Thank you Nora Ephron for your wonderful rom-coms!

Multi-talented writer/director Nora Ephron died Tuesday at the age of 71. I regretfully wasn’t aware that she was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia and to me, she always looked younger than her age. A tinge of sadness came over me when I heard of her passing. Well, for one, there just aren’t enough female filmmakers in Hollywood as it is and now one of the best has left us. I brought up the issue of the lack of female filmmakers during the Women Filmmakers panel at TCFF last year, and some of the female directors there acknowledged the struggle of being in a business strongly-dominated by men.

But Ephron, who was born in Manhattan to parents who were both screenwriters, was one of the few who thrived in Hollywood. Writing was definitely in her blood as her sisters Delia and Amy are also screenwriters, while her sister Hallie Ephron, is a journalist, book reviewer and novelist who writes crime fiction (per Wiki). She was triple-nominated for Academy Award for Best Original Screenplays: Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. I have not seen the first one, but the last two, as well as You’ve Got Mail, are amongst my favorite romantic comedies.

One of the actors who owed it to Ephron for her success was Meg Ryan, she starred in three of Ephron’s films and one of those films made her a star. “Nora was an era,” Ryan’s quoted as saying on this website, and you know what, she was. Her sophisticated and witty writing made rom-coms a genre that wasn’t frowned upon by critics nor audiences like it is today. As one of her personal friends Aaron Sorkin in this article astutely put it, “She wrote romantic comedy in a style we don’t see much anymore… Her spirit was really in it because she loved it so much. She loved film so much…”

Meg Ryan shines in Ephron’s Films

What I LOVE about Ephron’s rom-coms are how funny and heartwarming they are. The characters and stories are inherently sweet but not banal or hackneyed, and the actors in her movies embody their roles so well that they don’t seem like they’re acting. Unlike some of today’s rom-com stars, the actors aren’t *perfect looking* but they’ve got screen charisma and appeal to go with her charming scripts. Her films are packed with wonderful dialog, lines such as these…

“I’ll have what she’s having,”

“A movie! That’s your problem! You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.”

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

“It was a million tiny little things that when you add them up it meant that we were supposed to be together, and I knew it. I knew it the first time I touched her. It was like coming home. Only to no home that I’d ever known. I was just taking her hand to help her out of the car, and I knew it. It was like magic.”

That last long line from Sleepless is when Tom Hanks’ Sam Baldwin describes his late wife to a late-night radio show host. It always makes me tear up every time I watch it. It’s one of the most genuinely romantic and heartfelt scenes tinged with such poignancy.

She also wrote scenes that are iconic, there’s barely any rom-coms these days that have such indelible scenes such as the diner’s fake-orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally, or that Sleepless‘ finale up on the Empire State Building. The supporting characters are well-written too, they are memorable even in bit parts: Paul Child in Julie & Julia, Rob Reiner as Hanks’ buddy in Sleepless, Dave Chappelle as Hanks’ right-hand man and Greg Kinnear as Ryan’s technology-loathing boyfriend in You’ve Got Mail, the list goes on. In fact, one of my favorite scenes in Sleepless involves a minor character played by Hanks’ own wife Rita Wilson. The way her character describes a scene from An Affair to Remember is a hoot and the guys’ reaction just perfectly captures the amusing contrast between male/female dynamics. I LOVE this scene!

I also appreciate that Ephron wrote strong female characters, but yet they aren’t unrealistically so. They are quirky but relatable and also have such likability quality about them that I could see them as my own friends. They also have a lot going on in their lives instead of just being the subject of the romance of the story. Julia Child in Julie & Julia has her passion and love for cooking, Sleepless‘ Annie is a successful journalist, and You’ve Got Mail‘s Kathleen Kelly has her bookstore to save. It’s obvious Ephron is a romantic at heart, and she combines that beautifully with her intelligence and sense of humor in her writing. I wish she had made more movies in her lifetime, but one thing for sure, her legacy shall lives on in her work.

Lastly, her movies always have such great music. Sleepless in Seattle is one of my favorite soundtracks that’s packed with classic tunes. I’ll leave you with this one song from Harry Connick Jr. Nora Ephron and great rom-coms go together like a wink and a smile :D


So what’s YOUR favorite Nora Ephron movie(s)?

TAKE TWO: How would these films turn out had these directors made them?

Many of us who follows Hollywood knows that a film goes through several writing stages before it hits the big screen; we also know that many directors were involved in this process, most of the time these directors decided to leave the project on their own terms or get fired by the studio. Then the studio would bring in another director to take over the project, sometimes it works out, many times the second or third director would end up leaving or get fired from the movie.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Mission Impossible 3 playing on TV and thought to myself, this film really blows and I really wished Cruise and Paramount went with David Fincher’s version. (You can read here as to why that didn’t happened).

So I decided to come up with a list of films that could’ve been directed by a different director and maybe the final product might be better than the ones we got.

Watchmen

Back in the late 80s, Terry Gilliam was put in charge of bringing the popular graphic novel to the big screen. The studio hired Sam Hamm to write the script, for those of you who are old enough, you probably remember Hamm; he wrote Tim Burton’s Batman and was the most popular writer in Hollywood at that time. But after several attempts at rewriting the script, Gilliam determined that the project just won’t work for the big screen and suggested that it should be made into a mini-series. Well, the studio disagree and so he left the project. By the way, if you want to read Hamm’s Watchmen script, I believe it’s available online but be warned, it’s quite awful.

So in early 2000s, Paramount hired Paul Greengrass to take over the project and his version was going to take place in our modern day society. In fact Paramount has so much faith in the movie; they even set up a website for it, well over a year before the film’s release date; it was scheduled to open in the summer 2006. Well in early 2005, Paramount then CEO Sherry Lansing decided to step down and Brad Grey took over. When Grey became the CEO, his first priority was to cut many of Paramount’s big tentpole projects, of course this includes Watchmen. Originally Paramount was going to have two big films opening in summer of 2006, Grey decided to just release one and the one he chose was Mission: Impossible 3. Now, I don’t blame Grey for making that decision because the M:I films are a well known franchise while not many people know anything about Watchmen.

