FlixChatter Review – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

EleanorRigbyTitleIt seems that a straight love-themed drama is hard to come in Hollywood. Instead we see romance as part of another genre, i.e. romantic comedy, romantic thriller, romantic sci-fi and so on. It’s even more rare to see a love story in a three-film format, not a trilogy mind-you, but the same story told from three different perspective [as you can read in my spotlight here] where director Ned Besson shot three films from his and her perspective, then created a third – more marketable – version, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.

So who’s miss Eleanor Rigby? You might be inclined to think she ‘disappears’ in the same sense as Gone Girl, but no that’s not the case here. But the title makes sense as the film progresses, which is unfolding in an unhurried pace that is far from boring. It opens with a gorgeous young couple, Eleanor and Conor, running off without paying their bill at a restaurant. It’s apparent the two are blissfully in love, which makes you wonder all the more what happen to such a seemingly jubilant marriage. Besson didn’t immediately fill in everything about the incident that trigger the relationship’s collapse, which can be at times frustrating but it also made me appreciate the journey with the characters. 

EleanorRigbyStills1I read afterwards that Besson apparently had a relationship with the lead actress, Jessica Chastain, and that in a way the story is somewhat biographical. Perhaps that’s why I think Chastain is so perfect in the role, though I think she would be anyway without their history. She’s the kind of actress whose got such a captivating screen presence, both strong and vulnerable, as well as being able to remain likable even if her character isn’t always so. In fact, at times I feel like perhaps she’s being unreasonable. What could be so horrible that made her decide to take such drastic measures? I feel that Eleanor chooses to drown in her own grief despite being surrounded by such a supportive family, which I think is still a privilege as not many people would have such a privilege. Yet I couldn’t dislike her and I attribute that to Chastain’s soulful performance.

On the other side is James McAvoy as Conor, the *jilted* husband who tries to win her back. McAvoy is such a capable actor, I always think that given his resemblance to Gerard Butler, the two could be brothers, but he’s the kind of performer I wish Butler could be. McAvoy could juggle big-budget Summer movies like X-Men Days of Future Past, in an iconic role no less, yet he can still *disappear* [pardon the pun] into an entirely different role here. Like Eleanor, Conor is a flawed character who struggles with his crumbling marriage as well as his frosty relationship with his dad. I’d have to say I prefer McAvoy in dramatic fares and I hope he does more stuff like this where he plays a regular guy.

EleanorRigbyStill2

I feel that under less capable hands, both Conor & Eleanor might not have been as captivating nor as convincing in conveying deep emotional heartbreak. Even in quieter moments, both actors can hold your attention and they definitely get you involved in their story. It definitely helps having a solid supporting cast, I especially like Viola Davis as a college professor who became Eleanor’s unlikely confidant, as well as Ciaran Hinds & William Hurt as the father of Conor & Elinor, respectively. Bill Hader provides somewhat of a comic relief as McAvoy’s BFF. He’s ok but I feel that their scenes felt too much like a traditional *ingredient* of a typical rom-com, so it feels like a weak link in an otherwise unconventional drama.

It’s a small quibble though, the film does a lot of things right in that it really got you involved in the characters’ journey. As I’ve been married for some time to my college sweetheart, it definitely made me think about what I’d do if this circumstance were to happen to me. There is a moment in their apartment where barely any word is spoken, but it was such a heart-wrenching and delicate moment between the two. Yet I don’t feel manipulated into feeling something that’s superficial, there’s no sweeping music to tug your heartstrings, it was all the result of being invested in the story. That said, the music/songs are quite enjoyable and fit the theme of the film nicely. As I mentioned before, I love that Besson took his time to reveal the incident that propel the story. He give you some subtle hints throughout so you can take a guess what happens but the details remain open-ended.

EleanorRigbyStill3

Overall I’m impressed by Besson’s feature film debut, and applaud him for trying something different w/ the format. I like how intimate and personal this story feels, brought out by authentic and compelling performances of the two main actors. The cinematography of NYC is gorgeous and it shows a warm, even personal side of the city that complements the story. I’d be inclined to check out the His/Her version when they’re out on rental, that’d give me more insight into both characters and their story. It’s too bad that reportedly the film didn’t do well at all at the box office (per The Wrap) as I’d love more people to see this film. I was hoping that Besson, as well as McAvoy & Chastain get some nominations come award season, but that seems unlikely. In any case, I highly recommend this if you’re in the mood for a character-driven drama with splendid performances.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on this one? If you have seen it, I’d love to hear what you think.

About these ads

A Well Executed Blast From The Past: The Prime Gig (2000)

jackdethbanner

Greetings all and sundry!

Having just completed a move from Suburban Maryland to more tax friendly, though a bit jumbled and busy, Falls Church, Virginia. I’ve allowed myself a few evenings of vegging out and catching up on the notable offerings from IFC (Independent Film Channel). In lieu of multiple series winding down to their last few episodes of their respective seasons.

Now, I enjoy cliffhangers as well as the next guy. Though given the opportunity to indulge in a little, highly polished glistening nugget featuring the Grand Master of Character Actors, Ed Harris. Then up and coming actor, Vince Vaughn. Creating two angles in a film full of angles, lies, distortions, half truths. And the allure of boundless wealth through telephone sales and the intrigue of The Long Con creating the third. With the aid of fetching, knowing Julia Ormond.

To that end. Allow me a few moments of your time to slowly peel back the layers of one of the more intricately executed explorations into the world of trust, varying degrees of intimidation. And even more subtle alterations of perception with.

