Thursday Movie Picks #33: All in the Family Edition – Mother-Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

ThursdayMoviePicks

Happy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Mother/Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

This week’s TMP topic is a bittersweet one for me. I had a loving, albeit brief relationship with my late mother. In fact, we were very close up until she died on my 16th birthday. I have to admit at times I feel a pang of sadness whenever I see a mother and daughter depicted on screen, I often still wonder how life would be life if she were still around. In any case, for my three picks, I try to have a variety of mother/daughter relationship, so here are my three picks:

BRAVE (2011)

Brave_Queen_Merida

Pixar’s first *Princess* movie centers on a headstrong n spirited girl who like many of today’s girls her age tend to rebel against what’s expected of her. I love that the movie is centered on her relationship with her equally headstrong mother, Queen Elinor, instead of the typical romantic pursuit. I LOVE Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson who provide the voice work for Merida and Elinor. In case some of you still has seen this movie, let’s just say there’s a magical physical transformation that happens that drastically changes how they have to relate to one another. Through it all, the two end up forging a bond that’s even stronger than ever before. It’s quite an adventure that’s full of humorous & even peculiar moments, but also poignant ones that made me laugh and cry. It’s definitely one of my fave cinematic mother/daughter relationship that truly moved me.

1000 Times Good Night (2013)

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Juliette Binoche plays a war photographer who often risks her life on the job, but even after a nearly fatal accident, she still can’t give up her career. Her eldest daughter Steph looks up at her and is obviously drawn to her mom’s globetrotting career that certainly looks cool and glamorous on the outside. The daughter in this film is a young teen and so immediately picture myself in her shoes, as my late mother was an amateur photographer. She kind of had the same free spirit personality and I always thought my mom was fearless. One key scene is when she ended up tagging along with her mom to Africa, much to the chagrin of her marine biologist dad. A traumatic incident made Steph realize just how dangerous her profession really is. The mother/daughter moments in the scene that followed really connected with me, and there’s a wonderful chemistry Binoche and Lauryn Canny who plays Steph. Here’s my full review of the film, which is now on Netflix.

August Osage County (2013)

AugustOsageCounty_Family

Now this is an example of the kind of mom I’m glad I didn’t have. Meryl Streep‘s Violet Wetson is a venom-spewing, pill-popping mother of three daughters who seem hellbent on driving a stake between her and everyone around her. That also includes her own husband, and the film takes place during his funeral. Violet has mouth cancer, partly due to her years of chain smoking, but even so it’s really hard to sympathize with her. Out of the three, Julia Roberts’ Barbara is the one who has the biggest conflict with her mother. The fact she herself is dealing with her own issues with her estranged husband and angsty teenage daughter adds to her exasperation. The Wetson family is as dysfunctional as they come  – they constantly bicker with each other, and the more things are said, the more secrets are revealed that made things worse. The screaming match are quite overwhelming, and it made me appreciate my own family. The craziest scene is when Barbara literally hurls at her mother trying to prevent her from taking any more pills, it was pretty bizarre and quite hilarious. I think it’s an especially interesting film to watch for mother and daughter, if anything, it’d make each of them think of what NOT to do to one another.

BONUS PICK:

Beyond the Lights

BeyondTheLightsMotherDaughter

This is one of my fave films I saw last year, and the casting of Minnie Driver and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as mother/daughter is one of the reasons I love it. Glad Paskalis included this movie on his list, I couldn’t believe I almost didn’t include that here. An ambitious and driven single mother who wouldn’t take failure as an option, Macy succeeds in turning her daughter into a star. But at what cost? Macy’s controlling behavior ultimately drives Noni away and there’s a heart-wrenching moment when Noni finally said enough is enough. It’s not that Macy didn’t love her daughter, but sometimes, some people just don’t know how to love. Apparently, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s search for her own birth mother was the catalyst of the mother/daughter story in the film (per this indiewire article).


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #36: Movies adapted from a Young Adult Novel

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Today the theme is… 

Movies adapted from a Young Adult Novel


How I Live Now (2013)

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An American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, finds love and purpose while fighting for her survival as war envelops the world around her.

