Happy Thanksgiving! 28 Movies I’m thankful for in 2013

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Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! It’s the first time I’m spending Thanksgiving apart from my dearest hubby, as he’s in Jakarta, Indonesia and I’m here in sunny San Diego, but I’m thankful nonetheless. It’s been such a blessing to spend time with my BFF whom I’ve been friends with since Junior High! I should make a list of Great Friends in Movies in her honor, kind of like what I did for my loving hubby a couple of years back: What I’m Thankful For – My Loving Husband and also my list of Wonderful Movie Husbands. Did you notice that Christian Bale‘s John Rolfe in The New World kept popping up? I mentioned him again on this Breaking Emotions: Smiles :D

Now, I’m thankful to be a movie blogger and I’m especially thankful for the friends I’ve made through blogging, and getting press accreditation that gives me access to advanced screenings (Thanks to everyone at ALLIED!). So with those, as well as the two Film Festivals in town: TCFF and MSP Int’l Film Festival, it’s truly been a great year for me as a movie lover. I’m not as hugely prolific as other bloggers but still, there are probably far more films I could list here. But since it’s the 28th today and that number represents a good 2013* sampling based on what I’ve seen so far, let’s just go with that.

MoviesImThankfulFor

Here they are in alphabetical order:

12 Years a Slave
A harrowing and unflinching depiction of human cruelty but it also offers us the beauty and power of the human spirit. I’m thankful for Steve McQueen‘s skillful direction and Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s brilliant performance.

August: Osage County
This film makes me thankful for my family, no matter how nutty and chaotic we think we have it. Beauty amidst chaos. There’s something so out there yet relatable about this dysfunctional family tale, and the amazing performances made this so disquieting yet entertaining.

Austenland
I had so much fun watching this on the big screen. It was hilarious and sweet, yes it’s cheesy and goofy at times but that’s kind of the point. It’s an homage AND a spoof in one, and as a Jane Austen fan, it was a blast to watch.

Captain Philips
There are stories that truly made me grateful for being alive and well, and this is one of those films. It’s wonderful to see an old favorite performer (Tom Hanks) in top form and a brand new face making his mark for the first time (Barkhad Abdi).

Disconnect
A story that really makes you take stock and reflect at our own lives and what’s going on around us. It also introduced me to an amazing British actress Andrea Riseborough who impressed me in all three films I saw her in (the other two were Oblivion and Shadow Dancer)

Fast & Furious 6
Not every movie has to aim for an Academy Award. This one sets out to be a thrilling action with over-the-top spectacle and it delivers! I also like the underlying message about taking care of one’s friends and family.

Gravity
A technical marvel that offers one of the most emotionally-gratifying story I’ve seen this year. We take so much for granted the simpler things in life, but after seeing this, even just inhaling air into our lungs feels like an amazing privilege. Thank you Alfonso Cuarón for making such a masterful work we’d appreciate for years to come.

Her
A movie I barely knew anything about yet I was floored by how much this affected me. It’s such a unique love story. It’s disturbing, thought-provoking, soul-stirring, with a haunting quality that would linger long after the credits roll. I’m always thankful for films that remind us what it means to be human, so thanks Spike Jonze for making this, and Joaquin Phoenix for your soulful performance!

In A World …
Lake Bell‘s debut is real comedic gem! I really like the story of the voice over industry, which I’m surprised it hasn’t been tackled before as that material makes for a comedic gold. I hope she continues to make movies, as Hollywood could use more female filmmakers.

Iron Man 3
To be honest I was rather blase about this one but somehow Shane Black managed to still inject a fresh approach into this bankable Marvel franchise. Robert Downey Jr. once again proves why he’s the best paid Marvel superhero as his charm and wit never fails to entertain. Plus Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley add so much to the fun playing baddies.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The themes of racial injustice is how much we have overcome but also that the US still have a long way to go. I was so moved by Cecil’s journey as a person as well as a loyal Butler serving under five American presidents. It’s a poignant, touching and heart-warming portrayal that’s also humorous and lively.

Man of Steel
I’ve seen it three times by now and though I didn’t fall in love with this one as I did with Donner’s first Superman film, there are still a lot to love here. For one, Henry Cavill‘s version the kind of Superman I can actually identify with, his hu-MAN aspect is actually far more intriguing than his SUPER one and his relationship with both his Kryptonian and earthly family are beautifully-realized.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
I know I’ll always be thankful for any film with Idris Elba in the leading role. Especially when it’s a role that showcases his chops and versatility as an actor. I have to admit I feel a bit guilty drooling over him as he’s playing Mandela, but really can you blame me? Who knew Mandela was so darn hunky? ;)

Monsters University
Thanks Pixar for taking me back to the adorable citizens of Monstropolis! Sully, Mike & co. are still a blast to watch, especially little Mike Wazowski as a dorky green-eyed monster in grade school, complete with his teeth retainer! It really made me appreciate the gift of friendship as the movie took us into the journey of how Mike & Sully first become friends.

