The Ten Best Actors of All Time: Relay Race

My friend Nostra at My Filmviews started this back in mid March, as if he needed to prove to anyone that he lives up to the title ‘King of all Blog Series’ that I gave him :D What’s this relay race all about? I’ll let Nostra himself explain:

“So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors”

Since then the baton has been passed on to Terrence @ The Focused Filmographer, Scott @ Front Room Cinema, then off to Pete @ I Love That Film who then passed it on to yours truly!


All right, so here we go:

Robert De Niro

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Although he may not have had any roles that stood out in the last couple of years, he has proven what an amazing actor he is. Just think of his roles in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Godfather: Part II, Goodfellas, The Untouchables, Heat and Cape Fear.

Daniel Day Lewis

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Although he might not have appeared in as many movies as some of the other actors in this list he makes up for it in the amazing performances he gives. He really disappears in his roles. Some of his best work includes My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, In the Name of the Father and Last of the Mohicans.

Charlie Chaplin

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Now this might not be someone you’d immediately think of, but when it comes to comedy and silent movies he was perfect, funny and knew exactly how to make his audience care about the character he played. Some of his best work can be enjoyed in The Kid, City Lights, The Great Dictator and Modern Times.

Gary Oldman

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He has proven that he is a true chameleon, with a very distinct look in every movie he appears in. His acting is always a joy to watch. Some of his best known work is that in the Harry Potter series, Leon, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the latest Batman movies and Dracula.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

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He started acting in 1991 and really has had a very versatile career appearing in movies that are loved in art houses, but in mainstream movies as well. His movies include The Ides of March, Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Wilson’s War, Capote and Magnolia.

Marlon Brando

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Now I must admit that I haven’t seen many of his movies, but he was stunning in his most famous role in The Godfather, but also roles in Apocalypse Now, On The Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire he wowed audiences.

Robert Duvall

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Robert Duvall has had an amazing career as well. I don’t know much about his early work, but I always enjoy to see him on the screen. His characters always are injected with something that grounds them into reality. He appeared in movies like Get Low, The Godfather, Colors, Apocalypse Now and THX1138.

Christian Bale

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With quite the diverse range in roles, Oscar-winner Christian Bale goes to great lengths for many of his roles. From losing weight to almost unhealthy standards twice (The Machinist, The Fighter) to taking dance and martial arts lessons for 10 weeks for Newsies (a film which he dislikes), Bale consistently goes to incredible lengths to bring a role to life. Other examples of his great work include: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Empire of the Sun, Equilibrium, and 3:10 to Yuma.

Edward Norton

The star of one of the greatest films of all time; David Fincher’s Fight Club.  He has made a career out of playing characters with two sides to their personalities.  From an ‘innocent’ abused choirboy with a dark side in Primal Fear right up to his turn as The Incredible Hulk, Norton does Dr Jekyll and Mr Nutcase Hyde better than anybody!  American History X and Fight Club are the standout performances of his career and though he might not have a huge filmography, his casting with Brando and De Niro in The Score was a significant baton-passing to the best actor of a new generation.

My Choice: Gregory Peck

Yes I realize my pick is quite predictable to most of you, ahah. But hey, we are talking about the best actors of ALL TIME here and after seeing twenty eight of his feature films in the last six months, I can confidently say he wasn’t just a great and versatile actor, he’s an acting legend! I think even fellow AFI Lifetime Achievement Award recipient DeNiro (and his co-star in the Cape Fear remake) would vouch for him. Interestingly, Mr. Peck passed away the night DeNiro received the AFI honor, and he called Peck “elegant, distinguished and a film icon” (per People).

Most of you know he won an Oscar as the quiet hero Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, but few know that it was his fifth Oscar nomination. He nabbed the other four Best Actor nominations within the first five years of his career. Though he’s known for portraying serious roles and a lot of noble men, I think he’s as adept and convincing in his more comic roles such as in Arabesque, Designing Woman and Roman Holiday. He’s also fun to watch as an all-out bad guy, such as in Duel in the Sun and Boys of Brazil (based on what I read anyway as I haven’t seen it yet), though by his own admission he wasn’t as keen on playing. I really think Mr. Peck is the real deal, a quintessential movie star with enormous acting talent and strong screen presence to boot.

Who I Replaced: Paul Giamatti

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Oh man, I am in tears that I have to remove Giamatti from the list because I really like this guy!! I’m so sorry Scott, since you’re the one who added him to this list but if it’s any consolation, I do think he’s excellent, excellent actor but I guess out of all the nine other actors on this list, I feel like Giamatti is the one who’s perhaps more successful as a character or supporting actor, but doesn’t necessarily have that ‘star quality’ to get people to see a film simply because his name is on the marquee. I guess you could argue that about Philip Seymour Hoffman as well (which was my second choice to take out), but I do think Hoffman is the stronger and more compelling performer one of the two.



Ok, since it’s been mostly guys who’ve been picked to do the relay, I’m going to pick another girl for the next one. So I’m handing the baton over to… Kristin @ All Eyes on Screen. All right Kris, you’ve got a week to take part in the relay. Looking forward to see who you’d add and replace!
… 


So what do you think of my pick? Who would you replace if you were me? Let’s hear it in the comments!

