Music(al) Break: Moulin Rouge’s Come What May

I was dusting off my CD collection the other day and found my Moulin Rouge soundtrack I used to listen every day for like two months after seeing the movie. So I’ve been listening to the CD in my car now. I LOVE, LOVE this movie, it’s so original, artsy and passionate.

Image from Daniella’s Bureau website

In any case, the musicals genre just might be back in style, what with Rock of the Ages, Sparkle and Les Miserables coming out the same year. It’s tricky to do a good musical, but Moulin Rouge is certainly one of the most creative. Baz has a great eye for elaborate costumes and fantastical set pieces, he seems to subscribe in ‘more is more’ philosophy but it works well here. He’s also got an ear for music, even the anachronistic style of using classic songs from Elton John, Whitney Houston, etc. as a dialog between Christian and Satine is just brilliant. I adore the Elephant Medley up on the roof. The El Tango De Roxanne is absolutely thrilling, it definitely tops this list of five awesome movie tango scenes.

Ewan McGregor has never looked more bewitching and Nicole Kidman is perfect as the stunning but icy object of his affection. They both have wonderful singing voice so their duets are really great to listen to over and over Listening to Ewan singing Your Song made me wish he had recorded an album, his voice is just gorgeous, and he sings with such confidence and passion. I tell you, what is it with gorgeous Scottish actors being awesome singers? ;)

My ALL TIME favorite has got to be the love theme, Come What May


The song is composed by David Baerwald for the film, and I love how the song appears in the film as Christian wrote the song for the musical Satine is starring in. It’s his way to secretly declare their love for each other. I’m not a hopeless romantic but it certainly can turn me into one. I think this shall stand to be my favorite movie from Baz Luhrmann, he seems to have a thing for tragic love stories, doesn’t he?


Hope you enjoyed the music break. Are you a fan of Moulin Rouge?

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THIS JUST IN: ‘Les Miserables’ First Trailer

Les Misérables is one of those Broadway plays I still haven’t got around to seeing. The acclaimed musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 French novel will probably gets a surge with the release of this latest film adaptation.

This movie adaptation does seem to have a lot going for it. I mean the male cast alone will get me to the theater pronto, I do enjoy musicals and also have a thing for tragic love stories. Behold its first trailer:

Prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). Set in early 19th-century France, the story reaches resolution against the background of the June Rebellion, or the Paris Uprising of 1832.

You all know I adore The King’s Speech, which nabs director Tom Hooper his first Oscar. Will he nab another nom with a musical? Well, if we’re to judge from this trailer, it certainly looks VERY promising indeed.

I’m not a huge fan of Anne Hathaway, but I’ve got to give it to her, that girl CAN sing! Her stirring rendition of I Dreamed A Dream rivals that of … Susan Boyle? Just kidding, Anne’s self-sacrificing Fantine sounds quite heart-wrenching. They’re definitely going with the emotional appeal here with just her singing and no dialog. I’m already tearing up watching this so I better stack up on tissues when I go see it. Apparently Hooper had the actors sing the songs live on set [as you can see in this video], which explains that high level of authenticity in the way the actors perform the song.

Props for these good looking actors on going the *ugly* route for the roles they play. I mean it’s like a bad hair day all around on the set, especially Anne and the hunky Aussie Hugh Jackman. As you’ve probably seen at the Oscars a few years back, these two can belt out a tune, all right. I’m so looking forward to seeing Jackman and fellow Aussie Russell Crowe facing off here. Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne are also part of the cast.

This movie opens the same day as The Hobbit here on December 14th. Now, of course I’ll be first in line for the LOTR prequel but I’ll definitely be checking this out on the big screen. So it’s Catwoman, Wolverine and Maximus singing together, brilliant! :D


What say you, folks? Is this on your must-see list?

Memorial Weekend Viewing Roundup and LAMMY 2012 Updates

LOVE a four-day work week, don’t you? Well for us Americans, we enjoy an extra weekend day as Monday was Memorial Day. The weather was glorious on Monday so my friends and I spent most of the day outside picnicking at a small park.

I did do some blogging over the weekend as I got tagged to do the Best Actress Relay Race thing and also the Horseathon I signed up a few weeks back. So with the FCM Blogathon last week, that’s like 3 blog events in one week! :D It’s all in good fun of course, I enjoyed doing all of them.

Speaking of blog events, well I want to thank all of you who have voted for yours truly in the LAMMY 2012 Awards!

The nominations are in (which you can listen here or search for ‘LAMBcast’ on iTunes). I found out today that FlixChatter was amongst the seven nominees for Best Blog! WOW, that’s the one category I didn’t even campaign for as I didn’t think this wee blog would even qualify for the Big Kahuna. So THANK YOU friends [bowing head], I’m utterly grateful for simply being nominated, especially amongst such great company…

Congrats to my fellow nominees:
Stevee, Fogs, Ryan, Castor, Dylan and John!