I saw this film three years ago at TCFF. It’s definitely one of the darker young-adult adaptations that sort of flew under the radar. I didn’t give it a stellar review as it seems more elusive than suspenseful but I think it’s worth a look for it’s intriguing survival story in a doomed distant future based on a YA novel by Meg Rosoff. I’ve always been impressed by Saoirse Ronan and her casting was the main draw for me to see it. She didn’t disappoint, even if the uneven tone of the film prevents this from being a truly compelling film.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

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Four kids travel through a wardrobe to the land of Narnia and learn of their destiny to free it with the guidance of a mystical lion.

Seems that it’s been ages since I saw this movie but I remember being enchanted by it. There’s mystery, adventure and magic, a proper fantasy film of good vs evil filled with interesting characters. One of those characters is no doubt Mr. Tumnus, played by then-unknown James McAvoy. The child actors were wonderful but it’s the supporting cast who are the truly memorable, especially Tilda Swinton as the White Witch and Liam Neeson‘s voice lending gravitas to the godly lion Aslan. This is director Andrew Adamson‘s live-action debut, but I think he did C.S. Lewis’ beloved work justice.

Harry Potter films (2001-2011)

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Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I got into the Harry Potter franchise rather late, in fact it was around the time the first of the two final movies was released that my hubby and I started watching. Well, the first few were good but thankfully they got better in future installments, and I’d say my favorite is The Prisoner of Azkaban when Sirius Black appeared. Even amongst a stellar all-British cast, Gary Oldman still stood out in the role. It doesn’t hurt that the film was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I have to give props to Daniel Radcliffe and the rest of the young cast for being so watchable across 8 movies and made me care about their journey. The last two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows final films are adventurous, properly dark and emotionally-engaging. I might revisit these movie again and this May I’m actually visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios :)


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #35: Live Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Today the theme is… 

Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

Well, I’ve been sick the past few days and I’ve actually written a much longer post for this but for some reason WordPress did NOT save my draft so I lost it all :(

Ever After (1998)

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A reimagining of the classic Cinderella story – with Leonardo da Vinci as the fairy god-father

What if Cinderella were real? That’s the main premise here, showing the Brothers Grimm talking to a Grand Dame telling them the story of Danielle de Barbarac and showing them her glass slippers. I’ve always had a fondness for this movie despite Drew Barrymore‘s laughable *British* accent. But hey, she more than makes up for it w/ her charm. She has a lovely chemistry w/ Dougray Scott as the dashing Prince Henry. I like that Danielle is no Damsel in Distress, but when she absolutely needed help, there’s Leonardo da Vinci to the rescue! Anjelica Huston is fun to watch as the wicked stepmother, and

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

As I mentioned above, I’ve already written a much longer stuff here but lost it in the WP snafu. This is definitely NOT a feel-good fairy tale, as it’s mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Part terror, part wonder, Guillermo Del Toro has crafted a spellbinding fable with amazing set pieces and special effects. But the story is as rich and intriguing as the visuals. As the young protagonist, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) has that wide-eyed innocence that serves as a stark contrast to the brutal world she’s trying to escape from. There’s something so wonderfully organic and mystical about this film, though the unflinching brutality warrants its R rating. There are plenty of weird and downright freaky creatures, the faun and pale man (played by Doug Jones) are key characters here, but the scariest character is no doubt Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Perhaps one of the messages is that the real *monster* of real life actually look like you and I.

Cinderella (2015)

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When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger in the woods.

Yes, another Cinderella story, but as far as live-action adaptation is concerned, this could be a new favorite. I’m borrowing from Rotten Tomatoes‘ critics consensus here: “Refreshingly traditional in a revisionist era, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella proves Disney hasn’t lost any of its old-fashioned magic.” Precisely. I think Disney made the right call in NOT making this another reimagining of a classic story, thought there are some subtle *twists* about the main characters that still fit nicely into the story. It’s a gorgeous and lush production, on that front alone makes this a wonderful movie to see on the big screen. Lily James and Richard Madden fit their roles as Cinderella & Prince Charming as perfectly as those Swarovski glass slippers fit our heroine’s nimble feet. But the inspired casting is Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother, scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #33: All in the Family Edition – Movies featuring Father & Son Relationship