Mud
There’s something so gratifying to see a talented actor gets a comeback of sort and seeing Matthew McConnaughey in the past couple of years is like seeing him making the most of his second chance at [acting] life. This beautifully-shot film also features marvelous portrayal of unlikely friendships between two young boys and Mud, a man w/ a shoddy past.

Nebraska
Yet another film that makes me appreciate the intricacy of family, that there’s grace even in the most complicated and frustrating relationships. I didn’t think I’d enjoy this film as much as I did, so that’s always something to be thankful for. Bruce Dern and Wil Forte are such an unlikely pairing that paid off big time. The father-son relationship is as convincing as it is endearing. Plus June Squibb is a hoot with her irreverent frankness.

Pacific Rim
Thank you Guillermo Del Toro for such unabashedly fun action movie that’s entertaining to watch over and over! I have seen this movie five times already and I still get this big grin on my face every single time. Yes it’s cheesy but it’s GOOD cheese, so I’m not ashamed that I’ve become a Jaeger groupie :D Special thanks to Ramin Djawadi for his super awesome, electrifying score!

Rush
It’s a movie that literally lives up to its title for giving us an adrenaline rush from start to finish. The racing sequences are amazingly-shot and gives us a sense as if we’re right there where the action is, but the dramatic story between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda are just as intriguing to watch.

Star Trek Into Darkness
I already said before that I was thankful to JJ Abrams for making me care for the whole Star Trek universe. I’m especially thankful for Benedict Cumberbatch casting as a sexy villain, he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. It’s also fun to see Capt. Kirk and the Enterprise crew, certainly one of my favorite ensemble cast of recent memory.

Stoker
I had trepidation about watching this as the director had made some really violent films in the past, but I’m glad this one was still within my comfort level. Stoker is a gorgeous thriller with an eerie atmosphere that REALLY gets under your skin.

The Act of Killing
No doubt one of THE most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, yet I’m thankful that director Joshua Oppenheimer made this eye-opening documentary that exposes my home country’s darkest past. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen and in a land where originality is as hard to find as needle in a hay stack, this is a film that every cinephile should make a point to see.

The Angels’ Share
I had the privilege of seeing this Scottish indie gem just a day before my interview with its writer Paul Laverty. It was a joy to watch newbie Scottish actor Paul Brannigan shine in a heist comedy of sort, funny with plenty of heart.

The Armstrong Lie
A well-made documentary that’s as eye-opening as it is beautiful to look at. Alex Gibney got an unprecedented access into one of the biggest sports scandal in history. Yet as disturbing as Lance Armstrong’s doping violation was, it’s the abuse of power and ugly betrayals that struck me the most.

The Hunt
If you want a roller-coaster emotional ride, look no further than this astutely-made Danish film. It’ll make you in awe of its beauty (the acting, cinematography) as well as incredibly angry at how cruel humanity could be as director Thomas Vinterberg immerses you in the protagonist’ plight. Mads Mikkelsen is absolutely brilliant in his understated yet intense portrayal of a man being persecuted publicly for a crime he didn’t commit, and more heartbreaking of all, cast aside by his own friends.

The Kings of Summer
This film made me so thankful of the beauty of nature and friendship, however fragile it can be. A beautifully-shot coming-of-age story that’s peppered with meaningful and hilarious moments. Great script, performances, scenery and soundtrack — it’s got all the ingredients to make an entertaining film that I don’t mind watching again.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
It’s always nice to see a new face on screen, especially someone as charismatic as  London-born Riz Ahmed. He shines as the protagonist in this cultural drama under Indian director Mira Nair‘s careful direction. Though it deals with a political/terrorism theme of 9/11, this is ultimately about a journey of a brilliant Pakistani young man caught between two worlds in a time where prejudice and distrust runs rampant.

Thor: The Dark World
A robustly entertaining film that’s also thigh-slapping-ly hilarious.  Any movie that features the undeniable charismatic Tom Hiddleston is something to be thankful for, in fact I’d be even more grateful to Marvel Studios if they’d just make a Loki movie already… and soon! 

World War Z
I never thought I’d put a zombie flick on my thankful list, let alone one with Brad Pitt in it! But I quite enjoyed WWZ as it’s more of a political thriller than a slasher/horror flick. The story was intriguing enough that I’m actually interested to see how the planned sequel is going to pan out.

* Note that a few of these films might’ve been released in 2012 outside of the US but I went with the US release dates which were all in 2013.


So HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my friends who are celebrating! But you don’t need to have a Thanksgiving holiday to be grateful about something.

So what are some of the 2013 movies you’re most thankful for [so far]?

