TCFF Short Films Spotlight: Interview with ‘Hot & Bothered’ & ‘A Better Life’ filmmakers Jake Greene & Conor Holt

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HotBotheredLogoDesperate singles get all tangled up when a compulsive internet dater loses track of her accounts.

Directed by: Jake Greene and Natalie Irby

Interview w/co-director Jacob ‘Jake’ Greene:

1. Tell us about your filmmaking background, how you got started in the business.

I started making independent shorts and web series when I lived in Nashville, TN, which is also where I met my directing partner, Natalie Irby. The first project we worked on together was an experimental short that I wrote and she starred in. We had so much fun working together on that project that we decided to collaborate again after I moved to L.A. in (late 2011). Hot and Bothered was our first project as co-directors and we’re already plotting the next (several).

2. How does the concept for your short film come about? Have you been interested in doing a comedy?

The concept for “Hot and Bothered” came out of a conversation that Natalie and I had with my wife, Sarah, at a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. We were talking about people we knew who were accomplished, attractive, and desperate. It seemed like we all knew a lot of people who seemed unnecessarily frantic, people prone to needless self-sabotage – especially those who were also single and overwhelmed by the online dating scene. I went home from that dinner and started writing.

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Check out the trailer on youtube

3. I thought the casting was great, everyone fit the roles perfectly. Please tell us a bit about the casting process.

This project really took off after our Casting Director, Scott David, signed on. Scott casts the show “Criminal Minds” and has tremendous access to talent. Our cast was amazing and professional and each one of them brought unique depth and mischief to their characters.

4. How was working w/ your co-director Natalie Irby? Did you both come up w/ the film concept?

Natalie is a visual artist and I like to crack dumb jokes so we had a pretty great division of labor. She took “Hot” and I handled “Bothered”.

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Natalie, me, and Chia-Yu Chen, our DP, shooting the restaurant scene in H&B

5. Are you planning on working on a feature film in the future? If so, do you have an idea in mind?

We are absolutely talking about making a feature at some point in the next two years. It’s just a matter of finding the right story and characters.


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A new treatment for her comatose husband compels Diane to reexamine their relationship.

Interview with director Conor Holt:

1. Tell us about your filmmaking background, have you worked on other films (shorts/features) before this one?

I graduated this spring from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a Bachelors in Film Studies. MSUM is the only University in Minnesota that offers a four-year program in both film production and film history & criticism, and I had a terrific time there. I’ve been making short films and whatnot since High School, and I wrote, directed, edited and/or produced almost a dozen films at MSUM. My films have been accepted to 11 different film festivals, most of them in the Midwest. The Librarian’s Assistant, which I wrote, shot, edited & directed, won Best Acting at the 2010 Quiet on the Set short film competition in Minneapolis and Best Family Film at the 2010 South Dakota Film Festival; A Better Life won Best in Show and Best Screenplay at the Spring 2013 Juried Film Exhibition at MSUM.

2. How does the concept for your short film come about? Were you intent on doing a sci-fi story?

I’ve been a really big fan of science-fiction films since I took a class on them at MSUM, which is also where I wrote the first drafts of the script. A class assignment was to write a short science-fiction screenplay, and I wanted to tell a minimalist, character-driven sci-fi story, in the vein of such great films as Primer and Moon. The idea came from seeing multiple films and TV shows featuring patients in comas, and dealing with the constant supervision and financial difficulties in caring for them. I thought, what if in a few years, we developed a new technology that could let families care for their comatose loved one by controlling them via a remote control, using it to keep them active, feed them, etc? How would this technology impact people and their relationships with their loved ones, and how could it be abused? The idea seemed perfect for my desired story scope and ripe with interesting subtext, so I set about writing it with my classmate Ben Grell. We wrote several drafts over the course of the class, but afterwards I kept re-writing it and re-writing it. Eventually, after suggestions from friends, I reworked the film with a non-linear structure, inspired by non-linear films like Memento. This new structure helped tighten the script and increase the visual storytelling, and after a few more drafts – 15 or so in total – the script was ready to shoot.

Check out some behind-the-scenes photos of A Better Life:

3. Tell us a bit about the budget and how you came up with the resources to make this film. I remember you talked about how you came up w/ the clear iPod looking device the wife used to control her husband’s movement, so feel free to elaborate on that as well. 

As a student filmmaker, I’m very used to making a film with little-to-no money, paying the actors and crew with food and using whatever props and locations we can get for free. We followed that formula on A Better Life as well, but we also had some help. Every year, the Minnesota Film & TV Board graciously awards a $1500 grant to one student at MSUM. To apply, I had to submit a finished script, a budget, and a rough crew & location list. I was very honored to win the grant that year, and that money allowed us to rent specialty equipment for the shoot, buy better food for the cast & crew, purchase props & costumes, and pay for submission fees to film festivals. The film could not have been made without the involvement and hard work of a truly wonderful cast and crew, and a number of terrific people willing to let us film in their homes and places of work.

4. What was your biggest challenges in making this film and how you figure out a way to overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges on this film was the remote control. This is the key prop for the film, and the most obvious element of science-fiction in the story. My very talented Production Designer Mallery Mohn and I discussed the design, how I wanted a sleek, modern feel to it, and she created a wonderful prop out of a plastic picture frame. The digital interface of remote came in post-production, thanks to the fantastic Special Effects wiz Ben Stommes. Ben was able to design a logical, functional interface that matched the finger movements of the lead character, and fit it to every needed shot in the film. In filmmaking, the key to success is surrounding yourself with talented people. If I did one thing right on this film, it was hiring enormously talented people like Mohn, Stommes, Cinematographer Shane MacKinnon, Editor Chance Cole, Producer Patrick McKeown and Composer Greg Albing to help bring this film to life and make the filmmaking process so much easier.