I do feel bad for Greengrass and his team though since they worked on the project for several months trying to bring Watchmen to the big screen and suddenly they’re jobless. Of course things turned out well Greengrass, after he lost the gig he went and made United 93, which he got nominated for an Oscar and then he made The Bourne Ultimatum, which became the highest earning film of that franchise. M:I-3 on the other hand was a box office disappointment. I couldn’t stop thinking though, how would Watchmen turn out had Greengrass directed it? I’m pretty sure it would’ve been much better than Snyder’s bloated and too much slow motion crap fest.

Mission: Impossible 2

After the massive success of the first M:I film, Paramount and Tom Cruise wanted to move quick and make a sequel. They got Oliver Stone to come on board as the director after Brian De Palma declined to come back to do another one. Stone and screenwriter Robert Towne came up with plot about a big pharmaceutical company trying to spread a deadly virus to the world and the M:I team has to stop them. I remember Stone even tried to convince Paul Newman to come out of retirement and appear in this movie, he would’ve played Cruise’s Ethan Hunt’s boss, which went to Anthony Hopkins in the final film. The film was scheduled to open in the summer of 1999 but Cruise was stuck shooting Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, so they had to push the shooting date of this film way back. After several months of waiting, Stone decided he couldn’t wait any longer and left the project so he could shoot Any Given Sunday.

After Stone left, the project was handed to John Woo, who’s still high on the success of Face/Off. When Woo took over the movie, he told Robert Towne to rewrite the script and make it more of action/romance which is what we got. Now I enjoyed M:I-2, but I really would have love to see what Stone could’ve done with the movie. I’m pretty sure his version won’t have tons of doves flying around, slow-mo shootouts and cheesy love triangle storyline.

I Am Legend

Back in the late 1990s, Warner Bros. was gearing up for their 75th anniversary celebration and they wanted to release two big films in the same year. The new Superman film was supposed to come out in summer of 1998 and for the holiday season they were going to release a remake of I Am Legend. Ridley Scott signed on to direct and Arnold was inked as the leading man. Mark Protosevich wrote the script that was truer to the original novel, minus the one liners intended for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Everything was ready to go until they did some math and realized the film would cost well over $100mil to make. Remember this was back in the 90s, so a $100mil film was rare. By comparison, today the average cost to make a tent-pole picture is $150mil. Well, after they couldn’t figure out how to bring down the price tag, the project was put on hold.

The film finally opened in December of 2007, almost ten years after its original release date. Of course we all know it starred Will Smith and directed by Francis Lawrence. I enjoyed this version but I think Scott would’ve done a better job than Lawrence.

Dune

Alejandro Jodorowsky spent years in the 70s trying to bring this popular sci-fi book to the big screen, but after he spent millions on pre-production, he ran out of money and couldn’t shoot it. According to Frank Herbert, the author of the book, Jodorowsky’s script was the size of a phone book and it would’ve been a 14 hours movie, which was one of the reasons why it never made it to the big screen.

So in the late 70s, the film rights were sold to producer Dino De Laurentiis and he hired Ridley Scott to take over the project. Scott intended to split the book into two movies but after realizing it would take over 2 years to complete the movie, he decided he didn’t have the strength to do it. Also, his older brother has just passed away around that time, so he needed time off to grief.

In the early 80s, De Laurentiis decided to hire David Lynch to direct the movie because he was so impress with Lynch’s previous movie, The Elephant Man. Lynch decided to take over the screenwriting duty as well, even though he’d never read the book. After a 135 pages script was finished, Lynch started shooting the film in early 1983. The film finally came out in December of 1984 and it was a huge box office failure. Lynch was so distraught by the film’s failure, he vowed to never again work on a big budget movie.

Dune is one of a rare film where I didn’t hate it but didn’t really like it either, but every time it’s on TV, I’d watch it. In fact I bought a Blu-ray version last year and watched the entire thing again. I always wonder what kind of film it would be had Jodorowsky or Scott directed it.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Originally Stanley Kubrick was going to direct this movie, in fact he started developing the concept of the film way back in the 70s. By the 80s, he thought the technology was ready and he hired a few writers to write the script for him. He didn’t want to hire a kid actor to play the lead role, so he went to automobile manufacture such as Honda and Toyota and asked them if they could build him a realistic child robot that he can use for filming. Of course they told him that was impossible, so he decided to put the project on hold until the technology would be more advance.

In the early 90s after he saw Jurassic Park, he thought the technology was indeed ready and he again started working on the script. But when he saw some CGI pre-visualizations, he was not impressed and again he put the project on hold. He decided to start working on his other movie, Eyes Wide Shut, hoping by the time he finishes this film, the technology would be advanced enough so he could start shooting A.I. Unfortunately he passed away in early 1999 and we never know what his version of the film would’ve been like. From what I remember reading, his version would have been much more darker than Spielberg’s and it wouldn’t have included that “happy” ending with the super intelligent robots ruling the earth.

– Post by Ted S.

You can find all of Ted’s contributions here.


So folks what do you think? Do you wish these films were directed by another filmmaker or are you a fan of the final product? Also, feel free to name other films you thought could’ve been better with a different director behind the camera.

Music Break: John William’s iconic Superman theme

The worst thing about the Man of Steel movie is how long the wait it. The movie isn’t scheduled to arrive until June 14, 2013. Bah, that’s a year away, so right now, I’d be happy if I’d see a trailer, which will likely arrive around Comic-Con in two weeks, yay! I’d love to see if the rumor about the Kryptonian war possibly playing a big part in the movie (per GeekTyrant) is true or not. Is that why they hired Maximus as Jor-El? :)

Anyway, we’re here to talk about the music and this post was sparked by the news I heard last week that Hans Zimmer will be scoring the Zack Snyder’s movie. Now, with Christopher Nolan being one of the producers, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by Zimmer’s involvement. Zimmer’s worked on four of Nolan’s movies: all three of the Batman films and Inception.