PrimeGigPoster

The Prime Gig (2000)

Which begins in the rather decrepit expanded low rent apartment and Man Cave of Pendleton “Penny” Wise. An up and comer in the realm of grand dreams and intermittent talent regarding conning, cajoling and occasionally brow beating money from hapless names on printed lists. To sell questionable goods and services while slowly advancing up the always present Sales Board.

In a nutshell. All the props, bells and whistles reliant upon and present in a mid rage “Boiler Room’ operation.

And make no mistake about it. Mr. Wise, as presented and envisioned by Vince Vaughn is a go getter. Though sometimes indulging in slowly receding inner turmoil about such oddities as morals. And feeling bad at the end of the day after fleecing future college tuition and “Vegas” or “Vacation Money” totaling in the tens of thousands. Much better at it than his two low scale colleagues. Older, wiser, Gene (Wallace Shawn) and charismatic Joel (Rory Cochrane).

And at this moment in time, “Penny” unwittingly presents himself as an intriguing and vulnerable target for a much wiser and covertly admired and adored Master Telemarketer, and Guru, Kelly Grant. Magnificently played with equal amounts of bravura and “Aw, shucks!” congeniality by Master Craftsman, Ed Harris.

PrimeGig_Harris_OrmondIt seems that Kelly is slowly bouncing back from being taken to the cleaners by the Feds and the SEC. Meticulously doling out and gathering funds for another “clean and legitimate” operation. Involving the sales of parcels of land on and surrounding a gold mine in the whip sawn outback of Bisbee, Arizona.

Kelly’s approach is a thing of subtle beauty. Performed by Caitlin Carlson (Julia Ormond. Radiating just the right amount of business smarts and sexuality. Who catches Penny’s attention and reels him comfortably in. Before introductions are made with Mr. Grant.

PrimeGig_Vaughn_Ormond2

Who has all his shiny brochures, spread sheets, graphs and pie charts ready for perusal after a sumptuous dinner. Laying his soul and his plan bare. While being glowingly, honestly forthright in his plans to make other people rich.

Though a veteran of the trenches and an outright cynic, Penny obliquely asks for some time to digest it all. Penny is given a day. And the availability of Caitlin as a Point of Contact. The day arrives and Penny agrees. Only to be one of a dozen different prospects and hungry Young Turks. With nationalities divergent as the rainbow. And names ranging from Archie (George Wendt), Cheryl (Jeannetta Arnette), Sujat (Shishir Kurup), Zeke (Romany Malko) and Batgirl (Amber Benson).

All are assembled pursuing the scent of large money. And the chance to get out from under college tuition and loan debt. Or the chance to make “crazy bank”. And spend it frivolously. Each has an agenda. And a scheme. Though, in order to harness and utilize maximum potential. They’ve got to believe!

Which entails a chartered plane flight and road trip west. To see first hand the expansive excavation, digging and tunneling surrounding several hundred acres of isolated Arizona Outback. And, yes. It is a busy little and noisy microcosm regaled in hard hats, reflective vests and large earth moving equipment. Wizened, if not refreshed. Penny and company return for marathon telephone sessions under the watchful eye of Kelly Grant up his elevated Sky Box Seat. Listening and ready to cut in with advice. As Penny, Zeke and Batgirl do battle. As those who lack sterner stuff eke out the day. And week. With the victors pitched banded rolls of fresh bills as incentive for the coming day.

PrimeGig_VinceVaughn

A crude motivational tool, to be sure. Though it does light a fire under the bottoms of those ignored. To become bolder and progressively more brutal during their telephonic tete a tetes. Through it all, Penny is quite content and comfortable with his techniques, Especially when part of his reward is the lush Caitlin.

And it is the intrigue of their romance that adds well deserved meat to this tale of blatant and perhaps, covert duplicity. Since Caitlin is Kelly Grant’s woman. Even if there is some slack in her leash to allow outside diversions. As Penny makes more and more money, Much of which is put in a checking account. Gathering the wherewithal to possibly steal Caitlin away. Though, that will be on her terms. Not Penny’s.

Life is good. Life goes on. The coffers of Mr. Grant’s are full of other people’s money. Some of which is used to pay for the machinery and workers in Bisbee, Other monies are used to pay for lawyers, scientists and masses of their office staff.

Penny awakes and heads off the”office” for a another day of verbal battle and Blitzkrieg. Opening the door to find…..

I’ll leave it right there for spoiler’s sake.

Now. What Makes This Film Good?

A well constructed and often deliberately vague screenplay, story and script. That allows glimpses and some memorable longing gazes into what you don’t see behind a far flung, major con. Centered around the day to day machinations of the long lived and reliable Ponzi scheme. Demanding major investments from the naïve and monied middle class. Who are well off, or better. Just to keep what’s happening in Arizona solvent and perhaps, productive day after day.

Though, it is on the front lines where the depths of greed and avarice are dangled like bait. And Penny and his rogues gallery are allowed to shine. Most notably in the competitions between Penny and Zeke. Who sometimes seethes with racial angst and animus, That results in many closed deals.

PrimeGig_Harris_Ormond2

Julia Ormond, in a very early role is a natural seductress. With class, poise, etiquette, a lovely Surrey accent. As well as being very easy on the eyes, Who may or may not know all of Kelly Grant’s grand scheme. But is not about to divulge any more than necessary. While Wallace Shawn, George Wendt and Rory Cochrane offer moral support to Penny. With hints of trepidation later on.

