Monthly Roundup: September Movie Watching Recap

I didn’t realize Autumnal Equinox was eight days ago. The best part of this season for me is the gorgeous fall foliage. I love driving past all the colorful trees, the mix of warm colors are just absolutely beautiful! I wish we could just have the next six months be Autumn and skip Winter altogether until April! :D

Well, you could say I wasn’t as prolific this past month with just 20 posts in 30 days (compared to 25 last month). I deliberately took most of the weekends off as it’s been quite a hectic month for me.

There’s no blogathon I’m participating this past month, but I’ve been busy prepping for the Small Roles… Big Performances. It’s scheduled to go LIVE on Monday at NOON US Central Time, along with a couple of separate posts from FC’s contributors. Thanks to those of you who have submitted their entry. For those who haven’t I’ll still be taking submissions all next week, so just email it to me or leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the main post.

Well, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from September:

Well, what did I manage to watch this month?

Movies I haven’t seen before:

  1. 2016: Obama America (2012)
  2. Robot & Frank (2012)
  3. The Crow (1994)
  4. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)
  5. Endgame (2009)
  6. Frequency (2000)
  7. Headhunters (2011)
  8. Hysteria (2011)
  9. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  10. Looper (2012)
  11. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
  12. Lumpy (2012)

Re-watch:

  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • The Avengers (2012)

Favorite September Movie(s):

I haven’t got a chance to review Looper yet as I’ve been busy with the blogathon, but let me just say it’s a solid sci-fi thriller that’s as much a thrill ride as Headhunters was. I can’t choose which one I like the best, and I think I’d end up giving it the same rating of 4.5 out of 5. Interestingly, both directors of Headhunters and LooperMorten Tyldum and Rian Johnson respectively — have only got three feature films under their belt. Not only that, this marks the second collaboration with an actor they worked with previously (Tyldum with Aksel Hennie and Johnson with Joseph Gordon-Levitt).


So, what movies did you get to see in September and which one is your favorite?

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Spotlight on My Favorite Bond –Timothy Dalton in Licence to Kill

I have James Bond in my mind today, and in case some of you didn’t know, this coming October the Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th anniversary. So for Bond month we’ll have some related posts to mark the festivities. A few sites have started a Bond-related series, such as the Bond-a-thon that MTV Movie Blog is running right now and just yesterday, the movie they highlighted was Licence to Kill, woo hoo!

I’m glad they had something positive to say about it: Unlike the majority of the movies in the series, Bond has a believable motivation. We’ve known Felix Leiter since “Dr. No,” and when something genuinely awful happens to him, we care, and we care that Bond cares, especially when it kicks off a journey for vengeance.

But what got me overjoyed was last Friday my friend Michael sent me a link via Twitter to John Kenneth Muir’s appreciation post on Licence To Kill. I have intimated in more than one occasions that Timothy Dalton is my all time favorite Bond, as you probably have read in this post, but Mr. Muir absolutely nailed the reason why I love him so…

Beyond the stunts, Timothy Dalton absolutely excels as Bond in this film. He’s called upon to undergo a series of personal crises here, and gives the audience a fully human Bond who pushes himself to the limits of human endurance, both in terms of injury (as in the finale) and in terms of control over his emotions.  Some people worried that this Dalton Bond was “too sensitive,” but his is — pretty clearly — the Bond of the Ian Fleming books.  He smokes too much, drinks too much, and when he lets himself feel his emotions, he’s absolutely off the rails.

Oh my! I couldn’t say it better myself! I have seen this film recently and it absolutely renews my appreciation for it. Here’s the Bond resigning clip that shows that Bond has a heart… but still very much a bad ass!


So today I feel like indulging a bit and turn the spotlight on the Shakespearean-trained Welsh actor in his second outing as Bond… in pictorial… because sometimes, pictures speak so much louder than words!

Now, if you think the movie is devoid of humor, then you’d be wrong. Though Licence to Kill is by definition a much darker, grittier tale that’s a departure from the Roger Moore’s Bonds, but there are some fun, lighthearted moments scattered throughout, such as this one when Q shows up in Bond’s hotel room:

How Dalton came to play Bond

Director John Glen on set with Dalton

And for those who ever thought that Dalton was a ‘back-up’ Bond (like one Variety writer said in their recent post), well they need to do better research. The actor had said in The Living Daylights documentary that Albert Broccoli had offered him the role as far back as 1968 when he was only 24! It was Dalton himself who turned down the role, saying he was far too young for the role, “Originally I did not want to take over from Sean Connery. He was far too good, he was wonderful. I was about 24 or 25, which is too young. But when you’ve seen Bond from the beginning, you don’t take over from Sean Connery.”

Wikipedia also noted that he was approached again in the late 70s but he wasn’t keen on the direction the films were taking (this was Roger Moore’s era, natch!). It’s true that he finally accepted the role in 1986 when Pierce Brosnan couldn’t get his contract out of the TV series Remington Steele, but it didn’t mean that he was the producer’s second choice as Dalton was already considered before Brosnan even entered the picture!

In any case, it really is a shame Dalton only got two Bond movies under his belt. I like Daniel Craig, I mean Casino Royale is one of my favorite Bond movies now and you know I’m looking forward to Skyfall. But Dalton’s performance, which was way ahead of his time, will always be the one I remember most fondly. I’m sure glad that it seems that more people seem to appreciate Dalton and his Bond movies more as time goes by. Rightly so!


