Everybody’s Chattin’ & Music Break – Black Sails Theme

Happy Thursday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone again this time by combining two series in one. Surely you don’t mind that right? :)

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Ok, so let’s start with some of my favorite posts from the past couple of weeks:

  • UndertheSkin2014It seems that Jonathan Glazer‘s indie sci-fi which stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien with a penchant for Scottish men have captivated many. I’d say this alien has a great taste in men, ahah. Check out Sati‘s and Andrew‘s ‘hit me with your best shot’ posts on Under the Skin.
  • There have been some fun blogathons circling the blogosphere so far! There’s one from the King of Blog Series Nostra: Six Degrees of Separation and Wendell: Against The Crowd Blogathon which asks participants to list movies they love that others don’t and vice versa.
  • Ckckred asks what people think of the use of voice overs in films.
  • After being sidelined by the mammoth event that was the World Cup, avid soccer/football/futbol/futebol fan Niels finally had time to catch up with some movies and posted his one-sentence review of a bunch of them!
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  • BonjourTristesseAs far as classic movies go, be sure to check out Josh‘s picks for the 1941 CinSpec Award and Steven‘s review of Bonjour Tristesse (1958). Meanwhile, Dan reviewed a coming-of-age classic Stand By Me (1986), whilst Eric just saw the first Karate Kid movie from 1984, which some people might call a classic :)
  • This is a very cool series by Michael that you should check out if you haven’t already: Same Song, Different Movie – this time it’s This Must be the Place.
  • Fernando‘s been on a list roll lately. Check out his latest one on top 10 actors he’d see in pretty much anything.
  • Now last but not least, both Ryan and Joseph are excited for TIFF 2014, and rightly so! Check out the film fest line-ups they’ve posted and prepare to drool away! ;)

Now for this week’s Music Break!

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Boy it’s been ages since I posted on Opening Title Sequence. I just stumbled upon an old list I made four years ago on 10 of my favorites, and I immediately thought of the one for Black Sails! When I caught up on the Starz pirate show extravaganza earlier this month, I was blown away by how awesome the opening title is [well aside from Toby Stephens' Captain Flint of course] ;)

The Art of the Title site has an extensive behind-the-scenes look of the making of this spectacular work using real-life sculptures designed by Imaginary Forces. Combined with the rousing score by Bear McCreary, who also did the amazing score for the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica), this opening title is quite a masterpiece! Both the opening title AND the score have deservedly been nominated for Emmy Awards this year, woo hooo!

I LOVE this video of McCreary explaining how he envisioned the theme that’d fit the gritty world of piracy, not the cliched and romanticized version of pirates you’ve seen before. It also shows the making of the score in multiple recording sessions. This is the first time I’ve even seen a Hurdy Gurdy. WOW, now THAT’s creativity, well done Mr. McCreary!


I also found a couple of great Flint-centric fan videos featuring fantastic music by composer Mark Petrie who’s done a bunch of TV work. OperaGhost, whoever and wherever you are, THANK YOU for these awesome videos, hope you continue making them!


Hope you enjoy this music break!

So which score/opening title(s) from recent TV shows are your favorites?

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Most-Anticipated Movies of the rest of 2014 (September – December)

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Well, since I’ve posted my Top 10 of the year so far and Summer Blockbuster Months are quickly coming to a close. I’ve already got my eyes set on what’s in store for the rest of 2014! Now, there are going to be movies I’ll be seeing next month that aren’t on this list because well, I’m not really hugely anticipating them. In fact, there is no movie that screams MUST SEE in all of August, though most likely I would be seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, Into the Storm, Expendables 3 and Sin City 3, so I’m just going to start the list with September all the way to the end of the year.

   Sept2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones (Sept 19)

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Private investigator Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is hired by a drug kingpin (Dan Stevens) to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. Blurring the lines between right and wrong, Scudder races to track the deviants through the backstreets of New York City before they kill again.

Director: Scott Frank
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Ruth Wilson


Ok so normally this isn’t my cup of tea but I quite like this cast. Neeson is always reliable in bad ass action movies, but it’s most interesting to see Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens (who’s also in BBC’s Sense & Sensibility) and miss Jane Eyre herself Ruth Wilson. Seems that Stevens wants to break into Hollywood but I didn’t expect to see him in two R-rated thrillers in the same year, he’s also in The Guest that’s supposed to be out in the Fall as well.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Sept 26 – Limited)

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Once happily married, Conor and Eleanor suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. The film explores the couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

Director: Ned Benson
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain

I’ve made a full post on this one so visit that page for more details on that movie, so you can watch the trailer there.

Mildly interested in:

The Two Faces of January (Sept 26 – Limited)

A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.

