The Twilight Zone TV Series (1959-1964): Character Actors’ Paradise!

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Greetings all and sundry!

Having laughed uproariously over the hue and cry of the media’s perceived panic from its Meteorologists, weather people and Doomsday oracles regarding Climate Change along the nation’s East Coast. I’ve also been allotted time wisely used to suit up, dig deep and scribble notes about one of the best episodic Anthology television series of the very late 1950s and 60s.

Which graced prime time evening B&W screens for five 30 episode seasons. Allowed copious room for young and notable writing talents of Rod Serling, Richard Matheson and others to come up with the verbal grist for tales. Predominantly in the usually dark fantasy realm. Though Science Fiction would drop by from time to time. Providing a “Who’s Who” and Rogues Galley of talent from novices to seasoned veterans to deliver the consistently satisfying goods.

So, please allow me a few moments of your time. As I wax nostalgic and apply my own unique perspective in high or spotlighting these talents with:

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The Twilight Zone (1959-1964):
Character Actors’ Paradise!

Every historian, critic, blogger, geek, nerd and fan person has their own personal list. So, I expect to catch some Flak. That comes with the territory in my selections. But that is what sites like this are all about. The polite discussion of like and differing views and opinions.Though, I do claim sole responsibility for the categories and methods used in my proffered selections.

#1: Best Solo Performance:
The Invaders (Season 2, Ep. 15)

Picture a barren mountainous Outback. A lone ramshackle shack and its old, solitary and silent woman eking through evening chores in a spartan kitchen to a meal on the table. When a loud noise followed by a crash upon the roof turns the old crone’s world upside down.

The old crone is veteran actress, Agnes Moorehead. At the time, a very popular commodity and frightening voice acting talent for the radio stage play/soap opera, ‘Sorry, Wrong Number’. And later, as the evil witch and Mother In Law, “Endora” on ABC’s ‘Bewitched’. Denied the use of her pipes. Though making up for it through facial expression, gestures and Physicality. Delivering an Emmy worthy performance. As she cautiously gives into Curiosity, fear and finally, retribution as the cause(s) of the noise and crash make themselves known!

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All done on a next to nothing set better suited for a small stage play. Spartan and wanting in every respect. While speaking volumes loudly in setting mood and shadowy, sometimes dusty and lamp lit atmosphere! Also a model of frugality with the episode’s Director, Douglas Heyes providing the tinny whispered voices of what doesn’t belong.

Honorable Mentions:

Where Is Everybody? (S1.E1)
As Earl Holliman (‘The Big Combo’, ‘Police Woman’) tries to make sense of his investigation of an abandoned rural town. Searching high and low. Coming up empty while staving off panic and a possible breakdown.

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The Last Night of a Jockey (S5. E5)
Mickey Rooney as a washed up jockey in a cheap flop house room. Facing doping charges while arguing over the telephone with the reporter who broke the case. Until ironic fate intervened.

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King Nine Will Not Return (S2 E1)
Bob Cummings (‘My Living Doll’) is the sole survivor of a battle damaged B-25 medium bomber crash landed in the North African desert during WWII. The episode’s twenty five minutes is devoted to Mr. Cummings’ Capt. James Embry searching the downed plane and surrounding sands for the missing crew members. While retracing the steps of the mission and fighting heat stroke and dehydration.

Note: Based somewhat on the true story of a B-24 bomber, ‘Lady Be Good’ lost during WWII. And discovered intact during oil exploration of the Libyan desert.

#2: Episode I Most Empathize With:
Time Enough At Last (S1 E8)

Stalwart veteran of the art, Burgess Meredith is meek, quiet, henpecked at home bank teller, book keeper Henry Bemis. Of poor vision and very thick glasses, Mr. Bemis has a vice. Close to an obsession and easy form of escape. Reading.

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Books. Newspapers. Not a surfeit of magazines. Mr. Bemis can be found with his nose buried in any of them. When he should be paying attention behind the Teller’s counter to customers wanting to transact business and finances. Life is not good for Mr. Bemis. Nor is it for the rest of the world as that pesky political “Doomsday Clock” ticks and clicks closer to midnight. Which means nothing to Henry as he heads off to work. Takes his lunch in the bank’s basement vault. Contentedly reading away. Surrounded by steel and paper, Two of nature’s better insulators against blast and radiation. As the ground shakes. Dust falls and the lights go out.

Leaving Mr. Bemis alone amongst the ruins of fallen building and businesses. Intent of finding the local library. Which he pillages for stacks and stacks of authors; works. Mixed with history and other temping delights. Finding a comfortable place to sit on the library’s stone steps. Henry takes his glasses off to clean them. They drop and lenses break amongst the rubble.

Personal Note: Though I despised grade school “Dick & Jane”primers as a child. I somehow learned to love words. Their construction, music and proper spelling by age ten. I don’t know how or why. But I latched onto it. And a pair of glasses. The results has been a voracious appetite. With many more paperbacks than hard covers. As the former gave me something to be occupied with after completing maintenance tasks on aircraft assigned to dozens of flight lines around the world through a decades long career.

#3: Best Use Of Available Talent:
The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine (S1 E4)

Though this episode completely slipped through on my critique of Martin Balsam on It Rains… You Get Wet blog. I’ll give this episode its due. For excellent us of Ms. Ida Lupino as Barbara Jean Trenton. Fading, near forgotten movie star. Who spends most of her time watching herself and other actors in the “screening room” of her expansive home.

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Fate begins to intervene with the arrival of her agent, Danny Weiss (Tailor made Martin Balsam), who has a proposition for a part in an upcoming film. Opposite another older leading man, Marty Sall (Arrogant Ted De Corsia). Who now runs a chain of popular super markets. And demands a face to face interview. Which really doesn’t go very well. As the egos of two Divas clash. And Billy is left to smooth ruffled feathers. Give a few deserved verbal licks to Marty. And pick up the pieces as Barbara returns home. Sits before the screen to avoid the questioning maid. Who opens the screening room door as Danny arrives. Only to see Barbara on the screen. Gliding away into the scene. Before turning and tossing a red silk scarf that blanks out the.image. Leaving Billy to turn and enter the wide foyer and find Barbara’s scarf.

Note: Good old fashioned story telling. Highlighted by Ms. Lupino and Mr. Balsam. Aided with Mr. Serling’s bit of homage to Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. While using the film’s original composer, Franz Waxman.