I’m a big fan of the German’s composer’s work, as I’ve outlined in my top five list from last year. He’s certainly done a lot of great scores in the past, but even a composer of his caliber should realize the daunting task ahead of him. In this FirstShowing article, he’s quoted as saying

You are allowed to reinvent, but you have to try to be as good or at least as iconic and it has to resonate and it has to become a part of the zeitgeist. That’s the job.

Photo courtesy of capedwonder.com/music

So he obviously realized that with John Williams has created one of the most iconic scores in the history of cinema, at least as far as superhero movies are concerned.

In last year’s Hero Complex Film Festival, Donner talked about how he got to work with John Williams, which was recommended by Steven Spielberg. It’s interesting how that came to be as Williams initially wasn’t available due to another project (it might have been Close Encounter of the Third Kind), so Jerry Goldsmith, who scored Donner’s The Omen, was hired. But then the schedule was pushed back again and Donner lost Goldsmith, but Williams became available. Talk about fate, eh?

Upon hearing the Superman theme for the first time, he said he was thunderstruck. “I couldn’t believe it, tears to my eyes…” Donner told Geoff Boucher, “He’s a genius, he’s a genius.” Donner even said in the interview that if we listened to the music very carefully, it’s almost as if you could hear the music say the word Superman. It’s like the music itself has superpowers!

Let’s take a listen at that wonderful rousing score right now…

I also adore the LOVE THEME of Superman which has romantic and sweeping feel to it, but still as majestic as the main theme. The Can You Read My Mind sequence is just hard to top, with Margot Kidder reciting the lyrics… she pretty much sums up how every young girl feels watching that scene, wishing it was us in Lois’ place ;)

Now, even though I think Zimmer is brilliant, I really don’t know how anyone could top that score. I feel that I think Snyder and Nolan should somehow keep the March theme, at least during Superman’s first flying sequence. I mean, this score is practically as inseparable as James Bond’s theme with 007 movies. I know Bryan Singer did use part of the score in Superman Returns, so it’d be weird to see Superman flying without that iconic score.


So what say you folks? Do you think John William’s Superman theme should be use in Man of Steel? Let’s hear it.

FlixChatter Review: BRAVE

Whenever I go see a film at the cinema, there’s a certain expectation to be swept away by the experience. With Pixar, that little slice of cinematic heaven always begins with the short movie attached at the beginning of the film. In this case, La Luna truly is magical. I think the terms ‘over the moon’ is aptly used here to describe how I feel about it. Fortunately, that state of untrammeled delight didn’t stop when the feature film started.

As I said in my Top Ten Pixar characters list, the strength of Pixar films have always been the beguiling characters and in that regard, Pixar delivers again here. Right from the opening sequence, I was captivated by the DunBroch family: Dad Lord Fergus, Mum Lady Elinor, and the adorable young princess with the most glorious red ringlets and big blue eyes, Princess Merida. Her love for archery began at a very young age, the moment her father gave her a set of bow and arrow, despite her mother’s protest.

Merida isn’t your typical princess, and that’s what I LOVE about her. The 16-year-old is very much a tomboy who’d rather ride her horse Angus into the woods whilst shooting arrows expertly as she’s riding, climbing rocks in the Scottish Highlands and drink from a majestic waterfalls. That’s the only time when she feels free, free from all the pressure of being a princess and the responsibilities that come with it. Like a typical teenager, she clashes most with her strict mother who wants her to be a proper princess with perfect decorum. Queen Elinor has high hopes for Merida, and that includes planning her daughter’s marriage with the three neighboring clans, which also serves as a peace offering to keep the clans in harmony.

Despite her mother’s insistence about the importance of this betrothal, it’s no surprise that the free-spirited Merida protests such a plan. On the day of the event where each of the clan’s first-born is to fight for her hand, Merida defies her mother by claiming that she too would ‘fight for her own hand.’ That does it, the war between Merida and her mother is full-on.

The first act of Brave feels familiar, I guess some of the scenes have been shown on the trailer, so there’s not much of a surprise there up until she runs away into the forest and encounters those will-o’-the-wisp, the blue ghostly lights seen flickering over marshes and fens, which her mother once told Merida that they can lead a person to her destiny. Those lights lead Merida to the mysterious circle of standing stones which then reveals a witch’s house. I’m glad I hadn’t read any spoilers of the movie as I was completely surprised by what becomes of that spell Merida requests from the witch. But let’s just say that the result causes quite a bit of chaos… and the very second the transformation happens, hilarity ensues.

What surprises me most about this movie is how funny it is. I guess I know that Pixar’s movies are usually whimsical and playful, but Brave is downright hilarious and seems to get funnier as the movie progresses. Merida’s own carrot-topped triplet brothers are the ultimate scene stealers as you can’t help but laugh every time they appear. These rambunctious trio are always up to mayhem, making mischief on their dad’s wooden leg or tirelessly chasing after pastries, much to the chagrin of those poor kitchen maids. The betrothal archery race itself is a hoot, full of wonderfully quirky characters and all kinds of side-splitting hysterics. But the funniest bit involves Merida and a big black bear in the castle. I have never laughed so hard from start to finish watching a movie, my stomach was literally sore after the film but oh, so much joy!


But beneath all that rip-roaring humor, there’s a poignant and heartfelt story about the celebration of family. The underlying theme in Brave is a love story, but not between a Prince and a Princess, but between a mother and a daughter. That alone makes the story unique, but another thing that sets this movie apart from other classic fairy tales is the absence of a *villain.* Nothing against classic good vs evil plots, but it’s so refreshing to see a fairy tale without a stereotypical villain hellbent on destroying a kingdom or jealous of the princess’ beauty. No love interest either, thank you very much, no Prince necessary to *complete* the Princess’ life. In relation to that mind-numbingly generic title, Merida is brave not because she’s able to kill some dragon or what have you, but she’s brave because she’s got the courage to fight for what she believes in, and she’s also not afraid to own up to her mistake.