5. Who are your biggest filmmakers and/or films influence? In other words, where do you draw your inspiration from?

For this film, I drew on other small-scale science fiction films like Moon, about an isolated miner on the Moon who uncovers a dark secret on his base, and Primer, about two computer geeks who build a time machine in their garage. I studied how they were able to find drama and philosophical depth in character’s dealing with dangerous technology and ethical dilemmas, without the need for space battles or alien monsters. As a filmmaker, I have several directors that I adore, as well as shamelessly copy in my own directing style.

I love Christopher Nolan’s deft hand at weaving complicated stories, such as Memento and The Prestige, and his fascinating explorations of deep, philosophical ideas. Quentin Tarantino’s hilarious, insightful scripts are a constant joy, and his visual flair is wonderful to behold. And Hayao Miyazaki, the master Japanese anime director, is truly inspirational, a genius at telling quiet, powerfully intimate stories as well as sweeping, emotional epics. These filmmakers, and many more, inspire me as a filmmaker and compel me to strive for honest, emotional storytelling and visual distinction and impact.

Check out A Better Life on facebook for more info and view the trailer on Vimeo.


THANKS SO MUCH Jake and Conor for the interview!


Hope you enjoyed the interviews. I wish both Jake and Conor all the best in their future filmmaking endeavor!

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Top 5 lackluster endings in big Hollywood movies

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A couple of months ago I named my top 5 Spectacle Endings, well now I shift my focus on 5 movie endings that I thought lacked spectacle and excitement. As I mentioned on my last article, I love big Hollywood event/tentpole films. Yes I know most of them aren’t what you called “great” cinema but hey that’s the goal of these films. They weren’t made to win Oscars or get approval from critics. They were made to entertain the masses and of course earn lots of cash. So when I pay to go see these movies that cost over $100 mil or more, I expect to be entertained and be transported to another world. I also expect to see a huge spectacle to close the feature, yet some didn’t quite accomplish that.

This list contain films I think the studio or filmmakers should’ve done a better job in giving us the big spectacle that we expect to see. Here they are in no particular order:

SPOILER ALERT!
Obviously since we’re talking about movie finales, spoilers should be expected

Clear and Present Danger

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This is probably my second favorite film of the Jack Ryan series and it was my most-anticipated film back in the summer of 1994. I’d just finished reading the book at the time and was super excited to see the film version. Despite some changes that were made from the book, I still thought it’s a solid action thriller. Unfortunately it also has one of the worst-staged action sequences ever filmed.

The film ends with what was supposed to be a big and elaborate action sequence where Ryan, Clark and Chavez (fans of the books knows that this trio shared many adventures together), rescued the soldiers who were being captive by the drug cartel. The shootout sequence was poorly-staged and boring, while I expected to see some really intense and exciting sequence. I couldn’t find the clip online but I assume most people have seen the film and know what I’m talking about. A few years later, the film’s director (Phillip Noyce) admitted that he should’ve done a better job of shooting that scene. He actually wanted it be bigger and more elaborate than the ambush scene in the middle of the film when Ryan and the FBI agents were ambushed by the drug cartel thugs.

The Man with the Golden Gun

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Of course when we talk about action films, a James Bond film must be in the conversation. Roger Moore’s second outing as 007 was considered one of the worst in the franchise, in fact after this film’s poor performance at the box office, United Artists was thinking of dropping the Bond franchise. Thankfully the next one made lots of cash and we still get see Bond on the big screen today. Anyway back to this Bond flick, it hardly have any big action scenes in it. Besides the big car chase in the middle of the film, it didn’t really have any big shootouts or spectacle you’d expect to see in a Bond film. Now I thought the concept of the story was pretty great, Bond goes up against another super assassin, so you’d think we get to see big hand-to-hand combat and shootouts. Well for the film’s climactic battle, we got this scene below:

Pretty weak right?

The Bourne Identity

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I was hesitant to include this one on my list because I thought the sequence was very well-shot but I wanted it to be bigger and see more of it. This scene where Bourne took out some henchmen ended too quick and just felt kind of rushed:

Originally the film was supposed to have a big spectacle the climactic action scene, you can read about it on this post on alternate endings.

Mission: Impossible 3

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My least favorite Mission: Impossible film and it contained probably one of the most boring hand-to-hand combat sequence I’ve ever seen. See the below clip:

The first two films closed out with some crazy action sequences and I expected to see the same for this one. Unfortunately, JJ Abrams decided to give a typical fight scene and a weak shootout. Don’t get me started on a later scene when Ethan’s wife, who’s a nurse with no weapons training whatsoever but somehow was able to take down the main villain, who’s a trained IMF agent. Lame, lame!

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides

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This 4th Pirates of the Caribean movie was just boring to sit through but I decided to watch the whole film and hoping that it would least have some kind of big spectacle action scene for the ending. Sadly it did not and I wish I could have 2 and half hours of my life back. I thought the scene was unimaginative and well boring, I still couldn’t understand how the film made over a billion dollars at the box office. See the scene below.


Honorable mentions:

World War Z

Since this is a recent film, I assume many people already know about its troubled production and that the entire third act of the film had to be re-shoot. According to some reports and director Marc Forster, the top executives at Paramount felt the original ending was too brutal and didn’t have any closure, so they wanted a lighter ending and have Pitt’s character get reunited with his family. Well I called BS on that, I think the executives realized had they went with that big battle ending, the film would’ve received an R rating and of course it wouldn’t have earn as much as it did at the box office. In an interview with Forster, which you can read here, he felt the original ending was too big and that the audience can’t really relate to Pitt’s character. He prefer the more suspenseful but quiet ending.