Cinematography by John A. Alonzo is often Sun hazed during outside daylight hours. And razor sharp and sparkled with far off lights at night. And wondrously, intimately tight in the Boiler Room’s Bullpens. Allowing time and space for the actors’ bodies and faces to swell with humor, anger or rage while achieving their goals.

Yet, offering a flat plain of space for discussions between Penny and Kelly Wise. An empty arena or battleground between two predators. Except Mr. Harris’ Kelly Grant has been doing this sort of things for decades. Dresses, acts and becomes the Master of Obfuscation, Misdirection and Distraction. Knows all the ins and outs and how to tap dance and patch over their flaws. While holding all the cards. The dialogue between the Sensei and gifted amateur is well worth the price of discovery and admission.

What Makes This Film Great?

PrimeGig_Stills

Ed Harris in charge of a scam of his own making. Staying in the background. While wisely revealing enough to keep those around him interested and at his beck and call. Keeping the lion’s share of the nuts and bolts hidden under veils of distraction. And jovially warning Penny and others that “You can’t trust a con man!”.

Pulling those around him close in their desire for more. Money. Recognition. Defining, expensive wardrobes and wheels, Because in L.A. You are what you drive. Creating a multi act play in personal greed and self destruction. Well aided by an original soundtrack by David Robbins. Art Direction by Michael Atwell. And Set Decoration by Alice Baker. Who have a knack for making spacious office space and expansive Bull Pens appear much smaller and compact and low ceilinged than at first glance. Creating possibly the best definition of the phrase “Boiler Room” in film!


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


Agree. Disagree, Other Choices? The Floor Is Open For Discussion.

Interview with Black Sails’ actor Sean Cameron Michael (aka Richard Guthrie)

FCInterviewBannerChattinWithSCMAs most of you know, I’m a big fan of Starz’s latest flagship show Black Sails, which has been renewed for a second (possibly third?) season before its initial season was done, yay! I was fortunate enough to chat via email with one of the cast members, Sean Cameron Michael, a South African-based actor who played Richard Guthrie in the series.

sean-cameron-michael-1

I think he’s one of the strongest performers on the show and I love his character arc as the richest black marketer in Nassau where the story takes place. I’m particularly intrigued by how his character would affect the fate of the series’ protagonist Captain James Flint, as well as his lover Miranda Barlow. Check out the interview below:

1. How did you end up working on Black Sails? Was there an audition process that you had to go through?

I believe that they had worldwide auditions for the show back in 2012. I was in Johannesburg, South Africa at the time shooting a movie called The Challenger Disaster with Oscar-winner William Hurt. I had also just wrapped on the popular Strike Back TV series working opposite Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance, so it was a very exciting time for me in my career.  

The opportunity to audition for Michael Bay’s first venture into cable television was exhilarating and knowing that this was Starz Entertainment’s next big original series (having been responsible for the amazing Spartacus franchise) was an added bonus.  I had two auditions for the show before I was confirmed as Richard Guthrie.

BlackSails_withHakeem
2. Please tell us how you prepare for your character Richard Guthrie. Did you read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island before?

Although the story of Black Sails takes place about 20 years prior to Stevenson’s Treasure Island, I did read his book and watch the 1950’s Bobby Driscoll film, as well as the 2012 Eddie Izzard movie.  I also referenced a couple of other books based on the time period, including Colin Woodard’s The Republic of Pirates and George Woodbury 1951 edition of The Great Days of Piracy.

I watched the Spartacus series again to get a feel for the style of TV drama that Starz has a clear niche in, as well as shows like Downton Abbey to see what kind of accent Mr. Guthrie might have. We worked with wonderful dialect coaches, as well as top hair & make-up artists and costume designers to ensure that the look and feel and sound of these characters would be spot on. As an actor, you take all that information and reference material, and kind of let it settle in the background and try to just “be in the moment”. Of course we were also fortunate to work with some of the best writers, directors and producers in the industry today, so the amount of input and support is incredible.

3. What’s your favorite filming experience in South Africa? The set with the giant Walrus ship looks incredible, that must be a treat working on such an intricate set.

Once you’ve read the detailed scripts and walk onto the most amazing sets, you are automatically transported to that period in history. It all just falls into place quite perfectly and as the cameras roll, you just breathe, smile and be as honest and as real as possible. It’s all quite a mind-boggling and exciting experience. Unfortunately my character didn’t get to spend much time on the awe-inspiring ships, but yes, it is quite breathtaking to behold and there were moments when I felt like a kid again, taking it all in and thinking “Gee wiz, this is a cool experience. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”  The sets constructed at the Cape Town Film Studios are certainly world-class and easily compete with anything found in the US and Europe today.

BlackSails_withBilly_Flint
4. You had quite a few scenes with Toby Stephens who played Captain Flint. Could you share your experience working with him?

Working with Toby was an absolute treat. Besides being a consummate professional and certainly one of the UK’s finest and underrated actors, he also happens to be very down-to-earth, friendly and funny in person, continually making jokes. When actors meet and do a scene together for the first time, we’re very often testing and perhaps challenging one another, to get a feel for what sort of level in performance we can expect from one another. Toby is a very passionate and giving actor, and I thoroughly enjoyed working on some truly intense and hopefully captivating and entertaining scenes with him.

5. How’s filming Season 2 different than filming the first one? Any tidbits about Season 2 you could share with us?

Before we started shooting season 2, we had the opportunity to watch season 1 in it’s entirety prior to it’s premiere screening around the world. When my scenes were originally filmed for season 1, they were obviously shot out of continuity with the rest of the story. So to finally see these scenes, intertwined with the rest of the intricate story and it’s characters, was helpful and informed me where I needed to go with Richard Guthrie in the next season.  