Director: Hossein Amini
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac

I had never heard of this before last night, but Viggo and Oscar in the same movie? Yes please! The trailer looks pretty gripping, though this is a feature film debut from a screenwriter with a rather spotty track record, so we shall see I guess. Should be worth a rental with this cast, at the very least.

The Drop (Sept 12)

Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.

Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini

Interestingly enough, last year I had another movie with Noomi Rapace (Dead Man Down) on my most-anticipated list but I still haven’t seen that movie. Apparently this is Mr. Gandolfini’s last screen appearance, which would make this rather bittersweet. I do like Hardy but the trailer is pretty meh, but who knows, it could still be a good one.


Oct2014

Gone Girl (Oct 3)

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With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Missi Pyle, Neil Patrick Harris

It’s been four years since I saw anything by Fincher (The Social Network). He did The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which isn’t my cup of tea, but this who-dun-it type of thriller intrigues me. I read that Gillian Flynn, the author the novel is based on, is interested in ‘exploring the psychology and dynamics of a long-term relationship.’ To me, the slow-burn, character-driven approach is certainly far more intriguing than just a fast-paced action thriller. I always think that Affleck is a better actor than director but hopefully he does all right here. I do like Rosamund, glad she’s getting more prominent roles in Hollywood.

,,,

Birdman (Oct 17)

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A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough


Nice to see Keaton in a leading role again, and given that he did play an iconic superhero before certainly feels like it’s art imitating life. Billed as a comedy, a dark comedy no doubt, this looks as bizarre as ever! I’ve only seen Babel and 21 Grams from Iñárritu which were both dark and grim, so I’m curious to see him direct a comedy. Oh, and I also love miss Riseborough, though I’ve been hoping the talented Brit would score a leading role soon.

Mildly interested in:

The Judge (Oct 10)

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Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

Director: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga

It’s been a while since I saw RDJ on screen without his Iron Man suit, but this premise doesn’t immediately appeal to me. I’ll see what the buzz says if this one is worth seeing on the big screen.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (Oct 24)

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Based upon the comic book by Mark Millar, and depicts a veteran secret agent who leads a young protege into the world of espionage.

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, Mark Hamill, Mark Strong, Michael Caine

When I first saw the poster a few weeks ago at a local cinema, it definitely piqued my interest! There’s not a single name on it, but I knew Vaughn had directed X-Men: First Class. Well, now that the trailer is out, I actually don’t know what to make of it, and not in a good way. Sure the cast is awesome but I just don’t have a good feeling this would actually be an awesome movie. Still, color me intrigued, let’s hope the movie would be as good as the poster!


 Nov2014

Interstellar (Nov 7)

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A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck


Ok so every single time I saw this trailer I kind of teared up a little. Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here, the tagline says. Just what the heck does it even mean? It’s as cryptic as ever, as most Nolan’s films that’s based on his own concepts are, but I know I can’t wait to see it! The cast is terrific, though most of them are Nolan regulars, esp. Michael Caine. I’ve been intrigued by McConaughey’s casting here, but I expect that he, as well as the film, will deliver!

Hunger Games Mockingjay – Part I (Nov 21)

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Katniss Everdeen reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the autocratic Capitol.

Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland


The promos for this one has been doing a phenomenal job in getting me pumped for this movie. The second movie ended in such a cliffhanger that got me all riled up. I still wish they hadn’t split the finale, but this cash-grab trend seems to be here to stay [sigh]. In any case, it’d be sad to see Philip Seymour Hoffman here, he’s SO good as Plutarch, he’s the one I most look forward to seeing on this final installments!

The Imitation Game (Nov 21)

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A historical drama film about British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist Alan Turing, a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code that helped the Allies win World War II, who was later criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality.

Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode


Mr. Turing certainly has an incredible story worth-telling, and with Cumberbatch playing him, it naturally piques my interest. I LOVE espionage movies, even more intriguing that it’s based on a true story. The all-British cast looks great, nice to see Matthew Goode here as well. That guy is so underrated it’s criminal! I sure hope this would fare much better than Cumberbatch’s previous biopic [on Julian Assange] The Fifth Estate, but if it’s anything like the emotional & gripping trailer, I can’t imagine it’d be worse.

Mildly interested in:

Big Hero 6 (Nov 7)

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A group of six superheroes are recruited by the government to protect the nation.

Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Starring: Alan Tudyk, Jamie Chung, Maya Rudolph, Genesis Rodriguez

I had never even heard about this project before but the trailer does look funny. It has the Wreck-It Ralph! feel to it, so it should be pretty enjoyable.


Dec2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Dec 17)

The Company of Thorin has reached Smaug’s lair; but can Bilbo and the Dwarves reclaim Erebor and the treasure? And, if so, can they hold on to it?

Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

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I know some people call this whole trilogy thing a cash grab and all but I’m not one of them. I LOVE this universe and Peter Jackson’s so committed to this whole franchise and he has a palpable love for this story. I can’t wait to see the final journey for all the characters, especially Thorin & his band of dwarves in their quest to reclaim their lost kingdom. Wish they’d release a trailer already, but hopefully that’ll happen soon!

