2014 Recap: 10 Favorite MALE Performances of the Year


Well, now that I’ve posted my Top 10 Movies of the year and picked my Top 10 favorite FEMALE Performances and Top 10 Film Scores of the year, I’m finally down to my last 2014 Recap list. It’s quite a crowded category, more so than the female counterpart, as obviously there are more roles for men as there are for women on any given year. But I’m still picking only 10 on the main list, and another 10 15 on Honorable Mentions (there are just too many to keep it to just 10). Naturally these are performances from films I got a chance to see last year. So in case you’re wondering where’s Jake Gyllenhaal, Eddie Redmayne or J.K. Simmons, well I haven’t seen Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything nor Whiplash.

Same w/ the ladies, this list is in alphabetical order, as it was tough enough to narrow ’em down to 10, let alone ranking them. So here goes:

1. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher


It’s one of those transformative roles that all actors are privileged to get but not everyone can pull it off. Well, I always think that Steve Carell is a much more versatile actor than people give him credit for and Foxcatcher‘s director Bennet Miller said during our interview that “…it’s exciting when an actor breaks out of what’s expected of them.” But it takes so much more than just putting on a fake nose to create a convincing character. I’ve seen him in serious roles before in Little Miss Sunshine, but took his dramatic potential up several notches here, displaying disquieting menace and creepy demeanor I’ve never seen before. As I’m writing this, I couldn’t help recalling his earlier role as Evan Baxter in Bruce Almighty, yet I couldn’t fathom that they’re played by the same actor!

2. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game


Benedict Cumberbatch is no stranger to playing an eccentric genius on screen. But apart from being British and a brainiac, Alan Turing couldn’t be more different than his Sherlock persona. Cumberbatch effortlessly captures that brilliant intellect and that arrogant, dismissive attitude towards the world around him, but he also convincingly conveys Turing’s inner tumult. The final scenes where Turing is treated as a social outcast is the film’s most heart-wrenching moments. All the pain, anguish and utter despair is palpable on Cumberbatch’s face but without a moment of overacting. It’s no doubt the actor’s shining hour, a personal best even amongst his already impressive resume.

3. Chris Evans – Snowpiercer



In a year when he’s truly coming into his own as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America in its sequel, Chris Evans also emerges as a capable indie leading man. Certain actors often become stuck to play certain roles because of how they look and I think Evans is one them. But Evans is more than just a pretty face & a hot body, even if his role choices are questionable at times. I saw that he has dramatic chops in Puncture but this is an even more complex role – not to mention a better-crafted film overall – and he gets to show what he can do as an actor. As a conflicted rebel leader with a dark past, Evans displays an unusually somber, soulful and heartfelt performance. I’d love to see him tackle more dramatic roles like this in the future, he certainly has it in him.

4. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel



Whilst Carell is comedian playing a dark role, the normally-serious Ralph Fiennes got to do the opposite. It’s such a thrill to see him being so goofy here, and he seems to relish in the character’s inherent zany-ness. Apparently Wes Anderson wrote this role specifically for him, which I think is an inspired choice that absolutely paid off. His deadpan delivery is really fun to watch here, and he has that effortless elegance about him too that fits the role of the legendary concierge M. Gustave.

5. Tom Hardy – Locke



It takes an actor of a certain charisma to hold your attention for 1.5 hour long when all you see is him inside a car the entire time. But charisma can only go so far without the skills, but thankfully, Hardy’s got both. This is the first film with him in the leading role, after seeing him stealing scenes left and right in films like Rocknrolla, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises. He was a co-lead (with Joel Edgerton) in Warrior, an intensely physical role that he offsets with layers of vulnerability. As a man grappling with one VERY stressful night of his life, his body is barely shown the entire movie, so he had to rely on his eyes and facial features to convey every single emotion. Suffice to say, he delivered with aplomb. It’s a mesmerizingly-nuanced performance that confirms my opinion that Hardy as one of the finest actors working today. Seems that he’s only just getting warmed up.

6. Michael Keaton – Birdman



One of the highlights of 2014 cinema for me is definitely seeing the perpetually-underrated Michael Keaton getting a career resurgence. I’ve been a fan of his for as long as I can remember, as he’s the kind of actor who can tackle hard-hitting drama as well as silly comedic roles effortlessly. In Birdman he gets a chance to tackle both and he relish in that opportunity. He’s been garnering kudos left and right and he’s the one I’m rooting for the entire award season. The fact that there are many similarities between his character Riggan and his professional acting life certainly adds a dose of amusement as well as authenticity to his portrayal. Keaton infused Riggan with such depth and genuine pathos that even during some of the film’s most bizarre scenes as Riggan descend into madness, he’s always emotionally engaging.

7. James McAvoy – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby


If only you more people had seen at least one version of this romantic drama, even just to see how good both lead actors are. McAvoy’s co-star Jessica Chastain is on my Top 10 list of Female Performers from the same film. I’ve been a fan of James McAvoy since Atonement and the Scottish actor has since done an amazing job balancing big blockbusters like X-Men: First Class to small indies like this one. He’s an instantly likable actor who I vehemently believe is more talented than people give him credit for. What I love about McAvoy is that there’s always such a natural way to his acting that you instantly believe he’s that character. Here he wears his character Conor like an old shoe, a man desperately trying to somehow regain his lost love. There is a moment in the film where Conor is alone in an empty apartment and he reminisce on his marriage that is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s a shame that AMPAS doesn’t even notice this film as both Chastain & McAvoy’s marvelous performances are certainly Oscar-worthy.

8. Edward Norton – Birdman



Another highlights from Birdman and why this is truly one of the best films of the decade is seeing Ed Norton in a role worthy of his talent. It’s definitely a scene-stealing role in a film that’s already jam-packed with fine performances. Just like his co-star Keaton, Norton did a brilliant dramatic and comedic turn as a self-absorbed diva of an actor who’s more comfortable in his own skin when he’s on stage. All the scenes of him and Keaton are truly the film’s highlights as both actors not only baring their skin down to their underwear, but they also bare themselves emotionally. It’s too bad that he probably won’t win an Oscar again this year, but I sure hope the three-time Oscar nominee won’t be wasted playing second/third banana in subpar movies like Bourne Legacy ever again.