As an actor, you prepare and then film your scenes under great direction, delivering your best possible performance, but it’s only after the entire show is edited together and you watch the final cut of the episodes months later, that you are able to truly experience first-hand what you hoped to create on set at the time. I believe in season 2 I was able to delve even deeper and get closer to the true essence and heart of what makes Richard Guthrie tick and what drives him as a man in a once very powerful position, but also as a father to his daughter Eleanor. I could not be prouder of my work on season 2 and I cannot wait for audiences to experience what I have dedicated the past year of my life to.

Here’s the trailer for Season 2:

6. Lastly, what other project(s) are you working on right now?

TheSalvationPosterMy latest feature film The Salvation premiered in May this year at the Cannes Film Festival to a six-minute standing ovation.  It’s currently screening all over Europe and due for release in the States in the coming months. I was fortunate to work opposite Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen which was a fantastic experience.

The movie also stars Eva Green, Michael Raymond-James and Jonathan Pryce [as well as Jeffrey Dean Morgan – ed]. I’m currently filming a new South African TV series based on the atrocities of apartheid in the mid-eighties, as well as a short sci-fi film to be released on the festival circuit.

Here’s the full synopsis of The Salvation:

In 1870s America, a peaceful American settler kills his family’s murderer which unleashes the fury of a notorious gang leader. His cowardly fellow townspeople then betray him, forcing him to hunt down the outlaws alone.

And you can watch the trailer on youtube.


sean-cameron-michael-2

Thanks so much Sean for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.
Can’t wait to see season 2 of Black Sails!

Follow Sean on Twitter   and check out his 2014 Actor Reel on Vimeo


Hope you enjoyed the interview. Have you seen Black Sails? Are you as excited for Season 2 as I am? 

A lovely weekend in the Big Apple + Thoughts on 2014 Les Miz on Broadway

Hi everyone! I’m back. Well, s-l-0-w-l-y. I was blissfully *disconnected* for about 5 days, other than checking news on my iPhone occasionally, I didn’t write or visit any blogs at all. It felt pretty good actually, I guess I was feeling a bit burned out so that was a much-needed break.

Well, I didn’t see any movies at all this weekend. I don’t usually go to the cinema when I’m out of town. Not sure why I just prefer spending my time seeing the place I’m visiting, but of course I made time to see a show since we stayed near the Theatre District.

Imperial_LesMizMarquee

Can you believe it I never actually saw Les Misérables until this weekend? I almost didn’t make it as TKTS ran out of tickets (only singles were available), but glad I persisted and went directly to the Imperial Theater directly. We ended up with one of the best seats ever, four rows from stage right in the center!

This play a re-imagining by the same producer who revamped The Phantom of the Opera, Cameron Mackintosh. I knew I had to see it the fact that Phantom himself is playing Jean Valjean! ;) Ramin Karimloo played The Phantom in both the West End’s POTO and its sequel Love Never Dies (which I reviewed a few years back). I LOVE his booming tenor as Phantom, and boy did he impress me once again as Valjean.

LesMiz_2014ImperialTheater

Photos from Broadway.com – clockwise from bottom left: Ramin singing ‘Bring Him Home,’ Ramin as prisoner 24601, Building the Barricade scene, Marius & Eponine & Javert’s singing ‘Stars’

Ramin was a brilliant Phantom but I’d say his performance is even more electrifying as Valjean. His voice is just incredible from start to finish, but the ballad Bring Him Home is particularly moving. He’s definitely got stage charisma as well as the physicality and emotional gravitas to mesmerize an audience. Now I’m actually curious to see the film version and see how Hugh Jackman fares in the role of Valjean. Yep I haven’t seen the film either, believe it or not. From the trailer though, I definitely prefer Anne Hathaway’s performance to Caissie Levy as Fantine. I mean, I almost always cry whenever I hear her sing the iconic I Dreamed a Dream, but the stage rendition didn’t get me all emotional. My hubby joked that instead of Les Miserables, the way Fantine was portrayed here was less miserable :D

I like Earl Carpenter‘s voice and performance as Javert as well. Interestingly he had played Phantom before in the London production with Ramin as Raoul. I especially love the technique used when Javert threw himself into the Seine river. Overall, the male cast fared much better than the female ones. I’m not that impressed by all three main female characters (Fantine, Éponine, Cosette), both in terms of vocal and acting performance. The love triangle of sort between Marius, Éponine and Cosette fell rather flat, but I guess I wasn’t expecting high romance the way of Phantom & Christine in POTO.

So what’s the verdict? Well, despite some of the *flaws*, I enjoyed it tremendously. I certainly don’t mind seeing it again but only with Ramin as Valjean. He truly made the show for me and was always the highlight every time he appeared on screen. When he sang Bring Him Home, which is a prayer to heaven to save Marius, it’s as if he lifted the entire production to a whole new heights with his soulful and rich rendition that gave me goose bumps!! I’d think that any other production I’d see without him would be slightly less epic.

Check out the trailer below:

A Fab Weekend in the Big Apple

Well, the rest of the time we just did the tourist-y thing as we’ve got the NYC Pass. But of course we had to make a stop at Dominique Ansel bakery for their famous Cronuts [croissant donut in case you didn’t know)! We got there at 9 right as they opened but still had to wait an hour as they only allowed 20 ppl in at a time and there were about 3 times the number of people in line by that time! It was well worth it though, YUM! Thank the Lord for the fantabulously sunny weather. It only rained on Saturday which wasn’t a total wash-out, and the rest of the time we’re treated to a gorgeous & warm weather!