While we’re at it, have you checked out the latest LAMB Acting School 101 featuring one of my fave actresses Cate Blanchett? No? Well, what are you waiting for? There are tons of awesome posts on the massively talented thespian.

Now, on to the weekend roundup…

I skipped the cinema again as there wasn’t really anything I really wanted to see. Moonrise Kingdom hasn’t made its way over to my neck of the woods. Apparently a lot of people went to see Men In Black III though, it made a whopping $70 mil domestically (over $200 mil worldwide), but according to EW, considering the $230 mil budget PLUS marketing and distribution cost, MIB 3 likely needs to take in at least $650 million just to break even!

So my weekend viewing consisted mostly of movie rewatch.

My girlfriends and I saw the 2008′s BBC miniseries Sense & Sensibility as one of my friends is really into Downton Abbey which also stars Dan Stevens. I really enjoyed this miniseries and it really was a pretty decent adaptation. But after watching this one, we all concluded just how superior the Ang Lee’s movie version is (my ALL TIME favorite movie, natch), and Emma Thompson’s script is just brilliant.

We do agree that Dan Stevens is far more compelling and attractive as Edward Ferrars. But Greg Wise is still the better Willoughby compared to Dominic Cooper so I guess that even things out :)
… 

 


I also couldn’t resist rewatching one of my guiltiest pleasures… somewhat inspired by my pal Terrence’s Celebrity Crush Confession post :) Though he’s been somewhat absent for a while on this blog, I still carry a torch for Gerry Butler and this TV miniseries from 2001, Attila, reminds me why. He’s so ridiculously hunky as the king of the huns, his grey-green eyes never looked so piercing against his dark, tanned skin and that unruly jet black hair. Yes I’m well aware that the real Attila certainly doesn’t look like the 6’2″ Scotsman, but heh, historical accuracy be damned I say ;)

Seeing him here made me think he’s destined to play King Leonidas, his formidable screen presence is undeniable and he’s got this ruggedly regal aura about him that commands allegiance. Powers Boothe is great as his Roman friend/foe Flavius Aetius and Tim Curry provides some comic relief as the sneering Theodosius.
… 

One of my all time favorite sci-fi comedy, Galaxy Quest, is still as funny as the first time I saw it years ago. Man the cast is just awesome. I mean anything with Alan Rickman is bound to be awesome, plus there’s Sigourney Weaver, Tim Allen AND Sam Rockwell in a brilliant spoof of Star Trek and you’ve got yourself a comedy gold! I had forgotten about Rockwell’s part but man he really should do more comedies, he was a firecracker in Iron Man 2, especially when he’s showing off all the crazy weapons.

There are so many hilarious scenes to choose from but I think my fave part is the launch sequence when the crew’s trying to get the ship off the dock and Tommy had no idea to pilot a real ship. It keeps veering off to the left and scratch the sides, making this annoying squeeeeeEEEeeeEEEEeeeeee sound. Rickman’s expression here is just priceless! I’m glad I bought the Blu-ray as I wouldn’t mind watching this one over and over.


Well, that’s my weekend roundup. What did you watch this weekend? Anything good?

Old Hollywood Horse-a-thon: Seven Favorite Classic Scenes with Horses

Seems like there’s a bunch of great blog-a-thon lately, and thanks to Jeff Flugel from The Stalking Moon for tipping me about this one. Page from My Love of Old Hollywood is hosting this fine Horse-a-thon, click on the image below to see all the participants.

When I first signed up to do this post, I was only going to do a Top Five, but turns out there are quite a few great classic scenes involving horses so I decided to expand it to seven. I’m going to stick with Old Hollywood [with one exception] for this purpose, though I might do a contemporary list somewhere down the line. Ok, here we go:

The Big Country – Learning to ride the Old Thunder

I absolutely love this Western and no doubt James McKay is the quintessential ‘quiet hero’ that Gregory Peck does so well. This scene speaks so much about his humility but also tenacity in trying to tame his fiance’s wild horse The Old Thunder. It’s amusing to see Peck constantly being thrown off the horse but it’s also a perfect way to show just what kind of a man McKay is.

Duel in The Sun – Taming a Stallion

Ok, I’ve just got to include another scene with Peck only because the character is so very different from one another. The unscrupulous, bad-to-the-bone Lewt is as far a way from James McKay as one can get, a total opposite in every sense of the word. This scene shows how Lewt impresses the subject of his lust, Pearl, when he skillfully tames a stallion. Peck seems to revel in playing a bad boy, a role he rarely play in his illustrious career. I don’t know if they used a stunt double in this scene or not but if they did, the editing was really good as it looked as if Peck himself tamed the stallion, which is quite a feat!