Unbroken (Dec 25)

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World War II hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini, a former Olympic track star, survives a plane crash in the Pacific, spends 47 days drifting on a raft, and then more than two and a half years living in several Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Director: Angelina Jolie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Miyavi, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund


The story of Mr. Zamperini is an extraordinary one to be sure. Not only what he has endured, to hell and back, but what he did after he survived the whole ordeal. The devoutly-Christian man actually sought out those who’ve tortured him during the war and forgave them. What a perfect story to experience on Christmas Day!

Mildly interested in:

Exodus: Gods & Kings (Dec 12)

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An interpretation of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt as led by Moses and related in the Old Testament Book of Exodus.

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul

I’m all for Biblical stories… well, so long as it actually respects the source material. The Moses I know from the Bible  I love the actors but they all seem miscast to me and this trailer did nothing to alleviate my dread about this project. Totally agree with Drew on this: “Moses is apparently the next Maximus, which has me worried that Scott wants so badly to recreate Gladiator that he’s literally going to botch the whole thing. Moses was not a warrior. This is not scripture.” I still have a sliver of hope that Ridley Scott would somehow prove me wrong about this movie, but I’m not holding my breath.


Well, that’s just what I’m looking forward to in the next five months. Which one(s) are you most excited about?

FlixChatter Review: SEX TAPE (2014)

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This review will be short and sweet because honestly there’s not a whole lot to say about Sex Tape.

A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts. 

Yep. That’s about it. I went in with low expectations and it’s exactly what I got. The story is pretty simple. Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) met in college and had an intense physical relationship, but an accidental pregnancy, marriage and another kid later, they find their sex life is somewhat nonexistent. Annie is a mommy blogger whose blog is being courted by a Fisher Price type company and Jay is a music producer who is constantly gifting his iPads to family, friends and strangers. So, when Jay upgrades to a cloud based storage system and they film their sex tape on his iPad, it’s automatically sent to all of Jay’s used iPads. Yikes.

Sounds like a great foundation for a comedy right? Eh. When a film isn’t even rated half good (4.9/10 on IMDB), how do you expect audiences to be excited for it? Sure, there were some comical and awkward scenes, but it just felt tired. It was Jason Segel being Jason Segel. With the exception of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, his comedy has become redundant. And, he can’t seem to let go of that one character.

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I’m a big fan of Cameron Diaz’s humor because she’s physical, expressive and isn’t afraid to make herself look ridiculous. But, not even she could save this film. Which is a shame because I really enjoyed her last film, The Other Woman. True, it didn’t receive great reviews either, but maybe because the humor of that film was on the weird and complex nature of female relationships.

Honestly the amount of nudity and the premise of the film just didn’t work for me. The nudity was completely gratuitous and at times very awkward. Segel and Diaz spent more time naked than actually acting. Plus, it wasn’t believable that an intelligent, tech savvy couple couldn’t figure out how to delete their file from the cloud. I guess it wouldn’t make for an interesting film, but the couple embarked on a race to individually delete the file. Their journey leads them to Annie’s possible future boss’s house. Frank (Rob Lowe) appears to be clean cut, but Jay and Annie find him home alone and letting loose. I swear Lowe doesn’t seem to age, but he’s plays the eccentric, aloof characters so well. The film is almost worth seeing just because of him. Almost. 

I originally was going to give this three reels, but the more I’ve been thinking about it, it really only deserves a two. Sorry, I really dug into this one I know. But, I’m just being honest!

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So what do you think of this movie? Am I alone on the Jason Segel thing?

Top 10 Movies from the first half of 2014

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It’s been about three weeks since we passed the halfway mark of 2014, so I figure I should get this list up before the end of July. As I did the previous years, I’m including some films that might’ve opened internationally prior to 2014, but I’m including them here as I’m using the USA release dates (either wide or limited releases). These are movies that I consider a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is a big factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types (for me anyway), but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. The Grand Seduction (full review)

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I almost missed seeing this one at the MSPIFF earlier this year but I’m glad I was able to catch the second screening. I had a lot of fun with this one and I’d be happy to watch this again at some point. You can always count on Brendan Gleeson to entertain, and here he delivers once again along with Newfoundland’s most famous celebrity Gordon Pinsent and surprisingly enough, Taylor Kitsch is fun to watch here as well. This comedy is delightfully funny, heartwarming and beautiful to look at, it could practically doubles as a tourism video for the Canadian province!