Ok folks, that’s it from the NYC trip. I’ll return to my regular blogging schedule later this week, starting with posting my interview with a cast member from Starz’s Black Sails, South African-based actor Sean Cameron Michael. So stay tuned! :D


….

Everybody’s Chattin’… RIP Richard Kiel (aka 007’s best henchman Jaws)

EverybodysChattin

I have New York City on my mind today as my hubby and I are flying there tomorrow for a few days. I’ll be taking a few days off blogging as well… but hey no fret, you have my fellow bloggers to keep you company [as if you aren't reading each other's posts already, ahah].

So here are some awesome posts my friends have put up this past week:

Margaret (aka Lady Sati) kept up with her Fincher series with another highlights from his films, this time it’s a memorable scene from The Social Network.

Kristin took part in the Flick Chicks’ Guilty Pleasure Blogathon, check out which five movies made her list.

SpectresCatWho doesn’t love cats… on screen or otherwise. Well Nick picked six best movie cats (but where’s Puss the Boots??) 

As for Telly Chattin’, Melissa posted her August TV Favorites, Zoë reviewed Netflix series House of Cards Season 1, whilst Getter (aka Mettel Ray) set her sights on What’s New this Fall.

Michael continued his awesome TMT series with Marnie, a Hitchcock movie I’ve been wanting to watch for some time, whilst Cindy highlights her favorite stop-motion animated movies.

We can always count on Mikey to bring us the most important news updates. He took to the streets of Glasgow to chat with some movie geeks about what they think of the whole Scottish Independent issue. 

Notable Reviews, mostly of films I haven’t seen yet:

CalvaryImageNostra reviewed Zero Theorem, Steven reviewed A Love Song for Bobby Long, Irene reviewed Blue Ruin. Rodney reviewed Draft Day, and Mark reviewed another Brendan Gleeson film I’m looking forward to seeing, Calvary.Meanwhile, Wendell reviewed a recent remake which I have seen and actually quite enjoyed, Robocop.

As for mini reviews, Fernando reviewed Chef & The Maze Runner, and Tim reviewed a couple Japanese animated movies.


RIP Richard Kiel

I just found out last night as I wrote this post that a character I grew up with just died. Richard Kiel died on Wednesday at the age of 74.

RichardKielJaws

Kiel_withBondVillains

Mr Kiel w/ fellow Bond villains: Christopher Lee, Rick Yune & Toby Stephens!

I remember growing up watching Roger Moore’s Bond movies, I was quite afraid as well as amused by the steel-toothed henchman. I don’t know much about his personal life but reading his articles about him, sounds like he’s a gentle giant whose smile was always as big as his stature. I also remember him in Happy Gilmore, it was such a hoot when he showed up and of course Mr. Kiel was always a scene stealer.

As a mini tribute to the late Michigan-born actor, here are three memorable scenes of him as Jaws, the ultimate & best Bond henchman ever.

 


Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! See you sometime next week!

Wordless Wednesday: 10 Memorable Scenes set in NYC

WordlessWednesday

Happy Midweek folks! I always choose a certain theme for my Wordless Wednesday posts and since I’ll be spending a few days in New York City this weekend, I thought I pick ten clips (including one music video) from some of my fave movies set in the Big Apple. I lost count how many times I’ve visited the city, in fact I was just there last year for my sister in-law’s wedding.

In any case, for this purpose I choose scenes that highlight the city, the streets, landmarks, Hudson river, etc., and some shows the daily life of New Yorkers, so they’re not necessarily the best scenes from the film. So without further ado, here we go…

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

 

Superman: The Movie (1978)

 

Working Girl (1988)

 

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

 

One Fine Day (1996)

 

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

 

Serendipity (2001)

 

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

 

The Visitor (2007)

 

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

 


So those are just 10 of my fave New York City scenes, feel free to share your own favorites!

Counting Down to Gone Girl – Ranking David Fincher’s Films

As part of countdown to Gone Girl that’s out on October 3, and part Birthday tribute to David Fincher (he turned 52 in Sept. 28), I asked my pal Ted S. who’s a longtime admirer of the director to rank nine of his films since Alien in 1992. 

TedSaydalavongBanner

RankingFincherFilms

David Fincher is one of the few elite A-list directors working in Hollywood today and he’s one of my favorites too. What’s so amazing was that he almost never became the filmmaker we know today. After the disastrous Alien 3, he got blacklisted by most if not all of the major studios at that time. If you own a Blu-ray set of the Alien movies, I highly recommend you watch the making of Alien 3, it’s one of the best behind scenes documentaries ever made. Long story short, everyone blamed Fincher for that film’s failure, even though it wasn’t his fault. But like he said, he’s young and stupid and he’s disowned the film ever since. I’ve decided to ranked all of the films that he directed (I’m excluding his music videos and TV work) from my least favorite to the best one.

9. Alien 3 (1992)

Fincher_Alien3

I think many people will agree with me that this was his worse film. But you know what? Even if it’s a lame film in the franchise, it’s miles better than the awful Alien: Resurrection, heck I’ll even admit that I really enjoyed this one. Mostly because of Fincher’s visual style, Elliot Godenthal‘s excellent score and very good performances by the actors. The film should’ve never been made in the first place but everyone involved did their best to make it watchable. I think had it been made by another director, the film would’ve been unwatchable.

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Fincher_BenjaminButton

It’s a bit too long and reminded me way too much of Forrest Gump. But it’s a still a very good film and of course it looks great. It’s one of Fincher’s films that I don’t feel the need to see it again anytime soon.