There’s not a boring moment whilst watching Brave. If I wasn’t laughing at the shenanigans around the DunBroch Kingdom or getting caught up in Merida’s action adventure, I was marveling at the amazing visuals. This movie practically doubles as a Scotland tourism video as the Scottish Highlands looks absolutely breathtaking. The wonderful Celtic-themed score by Patrick Doyle enhances the mood even more, they certainly made a great choice in hiring the Scottish-born composer whose work I admire. The soundtrack would certainly make my top five.

The lush nature cinematography gives us an earthy yet mystical forest but keeping the human characters more comical-looking (facial features are rounder with exaggerated eyes) adds to the charm. What’s perhaps more beautiful than the Scottish landscape is Merida’s hair, especially when it’s blowing in the wind. I could devote an entire blog just on her untamed, bright red locks. Apparently Pixar had to upgrade to a new software to create that perfect special effect for her hair, and that certainly paid off as it’s as iconic as Steve Jobs’ black turtlenecks. Btw, speaking of Jobs, Brave was dedicated to the company’s founder, who died during the production of the movie.

I have to mention the wonderful voice cast in this movie, especially Kelly MacDonald who did a great job bringing the princess to life. Billy Connolly is perfectly cast as Lord Fergus and his comedic talents is put to good use in this role. Emma Thompson also did a great job doing a Scottish brogue as Elinor.

Final Thoughts: A lot of the critics say that this falls short from being a Pixar classic. Now, I don’t know what the definition of a *classic* is, but if that means something I wouldn’t mind watching this over and over again for years to come then I think it fits into that category. Ok so the plot perhaps isn’t as tight as other Pixar’s masterpieces like Finding Nemo and the Toy Story franchise, perhaps because of the many directors involved (Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell are all credited in the movie) But still, it’s a solid movie that offers a great deal of entertainment and fun adventure. Funny, heartwarming, with beautiful sound and stunning visuals to marvel at, really, what’s not to love? I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish, in fact, I like this more overall than the more celebrated UP.

Brave reminds me of all the wonderful things about those Disney fairy tales I saw growing up, but with something more… much, much more.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Did you see BRAVE? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the movie.

Top 10 Fave Pixar Characters – Vote for your favorites

With thirteen films so far, Pixar continues to create films with fun, intriguing characters. That includes the latest one, BRAVE, with Princess Merida. So in her honor, I thought I’d expand my list of FIVE Favorite Pixar Characters I did a couple of years ago, and expand it to 10.

The beauty of Pixar movies is how wonderful the characters are. They’re so well-written and tug your heartstrings, it’s amazing how we could ever care so much about a bunch of toys, a waste-eliminator robot, or a one-eyed green monster. Within mere seconds into a Pixar movie, I’ve become so emotionally-invested in them right away that make the viewing experience so worthwhile. They’re even more affecting than a lot of real human characters in a life action feature.

I didn’t rank them on my original list, but after much deliberations, I decided to do so this time. Yes it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it :)

Anyway, I’m going from number 10 all the way to my ultimate favorite:

10. Russell (Up)

No matter what mood you’re in, it’d be hard pressed not to be captivated by this 8-year old kid’s endearingly exuberant charm. Determined to obtain his final badge to become a Senior Wilderness Explorer, the chubby munchkin ends up being swept off his feet (literally!), up, up and away with Carl in his balloon-hoisted house. Nothing seems to dampen the kid’s buoyant spirit. He and the gloomy and disillusioned makes an unlikely pairing that’s as odd as they are delightful.

9. Remy (RATATOUILLE)

You’d think that the idea of a little rat in a kitchen to be kind of gross, but leave it to Pixar to make Remy, the rat who dreams of becoming a great chef so endearing. Despite being raised in the slum and eating garbage all his life, Remy likes things gourmet style.

If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.

He somehow ends up in Paris, the city full of celebrated culinary heroes, including Remy’s own, Auguste Gusteau. As fate would have it, he forms an unlikely friendship with Linguine and together they made the most of Remy’s culinary talent. It’s enough to make me wish I have a creature like Remy to help me cook around the house, though preferably not in the form of a rat, ahah.

8. Rex (Toy Story)

The hilariously hysterical t-rex is a minor character but every time he comes on, it’s always a hoot. Remember the Jurassic Park nod in TS2 during the car chase in the toy barn? ‘Object is closer than they appear‘ Ha! He’s supposed to be menacing but Rex is such a wimp that gets agitated by even the slightest hitch, but I love him best when he starts squealing like a little girl.

7. Dory (Finding Nemo)

The blue tang fish that steals every scene she’s in is voiced by the inherently likable and goofy Ellen DeGeneres. From the moment Nemo meets Dory, something is just a little off. Soon we realize she’s suffering from short-term memory loss, which makes for a one riotous scenario after another. Dory delivers the biggest laughs and her compassionate and gentle spirit makes you wish she’s your best friend. There are too many favorite scenes of Dory but when she imitates the whale with that slow, deep voice I just about fell off my chair.

6. Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story)

Starting out as a main rival turns BFF, the spaceman action-figure is the perfect complement to Woody even if Buzz’s delusional self sometimes exasperates his more-grounded friend. The Tim Allen-voiced character initially thinks he’s the real Buzz Lightyear, not a mere toy like the rest, which explains his extra gung-ho attitude that’s so fun to watch. I thought the duel scene with Darth Vader-like Zurg at the end of the first sequel was my favorite scene of Buzz, but no, it’s when he’s accidentally reset and becomes the Spanish Buzz that had me in stitches. The pent-up feelings he has for Jesse is now on full display as he’s become unabashedly romantic Don Juan. The tango sequence with Jesse is priceless and sooo much fun. Te quiero señor Buzz!

