Weekend Roundup + Musings on the SAG Awards & Golden Globes Nominations

What a hectic weekend it’s been. With my hubby’s company holiday party, a Christmas concert, a TCFF bloggers meet-up and a morning screening, I barely had time to even open my laptop until Sunday night. No time for home cinema at all obviously, though I did see two press screenings: Into The Woods on Thursday night and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Saturday morning.

It’s my first Night of the Museum movie I’ve ever seen, in fact I didn’t even know this was the third entry, wow! It was fun enough that I might check out the previous two. As for Into The Woods, well let’s just say that apart from some hilarious sequences, this material might’ve been more suited for a play. I’ll post a double review of both before Christmas.

IntoTheWoods_NightAtMuseum3

Ok, this post marks the first Awards Chatter of the year!

I finally had time to put my thoughts down on the two recent award nominations that was announced back to back last week. To keep this post at a manageable length, I’m only limiting my comments to under 15 categories each, and on FILM nominations only (as I barely watch any TV to have any opinion on those).

GoldenGlobes

BEST PICTURE (drama)
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
 …
Oyelowo_Selma

David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve only seen two out of this list, but Selma‘s press screening has been scheduled in the first week of January so I’m looking forward to that! I honestly don’t know which one I’m rooting for most, I guess I’ll know after I see Selma but I’m glad there’s finally a good Martin Luther King Jr. adaptation. But where’s Gone Girl?? It’s nominated for Best Director but no love from the Hollywood Foreign Press for the film itself?
 …
BEST PICTURE (comedy/musical)
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Pride
St. Vincent
 …
After having seen Into The Woods, I definitely don’t think it deserves a nom! I wish Begin Again had been nominated here over that one instead, it’s just a more entertaining and engaging film by a wide margin. Ah well, I guess out of this list, I’m rooting for Birdman with Grand Budapest Hotel a close second.
 …
DIRECTOR
Wes Anderson | The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay | Selma
David Fincher | Gone Girl
Alejandro González Iñárritu | Birdman
Richard Linklater | Boyhood
 …
As I haven’t seen Selma and Boyhood, out of the three I’ve seen, I’m torn between Iñárritu and Fincher. Congrats to Ava DuVernay for making history as the first-ever African-American woman to be nominated in the Best Director category! At the same time, why does it take THAT long for a woman of color to finally get directorial recognition?! Well, out of the ones I’ve seen, I’m leaning towards Iñárritu as Birman is just unlike anything I’ve ever seen and will surely end up in my final Top 10. It’s hilarious yet poignant at the same time and I’m just glad to see Michael Keaton making a major comeback!
 …
SCREENPLAY
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Again, I’m rooting for Birdman here, though I think Gillian Flynn did a fantastic job adapting her own novel Gone Girl, so I definitely wouldn’t cry foul if she wins.
 …
ANIMATED FILM
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The LEGO Movie
  …
Yay, three of my fave animated films are nominated!! Out of Big Hero 6, HTTYD 2 and The LEGO Movie, I’d LOVE to see Big Hero 6 win, but I think The LEGO Movie could very well be the one to beat this year.
 …
ACTOR (drama)
Steve Carell | Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch | The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal | Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo | Selma
Eddie Redmayne | The Theory of Everything
 …
Carell_Foxcatcher
This is such a strong category and each seems to be quite deserving of a nom. I’m bummed that I have only seen two performances here, Carell’s and Cumberbatch’s. Carell is absolutely astounding and virtually unrecognizable in Foxcatcher and so my money is on him this year.
 …
ACTOR (comedy/musical)
Ralph Fiennes | The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Keaton | Birdman
Bill Murray | St. Vincent
Joaquin Phoenix | Inherent Vice
Christoph Waltz | Big Eyes
 …
I LOVE the fact that Fiennes is getting a nod for a comedic role and deservedly so. But I’ve been a fan of Keaton for some time and I’m really rooting for him to sweep all the awards this year.
 …
ACTRESS (drama)
Jennifer Aniston | Cake
Felicity Jones | The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore | Still Alice
Rosamund Pike | Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon | Wild
 …

So the trend that actress who *deglamorize* for a role usually gets nominated continues. I haven’t seen Cake yet and I honestly haven’t heard much of it apart from Aniston going sans makeup in the role. I guess I might rent it when it’s out on rental. I’d LOVE to see Pike win this category, I mean she’s just fantastic as Amy Dunne, and please please please, don’t give it to Witherspoon!! I’m already so disappointed seeing her name here, I mean I’d rather nominate Gugu Mbatha-Raw for either Belle or Beyond the Lights any day!

