Blogathon: 10 Actors I Would See In Just About Anything

Top10Actors

Thank you to Lady Sati, whom I’ve been commiserating with in the agony & ecstasy of crushing over an underrated Brit, kindly passed the baton to me to join this awesome blogathon! This idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are, and to be honest with you, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Partly it’s because I’ve been nuts about Toby Stephens lately [haven't you noticed?] that he’s sort of ruined it for other actors for me. So apart from Toby [who I'd watch in literally ANYTHING], the title of the post is hyperbolic of course. For the other actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in anything because there are tons of movies with them in it I haven’t seen and probably never will. But having their name in a certain film would certainly make me more inclined in watching them.

Ok now I know this is a list for LIVING actors, but if we could include deceased actors, no doubt Gregory Peck would be on the list as I’ve seen practically everything he’s in by now. Heck, I even made a tumblr because of him though now it’s dedicated to Toby [natch!]

Here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite:

10. Tom Hardy

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First saw the hunky and versatile actor in Rocknrolla, along with two other actors here on my top 10 list (Elba & Butler) where he played Handsome Bob. Incidentally, his character was a closeted gay man who’s been secretly in love with Butler’s character. One thing I noticed right away is Hardy’s gorgeous voice to go with his handsome face, and he’s got such swagger. Then I saw him in Inception where he stole practically every scene he’s in, and it’s interesting that he played a forger consider the actor’s quite a shape-shifter himself. He’s entirely unrecognizable as Bane in The Dark Knight and also in Warrior, where he bulked up considerably that he looked like he’s twice the size of his character in Rocknrolla! Hardy’s proven to be a capable actor even when all he’s got to work with is his face, as proven in the one-man-show Locke. Heck, he’s even watchable in abominable rom-com like This Means War which I saw on the plane just for him.

Favorite Role: Ivan Locke in Locke
Least Favorite Role: Tuck in This Means War

9. Idris Elba

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I also first noticed the hunky former D.J. in American Gangster where I didn’t realize he was British. But I really took notice when he was in Rocknrolla as Gerry Butler’s BFF Mumbles. Like Hardy, he not only looks good but sounds good as well sporting his native Cockney accent. The next few years I saw him in The Losers, Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Elba’s got such a magnetic persona and devilish charm, in fact I felt rather guilty drooling over him when he was playing Mandela. If only the Bond producers were daring enough to cast him as Bond, oh man he’d be a killer 007.  I still need to catch The Wire soon, but he’s definitely an actor whose career I watch closely.

Favorite Role: Stacker Pentecost in Pacific Rim
Least Favorite Role: Roque in The Losers

8. Clive Owen

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There’s something mysterious to Clive that adds so much to his allure. He smolders without even trying and he’s inherently cool because he doesn’t seem to have anything to prove. The first time I saw him was in those BMW films, which instantly wished he had been in the running as Bond. I know Clive is known for his dark, brooding roles like Children of Men and Closer, as well as in action hero roles like King Arthur, Shoot ‘em Up, Sin City, The International, etc. but I also love him in dramatic roles, i.e. Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Boys Are Back and Shadow Dancer. He even shines in slightly comedic roles like the recent dramedy Words & Pictures with Juliette Bincohe.

Favorite Role: Theo in Children of Men
Least Favorite Role: Smith in Shoot ‘Em Up

7. Alan Rickman

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I actually first saw Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply in my ESL class before I started college. Then later on I learned that he was the same actor playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Since then he’s become one of my all time favorite villains, but also one of my most cherished period drama hero as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Later on I’ve loved Rickman in a variety of roles: Galaxy Quest, Love Actually, Bottle Shock, and I even rented Gambit because he’s in it. Rickman’s line delivery is just one of the things I love about him, as evident in his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. He’s perhaps one of the most impersonated actors out there, young British talents like Benedict Cumberbatch & Tom Hiddleston have done impressions of him. His voice is so golden that even when he voiced Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the android is my fave character in the movie.

Number of movies seen: 18
Favorite Role: Col. Brandon in Sense and Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Lionel Shahbandar in Gambit

6. Gerard Butler

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Ok for those who’ve followed my blog from the beginning already know I’ve had a huge crush on the Scottish lad ever since I saw him in Phantom of the Opera. I definitely prefer his leaner look before he got so buff in 300, though all that crazy training shows his dedication for a role. Well, lately I was dismayed by his role choices, mostly those atrocious rom-coms he kept signing up for like The Ugly Truth and Playing for Keeps. The latter was so horrible I actually swore off Butler for a while in my open letter. But Butler’s the only one of my crushes whom I’ve actually met in real life so perhaps that’s why it’s not easy to just forget about him. To be fair though, it’s not like Butler didn’t bother to act the past few years. In fact, it’s a shame that his compelling work in Machine Gun Preacher was overlooked, and even his surfing role in Chasing Mavericks was decent even if the film wasn’t exactly great. So he still makes my list despite his terrible role choices because well, for some reason I still care for the guy and still have hopes for him, futile though it may be as his next projects are Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen [sigh]. But then I remember him in his earlier roles in Phantom, Dear Frankie and BBC miniseries The Jury, and y’know what, I’m not quite ready to think he’s a lost cause yet.