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Father/Son Relationships (Biologically Related)

Well, for this edition, I decided to pick three movies that I didn’t include in my Father’s Day Special post. Besides, I think this post should focus on biologically-related father & son stories. So here are my three picks:

Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (1989)

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No doubt it’s my absolute favorite of the Indiana Jones trilogy and it’s largely because of the wonderfully entertaining father/son story. When Dr. Henry Jones Sr. suddenly goes missing whilst in pursuit of the Holy Grail, Indy set off to search for him and together they end up working together to stop the Nazis. It’s absolutely perfect casting to have Sean Connery to play the role, despite only being 12 years older than Harrison Ford. Both of them are equally charismatic and somehow have the perfect personality and quirks that make them a perfect match as father and son. All the highlights of the movie feature the two of them, usually in a state of peril or impossible predicament that they somehow manage to come escape from. I can’t think of a better chemistry between two actors and that’s what makes them so entertaining to watch. But it’s not just all fun and games, there’s some genuine dramatic moments that truly test the bond between the two of them and challenge Indy’s own personal belief.

Frequency (2000)

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Family bond can transcend time and space. A rare atmospheric phenomenon somehow enables a NYC firefighter to communicate with his son 30 years in the future via HAM radio. There are films that deal with time travel and the huge ramification of changing the past. The sci-fi logic might be questionable but what I love about this film is the father/son relationship that’s genuinely moving and beautifully acted. The film started off more as a drama but the third act becomes more of a thriller as the two work together to solve a murder case. Both Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel are fantastic as the father and son, there’s a palpable & heartfelt bond between them despite not sharing a screen pretty much the entire movie.

Nebraska (2013)

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This black-and-white dark comedy tells the story of an senile, alcoholic man who insists on making a trip from Montana to Nebraska in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize. His estranged son ends up traveling with him as his stubborn dad simply refuse to believe that the sweepstakes letter was a shameless piece of scam. Despite their testy relationship, the journey gave them a chance to reconnect. Bruce Dern and Will Forte are both excellent in their roles, I’m especially impressed by the latter as I’ve only known him as a comedian. There are some extremely goofy scenes such as when the son tried to help his dad find his missing tooth around a railroad track, but there are some poignant moments between the two. It’s another wonderful family dramedy from Alexander Payne.

 


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #32: Oscar-Winning Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I’ve been seeing posts on the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog, but I haven’t been able to participate. Well until now that is.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it, one of each. Today’s topic is…

OscarWinningMovies

The Oscar-winning movies can include winners of Best Picture, Best Animated Film and Best Foreign Film, but I ended up sticking with the main Best Picture winners. As I was thinking of doing a Top 10 list on this topic, you could say that these films would make my Top 5.

So, here are my picks of three films that deserve all the accolades they’ve received and I don’t hesitate calling each of them a masterpiece.

Casablanca (1942)

ThursdayPicks_Casablanca

Oscar Facts: Won 3 Oscars out of 6 nominations

I had the good fortune of finally seeing Casablanca for the first time two years ago (as I documented here), as part of TCM Theatrical re-release. Robert Osborne, the longtime TCM host, introduced the film and gave some background, which is cool. Unfortunately, he also spoiled the plot – I think he just assumed everyone had seen the film. But even with that snafu, I was so engrossed in the story right from the start. It’s got everything you could want in a movie – intrigue, romance, humor, great music, exotic setting, etc. But most importantly, at the heart of it is the engaging and unforgettable love story, beautifully-realized by Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman. There’s really so much to appreciate in this film that I can’t possibly write in a paragraph or two.

The world will always welcome lovers ♬ As time goes by ♪

 The world will always welcome beautiful stories, too and that’s why Casablanca will always stand the test of time.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959)

Oscar Facts: Won 11 Oscars out of 12 nominations

ThursdayPicks_BenHur

Here’s another Hollywood epic that shall stand the test of time. This is one of the first American films I saw as a young girl with my late mother and it made a huge impression to me then. I was in awe of the visual grandeur and all the epic action scenes, especially the chariot race. I have re-watched it countless times since and even with the technological advancement of movie-making, few scenes from today’s movies could match the intensity and the panoramic spectacle of the chariot scene, it’s 40-min of pure adrenaline rush that I wish I could witness on the big screen one day.