 …
ACTRESS (comedy/musical)
Amy Adams | Big Eyes
Emily Blunt | Into the Woods
Helen Mirren | The Hundred Foot Journey
Julianne Moore | Maps to the Stars
Quvenzhané Wallis | Annie
 …

I’ve only seen Emily Blunt‘s performance here, and though I’m not crazy for the movie, I do think she’s VERY good in the role but she’s always been a great actress IMO. Kudos for Moore for her double nominations though I have yet to see either one of her performances.

 …
SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Rosana Arquette | Boyhood
Jessica Chastain | A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley | The Imitation Game
Emma Stone | Birdman
Meryl Streep | Into the Woods
  …
Both Knightley and Stone were good in The Imitation Game and Birdman, respectively, but I don’t know who I root for most out of those two. I’ve always like Chastain as an actress and I’d have liked to see her get a nod for The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Interesting that Streep’s character is considered a supporting role in Into the Woods, as she seems to have a pretty major screen time there. In any case, does she have to be nominated for EVERY SINGLE ROLE she plays EVERY YEAR though?? I could think of a handful of actresses I’d rather see in her place, for one I’d love to see Andrea Riseborough (or Naomi Watts) in Birdman get a nod! I was also impressed by Kim Dickens as Detective Boney in Gone Girl.
Andrea Riseborough with Keaton in 'Birdman'

Andrea Riseborough with Keaton in ‘Birdman’

 …
SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert Duvall | The Judge
Ethan Hawke |Boyhood
Ed Norton | Birdman
Mark Ruffalo | Foxcatcher
JK Simmons | Whiplash
 …
Woo hoo for Mark Ruffalo! I was a bit worried Channing Tatum would get a nod in the supporting role instead of him. I guess Tatum could be considered a co-lead with Carell. But Ruffalo was truly the heart of the film and he was truly believable and compelling in the role. Meh on Robert Duvall, but I guess it’s better him getting a nod than Robert Downey Jr from The Judge.
 …

SCORE
Alexandre Desplat | The Imitation Game
Johann Johannsson | The Theory of Everything
Trent Reznor | Gone Girl
Antonio Sanchez | Birdman
Hans Zimmer | Interstellar


I’ve been listening to Interstellar’s score a lot lately so I guess that’s my favorite from the bunch. But Reznor’s work for Gone Girl is excellent and I’ve been a fan of Desplat’s work generally. Seems that the Academy loves him, he’s been nominated 6 times in the last 7 years, but he has yet to win. So perhaps this would be Desplat’s year?
 …

SAGawards
I’ve never blogged about the SAG awards before for some reason, but it could very well be far more important than the Globes and other awards apart from Oscars. Per THR, in the years since the SAG Awards were first handed out in 1995, the guild’s acting nominees and winners have predicted the Academy Awards’ acting nominees and winners more consistently than any of the many other accolades that collectively constitute the awards season.

It’s definitely the year of the Brits! There’s a British actor in practically every acting category both at Golden Globes and SAG this year.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
STEVE CARELL / John du Pont – “FOXCATCHER”
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / Alan Turing – “THE IMITATION GAME” 
JAKE GYLLENHAAL / Louis Bloom – “NIGHTCRAWLER”
MICHAEL KEATON / Riggan – “BIRDMAN” 
EDDIE REDMAYNE / Stephen Hawking – “THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING” 

Pretty much everyone I predicted would be nominated are on this list, and yay once again for Keaton! It’s a big year for Cumberbatch & Redmayne as this is the first SAG nom for the two Brits that would likely lead to the Oscars. VERY curious who’d win this year but I have no quibble about the nominees. I was bummed not seeing David Oyelowo‘s name here but apparently Selma wasn’t completed in time to send screeners to the SAG voters, hence the exclusion.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
JENNIFER ANISTON / Claire Bennett – “CAKE” 
FELICITY JONES / Jane Hawking – “THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING” 
JULIANNE MOORE / Alice Howland-Jones – “STILL ALICE” 
ROSAMUND PIKE / Amy Dunne – “GONE GIRL” 
REESE WITHERSPOON / Cheryl Strayed – “WILD”