Numbers of movies seen: 31
Favorite Role: Erik/Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera
Least Favorite Role: Mike in The Bounty Hunter

5. Keanu Reeves

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Ok here’s another actor who perhaps would never win an Oscar, but one can’t refute Keanu’s unusual charm. Believe it or not I think I first saw Keanu in Paula Abdul’s Rush Rush music video, ha! I wouldn’t hold it against him though, I mean he’s probably a young struggling actor making ends meet. Of course the role that made me swoon was Speed, followed by The Matrix (though I’ve only cared to see the first one). Keanu is actually more versatile than people think and despite not being the most expressive actor, he’s just so effortlessly likable. People often forget he’s quite good in My Own Private Idaho with River Phoenix, and able to hold his own against Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate. I absolutely love him in the romantic drama A Walk in the Clouds, yes even more so than in his other romantic roles like The Lake House. Even sporting laughable British accent in Much Ado About Nothing and Dracula I still find Keanu amusing to watch, and I’ve even enjoyed watching him in the little-seen movies like Street Kings and Henry’s Crime. I also admire Keanu on a personal level, as he’s well-known for being super generous with his wealth and shunning the lavish Hollywood lifestyle. I don’t care what people say about him, I’ll always be a fan of Keanu and I don’t think there’s an actor quite like him in Hollywood.

Number of Movies Seen: 15
Favorite Roles: Jack in Speed & Neo in The Matrix
Least Favorite Role: Alex Wyler in The Lake House

4. Russell Crowe

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Thanks to his tremendous performance as Maximus Decimus Meridius, I was quite obsessed with Mr. Crowe following Gladiator. I remember trying to find all his previous roles, even as obscure as his early Aussie movies in Proof, Heaven’s Burning, Rough Magic, Breaking Up, etc. Every time I saw Crowe’s name attached to something, I’m more inclined to give it a shot even if it’s for a rental. A recent re-watch of Gladiator confirmed how much I admire his acting style. He’s not only charismatic but he’s got such a certain astute way in displaying emotion with even the most subtle gesture. I think his performance as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider is his best role to date, yes it even beats Gladiator and he should’ve won his Oscar for that role. Crowe makes a compelling hero to be sure, but his villainous turn in 3:10 to Yuma is just as intriguing to watch. Oh and regardless what critics have you believe, he’s quite good in Ridley Scott’s rare rom-com A Good Year which displays his lighthearted side.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: Maximus in Gladiator & Jack Aubrey in Master & Commander
Least Favorite Role: Alex Wyler in The Lake House

3. Christian Bale

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Before Bale landed the role of Batman, Bale had made an impression of me as Bateman, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. It was such a dark and violent movie as I saw the unrated version by accident, but Bale was nothing short of electrifying. I think before that role, I had already seen Bale in Reign of Fire alongside Gerry Butler AND Matthew McConaughey, an apocalyptic sci-fi movie with fire-breathing dragons [yep, you heard it right, but it's quite worth a look just for the cast]. Of course I LOVE Bale as Nolan’s Batman, especially in the origin story in Batman Begins where we see his transformation from a naive rich kid to a bad ass caped crusader. I also loved him in his more understated roles such as John Rolfe in The New World. Despite being there for only 20 minutes, he’s my favorite character and I bought the dvd because of him. Even in so-so movies, the Welsh thespian is often the best thing in it and makes the movie worth a watch. He’s also awesome in Equilibrium which I probably wouldn’t even bother to watch if Bale weren’t in it. His incredible dedication to his craft is incredible, talk about suffering for his art by losing/gaining ridiculous amount of weight for a role. He may not be as versatile as people think though, as I don’t think he could do full on comedy, but he seems to know how to choose roles that suits him.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: Bruce Wayne in Nolan’s Batman Trilogy
Least Favorite Role: Melvin Purvis in Public Enemies

 

2. Timothy Dalton

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Whaddayaknow, two Welsh actors back to back in my top 5. Most of you likely know I’m a card-carrying member of the Dalton-is-best-Bond brigade. I LOVE his only two roles as 007 which made me a fan for life. But on top of that, he’s also massively awesome as Prince Barin in the sci-fi cult classic Flash Gordon and the Errol Flynn-channeling villain in The Rocketeer. Until Toby Stephens entered the picture, Dalton was my favorite Rochester amongst the ubiquitous Jane Eyre adaptations and he also made a marvelous Julius Caesar in the 1999 Cleopatra TV Movie. He also has a surprisingly great comic timing too as displayed in Hot Fuzz and the silly-but-fun Beautician and the Beast. There’s a certain intensity and passion in Dalton’s eyes that I find riveting and he’s one of the best looking 70-year-old actors out there. In fact, from the clips of the Penny Dreadful series, it’s clear Dalton seems to only get better with age. I don’t normally watch horror, but I would be willing to give it a shot when it’s available to rent. I wish he had been more prolific in his career. I’d think that Dalton could’ve done a number of roles offered to his peers like Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and Patrick Stewart. In fact, I’d have loved to have seen him as Alfred in the inevitable Batman reboots or even better, he’d rock a role of an older Bruce Wayne if they were to adapt Batman Beyond to the big screen.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: James Bond in The Living DaylightsLicence to Kill
Least Favorite Role: Michael Barrington in Sextette

1. Toby Stephens

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Ahhhh… finally we get to the top of the list. The man who gets me all giddy like a school girl every time I watch him on screen. My Tumblr is now dedicated to this fine British thespian and I literally squeal every time his exquisite face come across my dash. There are few actors in life who generates such an extreme reaction from me, in fact so far there’s only been five of them, starting with Christopher Reeve when I was a wee girl, and he’s the first redhead I’ve ever been head over heels in love with.