9. David Oyelowo – Selma


I’ve made my quibbles known about one of the egregious snubs of this year’s Oscar. But if there is justice in the world, this wouldn’t be the last we see Oyelowo’s name being mentioned during cinema’s award season. Even in bit parts in a myriad of movies ranging from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help, Jack Reacher, etc., I always notice his performance. He finally got to shine in a prominent supporting role as Forrest Whitaker’s teenage son in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which also deals with the Civil Rights Movement. It’s interesting that a year later he got to play the key figure in that historical movement, a role that I read he’s been dreaming to play for some time. Oyelowo didn’t just get Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mannerism and speaking style right, it’s more than just a brilliant impersonation but he truly embodied the role. What’s more, he portrayed Dr. King as not just a heroic figure but as a man, flawed and plagued with doubts just like any regular person would. He is just as convincing as a powerful and persuasive orator as he is in the quieter scenes that demand subtle nuances. I can’t wait to see what Oyelowo will tackle next.

10. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher 


Is there anything Mark Ruffalo can’t do? I feel like I’ve been missing out as for whatever reason I didn’t really pay attention to him until recently. I was going to list his performance in Begin Again but technically that’s a 2013 film, but man what an astounding display of versatility. His role as an Olympic pro-wrestler David Schultz in Foxcatcher couldn’t be more different than a distressed & disheveled record producer in Begin Again but he’s utterly believable in both. Ruffalo’s role is actually the least flashy compared to Steve Carell’s and Channing Tatum’s, but his character is no doubt the heart of the film. It’s a role that demands the perfect amount of nuance and subtlety and Ruffalo pulls it off wonderfully. The video interview scene alone when he’s asked to describe Carell’s character is simply masterful, I remember marveling at how good his performance was as I was watching it. I think that might’ve been what earned him his second Oscar nomination.


I truly didn’t expect to see some names would end up on this list. I honestly have never seen Tyler Perry nor Zach Galifianakis in anything other than clips of their movies, but they definitely left an impression on me in their respective films. There are some big breakthroughs here too, especially Dan Stevens and Chris Pratt, garnering a lot of buzz in their successful starring roles. There are also some perennial favorites of mine who definitely still got it (Keanu Reeves), as well as a brand new actor I’ve never seen before. Manish Dayal‘s like the male counterpart of Gugu Mbatha-Raw for me and I hope to see him more movies! As for Guy Pearce, I sure hope that he will get the recognition he deserves one day as he’s simply a phenomenal actor.

Here they are in random order:

Thoughts on these male performances? Which one(s) of these stood out to you from the past year?

2014 Recap: Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of the Year


Well, well, well, it’s that time of the year again where us film bloggers agonize in making these Top 10 list. Yes, agonize is not a hyperbole as it’s REALLY quite an arduous task not only selecting which 10 films would make the list, but also ranking them. But once I decided on my top three, ranking the other seven was a bit easier to do. I did make a Top 10 list from the first half of 2014, and it’s interesting to see which ones stay on the list and which ones are now relegated to my Honorable Mentions.

The same with the previous years, when I say ‘top movies’ it’s sort of 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 also a factor here and I’d readily re-watch most of the films listed here, in fact, I have seen a few of them at least twice already. The [dis]honor of the WORST films of the year is at the end of the BEST list.

Ok well, without further ado… I present you …


10. The LEGO Movie


Everything is awesome! And still is. This is actually one of three animated features I absolutely LOVE from last year, but I decided I only wanted to include just ONE. The LEGO Movie wins by a narrow margin, beating out How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6 to make it to my main list. It really comes down to Emmet being such an adorably goofy protagonist, surrounded by spin-off-worthy supporting cast like Lego Batman and Good Cop/Bad Cop, it’s really a fantabulous geekstravaganza that would likely hold up with repeated viewings. Plus, that music is simply, well, awesome! That unabashedly vivacious song makes my Top 5 Songs of the year as well. (full review)

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel


This is the first Wes Anderson movie that ever made it to my Top 10 of the year list, so I guess you could say it’s now my favorite of his collection. It captivated me from the opening scene all the way until the end and it’s more fast-paced than his previous films. But of course it has all the things you expect from Wes: the quirky characters, the perfect symmetry of every single scene, playful music, etc. The ensemble cast is wonderful once again, led by Ralph Fiennes in a rare comedic role who’s an absolute blast to watch. I also enjoy F. Murray Abraham and newcomer Tony Revolori as Zero Mustafa, the ever-so-resourceful & loyal lobby boy. Mischievously whimsy, but with heart. Like a charming hotel, it’s one I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again. (full review)

8. The Imitation Game


This is no doubt one of my favorite films at last year’s Twin Cities Film Fest. It won a TCFF 2014 Awards for Best Feature Film and both Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley also won acting honors. It’s a biopic on Alan Turing, a mathematician whose pivotal role in cracking the enigma code during WWII helped the Allies won the war against the Nazis. It’s an important film to be sure, boasted by a fantastic all-British cast led by a terrific Cumberbatch as the unsung hero. Though it may be a bit formulaic and by-the-numbers (pardon the puns), it’s still a highly entertaining, as well as emotionally-poignant film that stays with me after the closing credit. In a year of great ensemble-cast films, this is no doubt one of my favorites. I especially love Mark Strong & Matthew Goode here, two underrated performers who ought to get more leading roles of their own.

7. Citizenfour


I only saw a few documentaries last year but this is the one that stuck with me the most. It seems like ages ago when we’re introduced to the name Edward Snowden, and since then some see him as either a traitor or a hero. Filmmaker Laura Poitras got an unprecedented access to one of the first of many meetings between reporter Glenn Greenwald (who at the time worked for The Guardian) and Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room. It’s more of an eyewitness type documentary, allowing us the viewer to be a fly-on-the-wall so to speak as Snowden revealed the mechanics of those NSA intelligence leak. I remember vividly when his first photo was broadcasted all over the media and here we saw him wearing the exact same brown-ish shirt he wore for that shot. The doc may contain what’s seemingly mundane series of events of people talking in a hotel room, but it was utterly engrossing to me. It’s the implication of those conversations, and what it means to the central character and all of us who’s watching it that makes the scenes all the more captivating.