That’s it folks. Thoughts on Dalton and/or Licence To Kill? Well, let’s hear it!

Top Five Favorite Andy Williams Songs

A piece of sad news came over the radio waves this morning as I heard that legendary crooner Andy Williams passed away after a year-long battle with bladder cancer at the age of 84.

My mother was a huge fan of his music, along with other popular vocalists in the 60s and 70s like Frank Sinatra, Matt Monro, etc. so I grew up listening to his songs. There might have been at least a half dozen Andy Williams CDs at my house, and every Christmas, his holiday album would be a staple.

His photos in his album covers always show a warm, inviting smile… on top of being one of the world’s greatest singers, the Iowa-born gentleman is also a natural entertainer. No wonder his TV variety show aptly titled The Andy Williams Show was a huge success, it ran for almost a decade from 1962 – 1971. If it were around now I’d sure be watching that as he often showcased fellow singing legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, etc. His charming, easy-going personality made him the perfect host for a variety of award shows like the Grammys, the Golden Globes, etc. which he did a few times.

I LOVE his high baritone voice, it’s just so beautiful and soothing to listen to. Somehow his vibrant, genial personality always come through his songs, whether it’s an upbeat tune or a more melancholy one.

A lot of his songs have been used time and time again in various films. Hi signature song is of course Moon River, one of my personal favorites that got a lot of play in my house growing up. The song from Audrey Hepburn film Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) won an Oscar for Best Original Song and Mr. Williams sang the song during the Oscar ceremony.

As a tribute to the music legend, here are five of my favorite songs:


A Time for Us


Can’t Get Used to Loving You


Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You


It’s The Most Wonderful Time in the World


Moon River



So what’s YOUR favorite Andy Williams’ song(s)?

A Birthday Tribute: Top Five Christopher Reeve’s Roles

The New York-born actor passed away eight years ago of heart failure. He would’ve been 60 years old today. Hearing the Superman theme the other day I suddenly thought of the man behind that heroic role. My admiration for Christopher Reeve went as far back as 1978 when I was only a wee girl. It’s no secret that the first movie I saw was Superman: The Movie. And I’ve shared in this post that Mr. Reeve is the ONLY actor I have ever written to in my entire life and from whom I’ve gotten not one but TWO autographed photos from.

He’s also proven to be a hero in real life as well. Following his horseback-riding accident that left him paralyzed in 1995, he became a champion for people suffering from spinal cord injuries through his Christopher and Diana Reeve Foundation. But even before the accident, he had already been involved with many charity organizations such as Make-A-Wish Foundation and Save the Children.

Just like Sean Connery will always be associated with his James Bond role, Reeve will always be known as Superman. But did you know that he turned down a whole bunch of roles? Here’s a sampling according to WikipediaAmerican Gigolo, The World According to Garp, Splash, Fatal Attraction, Pretty Woman, Romancing the Stone, Lethal Weapon and Body Heat. He also refused to be typecast as an action star by Hollywood, “I found most of the scripts of that genre poorly constructed, and I felt the starring roles could easily be played by anyone with a strong physique.”

Over the years, I’ve seen about a dozen of his films and the Juilliard-trained actor proves that he’s so much more than just Superman. I often think that good looking actors—and standing at 6’4″ with piercing blue eyes, he’s as handsome as they come—they have to work harder to get roles that didn’t merely exploit his good looks. These five roles should show you he’s much more versatile than you think:

Superman (1978 – 1987)

Obviously his physique plays a big part in getting the role, but there were other equally tall, dark and handsome actors who auditioned for this role. So clearly, it takes more than just good genes to pull off such a challenging role, but Christopher Reeve not only did so with charm and grace but he also made it iconic. To me, he shall always be my favorite Superman—no offense to even Henry Cavill whom I like a lot and I think is a terrific pick for Man of Steel—but Mr Reeve had such giant shoes to fill. The key to playing Superman is that he’s got to be convincing as both the hero AND the reporter alter ego, and I think Reeve does that with aplomb. I love his bumbling Clark Kent, the nervous gestures, awkward mannerism, even his voice is such a contrast to the cool and collected Kryptonian demigod.

Now, I’ve already posted my favorite Superman scene of all time, that is the chopper rescue scene. But this time, I’ll post the scene that feature BOTH Supes AND Clark, my favorite scene from Superman III which you could say is the saving grace of the whole movie.


Somewhere in Time (1980)

I had just rewatched this movie not too long ago so it’s still fresh in my mind. Reeve did this the same year as Superman II and the love-lorn Richard Collier is such a far cry from the calm-and-collected superhero. I love his earnest, soulful performance… he strikes a delicate balance of being an annoying lovesick puppy to someone who’s deeply tormented by a mystifying crush he just can’t shake.

His chemistry with Jane Seymour is incredible… but what people didn’t know is, there’s also a lot of humor in this film which displays Reeve’s decent comic skills. Seymour ended up being a personal friend of Reeve’s in real life, she even named one of his sons after him. This is one of the cutest scene in the morning that Reeve’s character traveled back to 1912.

