helvetica type face being used, whether in an ad or in a street sign. The doc also shows the origin of this type face and feature various interviews with type designers from mostly Europe and the US.

The history stuff is quite insightful and captivating, but I think the execution falls a bit flat for me. I was bored a lot of the time watching this 80-min doc, which is a shame as it could have been handled in a more dynamic way. Still, it’s worth a watch and I’d still give a similar documentary on product design called Objectified a shot, it’s also directed by Gary Huswit.


Well, that’s my weekend roundup, any thoughts on any of them? Feel free to share about the movies you saw this weekend.