Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2015 viewings

I saw this list on Variety on 10 Actors To Watch in 2015 and I realized I dropped the ball on this Actor Discoveries post last year. I mentioned in the first post back in 2012 that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. I planned on making this post an annual thing but alas, the last time I did this post was in 2013.

On that list, I included Lake Bell, Daniel Brühl, Riz Ahmed, Andrea Riseborough and David Oyelowo. Since then, most of them have been getting more prominent roles, with the exception of Riseborough which I think is so criminally under-utilized. Since I didn’t make a list last year, certainly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid would’ve made my 2014 shortlist.

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So, based on this year’s viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Carmen Ejogo

Ejogo

The Oscars not only dropped the ball on several counts when it comes to SELMA last year. Much was made about the omission of Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo from the nomination list, but I think Carmen Ejogo was equally deserving to be amongst the Best Supporting Actress nominees.

Like his co-star, she’s from the UK but she effortlessly portrayed an American. She’s been working in a variety of TV and film, so I feel kinda bad that I hadn’t seen her until this year. There’s a certain elegance and tortured soul about her that makes her so intriguing to watch. I’m hoping her career would benefit from the Oscar buzz and that she’d be getting more and more prominent roles.

What’s Next: Jazz biopic Born to Be Blue with Ethan Hawke

Jack Huston

Huston

I noticed Jack Huston when I saw American Hustle, but it wasn’t until Night Train in Lisbon that I became a fan. Huston has quite a Hollywood pedigree, being the grandson of famed filmmaker John Huston and nephew of Anjelica Huston. But the 32-year-old Londoner is a talented actor in his own right.

I like that he has one of those *ethnically hard to pin down* look about him that makes him suitable to play different kinds of ethnicity. In Night Train to Lisbon he played a Portuguese doctor and an American mobster in American Hustle. As many actors who grew up in the UK, he’s got a knack for accents which makes him even more versatile. I wasn’t thrilled at all when they announced they’re remaking Ben-Hur, but since they cast Huston in the titular role, I’m actually intrigued! I’d love to see more of him in a variety of roles, as he’s far more interesting to watch than a lot of Hollywood A-listers working today.

What’s Next: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (as Mr. Wickham) and the Ben-Hur remake

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Rebecca Ferguson

Ferguson

My friend Ashley had told me about the Starz’s miniseries The White Queen a while back, but I haven’t got around to seeing it. Well, it’s on the top of my Amazon Prime queue now after I saw Rebecca in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. I really couldn’t shut up about how impressed I was with her in that role. It was surely a kick-ass performance but she didn’t just pull off the physicality of the role, but she elevates the role into so much more. She’s equally as intriguing as Tom Cruise if not more so, and no doubt she’s the most memorable part about that film.

As I’ve blogged about here, I’m thrilled to see her cast in The Girl on the Train and I’m glad she didn’t end up becoming Channing Tatum’s love interest in Gambit. She’s so much more interesting to be pigeonholed into action roles, and so I hope Hollywood realizes that.

What’s Next: I just saw this trailer of an upcoming espionage drama Despite The Falling Snow! She’ll be starring with Sam Reid, wahoo!!


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Sarah Snook

Snook

Sometimes it only takes a single film for you to become an instant fan of a performer. That’s the case with Sarah Snook, who single-handedly stole the time travel sci-fi film Predestination with her outstanding performance.

As I mentioned in my review, it was a revelatory performance from the Aussie actress whose educated at National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. It’s quite a complex role with multiple layers but it’s so rewarding to see how she tackles each one convincingly and with so much heart.

What’s Next: She has a small role in the Aussie-set drama starring Kate Winslet, The Dressmaker. She’s also in the Steve Jobs film with Michael Fassbender. I hope she lands a leading role soon, she deserves it!
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Stanley Weber

Weber

Well I think this one doesn’t need much introduction if you’ve been reading my blog this year. I have mentioned him practically every week since I discovered him on April 5 in the Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending (yes I even remembered the date!). It’s one of those spellbound moments that doesn’t happen very often, but once it did, well, it’s REALLY hard to snap out of it :P

I’ve posted a full tribute for him here that list five of my favorite roles of his so far. It takes more than a pretty face for me to be obsessed with someone, and Stanley certainly is a dedicated actor who can handle stage, TV AND film roles, in fact that’s what he’s juggling this year alone. I LOVE actors who loves to mix things up and not afraid to look unglamorous for a role. It’d be tough to make this Frenchman look ugly though, I mean he’s still so beautiful even with THIS haircut for his upcoming role as a Jesuit priest in Pilgrimage.