Aniston_Cake

Unlike the more predictable MALE category, the Lead Best Actress category is full of surprises! Jennifer Aniston getting a double nomination, esp. from SAG, wow I’d never guess THAT as I have never even heard of her film Cake until a few weeks ago. I just hope there’s more her performance to warrant that nom than simply going sans makeup (and having bad hair) for the role. One thing for sure, as I said above, I don’t buy Witherspoon in a similar ‘non-glamorous’ role in Wild.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
ROBERT DUVALL / Joseph Palmer – “THE JUDGE” 
ETHAN HAWKE / Mason, Sr. – “BOYHOOD” 
EDWARD NORTON / Mike – “BIRDMAN” 
MARK RUFFALO / Dave Schultz – “FOXCATCHER”
J.K. SIMMONS / Fletcher – “WHIPLASH”


I’m rooting for Norton and Ruffalo out of this bunch, both of them are nothing short of excellent. I guess Norton’s role in Birdman is flashier but Ruffalo shines in a more understated performance in Foxcatcher. I definitely wish Duvall won’t win this category, I don’t know why he’s even nominated here.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
PATRICIA ARQUETTE / Olivia – “BOYHOOD”
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY / Joan Clarke – “THE IMITATION GAME”
EMMA STONE / Sam – “BIRDMAN”
MERYL STREEP / The Witch – “INTO THE WOODS” 
NAOMI WATTS / Daka – “ST. VINCENT”

[sigh] Meryl Streep once again, am I the only one tired of seeing her name in EVERY SINGLE NOMINATIONS year after year? Boy I didn’t even know Watts was in St. Vincent, I thought if she were to get a nod it’ll be from Birdman. I was quite impressed with Stone in Birdman, perhaps her best performance I’ve ever seen from her after her mediocre turn in those Spider-man movies and an entirely unconvincing one in Gangster Squad.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
BOYHOOD (IFC Films)
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
THE IMITATION GAME (The Weinstein Company)
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus Features)

ImitationGame_Cast

It’d be interesting if The Imitation Game with its all-star British cast win this thing but they do have an excellent ensemble! I personally love The Imitation Game and Birdman ensemble as I think the supporting cast absolutely deliver across the board, and they’re not just a glorified cameo like many in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

So who got snubbed??

So the most popular four-letter word during award season is back once again!

Seems that the early frontrunner Unbroken is not really much of a contender. I bet Angelina Jolie (who’s been nominated for Golden Globes half a dozen times, even for The Tourist!) would never guess Jennifer Aniston would get DOUBLE nominations this year. Perhaps the HFPA and SAG voters just don’t want to see both of them competing on the same red carpet or something? But the fact that the film didn’t earn a single acting nom, even for its lead Jack O’Connell is surprising to me. Now, the movie itself might not even be THAT good, so whether it’s really a SNUB remains to be seen.

Jolie_FilmingUnbroken

Jolie on the set of ‘Unbroken’ – Photo courtesy of HollywoodTake.com

Some consider this a snub, but I’m not all that surprised NOT seeing Interstellar nor Matthew McConaughey amongst the nominees. I’m not disappointed either as the film didn’t wow me. Seems that Ben Affleck is also not getting any love for his performance in Gone Girl, which arguably is one of his best acting in recent memory.

Spall_MrTurner

Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner

Lastly, two Cannes winners: Bennett Miller (Best Director for Foxcatcher) and Timothy Spall (Best Actor for Mr. Turner) are both missing from both Golden Globes and SAG nominations. I have been hearing nothing but praise for Spall’s performance as the eccentric British painter, so this seems to be a pretty glaring omission.


Well, there ya go folks. So who do you consider the surprises and/or snubs this year from both GG and SAG awards?

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November Recap + Top Movie of the Month

November2014Recap

WOW, would you believe it, we’re already in the last month of 2014! I’ve been sort of blissfully disconnected from the blogosphere the past few days, so I was quite flabbergasted that tomorrow is December already. Seems that the year have flown by much quicker than I could keep up with.

Anyway, it ends up being a rather slow month for movie-watching for me, but I think December will be another busy one with a bunch of press screenings already scheduled in the next few weeks, starting with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into The Woods and Night at the Museum 2.