Deathtrap (1982)

For serious thespians, what they dread most is being typecast. Reeve is no different, especially after playing the ultimate superhero do-gooder. This twisty thriller directed by Sidney Lumet is an actor’s dream in which he said “I’ve had a lot of training as an actor, and I want to use it.” [per IMDb]. The film is based on Ira Levin’s play of the same name, it’s a must-see for fans of intriguing whodunnit stories.

I saw this ages ago but I remember Reeve was quite memorable as Clifford Anderson, a student of playwright Sidney Bruhl in a scheme that keep you guessing up until the end. It’s a scene-stealing role for Reeve, and it’s quite a feat considering Bruhl was played by Michael Caine! Too bad Reeve doesn’t get to do this kind of bravura performance again in his relative-short acting career. The dialog is really the best part of this film. Here’s a clip where Sidney gives Clifford a pair of Houdini’s handcuffs.


Street Smart (1987)

I must admit that the only reason I rented this was because of Reeve as the story isn’t my cup of tea. Here Reeve played a reporter who, in attempt not to get fired from his job, fakes a story of a pimp in a hard-hitting story of prostitution. Of course he ends up getting in trouble when his story resembles a real-life pimp wanted for murder.

You could say the real star here is Morgan Freeman as Fast Black, in an Oscar-nominated role not usually associated with the actor later in life as he seems to play mostly heroic, God-like characters nowadays. Reeve was quite good as a journalist who’s driven but nary of a moral compass and well, ‘street smart.’ It proves that Reeve can be quite believable as an unsympathetic character and that he could also hold his own against his more experienced co-star. Check out the trailer below:


The Remains of the Day

This is one of those movies I really need to rewatch again soon as my memory of it is a bit hazy. I like this genre and it’s got sooo many great actors I LOVE, I mean Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, it’s even got my fave Bond villain Drax, er I mean Michael Lonsdale! :) Christopher Reeve had a small part here as a retired US congressman Jack Lewis. It’s not a big part but a crucial one. He’s certainly got the gravitas and sophistication required for the role, the forthright speech he gave at the dinner scene is one of the highlights of his performance.

According to this site, apparently Reeve himself asked James Ivory after the premier of Howard’s End if he could get a part in his next film. It’s a bit sad watching the clip as this is the last role in a major film he did before the horse-riding accident.


Christopher Reeve will always hold a special place in my heart. So now I turn it over to you, what’s your favorite role(s) of his?

Weekend Roundup: Hysteria Review

Happy Monday all!

It’s been a busy weekend for me, girls movie nite, a friend’s birthday party, etc. all scheduled around the same time. Suffice to say, there’s no time for cinema viewing this weekend, though I finally did send y’all a reminder for the Small Roles… Big Performances blogathon, hope all you who signed up got it. Some of you probably stayed up late watching the Emmys, well since I hardly watched any TV, I didn’t even know it was on ’til I saw that it practically dominated Twitter on Sunday night. Well, hope those you rooted for wins! :D

Anyway, here’s my review for this weekend:

Hysteria

That title refers to a now-obsolete [thank goodness!] catch-all diagnosis for women in the 19th century, those suffering from an array of symptoms such as nervousness, insomnia, exhaustion, depression, cramps, and sexual frustration. At the time, the medical practitioners treat the patients by um, massaging their genital area. In short, the movie explores the background of the invention of none other than the vibrator!

Given the subject matter, it could’ve easily been made into a cheap, vulgar farce, but fortunately, the filmmaker and cast somehow made this into a delightful comedy that keeps your cringe level at a minimum. Perhaps the fact that it’s directed by a woman (Tanya Wexler) might have something to do with it. Even the whole procedure of the “paroxysmal convulsions” as they call it at the time (which we all know what THAT means) is um, handled with care, even methodical to a fault!

Hugh Dancy plays Dr. Mortimer Granville (apparently based on this real doctor), an earnest physician who wants to make his mark on the work helping the sick, but somehow his vision is deemed too modern for his peers who didn’t see eye-to-eye on the effect of germs in human’s health! Somehow Granville ends up in the private clinic of Dr. Dalrymple, who employs Granville to treat women with hysteria with his method of a pelvic massage. As you could’ve guessed, the treatment was a massive success, with women lining up in his office day after day, which quickly leads to the poor Dr. Granville suffering from a severe hand cramps.

The invention of the vibrator itself is quite a hoot! Let’s just say that it was fortuitous how the inventors came up with such a device, in fact, it was meant to be an electrical duster!! The story is intertwined with that of Dalrymple’s oldest daughter Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the independent, free-spirited woman who wouldn’t submit to the societal norm for women in the 19th century and has a servant heart for the poor. Granville is inevitably torn between her and the more ‘obedient’ daughter Emily (Felicity Jones), though one could see a mile away who he’d end up with.

The movie is full of hysterical good fun, but not in a patronizing manner towards women, in fact, it’s quite obvious the filmmakers are for women emancipation, as the portrayal of Charlotte as the unconventional heroine is nothing but subtle. It’s a sex comedy, but it’s nice to see there’s more than that and I must say I’m glad we’ve come a long way in terms of women’s rights.

The standouts here are Dancy and Gyllenhaal, they are the heart of the story, with the vibrant Gyllenhaal stealing scenes every time she appears. She’s got screen charisma to be sure, and she captures the essence of a modern woman ahead of her time perfectly here. Jonathan Pryce was pretty good as Dr. Dalrymple, though I feel that Rupert Everett as Granville’s wealthy inventor friend seems rather bored throughout and Felicity Jones wasn’t really given much to do.