As I said in my Toby Appreciation post, the reason Toby’s bewitched me so much is more than just his devastating good looks, but it’s his chameleon-like ability and incredibly expressive face that conveys so much emotion. He’s blessed with greenish-blue piercing eyes and he sure knows how to use them well in each and every role, such as below as Captain Flint in Black Sails.

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Sati said about her crush Stephen Dillane that ‘…one look in his eyes is enough to tell you so much about the character he is playing’ I feel the exact same way about Toby and that’s why it’s been such a joy catching up to his work. Toby seems to fit any genre, from period dramas to sci-fi to something like a pirate which one wouldn’t normally associate such a posh, refined and cultured English gent with. Yet Toby effortlessly tackles the role whilst juggling a high-society comedic play in Noël Coward’s Private Lives at the same time.

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Toby with Anna Chancelor in ‘Private Lives’

Clearly looks + talent runs in the family as I’ve been a huge fan of Toby’s mum Maggie Smith, but I really respect Toby that he doesn’t owe his career to her. But of course having been exposed to the acting craft early on made an impact on him and made him such a multifaceted performer, excelling in every acting medium from stage, TV, film and even radio where he acts just using his voice alone. He’s also one of those actors who can master any accent, which he’s used in various roles from playing Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby TV Movie to a CIA operative in BBC’s Strike Back. Heck, he even spoke Hindi in the Bollywood historical epic The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey, right after he played Bond villain in Die Another Day no less. About half of the dialog was in Hindi whilst he had to speak with a Scottish accent the rest of the time as Captain William Gordon.

Role that made me a fangirl – Vincent in The Machine (2013)
Role that officially ruined all other men for me: Mr. Rochester in BBC Jane Eyre (2006)
Number of movies/TV shows I saw with him in them: 19 (so far)
Favorite Roles: Rochester in BBC Jane Eyre + Captain Flint in Black Sails
Least Favorite Role: Victorin in Cousin Bette (1998)
TobyManyFaces
 The Many Faces of Toby Stephens
(clockwise from top left: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Queen’s Sister, Wired, Jane Eyre, The Rising, Die Another Day, Cambridge Spies, Robin Hood, Black Sails, The Machine, Vexed, Possession, The Great Gatsby)


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! A couple of these actors might’ve made my main list a few months ago but upon looking at some of my old favorites, only three of them made the cut. I’m still a big fan of all of them though, or they wouldn’t even get a mention. Sam Reid is the newbie here as I have only seen him in Belle so far but he really impressed me that I’d love to see more of his work! So here they are and photo shows the role that made me a fan:

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  1. Richard Armitage
  2. Eric Bana
  3. Henry Cavill
  4. Benedict Cumberbatch
  5. Chris Evans
  6. Tom Hiddleston
  7. James McAvoy
  8. Ewan McGregor
  9. Sam Reid
  10. Rufus Sewell

 


Bloggers who have previously shared their almost anything actors/actresses:

  1. Abbi at Where the Wild Things are
  2. Fernando at Committed to Celluloid
  3. Kristin at All Eyes On Screen
  4. Jaina at Time Well Spent
  5. Nostra at My Film Views
  6. KaramelK at Karamel Kinema
  7. Getter at MettelRay

Now I’m passing the torch to my pal Melissa [aka Queen Mel] over at Snap Crackle Watch who shares my taste for cute British boys ;)


So that’s my list folks! Feel free to name your own picks of actors you’d watch in practically anything :)

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The Spielberg Blogathon: Reminiscing about Raiders of the Lost Ark & Jurassic Park

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This post is part of the SPIELBERG BLOGATHON hosted by Outspoken & Freckled, It Rains… You Get Wet, and Once Upon A Screen taking place August 23-24. Please visit these host blogs for a full list of participating blogs

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When Ruth asked me to participate in the Steven Spielberg blogathon, I wasn’t sure what to write about so I figured I should do a write up about two films of his that I’ve watched many times. These two films also made me into a film fanatic and home theater enthusiast that I am today.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

I was born in the Far East and the martial arts films was the only genre I’d watch, but after seeing this film I became a fan of American action films. I think I was about 8 or 9 years old when I first saw this film, my family and I were living in the Philippines Islands at the time and I saw it at some old movie theater. I was too young to really understood what the film was about but the visual and of course the action pulled me in. I still remember that the film’s climatic scene gave me nightmares, I freaked out when I saw the villains’ faces melt off and they were burned alive.

But I still thought the film was magic and when my family and I arrived to the States a year later, I begged my parents to buy me a VHS copy of the film. What’s so funny was that I didn’t know there were sequels until I saw a TV spot of The Last Crusade the year we arrived in the States. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the third film on the big screen but watched it several times on VHS. Then a couple of years later I watched Temple of Doom on the old Sci-Fi Channel. I enjoyed the two sequels but to me Raiders is still the best in the series.

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I’ve owned this film on many formats, first I had the VHS copy then later when I was able to afford a LaserDisc player, I bought a LD version of the film. When DVD became popular, I of course bought the DVD set then just a couple of years ago I got the Bluray set, unfortunately I had to buy the dreadful fourth film too.