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7×7 Award

You like me, you really like me!

Ehm, pardon my heartfelt enthusiasm but I really am grateful for this award and pardon my tardiness in getting this post up. I share this award with my wonderful contributors, especially Ted S. and Jack Deth.

Firstly, let me say thank you so very much Michael, Diana, Ruth, Julian, Niels, Richard, Pete, Andina and Dan for tagging me. Now I gladly oblige to the rules that come with this award :)

The rules to the 7 x 7 Link Award are simple:

1: Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.

2: Link to a post I think fits the following categories: The Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride-worthy Piece.

3: Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers.

As for a fact that nobody knows… Well, I think with the exception of a few close friends, most people don’t know that Gerry Butler inspired me to write a novel. An unusual inspiration I know, but when I had a massive crush on him after seeing Phantom of the Opera back in 2004, I actually started writing a novel a year later in which the protagonist is inspired by him. I even named the character Eric, a variation of ‘Erik’ which is the real name of the Phantom in the original Gaston Leroux’s novel. You can read an excerpt from an earlier draft of one of the chapters here. I’ve since put that post on the back burner since I started this blog, but I’m still hoping to pick that up again in the future.

The Most Beautiful Piece

Beauty is so subjective, but I think I’d have to go with the two part list of 15 favorite period drama heroes that I collaborated with my friend Paula. It took quite a bit of effort to do this and I must say, it’s filled with a lot of really beautiful men :D

The Most Helpful Piece

Hmmm, I don’t want to be presumptuous that people find any of my posts helpful, but I suppose for non-Bond fans or those who aren’t familiar with this franchise might find Our picks of Best & Worst Bond films from each decade handy when they want to get into Bond movies.

Most Popular Piece

To this day, no post has been able to beat this Actors who are (surprisingly) good singers post I did back in November 2009. Thanks to IMDb hitlist (which sadly is going away soon), this post got nearly 20,000 hits in one day and over 100 comments. I guess everyone has some strong opinions as to who they think are good singers… or not :)

Most Controversial Piece

No doubt this one is the most controversial so far – Tired of boys ruling Hollywood? Get these real men to the rescue. It’s another post that got picked up by IMDb in 2009 that generated quite a lot of angry responses! Some actually call me a racist for the lack of colored actors in the post. Geez, I’m not white myself but since when is it wrong to have a preference in actors?? People take these things way too seriously, ahah.

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece

Well, unlike the King of Blog Series that is Nostra, there’s barely any that I keep regularly here on FC. But the Five for the Fifth series prove to be quite successful ever since I launched it back in January of 2011. Thanks everyone for participating on these posts every month!

Most Underrated Piece

Well, I often mention Return to Me on this blog as one of my favorite rom-coms ever. I wrote a lengthy piece as to why it’s such a beautiful, poignant chick flick more people should check out, sadly I don’t think anyone’s read it.

Most Pride-Worthy Piece

I spent a ton of time on each of the fantasy movie pitches that Castor of Anomalous Material started, so those posts are very special to me. My favorite of all of them remains to be Hearts Want, a romantic thriller starring Timothy Dalton and Helen Mirren in the lead roles, directed by Ridley Scott. It’d be a dream come true to someday translate that into a real screenplay.


Well, since I’m quite late into this meme, seems like everyone has done this already or been tagged by others. So I’d like to pass this award to those who hasn’t done this yet but whose blogs are one of my favorites. So here goes:



Thanks everyone for your support of this wee blog. Your readership and comments are always sincerely appreciated!

Attention action directors: Shaky cam and fast editing needs to go away

This is my rant to action some action directors in Hollywood who thinks that by having shaking cam and fast editing style will make your action scenes look cool. Please stop doing that right now! Those kind of sequences made some of us the viewers dizzy and a lot of times distract us from enjoying your movies.

I tweeted Brad Bird the other day asking him what’s his take on these kind of new style of shooting actions scenes and here’s what he tweeted back:

In the hands of a talented filmmaker (like Greengrass) it can be great. But a lot of hacks use it because they can hide bad staging.”

I agree with what he said 100%, besides Paul Greengrass I don’t believe any other directors has done a good job of shooting those crazy hand held shaking cam action set pieces. It seems like after The Bourne Supremacy came out, there has been an onslaught of action films with unwatchable action sequences.

I wonder if these kind of style are now being taught in film schools or that the studio big bosses are demanding that an action film needs to be done in fast-editing and hand-held-camera style. To me, it seems some of the newer filmmakers tend to take these kind of style to heart, for example I recently saw Safe House which was directed by a new young director Daniel Espinosa. The action scenes he shot were overly-done with that fast editing and shaky cam that I couldn’t really tell what the heck was going on. Another director who seems to love to make people sick while watching his film is Jonathan Liebesman. I dare you to watch his masterpiece pile of poo, Battle: Los Angeles, without getting a little dizzy.

But the worst offender to me was Sly Stallone, he shot so many bad action sequences in The Expendables that I thought he was high on something.