As it’s inspired by true events, the credits include images of early models of the sex toy from the Victorian era all the way to today’s. The ending suggests that even Queen Victoria herself was a customer, ahah! Hysteria works as a hysterical comedy, even rom-com, even if it’s lacking historical depth. But for a Friday night entertainment for a girls night in, it perfectly delivers!

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


I also got to rewatch one of my favorite Pixar movies, Monsters, Inc. which renews my appreciation for the movie, all the wonderful characters, and especially Billy Crystal-voiced Mike Wazowski! No surprise that he’s #2 on my top ten Pixar characters list.

The beauty of Pixar truly is in the story and characters, it’s just amazing how we easily got caught up in the world of these silly looking monsters and their plight involving one cutie-patootie human child!

So even though I had trepidations about it initially, now I’m quite looking forward to Monsters University!


Well, how’s YOUR weekend? Seen anything good?

Featurette Spotlight: Les Misérables … Can’t get ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ out of my head!

One thing for sure, there won’t be a lack of awesome films this December. There are a few I’m giddily anticipating, Gerry Butler’s soccer comedy Playing for Keeps and of course, The Hobbit!! I’m not posting the second trailer as right now I’m already sold on it long ago anyway, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s on Terrence’s Trailer Time Thursday post.

Now, I had been curious about Les Misérables, and the first trailer has certainly sold me. This new featurettes shows just another reason why this movie quickly shoots up to be my most-anticipated musicals ever!! It’s not enough that Tom Hooper has assembled a brilliant cast that seems to fit the roles, he’s also got this shrewd technique of having all the actors sing the songs LIVE on set! Check it out:

I LOVE this kind of featurette as you get a glimpse into the actors’ and filmmakers’ head and the challenges they face in portraying their roles. I’m a sucker for all the behind-the-scenes stuff that go on before the final piece is presented, and to me, for a story that’s already so well-know, the magic is not lost. I that high level of authenticity in the way the actors perform the song.

I could easily title this post ‘the year I’m warming up to Anne Hathaway‘ as I have been quite impressed with her lately, first with her performance in The Dark Knight Rises as Selina, and now this. Even before seeing the final film, she seemed to have worked her super hard on this film and obviously she’s got a great set of pipes for all that singing. The crucial part is the emotional resonance, as without that this film wouldn’t have made a dent. On that note, I think Anne pulled it off as I truly feel for Fantine’s well, misery. There’s something authentic about her portrayal that the words of the song I’ve heard over and over again somehow feels fresh and oh so heart-wrenching!! I’m a crier by nature but for the life of me I can’t stop my tears from falling even just hearing a few notes of this song!! I definitely will be packing a BOX of tissue going to the movies on Christmas day. I Dreamed A Dream has been stuck in my head since yesterday, and every few minutes I find myself humming it, just ask my poor husband, ahah!

Now, I realize you can’t compare the two stories but since both are costume dramas, I just want to say that Keira Knightley’s attempt to evoke her marital despair in Anna Karenina fails to elicit even the slightest pity from me.

Nothing much to say about the two main male cast: Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, both certainly have the charisma and showmanship to carry off the roles of Valjean and Javert, respectively. I can’t wait to see these two hunky Aussies to square off against each other, in tunes no less!

I’m also excited to see Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier, and Eddie Redmayne in the second movie I’ll see him in. He was quite good in My Week With Marilyn. Now, since I haven’t seen Victor Hugo’s stage adaptation before, this will be my first introduction to one of the most celebrated musicals of all time. Can’t wait!!


Are you excited for this one folks?

Musings on actors-turned-directors… who are your favorites?

Seems like every other week there’s news that another actor is trying their hand at directing. Just this past month alone, I read that James Franco is supposedly directing a Lindsay Lohan biopic (??) and Philip Seymour Hoffman seems ready to be back in the director’s chair (after Jack Goes Boating) with a Depression-era ghost story Ezekiel Moss. Dustin Hoffman—unrelated to Philip by the way, in case you’re wondering—just completed his first film Quartet, as I talked about in the TCFF lineup post.

This trend is hardly new though, after all as far back as Charlie Chaplin and Laurence Olivier, many thespians have done work behind the camera, and some have become quite successful at it. I haven’t done my top ten list yet, I might do another collaborative effort with my pal Ted at some point, but I think Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Mel Gibson, Woody Allen and Ben Affleck would probably make my list. Affleck seems to flourish under his own direction, as he seems better in front of the camera when he’s also behind the camera, case in point: The Town and the upcoming ARGO which is getting rave reviews. In the case of Allen though, I much prefer that he stays behind the camera as I don’t like his neurotic style as an actor.

Why Do So Many Actors Want to Become Directors?

Do they just like the idea of being a multi-hyphenated artist?? I’m sure there’s a certain degree of pride that comes with being a double or triple threat (if they also write their own script) in the industry. But I’d think that for most, it’s about extending one’s creativity in the film-making business. Generally speaking, directors usually have the most creative control in making a film, though of course the studio often has a lot of input that often change the direction of the final piece. Some top actors might have a close connection with the director they’re working with, offering a lot of creative input to the film, but perhaps for some, that’s not enough.