6. Selma


“Selma is at once a peek into the past and a snapshot of the present.” I like the title of this AVClub review because it sums up the film perfectly. I’m glad there’s finally a big-screen adaptation of Martin Luther King’s story, but I’m glad this film isn’t a conventional biopic. Instead, director Ava DuVernay and writer Paul Webb effectively focused on the pivotal event of his life and made this more about the collective struggle for voting rights. Much has been said about the historical inaccuracies about Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrayal, which isn’t the first time liberties are taken on films based on real-life events. But I think apart from that, this is a powerful and gripping film, uncomfortably tense at times, especially during the Bloody Sunday sequence. The issue of police brutality couldn’t be more timely considering the events in Ferguson and NYC, which makes it all the more poignant and heart-wrenching. David Oyelowo embodied the role of King, convincing in both the fiery moments of his speeches, as well as the quieter moments with his wife (portrayed brilliantly by Carmen Ejogo).

5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


I haven’t re-watched this film since I saw it back in July, yet I still remember much about how I felt about the main character, Caesar. The fact that he’s not even a human being says a lot about how good the character development of the last two ‘Apes’ films and this sequel took us a step further into Caesar’s journey. The ‘king of mo-cap acting’ Andy Serkis once again delivered a phenomenal portrayal of the apes leader. His eyes convey so much that they’re practically hypnotic. Director Matt Reeves created a suspenseful & atmospheric piece here that’s immediately engrossing. At times it’s so sinister and eerie that I felt like I was watching a horror film, as well as genuinely poignant moments that tug my heartstrings. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best offerings of the Summer, but of the entire year. It succeeds because the special effects punctuates and supports the story/character instead of the other way around. (full review)

4. Belle


I feel like a broken record when it comes to miss Gugu Mbatha-Raw, but she’s truly one of the best talent discoveries in a good long while. She’s the heart and soul of this film, displaying a nuanced and charismatic performance in nearly every scene. I’m also glad to have discovered director Amma Assante, who shows such dexterity in her sophomore feature, crafting a beautifully layered and affecting historical drama. There are so many things to love here, and after having seen this four times already, I’m still mesmerized. Visually it’s just a stunning film, the gorgeous lighting brings out the best of the costumes, set pieces, etc. But it’s the rich, engrossing story and brilliant performances by the all-British cast that make this such a rewarding film to see over and over. (full review)

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier


I knew this film would make my final Top 10 from the first time I watched it. This is another movie on this list I’ve seen more than twice and I still absolutely loved it! It’s one of the rare sequel that easily surpasses the the first one. Billed as a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a superhero movie’, The Winter Soldier delivers on that promise and gives us something that’s genuinely intriguing and massively entertaining. 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! (full review)

2. Gone Girl


It’s a testament of a great film when it clocks in at 2.5 hours and it went by like a breeze. Dark, twisted, stylish, and even mesmerizing, Gone Girl is one of those movies that play like a thrilling roller coaster ride. Instead of a straight who-dun-it type of thriller, David Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn made this more of a psychological character study of a couple in a crumbling marriage that turns more sinister by the minute. Rosamund Pike was nothing short of amazing as the year’s certifiable female anti-hero you love to hate. She gave an intense and haunting performance that’s absolutely Oscar-worthy. Props to Fincher and Flynn for making a story that might not translate well to film into something cinematic, gripping and wildly entertaining. (full review)

1. Birdman


This is an easy pick for number 1. It’s one of the most unique and unusual films I’ve seen in a while, and the level of artistry that goes into it is off the charts. Technically it’s simply astounding, especially in terms of cinematography. The use of the continuous long takes helps tell the story in such a unique and immersive way that completely absorbs you. But the story itself is rich and full of thought-provoking allegory, brought to life by Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s adept direction. It’s one of those rare films where style actually meets substance, as the story brilliantly blends fantasy & reality, drama & comedy in a way that can be both deep as well as entertaining. It has its darker and even vulgar moments I don’t typically embrace, but it never overpowers the protagonist’s journey, which is the heart of the story. On top of all that is the phenomenal performances across the board, led by Michael Keaton in the lead role, one that I’ll been rooting for the entire award season. (full review)



Some of these movies were actually in my Top 10 list of the first half of 2014. I marked those with an * (asterisk), this time I’m NOT ranking these, so they’re listed in alphabetical order:

  1. Begin Again
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Chef
  4. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
  5. Edge of Tomorrow*
  6. Foxcatcher
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy
  8. The Grand Seduction*
  9. How To Train Your Dragon 2*
  10. The Hundred Foot Journey
  11. John Wick
  12. Locke*
  13. The Machine*
  14. Time Lapse
  15. X-Men: Days of Future Past*

What I missed from 2014:

Boyhood, Calvary, Ida, Mr. Turner, Nightcrawler, Only Lovers Left Alive, Theory of Everything, Still Alice, Under the Skin, and Whiplash.


Now, I wish I could get my 2+ hours back from each of these awful movies! Ok I saw most of these at press screening, so thankfully I didn’t have to pay for them, but still they’re such a waste of my time. Avoid these if you can help it, consider yourself warned.

Bullets Dodged:

Glad I missed some terrible ones like  I Frankenstein, Pompeii, Blended, Transcendence, The Best of Me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.

So that’s my Best/Worst list of 2014. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d love to hear it!