Posts you might’ve missed:


New-to-me Movies:

RebelWithoutACauseGraphic

Rewatches:

  • Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  • Superman Returns (2006)
  • Licence To Kill (1989)

Favorite Movie of November 2014:

BirdmanBanner

I had been anticipating Birdman for some time because I’m a fan of Michael Keaton and it’s great seeing him in a lead role again. Well he certainly did NOT disappoint! It’s truly as bizarre & surreal as I expected it to be, but it’s also poignant, emotional and unlike anything I’ve seen all year. Review coming sometime next week.


So, what movies did you get to see in November and which one is your favorite?

….

Weekend Roundup & Review of Disney’s Maleficent

Hi everyone! Hope you had a lovely weekend. Well it’s sort of the calm before the storm as Twin Citians are bracing for the first snow storm of the year. We’re supposed to get anywhere between 6-12 inches, ugh! I ran a bunch of errands today just so I don’t have to go anywhere besides to and from work, though even THAT is gonna be quite an adventure tomorrow.

In any case, well it’s been quite a busy week for me movie-watching wise. Like many of you, I saw Interstellar on Saturday night in the AMC IMAX theatre. I’m still trying to process it, but I’m gonna try to review it this week, along with Big Hero 6. Y’know what, this time I’m agreeing w/ the critics in placing the Disney animated feature ahead of Christopher Nolan’s big space drama (91% for Big Hero Six vs 73% for Interstellar)

Friday night, my hubby and I opted for a fairy-tale reimagining that we’ve been wanting to see for some time. Boy it took forever for this movie to be available on iTunes, who knows why Disney delayed the rental release for SO long as the movie was released back in May. So here’s my review:

MaleficentPoster

As a huge fan of Sleeping Beauty, which is my favorite Disney fairy tale, I’m curious to see the backstory of Maleficent, which is also one of my fave Disney villains. The twist of the story itself is a hit and miss. I thought that the unlikely relationship between Maleficent and Aurora is interesting and also kind of hilarious. I mean before Maleficent curses Aurora to die on her 16th birthday upon pricking her finger on a spinning wheel, she also confirms one of the three good fairies’ blessing that she will grow in grace and beauty and that she’ll be loved by ALL who meets her. Well I guess that includes Maleficent herself as she can’t help to also grow to love Aurora in the end. Therein lies the issue I have w/ the plot – Maleficent isn’t so much an evil sorceress we expect from the animated version, as she never really did anything evil at all despite her vengeful quest. She’s portrayed more like a victim of the ambitious Stefan who betrays her to become King and he’s definitely the malevolent one in the story.

Jolie_Maleficent

That said, there are quite a few enjoyable moments to be had and Angelina Jolie is mesmerizing as Maleficent. I really can’t imagine anyone else in the role and she handles the dramatic as well as the mischievous moments brilliantly. The scene when she discovers her wings are cut off is quite heart-wrenching, but she also seems to be having fun with the more whimsical moments in the movie. The rest of the casting doesn’t fare as well, I’m so baffled why Sam Riley agrees to do the role of Diaval, Maleficent’s shape-shifting crow as it’s such a thankless role. I really thought there’ll be more to that character later on, but it never happened. Seems that all the guys in this movie are either evil or pointless, including Prince Philip, Aurora’s supposed suitor. Sharlto Copley’s plays Stefan with a sheer madness about him, consumed by paranoia and contempt against Maleficent that he seemingly forgot about his own family. I wasn’t crazy w/ Elle Fanning as Aurora, as she’s more cute than beautiful, but I guess they’re going for more an innocent girl so I warm up to her as the movie progresses. Given this is Maleficent’s story, all three gifted actresses (Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple) weren’t given much to do here.

The visuals are basically a CGI extravaganza, which is not surprising given first-time director Robert Stromberg worked extensively in the visual effects department most of his career. The flying sequences are great to look at and there are some beautiful scenery and set pieces. That said, I’m still partial to the animated version from 1959 with its hand-drawn illustrations. Even by today’s standards, I’m still in awe how lush and beautiful it is. I like that the movie pays homage to the original in some ways though. Per IMDb, Jolie apparently insisted that the dialogue in Aurora’s christening sequence has to be written word-by-word and based exactly from the original animated film because she feels that it was the main core and setup of the entire film.