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the ChristThe Sheik’s “Children”

Ok, when it comes to Ben-Hur, people naturally think of the spectacular 11-minute chariot race. And naturally, for it is the most magnificent horse-related scenes ever conceived on film. But I’d like to highlight this more lighthearted but still awesome scene of the wealthy Sheik showing off his *children*, those magnificent Arabian horses! I LOVE Hugh Griffith’s performance, he won Best Supporting Actor in this film, and deservedly so.

Gone With the Wind – “Just like Pa…”

This heartbreaking scene isn’t so much about the pony, but the impact of riding one has on the already frail marriage of Rhett and Scarlett. Scarlett’s already lost her father in a horse riding accident, so it’s harrowing to hear her say ‘Just like Pa’ as Bonnie stubbornly runs off in her pony, displaying her headstrong trait at such a young age, just like her mother. I still get chills every time I watch this scene.

My Fair Lady – ‘Move Yer Bloomin’ Arse!’

Oh who could forget this delightfully funny scene! Eliza Doolittle at Ascot being her old unhinged-self, ahah. I saw this as a young girl and my mom had to point out the class system thing. To this day I always find this scene — and Eliza herself — so darn amusing!

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidThe Chase

There’s really not a lot of buddy duos more awesome than Paul Newman + Robert Redford combo. Both are ridiculously good looking, talented and have great on-screen chemistry to boot! This movie happens to be the horse-a-thon’s host Page’s choice so obviously she’d concur that this is an epic chase scene from one of the best classic westerns ever made.

……

The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers – Gandalf’s charge at sunrise

Now I choose to include this one as I do think The Lord of the Rings trilogy is already a modern classic. There are sooo many great scenes involving horses in this franchise that we could easily do a top ten horse scenes just from the three films alone. But this one I think stands as one of the most grandiose and memorable, both in scale and in its plot significance. Peter Jackson set up this majestic scene marvelously, starting with our beloved hero Gandalf appearing on his white horse as the sun rises, glowing like an angel with hair blowing in the wind, ready to saves the day! He and King Theoden’s nephew Eomer and his army arrived in battle at just the right moment. The scene of the massive army on horseback descending down as Saruman’s evil creatures are blinded by the rising sun is just brilliant war strategy which makes for an epic scene that never fails to amaze me.


Well, what do you think of these scenes? Do share your own favorite classic movie scenes with horses.

The Ten Best Actress Of All Time Relay Race

Remember the Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race I did back in March? Well, The King of Blog Series Nostra @ at My Film Views is at it again, this time with the female counterparts of the race.

Here are the entries from the other participants so far in the Actresses Relay Race:

My Filmviews » The Velvet Cafe » Martin Teller » The Movie Review Warehouse » Benefits of a Classical Education » Just Another Movie Blog » Film Actually

If you’re curious to see where the Top 10 Best Actor’s race is at right now, check out Nostra’s Update
Well, I’m honored to receive the baton from my pal Dan @ Public Transportation Snob. And here are the original rules of the Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race from Nostra:

“I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actresses of all time. 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 actress (that is an obligation) and add his/her 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 actress. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actresses. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!”

Here is the current list of 10 actresses as it stands now:

Cate Blanchett

Katharine Hepburn

Julianne Moore

Barbara Stanwyck

Meryl Streep

Kate Winslet

Viola Davis

Juliette Binoche

Judy Garland

Ingrid Bergman

……


Now, picking who I’d like to add is easy and since the one actress I thought of right away is already on the list (hint: the only Aussie on the list), the second one I had in mind happens to be one of her co-stars. Of course, with the fun of choosing who to add comes the arduous task of having to remove one from the list. But hey, that’s what a race is all about right? So with a heavy heart, I choose to remove…

Judy Garland

I’m truly sorry to have to remove a classic actress but between her and Barbara Stanwyck whose work I have not seen, I’m afraid I have to choose miss Garland. Yes I know, most of you probably will cry foul at me for not having seen The Wizard of Oz, but it’s one of those classics that have eluded me to this day and frankly, I don’t know if I will ever see it. Interestingly enough, the 1937 original of A Star Is Born, is said to have been modeled after Stanwyck’s rise to stardom (per IMDb trivia) and Garland was nominated for an Oscar in the 1954 remake. In any case, I have no doubt Judy Garland is a great actress with a wonderful voice and an iconic role, but again, there’s only room for ten, so that’s that.

Now, the easy part.