What’s Next: I can’t freakin’ wait to see Stanley in STARZ’s Outlander season 2, the adventure drama Pilgrimage, and the French WWII drama L’origine de la violence. Hopefully all of them will be out next year!!
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Honorable Mentions:

I hadn’t heard of any of these five impressive performers prior to 2015, but I’m glad I saw them and I hope they continue to find prominent roles in Hollywood.

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Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

The Swedish actress seems to have had quite an astronomical rise to stardom in Hollywood. She had been working in her native country until about 2012 when she was cast with Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair. I didn’t see Anna Karenina until earlier this year on the plane, in which she had a small role, but it wasn’t until Ex Machina that I really took notice of her. She has this delicate physique but a formidable screen charisma that makes her so lovely to watch. It’s no surprise she is one busy girl, with three more films scheduled to open later this year, as well as the untitled Bourne film with Matt Damon next year.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man)

As I was watching the John le Carré spy drama, one of the performances that intrigued me was by the actor who portrayed the mysterious Issa Karpov. I found out later that Dobrygin is a Russian actor who’s a classically-trained ballet dancer. He apparently won a Silver Bear award for Best Actor at Berlin Film Festival for Russian film How I Ended This Summer.

I definitely would love to see more of him in Hollywood, hopefully he will continue acting and not go back to go back to ballet. Per The Guardian, he has just finished on Susanna White’s Our Kind of Traitor, with Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris.

Karidja Touré (Girlhood)

Another French actor who caught my eye and this was her feature film debut! The 21-year-old has that undeniable charm and screen presence on top of her acting talent. Her parents are from the Ivory Coast but she was born in France and grew up in Paris. I hope she’d get the same opportunities as fellow French actor from north African origin, Omar Sy, who had a breakout role in The Intouchables. He’s gone to big budget route such as Jurassic World, but I’d like to see Touré in smaller films that would offer her a chance to show what she’s capable of.

Maika Monroe (The Guest)

The Guest feature two awesome performances from relative newcomers. I’m already familiar with Dan Stevens from his period drama days in the UK, though most Americans probably saw him here for the first time. I hadn’t seen Monroe before however, and right away I thought she has an uncanny resemblance to Gwen Stefani. She also has that cool factor, that effortless swagger of a rock star that makes her fun to watch. She’s also in the buzzed-about horror flick It Follows, so I think the 22-year-old Californian has a long career ahead of her.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman)

Speaking of swagger, there’s plenty of that to be found on the 25-year-old Welsh native. There’s a devil-may-care attitude in him that I find endearing, which reminds me a bit of Tom Hardy when I first saw him on screen. I haven’t seen him in a serious drama yet so I’m curious to see how he fares in that. Hollywood’s certainly taken notice of him, as he’s been cast as the Robin Hood reboot. We’ll also see him along with Hardy in LEGEND later this year.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd)

The Belgian actor has been working pretty steadily since the early 2000s but for some reason I just never got around to seeing any of his films until earlier this year. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting him in the role of Gabriel Oak, a classic romantic hero in Victorian England, but he won me over with his sensitive portrayal. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him. I said in my review that he reminds me a bit of Viggo Mortensen, and that’s a good thing. Curious to see what role he’d tackle next, but I probably should go back and check out his older films.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

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Thursday Movie Picks #56: Alien Invasion of Earth

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. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Alien Invasion of Earth

This month’s theme turns out to be pretty easy as there are actually not that many to pick from for me. A lot of the scifis I like are more about humans & robots, not aliens.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.

When someone says ‘alien invasion movies,’ the first thing that came to mind is this. In fact, I asked my hubby and that’s the first thing that came to his mind as well. It’d also my pick for apocalyptic blockbuster as it’s just so much fun! I remember when I saw it on the big screen for the first time, there’s a sense of awe and intrigue when those big spaceships first appeared hovering above the sky.

ID4

I mean, all the action set pieces like the White House blowing up, Will Smith punching the ugly, slimy alien in the face, and that bombastic aerial battle at the end are still memorably epic to this day! It’s an awesome ensemble cast too, Jeff Goldblum has the snark and swagger to make any role memorable. And of course there’s that rousing, albeit corny, presidential speech from Bill Pullman… “We won’t go quietly into the night!” There’s nothing quiet about this flick and I love it all the better for it!

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SIGNS (2002)

A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.

Let me preface this pick with the fact that despite the atrocity of The Happening, I actually still have hope for M. Night’s career. He’s made two excellent films you could consider a classic (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) and the other two in his resume, The Village and Signs, left a lasting impression that I thought about them for days after seeing them. I know his films have their share of ardent fans and equally passionate detractors.