Honorable Mention:

The Masks (S5 E25)

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One of the earliest, creepiest and beat precursors to the novel and later film, Daddy’s Dying. Who’s Got The Will?!. Though, in this tale directed by Ms. Ida Lupino. The location is New Orleans. And “Daddy” is wealthy industrialist, Jason Harper. Who has invited his whiny, hypochondriac daughter, Emily (Virginia Gregg). Her greedy, near sociopath husband, Wilfred (Milton Selzer). Narcissist grand daughter, Paula (Brooke Hayward) and sadistic, glutton, Wilfred Jr. (Alan Sues)… All they have to do is don and wear the masks Jason had made by “an old Cajun”and perfectly reflect their inner selves until midnight

#4: Jack Klugman:
A Passage for Trumpet (S1 E36)

Mr. Klugman plays beyond down and out, broke and proven untrustworthy trumpeter, Joey Crown. Who pawns his horn and steps in front of a speeding truck. Shaken and confused, Joey discovers that he’s not exactly dead. Nor alive, either. More like in a holding pattern until greater decisions are made. And surprised that someone else can see and hear him. A dapper well dressed gentleman with a horn named Gabriel (John Anderson). Who talks to Joey and lets him see where he screwed up his life, club owners and friends. And didn’t. Delivering the gift of optimism as Joey returns to the Pawn Shop and hears the squeal of a trucks brakes.

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Flashed back to the moment of the accident. Where he gets up from the sudden crowd around him. Dusts himself off as the truck driver hopes Joey will keep his mouth shut. Stuffs a wad a bills in his hand. And Joey ready to buy back his horn. Play it on a rooftop within earshot of a woman new to the city (Mary Webster) who likes his playing. And takes Joey a step further into his new life.

A Game of Pool (S3 E5)
Jesse Cardiff (Mr. Klugman) is a kind of sloppy, unkempt pool player/hustler with dreams of immortality. Gifted, but not quite as good as the seriously revered, James H. “Fats” Brown. Whom players and wannabes around Chicago and Lister’s pool hall keep reminding Jesse of and comparing him to. But, Jesse is just a tad wanting. Until Jesse calls “Fats” out in a pique of anger.

Surprised. Jesse turns at a sound as “Fats” (Jonathan Winters. Surprising calm, level headed and good!) introduces himself and the stakes are set… Immortality for one. Anonymity for the other. Winner take all!

In Praise of Pip (S5 E1)
Max Phillips (Mr. Klugman) is a two time loser bookie with a conscience. Suffering from a gunshot wound from a botched hit. And has received a DoD telegram informing him that his son, Pip has been seriously wounded in a far off country called Vietnam. Which doesn’t help Max’s present plight of trying to elude the persistent shooter through the arcades, rides, crowds and noise of Pacific Ocean Park.

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Turning away from a kiosk, Max thinks he see his young son, Pip (Billy Mumy) break away from a clutch of gawkers. And leads Max on a chase to catch up. Stumbling into a House of Mirrors. Max finds Pip. Who explains that he is dying. Before dashing deeper into the mirrored mystery and beyond. Unable to follow due to blood loss. Max prays to God to take his life in lieu of Pip’s.

Many years later. A grown Pip returns to the Park with the aid of a cane. To remember his father and all of the fun times shared there.

#5: Best Use Of A Well Hidden Ironic “McGufffin':
To Serve Man (S3 E24)

To all of the true fanciers of this classic, long running series. All I have to say is: “It’s… It’s a cookbook!”

Honorable Mentions:

The Eye Of The Beholder (S2 E6)

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A woman under heavy bandages (Maxine Stuart) awakes under heavy bandages awakes from having undergone state sanctioned and mandated facial reconstructive surgery. In the hope of being beautiful. Or at least looking like everybody else. In a tale told exclusively from Ms. Stuart’s perspective. Expressing joy and anticipation. Until the bandage come off!

The Rip Van Winkle Caper (S2 E24)

An arrogant criminal “mastermind”, Farwell (Oscar Berigi Jr.) assembles three expendable accomplices. De Cruz (Simon Oakland), Brooks (Lew Gallo) and Erbie (John MiItchum) to hijack and rob an armored car shipment of gold from Fort Knox, Kentucky to Los Angeles. The robbery goes well and the gang pulls their vehicles into a cave at the base of a granite mountain. Where Farwell has arranged their “escape plan”. Four man sized cylinders to be filled gas that will put them into suspended animation for 100 years. Far exceeding any Statute of Limitation. The hired help is skeptical, especially De Cruz, but climb inside their chambers.Only to awake and find that Erbie’s chamber had been breached by a fallen rock and leaving a wretched looking skeleton.

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The pick up truck Farwell has secured still runs. And Farwell promptly runs over Brooks and over turns the transportation dodging Brooks bullets. leaving a 50-50 split of whatever gold bar De Cruz and Farwell can carry as they walk towards civilization, De Cruz starts putting high prices on sips of water from De Cruz’s one remaining canteen. Farwell has had enough and shoots De Cruz. Stumbles out onto an endless deserted highway. And if found near death and rambling about gold to an elder couple out on a Sunday Hover Car ride. George (Wallace Rooney) calls the police to report the body. As he and his wife (Shirley O’Hara) share a laugh over gold being worthless for close to a century.

#6: Best, Over The Top Chewing Of Scenery:
Nightmare At 20.000 Feet (S5 E3)

William Shatner is Bob Wilson. A businessman recovering from a nervous breakdown. Who is traveling back home with his wife, Julia (Christine White) on a Douglas DC-4 airliner. Bob also has the sad misfortune of being assigned a window seat just behind the plane’s propeller engines. Drawing the window’s blind closed as a the airliner tries climbing above a thunderstorm. Whose accompanying lightning reveals something on the left wing!

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Bob must quell the desire, the near need to absolutely lose it. Lest he return to the Sanitorium as the thing (A Gremln) toys with Bob between bouts of tearing off wing panels. Julia senses something is amiss and tries to calm Bob. Who has fifteen minutes of “logical insanity” to play with, And is even more certain of the sabotage. Even if those whom he calls to look out his window see nothing. Determined. Bob notices a uniformed cop of a holstered .38. Takes matters and the pistol into his own hands, And turns the “Emergency Exit” latch beneath his window…

Honorable Mention:

The Obsolete Man (S2 E29)

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Burgess Meredith is Romney Wordsworth. A librarian caught up in a future totalitarian society where words and their meaning have become confused, irrelevant and obsolete. Finding himself persecuted and on trial for his life. Prosecuted by the smug, arrogant and erudite “Chancellor” (Fritz Weaver). Who easily turns around every one of Wordsworth’s arguments. Wordsworth is deemed “Obsolete” and scheduled to die at midnight. By a method of Wordworth’s choosing. With the State taking advantage of present technology and broadcasting the execution live!

Now. One may expect that Burgess Meredith can chew some righteous scenery, given the opportunity. And he does get some decent licks in. But, it is Fritz Weaver’s “Chancellor” who gloats and revel in the infallibility and surety of the State who runs past the End Zone with it! So sure of himself. His position and power. As he shares Mr. Wordsworth’s last moments on earth.

But, Mr. Wordworth is content and serene. Having made his peace. Quietly reading The Bible as the hidden bomb ticks down. The Chancellor starts showing cracks and signs of weakness, cowardice. And fear! Being allowed to escape seconds before the bomb in Mr. Wordsworth’s quarters explodes. Leaving The Chancellor to face the wrath of his staff, minions and the State!