Take a look at this car chase scene from that film, it was so badly-edited and shot that I got dizzy from watching it:


When I saw it in the theater, I wanted to yell out: “Stallone pull the darn cameras back and let us see what the hell is going on!”  The scene was so tightly-shot and the hand held shaking cam style didn’t help at all. I love car chase scenes but I was begging for this particular one to be over fast. The sad part is, had Stallone and his cinematographer pull the cameras back a little and forgo this overused filmmaking style, that scene could’ve been very exciting to watch.

Another experienced action director who seems to now love this kind of style is Tony Scott. His last few films were pretty bad and the action scenes in those films were even worst. Take a look at the shootout scene from Domino:


If I didn’t know it was Scott who directed it, I would’ve thought it was some amateur filmmaker who tried too hard to make that scene look exiting. I couldn’t even finish watching that scene, I had to fast-forward it because I felt sick watching it. What’s so depressing was that Scott actually shot two similar scenes in his earlier films, True Romance and Enemy of the State, but in those films he did a great job of creating chaos during a shoot out scene in a tight space. And those films were very good while Domino was an awful movie.

Then there are some directors who’s now jumping into doing action films. For example, Marc Forster, who made Quantum of Solace and most of the action scenes in that film were badly shot. With the exception of the opening car chase and the foot chase/shootout during the opera, the rest of set pieces in that film were incomprehensible. Hopefully he’ll do a better job on his next big action film Word War Z. Now I haven’t seen the film yet but I read that in The Hunger Games, Gary Ross used too much of the hand held shaky style on a lot of scenes.

Another director I need to mention is Christopher Nolan (don’t hate me Nolan fanatics, I’m a huge fan of his too), the man still doesn’t know how to shoot a well-crafted action sequence. Apparently Nolan is the only big name director in Hollywood who doesn’t have a true second unit director working for him. He wants to shoot every scene for his films and so he’s there for all of the big action sequences. I love Batman Begins but I thought all of the action scenes in that film were poorly shot and edited. His style improved in The Dark Knight but some of the action scenes in Inception were so-so. Hopefully he’ll give us some great action set pieces in The Dark Knight Rises. Although after seeing the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises last winter, my gut feelings tells me Nolan might still needs to improve his skills as an action director.

I think these directors needs to study how to shoot great and exiting action scenes from the directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson and Sam Peckinpah. I thought Brad Bird did an amazing job of shooting the action scenes in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, instead of giving us the usual shaky hand-held and fast-editing look, he built the tension up and the results were some very cool and exciting set pieces.

One of my favorite action scenes is from the final shoot out of Extreme Prejudice (which Jack Deth reviewed here), here’s the clip:


The film was directed by Walter Hill and I think this scene should be shown in film school everywhere on how to shoot an action sequence properly. I love this scene and can watch it over and over again. It’s an homage to Peckinpah’s classic The Wild Bunch, which has, in my opinion, the best finale shootout in film history. Check it out here:


Well that’s my rant to Hollywood action directors about shooting bad action sequences. Do you agree that this kind of style needs to go away or do you find them to be quite exciting to watch?

Random Thoughts: What’s the deal with this ‘teaser for a trailer’ trend??

Ok, I normally don’t post a rant very often here on this blog, but I just can’t help it after seeing this TOTAL RECALL ‘teaser trailer to a trailer’ that’s just released yesterday:


Never mind the Inception-sounding music or whether or not you agree that this movie should be remade. What I want to point out here is that this video is NOT the actual trailer. Instead, it’s a TEASER to a trailer that’s about to be released on Sunday! Say what?? 

Yep, you read it right. It’s a growing trend in movie marketing today and it’s darn right discombobulating. Apparently earlier this month, Ridley Scott did the exact same thing with Prometheus (the Slate writer astutely called it a Borgesian development in movie marketing yet) Fortunately I missed that one until the actual trailer was released. Notice that both of these teaser videos contain the line…‘Get ready’ or ‘Prepare to experience…’, as if seeing a series of selected shots from a given film is such a grandiose occasion that it needs to be advertised.

Just when and why the heck did this disturbing trend begin??

It’s apparently not enough that we’re constantly bombarded with a plethora of movie previews every single day, which sole purpose is to ‘tease’ us with the most noteworthy parts of the film in question, the studios now feel compelled to bait us with a teaser … to a trailer?? [face palm]

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoy watching trailers, and I wholeheartedly agree w/ Louise’s post about the joy of trailers that was featured on IMDb today: Trailers have a special magic all of their own, they draw us in, entice us, thrill us and hopefully persuade us to spend our hard earned cash going to see the finished film. That last part is key obviously, which sadly, is lost on a lot of trailer makers today who tend to tell us the whole darn story instead of enticing us to find out for ourselves when we watch the movie.

Heh, I was actually looking forward to seeing the Total Recall trailer as the footage I saw at Comic-con was cool, but between the leaked Taiwanese trailer a few weeks back and this one, I’m actually losing interest before the actual trailer is even released!

– end rant


Anyway, what do you guys think about this ‘teaser for a trailer’ trend? Anybody else bothered by this or is it just me?

Weekend Roundup: The Raid: Redemption and My Week with Marilyn reviews

Happy Tuesday folks, a bit late on the weekend roundup as I just wanted to get my Hunger Games review out of the way. Well, I managed to see four movies last week which to some of you is on the low side but it’s actually more than what I usually have time for. I saw Casablanca on Wednesday (which I still plan to blog about in the near future), a re-watch of Gregory’s second film (and his first Oscar-nominated performance) The Keys to the Kingdom, Hunger Games, and late Sunday night I finished the week with My Week With Marilyn.