2014 Recap: 10 Favorite Female Performances of the Year


As I’m still putting my finishing touches on my Top 10 list [it’s really quite an agonizing process], I decided to turn my focus on the performances I love from 2014. I initially drafted about underrated performers who I wish had gotten more love, but I think I’ll make that a ‘Question of the Week’ post instead as I’d like to hear what others would pick. In any case, casting and the actors’ performances can alter how I feel about a given film. In fact, they could even make or break a film. Well most of the time anyway, once in a while there comes a movie that not even a stellar cast or great performances can SAVE… *cough* Into The Woods *cough*

Let’s start with the ladies first, the Male Performances list will be posted later this month. This list is in alphabetical order, as it was tough enough to narrow ’em down to 10, let alone ranking them. So here goes:

1. Emily Blunt – Edge of Tomorrow, Into The Woods


I’ve been a fan of miss Blunt for some time, but this is perhaps her first foray into sci-fi action thriller as a co-lead. She’s my pick of surprisingly-bad-ass-female-character in my Random 2014 Recap, though she was quite bad ass in Looper last year, too. There’s something about her character Rita Vrataski that immediately clicks with me. She’s a knock-out yet still has a warm & vulnerable vibe, she’s not some killing machine. That said, her repeated killing of Tom Cruise’s character is quite amusing ;) In Into the Woods, she stretches her versatility further by singing as well as acting, and she does it wonderfully! In fact, her character is one of my few favorites from the movie, yes even more so than Meryl Streep’s!

2. Jessica ChastainThe Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby


Chastain is another favorite actress whom I discovered last year with her prolific turns in major films like Tree of Life, The Help, and Zero Dark Thirty. She’s one of those chameleon actress who reminds me of Cate Blanchett, and this film truly shows her chops. Her character Eleanor isn’t the most sympathetic and at times aggravating, yet her soulful performance makes her so captivating. Eleanor’s overwhelmed by her grief and Chastain conveyed that sense of repressed pain and anger so convincingly. It’s one of the year’s most poignant and powerful performances that sadly seems to have been overlooked by award pundits.

3. Marion CotillardThe Immigrant


Miss Marion is truly a force to be reckoned with. She’s devastatingly beautiful and even fragile-looking but she carries certain inner strength that she often conveys in her eyes. I also love the fact that she seems to seek out non-glamorous roles, even though she manages to look even more beautiful sans makeup. There are actors who can act with just her eyes even when she is absolutely still, and Marion is one of those actors. That talent works wonderfully for her role as a Polish immigrant, Ewa. Her survival instinct is intriguing to watch here and makes you truly empathize with her agonizing journey.

4. Elizabeth Banks – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I


Banks is one of those effortlessly charming and affable actress, which makes her absolutely perfect for the role of Effie Trinket. Her vivacious, flamboyant persona brings the character to life in such an entertaining way. Yet she makes her more than just some silly girl with a penchant for lavishly colorful outfits, in fact she brings so much heart to her role. It’s great to see Effie getting more screen time in this final part of the franchise. Forced to wear muted-colored jumpsuits, thrown into a fish-out-of-water experience, she still manages to steal scenes with her lively personality.

5. Keira KnightleyBegin Again


Keira Knightley is a bit of a hit and miss for me. So far I’ve liked her mostly in period dramas (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) but entirely miscast in Anna Karenina. But here it’s refreshing to see her as a plain jane, and not only that, she also proves to be a decent singer. In fact, her rendition of the soulful Like A Fool is one of my favorite scenes in the film (and one of my Top 5 Fave Movie Songs), it’s heart-wrenching without being at all schmaltzy. This could be her most likable — and relatable — role I’ve seen her in, and I could totally buy her as a struggling-yet-defiant indie musician. Her chemistry with Mark Ruffalo is endearing to watch, as sweet & lovely as the film itself that lingers with you long after the end credits roll.

6. Rosamund PikeGone Girl

gg_5014 gg_8780 gg_4411Thanks to Sati for letting me borrow her pics of Amy Dunne

It’s impossible to make this list without having the impressive breakout performance from Rosamund Pike. It’s a bravura performance that’s sure to be talked about for years to come, a captivating female anti-hero you love to hate. Some actresses might not get this type of juicy role in their lifetime, so it’s nice to see that Pike took this opportunity and absolutely went to town with it. It’s a wonderfully layered and multidimensional character, infused with utter ruthlessness as well as astute comic timing.  What’s going to be most interesting is where would miss Pike go from here? I’d love to see her tackle an intricate role like this again instead of back to being stuck on playing second banana to some Hollywood A-listers.

7. Gugu Mbatha-RawBelleBeyond the Lights


If there is one actress I’m so thrilled to discover this past year, without a doubt it’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I got a bit of a girl crush on her in Belle, as she totally owned the role of a mixed race girl navigating a complicated existence in 18th century England. Within the same year, in a completely different role, Gugu once again captivated me with her performance as Noni, a disillusioned Rihana-like pop star. Both characters require an actress who’s able to convey intense and complex emotions and she totally delivered. Her beauty and talent is simply mesmerizing. I have the same wish for her as I do miss Pike, it’d be a shame if she’s back to only playing the typical wife/girlfriend of some famous Hollywood actors.

8. Haley Lu RichardsonThe Young Kieslowski


Haley may only be 19 years-old but she seems wise beyond her years. She has such a strong screen presence in this indie dramedy, as well displaying a great deal of range as a young teen who got knocked up. I got a chance to chat with Haley for an interview earlier this year and was delighted to see her vivacious personality. In the same year, she did an entirely different and grittier role in The Well, so obviously she’s quite a versatile actress. She seems at ease in either drama or comedy, it’s only a matter of time that Hollywood notices her soon.

9. Amy Ryan – Birdman


Amy Ryan could be one of the most underrated actresses working today. I first noticed her in her Oscar-nominated role in Gone Baby Gone, but since then I only saw her in bit parts here and there, yet she always makes the most of it. Here she plays Michael Keaton’s Riggan’s ex-wife, and I really don’t know what to make of her at first. It may not be the juiciest roles of the entire ensemble, but she did get one of the most memorable lines when snaps at Riggan that he doesn’t know the difference between admiration and love. I also have to give a shout out to another notable performance she did in Breathe-In, Ryan certainly has a knack for elevating every role she’s given, no matter how small.