Now he could be telling the truth or he’s just basically saying that because the film was a big hit. I mean they spent weeks and millions of dollars on that sequence and If I was the director, I’d be pissed that they didn’t want to use it or even show it to the public. I wonder what he’d say had the film was a box office dud. Personally I didn’t care for that more quiet and suspenseful ending, since the film was set up as action/adventure. I wanted to see a big spectacle battle to close out the film. Hopefully Paramount will release another cut of the film with its original ending and let us the paying audiences decides which version is better.

Django Unchained

Again this is a recent film so I assume most have seen it, so I won’t go deep into the climatic ending. I just felt it was more anti-climatic, I wish Tarantino had closed out the film with a big shootout that he showed earlier in the film. Here’s the clip:

The World Is Not Enough

Yes it’s one of the worst Bond films but there were some cool action sequences in the film, I really enjoyed the opening boat chase and the helicopters attack at the caviar factory. For the film’s finale, I thought we would see some really big and elaborate action sequence, but what we got was a lame shoot-out inside a submarine. That entire sequence was pretty brutal to sit through, I kept thinking to myself, who approved this scene when it’s written? I can only assume it sounded much more exciting in concept but somehow the execution was sloppy and not very creative. I remember I kept yawning when I saw it in theater and wish the film would end already, the scene felt like it went on forever. Sorry I couldn’t find it online but I think most people know what I’m talking about.


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So what do you think folks, do you agree with my choices? Feel free to share your picks for the lackluster ending in big movies.

10 reasons why BBC’s crime drama BROADCHURCH is a must-watch TV series

In light of the recent news of the remake of Broadchurch that I mentioned in last week’s Five of the Fifth, here’s why you should watch the original BBC series! I have not got around to seeing it myself but definitely will watch this at some point.

SPECIAL THANKS to Dave W for his wonderful contribution!

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“This morning the body of an 11 year old child was found on Harbour Cliff beach at Broadchurch, the body was subsequently identified as Daniel Latimer…”

I was going to sit down to watch the series finale of Breaking Bad later tonight… ending maybe one of the greatest runs of a TV show in recent memory. It’s stylistic, dark and dares to boldly go where other shows only dream of. BBC America’s eight-episode series Broadchurch is a drama of a different animal. It’s a rather straight-forward series as compared to the heavily-stylized, highly-acclaimed shows like Mad Men, Dexter and House of Cards. Yet it summons up more emotion and heartbreak than all our cool, hip TV programs put together. I was so taken with the show that I thought I’d give my 10 reasons why you should seek out what I feel is must-watch TV. It’s not a perfect show by any means but I think a rare achievement such as this should not go unnoticed.

1)  The Story

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Broadchurch is a little like a better told version of AMC’s The Killing. (Yes I know the original is from Denmark… but I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t comment!) It too involves a murdered child, a male and female detective and family/town coming to grips with that loss. The difference is Broadchurch is a densely-packed story that doesn’t overstay its welcome, wrapping up nicely after 8 episodes. It doesn’t linger on for three seasons much to the detriment of The Killing. In what is essentially is a ‘who done it’, the well-drawn, believable characters make you want to follow their stories through all the twists and turns of the plot. Keeping the story from dipping into melodrama is no small feat in this kind of drama. Creator Chris Chibnall shows how simplicity and straightforwardness can often be the best method for telling a story.

2)  The Acting

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In a show with pitch perfect acting where characters abound, the two leads, Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) and Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) really standout. As the local reigning detective she must put away her allegiance to the people of the town. This is harder than it seems as her boy was best friends with Danny and she knows the family well. If Coleman doesn’t win an Emmy next year for her portrayal it would be a shame. Her acting, especially in the final episode, is breathtaking. Tennant, of Doctor Who fame, shines as a prickly detective brought in from the outside to help solve the case. Unable to close his previous high profile child murder case he brings with him the demons of his past… driving Detective Alec Hardy to the brink of a breakdown. Tennant brings an intensity and determination to the role that it really deserves.

3)  Danny’s Family

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Watching Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker), Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) and Chloe Latimer (Charlotte Beaumont) tear each other apart over the murder is heartbreaking. Jodie Whittaker’s touching portraying of Beth who can no longer function in her daily life anymore is particularly painful to watch. In one devastating scene she turns to the mother of another murdered child for consolation only to find out that it doesn’t get any better. Ever.

4)  The Cinematography

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Matt Gray’s beautiful photography is worthy of a feature film. Warm interiors and picturesque exteriors. It does for English seasides what Breaking Bad did for desert landscapes.

5)  The Music

Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds creates beautiful and atmospheric soundscapes that haunt the film. Already being a fan of Arnalds I can’t recommend enough the 6 song soundtrack. Check out the slow burn of the Main Title above.

6)  The portrayal of a small town 

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The characters are spot on with great supporting turns by everybody. The town has more than its share of secrets and its darker past bubbles up to the surface when the murder brings scrutiny on all of its citizens. Everyone is a suspect and yet it never feels like you’re reading an Agatha Christie novel.

7)  The emotional weight of the show.

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Not since The Sweet Hereafter have I seen the dynamics of a small town played out like this. The characters are all flawed and proud at the same time. The collective weight of the tragedy takes a toll on everybody. Nobody comes away unscathed. Neither will you.