This week we also have a special guest review from my Twitter pal Cecilia Rusli who saw the uncensored version of THE RAID (which I mentioned here) at iNAFFF (Indonesia International Fantastic Film Festival), the only genre film festival in South East Asia. She actually got to meet some of the cast, Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Joe Taslim, Tegar Satrya at the special screening!

So let’s get to the reviews, shall we?

THE RAID: Redemption

I was impressed on the first time I saw the fights between Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian in an Indonesian action movie directed by Gareth Evans titled Merantau. It finally put my expectation pretty high on The Raid: Redemption which has the same director and some same casts too. The Raid: Redemption basically is about a group of SWAT which are on a mission on raiding a drug lord on his safe house. They find out that they were trapped there and the only way out is by fighting those dangerous killers and drug lord floor by floor.

I’m personally not impressed by the storyline and it’s the kind of story I will forget in few weeks. However, Ray Sahetapy and Yayan Ruhian, the villains, are having strong characters which made me love them much than the other casts, even Iko Uwais could not beat my impression to their characters. They both managed to look real snob, but hilarious at the same time. I think I’m officially more into the villains of The Raid: Redemption.

The hype is true. The Raid: Redemption offers a  non stop action pack which hardly gives us room to breathe. The thing which I hardly find on the other action movies is the Indonesian martial arts known as Pencak Silat. They do use some guns, knives, and explosions. And I would prefer watching The Expendables if I’m into those things. But The Raid: Redemption managed to actually shows us how to kill people with hands, and only hands. Iko Uwais is brilliant on that point. Again, not only by his character, Yayan Ruhian steal my most attention on the action parts. Yes he looks small if being compared with most fighters on action movies who are tall and having big muscles. But his superb fights on The Raid: Redemption actually made me say “When will this guy be dead?”

Some people might say that The Raid: Redemption is just a video-game like. I personally amused by the violence. Blood and fights between tough guys have never been so much entertaining like this before.
/// 
4 out of 5 reels


Thanks again Cecilia for her wonderful review!


My Week With Marilyn

I don’t usually begin my review with a confession but I feel that I must admit that I have never seen a Marilyn Monroe film before seeing this one. But yet I’ve always been intrigued by her glamorous persona and this film offers a tiny glimpse of what’s life is like for Hollywood’s most iconic movie star.

The ‘my’ in the title belongs to an Englishman named Colin Clark, whose two books are the film’s inspirations. Despite his lack of experience, the 23-year-old Clark’s determination (and family connection) got him a seemingly thankless job as third assistant director in The Prince and the Showgirl’s British production, directed by Lawrence Olivier who also starred in the film. It doesn’t take long before Clark completely fell under Monroe’s spell, as she had such an effect on people. The British Press, the cast and crew and the townsfolk were all in awe of her beauty and movie star image, all except Mr. Olivier, who’s frustrated and infuriated by her work ethic, or lack thereof. Marilyn was constantly late to the set and always insisted on bringing her acting coach Paula Strasberg, though it didn’t seem to help as she constantly flubbed her lines.

Colin summed up the dilema between Monroe and Olivier perfectly… “It’s agony because he’s a great actor who wants to be a film star, and you’re a film star who wants to be a great actress…” 

Despite her beauty and fame, Marilyn had zero self confidence and Olivier’s no-nonsense attitude and blatant discontent only exacerbates her poor morale. At first I thought that Marilyn was such an irritating primadonna, but as the film went on, I felt increasingly sorry for her. When her husband briefly went back to New York, Marilyn turns to the warm and compassionate Colin. Though Marilyn’s name is in the title, Colin is arguably the heart of the film as he took us through a roller-coaster ride of pure euphoria and heartbreak, all in a week’s work.

Michelle Williams is sublime as Marilyn, offering us something more than just plain imitation of the iconic actress’ coquettish sensibilities. Her blond locks and voluptuous figure certainly look the part, but she also captured Marilyn’s emotional vulnerability and her desperate yearning to be accepted and loved. Now I can’t tell you if Kenneth Branagh‘s performance as Olivier is spot-on or not as I’m not acquainted at all with the late actor, but in the context of the film, I think his performance was excellent. Both he and Williams definitely deserve all the accolade, including their Oscar nominations, for their respective roles.

I’m also impressed by Eddie Redmayne as Colin, he’s got that earnest look about him that makes me immediately identify with his character. I noticed him in The Pillars of the Earth before this, but this is definitely a much more memorable turn from him and certainly don’t mind seeing more from this actor. It’s also nice to see Judi Dench, a welcome presence in any film, and her Dame Sybil is wonderfully sympathetic. The rest of the supporting cast including Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, Julia Ormond and Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller also turn in a pretty decent performance.