10. Tilda Swinton Snowpiercer


Tilda Swinton‘s one of those chameleonic actresses who seems to relish in disappearing into a variety of different characters and this one is as quirky as they come. She’s barely recognizable here (and also in The Grand Budapest Hotel in a cameo) as Mason, a sadistic, tyrannical leader of the futuristic train. She’s a despicable character but Tilda’s always a hoot to watch, enthralling even, and perhaps the most entertainingly bizarre character I’ve seen in a while. It takes an astute performer to be scary and hilarious in the same breath, but that’s what Tilda’s capable of, and her screen presence is off the charts.


These lovely ladies also made quite an impression on me, even if some of the films aren’t exactly stellar. In fact, some of these performances even eclipsed the film they appear in and therefore making them more watchable. In others, they elevate the already great roles they’re given and made the film all the richer for it.

Here they are in random order:

  • Cate BlanchettThe Monuments Men
  • Andrea RiseboroughBirdman
  • Felicity JonesBreathe-In
  • Rinko KikuchiKumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  • Eva GreenSin City 2: A Dame to Kill For
  • Angelina JolieMaleficent
  • Mackenzie FoyInterstellar
  • Elizabeth RobertsOld Fashioned
  • Kim Dickens – Gone Girl
  • Carmen EjogoSelma

Thoughts on these performances? Which one(s) of these stood out to you from the past year?

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

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

Here’s my Blindspot Picks of 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Recap: Top Five Favorite Movie Songs


Ok so I started making my Top 10 Films list, in fact I have my top 9 ready to go with just one more left to include. But y’know what, I realize I should wait until later this week as I have one press screening of a 2014 film on Tuesday.

Now this one is a much easier list to include, and four of the five have pretty much been decided long ago. The fifth one I’m including here is from an earlier 2014 movie I’ve just seen recently, Begin Again. In case you missed it, I’ve posted the Top 10 Favorite Film Scores list back in December, which surprisingly doesn’t have any overlap. What’s indeed surprising to me is that two of the songs here are sung by the lead actresses of their respective films, which means I should really update my five-year-old list of actors who are surprisingly good singers. As for I’m Not In Love, I’ve actually been a fan of that song (which was released in 1975) for some time, but I had to include it here as it’s my fave song from the awesome Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. It might not be as catchy as Hooked on a Feeling but it doesn’t get old as quickly as that one.

So anyhoo, here’s my top 5:

Blackbird – Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights)

Everything’s Awesome –Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island (The Lego Movie)

Once Upon A Dream – Lana Del Rey (Maleficent)

I’m Not In Love – 10cc (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Like A Fool – Keira Knightley (Begin Again)


Honorable Mention: 

Agony – Chris Pine & Billy Magnussen (Into The Woods)

I have to include this one as this scene is easily my favorite of the entire film! You can take a look at the hilarious clip here (it’s fuzzy as it’s recorded on the big screen) but I’m including the official song below because the quality is much better.

Thoughts on my picks here? So what’s YOUR favorite songs from the past year?

Farewell 2014! Random Best/Worst Cinematic Recap of the Year


Wow, where has the time go?? I still can’t believe it’s already the LAST day of 2014. But y’know what, I’m actually looking forward to the new year, both in terms of film as well as personally and professionally speaking.

This past week I started thinking about some cinematic items I like and don’t like, so for the fun of it, I’ll just make a random post with whatever categories that come to mind. I took to Twitter for people to help me come up with something but got only one reply, but if you have suggestion in the comments, I can add them on here. Ok let’s get to it

Best Robotic Characters


Baymax (Big Hero 6) & TARS (Interstellar)

Best mo-cap performance

Andy Serkis – Caesar (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

Best Movie Sidekick


Anthony Mackie – Sam Wilson/Falcon (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Best voice work

Benedict Cumberbatch – Smaug (The Hobbit trilogy)

Best surprisingly bad-ass female character


Emily Blunt – Rita Vrataski (Edge of Tomorrow)

Worst supposedly-bad-ass-but-turns-out-annoying female character

Amber Heard – 3 Days To Kill

Best surprisingly bad-ass male character

Dan Stevens – ‘David’ (The Guest*)

* I actually haven’t seen the movie yet but based on the trailer alone, Dan looks so bad-ass!!

Worst supposedly-bad-ass-but-turns-out-annoying male character


Lee Pace – Ronan (Guardians of the Galaxy)


Best bravura performance (female)

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Beyond the Lights

Best duo reunion

James McAvoy + Michael Fassbender – Erik Lehnsherr/Charles Xavier (X-Men: Days of Future Past)

Best [and most artistic] Regional Movie Posters

The above posters are of various US cities, they also created some International Cities version. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!


Best Movie Quotes

“Bruce Wayne? Who’st that? Sounds like a cool guy…” – Batman (Will Arnett), The Lego Movie

“Apes. Together. Strong!” – Caesar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

“Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.” – Drax (Dave Bautista, Guardians of The Galaxy)

Best use of a slo-mo in an action scene


Quicksilver’s kitchen scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past


Best/Most Inspired Casting

Michael Keaton – Riggan Thomson (Birdman)

Best Use of a Great Ensemble Cast

The Imitation Game and Birdman (tie)

Worst Use of a Great Ensemble Cast

The Monuments Men

Best comedic performance by a typically-serious actor 


Ralph Fiennes – Mr. Gustave (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Honorable Mention: Chris Pine – Cinderella’s Prince (Into The Woods) – simply for his hilarious Agony rendition

Best Movie Mustache

Ralph Fiennes – Mr. Gustave (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Best Underrated Breakthrough Performance (Male)

Tony Revolori – Zero Mustafa (The Grand Budapest Hotel)


Tony Revolori & Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Best Underrated Breakthrough Performance (Female)

Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Dido Elizabeth Belle (Belle)

Best serious performance by a comedic actor (also Best Use of Prosthetics)

Steve Carell – John DuPont (Foxcatcher)

Best ‘WTF that was bizarre’ movie


Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy

Best Shootout Scene

Keanu Reeves’ John Wick at a Night Club

Best Car Chase Scene

Worst use of a screen legend

Ben Kingsley –Exodus: Gods & Kings and Night of the Museum 3 (as a Jewish slave AND Egyptian royalty, respectively)

Worst movie haircut [not just 2014, probably of the DECADE]


Colin Farrell’s (Winter’s Tale)

Best Honest Trailers of 2014

Best Fake Movie Poster

Worst time spent at movie theater all year

Transformers: Age of Extinction [at IMAX no less!]