SIGNSmovie

I’m not saying SIGNS is a perfect film, there are some preposterous, even laughable moments. But I like that it’s really not so much about alien invasion, but he took some of the classic elements of that genre and turn it on its head. In the same way that Sixth Sense isn’t your typical ghost story and Unbreakable offers a compelling twist in the crowded superhero genre, Signs deals with a broader theme. It’s an intimate film about a close-knit family, led by a former pastor dealing with a crisis of faith. The mystery and suspense surrounding the aliens themselves was pretty fun to watch the first time around, but it isn’t the heart of the film and it’s not what stuck with me afterwards. I like the emotional and spiritual aspect, and how a dire predicament actually helps restore a man’s soul and brings his family together. It’s been ages since I saw this but I definitely want to see this again. Excellent acting all around too by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Pacific Rim (2013)

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

I love LOVE this movie! I never thought I’d love a big monster movie THIS much but what can I say, it’s awesome. Or as one character in the movie said, “That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’ :D I don’t think it’d be a major spoiler to say that it’s as much an alien invasion movie as it’s a big monster flick. The Kaijus are obviously not from this world, they’re mammoth biological weapons sent by an alien colony through a portal for a specific mission: wipeout humankind. Guillermo del Toro did an amazing job making these creatures look organic like a dinosaur, but with thick, gunky blue blood that actually looks cool the bloodier the darn thing is.

PacRim

All the fight scenes between the Kaijus and the massive human-powered robots called Jaegers are wonderfully staged. But I love that we constantly see the humans powering these machines and some of the scenes are actually quite emotional. I like the father-daughter dynamic between Idris Elba‘s and Rinku Kikuchi‘s, and a flirty banter between Rinku and hunky Charlie Hunnam, as well as a slew of fun supporting characters that enrich the movie. Just like ID4, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s something so giddily-amusing about the fight scenes, like when a Jaeger named Gypsy Danger swung a huge, Titanic-sized ship and hurl it at the Kaiju. You just want to get up and cheer when those moments came on!

I saw this movie twice on the big screen and loved every minute of it. I’ve since bought the Bluray and it’s gotten a lot of play in my house.

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What do you think of my alien-invasion movie picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #54: Sequels

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. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Sequels!

Since I have to pick only three out of a possible 10-20 sequels that have become my favorites, I have to set some sort of parameter to narrow things down. So for this particular list, I’m focusing on live-action movie sequels of the last decade. So that means I’ll be excluding some great animated movie sequels like Toy Story 2 and How To Train Your Dragon 2, as well as some of my all time favorites like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, X-Men 2, Terminator 2, The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, or even Spider-man II as that was released eleven years ago. Interestingly, I ended up picking three that are part of a trilogy (the final film of the rebooted ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie, War of the Planet of the Apes, is in the works for 2017).

So without further ado, here are my picks of three favorite sequels of the last 10 years:

Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
TMP_Sequels_Bourne3

Jason Bourne dodges a ruthless CIA official and his agents from a new assassination program while searching for the origins of his life as a trained killer.

For some reason I had not reviewed any of the original Bourne trilogy but they certainly are superior than Bourne Legacy. For one thing, Jeremy Renner just isn’t charismatic or intriguing enough as a super spy. Matt Damon on the other hand, somehow fits the role of Jason Bourne perfectly. I actually wasn’t a big fan of the actor until I saw Bourne Identity, but Damon absolutely killed it as a trained killer. The final third chapter of Bourne’s journey is one relentless thrill ride, featuring some of the craziest car chases ever filmed thanks to Paul Greengrass’ phenomenal camera work. The film also benefited David Strathairn and Joan Allen’s performances in the supporting role. Plus the music by Moby is awesome, I’ve done a Music Break on that a couple of years ago.

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The Dark Knight (2008)TMP_Sequels_TheDarkKnight

When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the caped crusader must come to terms with one of the greatest psychological tests of his ability to fight injustice.

When you’re talking about best sequels of the last decade, you can’t possibly overlook this masterpiece by Christopher Nolan. I have seen it half a dozen times and I’m always in awe every single time. It’s SO much more than just popcorn entertainment, though there are fun action scenes abound like the awesome truck-flip sequence (one of those scenes I could watch over and over). But what really riled me up and stayed with me for days after is THIS interrogation scene between Batman & The Joker. Two of this generation’s finest actors together in one room, Christian Bale & Heath Ledger were in top form here, each giving an Oscar-caliber performance. Ledger won a Best Actor award posthumously, but even if he hadn’t passed away, he deserved at least a nomination for that riveting performance.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)TMP_Sequels_DawnPlanetApes

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.