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Breaking Emotions Blogathon: Smiles & Thrills

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Last week I took part in Mettel Ray‘s BREAKING EMOTIONS blogathon on Tears and Surprise. Check out my entry if you haven’t already. It was a lot of fun to do so naturally I’m game to do another one. Now the emotions for this week are …

SMILES and THRILLS

Continuing with the theme of two opposites, this week’s first emotion is SMILES – now, I had put down laughing at first but again, I’m a bit of a weirdo and I ended up liking the word smiles a bit more. But the idea is still the same, I’m looking for scenes that have made you laugh and smile in the most happiest way possible. May it be the two lovers finally coming together, may it be a dog or a cat being all cute – everything positive and joyful will be suitable for this emotion.

Second one is a bit more dangerous and it’s that THRILL one gets watching a movie, it’s that inner excitement (again a word I wanted to use but it was too long) that will get you on the edge of the seat. Maybe it’s an explosion or a car chase or just the villain entering the building, what scene gets your blood going with adrenaline while sitting in the theater or at home. The dictionary I have says that thrilling itself means shaking, so, what makes you shake in awesomeness with a word “wow” running through your mind.

Check out Mettel Ray’s post on Breaking Emotions: Smiles & Thrills


It should be obvious for posts like these, but just in case, if you haven’t seen any of these, BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

Ok, so here are my picks:

SMILES

Casino Royale Bond and Vesper’s banter in the train

I absolutely adore this scene! It’s one of my favorites even amongst the dozens of Bond movies I’ve watched over the years because for once Bond is genuinely dazzled and stirred by a woman’s intellect as well as her beauty. Vesper barely revels any skin in this scene, but yet she oozes sex appeal. Vesper ‘overcompensates by wearing slightly masculine clothing’ as Bond puts it, and later the table is turned as Vesper nonchalantly makes a sarcastic remark about Bond’s ‘perfectly formed ass.’ It’s a stimulating banter that Daniel Craig and Eva Green performed with aplomb. Such a fantastic scene that never fails to bring a smile to my face every time I watch it.

How to Train Your Dragon –  a touch of friendship

I always love stories of unlikely friendships and there is nothing more unlikely than a little boy and a dragon. Toothless is unbelievably adorable that I wish I could have one as my own pet! The scenes where Hiccup slowly gets to know the Night Fury dragon are the best, especially the drawing scene … Toothless is trying to draw Hiccup using the tip of a tree branch and as Hiccup walks closer to him, Toothless makes a gesture ‘don’t step on the line!’ The moment Toothless lets Hiccup’s hand touches his face is so sweet and deeply moving, it’s as if Toothless gestures to him ‘I trust you now.’ John Powell’s score makes the whole scene even more awesome!

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The New World – Pocahontas & John Rolfe

The last 20 or so minute of this 2.5-hour film with John Rolfe and Pocahontas brings such joy to me as I LOVE the tentative relationship between the two. It’s such a contrast to the more passionate yet tumultuous relationship between her and Captain Smith. After Pocahontas married Rolfe and goes to England, the supposedly-missing Smith was able to track her down. Rolfe lets his wife goes and meets him, though in one scene Rolfe is shown to be in torment, perhaps fearing the worst that his wife would leave him now that Smith is back.

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The way Terrence Malick sets up this scene is just brilliant in its minimalism. There’s barely any words spoken but the body language speaks volumes. The moment Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher) catches up to Rolfe as she walks back into the house, she just hugs his left arm from behind, clutching it so tight as if to say I’m here… with you… and nothing would keep us apart. Rolfe’s subtle reaction when she does this is priceless… he pauses as if he couldn’t believe his luck. It wasn’t a celebratory reaction where he suddenly takes her in his arms and kiss her or anything like that but it’s apparent that he’s ecstatic…  It’s apparent how much Rolfe loves his wife, and the fact that she now has chosen him after all must’ve brought such indescribable euphoria. Though it’s a small role, I consider this one of my all time favorite Christian Bale performance… I wish he’d do more romantic roles like this one!

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THRILLS

Now for this emotion, I decided to forgo any kind of ‘chase’ scene, be it car, boat, planes, horse, what have you. I might actually made a separate list specifically on thrilling chase scenes at some point ;)

Inglourious Basterds – Opening interrogation scene

You don’t always need an action scene to create a thrilling sequence. This opening scene is basically just two people sitting on a table talking… but the way this interrogation scene is set up is so darn intense that my nerves was stretched to its snapping point. Col. Hans Landa is a rather soft-spoken Nazi officer but his polite mannerism actually makes it the scene all the more suspenseful! It’s the quintessential ‘edge of your seat’ scene that had me gripping the arm rest and my poor husband’s arm. The bar scene in this movie qualifies as well, but I chose this one as I like the sheer simplicity, but yet so meticulously-crafted to maximize its impact.

Jurassic Park – We’re back in business!