5. Flik (A Bug’s Life)

Firstly, I love Dave Foley, he’s just so cute and funny in Kids in the Hall and News Radio, so maybe that’s why I took immediate liking to Flik. Foley’s voice just naturally suits the geeky, bumbling, but ever-so-endearing protagonist. The ‘engineering-minded’ ant always wants the best for his colony by trying to come up with his various inventions (i.e. a dew telescope, automatic harvester, etc.), though they often end up with disastrous results. But as his BFF Dot will tell you, he’s really a nice guy  who really is just trying to help. Like Dot says, “you’re weird… but I like you.”

4. Princess Merida (BRAVE)

No, I didn’t put down Merida simply because she’s the first Pixar fairy tale princess. I put her here because I LIKE her. The spunky redhead who rivals Katniss and Robin Hood with her bow and arrow is just sooo much fun to watch. Forget Rapunzel, Merida’s glorious orange-red curly hair should earn her best movie character hair of all time, and not just in animated features.

I like her adorable Scottish accent (natch!), her wide expressive eyes, and most importantly, her personality. Like Katniss, Merida is strong-willed, independent and a capable heroine, she doesn’t need her Prince to define who she is, but at the same time, she’s not an annoying know-it-all. If she were real, I’d LOVE to be her BFF :D

3. WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class)

In my original list, I put Wall•E in the honorable mentions list but he really should’ve been in my top 5.

I’m not ashamed to admit that this movie not only make me tear up, but I was practically sobbing! The small trash compactor robot that barely said a word is so affecting that within minutes of seeing him on screen, I want to run over there and gives the lonely robot a big hug. In a dismal, silent post-apocalyptic world, Wall-E is a beating heart that gives such hope amidst all the gloom and doom. When he falls for a far more advanced robot Eve, he goes to great length to woo her. Believe it or not, it’s a genuine love story that is as heartfelt as any human connection.

2. Mike Wazowski (Monsters Inc.)

Oh, who doesn’t love the one-eyed monster, voiced with wisecrackin’, smarty-pants sensibilities by Billy Crystal. He’s got more expression with his one giant eye than most characters with two. His green round shape is quite possibly the cutest, most adorable Pixar creation yet, not to mention his toothy grin. And he’s charming and smooth, too, just as Celia Mae (Jennifer Tilly), his girlfriend with Medusa-like hair and high-pitched voice. The minute he sang, “you and me… me and you… both of us togethaaa…” I’m done for! LOVE ya Wazowski!!

1. Woody (Toy Story)

The leader of the pack of Andy’s toys and the emotional core of the franchise, Woody the Cowboy is just so darn likable. That’s why you got someone like Tom Hanks to voice him and let his playful personality shine. Woody is funny, caring, optimistic, and wise almost to a fault. And he’s fiercely loyal, too, even as much as he loves his college-bound owner, he’s torn to be separated from his buddies and a trait he’s carried with him from the beginning of the movie until the very end of the franchise. No wonder he’s Andy’s favorite toy, because there ain’t no Toy Story without Woody!

I have to include this video of Tom Hanks explaining the process of doing voice work of Woody in the Graham Norton show. It’s absolutely hilarious and makes you really appreciate his voice work even more.


Special Honorable Mention:

The BRAVE redheaded triplets!

Do I even need to explain? Just look at them! If you have seen Brave, then I’m sure you’ll agree there’s no denying how adorable these three lil’ buggers are. They steal every single scene they’re in, I don’t even mind Pixar doing a spin-off or short movie just with these triplets alone!


Now your turn! Vote below for up to THREE favorite characters. Feel free to select ‘OTHER’ if your pick(s) aren’t listed and let us know which ones they are.

Everybody’s Chattin’ … and an [FB] announcement

Happy Friday everyone!

Not only is the weekend almost here, Pixar’s BRAVE has arrived, yay! My hubby and I are going to see it tonight.

Move over Rapunzel, I think Princess Merida has the most glorious hair ever!


Now, before I get to the links, I just want to apologize for skipping the Everybody’s Chattin’ post last month. I know most of you probably don’t even notice it but for me, the best part about blogging is the community aspect and I really appreciate my friends who have done so regularly, like Ryan [my inspiration], Sam, Pete, Sati, and my pal Terrence’s Happy Haps. I love spreading link loves, I mean that’s what makes this blogging thing go around :D

Paula’s FCM Blogathon #2
FCM stands for Future Classic Movies and following the success of the first blog-a-thon, Paula is now at it again with its second round. Check out which film made her list and other bloggers’ selections.
Terrence’s BRAVE review
I’m so jealous that he’s seen the movie already. Check out what he thinks of the latest from Pixar, certainly one of my most anticipated from the year.
John’s historical figure roles suggestion for Leonardo DiCaprio
Inspired by his recent viewing of J Edgar, John thinks up even more 20th century historical figures for him to tackle! Leo should definitely give him a call :D
Lady Sati’s Appreciation for Jean Dujardin
One of the most beautifully-designed blogs out there, Sati’s recently made a wonderful tribute on my favorite French actor right now. Ladies, you better sit down first ;)
Fernando’s Ridley Scott Double Bill
The Alien movie must be getting a lot of play this weekend with the release of Prometheus. Check out why Fernando likes both for different reasons.
Kristin’s Double Reviews
I LOVE it when people do a post of two VERY different movies, that’s what Kristin did with her reviews of Prometheus and Rock of the Ages.


Now on to the announcement! Well, isn’t it obvious… I finally bite the bullet after resisting it for a couple of years… FlixChatter is now on Facebook!!

Thanks to those who have LIKED me, now for the rest of you, would be a dear and do so please? I’d sincerely appreciate it :D



So what are you going to see this weekend? Whatever you do, hope you have a good one!

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina

Thanks to my friend Julian who told me about the trailer via Twitter, I had forgotten that I was going to do a spotlight post on this film when I first picked up the novel. I still have not finished the Leo Tolstoy masterpiece, still stuck at about the halfway mark. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish it, it’s really quite a heavy book about Russian aristocratic society on top of the obvious tragic love story, but watching the trailer actually makes me think I shouldn’t give up on it, yet.