I never thought I’d like this *intelligent apes* story when I saw the first film, as I hadn’t even seen the original Charlton Heston movie by then. But I was so taken by Caesar’s story, played brilliantly by mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis. The second film proved to be an even more emotional journey for Caesar, I teared up on that scene when he saw the house he grew up in. The film isn’t perfect, i.e. what’s up with Gary Oldman’s screaming matches, but overall it was a truly immersive experience. Matt Reeves created a wonderfully atmospheric loaded with genuine suspense and terror, as gripping as it is emotionally-gratifying. [my full review]. Glad he’ll be back for the third film.

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

Thursday Movie Picks #53: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

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. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

It’s interesting that the requirement for this sci-fi genre is no space/aliens as a lot of my favorites in this genre aren’t the ones with aliens in them. In fact, I love sci-fis that don’t look or feel science fiction-y, in fact, intriguing sci-fis are those with rich layers of human drama that remind us what it means to be humans.

I immediately thought of including Ex Machina here, but I decided not to include something from this year. Instead, I’m selecting three from the past few years that have a small/modest budget (under $25 mil) that have made a big impression on me:

Predestination (2014)

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

TMP_Predestination

As I mentioned in my review, the less you know about the plot the better the experience. Since I was just talking about directing duos, I have to mention the Spierig Brothers who also made this vampire sci-fi Daybreakers. The premise is rather bizarre and definitely not an easy one to grasp, but it’s well worth a watch. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey. Snook is quite a revelation here and I kept hoping to see her getting prominent roles.

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HER (2013)

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

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Once in a while, a film you hadn’t heard much about suddenly sneaked in and took your breath away. In 2013, that film for me was HER. That’s what I wrote in my review over a year ago, and there’s still very few films that affected me emotionally the way this one did.

There are many robot/human *love* stories that’s been done time and again but what Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) experienced with Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) is quite unlike any other. For one, there’s no physical presence of Samantha in the film but yet her presence is felt so viscerally. I’m going to borrow my from my own review… This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction story that I wish Hollywood would make more of. Sci-fi is not always about aliens or cool-looking futuristic equipments or cars or what have you, but a good sci-fi should actually makes us ponder about our own humanity. I realize this film isn’t for everyone as there are a few people I recommended this to that aren’t wowed by it. That said, I think you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a shot.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

A love triangle develops between three friends who came of age at a mysterious, secluded boarding school and are destined to lead brief lives.

TMP_NeverLetMeGo

This is another film where the less you know about the plot the better. If you just look at still photos or even the poster (which you can see on my review post), you’d never thought this is a sci-fi. It looks more like a mystery drama, and I think that’s the vibe director Mark Romanek was going for. Working from Alex Garland’s script, who later made his directorial debut in Ex Machina, the pace is decidedly slow and graceful in the way things unfold. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story. I really need to watch this again, but I remember being really absorbed by this film. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are excellent here, it’s still one of my favorite performance from both of them even after seeing more of their work. It’s also exquisitely-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film.

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What do you think of my sci-fi picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

 

Five Favorite Movie Quotes from Inspiring Female Characters

FiveFaveFemaleQuotes

I’m taking a bit of a blogging break and throughout the Summer I’m actually going to blog a bit less as I’m working on my novel/script [still deciding which format it’ll end up to be], plus I just need a break from review writing.

But as I mull over the topic presented by guest blogger Izzy on this post about Gender & Hollywood Screenwriting, it made me feel compelled to write a reaction post of sort. Izzy’s post made me ponder of some of my favorite movie quotes uttered by female characters. As Izzy pointed out, there are far fewer of memorable movie lines by female characters than the male counterparts, even fewer when it’s not romance related or about wanting something from the male co-star of the film. For example, take these two quotes from one of Hollywood’s biggest leading ladies, Julia Roberts:

“I want the fairy tale.” – Vivian, Pretty Woman

“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” – Anna Scott, Notting Hill

For me, some of the truly memorable quotes are those that represent the strength of the character, those that display their feisty-ness, survival prowess or willful defiant against what society dictate them to be.

Well, after raking my brains, here are five quotes I love from some of my favorite female characters of all time:

BetteDavisQuote

All About Eve – It was based on the 1946 short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr, although screen credit was not given for it (per Wiki)

ScarlettQuote

Gone With the Wind – 1939 American epic historical romance film adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning 1936 novel of the same name.

youfoolLOTR

IamNoManEowyn

Now, this one I had to put the scene before it to put it in context. Eowyn is perhaps one of the most well-rounded supporting female characters in blockbuster films. It’s no doubt one of the highlights of the final Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King:

ElinorQuote

FannyQuote

Both Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park were based on Jane Austen’s famous novels, which always feature strong female protagonists. I LOVE how both Elinor and Fanny are not defined by romance nor the men in their lives. Though they are in love with men who seem to be unattainable due to the societal norm of the day, they stick to their principles even if they have to emotionally suffer from it.