There are SO many thrilling scenes in this film that it’s really tough to choose from. I was going to put the Raptor in the Kitchen scene as that one was unbelievably gripping, but I like that this one was going back and forth between the Laura Dern’s character Ellie trying to get the electricity back on and her husband Alan (Sam Neill) with the two kids as they’re climbing the temporarily-off electric fence!! I couldn’t sit still watching this scene, and when you think things are under control — ‘We’re back in business!’ — your worst nightmare just jumps right at you! Spielberg is relentless in piling up thrill after thrill here that still holds up even 20 years later.

Mission Impossible 4 – Burj Khalifa scene

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Even though I know full well Tom Cruise is not going to plunge into his death, this scene still makes my palms sweaty! Far more gripping than any car/chopper/train/boat chases Agent Ethan Hunt’s ever been involved in the previous three movies. Now THIS is worthy to be called Mission Impossible and Cruise is such a daredevil actor himself that he actually did his own stunts! It never fails to give the ultimate adrenaline rush every single time I watch it, makes me wish Brad Bird is back doing MI-5 again!


What do you think of my picks? Which scenes would YOU pick for smiles and/or thrills?

Breaking Emotions Blogathon: Tears & Surprise

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When I first read about this blogathon, it was Sati’s post on Breaking Emotions: Fear I knew I had to take part! Thanks Mettel Ray for spearheading this awesome blogathon!

Here’s the BLOGATHON idea and rules:

Well, the idea of the Breaking Emotions blogathon is actually really simple: breaking down the most memorable scenes in movies that create the emotion(s) given to you during that particular week into a list of 3 or 5. Meaning, each week I will post two emotions (there are 8 all together) and all the participants can choose if they want to do both (3 scenes each) or just one (5 scenes).

The lists can be just words, images, videos, all of the above or simply the movie title and the description of that specific scene – it is all up to each participant themselves to decide. I just simply want to know what are the movie scenes that create these emotions and if there are any universal moments in movies that everybody seems to relate to emotionally.

Now here’s this week’s emotions and what Mettel Ray’s idea about them:

TEARS and SURPRISE

Now I know TEARS isn’t exactly an emotion but I just like the sound of “breaking tears” over “breaking sadness” and since I’m pretty sure tears are the most emotional thing a person can have, you guys won’t mind. Last time there were some questions regarding the emotions so I’ll try to explain the best as I can this time around – tears = sad. Yes, there are happy tears but I’m not looking for positive scenes, I’m looking for those soul cracking, heart breaking, Simba’s father dying kind of teary scenes.

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To balance the sadness, let’s try to break SURPRISE as well – that’s an emotion I rarely have myself because I feel so many movies are becoming predictable but there are some special scenes out there I’m sure. So basically, I’m looking for a plot twist scene that surprised you, or a character’s decision that surprised you, or finding out that somebody is actually somebody’s child kind of surprise – dig deep and find those scenes that surprised you in a jaw dropping way.

Check out Mettel Ray’s post on Breaking Emotions: Tears & Surprise


It should be obvious for posts like these, but just in case, if you haven’t seen any of these, BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

Ok, so here are my picks:

TEARS

Toy Story 2When She Loved Me

Jesse pours her heart out to Woody about how she was cast aside by her owner Emily when she became a teenager. The scenes of Jesse being found under her bed after being there for years, only to be put into a charity donation box is just heartbreaking! Every time I heard that Randy Newman’s song When She Loved Me song, I can’t ever NOT cry! The sheer devastation of being abandoned just tears me to pieces. Yes I know she’s just a toy, but that’s the beauty of Pixar in creating something that’s SO relatable. Surely we’ve felt discarded at some point or another.

Indecent Proposal finale

A married woman – with her husband’s consent – agrees to a proposal from a billionaire to sleep with her for a million dollars. They see this is as a way out of their financial dilemma, but it threatens to destroy their relationship.


This is actually not a sad scene per se, I think poignant is a more apt word. I included it here as what this couple’s gone through is quite heartbreaking. As someone who’ve been married for a decade, I realize just how crucial it is trust is in a relationship, and an emotional wound is a lot tougher to mend than a physical one, and the two are so interconnected. As I watched this, I was so saddened and moved by the fragility of the human heart. I feared that in they might never be able to survive their own gut-wrenching decision. They risked all that they’ve built together for money… This scene always made me bawl my eyes out thinking what it could’ve been, so much emotion are going through me and John Barry’s beautiful music just adds so much more to this poignant scene.

AtonementThe revelation about what really happened to Robbie and Cecilia

Earlier in the film we saw that the lives of Robbie n Cecilia are irrevocably changed when Cecilia’s sister Briony told a lie out of jealousy. In the last scene when Briony Tallis finally revealed during an interview about her new book, she finally revealed the tragic fate of both Robbie n Cecilia, one died of septicimia n the other in a bomb blast afew months later. So the happy reunion never happened, it was merely Briony’s way to somehow give Cecilia and Robbie their chance to be together in her book, if not in real life.