The actress I think deserves to be on this list is…

Judi Dench

Ok, I didn’t plan on replacing a ‘Judy’ with another one with an ‘i’ but as I’m thinking of a best actress of ALL TIME, my mind just keeps going back to the Dame. She may be petite at 5’1″ but there is nothing diminutive about the 78-year-old English thespian. With six Oscar nominations and one win, plus twice as many BAFTA awards for her work in both TV and films, she is a force to be reckoned with. Not many actress, even of her caliber, could nab an Oscar for only being on screen for 8 minutes! But she did it in Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

I first saw her in Goldeneye as M [the first woman in that role, best casting ever!] but after seeing her in about 16 films, I realize that she’s as outstanding in period dramas as she is in an action thriller as those Bond films. I absolutely LOVE her performance as Queen Victoria in Her Majesty Mrs. Brown, and she often steal scenes even in brief parts, i.e. Pride & Prejudice as the high-and-mighty Lady Catherine de Bourg, the more lowly Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre and also as a curmudgeonly grandmother with a secret in Chocolat. She shines even in so-so films like Nine and My Week with Marilyn, and often is one of the best things about the film.

I wish I could say that I have seen her stage performance as she’s as celebrated as a stage performer as she is a film actress, if not more so. She’s been nominated and won the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award as well as other prestigious theater honor for her stage work. I hope she will last a while in this *race* as I do believe she’s one of THE best actress in the business with 100 titles under her belt!


Who’s next?

I’d like Anna from Defiant Success to continue the relay, who’s well-versed in classic and contemporary cinema. I’m curious to see what she’ll do with the list :)


So, what do you think of my decision? Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!

Musings on ‘The Great Gatsby’ trailer

The Great Gatsby. Even the title intrigues me. I was hoping to jump into that Scott F. Fitzgerald novel as soon as I finish Anna Karenina. But since I’ve pretty much stalled on that one, I’m tempted to abandon the Russian aristocrat doomed love story and move on to um, well another doomed love story, this time in America’s opulent society.

I’ve talked about the casting, plot, etc. in this spotlight post a while back, and generally I’m quite optimistic about this whole project. But that is before we see a trailer… behold:

With a name like Baz, he’s bound to be eccentric. And truly, this Aussie director’s work exemplifies it… kooky, anachronistic, loud, over-the-top, but always stylish. LOVE his work in Moulin Rouge!, which is one of my favorite musicals. I appreciate Romeo + Juliet but didn’t love it per se, and Australia, well, I only saw parts of it on TV and didn’t really care to see the entire thing. So will his latest wow me? I can’t really tell from the trailer, frankly, as it’s quite… um, baffling.

In case you didn’t know what the story is about:

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

Anyway, here’s just 10 musings about the trailer:

  1. The first thing that came to mind is… this is Moulin Rouge! in the roaring 20s. Baz likes to party… perhaps that makes him the perfect director for this? Glitz, decadence and opulence-obsession seems to be the order of the day in Gatsby’s world.

  2. Leo, oh Leo. He was Baz’s Romeo and now that he’s all grown up, he’s Jay Gatsby. He’s supposed to be this aloof, elusive multi-millionaire, but DiCaprio seems to be a picture of pent-up angst instead of cool confidence. I hardly ever see him without his furrowed brows any more, is that becoming his signature acting style?
  3. Anachronism is nothing new in Baz’s movies. He always mixes modern music with period setting which he did to great effect in Moulin Rouge!, but I’m not fond of it as much here. I mean Auto-Tune? Seriously? I don’t mind the U2′s Love is Blindness though, I mean the message fits the story, maybe a bit too obvious, but hey Baz doesn’t do subtle :D
  4. I’ve always liked Carey Mulligan, and instantly I think she’d make a good Daisy. The 1920s dresses suit her well.

  5. I like Tobey Maguire‘s casting as Nick Caraway better than Leo as Gatsby, but still curious to see the two real-life BFFs working together on screen. Oh and Bollywood movie star Amitabh Bachchan as Gatsby business associate is inspired casting!
  6. The moment Jay meets Daisy… it reminds me of the scene when Romeo sees Juliet through the aquarium, but minus the pubescent giggles.
  7. Glad I didn’t hate Joel Edgerton‘s mustached-look as Tom Buchanan, though he looked even more like Conan O’Brien, ahah. Methinks either him or Maguire would steal a ton of thunder from Leo.

  8. Great period costumes and set pieces… Yet they don’t feel real to me, yes I know that a fantasy period drama is what Baz is going for but still. The retro vibe is there but it looks more like a bunch of contemporary folks in a huge costume ball, dressing and partying like it’s 1922.
  9. Will this be style over matter? Well that’s probably a silly question given the director’s flair but I’m still hoping there’s some substance and emotional grip amidst all the topsy-turvy.
  10. Remind me again just what could filming in 3D possibly add to this story?? Am I the only one scoffing and laughing at the same time when that 3D logo came on at the end? Seems excessive… even for Baz Luhrmann.