9. Edge of Tomorrow (full review)

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I’ve been seeing this movie in fellow bloggers’ favorite-of-the-year list and I can see why. I bet it was as much a pleasant surprise for them as it did for me, as I was ready to dismiss this one as yet another Tom Cruise’s meh sci-fi. Well, it ended up being massively entertaining and has a worthy female heroine in the form of Emily Blunt. The movie is not as profound as some people made it out to be, but props to director Doug Liman for pulling off the ‘repetitive’ aspect of the story that is far from boring. I certainly don’t mind a repeat experience of seeing this one again on rental.

8. The LEGO Movie (full review)

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Everything is awesome! Now that’s a bold tagline to live up to, but guess what, this movie did just that and then some! Apparently February is NOT just for duds and I’m pretty sure this one will get a nomination come award season. The LEGO Movie is easily one of the most fun experience I had in the movies in a long time, it’s every bit as cute and hilarious as the trailers and featurettes promised us. It’s the perfect geekstravaganza for everyone of all ages, an awesome escapist from the Winter Dump Months for the young and the young-at-heart.

7. The Machine (full review)

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Ok so some of you might think because Toby Stephens is in this that this movie ends up in my top 10… and well, you won’t be entirely wrong ;) But I really do think this is a worthy sci-fi that’s well-made, well-acted AND thought-provoking. Made with a shoestring budget (less than $2 mil), The Machine has more heart than its big budget sci-fi counterparts (think Elysium) which proves that it takes way more than big budget and big stars to make a memorable movie. The two leads, Stephens and Caity Lotz are impressive here, and their performances are able to overcome the flaws of the movie, and their scenes are what make this movie watchable over and over.

6. Locke (full review)

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It’s a testament of Tom Hardy‘s strong screen presence and Steven Knight‘s taut script and direction that this one-man show is gripping even when practically nothing happens on screen. The entire film takes place inside a car with Hardy’s Ivan Locke behind the wheel. It’s certainly one of the most unique cinematic experience that immerses you into the world of its protagonist. Visually it’s striking too, somehow Knight’s able to make highway driving look so dramatic and even artistic. If you ever had any doubt about Hardy’s acting prowess, well then I suggest you check this one out and prepare to be blown away.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel (full review)

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I don’t love everything Wes Anderson put out there, but this one works for me. It captivated me from the opening scene all the way until the end. It’s more fast-paced than his other films but has all the things you expect from Wes: the quirky characters, the perfect symmetry of every single scene, playful music, etc.  I was quite invested in the two lead characters, particularly Zero Mustafa (played by F. Murray Abraham and Tony Revolori), more than I’ve ever felt about previous Wes Anderson’s characters. Mischievously whimsy, but with heart. Like a charming hotel, it’s one I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again.

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (full review)

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I adore the first film so I was a bit nervous this sequel would not live up to it. Well clearly I LOVE this one too as it made my top 5 so far. Despite the more complicated storyline, writer/director Dean DeBlois still made the adorable duo Toothless and Hiccup the central focus of the story. The additional character played by Cate Blanchett delves more into Hiccup’s family background, which makes you appreciate him and his father Stoick (Gerard Butler). With John Powell’s rousing score once again, this ranks high in my favorite animated features and would probably be among the nominees come award season!

3. Belle (full review)

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For a fan of period dramas, Amma Assante‘s sophomore feature has everything I could possibly want from this genre, and then some. Some critics call it ‘Jane Austen with a conscience’ as the protagonist’s story is set in the backdrop of slavery and racial injustice. Gugu Mbatha-Raw gracefully carries the film with her heartfelt performance, surrounded by a stellar cast that includes Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson. Sam Reid also impressed me with his performance as Belle’s unlikely confidante/love interest, I definitely would love to see both Mbatha-Raw and Reid get more prominent roles in the future. I can’t wait to own the Blu-ray that’s out next month, this one will definitely get a lot of play in my house!

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (full review)

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I happen to LOVE the first movie which my hubby and I have watched repeatedly. It’s rare to see a sequel that not only lives up to the original but manages to be even better! Billed as a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a superhero movie’, The Winter Soldier delivers on that front and gives us something that’s genuinely intriguing and massively entertaining. I LOVE espionage movies so the story definitely appeals  to me, but of course it also has the exciting action sequences that’s the bread-n-butter of any superhero blockbuster. It’s filled with adrenaline-pumping geek-gasm scenes without being banal or vapid. Chris Evans‘ much more confident in the role which makes him even more watchable, and Robert Redford + Anthony Mackie are great additions to an already-fantastic cast. This one has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero!