But visuals alone doesn’t make a movie and the personal redemptive story of Judah Ben-Hur is just as riveting. I love that it tells the story of Christ through the eyes of the protagonist and how an encounter with Him ultimately transforms his life in a profound way. It’s truly as epic as a film could get, a feast for the eyes as well as for the soul. Though it’s 3.5-hours long, it’s so well-worth your time and I know it’s one that I appreciate more and more every time I watch it. Both Charlton Heston in the title role and Stephen Boyd as friend-turned-foe Messala are superb, with a supporting cast

But this is truly William Wyler‘s towering achievement. He’s considered by his peers as a master craftsman of cinema, and rightly so. I just read on IMDb that Wyler was an assistant director on the 1925 version of Ben-Hur, who knew he’d go on to surpass that film in so many ways three decades later.

Gladiator (2000)

Oscar Facts: Won 5 Oscars out of 12 nominations

ThursdayPicks_Gladiator

I have dedicated a post for Ridley Scott’s magnum opus a few years ago and even today he still can’t reclaim the glory of this Roman epic. I’m going to self-plagiarize myself here as I still carry a torch for this film and each repeat viewing reminds me just spectacular it is. Gladiator is a visceral spectacle that offers a thrilling blend of intellect and physical strength.  Massively entertaining and memorable, it lived up to the promise of Maximus himself: “I will give them something they have never seen before.“ Oh yes, we’re definitely entertained.

I LOVE that both the hero and the villain are equally-matched in terms of how intensely they’re portrayed on screen. Both Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix gave tremendous performances, culminating to a thrilling and emotional finale worth cheering for. Like the two films I mentioned above, this film ticks all the right boxes to be considered a classic. Visually and emotionally satisfying, it also boasts one of the greatest soundtracks ever by Hans Zimmer. It’s the soundtrack that’s been copied many times over but never surpassed.

BONUS PICK:

Gone with the Wind (1939)

GWTW_OakTreeI just had to include this film as it’s also one of my earliest intro to Hollywood films and even eight decades later, this film is still being talked about. I’d call it a monumental classic, showing the best and absolute worst of American history during the civil war era. Some people didn’t care for the melodrama and it seems overindulgent at times thanks to producer David O. Selznick‘s constant meddling, but few films are as beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted as this one. There are just too many iconic scenes and dialog from this film, some of them I have highlighted here on its 75th anniversary. Whether you’d end up liking it or not, this is one of those cinematic gems every film fan should be compelled to check out.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #29: All in the Family Edition – Married Couple Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I’ve been seeing posts on the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog, but I haven’t been able to participate. Well until now that is.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today is the the first theme for the edition… 

Married Couples

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Well, for this edition, I decided to pick three movies that feature married couples in three very different marital circumstances. Having been married for 11 years, I consider marriage a blessing I don’t take for granted, but it’s also not a walk in the park. For this blogathon, I deliberately picked three different genres just to mix things up, so here goes:

Julie & Julia

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Movies depicting a positive marriage is rare in Hollywood, perhaps they think it just doesn’t make for an interesting story. Well, I always go back to this movie as a good example of a healthy marriage as it actually features TWO loving married couples. People may only remember this movie for all the food/cooking scenes, and they certainly are scrumptious. But for me I always remember the relationship between Julie & Paul Child (Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci), as well as Julie & Eric Powell (Amy Adams & Chris Messina). Both husbands are so supportive of their wives, and they’re depicted in such a real and sincere ways by all the actors. In fact, Paul Child made my list of Best Movie Husbands that I did for my 9th wedding anniversary.

