Question of the Week: How do you [REALLY] feel about the endless supply of superhero movies?

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today’s question is inspired by my viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy last night, and also the recent festivities of San Diego Comic-con.

GuardiansGalaxy

I also just read this article written by my friend Raul Marin at Film Inquiry where he talks about Marvel vs. DC and who will win in the end. Now here’s my answer I left on the post:

Even with the fervor of San Diego Comic-con of late, I’m not as excited as I once was for either Avengers or Batman vs Superman. I mean it’s cool seeing those actors on stage and stuff but I’m not as gung-ho about the movies as I did a few years back. I’m still excited for certain stand-alone films, i.e. The Winter Soldier but that’s only because the espionage aspect intrigues me. So at this point, I don’t really care which one will win in the end, tho looks like Marvel still has the upper hand.

So I guess you could say I’m getting superhero-fatigue. I know some people probably already reached that point much sooner than I did, but clearly there are still more who haven’t or these movies won’t perpetually get made. I used to get super excited over Superman, I mean I did all those countdown posts for Man of Steel, but my excitement for its sequel has dropped significantly, as you can see I barely blog about it any more. Raul stated in his post that “…three of the top ten highest-grossing films of all-time are from the superhero genre” and before we know it, all of the top 10 highest grossing would be made up by this super lucrative genre.

GOTHAM_FoxFallI just read this article posted by Screenrant that says Marvel Studios Has Mapped Out Films All The Way To 2028! And that’s just ONE studio, I’m sure DC is not far behind and SONY milking the Spider-man franchise for all its worth down to its last web, as they’re now spin-offing Spidey’s villains. Sinister Six is apparently set for 2016 with its sequel in 2018 [face palm]. I’m so bored with the Spidey franchise already, as I skipped The Amazing Spider-man and probably won’t even rent it. I think my excitement for the first Spidey reboot was highly influenced by seeing Andrew Garfield up-close at Comic-con.

It’s not just the movies, television is bursting with superhero-themed shows with no sign of slowing down. The most-buzzed about new Fall show is the Batman prequel GOTHAM, which seems to be getting positive buzz so far. I might check it out simply out of curiosity, but who knows how long I will keep tuning in, as I got tired of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D after just half a dozen episodes.

So clearly the superhero genre is flexing their Thor-sized muscles even more than before. Is the superhero bubble at its tipping point now and ready to burst at any moment? It seems far-fetched now but it’s happened to other popular genres before so I don’t think any genre is exempt from falling out of mainstream’s market. To say the superhero market is over-saturated is putting it mildly, but hey, Hollywood loves money so they’ll do whatever it takes to keep this craze going and going and going …


So what say you folks? How do you [REALLY] feel about the superhero movies? Are they becoming ho-hum or are you still gung-ho for ‘em?

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July 2014 Blind Spot Film: Purple Noon / Plein Soleil (1960)

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It’s been over three years since I saw an Alain Delon film, that was  Le Samouraï  where he played a silent-but-deadly assassin. Well as Tom Ripley, he isn’t quite as taciturn but he’s just as deadly. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, I was familiar with the story from the 1996 film version. I can’t remember much of the details of that one thankfully, so when I watched it, the story still felt fresh to me. Though it’s based on the same novel, the two films were pretty different. There’s a homo-erotic undertones in the 1996 version that wasn’t present in this one, and the ending is also very different.

SPOILER ALERT!
Just like other Blindspot entries, this review may contain some plot discussions.

Right away I thought Delon was a far more appealing and at the same time more sinister version of Tom Ripley than Matt Damon was. With his razor-sharp cheekbones and steely gaze, Delon possesses a certain coldness, that dangerous undercurrent lurking beneath his impossible good looks. Sent to Italy by a wealthy Mr. Greenleaf to retrieve his playboy son Philipe and bring him back to San Francisco. Though Delon essentially plays an American, he barely spoke a word of English as this is a French film.

Tom is to be paid $5000 for his services but later the offer is retracted when Mr Greenfield realizes Tom fails to do his mission. By the time we see him hanging out with Philipe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), the two are like inseparable friends. Even as Philipe’s longtime friend Freddie (Billy Kearns) resents Tom for being a moocher, Philipe enjoys spending time with him … for a little while at least.