Overall Consensus

Being of a time and age when “Must See TV” of the 1970s and 80s was decades away. Certain series were given their allotted half hour or hour to be enjoyed around the television set week after week. And The Twilight Zone was one of those series. Not necessarily for a glimpse at a “Monster of The Week”, but for each episode’s stab at uniqueness and difference from competing shows. Best shown in its near forgotten Canne’s Palm D’Or winner, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge (S5 E22). A superb import that deals with “What could happen against what did happen” during a Civil War attempted act of sabotage.

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Yes. Several episodes have been forgotten, but this is my thumbnail of collected works. And what offerings have stayed with me. And aided in the selection and inclusion of those exceptional pieces of work more than ready to be spotlighted and discussed.


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Check out Kevin’s other posts and reviews


Agree? Disagree? Wish to offer personal choices? The Floor Is Open For Discussion!

Music Break: Not Another Happy Ending (2012)

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I’ve been wanting to do this post for over a month now. In fact, if I had my way I’d just be blogging about this movie and Stanley Weber until my fingers bleed. But that’s what Tumblr is for ;)

Ok so you probably know by now I’ve been obsessed with this Scottish rom-com for some time. I’m gonna do a massive post on it when I can get my act together but one of the things I’m obsessing about is the songs! I love that the producers/filmmakers feature Scottish musicians which fit perfectly with the tone of the movie and the Glasgow setting.

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Thanks to NAHE for introducing me to Sandi Thom. I really like her pop/folk/rock style, so definitely an artist to watch for.

I also love the instrumental score by Scottish composer Lorne Balfe.


There’s a certain Scottish charm in this song by TeenCanteen. It fits the rather neurotic personality of Karen Gillan‘s character perfectly! I love how their thick Scottish brogue is audible in the song, too.

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Another track by Sandi Thom, a melancholy ballad that always gives me all the feels whenever I think of the male lead in the movie, ehm.

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This one is a beautiful ballad from Scottish R&B artist Emeli Sandé. I absolutely adore this song, it’s become my daily routine to listen to it.

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Now I especially love these two songs because the scenes they appear in are my favorites in the film. If you’ve seen the movie, I think you’ll know why :P But seriously, these songs are so awesome I’m glad I came across The Proclaimers and Twin Atlantic. Boy, the Scottish music scene must be quite spectacular!

 


Hope you enjoy this music break! Are you familiar w/ any of the songs/artists featured here?

My entry to the Movie Roulette Blogathon

movie-roulette-posterWhen I saw this blogathon that Getter over at Mettel Ray Blog is hosting, I simply had to participate! What an awesome idea, and original one at that. It must’ve taken her ages to made five of those gifs.

Here are the rules:
1. There are 25 facts, you have to pick 5 or more and for each, you drag out a movie as an answer! *Click on the gif, hold it and drag out a single movie*
2. You can only drag out one movie for each statement, no do overs,
3. Write down your answers and feel free to comment whether they make sense or not.
4. Link back to this announcement, and link to the Movie Roulette Ultimate Gif Set as well!
5. Last but not least, have fun!

This proves to be quite fun to do, though I have to admit sometimes I pick the movie first then look at the facts [hope that’s ok Getter!] :D Ok, here goes:

1. This movie describes my mood in the mornings the best

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You’ve Got Mail

Every morning, first thing I check is my iPad for email/twitter/tumblr, etc. In a way, my online connection is what fuels my day :P

2. I hate the main [male] characters of this movie, but I think they [are] still very hot

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This Means War

I abhor the daft idea of this movie but I still watched it [on the plane] for these two guys. I mean Tom Hardy AND Chris Pine looking every bit as gorgeous in every scene? Heck yeah!

3. I would make love to this movie’s plot, it’s amazing

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Casablanca

Glad I saw this on the big screen, thanks to TCM Rerelease! One of the best stories about unrequited love… beautifully done all around.

4. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night thinking about this movie… it’s so good!

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The Dark Knight

As I just happened to see this interrogation scene during Christopher Nolan’s lecture earlier this month, I remember thinking about how good this scene is. It’s so well-constructed and the two actors are absolutely perfect. It was mesmerizing and it really riled me up.

5. When I think of my childhood, I think of this movie

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Superman: The Movie

Well naturally. I saw this when I was a wee girl, probably 4-5, and even at that age, I immediately fell for Christopher Reeve. Yep, he set the bar VERY high for my future crushes.

6. Every time this movie is on TV, I turn it off and sit in complete silence instead

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Friends with Benefits

This movie actually never came on TV as I barely watch any TV. But if it were, I’d rather sit in silence or watch paint dry than watch this.

7. This movie makes me so emotional I even cried while watching it

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HER

I saw this in a nearly empty cinema and I’m glad there was nobody sitting near me as I was bailing my eyes out in some scenes. It struck me hard emotionally… it was a beautiful experience.

8. If I ever made a movie, it would be something similar to this movie

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Notting Hill

I’m referring to the basic idea of this film, and I’ve been toying w/ the idea for some time. In fact, this inspires me to resurrect the Fantasy Movie Pitch blogathon that a now-defunct blog used to do a few years ago.

10. I always wanted to punch this movie’s main character(s) in the face

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Twilight

I don’t usually get such a violent reaction whilst seeing a movie but can you blame me? I actually watched some clips of this as it’s now on Netflix Streaming [not sure why since I hated it the first time]. I had such a strong reaction wanting to punch these two silly that I simply turned it off.

10. I’m going to recommend this movie to the next person who asks me to recommend them a movie! (Challenge accepted!)

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Nightcrawler

I’ve actually been recommending this to people who haven’t seen it, and will continue to do so!


Well that’s been tricky but fun! What do you think of my picks?

FlixChatter Review: Far from the Madding Crowd

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I have to admit the first time I heard about this novel was a few years ago when Richard Armitage’s character in the Christmas edition of Vicars of Dibley mentioned this Thomas Hardy’s novel as his favorite. Well, I remember reaching about what that novel was about and was immediately hooked. So a headstrong woman in Victorian England attracts three very different suitors, I definitely like the sound of that.

In stories like this, casting is crucial and that’s why I approach this review more from that angle. Let me start with the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene.

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I love the fact that Bathsheba is played by Carey Mulligan who’s appropriately free spirited and convincing as an independent young woman. A woman living in 19th-century England would not straddle her horse like she does when she rides, and she works the farm just as hard as any man.

When she first encountered Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer, he’s immediately smitten and it’s easy to see why. Matthias Schoenaerts, who somehow reminds me of Viggo Mortensen in this role, portrays Gabriel with deep vulnerability. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him.

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Their two lives somehow turned out drastically different — Bathsheba became wealthy when she suddenly inherited her uncle’s estate, whilst Gabriel came to a misfortune in one tragic night. The interesting dynamic of their circumstances only adds to the intrigue of their relationship, especially given how a female boss was quite a rare occurrence back in the day. I like how the film shows how Bathsheba tried to defy convention the best way she could, to make in a man’s world and be taken seriously as a farm owner.