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I was sobbing uncontrollably during this scene. I’ve seen tales of lost love before but there’s something so heart-wrenching abt this story that pierces my heart. Robbie’s cold, pale face as he’s dying from his infected wound lingers haunts me long affer fhe film ends but it’s also the crushing reality that Briony has had to live with that burden of not being able to really atone for her sins.

SURPRISE

The Sixth Sense ending

It’s rare these days to be thoroughly n absolutely surprised by a movie’s plot, esp with the social media running rampant. When I saw this film in the theater I was totally floored when I finally realized who Bruce Willis’ character was all along. I haven’t rewatched it since but I often thought about all the clues I missed along the way (especially the dinner scene with his wife). Such a startling revelation that I still vividly remember to this day as it was such a strong emotional response. I wish Willis would do more understated roles like this one.

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Deep Blue Sea – Samuel L. Jackson’s demise

I wanted to include a scene that surprises me but in a rather comical way. Well this one fits the bill. Ok it’s not a great movie or anything but worth a watch if you like shark thrillers (who hasn’t?.) This one is truly a huge WTF moment that happened as Sam Jackson’s character is giving a speech to his team about survival, but before he could finish the sentence about sealing off the pool, the giant fish just grabbed him n ate him alive! It was like WHOA!!! Ok so it’s not exactly funny to see someone get eaten alive by a big fish, but I just can’t help laughing hysterically at the irony of it all.

L.A. Confidential – Rollo Tamasi scene

Captain Dudley Smith: Don’t start tryin’ to do the right thing, boy-o. You haven’t the practice.


The complex roller coaster ride of this noir is delightfully dizzying. I remember that my head was spinning trying to process it all but the dialog, acting, cinematography was SO good I was mesmerized. This one scene features a great dialog between James Cromwell (Capt. Dudley Smith) and Kevin Spacey (Jack Vincennes), but what happens next totally came out of left field that it made me jump out of my seat. It was what you call a breathtaking moment, well for Spacey’s character, it’s a literal one.


What do you think of my picks? Which scenes would YOU pick for each emotion?

Top 10 Favorite Scottish Actors

Today’s Gerry Butler’s birthday. For the past three years I’ve been making all kinds of tribute posts to my former crush. But y’know what, I don’t think any of you would be surprised that I won’t be doing a tribute for him this year, instead, I figure I’d finish the list that’s been sitting dormant in my draft folder for some time. I was originally going to post this shortly after I posted my picks of Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors which was three years ago!

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As you know, I have a penchant for the Scots. But really, can you blame me? There’s got to be something in the water in Scotland that churn out an endless supply of talented, AND handsome blokes. To top it off, they seem to have a charming personality to go with ‘em too, and of course, there’s the irresistible Scottish burr. I’d say there aren’t enough Scots working in Hollywood right now, especially since Connery’s been out of the game for some time. In any case, here are my current faves right now in alphabetical order [Yes Gerry, you're still on the list... for now] :D

Billy Connoly

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I’ve only seen him in a few movies but some have become my favorites. Love him in Mrs. Brown alongside Judi Dench, in Dustin Hoffman’s debut Quartet, as well as his voice work in the recent Pixar feature film BRAVE. He’s got such a charming but mischievous personality that I often associate with Scottish men.

Brian Cox

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Brian Cox is easily of the most underrated actors working today. It’s one of those actors you wonder why he hasn’t gotten an Oscar yet given his consistently excellent performance. Even in small roles, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Dundee-born actor, i.e. The Bourne Supremacy, Rob Roy, X-Men 2Red, etc. I even like his performance as Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter more than Anthony Hopkins’ in The Silence of the Lambs.

Craig Ferguson

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Ok so now he’s switched to be a talk show host on CBS, but Ferguson is quite a great comic and voice actor. He was a hoot in Saving Grace with Brenda Blethyn, a hilarious British crime comedy. I also enjoy his voice work in How To Train Your Dragon as well as Brave, and once in a while I’d tune in to The Late, Late Show and watch his gregarious monologue and hysterical interviews!

Dougray Scott

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I think a lot of moviegoers probably only know him from Mission Impossible II or as the actor who missed out on the role of Wolverine in the X-Men franchise. But he’s actually a pretty good actor. I like him as the Handsome Prince in Ever After, as well as in smaller movies like Enigma and Ripley’s Game. Who knows, his breakthrough role could be just around the corner.

Ewan McGregor

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Perhaps the most prolific Scottish actor in Hollywood today, McGregor is as hard working as he is talented. He’s quite versatile as well, playing different types of roles and moving from one genre to the next. Just this year alone he was in The Impossible, Jack The Giant Slayer and August: Osage County, which couldn’t be more different from each other. He’s also got a beautiful singing voice too, as displayed in Moulin Rouge! I’d totally buy his album if he ever decide to be a recording artist!