Since Spielberg is a big fan of David Lean and Lawrence of Arabia is one of his favorite films, he even stated that the film’s script is the best ever written, so Raiders of the Lost Ark was his ultimate tribute to Lean’s classic film.

 

Jurassic Park

The summer of 1993 was dubbed Arnold vs. Sly since both of those action stars had two big films opening in the same summer and the so-called industry “experts” predicted that Sly’s Cliffhanger and Arnold’s Last Action Hero would dominate the box office. Of course Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was also one of the hyped up films but no one expected it would stomped both Sly’s and Arnold’s films. Sure I was excited to see new action films from Sly and Arnold but I super excited to see this film about dinosaurs. It’s one of the first films to have included full CGI effects in many scenes and it’s about dinosaurs!

Yes, like many kids back in those days, I was obsessed with dinosaurs and I’ve just finished Michael Crichton’s novel that it’s based on. I still remember to this day which theater I saw the film at on opening weekend and still remember how at awe I was after the film was over. The first time I saw the CGI dinosaurs, my jaw dropped and throughout the film, I had a smile on my face. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at the cinemas. I actually went to see the film twice on the opening weekend, around this time digital surround sound was pretty new in movie theaters so I wanted to hear the T-Rex’s roar in full digital sound over and over again. I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to the re-release on IMAX last year. With an opening weekend of over $50mil, it’s a record opening at that time. I think the summer of 1993 should’ve been called, T-Rex stomped Sly and Arnold.

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Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, I’ve owned this film on many formats. First VHS then LaserDisc and years later on DVD. Recently I bought it on Bluray but I have yet to watch it. Apparently Universal didn’t give the film a proper HD transfer so I was hesitant to buy it. Since I haven’t watched the film in a couple of years, I need to see and hear it in HD soon. This film also turned me into a home theater enthusiast, as mentioned earlier, I saw the film at a theater that has the new digital surround sound and after experiencing that, I wanted to have a home theater. Of course being a high school kid, I didn’t have the money to buy home theater products yet. But as I’ve gotten older and can earn bigger pay checks, I’ve invested some good amount of cash on home entertainment. In a way, I can thank and blame this Spielberg’s film for making me obsess with home theater.

Spielberg is one of the best filmmakers ever and these two films proved that he can make films that can please both the critics and audiences.

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What do you think of these two films, were you lucky enough to have seen them on the big screen? Do share your memories on the comments section.

The Spielberg Blogathon: My Top 10 Favorite Spielberg-Directed Films

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This post is part of the SPIELBERG BLOGATHON hosted by Outspoken & Freckled, It Rains… You Get Wet, and Once Upon A Screen taking place August 23-24. Please visit these host blogs for a full list of participating blogs

I first learned about this blogathon from my pal Michael’s blog, and having grown up watching a bunch of Spielberg’s films, naturally I have to take part! Steven Spielberg is such a legend because so many of his films are not only entertaining but they have such strong emotional resonance and timeless quality about them. For this list, I’m focusing on the 50+ films that Spielberg has directed, as there are nearly 150 projects that he has produced for both TV and film. I didn’t realize this until I made the list but the scores of ALL of the films on my top 10 are done by John Williams! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as a lot of the scores also made my top 10 scores by the legendary composer.

So here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite :D

10. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

AIArtificialIntelligence

Many great sci-fis dealing with artificial intelligence make us ponder what it means to be human, and this film definitely did so. The story about a robot boy who desires to be real and craves real love from his parents was poignant and emotional, it’s not a cold or distant type of sci-fi that’s more concerned about cool set pieces and futuristic designs. The moral dilemmas presented here are genuinely thought provoking, with compelling performances from Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law and Frances O’Connor.

9. The Terminal (2004)

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It’s a story about an immigrant from an Eastern European country finds himself stranded in JFK airport. Though the story takes a lot of liberty from the real thing, I was quite engrossed and entertained by this. It’s perhaps one of my favorite Tom Hanks‘ performance in an underrated but endearing role. Hanks is an immensely and effortlessly likable actor, which makes him the perfect actor to portray Viktor Navorski. Even with an exaggerated Russian-sounding accent, the actor is at his most charming here as he befriends the airport staff and even took a chance at romance. This is also the first time I saw the then-unknown Zoë Saldana as a Trekkie Immigration Officer, which is interesting as she later plays Uhura in the J.J. Abrams movie!

8. Catch Me If You Can (2005)

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Leo DiCaprio at his most charming and, with his Jack Dawson looks and that devil-may-care swagger. I guess this is like Wolf of Wall Street lite as both Jordan Belfort and Frank Abagnale Jr are both charming con artists. I love the retro look and feel of the movie and the sense of fun in the chase as the FBI are on to catch the teenage fraudster. The dynamic between Frank and the federal agent played by Tom Hanks is fun to watch, they definitely play off each other well. There are also great supporting cast and cameo throughout, including Christopher Walken, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Garner. The lighter tone somehow work nicely here, with the darker moments only sprinkled throughout which showcase Frank’s vulnerability to great effect.