The next suitor is more of Bathsheba’s equal in terms of economic status though he’s considerably older in age. Michael Sheen gives a dignified presence to William Boldwood, but also the appropriate sensitivity of someone who’s financially successful but one who’s been unlucky in love. The relationships between Bathsheba and these two men are especially engaging, it’s made a bit trickier by the fact that Boldwood likes Gabriel and appreciate his fervent loyalty.

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I’ve mentioned in this post that the casting of the third suitor is disappointing. Sergeant Frank Troy is described as a handsome, irresponsible and impulsive young man… so I imagine an actor with devilish charisma and undeniable sex appeal for the role. Well, no offense Tom Sturridge but you ain’t that person and you certainly did NOT convince me as someone Bathsheba would risk everything for. Thus, her abrupt decision seems so out of character and doesn’t feel true.

Yes, the much-talked-about swordsmanship scene in the woods was beautifully-filmed but that’s more of a testament of Thomas Vinterberg‘s directing and his ability to create such an ethereal ambiance. I wanted to THAT scene to take my breath away, to be rendered speechless and all tingly from the sheer passion of the two characters, but it just wasn’t to be. The love scene that follows also lacks any kind of eroticism, which made the entire relationship lackluster. It also didn’t help that Sturridge just doesn’t look like a soldier or someone with a hint of danger that could tame or intimidate a woman like Bathsheba. I believe that charisma, especially of a sexual nature, is not something an actor can train for.

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The way the story unfolds is rather predictable. Yes it’s based on a novel so people who’ve read it would’ve known how things turns out, but for those who haven’t, Vinterberg didn’t create any suspense that’d make us guess who Bathsheba will end up with. But Vinterberg’s strength behind the camera is creating a lush and atmospheric look that serves the story well, thanks largely to his frequent collaborator Charlotte Bruus Christensen who also did the cinematography for The Hunt.

There’s a certain melancholy in the film to be expected but it doesn’t feel corny or contrived. Mulligan and Schoenaerts who share the most screen time have a lovely chemistry… the way they steal glances every chance they get is the kind of stuff romantic dramas are made of. Apart from that, I was kind of expecting something a bit more unconventional from Vinterberg. I was so impressed by The Hunt and this one seems like a lesser film by comparison, though it’s not exactly an apples and oranges kind of comparison, but in general sense. This feels more Hollywood, safer and less edgy, but thankfully there are still things I like about it.

I have to say that the fact that sound went out for about 3-4 minutes during the final scene between Bathsheba and Gabriel! It was excruciating because it’s supposed to be a key emotional scene. The sound came back 2 minutes before the ending but still, that was awful that it happened. I’m not going to fault this film for that snafu of course, but the miscasting of Sgt. Troy is a big one for me. It did not derail the film but it prevents the film from being a truly compelling and fiery romantic drama that I had expected.

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Have you seen this film? Well, what did YOU think?

Fun in the Florida sun, Wizarding World of Harry Potter & What I watched during my vacation

Hello everyone! So I’m kinda back from vacation though I haven’t blogged a single thing since I’m back, well except for this post. I’m hoping to start in the swing of things and write reviews again before I forget how, ahah. I have like five reviews I still have to write hopefully by end of the month. I literally had to write a note on my phone last night which movies I saw in the last three weeks that I haven’t reviewed yet:

  • The Water Diviner
  • The Woman in Gold
  • Far From the Madding Crowd
  • Felony
  • Paddington

We’ll see which one I’m in the mood to write next :)

Ok so, the Florida trip… well it was a blast!! We pretty much got to everything we set out to do, except for Disney’s Animal Kingdom as the forecast said it might rain that day. So here’s my recap:

Clearwater Beach

We kinda started late in the day and it was about an hour drive from our hotel in Tampa. By the time we got there it was mid afternoon and the place was packed!! We didn’t swim – I’m actually not a big ocean swimmer, if I want to swim I’d hit the pool – but we did walk around barefoot on the soft, white sand beach and dip our feet in the ocean to cool off.

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Tarpon Springs

I’m so glad we managed to fit in this small Greek town about 40-min north of Clearwater. It’s such a picturesque little town with a small harbor. The town has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US and the historic downtown is lined with Greek restaurants/bars and shops. We had one of the best Greek food for dinner with one of the best views!

NASA Kennedy Space Center

On our way to Orlando from Tampa, we fit in a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. There wasn’t a crowd at all on Sunday so it was perfect.

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The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

We took on a bus tour around the vast NASA facilities, including some of the rocket launch sites at Cape Canaveral. We didn’t get inside the VAB building though, just went around it. It didn’t seem THAT big but apparently you could fit three Empire State Buildings comfortably inside this, wow!

My favorite part is the new Atlantis exhibit. I think if you’re a space nut or someone who’s really into sci-fi would get a kick out of this one.

Universal Studios – Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Monday was Harry Potter day! We could see the Hogwarts Tower from our hotel window as Universal Studios is only about a mile away.

The place was packed and it was well worth getting the Park-to-Park tickets so we could get to both Harry Potter sites: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The latter is no doubt my favorite and it’s a bit cooler in there. We spent the most time at Diagon Alley and we had lunch at Leaky Cauldron in which was a rustic tavern like place with a kind of a communal seating area with long tables and benches.

One of the highlights was definitely riding the Hogwarts Express itself that takes us from Hogsmeade right to Diagon Alley!

I’m quite impressed with these two parks. Seems that they went to great lengths in creating a fun experience for HP fans and paid attention to the small details from the architecture, down to the food and beverage – those BUTTERBEER seems to be quite a hit! I especially love the architecture of Diagon Alley with all the shops. I’m not as huge a fan of HP to fully appreciate every detail but I still enjoyed them. The only disappointing thing for me was there’s nothing on Snape at all, not a single statue or even Snape-related souvenir item. Trust me, I actually asked a couple of people about that.

Second best part of the HP experience is the Escape from Gringotts ride. It’s my fave ride of the entire Universal Orlando, and we went to about five of them including the Transformers and Spiderman rides. The wait was the longest too, but the inside of the ride was beautifully decorated and as you entered the Gringotts Bank, there were lifelike goblins working at their stations and sometimes they look up from their papers to stare at people waiting in line. Creepy but fun!

If you’re ever in the Universal Walk area, make sure you stop by The Crowfish which is a fusion type bar/restaurant for their awesome sushi and burger fusion dishes. I actually had the delicious Bento box and my hubby had sushi w/ burger meat that’s absolutely smashing! Great ambience too, definitely our favorite restaurants from the entire trip!

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Downtown Disney

On our last day in Orlando, we just spent our time in Downtown Disney. Now that we think about it, we really should’ve gone to Animal Kingdom instead as the rain was kind of sporadic anyway.