 

Indecent Proposal

indecentproposalI saw this film ages ago with my brother, I think I might’ve been in high school at the time. I thought that the pairing of Demi Moore & Woody Harrelson worked well here and there’s a real chemistry between the two. The film shows how temptation and desire can quickly tear apart even the strongest bond between two people, and their marriage crumbles as a result. But the film doesn’t just show the fragility of marriage, but also the power of love that can piece things back together again, no matter how shattered the bond may have been. The story made such a big impression on me and to this day, the beautiful finale scene by the beach never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The heart-wrenching theme song by John Barry is one of my all time favorite.

Mr & Mrs Smith

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This is the infamous film that serves as the origin story of Hollywood’s golden couple. Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie fell in love during filming and their scorching chemistry is palpable on screen. Playing two skilled assassins who kept their secret identity from each other, it’s perhaps the most preposterous portrayal of marriage, but it sure was fun to watch. The real-life couple could barely fake their disdain for each other in the opening scene at a marriage counseling session:

 


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen these films?

2014 Recap: Ranking the 10 Blindspot Movies I saw in 2014

BlindSpotSeriesSidebarSince Blindspot posts are typically published on a Tuesday, I figure I’ll do the same with this recap. I’m glad I joined this series last year, which was spearheaded by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob. It’s truly a wonderful way to catch up on classic (or even newer films) that I’ve missed and see if they live up to the hype, as well as my own expectations.

Here’s my Blindspot Picks of 2014

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Unfortunately I couldn’t complete all 12, so I didn’t get to see How the West Was Won and Time Bandits last year. But hey, that makes for a perfect Top 10, right? ;) So below is my ranking of the 10 films I saw. Click on each title to see the full review.

10. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
9. Purple Noon/Plein Soleil (1960)
8. Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
7. Rebecca (1940)
6. Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

5. It Happened One Night (1934)
4. The Sting (1973)
3. All the President’s Men (1976)
2.
Double Indemnity (1944)
1. The Apartment (1960)

For the most part, all of the films range from good to excellent. I mean the *lowest* rating I gave was 3.5/5 to The Philadelphia Story, which equals to about B– so it’s far from being a bad film. I kind of knew The Apartment was going to be my favorite of the year even when I saw it back in May, it’s darn near perfect IMHO, and I really could’ve given it a 5/5 instead of 4.5. Oh and I just realized I have TWO Robert Redford films on here, and he’s part of duo in both films (with Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman, respectively).

I’m very curious how this year’s list will pan out, check out which 12 films I picked to watch for 2015 Blindspot Series.


What do you think about these films? Which one(s) is your favorite?

Last Blindspot film of the year: The Sting (1973)

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In 1930s Chicago, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker.

This turns out to be second George Roy Hill movie I saw, whom I didn’t know was born in Minnesota. The first film of his I saw was Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, in fact, it’s the pairing of Robert Redford and Paul Newman that was the main draw for me as they have a great rapport together. I could see why this movie was popular, a box office hit and a critical darling, even winning three out of ten nominations: Best Picture Oscar, Best Director and Best Screenplay for David S. Ward. It’s a fun and entertaining caper movie set in Chicago during the Great Depression.

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Despite the light and humorous tone, there’s some emotional and moving scenes, especially when the main lead lost his good friend who’s killed by the mob, Doyle Lonnegan. That incident leads to the two leads on a vengeful quest in conning the mob boss out of his money. Redford plays a small time grifter Johnny Hooker who teams up a once-great conman Henry Gondorff (Newman) to teach him the big con. Given the 11-year difference, it make sense that Newman is playing more of a mentor role to Redford.

The plot is a bit complicated, but not overly convoluted that you’re too confused to enjoy the movie. It’s quite fun to see how they plan each trick, whilst still keeping it unpredictable. Hill broke the film down in chapters with its own title, i.e. The Set Up, The Wire, etc. which I find to be quite unique in and of itself. It’s worth noting too that the movie’s two leads are NOT good guys, they’re con artists after all, but yet you’re rooting for them right from the start. The pairing of Redford/Newman are played down a bit here compared to Butch Cassidy. In fact, we don’t even see Newman until after about 25 minutes in and he has less screen time overall than Redford. His intro of him waking up with a huge hangover is pretty fun to watch though.