8)  By grown-ups for grown-ups

Shows for adults are in short supply. It’s intelligent. It’s moving. It’s not always fun but you are never pandered to. It’s like a good book you can’t put down. It stays with you long after the credits roll.

9)  Sticks the landing

This is exactly the kind of show that network TV would turn into a sappy piece of melodrama. One critic described Broadchurch as a beautiful downer… which it is. He meant that in the highest regard. The fact that they pulled it off with such grace is a minor miracle proving that, IMHO, the best drama is being done on the small screen these days. FOX is planning a US adaptation so I guess we’ll get to see exactly how they would handle it. Lucky for them series creator Chris Chibnall is producing it.

10)   The ending

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It all comes back to the people of the once proud town. It’s a poignant ending to a heartbreaking dramatic series. This is a show that finds beauty in sadness. There’s no getting over it… there’s only moving on. One of the case’s many suspects declares, “Death; once it’s got its claws into you, it never lets go.”

Post by Dave W. (aka Daveackackattack)


Check out the official trailer of the series:


Thoughts on the series? Would love to hear your thoughts!
[Be mindful of any spoiler in your comment though so please give proper warning]

Scene[s] Spotlight: Five awesome car chases in contemporary movies

Happy Tuesday folks! This past weekend ended up being chock-full of car chases for me with Fast Five and Ronin, both of ‘em have long and spectacular car chases that made me stand up and cheer! Now, I’m actually a pretty good driver myself. Yes I tend to go fast in highways, but I rarely go above 10 MPH over the speed limit ;) I don’t have patience for s-l-o-w or distracted drivers, those who have no clue they’re causing bottlenecks on the FAST lane as they’re too busy talking on the phone to pay attention to the surrounding!!

Man, I wish at times I had the kind of car that has the throttle like the Dom’s Dodge Charger in Fast Five! But then again, it’s not just the car, it’s the driver! Just look at what Bourne could do w/ a Russian taxi. Don’t let the rinky-dink look fool ya, that Russian-made Volga 3110 is practically indestructible!!

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It’s always an adrenaline-pumping ride to watch a deftly-filmed car chase, though of course if it’s not handled well it could actually be headache-inducing! So just for fun, I’d just post the five favorite car chases I enjoyed from contemporary cinema. I deliberately left off classic films here but if I were to include ‘em, certainly the one in Bullit and The French Connection would make my list. I also try to just focus on CAR chases here, so no Truck/Chopper/Boat scenes or I’d include the Truck Chase scenes from The Dark Knight, Terminator 2 and License To Kill. I could watch these scenes over and over and was certainly the highlight of the respective movies they’re in:

*Naturally, if you haven’t seen any of these and don’t want to be spoiled, then don’t read/watch these clips*

Bourne Supremacy

When people talk about a great car chase, I always think of this one. Yes there’s another car chase in Bourne Identity w/ the mini cooper, but I always prefer this one for the reason I’ve mentioned above. It’s incredible what Bourne could do w/ a rickety car like this, he’d probably make an Aston Martin fly, ahah. I love Karl Urban too, as Kiril, too bad it doesn’t end well for him here :(

Fast Five

Granted I’ve only seen two movies from this franchise, but I’d think this would rank pretty highly on the list if someone were to list ALL the car chases from all six of them. I mean, this isn’t just a car chase, this is a car chase with a steel VAULT chained to two cars as they sped away through the streets of Rio. As if that’s not preposterously spectacular enough, Dom proceeds to unchain Brian’s car and use the vault like wrecking ball of sort to take out a bunch of cars in his pursuit! It has to be seen to be believed folks!

For Your Eyes Only

Ok there are sooo many car chases in Bond films, why pick THIS one? Well, I love this in particular because it’s not the typical glamorous car chases where Bond’s got a super-charged and well-equipped Aston Martin or Lotus, but instead, Bond has to settle for his leading lady’s (the beautiful Carole Bouquet) beat-up yellow Citroën, but he managed to still out-maneuver all those thugs in far better automobiles. The score by Bill Conti is just perfect here, it adds to the sense of whimsy of the riotous scene. Plus you’ve got Roger Moore’s signature one liners to liven-up the already-fun moment “Love driving in the country, don’t you?” :D

RONIN

I think I saw this car chase a long while before I actually saw the movie. But now that I watched it in context, it’s actually more awesome! The narrow European streets always make for a perfect setting for a car chase, it’s wonderfully-scenic AND bad ass! The scenes on the highways as the two cars are speeding against traffic just get your blood pumping. Of course the absolute absurdity is complete when one car flies off the road, flips over several times AND the people inside survived without a scratch!!

The Transporter

I actually never bother to see the sequels to this movie, but this first one is one of my favorite action flicks. It’s the only movie I actually like Jason Statham in, seems like it goes downhill as he becomes more famous. The car chase reminds me of the BMW short films that Clive Owen was in, it just exudes so much coolness as the driver is unruffled by all the carnage and destruction in his path. I have to include this scene simply for the part where the car somehow leap off a bridge and land perfectly on top of a moving car-transport caravan! There just so happen there’s an empty spot on top of the caravan to fit his BMW!! rolleyes Sorry I could only find the German-dubbed version of this clip, but really, the action speaks loud & clear in a universal language.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • The Mini Cooper car chase through the tunnel in The Italian Job (2003)
  • The Dodge Viper SRT-10 chase in Wanted with Angelina Jolie behind the wheel (and on top of the hood shooting at people!)

Ok, so this is just a sampling of great car chases in contemporary cinema. Obviously there are some I missed out on, so tell us YOUR favorite car chases from the 80s through today.

Question of the Week: Which literary characters in film are your favorites?