It’s kind of disheartening to see all the bastardization of the Star Wars paraphernalia. I mean, they basically added Mickey Mouse ears to most of the iconic SW characters. Needless to say, we didn’t buy anything at the plethora of Disney stores.

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Vader and Leia w/ Mickey Mouse ears! My hubby’s not impressed.

Movies/TV Watched During Vacation

I only had time to watch stuff on the plane or when we’re bat at the hotel.

Nazi/Hitler documentary on American Heroes Channel

It’s a rather dark subject to watch during vacation but my hubby ended up watching a couple of hours worth of Hitler documentary, mostly concentrating on his youth and how he became the monster that he was. It’s more of a re-enactment documentary, not just talking heads. Interesting though that it’s in a channel called American Heroes (??)

The Rewrite


TheRewrite

I saw this on the plane and mostly because I love Marisa Tomei. It actually turns out to be pretty good for a rom-com. I mean it’s kinda predictable but sweet, and it was rather fun seeing Hugh Grant poking fun at his previous roles as a Jane Austen hero. Not a bad rental if you like this kind of stuff.

Frozen (rewatch)

I can’t help rewatching this one on the plane ride back. It just always puts me in a good mood. Funny but Let It Go is actually my least fave song of the whole movie! Olaf’s In Summer song however, never fails to put a smile on my face!

SHOWTIME’s Penny Dreadful Season 2 (2 episodes)

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I don’t know which episodes they are but since I’ve read a few articles/reviews on the show (yes because of Timothy Dalton’s involvement), I pretty much knew what the show is about. Boy is it ever terrifying, I don’t think I could watch this alone in my basement without my hubby in the room. The violence is really quite brutal and the satanic stuff is REALLY creepy, but the production design is top notch. Seriously they threw money at this show like nobody’s business, they certainly don’t skimp on the set, costumes, ambience, etc.

 


Hope I didn’t bore you with my recap folks… So how’s your week been, seen anything good lately?

FlixChatter Review – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

MadMaxFuryRoadIt took over ten years for Mad Max to return to the big screen, originally set to hit theaters back in summer of 2004 and Mel Gibson was set to reprise his iconic role. Unfortunately, the filmmakers ran into some troubles securing locations and budget and the film was put on hold. 11 years later, the new film is ready for prime time with a new cast and bigger budget.

It never really implied but Fury Road picks up right around the time when Beyond Thunderdome ended. Max (Tom Hardy) still has his long hair from the last film and wandering in the wasteland. Suddenly he’s being chase by some awful looking men and then gets captured. He’s brought to another strange city called the Citadel, here it’s being ruled by a mad man named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, same actor who played the main villain in the original film) and his War Boys.

MadMaxFuryRoad_ImmortanJoeMax is being use as a blood transferor to these War Boys and one of them named Nux (Nicholas Hoult) takes advantage of that right away. Joe rules the city by giving water to its citizens only few drops and false hope. Then we were introduced to Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who decided to betray Joe by stealing his wives to take them to a safer place called the “green place”. When Joe finds out, he and his War Boys sets out to bring the wives back and kill Furiosa. During the chase, Max got caught in the middle and has no choice but to become a hero again. Anyone who have seen the previous films will know that this franchise isn’t about deep plot, it’s about action and lots of car/truck chases.

MadMaxFuryRoad_Theron_HoultIf you want to see action, this is the movie to see. Just like last year’s John Wick, this film never tried to be anything but a non-stop wall to wall action. George Miller staged some of the craziest and most brutal action sequences I’ve ever seen. Some of the stunts he shot were just mind-blowing and best of all, he kept the cameras still and we the audience can see all the spectacular action sequences. But amidst all the chaos, he’s still able to give each of the characters some screen time and we got to know their motivations. Kudos also go to the film’s cinematographer John Seale, he shot the movie in digital and the picture looks amazing. I didn’t see it in 3D but clearly he and Miller shot the film with 3D in mind. The film’s soundtrack by Junkie XL was quite amazing; the thundering sound definitely enhances the action scenes.

Even though he only had a few lines of dialogs, Tom Hardy was very convincing as the brutal action hero. He shoots, punches and kicks his enemies without hesitation. Clearly he’s trying to differentiate his Max from that of Gibson’s. Here Max is more of a brute while Gibson’s version was more laid back and not as cold as Hardy. Theron on the other was marvelous as Furiousa, she’s the best female action hero since Ripley in the Alien films. In fact, I think they should have named the movie Mad Max and Furiosa. She’s as tough as Max and kick some serious ass. There’s a fight scene between her and Max that was quite fun to watch and she could definitely handle herself.

MadMaxFuryRoad_TomHardyMadMaxFuryRoad_Max_FuriosaI actually think the movie was really about Furiosa since Max was just there to help out. Nicholas Hoult’s character started out as a foe but then became part of the team and I liked his character. We also got to know each of Joe’s wives; they’re not there to just be eye candy. As for Immortan Joe, well he’s just another one-note villain that’s similar to Lord Humungus in the second film.

Fans of the series will get a kick out this one new film and maybe new comers will enjoy it as well. I do recommend that you watch one of the previous films before going into this one if you’ve never seen the previous films, particularly Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. You need to familiarize yourself with the weird and crazy world that Miller has created. As a fan of the series and action films, I truly enjoy this tremendous action picture. If there’s a theater in your area that has Dolby Atmos, I highly recommend you see it there. I plan to see it again in 3D and hopefully it’s as good as the first time I saw it.

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Have you seen this movie? Well, what did YOU think? 

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Quick thoughts on ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ + Bloggin’ Break

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Happy Thursday everyone! What a week it’s been. I went to the Christopher Nolan lecture at the Walker Art Museum on Tuesday and last night was the Far for the Madding Crowd screening. My post on both of those would have to wait until I’m back from vacation. But I have to share my first reaction about the latest Thomas Hardy’s cinematic adaptation:

In the novel, Troy is described as “handsome, vain, young, and irresponsible,” he is to be Bathsheba’s sexual awakening, but from the second Troy’s introduced on screen (played by Tom Sturridge), he just did NOT fit my idea of such a character. SPOILER ALERT [if you don’t want to know the plot, don’t read below the photo]

He looks more like someone from some boy band like One Direction with his full head of hair and effeminate-looking face and body. The swordsmanship scene is well-directed but Troy himself didn’t leave me breathless… and naturally the sex scene lacks passion. My girlfriend asked me as we walked out the theater if Troy is supposed to be some soldier wanna-be or something as he just doesn’t have that strapping look of a military man. Heh, I haven’t seen the 1967 version but Terence Stamp looked far more convincing as Troy. It’s a pity because I have no problem with other two male actors (Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen), and I adore Carey Mulligan as the heroine Bathsheba.