The film doesn’t offer much depth into what caused Marilyn’s insecurities and even her marital troubles with Arthur Miller wasn’t adequately explored, hence it felt a bit superficial at times. I wonder at times if this story would’ve worked better as a miniseries instead. In any case, I did enjoy it for what it was and director Simon Curtis did a marvelous job capturing the mood of 1950s England, especially the stunning wardrobe. The music is also wonderful, I was especially dazzled by Nat King Cole singing Autumn Leaves as Marilyn and Colin enjoyed a blissful day visiting the Windsor Castle which ended with the two skinny dipping together.

It’s a worthy glimpse into the life of a movie star… and it certainly made me glad that I’m just a regular gal.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


What did you watch this weekend? If you’ve seen either one of these films, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

FlixChatter Review: The Hunger Games

It’s quite rare that I watch a movie adaptation within a year of finishing the book, but that’s exactly what happened with Hunger Games. I’ve told you in this post on Friday that I found the Suzanne Collins’ book to be quite a page turner, but fortunately, this is the one occasion where the film does the book justice.

Just what is the Hunger Games? Well the prologue tells us the background of this annual event. Every year the Capitol requires each of the 12 districts of the nation of Panem to send one girl and one boy aged 12-18 to enter into a gladiatorial competition where they must fight each other to the death until only one remains standing. The purpose of this is twofold, one is as a punishment for past uprising, and the other is as a form of entertainment, much akin to the various reality TV we watch today.

The film is faithful to a fault to the book’s timeline, with the first scene showing the poverty-stricken area where our protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her mother and sister, Prim. Her father has died years ago in a mining accident, leaving Katniss to pretty much fend for herself and her family. The film doesn’t waste much time to get to one of the most emotional parts of the story, the Reaping scene, where Prim’s name is selected to be one of the 24 participants (called Tributes) in the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss promptly volunteers herself in place of her sister, knowing that Prim would has no chance of surviving the game. That part is already featured in all the trailers but still packed an emotional punch when I saw it on the big screen, and boy was I glad I have some tissues handy. The other half of the District 12 pair is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a boy Katniss knew from school and who once helped her.

In a sort of twisted tradition, the Tributes are treated like royalty on the way to the slaughter house, so speak. Lavish food and sleeping quarters await them on the train to the Capitol and once there, they continue to live comfortably as they’re being trained and made-over by their stylists for the various televised appearances. Given that the games itself doesn’t start until halfway-through the movie, director Gary Ross is able to keep the pace moving at a swift pace and offer a lot of amusing scenes to keep us entertained. The part when Katniss and Peeta meets their mentor, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), a former champion who’s now in constant drunken stupor, is fun to watch. His words of wisdom to his trainees is “embrace the probability of your imminent death,” which is certainly true but not exactly helpful. The relationship between Katniss and members of her team, including her stylist Cinna, is nicely established around this time.

Despite the action-packed title, this movie is as much a drama as it is action fare, which is totally fine by me. I like that the script takes the time for us to get to know the characters before the brutal competition finally takes place. The gore and savagery of the book has been toned down significantly for the PG-13 rating, but I don’t think it hurts the film as we still get the barbaric notion of these games. It’s like Survivor but with an incredibly higher stakes that requires sharp instincts as much as fighting skills to survive. It’s apparent that Katniss’ got what it takes to be a victor, but it doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park for her. Not only does she face tough competition from other highly-trained Tributes, she also has to outsmart the Panem officials who run the game. They have the power to arbitrarily alter the rules of the game at the expense of the young participants.

As expected, the major factor why the movie works well is the casting, starting with the protagonist. 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence definitely can carry a movie. She has the emotional intelligence and screen presence which enables her to hold her own against experienced actors twice her age. She definitely makes for a capable action heroine who’s as adept in the dramatic scenes. Now, the one actor I had doubts with, Josh Hutcherson, acquits himself well as Peeta, though he doesn’t exactly wow me. He does have a nice chemistry with Lawrence, which is crucial as their ‘star-crossed romance’ is quite a game changer in the way that nobody in Panem expects. Liam Hemsworth barely has any scenes as Katniss’ BFF Gale but I’m guessing he’ll have more prominence in the later films in the trilogy.

The supporting cast deserves a mention as well, particularly Stanley Tucci as the Capitol TV host Caesar. He’s just such an amazing actor that he can believably portray just about anything. Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz all lend credibility to their roles and each have their moments to shine. Donald Sutherland in his brief scenes, adds gravitas as the formidable President Snow.

With so much going for it, this movie is so darn entertaining from start to finish, there’s barely any boring moment despite the 142-min running time. The set pieces and costumes, especially when we get to the Capitol are marvelous. The outfits are described quite vividly in the book and I must say the fiery outfits of District 12 that earn Katniss the moniker ‘the girl who was on fire’ definitely stands out even amongst the colorful, over-the-top fashion worn by the Capitol residents.

The only gripe I have, which is not exactly the fault of the filmmakers, is that the movie can’t be set in first person like the book. It helps that I have read the book as it offers more depth that a movie can’t possibly capture. I’ll surely read the rest of the Hunger Games books before the inevitable sequels come out.

Final Thoughts: This is an ambitious effort but I’m happy to report that Gary Ross somehow managed to create a thrilling and engaging feature whilst staying true to the vision of the book. Moving between action and human drama, the movie made me laugh, cry and cheer all the way through. If one of the Tributes were to ask me, ‘are you not entertained?’ My answer would be a resounding YES.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Given the $155 mil record-breaking weekend box-office, seems like a lot of you saw this movie as well. So what did you think?