Not every actor-turned-director is created equal obviously, but I’d think that seasoned actors have the filming experience behind them to help get a compelling performance out of fellow actors. They know what it’s like being in front of the lens, what the actors might be feeling, the challenges of getting a certain emotion across, etc. better than those who have never acted before. Perhaps it’s the ‘empathy’ factor is what makes them become successful directors, and some actor have become more well-known as directors than actors (Allen, Howard, Reiner), though people like Eastwood have the talents to juggle both worlds equally.

Well, now I’d like to turn things over to you and ask you to vote your favorite actors-turned-directors. Cast your vote below!


Remember, you can pick up to three. Feel free to share your top five or top 10 in the comments, and tell me which movie(s) of theirs are your favorites.

Ted’s Picks of Worst Films of the Year so far

Just yesterday I saw this info-graphic that Hollywood’s creativity is waning. I mean, zero original movie in 2011?? WOW! I wonder how 2012 fares, but there sure are a bazillion remakes, sequels, prequels, what have you, and that trend isn’t likely to end anytime soon. Well, Rodney at Fernby Films are currently doing Worst Film Week series, so it seems fitting that Ted takes the time to share the worst of what he’s seen this year.

I just realized that I’ve seen more films this year than I did at the same time a year ago and even though none of them I would consider great, some are quite entertaining. Of course I also saw some really bad ones along the way. I read that many film bloggers and critics dubbed this year as the year of disappointments and I think I have agree with that statement.

Below are my top 4.5 worst films I’ve seen so far this year.

4.5. John Carter 

I don’t know if I should even put 4.5 for this movie since I only watched about 45 minutes of it. I had to turn it off because there’s nothing in the film that interests me, Taylor Kitsch has zero screen charisma and I have no desire to see him in any other films from now on. The film was such a box office failure that Disney actually had to tell their share holders that they lost money on it, ouch!
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4. The Bourne Legacy

I was really looking forward to seeing this film, a new leading man and director behind the cameras so I was hoping to see a new take on the franchise, sadly that was not the case. I like Jeremy Renner as an actor but I don’t think he’s the leading man quality that Hollywood is pushing him hard to be. I thought he did a descent job as the new “Jason Bourne” in this film so he’s not the reason why this film failed. I blame all of the mishaps on the film’s writer and director, Tony Gilroy. True that Gilroy also wrote the first three Bourne films but the directors of those films brought in a few writers to tweak his script. But now he’s totally in charge of the fourth film, he only brought in his brother to help him write the it. I understood what the Gilroys were trying to do with this new chapter of the Bourne franchise but I think had they brought in another writer or two to tighten up the script, it could’ve been a good movie.

Directing wise, Gilroy loves to have scenes with long dialogue (for example Michael Clayton), that’s fine as long as what the characters were saying are interesting but unfortunately in this film, none of the dialogues were interesting nor do we care what they were talking about. Since this is an action film, we the audience expects to see action, well Gilroy failed on delivering that part too. Although I did enjoy the shootout scene at the big house but the big motorcycle chase near the end of the film just went on too long and most of time we couldn’t see what the hell was going on the screen. Also, where was the big hand-to-hand combat? The first three films had a huge fight scene and I expected to see the same in this one.

Apparently Universal will continue to make another Bourne film even though this one will be the least successful at the box office. I just hope they hire a new director and have a better script, I think Tony Gilroy might be a one hit wonder when it comes to directing. I love Michael Clayton and I thought for sure Gilroy will make more great films; sadly Duplicity and this film were dreadful. Check out my full review of this movie here.
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3. Red Tails

A friend of mine got some free passes to an early screening of this film and invited me to see it with him, I decided to check out back in January. Well I wish I hadn’t, if not for the many war veterans who were at the attendance and a free pass from my friend, I would’ve walked out half hour into the film. This was such a shame because The Tuskegee Airmen deserves a better film to tell their story. This film was filled with so many bad clichés that my eyes hurt from rolling them throughout the film. Shame on George Lucas for making this Star Wars mixed in with Top Gun turkey, instead of giving us a great story of one of the finest US fighter groups in WW2. If you really want to see a better film about this group of men, I urge you to see the 1995 movie The Tuskegee Airmen. It’s 10 times better than this awful film.
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2. Total Recall (2012)

This film may have been the most unoriginal remake since the remake of The Getaway back in 1994; I know it’s sounds weird since it’s a remake but at least most remakes tried to bring something new to table. Not this film, it’s a great example of lazy writing and lack of creativity by the filmmakers. Yes, the film looks great but if we don’t care about the story or any of the characters, then what’s the point? If you’ve never seen the original, please see that version and skip this one. If you like, you can read my full review here.

1. Safe House

Speaking of lazy and unoriginal filmmaking, this film is a great example of that. Not only did director Daniel Espinosa copied the look and feel of Greengrass’s two Bourne films, he even hired cinematographer Oliver Wood to shoot the film for him as Wood shot the first three Bourne films. Seriously, watch Greengrass’s Bourne films, particularly The Bourne Supremacy and then watch this film and you’ll see how similar they are to one another (except The Bourne Supremacy was great and this one’s awful).

I read an interview with screenwriter David Guggenheim who said he wrote an original script and wanted to tell a great espionage story just like films of the 70s. I had to laugh at that because there’s nothing original about his script. Now he may have written an “original” story and the producers may have hired more writers to tweak his original script but still, to come out and say that his script was so original after the film came out with a straight face was comical to me.