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Philipe’s fiancee Marge (Marie Laforêt) feels sorry for Tom but at the same time she’s not comfortable having him around. Well, can’t say I blame him, especially when it’s someone who obviously doesn’t mind spending other people’s money and wears her fiance’s clothes. There’s a really disturbing scene where Ripley is mimicking Philipe in front of the mirror whilst wearing his clothes and shoes. What’s more disturbing is that Philipe is well aware that Tom is lusting after his lavish lifestyle, yet he still lets him hang around with him. They even go on a yacht trip together, the three of them. Whilst Philipe is making out with the beautiful Marge under the scorching Mediterranean sun, Tom’s lustful eye follows every inch of them.

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Director René Clément filmed the psychological thriller in an expertly manner. The tension isn’t overt but it’s always lurking, waiting for the right moment to strike. The dialog at the yacht between Philipe and Tom is particularly fascinating as Tom jokingly tells him about his whole plan about killing him and taking his identity. At first Philipe seems nonchalant about the joke, even pointing out the weak points about Tom’s plan and all that. He gradually begins to suspect it wasn’t a joke after all, but by then it was too late. This is the most action-packed scene in the whole film, and Clement doesn’t overwhelm us with ominous score, instead he lets the natural elements like the choppy waters and high winds build  tension. Delon’s shirtless tanned body as he vigorously grabs the yacht steering wheel in this scene definitely sticks with you. An iconic combination of sex appeal and disquieting menace set in a panoramic vista.

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The cinematography by Henri Decaë is absolutely striking, whether it’s the narrow, cobblestone streets or the vast blue ocean, every frame is postcard-worthy. This movie could practically double as a Italian tourism video, especially mixed with Nino Rota‘s jazzy score. Best scenery of all is in Delon himself, what with cheekbones you could cut yourself on and those chilling, penetrating blue eyes that Decaë often frame in extreme close-ups. The devil comes in attractive packages and there are few men more attractive than the French actor. All the beautiful people and striking scenery gives a staggering contrast to the ugly-ness and darkness of the human soul. Even Philipe who’s the victim in the story is not a sympathetic character as he’s a hedonist and a bully. In a strange way, as wicked as Tom was, there’s a bit part of me that’s curious if he would get away with it. I’m not saying I sympathize with him, but like any great cinematic villain, he remains magnetic and captivating despite his vice.

Delon practically outshines everyone in the film as you can’t take your eyes off him. Obviously he’s devastatingly beautiful, but looks alone isn’t enough to carry a role like this. Peter Bradshaw’s review at the Guardian says it best “… his almost unearthly perfection is creepy itself, as if he is imitating a human being.”

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Now, about that ending. I found out after watching the film that in the book, Ripley did get away with his crime, but he becomes haunted with paranoia that he would be caught. But the ending in the film implies that Ripley was arrested when the policemen discovered Philipe’s decomposed body still tied to the anchor cable that’s tangled around its propeller. I do think the book’s ending is far more intriguing and audacious, it seems that the censorship code is to blame for the more tame finale. But still, it was a memorable ending with the sun-drenched Ripley sipping cocktails on the beach… the tranquil sight of the beautiful Riviera contrasted with a stomach-churning shot of a decomposed hand peeking out from a body bag.

If you have seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, I highly recommend you to check out this one. I’ve never seen Mr. Clément’s work before but I definitely should check out more. I’m also curious to see other roles by Delon as the two I’ve seen so far depict him as this cool and calculated persona, which he obviously excels at. He’s the perfect Tom Ripley here, far more effective than Damon and even John Malkovich in Ripley’s Game. Clément’s been called the French Hitchcock and it’s definitely fitting, yet his direction is still unique in that somehow the suspense is more subtle and there’s even a laid-back approach, keeping us mesmerized and on edge at the same time.

4.5 out of 5 reels


This is the fifth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .


What do you think of  Purple Noon? I’d love to hear what you think!

Weekend Roundup: Farewell My Queen, Purple Noon & Wishing I were at San Diego Comic-con!