7. Panic Room (2002)

Fincher_PanicRoom

I think this film might be his most underrated work and sort of forgotten by many people. Personally I thought it’s an excellent thriller with great performance by Jodie Foster and of course Fincher’s direction was top notch. You might not recognize the very young and boyish looking Kristen Stewart who played Foster’s daughter. This film also include one of the best opening credits I’ve ever seen, see it here:

6. The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Fincher_DragonTattoo

I’ll probably get a lot of flak for saying this but I prefer Fincher’s version to the original Swedish one. Don’t get me wrong the original was good but I just prefer Fincher’s style and of course with bigger budget, the film looked spectacular. I guess after making a couple of light PG13 films, Fincher was itching to make another violent and dark flick and this one didn’t disappoint. The only complaint I have was the strange choice he made of letting his actors speaking either with weird accent or no accent at all. Daniel Craig spoke with his normal British accent while everyone else spoke with some kind weird Swedish accent, that’s just weird to me. This one also comes with a cool opening credits, very similar to the Bond flicks. Maybe since he cast James Bond in the film, he decided to include an opening credit like a Bond film. See it here:

5. The Game (1997)

Fincher_TheGame

After the huge success of Se7en, there were big expectations for his third film. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver as many has hoped but personally I enjoyed the film very much. In fact, if not for the cop-out ending, I would’ve put this one up higher on my list. I was actually quite ticked off with the ending the first time I saw it. But after watching it a few more times, I learned to appreciate what Fincher was trying to do but I still can’t forgive him for including that lame ending. Michael Douglas was pretty great in the film though and even Sean Penn was quite effective in a small supporting role. If you have some extra cash and really like the film, do get the Criterion Bluray, it’s an excellent HD transfer.

4. Zodiac (2007)

Fincher_Zodiac

Fincher’s first film to have been shot mostly on digital and it looked spectacular! This was my second favorite film of 2007 behind No Country For Old Men, I can’t recommend it enough to people. Excellent performances by the actors, great writing and of course tight direction by Fincher. It’s one of the films that actually creeps me out, there were couple of scenes in the film that gave me goose bumps. One of the best films of the decade.

3. Fight Club (1999)

Fincher_FightClub

So basically this was the film that catapulted Fincher into fame. Surprisingly though, the film tanked at the box office but became quite popular when it hits home video. It’s a little nostalgic but this film was the first DVD I ordered through Amazon and around that time, it’s the best DVD when it comes to picture, sound and special features. I must’ve played the disc on my first DVD player many many times. Of course when it came out on Bluray, I snatched it up fast. It’s a film that needs to be seen by all film buffs.

A little fun fact about the film, originally it was scheduled to come out in summer season. Fox executives thought it’s going to be an action picture and Brad Pitt has just became a big star, so they figured it would be a good summer flick. Well after Fincher showed them the early cut, they freaked out and released it in slow fall season.

2. The Social Network (2010)

Fincher_SocialNetwork

I have to admit that when they first announced a movie about Facebook was happening, I didn’t have much interest in it at all. Even after Fincher signed up to direct, I still wasn’t interest in seeing it. You see around that time, I was sick of Facebook, it seemed everyone and their grandmother was using it and I just didn’t care to see a movie about it. But at the urging of my friend, I’ve decided to give it a shot and boy I’m glad I went to see it. I was mesmerized by what Fincher has done with the story about the biggest social media site on earth. Instead of just showing how Facebook was built, he focused on the relationships between the people who were involved in building the site. Of course being that it’s a movie, many of the events happened were mostly made up or changed to make it more cinematic. Also, since I’ve been involved with many start-ups throughout my career, I appreciate how Fincher dabbled into the field that many people might not know or care about. Heck currently there’s a good drama involving the founders of a popular dating app called Tinder. Google Tinder and its founders and you’ll find some good reads.

Of course after the movie came out, many people who were involved in building Facebook said everything that happened in the movie never took place. Even Fincher said he wasn’t interest in telling the history of Facebook, he just wanted to tell a good story about friendship, greed and the eventual backstabbing.

1. Se7en (1995)

Fincher_Se7en

After almost 20 years, it’s still one of the best thrillers ever made in my opinion. Heck, I’d rank this one higher than Silence of the Lambs. This dark and creepy tale of a serial killer who kills people base on their sin is a masterpiece. I can go on and on about why I love this film so much but if you’ve never seen it, then please see it as soon as you can! Some consider it a violent film but most of the violence happened off screen. And that ending, wow what an ending!

You can buy it cheap on Bluray, it’s an excellent HD transfer and I highly recommend it.

TedS_post


So those are my favorite Fincher’s films in order, are you a fan of his too and do you agree with my ranking? Do share your favorites in the comment section.

Weekend Roundup: TCFF Sneak Peek, a French comedy & the Great Gatsby

Happy Sunday everyone!

Well it was a rather packed weekend starting with the a TCFF Insider Series event on Friday night. It was the perfect venue for early September as a touch of Autumn filled the air as we gathered poolside at the University Club in St Paul on top of Ramsey hill, whilst sipping cocktail & munching delicious hors d’oeuvres.

TCFFSneakPeek

We watched a compilation of 12 trailers of some indies/docs/features films that’ll be showing at the film fest in mid October. One of the features are already on my most-anticipated Fall movies list, yay! I can’t tell you yet which films are playing as details are still being finalized, but let’s just say I’m super excited!