Weekend Watching Plans? Odds are definitely in Hunger Games’ favor

Happy Friday all! 

After a very slow late Winter months, Spring is starting out with a bang in the movies! Hunger Games is here! This is the only major film that opens today, as the Indonesian-based action thriller The Raid (which I talked about here) only opens in limited release. So that means box office-wise, the odds are most definitely in Hunger Games‘ favor. Box Office Mojo is predicting around $200 mil worldwide, which is entirely possible as $15 mil worth of advanced ticket sales are already in the can.

Targeting the young adult crowds seems to be the midas touch for fantasy authors. Hunger Games is already poised to be amongst the three biggest franchises ever, along with Twilight and Harry Potter. Last Wednesday when I went to see Casablanca at a local cinema, there were at least 300 teens waiting in line to an early screening, and just a couple of weekends ago, thousands of them packed the Mall of America (some camped overnight!) to see some of the cast members Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. And y’know a movie’s HUGE when this morning at a client meeting, my boss actually asked me what I thought of this movie. Neither one of us are really the targeted demographic but both of us have read the first book and I told him that I’m actually quite looking forward to the movie! So clearly the bug of Suzanne Collins’ creation didn’t just bite the young adult crowd, and the positive critical reception (88% on RottenTomatoes) certainly help.

I hadn’t been as vigorously doing the countdown for this movie but just within the past 36 hours, I must say I’ve sort of caught the fever, ahah. My pal Pete from I LOVE THAT FILM has pretty much summed up how I feel about this franchise in this list, but I’ll elaborate a bit on the two main reasons I’m seeing this on opening weekend:

The story

I have a thing for movies set in a dystopian society. Once again Pete made up an awesome list of movies set in this type of setting, most of which are my favorite films like Wall*E, Children of Men, District 9, etc. In Hunger Games, 24 kids between 12 and 18 fight to the death in a televised event as part entertainment and part government intimidation tactics. It doesn’t get more brutal than that folks, the stakes are high and the odds of survival is nil to miraculous.

Oh and of course the fact that instead of the usual male protagonist, we’ve got a kick-ass heroine with a cool name, Katniss Everdeen, who doesn’t need a man to save her or make her complete. Now of course there’s some romance involved, but unlike a certain vampire saga I just reviewed recently, the love story isn’t what drive the whole plot and she isn’t defined by the two guys pining for her. In fact the story is more about survival and Katniss’ devotion to her family, which ultimately is a far more inspirational than a girl who wants to give up her entire existence simply out of her irrational obsession for a boy.

The casting

Firstly, I LOVE Jennifer Lawrence‘s casting as Katniss. Despite being 6 years older than her character (Katniss is 16 in the books), she has the youthful radiance and energy to believably play the role. I think it’s bollocks that some reviewers think she should be skin-and-bones to play a poor, starving citizen in a post-apocalyptic society. She obviously went through a rigorous diet to look the part for this movie but what’s more important is that she captures the essence of what I imagine Katniss to be and I think Jennifer’s got it. I like that she’s got spunk, pretty but with substance and I know with her strong screen presence and acting skills, this young actress can carry this movie with aplomb.

Lawrence with Liam Hemsworth

Liam Hemsworth has that earthly hunky-ness as Katniss’ BFF Gale, though I still have doubts about Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, but I hope he’ll prove me wrong. What I do like is the supporting cast: Donald Shuterland, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Wes Bentley. Even Lenny Kravitz as the sympathetic stylist seems like inspired choice. Director Gary Ross doesn’t have a long resume, this is only his third feature film since Seabiscuit back in 2003, but sounds like he did a great job here, and perhaps he’ll be back to helm the rest of the trilogy.

Kravitz, Harrelson and Hutcherson

The film is set at 142 minutes, which is quite long but I think it’s necessary as there are quite a lot of things going on in the first book. I have the attention span as long as the film is gripping enough, and based on the two reviews I’ve read so far on Cinematic Paradox and Front Room Cinema, this one looks to be worth the hype!


So what will you be watching this weekend, all? Or are you camping in front of your cinema already for Hunger Games‘ midnight showing? :)

Classic Flix Review: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Greetings all and sundry! On the advice of and other communications from Ruth, I am going to focus my abilities on a favorite actor of mine. With distinct attention to the actor’s innate ability to scare the Beejeebus out of those in the audience, without saying much of anything threatening. To that end, please allow me to introduce you to Robert Mitchum. Rocking the lead in first and only time director Charles Laughton’s magnificent, impressionistic and visually unique Masterpiece.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Our film begins on the banks of the Ohio River. On the lee side of the Appalachians in West Virginia in the midst of the Great Depression. Along winding country roads to an old, black, top down convertible with Robert Mitchum behind the wheel. In a white shirt, starched collar and black string tie. Matching suit and big black hat. As Harry Powell. Con man, Gigolo and lady’s man. Borderline Socio and Psychopath and self appointed Reverend. With ‘LOVE’ above the knuckles of his right hand. And ‘HATE’ on his left. Who sometimes talks to Gods. And whose favorite toy is a switchblade knife. Which he uses to carry out his plan and God’s work. Reverend Powell rolls into town and finds himself at a Bijou watching a bump and grind artist ply her rather weak trade. When he’s boxed in by the local police and brought before a judge for a crime whose punishment is thirty days in jail.