Well my weekend is pretty uneventful really. I didn’t even go to the cinema nor watched too many movies. Friday night was a fun Movie Night with my girlfriends, which we haven’t done in almost a year since one of them had a baby. We’ve decided on the movie weeks ago, Farewell My Queen, which is fitting since I’ve been obsessing over the French Revolution since my Paris trip in early June.

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The film focuses on the relationship between Marie Antoinette and one of her readers Sidonie Laborde during first days of the French Revolution. The whole movie takes place in Versailles which is beautifully shot. Now believe it or not, I have not seen a single movie about Marie Antoinette nor the French Revolution. Though the film looks authentic and well-acted, the film barely pays any attention to the real issues that led to the revolt. The Revolution only serves as a backdrop, focusing more on the obsession, loyalty and betrayal of the three main characters.

As I’m now watching Downton Abbey, the upstair/downstairs lives of the servants, courtiers and the royals in that lavish palace is fun to watch. The scene when the courtiers find out about the list of the 300 targets of the guillotine is pretty intriguing and you could really feel the tension brimming in that dark corridor. The performances are quite good, I’m especially impressed by Lea Seydoux as Sidonie, who’s really the lead of the film. She has a certain vulnerability about her that makes you sympathize with her right away, and she’s a stunning actress who definitely looks more interesting the more you look at her. Diane Kruger is quite effective as the Austrian-born queen, whilst Virginie Ledoyen is as beautiful as she is aloof, which is fitting as she’s the object of the queen’s affection. Overall though, the film is just ok, perhaps not the best films out there on the topic of the French Revolution, but it’s not a bad one to start with.

PurpleNoonCriterionFor my July Blindspot, I watched Purple Noon (Plein soleil) starring Alain Delon. I’ve seen the remake The Talented Mr Ripley years ago so I knew the gist of it but honestly I’ve forgotten most of the details from that one. One thing for sure Matt Damon is not nearly as appealing as Delon in the role of Tom Ripley, even though it’s funny that Delon barely spoke any English in this film despite being an American character.

Delon with his razor-sharp cheekbones and steely gaze possesses a certain coldness, that dangerous undercurrent beneath such an impossible good looks. I’ll save the full review until Tuesday but suffice to say I’m glad I finally saw this one. I’ve been wanting to see more from Delon after seeing him in a taciturn role in Le Samouraï.


Now, the rest of my weekend is filled with a lot of drooling over Comic-con in San Diego. My dear friend Melissa of Snap Crackle Watch was there with her girlfriend, lucky gal! I was following her fun tweets all weekend, can’t wait to read her recaps whenever she gets around to posting it. Man, I could see why it’s getting more difficult impossible to get to SDCC, I mean the kind of films being covered there is incredible! Interstellar, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Batman vs Superman, The Hobbit 3, etc. Here are my favorite photos from the four-day festivities!

A bunch of trailers debuted at SDCC, but I refuse to post those grainy, shaky-cam versions shot by fans in Hall H. I’ll wait for the official one, thank you very much. But hey, the one I’ve been waiting for, Mad Max: Fury Road, has released its first trailer online!

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I didn’t see any photos of Tom Hardy so he might not have been at the Mad Max Panel but here’s the new trailer. Interesting to see him with his Bane-like mask, ahah. So far it looks very cool though I expect the second trailer to actually show more of the story than just a mash-up of action sequences in dystopian Australian dessert.


Well that’s my weekend roundup, folks. What about you, seen anything good?

Blogathon Relay: TEN Most Iconic Female Movie Characters

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Yet another blog relay! Well most of you should get the idea by now, it’s a relay race of a list of who bloggers think are ten most iconic… this time it’s focused on Female Movie Characters. Thanks to Dell from Dell on Movies for shining the spotlight on the fairer sex, and certainly he picked some great characters on the initial top 10 list!

What are the rules?

A list of 10 iconic female movie characters has been made. That list will be assigned to another blogger who can then change it by removing one character (describing why they think she should not be on the list) and replacing it with another one (also with motivation) and hand over the baton to another blogger. Once assigned, that blogger will have to put his/her post up within a week. If this is not the case the blogger who assigned it has to reassign it to another blogger. After you have posted your update leave the link in the comments below and I will make sure it gets added to the overview post.