Maleficent_Stills

So overall I think this is a decent film if you’re willing to accept the reimagining of the fairy tale classic for what it is. The ending is kind of predictable and the ‘true love’ aspect seems to be borrowing from Frozen from a year before. But if you want to see this for Jolie’s performance as Maleficent, she certainly doesn’t disappoint.

..3.5 reels


Have you seen Maleficent, well what did you think?

Monthly Recap, Top 5 Picks from TCFF 2014 + Fave Movie(s) of OCTOBER

Oct2014Recap

Happy November, everyone! Oh what a whirlwind October it’s been, but you won’t hear me complain about the weather as the past few weeks we’ve had one of the best Autumn weather ever. In fact, the entire Twin Cities Film Fest run, the weather was in one word, glorious. Temp was in mid 60s – low 70s, which in my book is absolutely perfect!

Well I think it’s obvious that TCFF was the highlight of my blogging time this month. It’s especially awesome that I got a chance to chat with some filmmakers and cast. Scroll down below to check out the complete recaps of the 10-day festivities!

Posts you might’ve missed:


Top 5 Fave Movies Seen at TCFF

TCFF_Top5_YoungKieslowskiThe Young Kieslowski

TCFF_Top5_OldFashionedOld Fashioned

TCFF_Top5_FlyingPaper

Flying Paper DocTCFF_Top5_ImitationGame

The Imitation Game [Review Upcoming]

TCFF_Top5_TimeLapse

Time Lapse [Review upcoming, but check out my interview
w/ its filmmaker Bradley King & actor George Finn]

TCFF 2014 Recaps

  1. TCFF 2014 Opening Night Festivities + ‘Men, Women & Children’ review
  2. TCFF 2014 Day 2 – Interview with Haley Lu Richardson
  3. TCFF 2014 Day 2 Reviews: Father-Like Son, The Last Time You Had Fun, V/H/S: Viral
  4. TCFF 2014 Day 3 Reviews: These Hopeless Savages, 3 Nights in the Desert, The Well and House of Manson
  5. TCFF 2014 Day 4: Wild Canaries, Just Before I Go & double reviews of The Young Kieslowski
  6. TCFF 2014 Interview with Rik Swartzwelder, Writer/Director/Star of Old Fashioned
  7. TCFF 2014 Day 5 & 6: Reviews of ‘Evil, Enemies & Aliens’ Shorts Block + Solitude
  8. TCFF 2014 Day 7: Romance Double Bill – Old Fashioned & Comet
  9. TCFF 2014 – Interview with Ink & Steel Filmmakers/Cast
  10. TCFF 2014 Interview with Bradley King & George Finn for sci-fi thriller Time Lapse
  11. TCFF 2014 Documentary Reviews: Stray Dog, Flying Paper, Where The Trail Ends & One Good Year
  12. TCFF 2014 Wrap Up & Final Awards: The Imitation Game, Time Lapse, Stray Dog Doc, Solitude & More!

….


New-to-me Movies outside of TCFF lineup:

I saw the last three in 48 hours, in fact I saw Big Hero 6 exactly an hour after my Foxcatcher screening. I’m glad that’s the case though, as I really needed something light and vibrant to shake off the dark and morose tone of Foxcatcher. Stay tuned for my interview with director

I’m still behind on a few reviews from the last couple of days of TCFF, but I should have all these reviews done in the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, with the crazy schedule of the Film Fest, I was unable to complete my Blindspot assignment of the month. Ah well, something’s gotta give I suppose. I probably will have 10 out of the 12 Blindspot films completed by end of the year, so I’ll just include the two I miss in my next year’s list.

Favorite Movies of October 2014:

I’m going to choose films that are NOT part of TCFF lineup, and it’s quite a tough one as there are some truly awesome movies I saw this past month. After much deliberation, it comes down to a tie of two completely different films. I love that when that happens! :D Stay tuned for my reviews of both of these, but if you’re on the fence about either one of these for whatever reason, I urge you to check both of ‘em out.

Citizenfour_BigHero6

Citizenfour is one of the most intriguing and gripping documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. Whether you think of Edward Snowden is a hero or criminal, this is such an important documentary that should be seen by anyone who has ever been online [and really, unless you’re Amish, who hasn’t?]. Big Hero 6 on the other hand, is so entertaining and so full of heart it’s easily one of my top animated features now. Definitely another winner from Disney, it’s just pure exhilarating fun and I love that it would inspire kids to explore their imagination and dream big.