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (full review

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It took me a while to decide between The Winter Soldier and X-Men: DOFP as my #1 pick, but after much deliberations, this one wins by a slim margin. I give this one an edge because the time travel aspect and the back-and-forth across multiple dimensions are tough to pull off, but Bryan Singer did a tremendous job making it all work beautifully. I have a soft spot for the X-Men franchise and despite the disappointing The Wolverine, this is one of my most-anticipated films of 2014! It certainly did NOT disappoint. Glad to see Singer back at the helm for this one, after relinquishing his directorial efforts to other directors for X-Men 3 and X-Men: First Class. Now, I’m a big fan of the latter and a lot of the emotional high notes of that first prequel are carried over here as well. Emotional drama and complex relationship are mixed together well with witty humor and thrilling action. Similar to Nolan’s Batman films in some ways, it’s character & plot-driven punctuated by exhilarating action sequences. As far as superhero movies go, this one has everything that makes going to the movies so gratifying.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

These aren’t stellar by any means, but it was pretty entertaining and worth-seeing. So yeah, I’d recommend these for a rental!

 


WORST of the year so far:

I’m glad I’ve been able to avoid what’s poised to be stinkers like I Frankenstein, Blended, Pompeii, Tammy,etc. but I wish I hadn’t wasted my precious 2+ hours on these two!


So that’s my Best/Worst list of 2014 so far. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ‘em with you :D

Six Degrees of Separation Blogathon: Hitchcock to Transformers Movies

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Nostra, aka The King of Blog Series is at it again! This time in association with dutch movieblog “De Protagonisten” (who inspired him to do this). Check out the main blogathon page on My Film Views blog. Surely you’re all familiar w/ the concept of Six Degrees of Separation, but here’s the idea in his own words:
This blogathon is based on a theory that in only six steps you can link anyone to any other person in the world. It will test your knowledge of actors, movies and directors. You will get two names of either actors/actresses/directors or movies and what you will have to do is make a link between them in a maximum of six steps.


So how does this blogathon work?

As you know I have done several relay races in the past and have heard from several bloggers that they wished they would get a chance to participate as well, but since there was only one baton the chances would be small to get it assigned. So to go with the theme of this blogathon I decided to increase those chances sixfold and assign this blogathon to six bloggers who can then each hand over the baton to another blogger with a new end-goal for that blogger.

Well, Nostra assigns six of us with the initial task, I have to connect Alfred Hitchcock to the Transformers movies in six steps or less. I was able to do two different versions for this, and none involving Shia LaBeouf, yay!

Alfred Hitchcock to the Transformer movies

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Alfred Hitchcock directed Marnie (1964) starring Sean Connery
Connery was in The Rock (1996) which was directed by Michael Bay
Bay directed all of the Transformers movies
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Alfred Hitchcock worked with Bruce Dern in The Family Plot (1976)
Dern co-starred with Jon Voight in Coming Home (1978)
Voight was in the first Transformers movie (2007)

So I’m handing over the baton to Natalie from Writer Loves Movies blog. So Natalie, your task is connect the Transformers movies to… Gary Cooper.

Good luck Natalie! :)


Thoughts on this blogathon and/or the films/actors mentioned here?

Music Break: Seven Favorite Themes By Alexandre Desplat

For some reason, I had just become familiar with Alexandre Desplat‘s work fairly recently. I think it was his score for The Queen (2006) that garnered my attention, and since then I’ve been a big fan. On my Five for the Fifth post I talked about Hans Zimmer’s concert, now I’d definitely go to Mr. Desplat’s concert if he had one!

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Per his official site:

52-year-old Alexandre Michel Gérard Desplat was raised in a musical and cultural mix with a Greek mother and French father who studied and were married in California, he grew up listening to the French symphonists Ravel and Debussy and to jazz. He enriched his classical musical education by studying Brazilian and African music, which later lead him to record with Carlinhos Brown and Ray Lema.

An avid fan of cinema, he expressed his desire to compose for the Big Screen early on. During the recording of his first film, he met Dominique Lemonnier violinist who became his favorite soloist, artistic director and wife. She founded the Traffic Quintet for which he wrote original music and transcribed soundtracks.

In 2003 he burst onto the Hollywood scene with his evocative score to Girl With a Pearl Earring (starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth), which earned him nominations at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and European Film Awards.

Those who watch a lot of French films might recognize him as he’s composed a lot of work for French cinema. Since I listen to a lot of classical music, I definitely LOVE Desplat’s style. A lot of his scores have such an emotional experience that can take you to another place. Some music can pierce your soul and I feel that Desplat’s music has that quality, especially his work for Tree of Life and Philomena. It’s melancholic and reflective, but he can also be playful and even whimsical, i.e. The Grand Budapest Hotel.

It’s only been a little over a decade that he made his Hollywood big break, but he’s been amazingly-prolific since. If you look at his IMDb resume, he’d often work on half a dozen scores a year! In 2013 alone, he worked on no less than six films, yet somehow he churn out great work virtually every time. Just in the past decade alone, he’s got 48 wins and 90 nominations (including Oscar, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Grammy) This man is a machine!

So for today’s music break, I want to highlight just a sampling of his stellar work:


So what do you think of Alexandre Desplat’s works? Which one(s) are YOUR faves?