Well I only got to see two movies this weekend. Somehow my hubby and I have been in the mood for French comedies lately. Last week we saw The French Minister, well this weekend we saw…

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)

I’m not always a fan of Luc Besson movies but this one turns out to be entertaining. It’s got a bit of Indiana Jones/The Mummy but with a female heroine instead. But this movie is more of a zany fantasy-comedy with some laugh-out-loud moments involving mummies being brought back to life. Louis Bourgoin as the protagonist is fun to watch. She reminds me a bit of Katherine Heigl with dark hair but with more spunk and likable presence. Mathieu Amalric (who I remember as the villain in Quantum of Solace) has a small role but entirely unrecognizable here under heavy *ugly* makeup.

AdeleBlancSec_movie

The movie is loosely based on a French comic of the same name that takes place in in 1910s Paris which features some gorgeous scenery of the city of Light. Some of the movie’s more fun and fantastical part involves a large Pterosaurs that hatched when a Professor uses a telepathic technique. The CGI looks pretty good and definitely enhances the fantasy element of the story. I was quite surprised however, that the reason for all those adventures Adèle went through turns out to be quite a heart-wrenching, albeit there were some creepy moments involving Adèle’s sister. Besson made some hilarious *historical* reference as to the origin of the pyramid in front of the Louvre, though the cliffhanger involving a doomed ocean liner is rather odd.

Overall I enjoyed it, I think if you like the two action-adventure movies I mentioned above, you might enjoy this one too.

3.5 reels


Sunday night is usually reserved for some Toby Stephens watching and this time I chose this TV Movie of …

The Great Gatsby (2000 TV Movie)

GreatGatsby_2000_TVmovie

I’ve seen this movie three times so far and I enjoyed it every single time. Sure it didn’t have the lavish style of Baz Luhrmann’s version nor its budget to depict the lavish, over-the-top parties in Gatsby’s house, but it certainly didn’t put me to sleep like the 1974 version with Robert Redford. I wish this adaptation had captured the manic energy of the roaring 20s though, even the music was a bit melodramatic. But the two performances, Toby as Jay Gatsby and Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway, won me over. In fact, just like in the 2013 movie, there’s more chemistry between Jay & Nick than Jay and Daisy.

Toby made for a charming & suave Gatsby, with that signature smirk of his and looking dapper in those tailored suits, but what I like about his performance was how emotional and real it was. The way he looked at Mira Sorvino’s Daisy made you believe he truly was infatuated with her, that he was besotted beyond reason. I’ve grown to like Rudd’s performance here as well as the story’s most relatable character. I’ve seen him mostly in comedies but he certainly had dramatic chops and he makes for a compelling and sympathetic narrator of the story. What’s more important than the visual style and costumes, which this adaptation lacked due to budget constraints, it does capture the tragic story of Gatsby and like Nick, I certainly was on Gatsby’s side.

Since I bought the dvd, it came with a great biography of its author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who undoubtedly has lived an intriguing life that rivals his most famous literary hero.

3.5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend roundup folks. So what did you see, anything good?

Five for the Fifth: SEPTEMBER 2014 Edition

FiveForFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. As customary with Five for the Fifth, I’d like to highlight a filmmaker/actor who’s having a birthday today. Well, it so happens that Paddy Considine turns 41 today.

PaddyConsidine

The underrated British actor is perhaps most well-known to mainstream audiences from his brief role in Bourne Ultimatum, remember the Waterloo station scene? I actually first saw Paddy in the excellent 2002 drama In America, as well as in two of the Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy: Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. Aside from being a terrific actor, Considine is also an acclaimed filmmaker. He won a BAFTA for his directing work in Tyrannosaur starring Peter Mullan.

So what’s your favorite film from this talented English actor?
….

2. I haven’t posted a trailer in a while and this one caught my attention from the past week, Escobar: Paradise Lost.

In Colombia, a young surfer meets the woman of his dreams – and then he meets her uncle, Pablo Escobar.

I thought that the casting of Josh Hutcherson as the young surfer is interesting as I’ve only seen him in The Hunger Games so far. Benicio del Toro seems suited to play the mighty powerful Colombian drug kingpin, and he looks quite menacing in the trailer.

EscobarParadiseLost

I’ve been meaning to check out this documentary called The Two Escobars that focuses on the lives of two unrelated men who shares the same last name but somehow their lives were inextricably – and fatally – intertwined. Now I’m not sure how historically-accurate Paradise Lost is, other than using Pablo’s character in the story.

Thoughts on this one? Does the trailer pique your interest?

3. Most of you are probably familiar with Dan Stevens from his Downton Abbey role as Matthew Crawley. Well, if you google him now, he looks quite different from his Downton days. He apparently lost a lot of weight and had been training extensively to look leaner and athletic. I wasn’t watching the show yet when he reportedly left the show to pursue a Hollywood career, and so far it seems, it’s paid off.

DanStevensDowntonAbbey

Stevens in Downton Abbey

DanStevensTheGuest

Stevens in The Guest

DanStevensWalkTombstones

Stevens in Walk Among the Tombstones

The English actor seems adamant to shed his period drama image as his upcoming roles are pretty bad ass. He’s playing the lead in The Guest as a soldier who introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. It’s an R-rated thriller that looks quite sinister. Another film he’s starring that’s also out this month looks to be quite a violent one. This time he’s playing supporting role to Liam Neeson’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, as a Brooklyn drug trafficker  whose wife was murdered.

The actor’s uprooted his family to NYC as well, perhaps to make things easier for his career as Hollywood beckons. Quoted in Daily Mail, he admitted that it was the hardest decision he had to make leaving Downton, but he said ‘I’ve got an appetite to learn new things. It’s nothing more than that.’