So, what movies did you get to see in October and which one is your favorite?

….

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Movie of SEPTEMBER 2014

Sept2014Recap

Welcome to October, folks! Autumn is officially here, though yesterday morning felt like Winter with temp in the 40s already, ugh. Autumn in Minnesota is rather unpredictable. We went from mini dress + sandals weather to jacket + boots in the span of 18 hours! I sure hope we still get some Indian Summers in October though, fingers crossed.

It’s yet another slow month for press screenings for me. Either the timing doesn’t work out or I’m simply not interested enough in seeing them. I also didn’t watch a lot of new stuff, but did see a lot of old favorites, some are Toby Stephens-related [natch!] But hey, October is TCFF month so there’ll be a heck of movies to watch this month, yippee!!

Posts you might’ve missed:

Blogathon:

Fisti Recastathon: Recasting 3 Oscar-nominated roles w/ 3 actresses of color

New-to-me Movies/TV:

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (2014)

Gotham Series – Pilot 

Ladies in Lavender (2004)

LadiesInLavender

The main draw for me was of course the two female leads. I LOVE seeing real-life Dame BFFs Judi Dench and Maggie Smith together on film, and they played sisters in this one. Their lives was turned upside down when a mysterious foreigner washed up on the beach of their 1930’s Cornish seaside village. Daniel Brühl played the young stranger whom Dench became infatuated with. It’s a sweet and touching film, though there’s a 30+ age gap between Dench and Brühl, it’s not at all creepy and their bond is more of a soulful nature. The pace is a bit on the slow side though, but the actors were able to keep my interest. There’s drama with a bit of mystery here as Brühl‘s character befriends a Russian woman, played by Natascha McElhone. Game of Thrones‘ actor Charles Dance actually directed this one and I think he did a great job! There’s gorgeous violin music here too, courtesy of Joshua Bell, though Brühl did a convincing job pretending to be a maestro violinist. (3.5 out of 5)

Beginners (2010)

Beginners2010
I’ve been wanting to see this for ages, glad we finally did. It’s quite a moving story about father/son relationship, and how a young man named Oliver deals with his dad, Hal, coming out as gay AND he also has terminal cancer. The story weaves back and forth between the time they spent together and the time following Hal’s death. I thought all the relationships presented in the movie was dealt in a touching, funny and poignant way. Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for his performance and rightly so. But I have to say Ewan McGregor‘s sensitive performance was terrific as well, and so was Mélanie Laurent and Goran Visnjic in the supporting roles. (4 out of 5)

September Blindspot: Double Indemnity (1944)

Rewatches:

Favorite Movie Seen in September 2014:

This is an easy pick for this month. It’s definitely going to be on my Top 5 Favorite Blindspot films of the year. It’s my first viewing of Barbara Stanwyck but certainly won’t be the last! I need to check out more Billy Wilder’s work, too!

DoubleIndemnityFaveSept14

What I’m looking forward to in October:

TCFF2014bannerOctober is always an exciting time for me because of TCFF. Hope you’ll stay tuned for the coverage and reviews!

What you won’t see here this month is any kind of horror/slasher marathon of any kind. I’m not a fan of that genre nor do I generally celebrate Halloween, so this site will remain relatively horror-free.


So, what movies did you get to see in September and which one is your favorite?

A lovely weekend in the Big Apple + Thoughts on 2014 Les Miz on Broadway

Hi everyone! I’m back. Well, s-l-0-w-l-y. I was blissfully *disconnected* for about 5 days, other than checking news on my iPhone occasionally, I didn’t write or visit any blogs at all. It felt pretty good actually, I guess I was feeling a bit burned out so that was a much-needed break.

Well, I didn’t see any movies at all this weekend. I don’t usually go to the cinema when I’m out of town. Not sure why I just prefer spending my time seeing the place I’m visiting, but of course I made time to see a show since we stayed near the Theatre District.

Imperial_LesMizMarquee

Can you believe it I never actually saw Les Misérables until this weekend? I almost didn’t make it as TKTS ran out of tickets (only singles were available), but glad I persisted and went directly to the Imperial Theater directly. We ended up with one of the best seats ever, four rows from stage right in the center!