Characters are the main ingredients that can make or break a movie… even if the film is so-so, a great character portrayed on screen would still make a film memorable. The same is true on the flip side, even if a film is generally well-made, but if you don’t connect with the characters, you probably aren’t going to remember them much afterwards.

AustenlandPosterIn light of the recent passing of famed novelist/screenwriter Elmore Leonard, whose works have been adapted to the big screen several times, I thought I’d focus this week’s question on literary works and the movies. I’m guilty of having seen only one of Mr. Leonard’s work, but I LOVE the character Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma (2007) as played by Russell Crowe (he’s one of my picks of scene-stealing bad boys, natch!).

I’m also going to Austenland screening tomorrow night, a comedy inspired by Jane Austen‘s most famous work… and one of her most famous characters, Mr. Darcy. The synopsis reads: Obsessed with the BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice”, a woman travels to a Jane Austen theme park in search for her perfect gentleman. I’m looking forward to this, sounds like a escapist entertainment type of movie for fans of period dramas like moi!

From classic authors like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, Emily/Charlotte Brontë and of course Austen, Hollywood has churned out interesting characters based on their works. There are also modern classic authors like Philip K. Dick, Michael Crichton (which my pal Terrence just did a Time to Vote Tuesday on last week), as well as those still living like J.K. Rowling and John Grisham whose popular works have translated to big bucks for the film industry. I’m also opening up my question to TV as well, as there are certainly some fantastic made-for-TV adaptations out there, especially from BBC. Speaking of which, did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed human character portrayed on film and TV according to Guinnes Book of Records??

Now, for the purpose of this discussion, I’m actually excluding graphic novels and comics as that’s kind of a whole different animal entirely. Oh, and let’s focus on human characters (no robots, toys nor fairies) just for the sake of this discussion.

I know it’s darn near impossible to narrow down to just 10, but I’m gonna try anyway, because well, it’s a lesson on decisiveness, right? :D

There are various reasons I picked these. For female characters I listed here, I admire them for their courage and strength, not all of them are admirable characters, I mean Scarlett O’Hara is a great example of an anti-heroine, but I admire her spunk and survival instinct in a time when women aren’t supposed to be fierce. Same with the guys, they’re not all heroes who save the day. In fact, Mr. Rochester and The Phantom are both deeply flawed characters, but they sure are unforgettable. Truth be told, I agonized over picking George Bailey over Atticus Finch (y’all know how much I love Gregory Peck & his astounding performance in that role), but ultimately I feel that I identify more with the troubled and disillusioned family man. As you can see, I have a penchant for tortured souls ;)


Ok, now your turn folks! Name at least one (or more) of literary characters on film that you love!

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite biopic(s)?

A biographical film, or biopic (/ˈbɵpɪk/; abbreviation for biographical motion picture), is a film that dramatizes the life of an actual person or people.

JeannedArcThis week I saw two press screenings (The Butler and Jobs) that are both based on real-life characters. So I thought I’d blog about one of Hollywood’s favorite genre [or is it sub-genre?]. There are a plethora of biopics getting made every single year. I mean, if you look at this list of biopics in Wikipedia, the number is in the thousands, dating all the way to the year 1900 with short, silent film Jeanne d’Arc by Georges Méliès — clearly Joan of Arc is a popular subject that’s been filmed time and time again. Just in 2000s alone, there are nearly 500 biopics in just one decade! I think biopics have become a favorite for actors to portray, perhaps because they tend to be popular come award season. A bunch of actors have won Oscars portraying real-life characters, as Daniel Day Lewis did most recently playing President Lincoln.

Obviously, just like any genre/sub-genre, there are good and bad biopics, and there’ll never be a shortage of them in the years to come. I for one don’t mind them, especially when the subject matter are intriguing and even inspiring. I prefer biopics that focus on a certain period of the person’s life instead of an overarching biography, just because it’s so challenging to do the latter and make it compelling. I’m excluding documentaries for this post, as it’s kind of a whole different genre entirely.

If I were to choose my top 10 favorites from what I’ve seen, it’d probably look something like this (in no particular order):

  1. Schindler’s List (1993)
  2. Veronica Guerin (2003)
  3. Ray (2004)
  4. The Insider (1999)
  5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  6. Elizabeth (1998)
  7. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  8. Amazing Grace (2006)
  9. The Queen (2006)
  10. Walk The Line (2005)

5 Honorable Mentions: Amadeus, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Nowhere Boy, The Aviator

I say ‘favorite’ because a large part of how well we receive a biopic is how much we care about the subject matter. I mean, I’m fascinated by royal families (esp. British), but I know some people don’t and they probably aren’t going to be keen on films about them. Of course another big thing is how well we think the actors portray the real-life persona on screen, physical resemblance notwithstanding. Keep in mind I haven’t seen some of the essentials like Gandhi, Citizen Kane, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Ragging Bull, etc.


So my question to you two-fold… do you like Biopics and which ones are your favorite?

The Flix List: Top 10 Movies from the first half of 2013

This list is rather late as we’ve already passed the halfway mark of the year a few weeks ago. As you know, because of personal circumstances, I had to take a blogging/movie-viewing hiatus for a while, so I missed a few screenings of what could’ve made my list: Mud, The Bling Ring, World War Z, etc.

In any case, my list contains a couple of movies that had been released last year internationally, but I included it here as I’m using the USA release dates. Now, 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. Rewatchability is a factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types (for me anyway), but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

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

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10. Disconnect (full review)

10DisconnectThis film seems to have been overlooked as I barely saw any promos or articles on this one. It’s certainly not an easy film to watch as the subject matters are VERY unsettling: cyber-bullying, teen pornography, etc. I said in my review that I felt drained at the end of the film as there’s barely any humor injected here to break up the intensity. But I’m glad I saw it, and I was quite impressed by Andrea Riseborough and Frank Grillo, two actors I hope would get more roles in Hollywood.