So my question to you is, which actor/actress (be it TV or film) would you like to see reinvent themselves in a similar fashion?

….

4. Ok, now some casting news that’s been circulating the blogosphere this past week. Well, this happens to be a remake of Escape from New York that’s been in development hell for some time, heh perhaps that’s a sign they should’ve left it well enough alone? Reportedly Charlie Hunnam has just been cast as Snake Plissken, a role that Kurt Russell was perhaps best known for.

Hunnam_SnakePlissken
Apparently Dan Stevens was up for the role as well, interestingly enough. I think Hunnam is better-suited as Plissken though, he’s got more of that devil-may-care grit and bad-assery about him that comes more naturally to him than Stevens. I remember a few years back there were reports that Russell was miffed that the studio was considering Gerry Butler, a Scot, to play an iconic all-American role. Ahah well, this time they gave it to an English actor anyway. Seems that Hunnam’s one busy actor, he’s also working on yet another King Arthur adaptation (directed by Guy Ritchie) with him in the title role.

In any case, here’s the rumored plot for the Escape of New York remake per Firstshowing: Rather than just focusing on Snake Plissken venturing through the prison that is New York, this time the story sees Plissken teaming with “a rogues gallery of criminals who look to leave the island-turned-prison in exchange for the rescue of the captured U.S. President.”

What do you think of this casting news and this remake project in particular?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Tim from Tim Film Reviews Blog.

TimFilmReviewsSo here it is in his own words:

It’s a question I’ve been pondering since the recent release schedule. Most people associate comic-book movies with big budget tentpole Summer movies, but there are actually quite a few small to medium budget movies made well under $100M. Dredd, Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim, Blade, Hellboy, etc. just to name a few.

Well, do you think superhero/comic book films should get a big-budget treatment?


Well, that’s it for the September 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

FlixChatter Review: The November Man (2014)

TedSaydalavongBanner

NovemberManPoster

It’s been over a decade since Pierce Brosnan played a spy, his last outing as 007 in the atrocious Die Another Day probably was not the way he wanted to go out after 4 very successful Bond films, financially speaking only of course. Along with Die Another Day, I thought The World Is Not Enough is also up there with being one of the worst Bond films ever made. Brosnan is now back playing another sort of super spy and believe it or not, it might be worse than the last two Bond flicks he starred in.

This new film starts with the usual spy flick, a beautiful location in Montenegro and we’re introduced to an aging spy Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) and his young protégé David Mason (Luke Bracey). They’re in the city to protect a very important US Congressman, later there was an assassination attempt and during the chaos, Mason took out the assassin but unfortunately he also killed an innocent kid who happens to be in the wrong place. This infuriated Devereaux because the young spy wouldn’t listen to him and killed an innocent bystander. Fast forwarded a few years later and Devereaux is now retired and living in Switzerland. His old boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) showed up and asked for his help.

Apparently a very important and dangerous man named Federov (Lazar Ristovski) in Russia is going to become its next president and US government doesn’t want that to happen. There’s a mole inside Federov’s circle and she has evidence against him that can destroy his campaign of becoming the president. Hanley wants Devereaux to rescue her before she gets exposed and also he wants the evidence against Federov. As it turns out this mole is Devereaux’s old girlfriend and he still has feelings for her. Of course he accepts the mission and decided to get back in action. Unfortunately though, a top CIA executive Perry Weinstein (Will Patton) found out about this mole and wants her taken out. He ordered his agents to assassinate her, one of these agents also included Devereaux’s protégé David Mason. Of course things gets messy when Devereaux and his old pal finally meet during a botched rescue. There were shootouts, explosions and car chases.

NovemberManStills

The plot of this movie was so convoluted that I sort of tuned out because it was not interesting to me. They introduced a lot of things but never really solved them by the time the movie ended. It’s one of those movies where it thinks it’s smarter than it’s actually is. Veteran director Roger Donaldson who at one point was on his way of becoming an A-list director, doesn’t seem to know what he wanted this movie to be. And to be honest, I don’t think he really care about telling a cohesive story or even staged a descent action scene. He and his cinematographer decided to adapt the visual that’s very similar to Paul Greengrass’ Jason Bourne films, unfortunately their movie looks pretty ugly compare to Greengrass’. Could be that maybe they don’t have the budget as big as the Bourne films but still the movie looked just awful. Even worse the script by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek felt like it’s written by amateur writers. The movie was based on a Bill Granger’s  novel called There Are No Spies, I’ve never read or even heard of the book before so I couldn’t make a comparison here.

NovemberManStill1

Performances wise, the only person who shines was Brosnan, since he’s also the producer of the movie, it seemed he really put a lot of heart into his performance here. Unfortunately his co-stars didn’t do much. Luke Bracey probably went to the same acting school as Taylor Kitsch since he has no charisma and didn’t even look believable during the action scenes. Ex-Bond girl Olga Kurylengo pretty much got stuck playing the same character since Quantum of Solace, in fact her storyline in this movie is very similar to that of Quantum. I couldn’t believe it! I just thought to myself, are the writers really that lazy and didn’t think no one would notice?

It’s really unfortunate how this movie turned out, I thought after so many years out of doing action movie, Brosnan would’ve learned his lesson and chose a good script. Apparently he didn’t and starred in another lousy action/spy picture. I really tried to find something positive to say about this movie but I really can’t. It’s ugly, boring and worse of all just a waste of time. Not recommended at all.

onereel

TedS_post


Have you seen The November Man? Well, what did you think?