The film focuses more on the tricky scheme itself that involves a great ensemble of supporting actors. There are many familiar faces, i.e. Robert Shaw (most remembered for From Russia With Love) who plays another icy villain here. The guy who played Luther looked strangely familiar to me as he looked so much like James Earl Jones, sure enough that’s his father, Robert Earl Jones. Of course there’s also Dana Elcar (Pete Thornton on one of my fave 90s shows MacGyver) as the FBI agent.

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The Sting‘s got everything going for it in terms of entertainment value. First-rate production quality down to those sharp suits, fast-paced direction, good acting by the two great-looking leads, AND it’s got a fabulous featuring ragtime music by Scott Joplin. It’s a hugely popular song I’ve heard time and time again, but I had no idea it was featured in this film. Apparently composer Marvin Hamlisch adapted Joplin’s tune The Entertainer for the film and it made Joplin’s music popular again in the 70s and beyond.

I’m glad I finally saw this one. I appreciate the fact that Hill didn’t make this caper a dark, brooding and somber affair like most crime thrillers. No unnecessary romance to over-complicate matters either, thank goodness. There’s not too many action scenes here, but there are definitely some tense and surprising moments that got me on the edge of my seat. Overall it’s a fun, thrilling and suspenseful ride from start to finish. That said, I wouldn’t call The Sting a masterpiece of cinema or anything. It’s more of a crowd-pleaser that doesn’t quite make a lingering emotional impact afterwards, but a perfectly satisfying piece of entertainment I certainly don’t mind seeing again.

four reels


Have you seen The Sting? Let me know what you think!

Five movies everyone seem to love that leave me cold

RonSwansonBannerThis list has been on my draft folder for some time. Well, now seems as good a time as any to counter all the the applause for movies as one award after another is getting announced. This post is inspired by Abbi’s list, as well as Kristin’s who posted her own list. Now, I don’t totally abhor all of these films, but like Abbi said, I really don’t get all the praise and for me at least, it did NOT live up to the hype.

I use IMDb rating and Rotten Tomatoes score just to show how critically-acclaimed these films are. Two of the classic films listed here are even considered iconic masterpieces which is even more baffling to me. If you happen to LOVE these movies, well I wish I could say the same but I think they’re awful, sorry!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

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IMDB rating: 7.1 | RT Score: 87%

I actually enjoyed the first Hellboy and that’s the reason why I was excited to see the second one but heh, my hubby and I actually turned it off after less than a half hour. For some reason I just couldn’t figure out why we liked the first one but this sequel is so boring. All the peculiar creatures and fantastical setting we found amusing the first time around just feels derivative, it feels like a studio obligation instead of a passion project from Guillermo Del Toro perhaps because that’s really the case here. I like Ron Perlman in the role though, but I’d rather just watch the first movie again.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

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IMDB rating: 8.0 | RT Score: 79%

Just like Transformers, a string of horror series and young adult adaptations, I never get the appeal of Pirates of the Caribbean from the get go. Johnny Depp‘s flamboyant, Keith-Richard-inspired Jack Sparrow is amusing for maybe a half hour tops, but for some reason people just can’t get enough of it that the fifth movie is now in the works [face palm]. Alas Depp can’t seem to shake that role either now, it’s as if Sparrow became his acting *curse.* I haven’t bothered watching the sequels, though I had to endure the second one (or was it the third??) when I was at a friend’s house and it just reminded me how awful this franchise is. I wince every time Geoffrey Rush show up, but I suppose a big paycheck from this type of drivels allow him to do something worthy of his talents. As if these movies aren’t unbearable already, we also have to endure watching Orlando Bloom doing poor imitations of Errol Flynn!

Spartacus (1960)

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IMDB rating: 8.0 | RT Score: 96%

Spartacus_romanceMy jaw dropped when I found out just how high the score is after seeing the film. I saw this a few years ago and I could barely made it to the end. Now, I LOVE LOVE Ben-Hur which I have seen time and again over the years and it still held up, and as a fan of swords & sandal genre, I thought I’d enjoy this too. But heck, I find it corny, dull and boring. I don’t buy Kirk Douglas as a gladiator slave for a second. He just isn’t tough nor ruthless enough I’d imagine the character to be. Sure some might’ve called Charlton Heston a wooden actor, but he at least look the part as Ben-Hur and he made me root for his character. Not so with Douglas, and the romance with Jean Simmons have zero chemistry and the backdrop wallpaper they used for the scene is so awfully fake looking I couldn’t stop laughing!