Ok, that’s my take. What do YOU think of the trailer and/or The Great Gatsby project?

The FCM Blog-a-thon — What movie(s) will become a Future Classic?

What a brilliant idea! My pal Paula, who’s a confirmed TCM addict, have often wondered what movies from the 21st century would stand the test of time, like CasablancaGone With The Wind or Out of the PastInstead of just mulling those over on her own, she decides to get all of us movie bloggers to join in on the fun. And so the FUTURE CLASSIC MOVIES (FCM) BLOGATHON was born.

So what do we have to do? Well, we get to pick a movie (or more) from 2000 or later, and writes about why they think it will endure to become a Future Classic. 


To me, the key to a film’s endurance has to do with the main subject matter itself, whether its theme will resonate with people no matter what age/era. The reason Casablanca achieved its iconic status and can still be enjoyed by a new generation 70 years later is that the theme of lost love, patriotism and sacrifice are all something we can relate and aspire to, no matter how many years have passed since WWII.

All of these films below are visually stunning, but just like people, looks can only be interesting for so long. It’s the substance and message that makes a movie timeless. 

So with that in mind, here are three that I think has the ingredients to become a Future Classic.

It should be obvious but spoilers may be present in this post,
consider yourself warned. 

Gladiator

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’d likely know I adore this film. It’s the first film that came to mind when Paula invited me, and in my mind, it already IS a classic and I believe generations to come would still appreciate this one even decades from now.

I selected the very same film two years ago for a blog-a-thon called Movies That Makes Going to the Movies Suck as this Ridley Scott masterpiece pretty much launched a trend of swords-and-sandals flicks that threatens to tarnish the original’s legacy. One sign of an enduring film is that some of its quotes are still used even today, but of course that alone won’t make a *classic* if it doesn’t have an engrossing story and fused with a thrilling spectacle of action and memorable performances.

Brain, brawn and heart… there’s not a lot of films that capture all three perfectly, and still manage to impress us visually with its amazing cinematography. Oh, and there’s the soundtrack. I still get chills listening to Now We Are Free, it speaks so beautifully about Maximus’ humanity. Oh I long to see this film on the big screen once again in all its glory.

HUGO

A love letter to the movies, what could be more timeless? At first glance, Scorsese’s first family film seems to be about this 12-year-old orphan boy Hugo Cabret who lives in a railway station. That’s pretty much as much as I know when I went it to see it, so what a joy it is when the film takes us into a journey that ties the boy with a real life French illusionist and filmmaker Georges Méliès.

Loneliness, abandonment, disillusionment are sentiment any of us can relate to as we’ve all felt it at some point of another. No matter how modern technology has evolved, even when we’re able to watch movies via a hologram or what have you, our humanity is what will connect us across generations. And that’s what films do in many ways. That’s why *classic* films shall always have a place in the modern world and years to come. Our great, great grand-kids will still likely be fascinated by how the past generations create the films that  become the medium they enjoy today.

The 1930s world with that marvelous vintage clock where Hugo lives in is absolutely enchanting. There’s something so magical about the way its filmed that captures your imagination. 3D will become old news one day but its charm and heartwarming story won’t likely be lost with the passing time.

[read my Hugo review]

Midnight in Paris

Here’s another one from 2011 that’s also nominated for Best Picture Oscar. I didn’t plan it that way, but I do think both films has that certain everlasting charm, and not only because they’re both set in the city of lights. The fixation with time period of past and present drives the story here and the idea of time travel certainly has a lasting effect in cinema. It’s similar to Woody Allen’s other time travel fantasy The Purple Rose of Cairo, but even more beguiling.

The protagonist Gil is obsessed with a bygone era of the 1920s, so when he’s somehow magically transported to that period at midnight, the *lost generation* looks ever so fresh and as fascinating as ever. We watch in awe just like Gil marveling at its beauty… the car, the clothes, the music… and of course the seemingly immortal personas like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso… the people in history books that we’ll always treasure for years to come.

What’s more, the predicament Gil faces is something we can all relate to. No, I’m not talking about his obsession with a certain era, but about pursuing his dreams and having the courage to break free from his stifling life to do so.

“Maybe the present is a little unsatisfying because life is a little unsatisfying” – Gil

The message about appreciating one’s life in the present will also resonate well no matter what era one lives in. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned that Paris in the rain in the finale, it doesn’t get any more timeless than this.

[read my Midnight in Paris review]


Do check out what other films people think will become a Future Classic.