It’s no surprise that four of the films above are based on narrative stories written by women. And nobody could argue that there’s a shortage of female screenwriters [or female anything for that matter] in Hollywood. It’s a pity because just in the past few years, the movies that made a big impression on me happen to be written and/or directed by women, i.e. In A World, Belle, Beyond the Lights, Brave, Gone Girl, Girlhood (Bande de Filles), not to mention these three French films I saw recently that are women-centric: Thérèse Desqueyroux, Violette and Pour Une Femme (For A Woman). I like them because the protagonists break the female archetypes of women being defined by men, but show women as being the complicated, flawed and conflicted beings that we are.

As my friend Cindy wrote in her comment in Izzy’s Post, women are as complicated as men and their characters should represent that. Let’s hope we’ll see more women being active parts of Hollywood filmmaking process, both in front and behind the camera.

 


So what are some of YOUR favorite movie quotes by female characters?

Five Movies. Five Words – Vol. 4

5Movies5Words

Seems that I dropped the ball [again] on this series! Volume 3 was back in January, ahah.

I got this Five Movies in Five Words from Josh @ The Cinematic Spectacle. So basically the idea is to come up with five movies from various genres and capture the essence of the film, or whatever that comes to mind when I think of that film, in one word. As a general *rule* I’m picking films I saw in the last few months that I haven’t had the chance to review yet.

So here we go:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
MeEarlDyingGirl
endearing

Felony (2013)

Felonyintricate

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

WhatWeDointheShadowsuproarious

Populaire (2012)

Populaire frothy

Paddington (2014)

Paddingtonmirthful


Have you seen any of these? How would YOU describe them in one word?

Thursday Movie Picks #49: Animated Movies

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… 

Animated Movies

I grew up watching so many Disney animated movies [mostly those Princess movies] and in the 90s, starting with Pixar’s first movie Toy Story, I quickly became a huge fan of their work as well. But Disney and Pixar films are massively popular so for the purpose of this list, I’m selecting three animated films I love that are made outside of those two studios. There are quite a few out there that are worth exploring, and I’m always astonished at the huge amount of work that go into making animated features.

So here are three that left a big impression to me and worth watching over and over:

Chicken Run (2000)

When a bird “flies” into a chicken farm, the fellow chickens see him as an opportunity to escape their evil owners.

ChickenRun

I saw this Aardman animated feature years ago but I still remember it fondly. It’s such a bonkers idea to sort of remake The Great Escape but with chickens, yet it works brilliantly. Peter Lord and Nick Park’s claymation style is so unique and fun to look at, in fact the shape of the chickens alone are hysterical. I giggle just looking at them! I adore the characters, especially Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha) who’s the smartest of the bunch. She and Rocky the circus Rooster (Mel Gibson) didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, but they end up becoming close and believe it or not, their chemistry is so endearing. It’s such a hilarious and action-packed adventure that’s fun to watch over and over. It’s also got some of the funniest lines… “I don’t want to be a pie! I don’t like gravy.” Ha!

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How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.

HTTYD

I have to admit the idea of this Dreamworks Animation didn’t immediately appeal to me, so I was so surprised how much I absolutely LOVED it! Of course by the time I saw it on Blu-ray, I kicked myself for not having seen this on the big screen! The flying sequence alone would make the admission price worthwhile. I did see the sequel on the big screen but I still have a fondness for the first movie when Hiccup and Toothless first met.

It’s one of the most memorable depiction of unlikely friendship that’s funny and heartwarming. Visually it’s breathtaking, as I mentioned the flying sequence is a marvel to behold. The music by John Powell has also become my personal favorite amongst a bazillion soundtracks I hear year after year. I re-watched it just before the sequel came out and I still enjoyed it immensely. Who knew a movie about dragons could have so much heart? [read my full review]

Song of the Sea (2014)

Saoirse, a little girl who can turn into a seal, goes on an adventure with her brother to save the spirit world and other magical beings like her.

SongOftheSea

Having just seen this recently, it’s still fresh in my mind [review coming next week]. Made by Cartoon Saloon, an Irish-based animation studio, this is Tomm Moore’s second directorial effort. I immediately wanted to see it after watching The Secret of Kells. Just from the visual standpoint, it’s an amazing work of art, gorgeous and ethereal, and the movie itself has such a mythical quality. The story based on an Irish mythology certainly has a deeper meaning than the typical kids entertainment. In fact, this one might appeal to adults as much as kids.