Bathsheba_Troy_MaddingCrowdYou may accuse me of being biased given how I feel about Stanley Weber these days, but seriously, if only I had been a casting agent for the film, I’d cast him as Troy in a heartbeat. He’s played a charming, sexy bad boy with aplomb as Juan Borgia, someone SO devilishly bad but oh-so-irresistible. I’m sure he can work on perfecting a British accent, but charisma, especially of a sexual nature, is not something an actor can train for.

Now that I got that out of the way… let’s get to those great links, shall we?

Josh did his May Oscar predictions whilst Andrew posted his 4 Ways a Best Picture roundtable. Never too early to talk about awards I guess.

Tom and Mark are hosting the Decades Blogathon. Spots are filling up fast!

Andina just posted her top 10 fave movies of 2014, glad we agree on the #1 pick!

Speaking of top 10, Chris got me all nostalgic in this post of top 10 Janet Jackson songs

To celebrate her 5th blogaversarry, Mettel Ray have been posting a bunch of top 5 lists, the latest one being Top 5 Trios

Over at Dan’s Top 10 Films blog, Rodney posted his top 10 Films of cinematographer Andrew Lesnie who just passed away

On to reviews…

Margaret, Sidekick Reviews and Melissa did a recap of the latest Game of Thrones episodes

Lots of foreign movie reviews that have been popping up this week, which is interesting as I’ve been watching a ton of French movies and videos ;)

Jordan reviewed this Spanish/Danish film Jauja

Steven reviewed Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye Children)

Keith reviewed L’avventura

And last but not least, Jay posted some mini reviews including some terrible movies you should avoid!


Time for a Blog Break!

Well my hubby and I be going on a week-long vacation to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We’re going to Tampa for a few days and then Orlando to visit…

WizardingWorldHPWizardingWorldHP2I’ve been wanting to check out the Harry Potter theme park for some time. I always enjoy going to these type of stuff, makes me feel young again ;) But I’m also looking forward for some r&r at some of the best beaches in the area, like Clearwater Beach, visit Greek town Tarpon Springs and maybe head south to Sanibel Island!


So see you in about a week, folks! If you have any travel tips for the Orlando/Tampa area, please do let me know.

Five for the Fifth: MAY 2015 Edition

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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. Since tonight I will be attending a Christopher Nolan‘s Conversation with Scott Foundas, chief film critic for Variety, I thought I’d dedicate my first question in Nolan’s honor.

WalkerArt_NolanLecture

Nolan is actually the first filmmaker whose complete works I have seen, though not in order as I’ve just caught up with his first film The Following (1998) a few years ago. I made a birthday tribute to him in 2012 by ranking his movies. Even though I wasn’t wowed by Interstellar, a so-so Chris Nolan film is still a darn good one. Foundas posted an article on Walker Art website on Nolan, calling him A Practical Magician of Modern Movies, which I think is an apt description.

So if you can ask one question to Nolan, what would it be? 

….

2. I always like to include some kind of FIRST LOOK in FFTF, and this one just arrived yesterday courtesy of EW. It’s Martin Scorsese‘s upcoming drama SILENCE starring Andrew Garfield. It also stars Liam Neeson and Adam Driver due out in 2016.

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Based on Shusako Endo’s 1966 novel, ‘Silence’ tells the story of a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who is persecuted along with other Christians in 17th-century Japan. Garfield portrays Father Rodrigues, pictured in an exclusive image with Shinya Tsukamoto, who plays a villager named Mokichi.

Per EW, Scorsese told reporters in a press conference in Taiwan that he’d been trying to find a way to adapt this novel since he first read it more than 25 years ago, and that its themes resonated with him deeply. “The subject matter presented by Shusaku Endo was in my life since I was very, very young, … I was very much involved in religion, I was raised in a strong Catholic family. … Further reflection is how [we] want to lead our life in the Christian faith … so ultimately this book drew my attention when it was given to me in 1988.”

The spiritual element certainly piqued my interest. Sounds  like a meaty role for Garfield and I’m happy for him. I saw him in this British indie Boy A prior to his stint as Spiderman and he’s certainly a capable actor.

What’s your initial thoughts of Silence?

3. Now, since today is Cinco De Mayo, I usually highlight Mexican filmmakers and/or actors but this time around why not talk about Mexican cinema in general. I actually haven’t seen any film about the Battle of Puebla, which is what the Fifth of May commemorates. There’s one called Cinco de May: La Batalla that’s just released in 2013. This still below is from that film, has anyone seen it?

CincoDeMayoMovieLately Mexican filmmakers have dominated the award seasons, culminating with two Mexican directors and winning Best Picture Oscars back to back (Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity and Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman). But there are many others that have made a name in Hollywood and not just limited to directors, Emmanuel Lubezki is no doubt the hottest cinematographer working today.

So in celebration of Mexican cinema, what’s your favorite Mexican film?

4. I’ve been watching a ton of foreign films lately, thanks to MSPIFF AND my new crush Stanley Weber who’s so far have been mostly in French films (Violette, Thérèse Desqueyroux).

One of my top 3 picks from MSPIFF is definitely Girlhood (Bande de Files), a French coming-of-age drama that really spoke to me and featured one of my favorite scenes ever. I LOVE Karidja Touré‘s performance in that film, and it made me think how I wish more people would discover her. She’s still only 21 years old and based on this article, she is bilingual which helps… “Better practise my English so I can be a star in the States.” I’d love to see her get noticed the way Lupita Nyong’O practically took Hollywood by storm.

KaridjaToure_GirlhoodAs for Stanley Weber, well he’s been my obsession in the past month or so. I’m not gonna lie, of course I was initially transfixed by his ridiculous good looks. He’s like a taller, sexier, more virile version of Chris Pine, with a hint of Richard Madden. But looks alone won’t get me all worked up about. Actors I love have to have the chops AND screen presence and Stanley’s got both in spades.

Stanley putting on the charm on Audrey Tautou in Thérèse Desqueyroux

Stanley putting on the charm on Audrey Tautou in Thérèse Desqueyroux

Classically trained at Cours Florent, French National Academy of Dramatic Arts and the London counterpart LAMDA, his background is theater but he’s done quite a few TV and film works in the past decade. Even in smaller supporting roles alongside big names of French cinema, Isabelle Adjani, Emmanuelle Devos, Audrey Tautou, etc. he more than held his own. He’s only 28 but seems much older than he looks, I kind of think of him like an old soul. As with ANY successful actor, versatility is key and I’ve seen him display his comedic chops in a British rom-com (Not Another Happy Ending) as well as portray a devilishly charming psychopath (BORGIA: Faith & Fear) convincingly. So yeah, I’m dying for him to get more leading roles, and soon!!

Which foreign actor/actress you noticed lately that you wish would get their big break in Hollywood?

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5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Tom from Digital Shortbread!

DigitalShortbread
Seeing that Avengers: Age of Ultron has just rolled on through, I thought it’d be interesting to gauge what people think of highly anticipated movie events.

Is hype generally a good thing or generally a bad thing, in your view, when it comes to movies?