Well, what do you think of my picks? Feel free to share what movie(s) you think have a long-lasting appeal.

Classic Flix List: Fred MacMurray – Superb Louse!

Greeting, all and sundry! After giving my cerebrum a well deserved respite which coincided with the release of The Avengers, I’ve decided to dive back in. Taking a hint from Ruth and applying it to the realm of lists while keeping within the arena of classic films and those involved.

To this end, allow me to introduce one of the most talented, yet under rated actors of the past century. Whom many may recognize as a poster boy for Disney during the 1960s and later as television’s proverbial Perfect Dad in My Three Sons. A worthy topic for another time. Though now, I would like to plunge back to the earlier times and films which firmly planted the subject of this dissertation on the Hollywood map while specializing in a specific and memorable type of character.

Fred MacMurray: Superb Louse!

Louses come in all shapes and sizes in film. From Richard Widmark’s Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death or Skip McCoy in Pickup on South Street. Talented, yet invisible people who seem to suffer from a delusional ego. To Peter Lorre, who made a cottage industry out of portraying such countless films. Today, Steve Buscemi would fill that niche comfortably with room to spare!

What makes a ‘Superb Louse’ is the ability to portray someone of lesser or low moral character while also making the character likable and memorable. Within these strict confines, for a brief period in time, Mr. MacMurray ruled the roost. Beginning his sojourn in one of the great classic Film Noirs directed by Billy Wilder:

1. Double Indemnity (1944)

Playing workaday insurance salesman, Walter Neff. Who drops by the home of Phyllis Dietrichson. Silkily and alluringly played by Barbara Stanwyck, to get some final signatures on Mr. Dietrichson’s car policy. Sparks sizzle at first sight. Which evolves into flirtation while negotiating a life insurance policy and its much larger payout for accidental death.

The avalanche begins and it’s too late for the pebbles to vote as Phyllis starts upping the ante. While Walter begins to bend the truth to his partner, Barton Keyes. Brought to low keyed, underplayed life by Edward G. Robinson. Who knows when something just doesn’t look or feel right. MacMurray’s strength is brought to the fore in his straight faced ability to lie and keep two plausible sets of facts straight. While fully aware that he is sinking deeper in deep in Phyllis’s ensnaring web. In a shadowy B&W that begins at the tale’s end and is told in flash backs as a slowly bleeding out Walter tells all into a recording Dictaphone Machine.

2. The Caine Mutiny (1954)

A decade had passed and Mr. MacMurray had the opportunity to pick up those few shiny pebbles to a high gloss for a pivotal supporting role that everyone thinks is a Humphrey Bogart film, but really isn’t. Though he owns the ball bearing assisted plum scene during the Court Martial before the final reel. No, the magic of The Caine Mutiny is that the film is solid ensemble. While the mutineers’ defense council, Lt. Barney Greenwald, magnificently played by Jose Ferrer captures every scene he is in.

That capturing would never have taken place without the connivance of MacMurray’s Lt. Tom Keefer. College man, self proclaimed intellectual and failed playwright. With an over sized ego, subtle condescension to match. Who lazily tolerates the Captain of the Mine Sweeper, Caine while taking fresh faced, young, naive Ensign Willie Keith under his wing. Once the Captain is reassigned to another ship, Keefer’s tolerance melds with wary caution in regard to the ship’s new Captain, Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg. A WWI hold over and very Navy. Who moves at his own speed with his own rules. Unwittingly supplying Keefer with a shopping list of complaints as he draws Van Johnson’s career minded Lt. Steve Maryk into the cabal.

Creating a series of accidents and mishaps that culminate in perhaps, losing the Caine to a tropical Typhoon. Setting the stage for a Court Martial where Keefer’s ego writes checks that can’t be covered. Walking the tight rope of settling perceived scores while tossing Queeg to the wolves and saving his own skin. Queeg is quietly ushered out. The mutineers are acquitted. And later at a celebratory party, Mr. MacMurray’s Keefer is solidly deserving of Lt. Barney Greenwald’s scathing dressing down and challenge to a fight.

3. Pushover (1954)

Ramping it up the sleaze and slime factor about four fold as Robbery Detective Paul Sheridan. Who starts out as honest and straight laced. A bit of of ladies’ man. Tipped to an opening scene bank robbery where people are killed and the robber, Harry Wheeler, fleetingly played by Paul Richards, escapes. Sheridan deftly disables the possible getaway car owned by robber’s moll, Lona McLane; sultrily played by Kim Novak in her debut role. Smoothly picks up Lona. Invites her for a drink and soon finds himself getting in over his head as Lona just as smoothly seduces Sheridan and suggests an easy way out with her and the bank’s stolen $200,000.