Before I get into the casting and overall thoughts on this adaptation, first check out the poster and the trailer below:

CASTING

Firstly, let me confess that I’m not exactly sold on Keira Knightley‘s casting. The trailer doesn’t exactly change my mind. In fact, I’m already bored looking at her here, I don’t know if I can watch two hours of her being gloom and doom, suffering in the name of love.

I wasn’t sure who I’d rather see in her place, but now I think perhaps Mélanie Laurent, the French actress who was in Inglourious Basterds and most recently in Beginners. She actually look like she could be Russian and she has that melancholy yet mysterious look about her. Plus she’s not as well-known as the pouty-mouthed Keira, which would’ve made it fresher. Alas, Joe Wright apparently loves working with the English actress, this will mark his third project with Knightley after Pride & Prejudice and Atonement.

Now, the casting of Aaron Johnson piqued my interest, he’s wowed me in a couple of things he’s done, particularly as young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy. At only 22, there’s something so sensual about this young man, such virility and vigor. But there’s also restlessness and unworldliness that he seems to be able to inhabit as Vronsky, which as you know in the book would lead to the downfall of their torrid romance. Not sure he pulls off the mustache look though, I’m just not fond of it and I find it quite distracting. Funny how reading it in the book is quite different than seeing the character on screen. I almost wish Wright would take creative liberty and forgo the mustache on Vronsky, I mean he’s taking a bunch of creative license on the story anyhow.

Now on to the wronged husband Alexei Karenin. In the book he’s described as not being much to look at, so initially I was baffled at Jude Law‘s casting. I mean he’s as far away from ‘ugly’ as you can get, in fact he’s perhaps one of the most beautiful man in the world, so props for the make-up people to actually make him look unattractive enough.

Interesting to see Keira’s Mr. Darcy, Matthew MacFadyen appearing as Anna’s brother, Oblonsky. Other notable British cast include Emily Watson, Olivia Williams and up-and-comer Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s son) as Levin, whose story parallel Anna’s in the book.

STORY

Anna Karenina is the quintessential doomed love story. A married woman falls in love with a dashing and wealthy calvary officer and must pay the price of being shunned by society for her actions.

What I find complex about the book is the double plot, as I mentioned above, the story of Anna & Vronsky and that of Constantin Levin. Naturally the film will focus more on Anna’s crumbling marriage and infidelity, so in a way it’s a simplification but digestible version of Tolstoy’s epic Russian saga. What I love about it is the rich characters and how Tolstoy create such complex and nuanced characters, there’s no simple hero/heroine or villain. In fact, Anna is a deeply flawed protagonist, at times it’s hard for me to root for her.

As much as I admire Tolstoy’s meticulous attention to detail, I also find it frustrating and overwhelming, I mean he’d go on and on Levin’s agricultural interest, all that details about 19th century farming is over-indulgent. Especially when the first intimate encounter between the two forbidden lovers is skipped over completely. Judging from the trailer though, we’ll likely see lots of heaving bosoms, longing glances and steamy trysts in this passionate adaptation. The screenplay is written by Oscar-winner Tom Stoppard who won Best Screenplay for Shakespeare in Love.

STYLE

Now this is one area this movie won’t be lacking. Even right from the opening sequence with the conductor directing a stage performance, we can expect a lush, lavish, and gorgeous movie that’ll transport us to 19th century Russia where everyone speaks with a British accent :D I love vintage train stations and surely there’ll be as many scenes set there as in various palatial locations.

The costume design and set pieces are beautiful to look at. Waif-looking Keira certainly wears the period costumes well and Wright knows how to light her and frame her in such a dramatic way. It reminds me a bit of Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence in terms of all that pent-up longing, and it makes heartache looks so appealing, ahah. I think Wright might give Baz Luhrmann a run for his money in the style department.

Overall Thoughts 

I was intrigued initially but this trailer doesn’t quite move me. I teared up every time I saw the Les Miserables trailer but not with this one, somehow Keira just leaves me cold. Even the poster with the words ‘AN EPIC STORY OF LOVE’ emblazoned under the two doomed lovers just seems so corny. Overselling it a bit? I mean, the only *epic* thing to me is the visuals. Perhaps I’m a bit fatigue from seeing all the costumed drama being released this year — The Great Gatsby, Les Miserables are also out around the Holiday season.

I do like this genre mind you, and I’m a fan of Joe Wright’s work [saves for the manipulative The Soloist], but this feels like too much style over substance, which is the same fear I have for the similarly opulent-themed Baz Luhrman movie that’s also based on a celebrated book. Granted Wright’s first two period dramas were highly acclaimed, so perhaps this one would follow in that footsteps? We shall see. But right now, I’m not sure I’d see this one on the big screen.


What say you, folks? Thoughts on this Anna Karenina adaptation, particularly on casting?

The Flix List: Great Saps in Cinema

Greetings, all and sundry! I have decided to stick with the idea of Lists that Ruth suggested a few weeks ago. Which has presented me with a plethora of ideas. And the desire to tidy up loose ends and and possibly expound on a certain category of character in film. First suggested by iluvcinema in her response to my article on The Top Ten Femme Fatales on FrontRoomCinema. To that end, I proffer a Rogues Gallery of Mugs, Sad Sacks, Fall Guys, Stooges and men who think they are the smartest ones in the room and pay the consequences for it. Allow me to introduce.

To this end, allow me to introduce one of the most talented, yet underrated 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.

#10: Steve Buscemi’s Mink in Miller’s Crossing (1990)

The low life bon vivant, conniver, coke head and suggested homosexual lover of J.E. Freeman’s Eddie Dane. Though Buscemi isn’t on film long. He makes exquisite use of his role. Playing fast and loose with The Dane and John Turturro’s Bernie Bernbaum affections. Mink inadvertently sets himself up to be shot in the face at Miller’s Crossing in Bernie’s place. Creating one heck of an unseen plot line while allowing Bernie to perform all kinds of mischief.