9. Monsters University (full review)

9MonstersUI was a big fan of the original so even though the idea of any sequels is iffy, it was a lot of fun to revisit the delightful characters of Monstropolis. Mike Wazowski remains one of my favorite Pixar characters of all time, so right away I was fully invested in his journey. Pixar delivered once again in crafting a heart-warming story that’s nostalgic and relatable. The campus life is full of mirth and riotous fun, but not without emotional issues we humans can easily identify with.

8. The Angels’ Share

8AngelsShareKen Loach is no stranger to social commentary in his films and this could be his lightest one yet. By ‘light’ I don’t mean frivolous however, no siree, there’s a great deal of turmoil and mayhem surrounding the protagonist Robbie (played brilliantly by Paul Brannigan despite his lack of acting experience), but it’s also a story of hope and second chances. Oh, and it’s also hilarious! I was so fortunate to be able to interview screenwriter Paul Laverty who wrote this Scottish comedy gem. Do yourself a favor and rent this movie!

7. Iron Man 3

7IronMan3I was ready to dismiss this movie but you know what, somehow Tony Stark & co. managed to still be quite entertaining. I’ve listed 10 reason why this movie beats my expectations, as Shane Black deftly crafted a fish-out-of-water plot that gets the flamboyant billionaire out of his comfort zone. I for one enjoyed the ‘twist’ of the story, plus the humor and spectacle all come together to give us pure escapist entertainment. Of course, one’s enjoyment depends how jaded you are with superhero movies. I for one think there’s still enough juice left in this installment to entertain.

6. Stoker (full review)

6StokerMost of FC readers know I’m not one for disturbing movies, but there’s something so mesmerizingly beautiful about Chan-Wook Park‘s English language debut. It’s incredibly atmospheric and nearly every frame has such a delicately eerie quality that lingers long after the film’s over. Superb performances all around, especially Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. The latter played against type to great effect, so I’m glad he ended up getting cast here instead of Colin Firth. Highly recommended for fans of cerebral thrillers.

5. The Reluctant Fundamentalist (full review)

5ReluctantFundamentalistThis is another tough film to watch but one that I’m glad I put it on my watch-list. I saw this during MSP film festival, and it’s one I don’t mind seeing again. Mira Nair takes a controversial subject matter of terrorism with care, as in essence the film is more about the Pakistani protagonist Changez living in a world rife with fear and suspicion. I was hugely impressed by London-born Riz Ahmed in the title role, portraying a deeply-conflicted who’s highly intelligent and charismatic. Even though there’ve been films of this subject done in the past, this one manages to set itself apart as it tackles a story that’s not often explored but certainly worth telling.

4. Star Trek Into Darkness (full review)

4StarTrekIntoDarknessJJ Abrams managed to make me interested in the Star Trek universe, which is quite a feat in itself. The strength of this movie is the zippy and fun tone, boosted by the chemistry of its cast and eye-popping special effects. Of course I have to mention the excellent casting of Benedict Cumberbatch, who somehow manages to still upstage the already-awesome Enterprise crew led by Chris Pine with his decidedly theatrical performance. It’s one of the funnest movies of the Summer to be sure, for sure I’ll be getting the Blu-ray :D

3. The Kings of Summer (full review)

3KingsOfSummerI went in to this movie pretty much blindly as I only read the quick summary on IMDb and not knowing any of the cast. Well, it turns out to be a delightful surprise that I knew it’ll end up in my Best list of the year! This is a Summer film that offers a humorous but meaningful diversion from the loud tent-pole movies, with gorgeous nature scenery truly celebrates the beauty of the season. There have been countless of coming-of-age films out of Hollywood, and I think this directorial debut from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is an excellent addition in that sub-genre!

2. Man of Steel (full review)

2ManOfSteelWell, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that this movie would be in my top 5, right? :D It took me a while to process it the first time I saw it, I mean the scope of this movie is massive. But the more it sat with me the more I appreciate it, despite the CGI-overloaded third act. Superman is a tough character to crack, figuratively and otherwise, but somehow Chris Nolan, David Goyer and Zack Snyder managed to create an imaginative origins story full of spectacle but also full of heart. I love how the relationships between Kal-El and his Kryptonian and earthly parents are explored in great depth here. The casting is top notch all around, led by the first Brit in the role, Henry Cavill, who’s more than up to the task to provide of strength and vulnerability. Given my undying love for Superman, Man of Steel certainly did not dampen my love for this Kryptonian hero.

1. The Hunt (full review)

1TheHunt

Some films are so deeply affecting and impressively-made that the minute you left the theater, you knew straight away it’s going to be the one to beat in a given year. I had to sit down for a few minutes to take it in after the film’s over. My hubby and I looked at each other and we’re like, ‘WOW, that was something wasn’t it?’ Mads Mikkelsen is nothing short of outstanding as Lucas, a man on the hunt, a kindergarten teacher whose life suddenly got turned upside down as a seemingly ‘innocent’ lie runs amok in his tight-knight Danish community.