The film’s back lot, claustrophobic, shadowy, rain slicked look and Noir feel fit Mr. MacMurray’s Sheridan like a glove as he stakes out Lona’s tiny apartment in its U-shaped complex. With a plethora of high dolly shots that make Sheridan’s trench coated shadows stretch even longer. Selling his soul to the devil as he lies to his partner, Rick McAllister, well played by Philip Carey and paternal overseer, Paddy Dolan. Fudges reports to his by the book boss, Lt. Eckstrom, a sturdy, aspiring E.G. Marshall. Then slither away to see Lona and their plans quickly head south. Culminating with a few unexpected, noisy, greed motivated murders that leave no one the better.

4. The Apartment (1960)

We now find Mr. MacMurray again under the deft hand of Billy Wilder. As a rather major cog in a flawless Magnum Opus to very early 1960s Corporate America. Its hive of worker drones. The key to success and all its bells, whistles, vices and secret that are part and parcel of innovation, imagination and climbing to the top. Here, MacMurray reigns supreme as he toys with and sometimes taunts a new and possibly unwelcome addition to his fiefdom. Jack Lemmon, deftly mixing comedy and drama as naive, sometimes nebbish-y, C.C. Baxter.

MacMurray’s personnel director, Jeff Sheldrake is at the pinnacle of his appointed ladder. Basically content and more than somewhat amoral. He quickly adds his own name to the list of executives young Baxter loans his close by apartment to for late night, off the books assignations. Sheldrake dangles shiny totems and talismans of advancement before Baxter eyes. Private office and perks. While carrying on an affair with elevator girl, Fran Kubelik. Realistically brought to life by Shirley MacLaine.

Troubles ensue when Miss Kubelik catches Baxter’s fancy. Keeping relatively low key until Christmas Eve Night. While Miss Kubelik waits for Shelldrake at the company party. Only to see him enter with an earlier secretary, Edie Adams. on his arm. Miss Kubelik panics and runs to Baxter’s empty apartment and attempts a suicide with sleeping pills. Sheldrake remains, perhaps gleefully and deliberately oblivious of it all. Juggling multiple mistresses with a knowing, winning smile until the final few minutes. When Baxter quits and gives Shelldrake his surprising and well earned comeuppance. With a verbal berating and the returned keys to the executive washroom.

Overall Consensus:

Billy Wilder directing Barbara Stanwyck & Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity

While being given many roles to play, I still believe that Mr. MacMurray was anxious to find a niche where he could stretch and flex his muscles and have some fum with particularly meaty roles under the guidance of tried and tested directors. More so with Billy Wilder, who gave the actor ample opportunities to deliver some of his best, most memorable work. Not as the hero, but the heel. Cunningly pulling strings in The Apartment and to a lesser extent in The Caine Mutiny. While also being able to flip the coin and portray an every man who takes a decision and winds up on an E Ticket to Hell in Double Indemnity and Pushover. Films revealing clever men you may not mind sharing a drink with. Though not much more.


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


What do you think of Fred MacMurray? Do share your favorite role(s) of this classic actor.

Rental Pick: CHRONICLE (2012)

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a big fan of the found-footage genre, which is often used in horror or sci-fi movies. So when this one comes around, I was only mildly interested in seeing it. But the good reviews piqued my interest and y’know what, going out of one’s comfort zone can be quite rewarding :)

The story is pretty straightforward, three Seattleites high school friends somehow gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery one night. It’s not fully explained how they gain these powers, but that’s beside the point. Soon, the three boys bonded over their newly-found powers, and the scenes of them discovering the powers are quite fun to watch. You sort of live vicariously through these characters, especially in the exhilarating flying sequences. Now who hasn’t wished they could fly at some point of their lives? What started out as whimsical and fun soon takes a sinister turn, however. Never has the saying ‘it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye’ been more aptly applied here.

The found-footage film-making style lends itself well to the story, as one of the main characters, Andrew, is a loner kid who seems to only communicate using his handy-cam. He’s the quintessential troubled boy who lives with his cancer-stricken mother and a disillusioned, abusive former-firefighter father. As if life at home isn’t hard enough, he’s also bullied at school. After seeing the documentary Bully, these bullying scenes are even more heartbreaking and you truly feel for this kid. His two friends however, Matt (who’s actually Andrew’s cousin) and Steve, the popular guy who’s running for school president, live seemingly problem-free lives.

So it’s no surprise that this incredible discovery affects Andrew the most. On the way home from school one day, Andrew uses his power that sends someone in the hospital. Surely anyone who’s been tailgated or harassed by a careless driver can relate to that scene, but the incident prompts Matt and Steve to enforce a ‘rule’ that they should not to use the powers whilst they’re angry or for evil purposes. For Steve and Matt, the powers are just something cool to have, a new talent they can use for fun, such as freaking people out at a toy store using their telekinetic powers.