Gerard Butler

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Ok Gerry, I guess I still have a smidgen of hope that you’d star in something I REALLY want to see again. The ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movie sequel London Has Fallen and that video game movie based on Kane & Lynch aren’t likely to top my must-see list :( He did impress me in Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher, both of which are grossly overlooked, so he’s still got it in him if the role calls for it. I think he ought to take a page from Matthew McConaughey’s book of career re-invention. I wrote this role for him in an espionage drama with Timothy Dalton as his dad and James McAvoy as his half brother. I’d SO love to see him in an ensemble cast like that by a stellar director, even if he’s only doing a supporting part.

James McAvoy

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I always think that he looks so much like Gerry Butler’s younger brother, but the one with the better acting chops. The first time I saw this Glaswegian native was in The Chronicles of Narnia as Mr. Tumnus, but since then he’s had been on a roll in Hollywood, balancing small/medium indies (The Last Station, Atonement, The Last King of Scotland) to big blockbuster movies like Wanted and X-Men: First Class. He’s also not afraid to take on unsympathetic anti-hero roles, Trance, Welcome to The Punch and Filth, all of which are released this year alone.

Robert Carlyle

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Yet another great but underrated Scot. Mr. Carlyle has had an illustrious career since the early 90s. His breakthrough role in Trainspotting got him noticed, and since he’s juggling a TV and film career, some of which don’t seem to deserve his talent [*cough World is Not Enough *cough]. He’s also the best thing in the ABC show Once Upon a Time as Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin. Let’s hope he gets more meaty film roles in the near future!

Peter Mullan

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I think I’ve noticed Mr. Mullan in his supporting role in Braveheart, but it was his role in Boy A as a surrogate father to Andrew Garfield that really made me a fan. He’s also memorable in War Horse though his performance is easily overlooked by the younger supporting cast the likes of Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. I still need to see On a Clear Day and Sunshine on Leith that my Scottish friend Mark Walker highly recommends.

Sean Connery

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Ok so technically he’s retired, but really you can’t have a Favorite Scot list and not mention THE most iconic of them all. Yes the Edinburgh-born actor is the first and to most people, he’s still the best James Bond, but I also like his roles post 007. The Hunt for Red October, Finding Forrester, Rising Sun, Just Cause, The Rock, to name a few, as well as two of my personal favorites: The Untouchables and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. He’s not only a distinguished actor, but he’s also got one of the most recognizable accent in all Hollywood.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Billy Boyd
  • David Tennant
  • Iain Glen
  • John Hannah
  • Robbie Coltrane

Now, these five men are talented Scots as well, I just haven’t seen enough of their work to put them on my list. I’d love to see all these actors get more work in Hollywood, especially David Tennant who obviously has got quite a career in British TV. Perhaps that Broadchurch remake would be his American breakthrough. As for Iain Glen, I first saw him in the first Tomb Raider movie and I thought he made a charming villain. He’s also very memorable in BBC’s Spooks, love all his episodes with my Brit crush Richard Armitage! I’ve been slow going catching up with Downton Abbey, but I’m looking forward to seeing Glen’s performance in it, too!


Hope you enjoy my list of great Scots! Who’s YOUR favorite Scottish actor?

Question of the Week: Which film(s) do you think Leonardo DiCaprio deserved to win an Oscar for?

Today is Leonardo DiCaprio’s 39th birthday. He’s still got that boyish look despite being a year short of 40! It’s been sixteen years since Titanic catapulted him to a matinee idol, but he’s since gained a movie star status and practically shed the *curse* that plagued a lot of child actors who’ve hit it big before they even hit 25.

LeoWolfofWallStreet

A toast to Leo – he’ll be seen next in The Wolf of Wall Street

I’ve made a tribute to Leo three years ago as part of my Inception countdown post where I listed why I think he’s got what it takes to be called one of Hollywood’s greatest actors working today, on top of being one of the world’s biggest movie stars.

I haven’t made up my list of Top 5 Leonardo DiCaprio movies yet, but I might do that next year. For now, I’m just going to leave it open to discussion amongst moviegoers, particularly on the topic about why DiCaprio still hasn’t won an Oscar to this day despite having been nominated three times.

2007 Nominated
Oscar
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Blood Diamond (2006)
2005 Nominated
Oscar
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
The Aviator (2004)
1994 Nominated
Oscar
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

My friend Kristin from All Eyes On Screen blog who was in town this weekend and we had a discussion about this (with her fiancee and my husband) as to why Leo’s still empty-handed. Even when his co-star gets nominated or even won, he often got overlooked.

TotalEclipsePosterIt’s almost become a parody how elusive Oscar seems to be for Leo, there are countless articles/tweets/blog posts etc. ruminating why he continually gets snubbed year after year. It’s a shame really as he’s definitely a talented and brave actor. Even in his early work Total Eclipse back in 1995 where he played 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, it was apparent he wasn’t afraid to play daring, unhinged characters. I was quite shocked that he was willing to do full frontal nudity and gay sex with David Thewlis (who played his mentor/lover Paul Verlaine) early in his career. He seems to have a penchant for playing obsessive/neurotic characters, i.e. Howard Hughes (The Aviator), and roles in Shutter Island, J. Edgar, Django Unchained, and last but not least, The Great Gatsby.