Best Outrageous Costume


Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Noni’s outfits (Beyond the Lights)

Best Performance by an actor under 15

Isaac Andrews – Malak (Exodus: Gods & Kings)

Best Movie set in a confined space [and best use of a car interior]



Best One-Man-Show Performance

Tom Hardy (Locke)

Worst movie(s) that didn’t live up to its hype

Godzilla & Interstellar

Best 2014 characters deserving of a spin-off

Sam Wilson/Falcon (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Lego Batman + Good Cop/Bad Cop (The LEGO Movie)

Effie Trinket (The Hunger Games)

Best Food Movie of the Year [that’s also a surprisingly GOOD movie!]

Jon Favreau's CHEF

Jon Favreau’s CHEF

Worst movie starring one of my actor crushes

Into The Storm (Sorry Richard Armitage but it was dreadful!)

Best film news

SPECTRE announcement

Worst film news

The whole SONY hack debacle

Best new TV show (that I saw for the entire first season)


Best directorial debut 

Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler*

* I actually haven’t seen this yet but this is based on all the reviews I’ve read

Worst directorial debut (that results in possibly the WORST movie of the year)

Akiva Goldsman – Winter’s Tale

Best comeback role

Michael Keaton (Birdman)


Best return-to-form performance 

Edward Norton (Birdman)

Best bromance

Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill (22 Jump Street)

Best romantic duo


James McAvoy & Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby)
Gugu Mbatha Raw & Sam Reid (Belle)

Best May-December romance (that doesn’t make me cringe)

Guy Pearce & Felicity Jones (Breathe-In)

Worst May-December romance (that does make me cringe)

Kevin Kline & Dakota Fanning (The Last of Robin Hood)

Best unintentionally-hilarious 2014 trailer

It just never fails to bring a chuckle every time I watch it. Mr. Neeson certainly has the gift of unintentional comedy!

Those are some of the random categories I can think of for now. Feel free to submit category suggestions in the comments below.

Farewell 2014, now bring on 2015!!
HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

007 December Blogathon – 10 Reasons Why Licence to Kill (1989) is one of my all time favorite Bond films

007-december-blogathonMost of you who read this blog regularly knows I’m a huge Bond fan as I grew up watching them with my two brothers. Over the years I’ve become more partial to Timothy Dalton’s portrayal as Bond and I always appreciate both of his Bond films. I only wish he had the chance to do a third (which was he was under contract for until MGM legal battles delay production for six years!)

I’ve recently rewatched Licence To Kill again for MovieRob’s Bond December Blogathon, and still thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve done a special appreciation for Dalton in the film, but this post will highlight TEN reasons why the film itself is one of my favorite Bond films of all time.

ltk_movieposter10. The hard-edged but also hugely personal storyline, interwoven with the Japanese Ronin tales with Bond as a rogue agent avenging the death of his friends. People complain that Bond might’ve been too dark but perhaps Licence to Kill was way ahead of its time as with Skyfall, people didn’t seem to mind the personal angle of the story. It’s a grounded, more realistic tale that doesn’t pit Bond as ‘savior of the world’ that’s become cliched and derivative.

9. Memorable opening scene that thrillingly and effectively sets up to the origin of Bond’s personal vendetta and the kind of ruthless gangster he has to contend with. It later featured a high-flying action as Bond and his CIA ally Felix Leiter captures drug lord Frank Sanchez by hooking his plane like a fish, literally!

8. Michael Kamen’s score – I’m a huge fan of John Barry’s work with the Bond franchise but as he was unavailable at the time. Given that the film’s released in the late 80s and Kamen’s scored other successful action franchises like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, he seems to be the perfect composer for the job. There’s even a bit of John Barry’s elegant sound to it, but mixed with a darker tone and heart-pounding up-tempo style for the action scenes.

7. Memorable Bond girls who are more than mere eye candy
– with interesting but believable names, not preposterous ones like Dr. Christmas Jones or Pussy Galore. I especially love Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier, a beautiful and strong former CIA pilot who’s saved Bond’s ass many times over. Talisa Soto is perfect as Sanchez’s sultry mistress and though she may seem Bimbo-like at times, her character actually has a purpose in Bond’s quest to get close to Sanchez.


6. Great character reinvention – as this is longtime Bond director John Glen’s final Bond outing and the fact that Dalton’s keen on returning to Ian Flemming’s work, Licence to Kill feels like Bond of a new era, a complete break of the Moore’s mischievous style in every way. There is nothing whimsical about Licence to Kill, though I wouldn’t say it’s devoid of humor. Q’s intro to the film is actually quite hilarious, but it’s not just humor for the sake of it.

5. Gritty set pieces and spectacular action. Dalton did most of his own stunts, even when he was high up in the air in the ‘plane hooking’ scene, and the climactic truck chase is still as bad ass and riveting by today’s standards. If you look at the featurette, the scene isn’t crafted by CGI, but they used real tanker trucks and feature incredible stunts in the dangerous and supposedly haunted twisty highway of Rumorosa, Mexico. Sure there aren’t many of Q’s gadgets in this movie, but who with thrilling stunts like these, who needs ‘em?


4. A formidable villain in Robert Davi. Frank Sanchez breaks the mold of the typical sociopath hellbent on ruling the world. There’s no over-the-top plan to recreate the human race and all that, Sanchez is simply a power-hungry and greedy mafia-type who strives to be a cocaine billionaire. Davi is one of my fave Bond villains because he’s menacing, brutal and cold-blooded killer but he’s also suave and sophisticated, one of those rare villains that’s as charismatic as Bond himself. Oh and who could forget one of his loco henchmen Dario in the form of young Benicio Del Toro.