7. Empire of the Sun (1987)

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I saw this one fairly recently and I wish I had seen it sooner. Even at such a young age, it’s evident that Christian Bale had the chops to carry a film. I’m usually not into war films but I do like it when it focuses more on a certain character’s life being affected by war and this one shows that from the perspective of a young boy named Jim ‘Jamie’ Graham. There is an epic quality to the production, as one would expect from Spielberg, yet it feels personal and intimate at the same time. I love the unlikely relationship between Jamie and the soldiers in the camp, particularly Basie (John Malkovich). It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story and a survival tale that certainly lingers long after the end credits.

6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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I was pretty young when I saw this movie and it’s one of those movies that one simply doesn’t forget. It might’ve been one of the earliest movies about alien that I saw [well apart from Superman which came out a few years before] and perhaps cemented my love for sci-fi movies. There’s a sense of wonderment in Spielberg movies that definitely appealed to this wide-eyed kid filled with curiosity. The fact that I was the same age as Drew Barrymore‘s character when I saw this made me identify with her even more. I remember wondering what it would be like if there were such an alien creature living in my grandma’s garage. E.T. is the kind of film that fuels the imagination and of course it’s got so much heart, who didn’t at least tear up watching the bicycle scene as it flies across the full moon? It’s also one of the most iconic cinematic scenes ever.

5. Minority Report (2002)

MinorityReport

I regard this as one of my favorite sci-fi movies. I own the Blu-ray and on recent rewatch, I was amazed how this movie still holds up to this day. A lot of futuristic films often look dated even a few years after they’re released but somehow the concepts still feel fresh and modern. The whole *Precrime* notion doesn’t seem all that far-fetched now, not to mention having those annoying ads who know who we are. It’s interesting to see how some of the technology presented here have been realized, while some are still being dreamed up [wonder if we'd have flying cars by 2054? Wouldn't that be nice?]. I find this movie immensely entertaining and intriguing, with Tom Cruise playing what he does best as a former cop on the run. Though I’ve seen this repeatedly, I’m still surprised by that twist towards the end, thanks to a great performance by Max von Sydow and Colin Farrell. Samantha Morton is also memorable here as one of the three Precogs who could predict the future.

4. Schindler’s List (1993)

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One of the most, if not THE most, essential holocaust film ever made, this film is as beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. I’ve only seen Schindler’s List once but it’s one I shall never forget, in fact, some of the scenes are forever etched in my mind. It’s one of the most powerful displays of the best AND worst of humanity, as well as a testament how a single person can make a difference even in the most dire circumstances. There are so many indelible performances here, Liam Neeson as the hero is as iconic as Ralph Fiennes‘ villainous turn as Amon Goeth. John Williams‘ evocative, soul-piercing score makes the whole experience even more unforgettable. It’s not a hyperbole to call this one Spielberg’s masterpiece.

3. Jurassic Park (1993)

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I had just rewatched this recently and I was reminded by how wonderfully entertaining this is. Even the latest Godzilla still falls short as it lacks that sense of wonderment and sense of humor. Jurassic Park is such a thrilling ride from start to finish, filled with great, memorable characters courtesy of Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern. Of course those cloned dinosaurs are wildly entertaining, as terrifying as they are dazzling thanks to the special effects prowess of Stan Wilson & co. Too bad the sequels never measure up to this amazing original film.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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I’m still mad at Spielberg for ruining his own awesome franchise with that godawful fourth movie! I grew up watching the Indiana Jones movies with my two older brothers and to this day I’m still a huge fan of the first and third movies. Infused with fun action, special effects and a dose of good humor, it’s the quintessential action adventure that never gets old with multiple rewatches. Plus you’ve got an awesome heroine who’s equally charming & fun to watch, Karen Allen‘s Marion. The chemistry between the two is perfect, absolutely perfect. Speaking of perfection, Harrison Ford made the role of the archaeologist adventurer so iconic. It’s crazy to think that George Lucas wasn’t keen on casting him initially [Tom Selleck was the first choice], I really can’t imagine anyone topping Ford as Indy in the inevitable remakes.

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

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This is one of my favorite movies of all time, not just from Spielberg but of ALL movies I’ve seen in my life. There are just so much to love here, even more so than the first one thanks to the inspired casting of Sean Connery as Indy’s father, Dr. Henry Jones Sr. They’ve become my favorite cinematic duo ever, apparently there was an inside joke to say that James Bond is the father of Indiana Jones, ha! There are quite a few actors here who’ve been in various Bond movies: John Rhys-Davies, Alison Doody & Julian Glover, they’re all great in their respective roles. This movie has everything I loved about the first movie, but on top of the sense of humor and rousing adventure, we’ve got that spiritual aspect going for it that fits perfectly with the familial theme of the film. That whole finale in the mysterious Holy Grail is so wonderfully-filmed and leaves a lasting impression for years to come.

 


HONORABLE MENTIONS: 

1975 Jaws
2005 Munich
2005 War of the Worlds
2011 The Adventures of Tintin
2011 War Horse

Well that’s my top 10 faves from Spielberg. Which movie(s) would be on YOUR top 10 list?

The Flix List: Five Movies Suffering From Identity Crisis

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Many filmmakers tried to mix several genres in one film, sometime it works nicely, i.e. Captain America: The Winter Soldier which is a superhero movie mixed with Cold War-era espionage intrigue. But most of the time, it turns out to be a disaster. Just look at Cowboys & Aliens, mixing Sci-fi with Westerns sounds like a crazy idea, but maybe it’s crazy enough that it could work. Alas, it turned out to be a bomb for Universal, as it barely made close to its $163 mil budget domestically.