As you can see in Nostra’s ‘The Many Faces Of…’ series on Leo, he’s got quite a stellar resume with about 30 feature films under his belt. He may not be the most chameleon-ic actor and he doesn’t bother with adopting a certain accent even when playing non English-speaking characters, perhaps it’s a good idea though given his unconvincing South African accent in Blood Diamond. That said, I still think he’s due for a major award one of these days. Let’s hope he won’t be the Susan Lucci of the Motion Picture industry. Who knows, perhaps Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street will finally be his ticket to Oscar glory!


So my question to you is, which of DiCaprio film(s) have you seen you that warrant him an Oscar nom and/or win?

[Feel free to speculate as to why you think he hasn't won... that always makes for an interesting discussion ;)]

TCFF Awards & Top Five Film Picks from TCFF Bloggers

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Happy Halloween everyone! Pardon the late post for this folks, due to my traveling schedule to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding in NYC, naturally I had to put the blog on hiatus. But I’m back now, so here’s the summary of the 10-day film fest that ended with awards announcement during the Festival’s Closing Night Gala in St. Louis Park, MN.

Eight films were singled out for awards late Saturday night. Leading the pack was the critically acclaimed August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, which walked away with the festival’s coveted Best Feature Film award.

The indie horror hit Delivery, which enjoyed its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, won the festival’s inaugural “Indie Vision Award.” Twin Cities audiences championed Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, starring Idris Elba, with the TCFF Audience Award (feature), and the Mason Makram short The First Date with the TCFF Audience Award (short).

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 10-day festival, which screened more than 75 titles – a mix of independent premieres and Hollywood sneak peeks – at the Showplace ICON Theatres. In addition to the annual October festival, the Minnesota-based non-profit organizes year-round programming, as well as industry networking events and educational opportunities. Learn more at twincitiesfilmfest.org.

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The complete list of 2013 winners:

Best Feature Film: August: Osage County (dir. John Wells)

Best Documentary: Antarctica: A Year On Ice (dir. Anthony Powell)

Best Short Film: Hot and Bothered (dir. Jake Greene)

Audience Award (Feature): Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (dir. Justin Chadwick)

Audience Award (Short): The First Date (dir. Mason Makram)

Indie Vision Award: Delivery (dir. Brian Netto)

TCFF Breakthrough Achievement Award: Emily Fradenburgh, actress, Nothing Without You (dir. Xackery Irving)

Congrats to all the winners! Now, naturally everyone’s going to have a different list of favorites, so I asked two of TCFF blog volunteers to list their own top five picks. Here they are:

Sarah’s Picks:

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  1. August: Osage County. Meryl Streep as the venom-spewing, drug-addicted matriarch of a dysfunctional Oklahoma clan. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Nebraska. I’m a fan of Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”) so I thoroughly enjoyed this funny yet poignant glimpse into a father-son relationship.
  3. Trust, Greed, Bullets and Bourbon. This movie is what film fests are all about. I found myself pleasantly surprised by this independent tale of a heist gone wrong. And I got to meet the director in person as well, what’s cooler than that?
  4. Remote Area Medical. Filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman managed to bring one of the hot button issues of our time into focus as a human story that allows the viewer to reach their own conclusion without sensationalism.
  5. Hot and Bothered. This one is just for fun- in 12 minutes, filmmakers Natalie Irby and Jake Green develop a plot that you wouldn’t mind watching again to catch the subtle nuances and enjoy the double entendres.

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Adam’s Picks:

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  1. The Gold Sparrow. This played in block one of the Best Of Minnesota Shorts. A spectacular animated film from Daniel Steesen, with only having music for its soundtrack, it is able to tell an intriguing story about a woman who steals the color of this animated world. It has an amazing score that is fast paced and keeps up with the vibrant colors used in the color stealing scenes.
  2. Honeymoon Suite. This film played before the feature presentation of “We Are What We Are.” This film tells the story of a difficult hotel guest who stays at a hotel once a month for a problem he can’t deal with at home. Originally planned as an extended commercial for a Chinese hotel that claims to be able to handle any type of hotel guest, it is able to take on a life of its own, and is a delight to enjoy.
  3. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. This film is a new bar on how biopics should be made. This movie aimed to be very ambitious in how detailed and extensive it is in telling the story of Nelson Mandela and it is able to accomplish it and show the good and bad of how Nelson Mandela has lived his life. Idris Elba turns in a top notch performance becoming Nelson Mandela during the course of this film. Audience will be amazed at how deep Elba goes to pull off this role.
  4. Antarctica: A Year On Ice. A Fascinating documentary about the men and women who work on the research bases in Antarctica. Director Anthony Powell had to build and test equipment he made on his own to capture long extensive footage and time lapses in Antarctica as most camera equipment already available can’t survive the harsh environment. A beautifully shot film and engaging documentary that gives insight to the people who are work in Antarctica.
  5. How I Live Now. This movie tells the story of an American teenage girl who is visiting her cousins in England when all of a sudden World War 3 starts. The movie stars Saoirse Ronan who turns a spectacular performance of a girl who has to grow and mature whil the world around her drastically changes. The physical and mental journey Ronan’s character endures in this movie is one rarely seen. The movie has some dark elements but is still a delight to watch as the film allows you to feel the same emotions as the main character has, the characters and stories are fleshed out so well in this film.