3. Suspenseful interaction between Bond & Sanchez – In many Bond films, when Bond meets his villain, usually they know he’s the enemy [which then calls for one of his henchmen to go after him]. But in this case, Bond enters Sanchez’ world as an ally, a trusted friend. I love their first meeting when Bond offers himself to Sanchez as someone who’d be good for someone of his stature… he’s not just a problem solver, but ‘more of a problem eliminator.’ As Bond sneaks out to infiltrate his organization and slowly tear it apart, there’s always tension that Sanchez will suspect something and he’d get caught at any moment.

2. Great climactic scene – not only is the CGI-free action stunts are incredible, but it’s such a pivotal moment between two men that’s been built up from the start. Thanks to strong character development between Bond and Sanchez, this climactic battle feels deeply personal to both of them. In a strange way, you also feel for Sanchez in that up until Bond showed the silver cigarette lighter from Leiter, he had no clue why Bond betrayed him. It’s a fiery finale, in every sense of the word, but it’s also a satisfying one and definitely one of the most memorable villain deaths.


1. Timothy Dalton – Bond with substance, bad-ass but refined, gritty without being thuggish and he can be menacing and vulnerable in a matter of seconds. Case in point, when Bond confronts Pam Bouvier in the hotel room, he was angry enough to pull the trigger on her, but when she reveals the truth that ‘there’s more to it than his personal vendetta,’ Dalton’s expression immediately immediately softens and the remorse is palpable on his face as he hands her gun back to her.


Nice to see the glamorous playboy actually fights out of love and loyalty and the story utilizes Dalton’s Shakespearean training perfectly. He’s not a super spy that people can’t relate to, but he’s plays Bond as a human being with real angst and real feelings, but as it’s said in the poster, he’s got a real dangerous side to him that is both intimidating and sexy. He’s believably ruthless, too, as when he threatened a beautiful woman “Make a sound, and you’re dead!” we believe that he actually could pull the trigger. The tall and lean Dalton is both a physical and cerebral Bond and he has that understated swagger that effective but isn’t showy.

So there, I’ve made my case for both Licence to Kill and Dalton as Bond. It’s a pity this film is known as the lowest-grossing Bond film but I think it’s so criminally underrated and I urge people who haven’t seen this to give it a shot. I’d say people who like Daniel Craig’s Bonds will appreciate the tough-edged story and exhilarating action. Not to mention a fantastic performance from both actors playing Bond and his nemesis. What else could you ask for?

So have you seen Licence to Kill? Let me know what YOU think!

2015 BLIND SPOT series: My 12 film picks

2015BlindSpotOk so I’ve completed my first Blind Spot series! Well ok I might’ve missed a couple for one reason or another – Time Bandits and How The West Was Won – but I’d still watch them at some point. The Blind Spot series was originally spearheaded by Ryan at The Matinee, and I was also inspired by Dan’s list at Public Transportation Snob.

It’s been great catching up on classic films that’ve somehow eluded me all these years. Most of them have ranged from good to excellent. Now, I try to cover a variety of genres here, and include at least one that I don’t normally go for. In this case, I include a silent film, Wings, which happens to be the first silent film to win Best Picture Oscar back in 1927. I ended up including two Hitchcock films. I had picked Rear Window initially, but upon reading Cindy’s review of Marnie, I just had to include that, too. And thanks to Michael for helping me decide which film noir to include, The Big Sleep.

Anyhoo, here’s my 12 picks in alphabetical order:

  1. 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
  2. A Place in the Sun (1951)
  3. A Star Is Born (1954)
  4. The Big Sleep (1946)
  5. Breathless (1960)
  6. Giant (1956)
  7. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967)
  8. Marnie (1964)
  9. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  10. Rear Window (1954)
  11. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  12. Wings (1927)

Boy, it’s a lot tougher than I thought to put this together, but I’m excited to finally getting around to watching them! Like I did this year, I will just pick at random which film I want to see in a given month.

Well, have you seen any of these? Which one(s) are your favorite?

Five movies everyone seem to love that leave me cold

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

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

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)


IMDB rating: 7.1 | RT Score: 87%

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

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


IMDB rating: 8.0 | RT Score: 79%

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

Spartacus (1960)


IMDB rating: 8.0 | RT Score: 96%

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

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

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

The Getaway (1972)


IMDb rating: 7.5 | RT Score: 85%

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

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

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

To Catch A Thief (1955)

ToCatchAThiefPosterIMDb rating: 7.5 | RT Score: 95%

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

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

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

Tube Watch: 11 Great TV Series You Should Be Watching Right Now


Dave, aka ackackattack, here. Last year I wrote about two tremendous, international TV series, Broadchurch and The Returned (Les Revenants). Ruth kindly asked that I write a guest post about what I’ve been watching lately.

TVWatchingRemoteIn America it’s said we’re living in a ‘golden age’ of television here starting with The Soprano’s and The Wire going on all the way up to Breaking Bad and True Detective. Well frankly across the pond they’ve been having their own renaissance with their own original TV programming too. Especially of note is what is coming out of Britain, Sweden and Denmark. For those of you willing to brave thick accents, subtitled dialogue, different cultures and original programming you will be greatly rewarded. If you haven’t noticed, we Americans seem to be stealing remaking foreign programs more and more lately… and not doing it nearly as well. Case in point FOX’s Gracepoint (Broadchurch), FX’s The Bridge (Bron/Broen), AMC’s The Killing (Forbrydelsen) and ABC’s Resurrection (Les Revenants).

In my 40+ years of consuming entertainment it’s getting harder and harder find original, challenging programming with well-drawn characters and compelling storylines. Especially in a world of sequels, franchises and remakes where the bottom line ultimately rules the day. But rather than be frustrated it just means is that I sometimes have to look outside the box to find what moves me. It just so happens that a lot of great content comes from TV these days… and not just here in America.

Some of these shows mentioned can be a challenge to find so I listed where they might be found at the end of each synopsis.