Director Thomas Vinterberg shrewd, minimalist style creates a highly tense, unsettling atmosphere that really gets under your skin. The lush and evocative cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen creates a captivating contrast between the serene-looking scenery and the increasing inner tumult within Lucas as things spin out of control. This is definitely a film not-to-be-missed, folks. Even with all the big-budgeted Summer movies that have come along since, this is one of those films that you won’t soon forget. I hope they’d get some nominations come award season.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

These aren’t stellar by any means, but it was pretty entertaining, some are a pleasant surprise to me as they’re not even my go-to genre. So yeah, I’d recommend these for a rental!


WORST of the year so far:

I’m glad I’ve been able to avoid what’s poised to be stinkers like Grown Ups 2, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, Movie 43, etc. but these are pretty terrible in their own right. It’s not even worth seeing on a plane IHMO.


UPVOTE please


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

Five Movies. Five Words – Volume 2

FiveMoviesFiveWordsSo much for consistency eh. I meant to do these posts as a monthly series but it has been three months since my last Five Movies in Five Words post. 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. For this volume, I choose the films I saw the past year (old or new) that I haven’t had the chance to review yet.

Once again, special thanks to JOSH @ ClassicBlanca for the inspiration!

Five Movies. In Five Words.

Epic

EpicLush

The Grey

TheGreyDesolate

Something Borrowed

SomethingBorrowedSaccharine

The Iron Lady

TheIronLadyBeleaguered

This Means War

ThisMeansWarRisible

Well, that’s the July edition of Five Movies in Five Words. I hope from now on I can do this once a month :D


Well, any thoughts on these films and/or the five words?

Final Man of Steel Countdown: Top 10 Favorite Superman movie scenes

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All right! The wait is almost over for me… After anticipating this for exactly two and a half years, precisely since January 2011 when Henry Cavill was first announced as our Kryptonian hero, the agonizing wait soon comes to an end. Years have turned to months, months to weeks, weeks to days… and now it’s just a matter of hours!!! :P

Now, for my final countdown post, I thought I’d revisit some of my favorite scenes from previous Superman movies. I deliberately exclude the George Reeves’ TV series as well as Smallville and focus on the big screen adaptations. I’m starting with the 1978 Richard Donner movie (you’ll see which movie from Christopher Reeve’s canon that I skipped, ahah), so here goes!

1. Superman: The Movie – Superman meets Lois at the Daily Planet

I love scenes at the Daily Planet… It’s funny how hilariously goofy Clark Kent was and Jackie Cooper is so endearingly grumpy as Perry White. In one quick line, Mr. White explains how Clark got the job, “… he’s a reporter that not only has a snappy prose style, but is the fastest typist I have ever seen!”

2. Superman: The Movie – “You’ve Got Me? Who’s… who’s got you?”

This is perhaps my most favoritest of ALL the Superman movies combined. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it and I never, ever not get teary-eyed watching it.  Believe it or not, I still get sweaty palmed watching Lois hanging down from the chopper, I really think if I had vertigo I won’t be able to get through this scene! But the moment Supes stepped out of the revolving door — with that memorable quip ‘Say Jim! Whoo! That’s a bad out-fit! – and our hero soaring to the sky along with John Williams’ rousing score, I turn into this giddy fangirl and starts cheering like the crowd beneath him in the movie!

3. Superman: The Movie – The interview and taking flight with Lois

I’m forever jealous with Lois Lane. Yes, I know she’s not real, but boy, what girl wouldn’t want to be swept off her feet [literally or figuratively] and Lois gets to experience both, whilst still retain her career-woman status in the process! These two clips are basically the same scene, starting with Lois interviewing Superman, which leads to the two of them taking flight. That whole ‘Can You Read My Mind?‘ bit is so decidedly schmaltzy, but I fall for it every single time … [sigh]

4. Superman II: Superman saves Lois [again] in a Parisian elevator

Lois and peril goes together like, well, Supes and his red cape! I actually like this clip as it shows Clark Kent transforming into Superman in the alley on his way to save Lois. There’s always something so magical about the transformation which of course then leads to the flying sequence. I mean THIS is why we watch a Superman movie, the one superhero who can effortlessly take to the sky anytime and anywhere he wishes… and of course Chris Reeve always look so darn graceful doing it!

5. Superman II: Lois finds out Clark’s identity

So she’s the best reporter of the Daily Planet (and perhaps even in the entire NYC), but it took her THIS long to find out Clark is Superman? Ahah. I have to admit though, this scene mesmerizes me as there’s something so magnetic about Superman taking off his glasses whilst still dressed as Clark Kent. Chris Reeve still looked ever-so-fetching in a grandpa sweater! I  When Lois says, ‘I’m in love with you…’ I always yell at the screen, ‘Yeah, so is every girl in Metropolis! Get in line!’ Except, Lois never even has to be in a line. Lucky, lucky girl!

Note: I couldn’t find the exact scene, but you can watch it up until 0:43. The entire clip is a mash-up spoof that’s actually pretty darn hilarious, ahah.

6. Superman II: “General, Would You Care To Step Outside?”

Yes, Terrence Stamp’s Zod looked like a lost member of the Bee Gees with his shiny Disco outfit. But with his cold, steely eyes, he made the character iconic, even if it lacks menace the more times I watch it. I mean, what’s with this obsession with people kneeling before him? I also love the part when Lex Luthor sighed ‘Superman, thank God’ ahah.

7. Superman II: Superman finally ‘kneels’ before Zod

There’s nothing like a good pay back, and Supes does it in style. Mind over muscle, Lex. Chris Reeve looks positively glorious in this scene, but it’s Zod’s groan in agony that sticks in my mind. Ouch man, that looks painful!!