Cut to more of the placid Ohio. Fertile farmland and small, well kept, maintained and tilled family farms. In the midst of one farm, there is a young brother and sister. John and Pearl Harper playing as the family car rolls up with their father, Ben. Pistol in hand. With lots to say and do with no time for either. It seems that the father, Peter Graves, long before Mission: Impossible has killed two men while helping to rob a bank of $10,000. He helps his kids hide the swag and swear never to reveal its location just as sirens draw near and the cops show up to take Pa away.

Pa draws the same judge who has sentenced Reverend Powell. And as fate would have it, Pa Harper draws the Reverend for a cell mate. Until Pa’s date with the Hangman. Time is short and Mitchum does his best to ingratiate himself, but Pa keeps his mouth shut about the money from the bank heist. Though he does talk about the farm, his wife, Willa. Shelly Winters, Test flying what would evolve into the tried and true prototype for her future characters in Lolita, Alfie and Harper. There is a strength in Willa. That nearly conquers her vulnerability. With two growing kids and a town of nosy, gossipy, holier than thou neighbors.

The Reverend is released before Pa Harper is hanged and takes his time on just the right approach to the recently widowed Harper. Who works as a waitress in the town’s Soda Shop and does her best to ignore the possibly well intentioned good, though snide advice of her co-workers. With John and Pearl in attendance, the Rev makes his first subtle move. With the classic Good vs. Evil tale of ‘Love and Hate’. So masterful is the Reverend’s telling, that Willa starts to show the first cracks in her armor. Which is duly noted as Willa sees something better. While John sees pure, smooth talking, evil.

Nature, greed and more than a subtle touch of peer pressure takes it course as Willa, the Reverend and the kids are seen more and more often. Culminating at a town picnic where Harry proposes to Willa off in the distance. John sees a bad moon rising, but is up against some heavy opposition. The wedding is consummated. Time, if not romance passes and the Rev goes into full press mode on John and Pearl. Willa overhears one evening and quickly has her throat slit and is disposed of in one of the creepiest modes in cinematic history.

Eyebrows start to raise in town as the Reverend’s tale that Willa lit out without a forwarding address doesn’t fly well. While John and Pearl start looking for anyway at all to split. That occurs after a questioning of Pearl heads south. John and Pearl run. Find a flat bottom boat and shove off as the Reverend falters behind. Leaving the kids with the Reverend’s loud, animal like snarl of defeat loud in their ears.Undaunted, the Reverend heads off. Kills a farmer and steals his horse and follows the river. Patient and finding his calm center. The Reverend follows leads that bring him to the home of Rachel Cooper. Superbly, near serenely played by Lilian Gish. Who takes in stray kids and gives them a home and chores to do.

Life is good. Until the Rev shows up just outside Mrs. Cooper’s white picket fence for a few bars of ‘Leaning on the Ever Lasting Arm’. Chorused by Mrs. Cooper as she cradles a shotgun while rocking on the front porch. The evening hymnal is interrupted by one of the girls, Ruby. As Mrs. Cooper blows out a candle and the Reverend disappears. Mrs. Cooper tells Ruby to round up the kids!

I won’t take the story farther. Lest I get into serious Spoiler territory…

What Makes This Film Good?

First and only time director Charles Laughton deftly borrowing and sometimes outright stealing the shadowy exposition of F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang. To raise hairs on the back of necks in what would be otherwise innocuous scenes. That these scenes for the most part feature Mr. Mitchum’s Reverend shot from low angles to highlight his height and breadth is just creepy icing on the cake. Laughton seems to have found the Alchemy of melding foreboding mood with palpable atmosphere and makes the most of it in frame after frame. In a film that many should look upon as a First Kiss. The yard stick that all others afterwards are measured. And often found wanting.

Symbolism seems to be running quietly amok throughout the film. Especially in the long, sedate scene when John poles the flat bottom boat through what looks like Palmetto thick bayou. Thick with tortoises, frogs and spider webs. Shadows and silhouettes abound. In halls, stairways, ladder ways and the horizon. More so once the sun goes down and lighting is supplied by a waning crescent moon on the river. And gaslight and candles within the towns.

All in a basic, though superbly executed film about good and evil. The children, John and Pearl score very high on the Cherub Meter. Though John is more iron willed, while Pearl is wide eyed and naive. Stacked against neighbors and town folk who are not who or what they appear to be. While also being far too judgmental and prone to gossip. Cautiously watched by the Reverend Powell. Who is delightfully near hypnotic to watch as evil incarnate. Beneath his smile, schtick and deep, calming Basso Profundo voice.

What Makes This Film Great?

All of the above. And Robert Mitchum reveling in and making the most of his physical presence. In an iconic role that would define him until Cape Fear, seven years later. Throwing either long shadows or tall silhouettes as he ambles through spartan, roughly hewn, sturdy, yet seemingly small sets designed by Alfred Spencer and Hilyard Brown. Sharing time and space with stolid talent like Lilian Gish. And then up and comers, Peter Graves and Shelly Winters.