Blogathon Relay: TEN Most Influential Directors Of All Time

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This Blog Relay idea is really getting around. I did a similar post a while back with the Most Iconic Movie Characters which generally has the same concept. This time around, the 10 Most Influential Directors relay is spearheaded by John at Hitchcock’s World. Here’s the gist in John’s own words:

I have compiled a list of ten directors I consider to be extremely influential. I will name another blogger to take over. That blogger, in their own article, will go through my list and choose one they feel doesn’t belong, make a case for why that director doesn’t fit, and then bring out a replacement. After making a case for why that director is a better choice, they will pass the baton onto another blogger. That third blogger will repeat the process before choosing another one to take over, and so on.

Thanks to Josh at Classicblanca for passing the baton to me! These nine remain on the list as it stands right now, scroll down below which director I have to let go and his replacement:

10DirectorsRelay_9RemainingClockwise from top left:
Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Georges Méliès, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrik.

Thanks to Two Dollar Cinema for the image idea :)

The last addition that Josh added was Ingmar Bergman. Here’s his reasoning: Ingmar Bergman’s films put the human condition in the forefront, combining striking imagery with raw emotion. Where would cinema be without his humanistic approach to storytelling? 

Boy, the list as it stands now makes it incredibly tough for me to remove a single one, but hey, rules are rules and so, even with a heavy hart, one has to make a decision.

Who’s Out?

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Francis Ford Coppola

It’s not so much that I’m removing Mr. Coppola, but I’m just moving him down to another spot in the top 15. How about that for diplomacy? ;) In all seriousness though, I do think Mr. Coppola is indeed an influential director. But the point of this list is just how influential? I mean we’re talking about the most influential of ALL TIME here. Looking at the 10 directors, I feel that I can’t remove anyone else given the prominent contributions they’ve made, even if I haven’t seen any of their films [yet]. I feel that Coppola’s resume is pretty spotty after his glory days in the 70s. So sorry Mr. Coppola, but like I said, I do think you deserve to be in the Top 15!

Who’s In?

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Billy Wilder

I’m surprised he wasn’t on the list in the first place, to be honest. Now, even though I haven’t seen all his films, his talent is undeniable and he’s so well-loved by filmmakers and fans alike. He doesn’t just win numerous awards in his illustrious career (27 films, 6 Oscars), but he’s been an inspiration to other great directors. Michel Hazanavicius who won Best Director Oscar for The Artist thanked Wilder three times in his acceptance speech, “… I could thank him like a thousand times because I think he’s the perfect director, the perfect example. He’s the soul of Hollywood and I wanted to thank him and I love him.” [per The Wrap]. Even Ingmar Bergman who’s a legendary director himself has said that Wilder is his favorite Hollywood director [per IMDb]. Cameron Crowe also penned memoir of sort, called Conversations with Wilder, which was the first time Wilder agreed to talk extensively about his life and work. I wish there had been a documentary on him as well.

I’ve recently seen one of Wilder’s best, The Apartment, and I could see why his films are so beloved. He imbued such wit in his films, a dose of cynical humor. He also has a way with actors, having directed no less than 14 actors to Oscar-nominated performances. He’s also a versatile writer/director, as he excelled in numerous genres: drama, noir, comedy as well as war films. He’s one of those directors whose work I still need to see more of, but even from the few that I’ve seen, it’s easy to see how Mr. Wilder belongs in this list.


I’m passing the torch to Mark, one of my favorite bloggers over at Three Rows Back. He’s been doing great work in his Retrospective Series, like this one on A Hard Day’s Night.

Previous relay contributors:
Girl Meets Cinema
And So It Begins
Dell on Movies
Two Dollar Cinema
A Fistful of Films
Classicblanca


So folks, agree/disagree with my picks? Let’s hear it!

Weekend Roundup: Catching up on Downton Abbey + a ho-hum Hitchcock film

Happy Bastille Day Monday everyone!

Man now I wish I were back in Paris again [sigh] So how’s your weekend? It was another glorious Summer day on Sunday, ahead of the Polar Vortex (or you can call it the cool Canadian air) that keeps temps only in the 60s today. Yep, I actually have to wear a light jacket today, heh.

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I guess he has every reason to feel triumphant

So it seems that a lot of you saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes this weekend. ‘Apes’ Goes Bananas says Box Office Mojo [though we never saw any of the apes actually ate a banana], and the mojo is definitely with director Matt Reeves as the sequel brought in a whopping $73 mil domestically, and it’s already over $100 mil internationally. It’s the only tentpole film opening this weekend so basically there’s no competition. Besides who in the right mind would want to see those dreadful robots over these intelligent & emotive apes?

Well, if you’ve read my review then you already know I LOVED it. I actually don’t mind renting that again when it’s out on Blu-ray, maybe a double feature w/ the 2011 reboot. I sure hope Reeves will be back at the helm for the third film, man it’s poised to be one heck of a sci-fi trilogy!