Well, that’s it for the May 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Highlights from 2015 Wizard World Minneapolis Comic-Con

MplsWizardWorldComicConWhew, another packed weekend at Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con this year! This year I was able to make it to the Press Welcome Party at Hard Rock Cafe, which includes an advanced screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron [check out my review] We even had the Avengers cosplayers greeted us before we got in :D

Comic Con Highlights:

We got to the Minneapolis Convention Center just before 11 am and immediately made our way to Room 101 for the WETA workshop: character creation through prosthetics, hair & make up

As a big fan of the Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit trilogies and King Kong, I simply had to see the work of famed makeup/effects artist Warren Dion Smith. He asked for a volunteer from the audience who wanted to be turned into an Orc in under 40 minutes! A guy named Scott was the lucky winner, see below for pics of his transformation. Not only is he a master at what he does, Warren’s such a fun guy, answering a couple dozens questions whilst working on Scott. It was so entertaining to learn tidbits about his career and how he’s become longtime friends with a lot of the actors he’s worked with in various films.

During the panel, Warren said he’s worked on hundreds of Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, etc. during his time at WETA. But he’s also done other films besides those directed by Peter Jackson, i.e. Elysium, The Amazing Spiderman 2, Man of Steel, and the children’s classic remake of the 1960’s Thunderbirds are go Series.

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In between panels, Ivan and I walked around the exhibit hall… and I spotted Lance Reddick in his booth. My immediate reaction is ‘Oh that’s John Wick’s concierge from the Continental Hotel!” 

I asked one of the comic-con organizers if I could approach him and was allowed to do so. So I said hello to him and shook his hand. I erroneously thought he was also the same actor in HEROES, to which he graciously corrected me, oops!! Of course I had to ask him about John Wick 2 and he’s hoping that’d happen. You and me both, Mr. Reddick!

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That’s me chatting w/ Mr. Reddick

 

2:00-2:45 – No “bones” about it: Karl Urban

Ok so naturally I knew the Karl Urban panel would be one of the main highlights of the day. But I really didn’t know it’d be THAT much fun!

I had gone to the restroom just before the panel started and spotted him going into the ballroom through the side door. He looked just as tall and handsome as I had imagined it. He came to the stage to thunderous applause. Interesting that there’s no moderator present during his panel and really there’s no need for one. The hunky New Zealander handled the crowd and a throng of fans lining up for questions with aplomb! I’ve been a fan of his since his Lord of the Rings days where he played Éomer, but he’s since impressed me in various films like Bourne Supremacy, Star Trek, RED and Dredd. There were questions for pretty much every role he’s played, even Xena: Warrior Princess!

What strike me about Karl was how relaxed and polite he was. He thanked every single person after each question and he answered even the silliest ones like this guy who asked him if other people should all move to New Zealand. Karl thought he meant *his* people should move to NZ, and it was a hilarious exchange. One blond woman asked him simply ‘Cake or Pie?’ and even he entertained the audience by asking her what’s in the cake and the pie, before settling with apple pie.

Karl shared that he just wrapped Pete’s Dragon which was filmed in his native NZ, it’s a family adventure film that starred Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard and Wes Bentley. Sounds like a fun film!

Many of the questions were about Dredd 2 and he seemed keen on that idea and it sounds like there’s still hope for that project, woo hoo! He’s also confirmed to play Bones in the Star Trek sequel of course. One fan asked him if he’d have more screen time, to which the room cheered. I definitely think he SHOULD have more screen time, he’s so awesome in the role!

4:00–4:45 – The truth is out there: Gillian Anderson

I wasn’t going to stay for the whole segment as I haven’t really watched enough of her work to know what’s going on, but we ended up staying anyway.

Gillian Anderson looked even more beautiful in real life. She seems a bit shy and didn’t expect the huge crowd… “I thought there’d only be a 100 people in here…” to which the moderator said “Well you’re wrong, Gillian.” Clearly she had many fans being in the X-Files series.

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It’s cool that a couple of people asked about her stage work as I know she’s done some performances at London West End, including Doll House at DonMar Theatre in London with none other than Toby Stephens! She also talked about how much she loved playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic theatre in London. Based on a couple of brief clips I’ve seen, she can do a very convincing British accent!

One thing that made me want to watch after this panel is her British show The Fall that’s on Netflix. I had no idea Gillian was in Hannibal as well, not sure if she is still on that show and whether she’d have some screen time with Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde.

 

 Michael Rooker called James Gunn during his panel

WizardWorldMpls_Rooker_Mewes

I got to this panel rather late and when I arrived, Michael Rooker was goofing off on stage with his former Mallrats co-star Jason Mewes. The panel was apparently about the Mallrats 2, which is to be Kevin Smith’s next movie. [There was a special Q&A session ‘An Evening With Kevin Smith’ at the State Theatre on Friday].

At one point Mewes said, “Yeah man, why didn’t you get me into one of your movies?” Well, the next thing I know, Rooker suddenly took his mobile phone out and called James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy to ask if Jason Mewes could play one of the Ravagers (the interstellar group of thieves, smugglers and pirate led by Rooker’s character Yondu) in Guardians of the Galaxy 2!

Someone’s posted the video of the exchange on Youtube, watch it below:

 

You could hear Gunn on speaker phone and the funniest bit was when Gunn said “I got an even better idea. Why doesn’t he play Yondu?” Ahahaha, be careful Rooker, you could end up losing your job to Mewes! ;)

 

Favorite Cosplayers

One of the best parts about comic-con is the people cosplayer watching… and here are some of my favorites! The father-son team of Batman & The Joker is my absolute favorite, we saw them just outside the exhibit hall after they’d just finished their lunch and we just had to take a photo!! The two Dredd guys were pretty cool as well, they’re both pretty imposing in those costumes.

That was a blast! I definitely had even more fun this year than last year, definitely the highlight of my weekend! Big shout out to Wizard World PR people Jerry and Ryan for your hard work organizing this wonderful event!

I look forward to next year when Wizard World is back in town on May 6-7-8!

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So that’s my recap folks. Any thoughts on any of the actors/projects I mentioned above?

FlixChatter Double Reviews – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Ted’s Review

I have a confession to make, I’m not a big fan of the first Avengers film, I enjoyed it for the most part but when I watched it again on Bluray, I found it kind of dragging. So going into this gigantic sequel, I had no high expectations for it. Well color surprise because I think Age of Ultron might be my favorite Marvel film to date, I’ll know for sure when I see it again in a few days.

Things kick off right away when the movie opens; our superheroes are in the middle of a battle with the bad guys. The sequence was quite impressive; director Whedon decided to reintroduce each of the heroes by showing skill set and that they’re now working as a team. They successfully retrieved Loki’s scepter from Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and before it returns to Thor’s world, Stark and Banner decided to create an AI called Ultron without telling the rest of the team. After the events of the first film, Stark wanted to protect humans from another alien invasion. Of course every time when some geniuses create a super intelligent machine, it will take over its masters and that’s what happened here. I think most people have already seen the trailers and clips of the movie so I’m not going to discuss its plot. For this review I’ll go over the goods, there are plenty of them and not so good about this sequel.