But for Andrew, the power feeds his growing anger and resentment, and it quickly overtakes him. It doesn’t help matters that Andrew’s telekinetic abilities seems to be the strongest of the three, perhaps because he’s just naturally the most gifted out of them all, and it could be because he spends more time perfecting it. My husband likens his ability to X-Men‘s Jean Grey, who could be incredibly powerful when she puts her mind to it. Andrew also shares some similarities with another mutant with a dark past, Magneto, whose life is in turmoil following the death of his mother.

What I like about Chronicle is that the superhero theme ultimately speaks more about our humanity and moral conscience at the core. When something out of the ordinary happens to us, whether good or bad, we all have a choice in how we deal with them and those choices are what affects us and those around us, more so than the circumstance itself. The film’s sense of realism also makes the story and characters very relatable, after all these three boys are as ordinary as they come.

The script did a good job in getting us care about the characters and provides some depth that transcends beyond the gimmicks of its precarious concept. The special effects is pretty good considering its paltry $12 mil-budget, it’s nothing spectacular but does its job and serves the story well.

I’m also impressed with the performances of the relatively unknown young actors. Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan have good chemistry together, and all of them have only done mostly TV projects and various small projects. DeHaan, who looks so much like a young Leonardo DiCaprio (circa This Boys Life), has the most challenging role out of the three and he’s more than up for the task.

Now, I’m not saying this is a perfect movie of course, there are quite a few plot holes about the extend of their powers and all that, not to mention the clichéd stereotypes on some of the characters. There are also some of the absurd choices some of the characters did that aggravate me, but not to the point that derail the whole movie.

The quibbles I did hear from some reviewers are that the ending seems extreme and overblown. It’s a warranted sentiment though I actually don’t mind them as the conflict has been hinted more than once. Plus, Andrew’s musings about being an ‘apex predator’ that shouldn’t feel sorry for crushing its inferior prey would inevitably lead to him doing some horrible things. I do feel that the finale is quite violent for being PG-13, that battle scenes both on the air and on the ground around the Space Needle are fierce and brutal. It’s heartbreaking to see what the powers cost each of these kids and what happens when certain powers falls into the wrong hands.

Final Thoughts: Chronicle is a pleasant surprise for me. It’s a worthy sci-fi fantasy that’s grounded in realism and has more emotional weight than meets the eye. It’s a pretty impressive achievement from director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis in their feature film debut.

4 out of 5 reels


Somehow I get a feeling this will be another polarizing movie, so if you’ve seen this, I’d love to hear what you think. If you haven’t, are you willing to give this a go?

THIS JUST IN! Skyfall teaser trailer debuts

As you loyal readers know by now, there’s not a lot of movies we anticipate more than Skyfall here at FlixChatter. My pal Ted and I even started a 007 Chatter series as a countdown to the movie in November.

There’s a lot to be excited for here apart from Daniel Craig returning, there’s Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes directing, flanked by a slew of Oscar winning actors, and now we’ve got this tantalizing new trailer. Check it out:

Ok, this definitely amp up my excitement tenfold. I love that first shot of Bond overlooking the London skyline with the Big Ben looming in the background. There’s something foreboding and eerie in that majestic shot, and that shot of a row of coffins draped in British flags is disquieting.

The whole word association game starts out with Bond looking unperturbed but his mood abruptly changes with the mere mention of Skyfall…

Country: London
Gun: Shot
Agent: Provocateur
Murder: Employment
Skyfall: [pause]
Skyfall: Done!

With that Bond leaves the room as Dame Judi Dench’s M and Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory watches from behind the glass. Just what the heck is Skyfall? Is that what’s written on his secret mission dossier, kind of like For Your Eyes Only? And who is Mallory? Is he a good or bad guy?

No sign of Javier Bardem as the baddie however, perhaps Mendes is saving him for the full trailer? In any case, the rest of the 40-second teaser shows that all the reasons we go see a Bond movie is present: glamorous locations (filming took place in the UK, Shanghai, and Turkey), sexy Bond girls frolicking with our hero, Bond being chased all over and high-octane action shots such as a train crash, etc. All of those are well and good, but this one promises something *more* which is the most intriguing part of all.

The trailer ends with Bond saying “Some men are coming to kill us. We’ve got to kill them first.” Well, will he? There’s rumor swirling around that an important character might die in this film. I have an inkling who might that be, but I’m sure I’ll still be gasping when that happens. This looks poised to be Craig’s best bond yet. Bring it on, Mr. Mendes!


What do you think folks? Don’t you wish this comes out next week instead of November? :)