So apparently Douglas did this movie to show William Wyler that he could do a Roman epic of his own, as he didn’t get the Judah Ben-Hur role he wanted. Per IMDb trivia, he was actually offered the role of Messala but he refused to play second banana. Heh, I thank the Lord he’s NOT part of Ben-Hur, I doubt he could do a better job than Stephen Boyd as Messala, let alone the lead role!! I also think Tony Curtis is completely miscast here as well.

Stanley Kubrick apparently disowned this project as he didn’t have complete creative control over it, well that explained it. Seems that this movie resulted from *too many cooks spoil the broth* syndrome.

The Getaway (1972)

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IMDb rating: 7.5 | RT Score: 85%

This was my intro to Sam Peckinpah as my pal Ted S. LOVES his work. Sorry Ted, but I really don’t like this film, like AT ALL. It’s also my intro into Steve McQueen who’s supposed to be this suave and cool hero, but meh, I find him to be blank and stiff. I saw some clips of him in Bullit and he’s pretty much acting the exact same way. Now, I like a tough, brooding hero as much as the next gal, but there doesn’t seem to be much going on internally in his character to make me care. Same with Ali MacGraw who’s gorgeous but doesn’t really have much going on otherwise, and the romance is as lifeless as a dead fish.

TheGetawaySlappingSceneThis film is labeled a thriller but I don’t find it suspenseful at all. Even the shootout from a supposedly celebrated violent action director is so lackluster and on a few occasion it made me laugh! The color of the blood here looks so obviously fake too which doesn’t help matters. Al Lettieri did look menacing as the villain but for the most part he’s more annoying than scary. Plus the whole creepy sex scene with Sally Struthers, forcing her own husband to watch her cheat with a criminal is just plain revolting. What bothers me most here is the violence against women by not just the villain but the hero, as there’s a scene where McQueen slaps MacGraw several times and I read that he actually did it spontaneously so her reaction looked real. Heh, there’s nothing cool or ‘macho’ about assault of any kind and it’s even more shocking that this film is rated PG!!

Interestingly enough, this is yet another movie disowned by the director himself, as apparently he butted heads with McQueen who wanted a different version of the story and the studio backed the actor.

To Catch A Thief (1955)

ToCatchAThiefPosterIMDb rating: 7.5 | RT Score: 95%

The poster promises ‘shocking suspense and sizzling romance’ but we’ve got neither. Apart from the gorgeous cinematography of the French Riviera – as well as Grace Kelly’s exquisite beauty – this film hasn’t got much to offer. Kelly’s soooo beautiful here that it’s actually distracting, and I was  also distracted by how tanned Cary Grant is in this movie, especially compared to his alabaster co-star. It feels more like a rom-com than a mystery romance, as it lacks any real suspense or even believable chemistry between the two leads. Perhaps the fact that Grant was 50 playing a guy in his mid 30s have something to do with that. It’s almost as tedious as Torn Curtain, another disappointing film from ‘the master of suspense’ director Alfred Hitchcock.

The premise sounds promising on paper and you’d think with this cast, this could’ve been far more entertaining. By the time the twist was revealed, I no longer cared who did what to whom. I suppose this film is worth seeing for the lush scenery and glamorous costumes (done by Edith Head, natch!), but as a film, it’s more window dressing than an intriguing piece.


Well, those are five movies that everyone seem to love but me. What do you think? Let’s hear it!

Fairy Tale Blogathon: Ridley Scott’s LEGEND (1985)

FairyTaleBlogathonPicWhen I saw that there’s a blogathon on Fairy Tale movies, hosted by Movies Silently, I jumped at the chance to participate. Alas I discovered it too late that most of the movies I wanted to review had been picked by others.