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

 

Movies coming to Netflix in June – here are the ones I recommend & look forward to

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Hi folks, I’ve been meaning to post this for sometime as every weekend my hubby and I always spend way too long browsing Netflix on what to watch. Yes I know, that’s what the queue [or My List] is for but for some reason we still browse the new releases and decide which one appeals to us at that given moment. Well, at the start of the month, some sites are listing which movies get added to Netflix so I thought it might be mutually beneficial for us movie fans if we could give each other recommendations :D

Ok, so this site breaks it down by genre and list the exact date of the month it’s going to be released, including TV shows. Well, I barely watch any TV so I’m only focusing on film recommendations. So here are

Newly Added in June

The Aviator (June 1)
I’d think most people have seen this Howard Hughes’ biopic from Scorsese by now, but if not, well what are you waiting for? To be honest though, I’m much more enamored by Cate Blanchett’s performance as Katharine Hepburn than Leo’s.

Words and Pictures (June 7)
Saw this last year at MSPIFF – stars Juliette Binoche & Clive Owen. Worth seeing just for those two alone. [full review]

Beyond the Lights (June 24)
I can’t recommend this film enough simply for the sublime performance of miss Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I’ve raved about her several times on my blog, and for good reason. The music is terrific as well, which I have also featured on my music break post. [full review]

Nightcrawler (June 10)
I saw this rather late but now that it’s on VOD, Bluray AND Netflix, really you have no reason to put this off any longer if you haven’t seen this yet. Trust me, it’s worth your time. SO good that I’ll be rooting for Jake Gyllenhaal come award season for Southpaw, it’s criminal that he was overlooked for his performance here. [full review]

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (June 27) 
Very cool that TWO of Riz Ahmed’s films are released on Netflix in the same month. He’s a darn good British actor who’s really quite versatile. His role here couldn’t be more different from the one in Nightcrawler and he’s quite mesmerizing. I wish he’d get more leading roles in the future! [full review]

Newly Added in May

I figure I’d include a few from last month that just got released, especially since it includes one of my favorite dramas of the year I’ve seen so far [Girlhood].

The ones I most look forward to seeing

I wasn’t just on the lookout for female-centric stories, but hey, no matter how [seemingly] numerous there are, it’s still not enough.

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Two Days, One Night (June 16)

Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

For some reason I missed this film last year but the premise sounds intriguing and surely would show Marion Cotillard’s acting chops!

Cake (June 20)

Claire becomes fascinated by the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group while grappling with her own, very raw personal tragedy.

I’m mostly curious to see Jennifer Aniston’s performance. Somehow I just realized Sam Worthington’s in this movie also, wonder what role he’s playing.

Grace of Monaco (June 8)

The story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly’s crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle, and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s.

This one also piqued my curiosity because supposedly it’s such a train wreck. One thing for sure, not matter how much makeup they put on Nicole Kidman, she still wouldn’t hold a candle to the luminous Grace Kelly in real life.

On the Road (June 6)

Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.

Well, now that I’ve finally warmed up to Kristen Stewart thanks to Clouds of Sils Maria, I just might rent this one.

Definitely going to avoid …

The Best of Me – it’s one of those Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation, ’nuff said.

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So which of these movies have you seen? Recommendations are always welcome too!

My entry to the Five Senses Blogathon

FiveSensesBlogathonIn association with Dutch moviepodcasters MovieInsiders (who inspired this blogathon) and Karamel Kinema, who did the stunning logo, Nostra of My Film Views spearheaded The Five Senses blogathon.

Here’s the idea in his own words:

As you know the body has five senses (although some movies might suggest there is a sixth one): Sight, Sound, Taste, Smell and Touch.

So what’s the idea behind this blogathon? For each of these senses you will have to describe the movie related association you have with it. This can be a particular movie or even a scene, but also something having to do with the movie going experience (so for example the smell of popcorn in the theater).

So here are my pick of movies/movie related things I associate with each of the senses?

 

SIGHT

Avatar

Despite the lack of original story and other quibbles I have about this film, when it comes to visual effects, it’s tough to beat this one. I remember back in 2009 I got one of those advanced previews dubbed Avatar Day to see this and I was so excited! Seeing Pandora for the first time on the big screen was quite a thrill, but not until I saw the full film that my jaw was on the floor. I remember ooh-aahing during the chopper scene through those flying mountains… the reaction of Jake & his friend pretty much echo how we all felt in the movie theater.