8. Superman III: Clark vs. Superman Fight

Ok, I’ve got to admit I LOVE this scene as I find Chris Reeve so unbelievably sexy sporting disheveled hair and five o’clock shadow [yowza!!] The whole suit is made darker as well which made him even more This is really the only reason to watch Superman III and it really shows the acting chops of the Juilliard-trained actor in tackling the dual role effectively. But yeah, I kinda enjoyed seeing Supes being bad ;)

9. Superman Returns: Epic plane rescue

Despite everything that was wrong with Superman Returns, I didn’t hate the movie. In fact, there are parts that I did enjoy and this first scene of Superman first rescue after being gone for five years is pretty epic. Certainly the effects have improved a lot since twenty years prior [though some of the CGI scenes look too obvious], but it’s the sense of electrifying heroism that always gets me. I always get caught up in the crowd cheering for a hero’s welcome, and of course, the rather flirtatious way Supes greets Lois turns me to mush as well.

10. Superman Returns: “Lois, will you come with me?”

I’ve actually already did a spotlight of this very scene back in 2010, but seeing it again last night made me realize how much I love it. Now, I’m actually not too fond of Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, I mean she just isn’t believable as a Pulitzer-winning journalist, and she lacks the spunk needed for the character. But, this flying scene is just so beautifully-shot, aided by John Ottman’s excellent score inspired by the John Williams’ original.

“You wrote the world doesn’t need a savior, but everyday I hear people crying for one.”

I love how that single line sums up just what Superman is all about and his love for humanity. The ‘almost kiss’ part gets me every time, perhaps one of the most emotional scenes of the whole film for me.

___

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Superman II: The duel with General Zod

The whole fight scene in downtown Metropolis is so darn entertaining. It’s decidedly much more lighthearted in tone than all the action we’ve seen in the Man of Steel trailers, but it’s just a hoot to watch. Who doesn’t love seeing Zod being swung around and thrown into a giant Coke neon billboard!! :D

Superman II: Clark’s diner scene retribution

This is actually one of my hubby’s favorite scenes, so I figure I should include it somehow. Even though it’s a ‘revenge’ scene, it’s not mean-spirited. I mean Supes could’ve done a heck of a lot more damage to that jerk-off truck driver if he were a mean guy, ahah. The scene cuts off but if you remember, Clark gives some money to the diner owner for the damage he’s caused. What a sweetheart :D

Superman Returns: The Bullet Stopping Scene

People complain there are so few great action scenes in this movie and that might be so, but I think this very scene is pretty darn cool. It’s hilarious how the doofus baddie just didn’t get how indestructible Supes is. I mean if a string of bullets bounce off him like air bubbles, what makes him think it wouldn’t also bounce off his eye ball?!


Check out the other Man of Steel Countdown posts from the past three weeks.

Redditors, would you UPVOTE this post please? Thank you kindly!


Well, there are surely a ton more awesome scenes I left out here. So tell me folks, which are YOUR favorite Superman scenes?

Memorial Day Special: Pictorial Tribute to U.S. Soldiers in the Movies

MemorialDayTribute

The final Monday of May is a Memorial Day holiday here, which is a day to remember the fallen men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. As a U.S. resident, I’m definitely grateful of the service of Military men and women. Freedom is definitely NOT free and the people serving in the various U.S. military branches – Navy, Army, Air Force and the Marines – risk their lives to protect their country and its citizens.

So today, as I reflect on their bravery and dedication, I thought I’d do a pictorial tribute to memorable portrayal of American soldiers in the movies from various era and genres. Obviously I have not seen too many war/military-themed movies so these are meant to only be a sampling of military roles represented.

So here are (roughly) 27 of them, simply to coincide with today’s date of May 27:

WILL-SMITH_ID4

Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) – ‘Independence Day’

TheHurtLocker_Renner_Mackie

Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) & Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) – ‘The Hurt Locker’

WashingtonHackmanCrimsonTide

Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) & Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) – ‘Crimson Tide’

Major "Dutch" Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – 'Predator'

Major “Dutch” Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – ‘Predator’

CaptainAmerica_Evans_Jones

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) & Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) – ‘Captain America’

Caviezel_ThinRedLine

U.S. Army Private Witt (Jim Caviezel) – ‘The Thin Red Line’

ForrestGump_Hanks_Sinise

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) & Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) – ‘Forrest Gump’

BornOnTheFourthofJuly_Cruise

Marine Sergeant Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) – ‘Born on the Fourth of July’

first-blood-rambo-sly

John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) – ‘Rambo’

MegRyanDenzelWashington_CourageUnderFire

Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) & Lt. Colonel Serling (Denzel Washington) – ‘Courage Under Fire’

GeorgeCScott_DrStrangelove

Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson (George C. Scott) – ‘Dr. Strangelove’

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US Army helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) – ‘Source Code’

Cruise_Nicholson_Moore_AFewGoodMen

LT Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson), Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) – ‘A Few Good Men’

Holden_CmdrShears_BridgeRiverKwai

Navy Commander Shears (William Holden) – ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’

ClooneyIceTWahlbergThreeKings

Major Archie Gate (George Clooney), Sergeant First Class Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Staff Sergeant Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) – ‘Three Kings’

Peck_TwelveOClockHigh

Gen. Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) – ‘Twelve O’Clock High’

GossettGere_OfficerGentleman

Sgt. Emil Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.) & Officer Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) – ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’

Now, I made an exception with this last pick. Even though I have not seen Saving Private Ryan yet, but everything I’ve read (including this fine review by good friend Mark) about this Steven Spielberg masterpiece suggests that Tom Hanks as Captain Miller is more than worthy to be included.

Hanks_CapMiller_SPR


Happy Memorial Day to my fellow Americans!


Now, which other U.S. military movie characters would YOU add to the list? Let me know in the comments!