Cinematography by Stanley Cortez is remarkable throughout. With many memorable moments heightened by music by Walter Schuman. Who instinctively knows where and when its needed. And not.

All helping to create an unique experience that is an odd, eerie blend of Norman Rockwell, American Gothic and a touch of A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Little wonder that The Night of the Hunter was nominated to the National Film Registry in 1955 and was accepted in 1992.


Check out Jack’s profile page and links to his other reviews


Thoughts on this film? Do share ‘em in the comments.

Great Expectations. Seeing CASABLANCA for the first time

Tonight I have a date with Rick and Ilsa… the most famous movie couple from the classic of all classics, Casablanca. Turner Classic Movies is bringing the 1942 film to almost 500 movie theaters nationwide as part of a 70th Anniversary event, so a few of my blog friends will be seeing it too on the same time.

I knew about the movie Casablanca long before I knew it was the capital city of Morocco. I love the song ‘As Time Goes By’ (though I first heard it in Sleepless in Seattle), and I could even recite all the famous quotes:

“We’ll always have Paris.”

“Here’s to looking at you kid.”

“Play it again Sam.”
(though this line apparently was NOT uttered in the movie)

Recently I saw this one in Tumblr… “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine,”  which is perhaps my favorite as it’s packed with so much emotion even in that one single line.

Now, I don’t know how this film has eluded me for so long as I LOVE the story of unrequited love and the whole tortured soul hero wrestling between love and virtue. This will also mark the first time I’d ever seen Humphrey Bogart in anything. Yes I have never seen ANY of his films before, even though my mother has said a few times that Humphrey Bogart is my dad’s all time favorite actor. Some even called my dad ‘Bogey’ at times, perhaps when he was working in the film industry back in the 50s and 60s. I have only seen Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound so far and was really enthralled by her beauty and grace, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in something else.

So it seems that this film has everything going for it that I can’t possibly not fall head over heels in love with it the moment I walked out of the theater… I mean, it not only won Oscar’s Best Picture in 1943, but has been repeatedly voted as the most romantic American movie of all time. If people were asked to name one of the most famous movie from Hollywood Golden Age, no doubt most of them will say Casablanca. So you see, the thing is, my expectation for this movie is now so ginormous that I’m a bit worried the movie simply can’t meet it. What if I’m [gasp] disappointed … find it boring, or worse, pointless? [wince]

I know a lot of you who adore this movie are surely thinking, ‘Ruth, not even possible, there’s a reason this movie stands the test of time…”  Trust me, I really want to like, no love this movie and concur with its cemented iconic film status. Well, perhaps the best way is not to think too much about it and watch this tonight as if I had never heard about this film before… we’ll see how that goes :D

I’ll just leave you with this absolutely gorgeous behind the scene photo of cinematographer Arthur Edeson filming the airport farewell scene with Bogart and Bergman…


… and also Max Steiner’s brilliant score from the film:


So who still hasn’t seen this film? I’m also curious if you’ve ever been in my shoes about another classic film.

Extended preview of Snow White & the Huntsman… why THIS is the Snow White movie I’m looking forward to

The battle of the Snow Whites is full on as Mirror, Mirror is scheduled to be released next Friday March 30 in the US. It’s unlikely I’ll be seeing that on the big screen but this one, heck yes!

I was already sold by the first trailer, yes despite Kristen Stewart’s casting, but this new, 5-min extended-preview promises a darker, more sinister adventure for the fair princess. This one might as well been called ‘Mirror, Mirror’ as well as the gold mirror melting and forming a human-like figure is pretty cool, but really this trailer is still all about Charlize as the evil queen.


Perhaps the studio have been hearing people’s snide remarks about Kristen Stewart being regarded as more beautiful than Charlize (yeah, uh-uh, whatev-er) so I guess they’re going with Snow White as being beautiful in the inside. Oh, o-kay. It shows her mother saying to her as a young girl, “… you possess rare beauty my love, in here…” pointing to her heart. “… she will bring an end to the darkness…” says one of the rugged-looking dwarfs (seems like they’re all Grumpy, I don’t see Bashful or Sneezy in sight, ahah).

Chris Hemsworth seems suitably gruff as the huntsman, though I doubt his ax can quite match his Thor‘s mjolnir, no matter how skillful he’s able to wield it :) No sign of Prince Charming anywhere but is he really needed? Doesn’t look like the princess has much time for romance between all that horse chase and sword fights! Maybe she should hook up with the hunky huntsman instead? ehm.

I’m really curious to see what newbie British director Rupert Sanders has in store for us. Universal undoubtedly takes some risk by hiring a first time director to helm a $100 mil project, but they’re doing the same with Carl Rinsch who’s currently working on 47 Ronin with a $170 million budget, a 3D samurai revenge story starring Keanu Reeves (per THR). Well, let’s hope he delivers and won’t be the next Joseph Kosinski as the disappointing Tron: Legacy barely made up its $170 mil budget.

Anyway, June sure is shaping up to be one hectic month for movie lovers and this one hits June 1st in the US.


So what do you think folks? Which Snow White adaptation do you prefer, this one or Mirror, Mirror?