But the most breathtakingly-beautiful scene of all, that remains a visual marvel to this day, has got to be all the night scenes in Pandora…

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SOUND

Jurassic Park

It’s no surprise this Spielberg film won two Oscars for Best Sound Editing AND Best Sound Mixing. The sound truly made the experience and I’ll never forget the first time the T-Rex made an appearance when the park’s electricity went kaput. Starting with vibrating water scene in the car, the mysterious thumping that gets more and more pronounced… all the way to that first roar. OH MY, that’s quite an adrenaline rush unlike any other.

The sound work in the kitchen scene is incredible as well. It REALLY made you feel as if you’re there with these poor kids! It’s hilarious but terrifying at the same time.

 

TASTE

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Naturally I pick a scene from a film about food, but I have to pick this under-appreciated one I saw recently. I LOVE breakfast food, especially Omelet, so I could practically taste the yummy-ness of this very scene.

HundredFootJourneyOmeletSceneI love Helen Mirren’s expression after she took the first bite, oh man, I was salivating as I was watching this!

 

TOUCH

Hand-touching scenes in period dramas

I’m such a hopeless romantic. There’s something about hand scenes in period dramas that always gets me. Given how restrictive the customs in those days was, even the smallest physical expression means SO much. I felt a tingle in my own hands whenever I watched each of these scenes…

The first time Margaret & John’s fingers touch ever so briefly when she handed him the tea cup…

When Marianne’s and Willoughby’s fingers brush lightly against each other’s as they went up the stairs…

I’ve mentioned the ‘Mansfield Park’ one in this list, but it bears mentioning again because it’s just such a beautiful & emotional scene. Neither Fanny nor Edmund could speak of how they feel about each other, but a simple touch speaks more than a thousand words…

Of course the finale of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ has to be mentioned here… I love Darcy’s reaction when Lizzie took his hand and kisses it… no words need to be spoken to say how she feels about him.

 

SMELL

Coco Before Chanel

chanelno5I have to admit I struggled a bit to come up with this one, but for some reason I kept going back to this. As I was watching the film starring Audrey Tautou, I reminisced on the first perfume I was ever given. My globe-trotting auntie gave me a CHANEL No. 5 mini perfume when I was about 14 and it was the first perfume I ever owned. My late mother was a big CHANEL perfume fan and I still remember quite vividly how much I love the scent. I guess smell is such a sentimental thing, as it could really take you back to a certain time and place.

CocoBeforeChanelI’ve used many different perfumes since then, but this classic Chanel perfume will always have a special place in my heart. I even dedicated a post for the exquisite Chanel No.5 ads, inspired by the film.

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Well, that’s my picks for the Five Senses Blogathon, what do you think?

10 Perfect Cinematic Moments – Part II

AFistfulOfMomentsI LOVE Andrew of A Fistful of Films’s blogathon idea so much that I invited my pal Kevin G. aka Jack Deth to join in on the fun!

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Greetings all and sundry!

Having been given an oblique invitation to participate in such an intriguing concept days ago from our hostess, Ruth. I would be remiss if I did not open long ago forgotten vault doors and peer within. Searching for that moment that make a film’s tale complete. Its raison d’etre. Establishing or unearthing a character. Or the adventure’s well hidden “McGuffin” before shocked and suddenly interested eyes.

To that end. Please allow me a few moments to rummage around. Make a few discoveries and bring those to well deserved attention an light with…

A Fistful Of Moments Blogathon!

Having chosen the nice round number or ten. My choices will be in increasing range, strength power, or “Throw Weight”, From least to most powerful or memorable.

#10 – Opening Sequence. Strangers On A Train (1951)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Classic Hitchcock being Htchcock. Playfully setting up the audience with the juxtapositions of randomness, perhaps fate. And opposites attracting. As depicted so well with Robert Walker and his Bruno Anthony’s rather snazzy, foppish, two toned Fleur di Lis wingtip shoes. With what could also be built up heels. Opposite Farley Granger and his, we imagine; tennis playing Guy Haines’ less well cared for and comfortable brown Broughams.

Creating a mysterious opening gambit in what will prove to be less than “a beautiful friendship,”!

#9 – Kilvinsky’s Law. The New Centurions (1972)

Director: Richard Fleischer

This scene sets up “Grand Old Man”, George C. Scott’s twenty year Uniform Patrolman Kilvinsky to a T. And offers sound advice with his wise words regarding Police intervention and “interfacing” with the public. Words leaned through hard knocks and the disadvantage shared by those whose trade is inserting themselves where they are often needed, but rarely wanted.

Especially when offered against Stacy Keach’s fresh from the Academy, rookie Roy Fehler. Who may not be ready for the reality of the street.

#8 – “Fire One!” The Bedford Incident (1965)

Director: James B. Harris

This is why bright and shiny new, scared to death of Captain graduates of the Naval Academy (James MacArthur. ‘Hawaii Five-O’) should never be allowed on a ship’s bridge. Let alone shiny, large numbered buttons!