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My weekend viewing is mostly home cinema. After nearly a year, I finally caught up with Downton Abbey again. Yes I know, my TV viewing is quite pathetic, I’m still on season 2! I don’t know if I’ll finish all four seasons by year’s end but I sure will am gonna try.

Well, everything I loved about it that I wrote last year is still true. I love all the characters, there are a lot of them but even the minor characters like Mr. Lang is intriguing. Dame Maggie Smith still has the best lines, and I LOVE seeing dashing Iain Glen as a newspaper mogul Sir Richard Carlisle. It’s a testament to his versatility that he’s starring in Downton Abbey AND Game of Thrones around the same time, the two couldn’t be more different from each other.

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There are lots going on this season! What with Downton being turned into a hospital & all the intricacies that brings, Anna and Mr. Bates, not to mention the scandals of Lavinia and Sir Richard. Plenty of juicy scenes awaits!

***

As part of my Hitchcock catch-up, I also saw a lesser-known film Torn Curtain (1966) as part of this Hitchcock Blogathon by Rob & Zoe. I learned about the blogathon pretty late so the films are all picked over. Still I was curious to see this one because the premise sounded intriguing and so is the casting of Paul Newman + Julie Andrews. Heh, I wish I had picked another film, it was such a bore!

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As I read the IMDb trivia, apparently Hitchcock himself didn’t like the film. So much so that he didn’t even want to appear in the trailer. He’s apparently unhappy with the screenplay and Newman’s performance but my main beef is with Julie Andrews’ casting. Well I’ll spare you the detailed review until August, but suffice to say I’d never watch it again.


Well so that’s my weekend viewing folks. How about you? Seen anything good?

FlixChatter Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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Let me preface this review by saying that I haven’t seen any of the classic Apes movies in the 60s. I did see the 2001 reboot but I can barely remember any of it. But the 2011 version won me over that I’m intrigued to see what’s going to happen next.

The story takes place about a decade after the first film. The opening sequence swiftly tells us a Simian flu and incessant civil wars have wiped out most of humanity. On the brink of extinction, the remaining survivors in pockets all over the world is now living back in a *primal* state. It’s the search of power that connects the two species, as the dam the humans need to restore power resides so dangerously close to the Apes village.

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I love that the film takes its time in the character development of the apes, which are actually more crucial than the human characters. We get a glimpse of the apes’ community that Caesar & his fellow lab objects has built in the hills outside San Francisco.  The little apes go to *school* taught by a big, gentle orangutan, the female apes take care of the household, whilst the males hunt to provide food and protect the community. It’s akin to a tribal village where all the apes live peacefully under the leadership of the strong and wise Caesar. Not long after a small group of humans encounter some of the apes in the woods, thanks to a moron with an itchy trigger-finger, the fragile peace between the humans and the apes is about to be shattered.

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) creates a suspenseful and atmospheric piece here that immediately sucks you in. At times it’s so sinister and eerie that I felt like I was watching a horror film. Aided by Michael Giacchino‘s haunting score, it’s a truly immersive experience. There is genuine terror when one of the human group leaders Malcolm tries to reason with Caesar, having witnessed that he’s clearly more than just a regular ape. Jason Clarke is solid here as Malcolm, he’s not overly charismatic but he’s effortlessly sympathetic and likable. To be fair, none of the human characters are nearly as charismatic as Caesar whose screen presence is undeniable. He commands your attention and even your allegiance, as I find myself rooting for him more than for the humans.

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Right from the start, this story keeps me engrossed whilst I marvel at the amazing CGI that looks and feels realistic. Mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis never ceases to amaze me with his motion-capture performance as Caesar. I really think his performance deserves an acting award as he truly embodies the role in the same way as a live-action actor would. The craftsmanship in the digital recreation of the apes is nothing short of amazing. Every detail and all the subtle nuances of the apes’ expression are so seamless and organic, you’d think these are actual apes who’ve been amazingly-trained! The apes all have distinct facial characteristics, just like the humans do. The production design is absolutely mesmerizing. The ape village, as well as the human compound in a rundown tower looks realistically gritty and bleak. There is a very cool scene in a wrecked gas station that sticks in the mind, not just visually but emotionally as well.

The emotional gratification is what makes a big impact here. Whilst all the special effects are incredible (what with $170 production cost), it’s the characters and their conflicts that make all the difference. And we certainly get that here with Caesar and Malcolm, both of them are essentially on the same page. Both have a family and a community they care about, yet they have to contend with those in their circle who simply don’t see things as they do. In Caesar’s camp, we’ve got Koba (Toby Kebell), his right hand man ape whose hatred for humans stems from being tortured in the lab and he’s got the ugly scars to prove it. “Koba only sees the bad side of humans,” Caesar says at one point, and honestly, at times I do feel sorry for Koba. Malcolms’ cohorts are more one-dimensional. You’ve got the hot-headed jerk Carver (Kirk Acevedo) and the paranoid group leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) who doesn’t really have much to do here than scream and shout. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Keri Russell fare better as Clarke’s son and girlfriend, respectively, though again, most of the human characters are simply not as memorable as the apes.