#9: Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack in Ocean’s Eleven (1960)

What chance does five Las Vegas casinos have against being robbed simultaneously during the rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ New Year Eve’s night by a dozen WWII commandos looking for a score? Slim to non existent. Until one of their men dies of a stroke crossing The Strip immediately after the festivities. With a mob fixer looking for clues, Ocean decides to ship their swag out in Richard Conte’s coffin. The Rat Pack is in full attendance at a local chapel as the whispered sounds and word of Conte and his coffin being cremated stops everything in its tracks.

#8: Oliver Reed as Dr. Hal Raglan in David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979)

A well intentioned psychologist who uses controversial methods to physically manifest his patients’ inner angst and anger in ways as shocking as they are ugly. The good doctor is divorced and his institutionalized ex, Samantha Eggar takes her anger to whole new level. Giving sudden birth to small, childlike and incredibly strong creatures that carry out her reign of terror on Hal and his new family. Not for the faint of heart!

#7: Orson Welles’ Michael O’Hara in The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Who falls head over heels for Rita Hayworth’s scheming Elsa Bannister. Bored, blonde and married to unexciting, though constantly looking for kicks, Everett Sloane. His and Elsa’s game involves another couple. A proposed fake death, A real murder and $5000.00. That ends with a chase through Chinatown and its final showdown between Elsa and her husband. With pistols blazing in a Hall of Mirrors inside The Crazy House.

#6: Edward G. Robinson as Professor Richard Wanley in The Woman in the Window (1944)

An absolute, little known Noir gem from expressionist Fritz Lang. The professor is unassuming and has it all. A wife and son. A house in the suburbs and a sudden attraction for a portrait in a gallery’s huge window. The professor meets the portrait’s model, an alluring Joan Bennett. Alice. Who is much more than appears to be. A very hard boiled dame. The professor is hooked. Starts to lie to his wife and others to see Alice again. Until her boyfriend and possible pimp shows up. A death occurs and the professor’s sedate life heads South in a hurry!
Suggested by iluvcinema

#5: Joseph Cotten as novelist Holly Martins in The Third Man (1949)

Who travels to post war Vienna in time for the friend who had invited him, Harry Lime’s burial. A stranger in a strange land. Holly tries to get a grasp on the situation while rubbing elbows with expatriates, refugees, British and Russian troops and Harry’s girlfriend, Anna. Who may be a Russian agent and link to Harry. A Black Market kingpin who sells diluted Penicillin and has a lot to answer for. Holly gets played by everyone. Especially the Brits and their Intelligence Officer, Major Calloway. Methodically played by Trevor Howard. Who coerces Holly to be his “Dumb, decoy duck” in flushing Harry out of Vienna’s maze like sewers.

#4: Warren Beatty’s Pulitzer Prize seeking reporter, Joe Frady in The Parallax View (1974)

One of the last great conspiracy films of the late 20th century. As Frady dusts off the cobwebs the assassination of a Senator at the Seattle Space Needle he and a few others had witnessed a year before. Under Alan J. Pakula’s deft direction and a superb supporting cast, Frady moves slowly and is drawn into random events that end in unexplained, accidental deaths. Following leads and getting inside the Parallax Corporation. Then finding himself suddenly in way over his head.

#3: Sterling Hayden’s thuggish Johnny Clay in John Huston’s superb The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

A two-time loser who wants nothing more than to make a bunch of money. Leave the city and get back to his Quarter Horses in Kentucky. Brought into a big time diamond heist led by just paroled yegg and safe cracker, ‘Doc’. Sam Jaffe. Who needs an expendable Hooligan while hiding his urges for very  young, nubile girls. Johnny takes on the role of Jaffe’s confidant and protector as the heist is pulled off with some last second intervention by the police. Only to be double-crossed and shorted by the rich old men financing the operation. Johnny is gut shot protecting Doc and manages to get home just as the police close in.

#2: Timothy Carey’s monumental, gaunt and doomed Private Maurice Ferol in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957)

Carey is nothing more than a soldier in the French army during WWI. Whose platoon is assigned the task of taking ‘The Ant Hill’. A reinforced position with artillery and machine guns. The problem is. Carey’s and his mates’ task has been going on for more than a month of Trench Warfare that consistently ends in stalemate. A new Commanding Officer wants a maximum effort that has Kirk Douglas’ Colonel Dax leading more of the same. The new CO gets mad and wants Dax to choose three men at random and have them Court Martialed and shot for Desertion. Carey’s Pvt. Ferol is one of them and is given every opportunity to bluster and bully at first. Then break down and grovel as the hour approaches. Definitely Carey’s best and most unencumbered performance on film!

#1: Elisha Cook Jr. – The Grand Old Man of Saps!

Whether he’s giving life to George Peatty. Soft spoken, quiet nebbish with a domineering wife, Sherry (Razor tongued Marie Windsor) in Kubrick’s The Killing (1958). Two bit gunsel, Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon (1941). Just looking to get by Harry Jones in The Big Sleep (1946). Or paranormal incident survivor, Watson Pritchard in House on Haunted Hill (1959).

Mr. Cook reigns supreme in a highly specialized niche. An every man’s everyman. Buttressed by many small, though meaningful roles as  the landlord, Mr.Nicklas in Rosemary’s Baby (1971). Near invisible, Mr. Bunker in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972). Cody in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973). Soft spoken Willie in Electra Glide in Blue (1973). And a cameo amongst many as Carl in The Outfit (1973) and as Eli the Taxi Driver in Wim Wenders’ Hammett (1982).
Mr. Cook had made a cottage industry and consistently utilized career as a balding, kind of flabby and meek, high voiced nobody with something to say. Often quietly. Sometimes pathetically. Yet, always memorably!

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



Thoughts on
this list of Great Saps in Cinema? Feel free to add your own in the comments.

THIS JUST IN! The Dark Knight Rises Trailer 4

WHOA!!! I didn’t think it would be possible for me to get more pumped up about The Dark Knight Rises but Nolan just keeps upping the ante. This latest — and perhaps last — trailer is defintely PURE EPICNESS!!