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

IconicFemaleCharacters
Clockwise from top left:
Ellen Ripley | Princess Leia | DorothyMarge Gunderson* | Foxy Brown
Sarah Connor
| Holly Golighty | Scarlett O’Hara | Lisbeth Salander

*Marge Gunderson was the last one added by Jaina. 

I have to confess that there are a couple of characters here from films I haven’t seen before (Foxy Brown and Lisbeth Salander). As Jaina said,  the fact that I know who they are just shows how iconic those characters are. However, there’s one I absolutely have no idea who it is without googling about her, and I feel that she’s perhaps not iconic enough to be in the top 10. So…

Who’s Out?

NurseRatched

Nurse Ratched

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the many Oscar-winning films I haven’t seen yet, so I literally had to google who Nurse Ratched is. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, there are other characters on the list I’ve never seen before on screen, but yet I knew who they are and which movies they’re in. So I feel that even if Louise Fletcher’s performance as that character was indeed excellent and Oscar-worthy, she might not be iconic enough to be in the Top 10.

Who’s In?

MrsRobinson

Mrs. Robinson

When we’re talking about an iconic role, I think of someone who’s become a pop-culture phenomenon. The ultimate cougar, aka older women who like to seduced younger men, I’d think even people who haven’t seen The Graduate would know who Mrs. Robinson is or what she represents. She’s one of those rare female antiheroes, complex and incredibly flawed, but definitely indelible. I actually became familiar with the character before I saw the 1967 film, it was from the popular song dedicated to her by Simon & Garfunkel.

And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know.
God bless you, please Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray,
Hey, hey, hey

Anne Bancroft‘s Oscar-nominated performance is a big part of what makes her character so iconic. Then there’s that famous shot that’s used in the poster of her nylon-covered leg, that becomes synonymous with illicit seduction. There’s even a stage version of The Graduate, with Linda Gray (whose leg is actually used in the famous poster), Kathleen Turner, Jerry Hall playing the titular role, among others. So I think Mrs. Robinson deserves a spot on this list.


I’m passing the torch to Eric, who runs the awesome blog The Warning Sign which has a nice mix of classic and contemporary films.

Previous relay contributors:
Dell on Movies
Nostra
Jaina


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

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

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

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

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

Now for this week’s Music Break!

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

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

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


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


Hope you enjoy this music break!

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

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

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

   Sept2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones (Sept 19)

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

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


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

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Sept 26 – Limited)

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

Director: Ned Benson
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain

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

Mildly interested in:

The Two Faces of January (Sept 26 – Limited)

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

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

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

The Drop (Sept 12)

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

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

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


Oct2014

Gone Girl (Oct 3)

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

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

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

,,,

Birdman (Oct 17)

Birdman

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

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


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

Mildly interested in:

The Judge (Oct 10)

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

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

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

Kingsman: The Secret Service (Oct 24)

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

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

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


 Nov2014

Interstellar (Nov 7)

Interstellar

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

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


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

Hunger Games Mockingjay – Part I (Nov 21)

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

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


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

The Imitation Game (Nov 21)

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

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


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

Mildly interested in:

Big Hero 6 (Nov 7)

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

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

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


Dec2014

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

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

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

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

Unbroken (Dec 25)

Unbroken

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

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


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

Mildly interested in:

Exodus: Gods & Kings (Dec 12)

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

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

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


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

FlixChatter Review: SEX TAPE (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Movies from the first half of 2014

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

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

10. The Grand Seduction (full review)

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

9. Edge of Tomorrow (full review)

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

8. The LEGO Movie (full review)

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

7. The Machine (full review)

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

6. Locke (full review)

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

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel (full review)

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

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

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

3. Belle (full review)

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

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

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

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

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


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

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

 


WORST of the year so far:

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


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

Six Degrees of Separation Blogathon: Hitchcock to Transformers Movies

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


So how does this blogathon work?

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

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

Alfred Hitchcock to the Transformer movies

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

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

Good luck Natalie! :)


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

Music Break: Seven Favorite Themes By Alexandre Desplat

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

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Per his official site:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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