So Ted comes up with five other films suffering from identity crisis which are also box office duds:

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The Lone Ranger

LoneRanger

This box office dud tried to be too many things and in the end it just didn’t work. The film sort of reminded me of some of Buster Keator or Charlie Chaplin films from the 30s but then it also tried to be this serious western action/adventure of the 60s and 70s. I understand what Johnny Depp and the filmmakers were trying to do, but I think they should’ve picked a genre and stuck with it. Despite so many bad reviews it received last summer, I still thought it was an entertaining flick (check out my review) and I think it might have a cult following the years to come.

Tears of the Sun

TearsOftheSun

Antione Fuqua tends to mix genres in his films and this one was a good example of how NOT to do it. Originally the script was written as a Die Hard sequel but then things didn’t work out and Willis decided he wanted to make it a separate film. He even persuaded the studio executives to hire Fuqua to direct the film. Well, Willis ended up regretting that decision. When Fuqua took over the project, he decided to make it more into political drama instead of just straight up action/adventure. Apparently both Willis and Fuqua argued with one another during the entire shoot and vowed to never work with each other again. By combining real life tragedies and over-the-top action sequences, the film just didn’t work and when it opened in March of 2003, it failed miserably. The film only earned about $40mil at the box office and it cost around $70-90mil to produce, ouch!

The Devil’s Own

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This big budgeted action/drama was plagued with behind-the-scenes drama. It seems Brad Pitt loves to be involved with films that has troubled production, (the infamous World War Z behind the scene issues and the ongoing arguments on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith), in this film the dramas involved Pitt and Harrison Ford. Both stars wanted the film to focus on their character, apparently Pitt was pissed when studio hired Ford to be in the film.

In the original script, Pitt’s character was the main focus and Ford’s character was just a supporting role. But when Ford read the script and demanded that he gets the cop part, the studio executives were more than happy to hire him, this was when Ford was still a box office champ, he had just starred in The Fugitive, Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games, all were box office hits. There were reports that Pitt wanted to leave the production of the film because he thought the film was going downhill fast after several rewrites. He even bad mouthed the film in an interview with Newsweek magazine, calling it “the most irresponsible bit of film-making.” He was unhappy with how the script has changed so much from the one he fell in love with, it was originally a dark and brutal drama thriller but then it switched into more of an action/thriller. And that was the problem with the film, it couldn’t decide if it wants to be drama or action, and it failed by combining both. The film reportedly cost $90-100mil to make and it only made about $40mil back.

Hancock

Hancock

Well this film actually was a huge hit when it came out but I thought it didn’t work at all, I actually named it one of the worst films from 2008. The original script was a much darker story about a superhero who hates saving the world and Michael Mann was attached to direct it in early 2000s. But with several rewrites and delays, Mann gave the job to his protégé Peter Berg. Berg wanted to make it close to the original script but pressures from studio heads forced him to make it into a mixed of light comedy and action/adventure but also with some dark moments. Seriously the tone of this film was so uneven, I wanted to walk out of the theater. I think this was a huge missed opportunity to make a film about a “real” superhero living in our society and sick of saving idiotic people but again it’s all about making money for studios so what they made was a crappy wannabe film.

Random Hearts

RandomHearts

This film maybe the prime example of how not to mix several genres into one film, was this film supposed to be police drama thriller, mystery suspense or romantic drama? What’s so surprising was that the film was directed by Sydney Pollack, who was considered one of the good directors at the time. The behind-the-scene drama was more well known than the actual film, apparently Pollack and his leading man Harrison Ford constantly argued during the production of the film. It got so bad that they stopped talking to one another and vowed to never work with each other again. It’s kind of funny because while making Sabrina together a few years prior, they were good buddies. The film opened in the fall of 1999 with little fanfare and the studio hardly promoted it, probably because they saw it and decided it was a turkey and didn’t want to spend any money on promotions.


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Have you seen any of these? If so what do you think? Feel free to list of other films you think suffer from an identity crisis.

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!

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)

BigHero6

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)

Exodus_Moses

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?

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)

TheGrandSeductionStills

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)

EdgeOfTomorrow_9

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)

TheMachine_7

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)

BelleStills2

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

Superior British Fare: ‘The Bletchley Circle’ Miniseries (2012-2013)

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Greetings all and sundry!
Having taken some time from change in the weather cleaning and rearranging of furniture and minor yard improvements. My evenings have been taken up sporadically easing aching muscles while in search of worthwhile or better enterta8inment.

With IFC (Independent Film Channel) and The Sundance Channel being tied up in summer fare. I’ve fallen back on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). Which often excels in finding, importing and disseminating superior series and specials from the United Kingdom.

Doctor Who, Danger: UXB, Brideshead Revisted, The Sandbaggers, Foley’s War and recently, Sherlock and Downton Abbey have been staples of exceptional quality. All have stood well the test of time. No matter their initial longevity. Due to the UK’s innate ability to find an unfamiliar, obscure or forgotten idea or topic. Research the heck out of it. And present it to higher ups for polish, luster and presentation.

With that said. Allow me a few moments of your time to discern and perhaps relish a bit of what the Brits do best.