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Ruth’s Picks

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Now, for my picks, I only include feature and documentary films, as I’ve listed my favorite short films in this post, which includes the TCFF winner Hot and Bothered, as well as the sci-fi-themed short A Better Life. Check out my interview with both filmmakers Jake Greene and Conor Holt. I missed a few films that I had planned on seeing as I was sidelined with a cold, but out of what I was able to see, here are my favorites in alphabetical order:

  1. August: Osage County
    With a cast like this one, naturally one has quite a high expectations but thankfully it delivers. Well to be exact, they deliver! Meryl Streep does it again, proving she is the acting legend of our generation and beyond playing a decidedly- unlikable role. The rest of the cast of this extremely-dysfunctional family does wonders as well, though as a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, I have to admit his scenes are my favorites. He’s memorable even in his brief scenes, plus he sings beautifully too! Even though it’s tricky to adapt a play into film, I think the story actually translates pretty well thanks to John Wells’ direction. If you think your family is a mess, you probably would feel a heck of a lot better about it once you see this film.
    ,,,
  2. The Armstrong Lie
    One of the best documentaries I’ve seen, it’s so well-made, beautifully-shot and features an unprecedented access to its subject matter. The Lance Armstrong doping scandal resulted in perhaps THE biggest fall-from-grace of any celebrity athlete in the world. Yet, the doc is not done in a way to paint Armstrong as evil, I think it’s a pretty balanced account of the debacle as it starts out as a project about his come-back to Tour de France. In the end, it’s not so much about the doping but the abuse of power in covering ‘a lie that has become unbelievable’ that brought him down.
  3. Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football (view my full review)
    Considering I’m not even a football fan, it’s a testament to how good this documentary is that I list it as my favorites. It’s eye-opening but also quite entertaining. In 90-min, it’s jam-packed with historical backgrounds, stats, and first-account interviews with various players, medical professionals, as well as some family members of the people suffering from the brain injury CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). An essential viewing for sports fan, but definitely worth watching even if you’re not.
  4. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
    There has been quite a lot of films involving Mandela, in fact I think I’ve seen three of them in the past five years. But this is perhaps the most comprehensive as it’s based on his own biography of the same name. I LOVE Idris Elba so he’s the main draw, but even so, I was a bit skeptical of his casting at first. But I think Elba did a fantastic job immersing himself into the South African hero, as what matters in the end is not the ‘look’ of the actor but his ability to embody the essence of the character. I also love the relationship between Nelson and his second wife Winnie (played wonderfully by Naomie Harris) and the two have a strong chemistry. At 146 min, the film’s editing could’ve been tightened a bit but Elba’s compelling performance has the gravitas to command your attention, every step of the way.
  5. Nebraska
    I knew this one would boast great performances but I was still surprised how much I enjoyed this film. Alexander Payne has a gift in creating a whimsical family drama, balancing comedy and poignancy in this father & son road trip film. Bruce Dern deserves all the kudos he’s been receiving for his performance (including his Cannes’ Best Actor win) as he holds the screen even without saying a word. SNL alum Will Forte is quite a revelation in a serious role, though it’s June Quibb as Dern’s wife is the real scene-stealer with her outrageous remarks. The film is also boast a marvelous black & white cinematography of Midwestern America.
    ….

Honorable Mention:
SearchForSimonI just had to include The Search for Simon, a British sci-fi comedy, directed by Martin Gooch who’s also the lead actor in the film. It’s a enjoyable little film that’s hilarious and quirky without being mean-spirited. It’s also doesn’t have a lot of crude language that’s typical of British comedies, and Mr. Gooch is so immensely likable! I hope this will be available to rent soon, I highly recommend it if you enjoy British humor. Check out the specially-made video from Martin Gooch if you haven’t already. Trust me, it’s a hoot!

TCFF_RuthMaramis


That’s it from TCFF 2013! Hope you enjoy our coverage this year.
It’s always been fun to be a part of the film festivities!

Join us next year on October 16, 2014!


Thoughts on any of our picks? Which one(s) of these have you seen?

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.


ABetterLife_Short_Poster
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!

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

Broadchurch8

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!!

RussianTaxi_BourneSupremacy

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.