But then I remembered about Legend, which is a fairy tale/ fantasy film by Ridley Scott that I’ve been curious about. The film’s received some kind of a cult status, and the fact that it also stars Tom Cruise piqued my interest even more. Apparently there are the theatrical and director’s cut [as is often the case w/ Ridley Scott’s works] and the one I saw on iTunes is the theatrical version.

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I knew the movie would be rather campy, a la Flash Gordon, I mean it’s the 80s after all! As the film opens, we’re treated to a really wordy exposition talking about darkness and light and setting up who’s who in the movie: a girl (Lily), a boy (Jack), unicorns and the devil himself, Lord of Darkness. The visuals and set pieces are actually pretty darn good for a film of its time, there’s an atmospheric quality to it that works for this genre. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given Scott’s meticulous hand in creating an imaginative world for his films.

Tom Cruise and Mia Sara play the two lovebirds who supposedly represent what’s good in the world… Jack and Lily are innocent and pure, though we barely know just who these people are and how they meet, etc. Then the story seems to have taken the ‘Adam & Eve’ route in that Eve Lily does the forbidden thing when she touches an angelic-looking unicorn despite Jack’s vehement warning. Apparently it’s a huge no-no in their universe though the unicorns themselves don’t seem to mind it. So of course that incident propels a series of bad things, including one of the unicorn getting its horn cut off and Lily herself being kidnapped by Darkness’ minions.

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Tim Curry as the Lord of Darkness is no doubt the best thing about this film with his deep baritone voice and vivacious yet maniacal style, but he’s given so little screen time here. It’s a real shame as his devilish makeup is quite entertaining in and of itself, it’s like a combination of The Joker + Hellboy with big horns and flappy ears. It’s no wonder the makeup team got an Oscar nomination for their crafty work. The English actor relished in being an evil lord and gleefully flash his trademark Cheshire cat grin and deep hearty laugh.

Legend_TimCurryCruise seems rather out of place here and he pretty much just runs around in his hideous scale mail dress, though it’s amusing to see him looking so boyish and fresh-faced here pre his Scientology indoctrination. Let’s just say he gets better with age not just in looks but also in screen presence as he doesn’t seem at all confident or compelling here in comparison to his other heroic roles he’s played in his career. Mia Sara is just ok as the heroine, nothing special. Lily is far more interesting when she dons a very revealing outfit that’s no doubt handpicked by Lord Darkness himself, but otherwise she’s a rather bland character.

The story is inherently cheesy and predictable, but I wouldn’t have mind it so much if it weren’t so boring or worse, mind-numbingly irritating. The movie spends so much time with the silly goblins and those annoying elves/dwarves whom Jack encounter on his journey to fight Darkness and rescue his girlfriend from his possession. Their scenes are just pointless and again, hugely irritating that I actually had to fast forward past them. There’s a big fight scene towards the end between Jack and Darkness, but I wish there’s more screen time between the two of them.

Cruise_LegendFor the most part, Legend is just so cliché-ridden and absurd that it’s unintentionally hilarious. It certainly doesn’t live up to its name as I don’t think the film merits any kind of exalted status. Neither the hero nor heroine [or unicorns for that matter] really inspire anything and so devoid of personalities to make any kind of impact. The soundtrack of the theatrical cut is scored by Tangerine Dream and the synthesized sound actually fits the ethereal look and dreamy mood of the film, though after a while it also gets to be too much that it feels overindulgent. Oh and apparently Sir Ridley has sort of a fairy dust obsession here the way J.J. Abrams is with lens flare, poor Tom and Mia must’ve been engulfed in them in this one schmaltzy scene.

So overall I guess I wasn’t too impressed with this one. In fact it’s nuts to think this is from the same guy who directed the likes of Blade Runner and Gladiator! The concept of dark/light and the allegory of good & evil is intriguing, and it’s a theme that’s always timely. I just think the execution misses the mark and it’s not as entertaining nor meaningful as it could’ve been. I don’t regret seeing it though, as the visuals and atmospheric quality is wonderful and the contrast of the good vs evil is beautifully realized. As far as fantasy movies go, it doesn’t hold a candle to other period pieces in its genre like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Pan’s Labyrinth or The Princess Bride.

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Have you seen this film? I’d love to hear what you think!