BletchleyCirclePBS

Superior British Fare: The Bletchley Circle (2012-2013)

Cracking a Killer’s Code.

The story begins in 1952 London.World War II is seven years in the past. Though the economic boom and prosperity enjoyed by the U.S. are distinctly absent along its narrow, cobbled streets and shops doing their best to survive and perhaps, thrive. A weak economy keps rationing in place. Families are pinching shillings and trading them in shops and businesses showing a marked preponderance of women in the workforce, due to lost husbands, lovers and sons during the war.

A war that shortened by between two to five years. Due to the work of many unsung men and women assigned under The Official Secrets Act. To find patterns and create procedures and algorithms feed into captured and manufactured German Enigma machines at Bletchley Park. Breaking their coded messages. And staying one step ahead of the Germans.

Mathematicians. statisticians, geniuses savants and those who have a knack with anagrams and written words. Seeking advantages whenever possible to help discover what’s going on across the Channel in Festung Europa. A tremendous advantage whose secrecy Churchill took extremely seriously. To the point of his not evacuating the city of Coventry and letting the Luftwaffe bomb it than tip his hand. And having an armed Royal Marine with orders to kill any one not authorized to enter the office where Enigma intelligent was collated, read and discussed.

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A tremendous responsibility during a time of war. Where the ladies in attendance worked and shared space in one of myriad outbuildings and Nissen huts at Bletchley. Led by Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin). Scots woman, administrator, librarian and den mother by popular demand to Millie (Rachael Stirling). Fluent in German, written and spoken and able to find patterns easily. Jean (Julie Graham), a wizard at organization and delegating tasks. And Lucy (Sophie Rundle), who possesses a photographic memory.

Four women of unique talents who are trying to make the best of life after the war. Unable to talk about their pasts while trying to have or carry on a relationship. About the only one who pull this off is Susan. Who has married. Has a young son and daughter. And a rather boring, slowly rising, lower tier position in the Foreign Office husband, Timothy (Mark Dexter).

Into this day to day. Women are being found brutally defiled and murdered. Sending newspaper sales soaring and frightening the fairer sex throughout London, the Thames and towns near and far. Worried for her children, Susan starts asking around and finds the papers only slightly more useful than the local flying squads and constabulary. Holding whatever “viable” information dear while basically going through the numbers.

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Susan takes time from her day to reconnect with Jean. Then Millie. And through several lunch breaks, the women get together under the premise of forming a “Book Club” to keep Timothy in the dark. What few facts have been gathered and laid bare as a spare nursery room is lines with black boards, cork boards and slowly, what seems miles of different colored yard connecting pieces of data, news articles and the like.as clues and a common denominator is sought. Covertly applying what was learned and done years earlier to help find a distinctly bad man.

Body locations are noted and backtracked. Questions are asked of their work and a commonality arises. All rode the Paddington train! A tour of the station is called for and departures and arrivals are noted. Schedules are gathered and late nights are spent crunching numbers to establish time lines. Enough for Susan to go to the local police department to present her collected data.

Only to be ignored up and down the line. Until finding an opening and not taking “no” for an answer. Laying maps and charts out while the Bobbies and Inspectors go through various shades of embarrassment. Taking Susan’s prediction of where to find the next victim with a few grains of damaged ego salts. While only being off by a few hundred yards days later. Though, the ante has been upped. With the woman having been tortured badly before sexual assault.

Sending Susan and the Circle back to comb through the data in search of a mistake. Something overlooked or missing. Shifting the paradigm from the possibility of the perpetrator from a passenger. To an employee!

I’ll close right now to avoid violating the Prime Directive Regarding Spoilers.

Overall Consensus:

Though my narrative may be a bit long. Cracking a Killer’s Code encompasses three near hour long episodes. There is a lot of territory to cover. And this mini-series does it exceptionally well. In set design and dressing. Wardrobe, period surrounding and accessories. Visually, things appear cramped and just a bit shabby indoors. While outdoors discussions, get togethers and picnics appear to occur on those few non rainy days across the isles.

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High marks go to an exceptional use of budget inside the Paddington station. In using its maple enclosed bank of schedules and clocks. Digitally altering the outside of the cars of its still operating steam engine train. Though leaving their interiors alone. And for dressing a section of the Bletchley Park museum to fit the WWII 1940s and post war 1950s. Creating feasts for the eyes that enhance sharp, smart dialogue.

The women delivering that dialogue are all at the top of their games. Whether it’s exchanging a ration card for half kilos of butter or meat. Paring down the number of irrelevants in tightening a victim’s timeline. Or trying to get the staid and stuck in the mud local police to listen and accept a new and very different approach to crime solving.

And that is part of the well executed hook. Seeing the very first glimmers of data collection, sifting and collating in establishing time lines and hints of possible “profiles”. Though, without the flash and panache of NUMB3RS. And more of a bare bones approach with paper, pencils, chalk boards and trial and error.

In the hands of women. Not girls. With a bit of wear and tear and ingrained cynicism. With a chain of command already set in place. Led by Susan, who knows all the others weaknesses and strengths. Leading the charge. While wondering what to fix for dinner. And Jean plying her executive and organizational skills in guiding where Millie and Lucy should look.

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Yet allowing some flexibility should a new piece of information arise. Since Lucy is meticulous with her memory. And Millie has a knack for finding flaws and subtleties in written data.