AgeOfUltron_fight1

The goods: Whedon really improved the action sequences in this one, along with the opening sequence; there are three other set pieces that I thought were quite excellent. The fight between Hulk and Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor was spectacular. The midway action sequence where Capt. America was fighting with Ultron and Black Widow on the motorcycle chasing them was eye-popping. Finally the entire climatic battle with Ultron’s minions was just fun to watch. I didn’t care for the 3D effects in the first movie but here all the 3D worked, clearly Whedon shot each sequence with 3D in mind.

Instead of focusing on one character, Whedon was able to give each of the heroes equal screen time and they’re bantering are still amusing to me. All the actors appears to be quite comfortable in their respectively role. I wasn’t sure if the addition of Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch would work in the story but they turned out well.

AgeOfUltron_HulkbusterVSHulk

AgeOfUltron_Twins

I also have to mention the sound design, the movie was recorded in Dolby Atmos and it’s my favorite surround sound right behind GRAVITY. If there’s a theater that has Dolby Atmos near your time, please see it there. I don’t tend to recommend seeing movies in 3D but I was quite impressed with 3D effects in this movie. So see it in 3D and Dolby Atmos if possible.

The not so good: I didn’t care for the romance with between Hulk and Black Widow, it kind of dragged on too long and just didn’t work for me. I expected Ultron to be this super menacing villain but he kind of turned out to be bland, just the usual AI villain that we’ve seen many times before.

Despite my quibbles I still think this is a perfect summer movie that delivers everything you’d expect to see in a tent pole picture. I can’t wait to see it again.

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Ruth’s Review

It seems that Ted and I have the opposite reaction in regards to the two Avengers movies. I actually loved the first film, I even made posted 10 Reasons why I think The Avengers rocks and gave it a 4.5/5 rating. I remember being massively anticipating it, following all the buildup from Iron Man 1 & 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, there’s still a sense of novelty of seeing ALL of the Avengers assembling on screen fighting a menacing villain Loki hellbent to rule earth and beyond.

AgeOfUltron_team

This time, I have to admit I wasn’t terribly excited for Age of Ultron. Despite all the hype, I just couldn’t muster the excitement I once had for the last Avengers movie.  That said, I figure I’d still have fun with it and maybe I’d end up loving it. Well, I wouldn’t say the movie wasn’t devoid of fun. It actually started off with a thrilling action sequence and there are some funny moments peppered throughout, but overall it’s just not a movie I’d remember in a week or so, and certainly not something I’m eager to watch again.

Ok let’s start with the good. I still have to commend director Joss Whedon for somehow not making a huge mess out of having sooo many characters in a film (11 characters total) and having to somehow give each of them adequate screen time as well as making them work as a cohesive team. All things considered, I think he did a smashing job. The scenes of the team working or playing together are the main highlights for me. I feel like they care about each other and look after each other when one of them get hurt. It genuinely feel like a team whose loyalty is tested by a new deranged enemy.

I especially enjoyed that whole Mjölnir-lifting-attempt scene where each Avenger tried to see if they could lift Thor’s mighty hammer. The look on Thor’s face when Chris Rogers tried his luck is perhaps the funniest of all. That’s absolutely hilarious and one I’m sure I’d watch over and over again when someone has posted it on Youtube. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of a moment where I actually cheered or having any kind of strong emotion towards what’s happening on screen.

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Gif Source: MTV.com

I have to say that the villain Ultron himself was okay, despite the run-of-the-mill storyline of human-created AI that ended up wanting to destroy humanity. We’ve seen that plot in a plethora of sci-fi movies and explored in a much deeper way in films with a tiny fraction of Age of Ultron‘s budget, yet somehow James Spader’s able to inject some wit and humor into that mechanical character. At least he’s more interesting than a Transformer robot, even if he’s nowhere as fun to watch as Loki was.

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As for the bad, well it’s simply an overloaded and overstuffed movie from the get go. It’s as if they didn’t have too many characters already, they added even more! I suppose Marvel have to pave the way for Phase 3 and beyond, so perhaps they’re planning a standalone movie for Vision (Paul Bettany), who looks like something out of the Body Worlds exhibit with a red cape. There are also the Maximoff twins, who were experimented on by of one of Hydra cohorts Strucker in an Eastern European country of Sokovia. Out of the two, Elizabeth Olsen fared better than Aaron Taylor-Johnson who came across so weird and awkward. Their *Russian* accent are laughable but they’re just so underwritten, though to be fair I think every character here suffers the same treatment. The Quicksilver character in X-Men: Days of Future Past was far more fun and memorable.

AgeOfUltron_Vision

I’d say that the biggest misstep of them all is the tacked-on romance between Bruce Banner (Hulk) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow). I didn’t care for that cheesy and entirely-unnecessary subplot and their scenes are so cringe-worthy that it took me out of the movie. Natasha was sharing some of the backstory of her dark childhood, and it would have been a rather emotional moment but I just couldn’t get into it as the corny romance thing was distracting me. I like both Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson, but they seem to have a more effortless chemistry off-screen during interviews than in the movie.

AgeOfUltron_HulkBlackwidow

I think people expecting a bunch of action in a big tentpole movie won’t be disappointed. For me, it’s more fun if I actually care about the characters and the universe presented here. As it is now, it’s just one huge bombastic film, in fact the whole fight sequence of Hulkbuster vs Hulk was so loud and verbose it reminded me of the final battle in Man of Steel. With so many characters all fighting for relevancy, the movie feels disjointed and abridged at times. The backstory of some of the characters also didn’t gel with me and felt forced and extraneous. Even the most adept filmmaker like Whedon surely was overwhelmed so I don’t blame him that he’s not going to do the final Avengers film. The Russo brothers certainly have a challenging task ahead of them to direct Avengers: Infinity War, and because Hollywood is all about the bottom line, of course it will be another two-part movie.

Oh, I have to mention that I saw this in 2D and the theater I was in had a pretty terrible surround sound. I wish I had seen it in a theater with Dolby Atmos as I still love the soundtrack, this time done by Brian Tyler & Danny Elfman. I doubt that seeing it in a better-equipped cinema would fix the weak script however. It also pains me to see Andy Serkis practically wasted here.

You could say the superhero fatigue is getting to me, so that certainly plays a factor in my enjoyment of this film. I can’t say I’m excited for more Marvel movies, except for Captain America: Civil War because I actually care about the Capt and his relationship with his friend-turned-foe Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier. Compared to the second Captain America movie, this one just felt bland and forgettable. It’s amazing how all that star power and an astronomical budget ($250 mil) only amounts to this, but then again, more is often just more, not better.

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Well, if you’ve seen this movie, what did YOU think?