1. Rita

RitaRita stars the fabulous Mille Dinesen who plays a rebellious, flawed Danish schoolteacher trying to “save the children from their parents”. As a single mother of three older children she juggles everything to raise them the best that she knows how. Supposedly they remade it as a pilot for Bravo with Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) that didn’t get picked up. It’s hard to imagine the US remake touching this lighthearted dramedy with its mature themes that Europeans are so comfortable with that we Americans are so afraid of confronting. Curiously enough Dinesen is a dead ringer for Linda Hamilton. I swear you’ll say that to yourself, in your head, at least once an episode. Seriously.(US/Denmark/Sweden Netflix.)

2. Happy Valley

HappyValleyIt’s the story of a kidnapping gone wrong not unlike Fargo but without the all the “you betcha’s”. Actually the tone of Happy Valley is actually more reminiscent of Broadchurch. Sarah Lancashire stars as Catherine Cawood, the police sergeant of a small English valley, who gets caught up in this twisted case. Ratcheting up the tension more is someone from her past who turns up, complicating matters all the more for Catherine. It’s a standout performance from Lancashire that is well worth your time. (US Netflix)

3. Black Mirror

BlackMirrorIt’s like a very dark, twisted version of The Twilight Zone crossed with Tales of the Unexpected. If you’re a fan of those shows you will love this. Being an anthology series there’s a different cast, setting and even reality for each show which makes it palatable in small doses. It should came as no surprise that Robert Downey’s production company has optioned one of the episodes to be made into a feature film. The first of six episodes in this series, entitled The National Anthem, is one for the ages. It will certainly test your mettle. All I can say is you have to see it for yourself. (UK Netflix)

4. The Bridge (Bron/Broen)

TheBridge_OriginalYou might know this series which was remade by FX with Oscar nominees Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) and Damon Bichir (A Better Life). This is the original Swedish/Danish co-production titled Bron/Broen starring the wonderful Kim Bodina (Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher). The body of a Swedish politician is found, cut in half and deliberately placed in the middle of a bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark. Falling under the jurisdictions of both countries, two detectives must work together to solve this mysterious murder. Later it is found out that the corpse is from two separate bodies. Chaos ensues. (Denmark/Sweden/UK Netflix)

5. The Killing (Forbrydelsen)

TheKilling_DanishThe Danish strike again with The Killing (Forbrydelsen). In what would be remade by Showtime, whose US creator drastically changes some of the story (and not for the better), this where it all began. Detective Sarah Lund is looking forward to her last day in Copenhagen before she moves to Sweden when a high profile rape and murder case comes up. Over the next 20 days, with implications reaching high up into government, she decides to stay and delve into the case of a particularly dangerous and intelligent murderer. (Denmark/UK Netflix)

6. Borgen

Borgen_DanishBorgen, which is Danish for ‘The Castle’, is from the producers of The Killing (Forbrydelsen). It’s the story of a charismatic, female Danish prime minister faced with suddenly coming into power. It’s been favorably compared to the best seasons of The West Wing. Stephen King named it his favorite piece of pop culture of 2012. I know this is hard to believe but HBO is in the works to develop this series. (Available through Link TV on satellite via Dish Network or DirecTV)

7. Southcliffe


Sean Durkin follows up his impressive debut film, Martha Marcy May Marlene (Elisabeth Olsen, John Hawkes), with this British series Southcliffe. It tells the nonlinear story of a series of deadly shootings in a fictional, rural English town. Starring Shirley Henderson (Trainspotting, Intermission), the truly underrated Eddie Marsan (The World’s End, Happy Go Lucky) and Sean Harris (Prometheus, Showtime’s The Borgias) who won a BAFTA for his chilling portrayal of the shooter Stephen Morton. (US/UK Netflix)

8. Hit & Miss

HitAndMissIt’s a British drama, set in Yorkshire, about an Irish, transgender contract killer. The story begins when he comes to England after finding out he’s been named guardian of a son that he didn’t know he fathered. Despite its implausible sounding premise the show is remarkably quite compelling. It’s anchored by Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry) who does the best work of her career here. Guys out there, be forewarned, it’s quite conflicting watching the lovely Sevigny play a pre-op transgender woman in this (think The Crying Game). LOL. (US Netflix)

9. Orphan Black

OrphanBlack_TatianaIt’s hard to avoid seeing Tatiana Maslany’s name on the internet these days. Particularly for how she’s been snubbed by the Emmy’s for her work on this fascinating sci-fi show hailing from Canada on BBC America. The writing/directing team from the movie Ginger Snaps, Karen Walton and John Fawcett, created this fun, smart sci-fi series about cloning. To watch Tatiana Maslany portray no less than 7 distinctly different clones and then have them pretend to be one another while still in their original character is something you have to see. As one reviewer put it “she’s her own special effect.” BBC America On Demand. (UK/Denmark/Sweden Netflix)


Lastly I wanted to highlight two US shows that are excellent in their own right and are truly like nothing else currently showing on American TV.

10. Transparent

TransplantJeffrey Tambor should be on the Emmy shortlist next year for his performance as a father that comes out as transgender to his severely dysfunctional family. Amazon Prime has really stepped up with its first original series. Based on the life experiences of creator Jill Soloway’s (Six Feet Under) family. The large cast is quite extraordinary. It’s as unique as anything you’ll see this year. (Amazon Prime Video)

11. Rectify

RectifyTo say there is nothing like Rectify on American TV is an understatement. It’s a deliberately paced, southern Gothic story of redemption and the loss of one’s self. After 19 years on death row, Daniel, who was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing his 16 year old girlfriend, is released from prison after new DNA evidence surfaces. Struggling to fit into a small town that doesn’t want him and a family that doesn’t know how to accept him, he tries to adjust to his new found surroundings. Did Daniel actually do it? You won’t find out until well into the series and it’s really beside the point anyway. I can’t recommend this sleeper enough. Created by the actor Ray McKinnon who was best known as Rev. H. W. Smith on Deadwood. (The Sundance Channel OnDemand and Netflix)

Special thanks to our new *official* TV contributor Dave W (aka Ackackattack) whom many of you have *met* on the comment section here at FC :D Check out Dave’s profile and see if you share his fave movies and/or filmmakers/actors.

So have you seen any of these shows? Well, which one(s) are your favorite?