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I know it’s only July, but I have a strong feeling this would end up in my Top 10 of 2014 list. I also don’t think I’m exaggerating that this stands as perhaps one of the best sequels of all time, whilst at the same time it’d work fine as a standalone film. There’s a scene that allude to Caesar’s past in the first film, a poignant moment that truly tugs my heartstrings. I don’t think people need to see the 2011 film in order to get this film, but of course it makes you appreciate Caesar’s journey more. Kudos to Matt Reeves and his team of writers (five of them to be exact) for making this film a Caesar-focused story, it’s a taut thriller that’s as gripping as it is emotionally-gratifying. Now, the narrative is actually quite predictable, but this is not the kind of film that relies on twists so it doesn’t dampen my enjoyment for the film. Given the present conflicts all over the world, the bloodshed and social discord depicted here resonate even more.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best offerings of the Summer, but of the entire year. It succeeds because the special effects punctuates and supports the story/character instead of the other way around. The technical achievements never overshadow the story, even during the action-heavy battle scenes in the third act, it doesn’t become so bombastic that we lose sight of what’s really at stake. The 3D is just okay, which is consistent with my sentiment that 2D format is always sufficient. The powerful last shot lends itself nicely to another sequel, and you know what, I for one can’t wait to see more the continuation of Caesar’s journey.

4.5 out of 5 reels


What do you think of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

Guest Post – Jersey Boys: The musical or the movie?

This review is courtesy of guest blogger Sarah Johnson who mainly contributes reviews for the Twin Cities Film Fest.

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I love it when books or musicals I like become movies because it allows me to enjoy the same story again and pick up subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences in different mediums. “Jersey Boys,” the new movie directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It is based on the phenomenally successful Broadway musical which won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical. I have seen and enjoyed both the musical and movie for the same reason – everyone has heard the famous songs (“Big Girls Don’t Cry, “Oh What a Night,” “Sherry”) but the story behind the music is so well-told by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who did both the book for the musical and the screenplay for the movie, that it was just a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.

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The main difference between the musical and the movie is the beginning – about the first 20 minutes of the movie are devoted to Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) dragging Frankie Castelluccio (later Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young) along to get into trouble in their blue collar Jersey neighborhood. In this way I felt like the musical was stronger because it introduces Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) earlier and that’s when their story really begins. For people who have seen the musical, the rest of the movie is the same as the musical and includes all of the famous lines that I found myself looking forward to in the movie. I don’t want to give too many of them away if you haven’t seen either version but there is one when a young Bob Gaudio meets flamboyant producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) and he says, “I remember thinking there was something a little off about this guy. But this was 1959, back when people thought Liberace was just…theatrical.” Both iterations also feature actors breaking the “fourth wall” to talk to the audience.

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John Lloyd Young (second from left) in the Broadway version of ‘Jersey Boys’

The cast is led by the superb John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in the Broadway version. After seeing the movie, I know why. I don’t know if I can objectively assess Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio since I am still infatuated with Andrew Rannells’ portrayal of Bob Gaudio when I saw the musical at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in 2008. I thought Michael Lomenda gave an unexpectedly strong performance as Nick Massi, the group’s bass and self-proclaimed “Ringo” of the quartet. When he is stopped by local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (played by Christopher Walken being…Christopher Walken) while trying to leave the group amid money issues and personal tensions, he proclaims, “With all due respect Mr. DeCarlo, I’d like to see you sell 100 million records by the time you’re 30 and see how you handle it.” Neither the movie nor the musical gloss over the price these guys paid for fame. Frankie Valli was an absentee father whose golden voice couldn’t stop the fact that his daughter died of a drug overdose in 1980. And neither version is a show for kids – there is a large amount of foul language throughout the show.

Both the movie and the musical end on a high note with a montage of the group’s famous songs. Although Frankie Valli is now in his 80’s, he was at the State Theatre in Minneapolis as recently as 2012. (At the end of the movie in his turn to address the audience, he says “I’m like the Energizer bunny, I just keep going and going and going…”) One thing to note about this show is that while Broadway musicals generally aren’t known for being a “guy thing,” this is a notable exception. Both my dad and uncle have seen the stage version and still talk about how enjoyable it was. There are several live versions on the road now (including one coming to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in April 2015) to compliment the movie, allowing anyone to enjoy this nostalgic, tune-filled story.

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What do you think of Jersey Boys? Have you seen both the film and/or the Broadway play?