This play a re-imagining by the same producer who revamped The Phantom of the Opera, Cameron Mackintosh. I knew I had to see it the fact that Phantom himself is playing Jean Valjean! ;) Ramin Karimloo played The Phantom in both the West End’s POTO and its sequel Love Never Dies (which I reviewed a few years back). I LOVE his booming tenor as Phantom, and boy did he impress me once again as Valjean.

LesMiz_2014ImperialTheater

Photos from Broadway.com – clockwise from bottom left: Ramin singing ‘Bring Him Home,’ Ramin as prisoner 24601, Building the Barricade scene, Marius & Eponine & Javert’s singing ‘Stars’

Ramin was a brilliant Phantom but I’d say his performance is even more electrifying as Valjean. His voice is just incredible from start to finish, but the ballad Bring Him Home is particularly moving. He’s definitely got stage charisma as well as the physicality and emotional gravitas to mesmerize an audience. Now I’m actually curious to see the film version and see how Hugh Jackman fares in the role of Valjean. Yep I haven’t seen the film either, believe it or not. From the trailer though, I definitely prefer Anne Hathaway’s performance to Caissie Levy as Fantine. I mean, I almost always cry whenever I hear her sing the iconic I Dreamed a Dream, but the stage rendition didn’t get me all emotional. My hubby joked that instead of Les Miserables, the way Fantine was portrayed here was less miserable :D

I like Earl Carpenter‘s voice and performance as Javert as well. Interestingly he had played Phantom before in the London production with Ramin as Raoul. I especially love the technique used when Javert threw himself into the Seine river. Overall, the male cast fared much better than the female ones. I’m not that impressed by all three main female characters (Fantine, Éponine, Cosette), both in terms of vocal and acting performance. The love triangle of sort between Marius, Éponine and Cosette fell rather flat, but I guess I wasn’t expecting high romance the way of Phantom & Christine in POTO.

So what’s the verdict? Well, despite some of the *flaws*, I enjoyed it tremendously. I certainly don’t mind seeing it again but only with Ramin as Valjean. He truly made the show for me and was always the highlight every time he appeared on screen. When he sang Bring Him Home, which is a prayer to heaven to save Marius, it’s as if he lifted the entire production to a whole new heights with his soulful and rich rendition that gave me goose bumps!! I’d think that any other production I’d see without him would be slightly less epic.

Check out the trailer below:

A Fab Weekend in the Big Apple

Well, the rest of the time we just did the tourist-y thing as we’ve got the NYC Pass. But of course we had to make a stop at Dominique Ansel bakery for their famous Cronuts [croissant donut in case you didn’t know)! We got there at 9 right as they opened but still had to wait an hour as they only allowed 20 ppl in at a time and there were about 3 times the number of people in line by that time! It was well worth it though, YUM! Thank the Lord for the fantabulously sunny weather. It only rained on Saturday which wasn’t a total wash-out, and the rest of the time we’re treated to a gorgeous & warm weather!

Ok folks, that’s it from the NYC trip. I’ll return to my regular blogging schedule later this week, starting with posting my interview with a cast member from Starz’s Black Sails, South African-based actor Sean Cameron Michael. So stay tuned! :D


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Weekend Roundup: TCFF Sneak Peek, a French comedy & the Great Gatsby

Happy Sunday everyone!

Well it was a rather packed weekend starting with the a TCFF Insider Series event on Friday night. It was the perfect venue for early September as a touch of Autumn filled the air as we gathered poolside at the University Club in St Paul on top of Ramsey hill, whilst sipping cocktail & munching delicious hors d’oeuvres.

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We watched a compilation of 12 trailers of some indies/docs/features films that’ll be showing at the film fest in mid October. One of the features are already on my most-anticipated Fall movies list, yay! I can’t tell you yet which films are playing as details are still being finalized, but let’s just say I’m super excited!

Well I only got to see two movies this weekend. Somehow my hubby and I have been in the mood for French comedies lately. Last week we saw The French Minister, well this weekend we saw…

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)

I’m not always a fan of Luc Besson movies but this one turns out to be entertaining. It’s got a bit of Indiana Jones/The Mummy but with a female heroine instead. But this movie is more of a zany fantasy-comedy with some laugh-out-loud moments involving mummies being brought back to life. Louis Bourgoin as the protagonist is fun to watch. She reminds me a bit of Katherine Heigl with dark hair but with more spunk and likable presence. Mathieu Amalric (who I remember as the villain in Quantum of Solace) has a small role but entirely unrecognizable here under heavy *ugly* makeup.