The unoriginal script was bad enough but the direction by Espinosa was even worst. Seriously, does this man even know how to shoot a film? Now I’ve never seen his other films so I don’t know much about his work but after seeing this movie, I have no interest in seeing his upcoming films or his earlier ones. I wrote a piece about how I wish action directors would stop shooting action scenes with that hand held/fast editing style and this film is a great example of how bad action scenes look when not staging them well and just shake the cameras. I can forgive directors for shooting bad action scenes if I was involved in the story (Batman Begins for example, bad action scenes but I love the story). Well unfortunately, I didn’t care about the plot here, in fact I figured out who the real bad guy was in just a half an hour into it. Espinosa also doesn’t seem to know how to create or build up tension leading up to action scenes.

I haven’t even talked about the two leading men yet and you know what, there’s not much to talk about. Washington looked bored, he’s basically playing another version of Alonso from Training Day, except here he’s the “good” guy. Ryan Reynolds, well he’s playing Ryan Reynolds. I don’t buy him as an action hero and he didn’t do much to convince me in this one. Don’t waste your time and money on this film.

– post by Ted S.


Well those are some bad films I saw so far this year, I’m pretty sure I’ll see more bad ones in the next three months so I may have to tweak the list comes January. Feel free to list your worst films so far this year in the comments section.

TCFF Lineup is here! Check out what’s showing Oct 12-20

Wahoo!! After months of planning, negotiating, previewing, etc. the TCFF board and staff have finally revealed the full lineup of its third film fest! As did the previous two years, TCFF have become the regional premiere of a lot of this season’s most-anticipated films. Steve Snyder, TIME magazine’s assistant managing editor and TCFF’s scheduler, said it best in his tweet about the event:


In less than a month away, the Showplace Icon Theatre in St. Louis Park (definitely my favorite theater in time with its awesome seat-reservation feature) will be the place to be for movie lovers! So before I get to the movies, be sure to get your tickets beginning Wednesday (tickets are $10 for individual passes and $120 for multi-film and party passes).

Here are a sampling of the notable movies, as Minneapolis StarTribune critic Colin Covert have mentioned in today’s article:

Oct 14 – Dustin Hoffman‘s directorial debut Quartet, a character study of retired opera singers starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins. This one has a good potential to be noticed by the Academy, after all it’s by the Weinsteins and it doesn’t hurt that it’s written by Ronald Harwood (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Being Julia and The Pianist).

This just looks so delightful!! Harry Potter fans out there perhaps notice right away the reunion of Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, ahah! I always like lighthearted comedies starring senior seasoned actors and this certainly look like something I’d enjoy.

Oct 16The Sessions, an affecting comedy-drama inspired by the true story of a paralyzed polio survivor and the sexual surrogate who helped him lose his virginity in his late thirties. It stars Alexandria, Minn. native John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

I have to admit the subject matter is a delicate one as it deals with disability AND sexuality, but I’ve got to admit the trailer looks quite heartwarming and sweet. Apparently the Australian director Ben Lewin, who himself lost the use of his legs to polio, seems to have direct this one with great humor and sensitivity.

Oct 18 Silver Linings Playbook starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro.

This is so exciting!! Just the other day I read that it won the coveted Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. That’s huge considering many previous Audience Award winners have gone on to win Oscar’s Best Picture, i.e. Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, and The King’s Speech [check out this THR article how other previous TIFF's audience choice have fared at the Oscar]. Apparently the runner-up was Ben Affleck’s ARGO, which has scored early raves at several film festivals.

Lawrence is the main draw for me here, and interestingly enough, I was also impressed by her in Like Crazy which won Best Feature at TCFF last year. I also like seeing Julia Stiles among the cast, she also stars in It’s a Disaster with America Ferrara, premiering Oct. 13.

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Oct 19 Not Fade Away, a rock ‘n’ roll coming of age tale set in 1964 New Jersey, the feature directing debut from David Chase, creator of HBO’s The Sopranos.

Opening & Closing Films

Oct 12 – As I’ve mentioned here, the program will open with the hunger documentary A Place at the Table featuring Jeff Bridges – A documentary that investigates incidents of hunger experienced by millions of Americans, it takes on the food issue from a new angle, shining a light on the 30% of American families—more than 49 million people—that don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Oct 20 – The festival will conclude with the comedy Lumpy, which was filmed in various Minnesota locations, starring Justin Long and Jess Weixler. The premise definitely has the recipe for an oddball comedy: The best man at Scott (Long) and Kristin’s (Weixler) Arizona destination wedding, Lumpy (Tyler Labine) is the life of the party, until a long, indulgent night leads to his untimely death. Forced to cancel their honeymoon and fly back to Minneapolis to arrange for his funeral, Scott and Kristin meet Ramsey (Timlin) and learn that Lumpy isn’t quite who they thought he was.

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I’ll be blogging more about other movies that’ll be playing at TCFF, but below is the full lineup!