Sub hunting is a specialized art and filled with volumes of unwritten rules both sides obey. Which is why each ASW ship has a Russian speaker to signal intentions. Verbally coax the enemy sub to the surface. And keep “Incidents” like this from ever happening.

Though, those rules are thrown away by Captain Finlander (Richard Widmark) in quest of recognition and perhaps, promotion in bringing another sub to the surface within Territorial Waters. Creating a cautionary tale from one of Stanley Kubrick’s more notable alums.

#7 -“Sherry Baby!” The Killing (1956)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

This is the scene where languorous, conniving Femme Fatale Sherry Peatty starts to see and gently apply pressure to the hairline cracks in her husband, George and his four “friends” plan to make a lot of money. Quickly! While allowing “The Grand Master of Sapdom” (Elisha Cook Jr.) to quietly, uncertainly flounder about and do what he does best!

A great piece of subtle cinema in a tale that is all too familiar with violence and irony.

#6 -“Little Birds”: Black Hawk Down (2001)

Director: Ridley Scott

This is what happens when Army Rangers have to clean up a previous controversial U.N. rocket attack and mess. And those Rangers are denied the use of AC-130 “Specter” gunships, Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles already in country and ready to respond. By then Under Secretary of State, Morton Halperin. For fear of “upsetting the locals”.

A powerful scene that brutally depicts the awesome marriage of firepower with modern technology!

#5 – “This Chess Thing”: Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993)

Director: Steven Zallian

This scene pulls the film’s tale together relatively early on. For Joe Mantegna’s sports writer, Fred Waitzken was originally skeptical of his young son, Josh’s talents. Though, with watching Josh play against all comers and making strong “Father & Son” time with out off state tournaments. Mr. Mantegan’s Fred is righteously entitle to “Go Full Mamet” on the unsuspecting teacher, Laura Linney!

#4 – Tango: Scent Of A Woman (1992)

Director: Martin Brest

This scene proves beyond a shadow of doubt that Al Pacino’s Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade is the smoothest, coolest man in any room! While also showing Charlie (Chris O’Donnell) the patient ease in gaining trust and winning people over by opening up senses to surroundings and beyond. Not an easy task for the uninitiated.

It’s interesting watching Donna’s (Gabrielle Anwar) apprehensions at first on the dance floor smooth out as the Tango ends.And her facial responses to Michael (David Lansbury) proving himself to be a rude and utter jerk. And that Donna may not be the best chooser of men, after all.

#3 – “Duty”: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg

A neat little scene that delivers glances at the cast’s characters. With the discussion being held in almost a classroom manner. Are there better, more action and suspense filled scenes? Certainly. But, this one works for me in character introduction. Defining the mission and setting up the next series of scenes!

#2 My Post. My Call. A Tie With Orson Welles!

#2B -Opening Sequence. Touch of Evil (1958)

Director: Orson Welles

Still one of the best tracking shots in cinema! Made even better by the removal of title, credit and cast throughout.Also one of the most efficient uses of “Making the fist scene the most interesting” and in this case, telling. Serious Skullduggery is afoot with the placement of the bomb in couple’s convertible. With the next obvious questions being, “Who placed it?” and “Why?”

An exceptional three and three quarters minutes of film. That should have gone another half minute longer to introduce Orson Welles’ corpulent, crooked Police Captain Hank Quinlan.

#2A -Harry Lime’s Entrance. The Third Man (1949)

Director: Carol Reed

Quite possibly, the best, most clever and efficient entrance in film. With only a pair of shoes peeking beneath deep alcove shadows and betrayed by Harry’s Calico cat. And even more with the echo of retreating, running footsteps. But, it is those few seconds when we see Harry’s face and smile where a very large piece of the puzzle of Harry Lime is revealed in a stream of light!

#1 Minnesota Fats. The Hustler (1961)

10 Perfect Cinematic Moments – Part II http://wp.me/pxXPC-9C7  Thanks to my loyal contributor Kevin aka Jack Deth! @fististhoughts

There’s a reason why I chose this film long ago as my first guest post and critique for Ruth and this site. And this clip, though brief lays out Paul Newman and his “Fast Eddie” Felson’s immediate future in no uncertain terms. There’s no disagreement that Jackie Gleason, rarely known for drama delivers with amazing calm and confidence as “Minnesota Fats” as he sees shots invisible to others as he waltzes around the pool table!

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Check out Ted & my Top 20 Perfect Cinematic Moments


Agree? Disagree? Have A Personal Choice? The Floor Is Open For Discussion!