All wrapped in nipped in, fashionable attire of that time. Creating an intriguing introduction to a continuing story that deals with the sloppy cover up of Chemical Warfare testing on Britain’s own troops. Susan, her husband and family being sent to India through Timothy’s promotion within the Foreign Office. And Millie dabbles in the Black Market to help make ends meet. Then stumbles into hints of higher priced merchandise, white slavery and human trafficking to close the series out.

Having created and executed a sadly cancelled diversion more than worth the time and effort of seeking out in re-runs, DVD or Blu-Ray.

Check out the PBS trailer below:


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


Have you seen this series? The floor is now open for discussion.

FlixChatter Review: 22 Jump Street

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I’m a big fan of the TV show 21 Jump Street, heck I think I’ve seen every episodes of the show during its original run. When it was announced that a movie version was coming to the big screen, I was bit a skeptical. I mean how are they going to turn a soap opera crime drama into a feature film? I remember reading online about the film’s early development, they were thinking of making it a full out action/adventure. Thankfully someone at the studio got smart and decided to make it into an action-comedy instead. After the big success of the first movie, a sequel was quickly greenlit and now we get to see more adventures of buddy cops Schmidt and Jenko.

This new movie picked up where the last one ended, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are still doing undercover work. They’re trying to bust a vicious drug dealer known only as The Ghost (the always entertaining Peter Stormare) during a sting, of course their plan didn’t go smoothly and The Ghost and his men got away. After the botched bust, both Schmidt and Jenko got demoted to the Jump Street unit, again. This time instead of going undercover as high school kids, they’re going to college. After a student at a local college was killed in what appeared to be a drug deal gone bad, both heroes were sent to the school to investigate.

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Once they got to campus, Jenko was able to make friends quickly with the school’s football players, especially the team’s QB Zook (Wyatt Russell, yup he’s Kurt Russell’s son). Schmidt on the other hand is not a jock and felt he didn’t belong with the group, so he ventured out to a new area on campus and met a beautiful art student Maya (Amber Stevens). They hit it off quickly and later spent the night together at Maya’s dorm room. Since their work is to investigate who’s behind the drug dealings, Zook and Maya became their main suspects. Of course both Schmidt and Jenko had to go through lots of shenanigans before they solve the case.

Basically the plot of this movie is exactly the same as the previous one, but that’s not a bad thing. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did a good job of moving the plot along and didn’t linger too long on some of the jokes. Although I wish they’d cut back on the self aware aspects of a sequel, yes we get it, the movie is a sequel and you might not able to top the original. I thought the jokes worked at the beginning but as the movie progresses, they became a bit tedious and I kind of got annoyed by all of those self-aware references.

Hill and Tatum have a great chemistry and the movie works because of them. Tatum’s Jenko joined the football team and became a star and he’s now questioning whether he made the right choice by becoming a cop. Hill’s Schmidt on the other hand, he’s right back being the nerd again and feels he didn’t belong with cool kids. I also like the supporting cast, including the love interests Zook and Maya. Yes you heard it right, Wyatt Russell‘s Zook was sort of a love interest to Tatum’s Jenko, they had this bromance going on throughout most of the movie and of course  that made Schmidt jealous. Ice Cube also returns as their always angry Captain Dickson. A little plot point involves him and Schmidt might be the funniest gag in the movie. Nick Offerman again appeared in a brief scene as Chief Hardy and he delivered some of the funniest lines in the movie.

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Overall I thought this was a good sequel and I think I might liked it better than its predecessor. It has some laugh out loud moments and everyone seems to have a good time in the movie. What I found a bit surprising was how tame it was for an R-rated comedy. Considering the story took place in college, I expected to see lots of nudity and gross humor. But with the exception of some F-bombs and some mild violence, the movie contained no nudity or any toilet humor and it’s quite “clean” by today’s R-rated comedy standards.

If you enjoyed the first movie then I’m quite sure you’ll have a good time with this one. It’s recommended if you’re in the mood for some good laughs.

3.5 reels


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What did you think of 22 Jump Street?

A Pictorial Tribute to 15 Favorite Movie Dads

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June 15 is Father’s Day here in America, but we can always celebrate dads and fatherhood anywhere in the world. As I mentioned in my special Father’s Day post a couple of years ago, though I didn’t grow up with a father, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them in the movies. This is a follow-up to my first list, so I’m not going to include those already on that list, such as Marlin from Finding Nemo, Paul from Hotel Rwanda and of course, the ultimate movie dad ever, Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. I also included my favorite father figure ever, Alfred from Nolan’s Batman Trilogy.

The fathers on this list may not always do the right thing, but despite their flaws or questionable decisions, they love for their child/children with all their heart. Interesting to see how many single fathers are on this list. I didn’t realize that until I picked them but I think the fact that they’re raising their kid(s) on their own just make me respect them more.

So here are 15 [additional] unforgettable fathers I wish I had.

Frank_Frequency

Stoick

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GuidoLifeIsBeautiful

MufasaLionKing

ElrondLOTR

DanielLoveActually

VincentTheMachine

JorEl_JonKentManOfSteel

MrBennetPrideandPrejudice
MichaelSullivanRoadToPerdition

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3MenandABaby

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So to all fathers or father figures out there …
Happy Father’s Day!


Thoughts on these pics? Feel free to share your own favorite movie dads!