2012 FULL SCHEDULE

October 12    

8:30PM: A Place at the Table, directed by Kristi Jacobson & Lori Silverbush, 86m

October 13

10:30AM: Call Me Kuchu, directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright & Malika Zouhali-Worrall, 87m

1:00PM: The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair, 99m

3:00PM: The Iran Job, directed by Till Schauder, 93m

5:00PM: The Eyes of Thailand, directed by Tim Vandersteeg, 65m

7:00PM: It’s a Disaster, directed by Todd Berger, 88m

9:00PM: Bro’, directed by Nick Parada, 89m

October 14

11:00AM: Crazy & Thief, directed by Cory McAbee, 52m

12:15PM: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg, 115m

2:45PM: We Are Wisconsin, directed by Annie Eastman, 105m

5:15PM: Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman, 97m

7:15PM: Stag, directed by Brett Heard, 83m

9:15PM: Dead Man’s Burden, directed by Jared Moshe, 93m

October 15  

7:00PM: Finding Home, directed by Chars Bonin, 90m

9:00PM: The “Lighter” Side (MN Shorts), Various MN Directors 100m

October 16

6:00PM: Best of MN: Festival Winners!, Various MN Directors, 60m

6:30PM: The Sessions, directed by Ben Lewin, 95m

8:30PM: The Rhymesayers European Tour, directed by Andrew Melby, 105m

October 17  

6:45PM: Dust Up, directed by Ward Roberts, 90m

7:00PM: Nobody Walks, directed by Ry Russo-Young, 83m

9:00PM: Opposite Blood, directed by Billy Xiong, 120m

October 18

2:45PM: American Autumn: An Occudoc, directed by Dennis Trainor Jr., 76m

4:45PM: Field Work: A Family Farm, directed by John Helde, 97m

6:30PM: Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell, 117m

6:45PM: Pincus, directed by David Fenster, 79m

8:45PM: Carlos Spills the Beans, directed by Brian McGuire, 90m

9:00PM: The “Darker” Side (MN Shorts), Various MN Directors, 110m

October 19  

2:15PM: Reportero, directed by Bernardo Ruiz, 71m

4:00PM: A Band Called Death, directed by Jeff Howlett & Mark Covino, 98m

6:00PM: Things I Don’t Understand, directed by David Spaltro, 111m

6:30PM: Not Fade Away, directed by David Chase, 117 min

8:30PM: A Late Quartet, directed by Yaron Zilberman, 105m

9:00PM: Problem Solving the Republic, directed by Elliot Diviney, 95m

October 20

11:00AM: Bay of All Saints, directed by Annie Eastman, 75m

11:30AM: Detropia, directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady, 90m

12:45PM: After I Pick the Fruit, directed by Nancy Ghertnet & Cathleen Ashworth, 93m

1:45PM: Lies, Lust, Betrayal – and Cold-Blooded Murder (Indie Shorts), Various Directors, 81m

2:45PM: Take Care, directed by Scott Tanner Jones, 86m

3:45PM: Ready to Fly, directed by William Kerig, 96m

5:30PM: Dead Dad, directed by Ken J. Adachi, 81m

6:00PM: The Story of Luke, directed by Alonso Mayo, 95m

8:00PM: Lumpy, directed by Ted Koland, 91m


Well, what do you think of this year’s lineup? Which movie(s) here are you most excited about?

Weekend Roundup: Frequency and Headhunters reviews

Ahhh… Fall is in the air. I LOVE Autumn, it’s my favorite season. Growing up in a tropical country where it’s 80+ degrees all year long, I’ve come to appreciate the changing seasons and I’m really looking forward to the cool, crisp weather.

It’s another week where we opted for home cinema viewing once again. The only movie that opened wide was the fourth Resident Evil movie which I never had any interest in seeing, and The Master hasn’t opened yet where I live. Fortunately, the three movies I saw were both excellent, reviews below.

Sunday night I re-watched one of my all-time Disney favorites, Sleeping Beauty. The plot is pretty thin but the visuals are so gorgeous! I still need to see the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty that explores the art of modern animation and the stormy days of Disney’s animation house. Even 53 years later, amongst a plethora of other animated features, I think that it still stands as the most strikingly beautiful. Princess Aurora remains one of my favorite Disney princesses!

Anyway, here are my reviews:

FREQUENCY (2000)

I don’t know why it took me so long to finally saw this. My friend at work raved about it and lent me her DVD nearly a year ago. The premise about a rare atmospheric activity marked by the appearance of Aurora Borealis that somehow allowed a NYC firefighter Frank Sullivan to communicate with his son John 30 years in the future via a ham radio. Frank supposedly died in a warehouse fire, so John used the opportunity to warn his dad of his impending death, which was to happen the day after the two talked on the radio. Frank survived the fire and they’re overjoyed, but what they didn’t realize is that the alternate history also meant that a new set of events are triggered, including a horrific serial murders that affect the fate of Frank’s wife. So the father/son must work together to somehow change history again and hopefully prevent the murders from happening.

As with any time travel/alternate history movies, the logic behind the story is tough to grasp. I mean the film never really explained how the Aurora Borealis caused the radio reception to function in such a way, enabling the Father/Son to communicate 30 years apart. But hey, obviously the sci-fi fantasy element asks the viewer to simply accept that fact, so I was willing to go with it. The movie starts out being more of a drama, but the last third it becomes more of a thriller as the father/son worked together to catch the Nightingale killer, named for his penchant for killing nurses. The fact that John’s mother is a nurse—which ironically saves the killer at the hospital in the alternate universe—obviously made her a target. At times it felt like a procedural suspense drama, like an episode of Criminal Minds or CSI, but the father/son bond is what makes the whole thing intriguing. Shawn Doyle as the psychopath is undeniably creepy, relentlessly terrorizing both father/son in parallel timelines.