Yes, yes I realize it’s the geek in me speaking with mouth frothing with excitement, but really, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed with this one. I like the story angle where Batman has been semi-retired for a number of years after his battle with The Joker, and so he’s sort of unprepared and obviously overwhelmed by the scale of the attack Bane and his ‘army’ set on Gotham. Christian Bale looks convincingly dumbfounded, discombobulated, even, though I’m loving his disheveled look with the long hair. So that plotline in itself is very intriguing and make you feel even more for our dark knight.

I’m not afraid. I’m angry.

But then he turns around and see Bane [shudder].

Seriously, that mano-a-mano between him and Bane is gonna be so thrilling and also chilling to watch. Tom Hardy’s massive build alone is intimidating enough, then there’s that sinister mask. Props for the Nolan brothers (Chris and Jonathan) and David S. Goyer for crafting yet another worthy villain to match our compelling hero.

I LOVE seeing Batman’s old compadres back, Gordon (Gary Oldman), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Looks like he gains a new one, the mysterious John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Of course it’s always lovely to see one of my favorite movie father figures, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). It’s even more clear Batman/Bruce needs Alfred more and more to ‘get back into the swing of things.’ I’m still not as enthused about Catwoman/Selina Kyle though I’m warming up to her more and more. That part about his *wife* leaving with his car is awesome!! It’s a much-needed comic relief amidst all the gritty intensity.

FIRE WILL RISE. Yeah, and so is my feverish anticipation. JULY 20 can’t come soon enough!!


What say you, friends? Is this epic enough for ya?

Weekend Roundup: Thoughts on Prometheus, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, BBC’s ZEN

Yo, Happy Tuesday all!

It’s been one hectic weekend for me. Saturday morning my hubby and I participated in the annual Kids Against Hunger’s Fill Their Plate 5/10k walk/run sponsored by my friend’s church. It’s raining but still a whole lot of fun to do and we were caught up in the energy of all the people at the beautiful Calhoun Lake.

That night we finally saw Prometheus. Well, I wasn’t exactly disappointed but I can’t exactly say it’s a stellar film either. I agree with my colleague Phil’s review that it’s indeed a gorgeous film, but I have sooo many issues about the plot that I’d probably give this movie a 3 out of 5 instead of 4.

Below is just my quick thoughts about the movie:

Now, Phil mentioned in his review that ‘the movie brings up an awful lot of questions that will leave you shaking your head days later and some of those questions can only be answered by a sequel.’ Now it’s to be expected that Ridley Scott would want to create another lucrative franchise out of Prometheus but I’m afraid that the fundamental questions about the story would likely still be left unanswered.

As I mentioned in Castor’s review, I mentioned that the questions begin early with the uber-ripped ‘engineer’ in the opening sequence [obviously there’s a bunch of GOLD GYM in the alien planet]. It’s never explained what the heck happened by the waterfall there that caused him to fall into a decaying creature. That’s just the beginning, but my biggest beef is with the protagonist Dr. Elizabeth Shaw’s ‘belief system.’ She wears a cross necklace and the movie alludes to the fact that she is a believer in a Higher Being in what I presume is the Judeo Christian God [her father seems to have been a missionary?]. When her boyfriend Charlie asks her at one point why she keeps wearing the cross when it’s been suggested that aliens rather than God made humans, she shoots back saying, “Yes, but who made them?” But then later on she ends up convinced the engineers are indeed her ‘maker,’ despite non-conclusive evidence a scientist like her would require before jumping into such theory. That supposed DNA match argument doesn’t really hold up either as the engineers don’t really share our likeness so to think that they created us is just laughable. I guess you can chug it to ‘that’s what I choose to believe’ [shrug]

Scott directing Rapace in Prometheus

Prometheus does work as a sci-fi thriller though, and there are a lot to be enjoyed in the movie. The suspense and eerie feeling is definitely there throughout, peppered with jump-out-your-seat moments but not too scary that would repulse someone like me. I’ve mentioned how gorgeous this movie is, the opening sequence look like something from an IMAX National Geographic film. I also enjoyed the performances of Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba, in that order. Rapace’s Shaw definitely echoes the badassery of Alien’s Sigourney Weaver. Her survival instinct is just incredible, yay for woman power! Fassbender’s robotic David is wonderful to watch as well, ironically, his character is the most well-developed of all the others. Clearly Scott is far more interested in the ‘replicant’ character than the human ones. Elba is his usual charming self and you could say he’s the comic relief in the movie.

So overall I see it as a fun sci-fi but not exactly a profound one. Sure Ridley Scott did a decent effort exploring the basic questions all of us grapple with: why are we here, where are we from, etc., he just can’t follow ‘em up with meaningful answers, let alone a rational one.

Another movie I saw over the weekend is The Imaginarium of  Dr Parnassus, Heath Ledger’s last film I’ve been wanting to see since 2009. Ivan and I started watching it really late so we actually have only seen the first 90 minutes. So far I really enjoyed it though, it’s a fun fantasy flick, definitely bizarre but that’s what one would expect from Terry Gilliam. Christopher Plummer is wonderful as always, but the scene stealer is Heath Ledger. He was so charismatic, a pity that he died during production of this film. I am curious to see the three actors who replaced him in the latter half: Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Heath actually reminded me of Depp in some scenes so it’s definitely inspired casting. Bonus that Andrew Garfield is in this as well, I adore him and he’s the reason I’m looking forward to The Amazing Spiderman.

Oh and last but not least, my pal Becky made me promise that I watch BBC’s ZEN on Masterpiece Mystery on Sunday, and really she didn’t need to ask me twice. I mean, it’s Rufus Sewell + Rome = a delectable combination! Rufus is at his most gorgeous  [those Armani suits fit him sooo well], and so is his love interest, Caterina Murino [the other Bond girl besides Eva Green in Casino Royale]. It’s a great detective drama peppered with action and wit, it’s a pity BBC didn’t make more of it. Check out this in-depth review of the series when it first premiered on PBS last year.


Well, that’s my weekend viewing roundup. What did you watch this weekend? I welcome your reaction to my Prometheus mini review.