Frequency‘s strength definitely lies in the emotional bond between the father/son roles. Dennis Quaid as Frank and Jim Caviezel as John palpably displayed a heartfelt bond despite not sharing the screen together pretty much the entire movie. The first time they realized the identity on the other side of the radio, you immediately connect with these two characters and the love they have for each other. I love how the movie depicts such a loving family life, not just between father and son but also between Frank and his wife Jules (Elizabeth Mitchell). Andre Braugher as John’s partner in the force who’s been trying to solve the Nightingale murder case also gives a memorable performance.

It’s not a perfect movie by any means, in fact, there’s perhaps overly sentimental at times, down to the unbelievably happy ending. But overall, the performances of the leads are what made the movie work so well. It’s a sci-fi thriller that’s full or heart, and one that confirms me even more how underrated both Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel are. Caviezel in particular has this charismatic presence and that ‘quiet hero’ sensibilities about him that would make him a perfect candidate to portray Superman. I think he was considered by Bryan Singer at one point and I think he could pull off such a role [at times his looks and mannerism actually reminds me a bit of Christopher Reeve]. Obviously he has convincingly played humanity’s hero in The Passion of the Christ, a role that in a fair world should’ve nabbed him at least an Oscar nomination.

Frequency is definitely worth a watch for fans of time travel movies, or anyone who appreciates a heartfelt family drama with a twist. Fans of baseball might get a kick out of all the World Series facts used throughout the movie, at times it becomes a plot significance as well.

four reels


Headhunters (2011)

This independent Norwegian movie has definitely shot up to be one of my favorites of the year! I’m so glad I gave it a shot despite it being more violent and gory than I’m usually comfortable with.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is one of Norway’s most powerful headhunters. You’d think he makes pretty good money to live a good life, but if you want to live like a prince, then certainly one must pay for it. Roger lives an incredibly extravagant lifestyle: multi-million dollar house, top of the line Lexus and he could buy his beautiful wife Diana a 98,000 Krone (about $17K) earrings! The secret? Well he’s also an art thief, which is ironic since his wife is a gallery owner. With the help of his security guard friend Ove, Roger’s perfected his heist method, replacing the originals with forgeries which often goes undetected for years and the trails have gone cold.

It’s an interesting character study and Roger is definitely an intriguing individual. By self admittance, he realizes that he overcompensates his relatively short stature (5’6″) with an outward panache and marrying a tall, beautiful blond (Heidi-Klum lookalike Synnøve Macody Lund). He’s more in love with what the Diana represents than the woman herself, which explains why he hesitates to have a baby with her. He also has a mistress who’s much less glamorous than Diana, perhaps because internally, Roger feels inferior to his own wife.

Early in the film, the VO during one of Roger’s heist says that everything is fine until one gets caught. Well, unbeknownst to Roger, there’s apparently an even bigger danger lurking. The movie quickly gains momentum the moment Diana introduces her husband to a powerful man in the name of Clas Greve (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). A former elite soldier and former CEO of a surveillance company HOTE. It turns out Clas wants to be the CEO of HOTE’s competition, Pathfinder, which is a position that Roger happens to be recruiting. Clas soon becomes the target of Roger’s thieving plan, as Clas apparently inherits a rare Rubens painting worth close to a hundred million, along with his grandmother’s apartment.

What happens next propels this movie into a relentless cat and mouse game beyond anything Roger could’ve imagined. It’s full throttle action that involves a brutal shootout, dog attack, car/tractor chase and a breathtaking accident involving a truck going in full speed! The action is quite vicious and relentless but none of it feels gratuitous to me as it moves the plot along. One particularly disgusting scene rivals the one in the Slumdog Millionaire (you’ll know which one it is when you watch it). Roger is in deep sh**, and I don’t just mean that figuratively speaking. Yet beneath all that bloody action sequences, the film is not without heart. There’s a conversation between Roger and his wife that’s particularly striking for its emotional honesty.

36-year-old Aksel Hennie carries the movie with aplomb. Initially he’s not a sympathetic character but he grows on you as the film progresses. The only actor I’m familiar with, Coster-Waldau, definitely fits the role of a charming but deadly former military guy who’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead. I picked the tall, gorgeous Danish as one of the actors I’d love to see as James Bond, and I stand by that pick after seeing him here.

This is easily the smartest, most gripping thrillers I’ve seen in years. The acting is understated and the script, based on Norwegian author Jo Nesbø’s novel Hodejegerne (The Headhunters), is taut and unpredictable. I was at the edge of my seat the whole time and a few times I thought I knew where the story was going, but fortunately the movie still managed to surprise me. I’m not very familiar with Scandinavian cinema, but the stark minimalism packed with maximum efficiency is definitely a breath of fresh air.

There’s apparently a US remake in the works (surprise, surprise) as Mark Wahlberg was reportedly so impressed by this movie that he already bought the remake rights. Meh, I doubt it’ll ever live up to the original. So I advise you to watch this one instead before the US one comes out. Kudos to director Morten Tyldum who’s only made less than a half dozen feature films. This is what every thriller movie should be as it really was a thrill ride in more ways than one.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on either one of these movies? Did you see anything good this weekend?