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The movie is loosely based on a French comic of the same name that takes place in in 1910s Paris which features some gorgeous scenery of the city of Light. Some of the movie’s more fun and fantastical part involves a large Pterosaurs that hatched when a Professor uses a telepathic technique. The CGI looks pretty good and definitely enhances the fantasy element of the story. I was quite surprised however, that the reason for all those adventures Adèle went through turns out to be quite a heart-wrenching, albeit there were some creepy moments involving Adèle’s sister. Besson made some hilarious *historical* reference as to the origin of the pyramid in front of the Louvre, though the cliffhanger involving a doomed ocean liner is rather odd.

Overall I enjoyed it, I think if you like the two action-adventure movies I mentioned above, you might enjoy this one too.

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Sunday night is usually reserved for some Toby Stephens watching and this time I chose this TV Movie of …

The Great Gatsby (2000 TV Movie)

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I’ve seen this movie three times so far and I enjoyed it every single time. Sure it didn’t have the lavish style of Baz Luhrmann’s version nor its budget to depict the lavish, over-the-top parties in Gatsby’s house, but it certainly didn’t put me to sleep like the 1974 version with Robert Redford. I wish this adaptation had captured the manic energy of the roaring 20s though, even the music was a bit melodramatic. But the two performances, Toby as Jay Gatsby and Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway, won me over. In fact, just like in the 2013 movie, there’s more chemistry between Jay & Nick than Jay and Daisy.

Toby made for a charming & suave Gatsby, with that signature smirk of his and looking dapper in those tailored suits, but what I like about his performance was how emotional and real it was. The way he looked at Mira Sorvino’s Daisy made you believe he truly was infatuated with her, that he was besotted beyond reason. I’ve grown to like Rudd’s performance here as well as the story’s most relatable character. I’ve seen him mostly in comedies but he certainly had dramatic chops and he makes for a compelling and sympathetic narrator of the story. What’s more important than the visual style and costumes, which this adaptation lacked due to budget constraints, it does capture the tragic story of Gatsby and like Nick, I certainly was on Gatsby’s side.

Since I bought the dvd, it came with a great biography of its author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who undoubtedly has lived an intriguing life that rivals his most famous literary hero.

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Well, that’s my weekend roundup folks. So what did you see, anything good?

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Movie of AUGUST 2014

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I can’t believe we’ve reached the ‘ber’ month already which soon will turn to ‘brrrrr’ months :( It’s really quite depressing to see fashion magazines AND stores are now full of sweaters and coats once again. I’m holding off on buying ANYTHING with long sleeves until at least end of September! [yes I’m in denial Summer is basically over].

Ok, on to the monthly recap!

It’s a rather slow month for press screenings as some of them were held in the morning or I’m simply not interested enough in seeing them. But I think the next few months will hopefully be a lot busier. August is definitely a sad month for film fans & beyond. We lost the great Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and Sir Richard Attenborough :(

Posts you might’ve missed:

Blog Relay & Blogathons:

That last blogathon was a lot of fun to work on all weekend and I REALLY took my time writing and finding photos of Toby Stephens ;) Speaking of the handsome devil, I started August by finally catching up with Noël Coward’s Private Lives starring well, you know, which I enjoyed tremendously!

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New-to-me Movies:

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Into The Storm (2014)

Zodiac (2007)

Aug Blindspot: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
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There’s nothing amazing about this one, in fact I’m glad I never bothered seeing it on the big screen. I didn’t care for the Peter-Gwen romance and the villains are laughably bad. Dane Dehaan was okay before he turned into Green Goblin, blech (2 out 5)

Enemy (2014)
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I expected this one to be a weird film and it certainly was. It’s not as disturbing as I thought but it’s definitely a strange film, though the story itself isn’t that groundbreaking. People with arachnophobia should steer clear of this movie though. Jake Gyllenhaal is good playing a dual role, but the pace is far too tedious for my liking. (3.5 out of 5)

Gambit (2012)
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Ok so I’ve been warned by the terrible 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but I figure a movie starring Colin Firth and Alan Rickman (one of my fave actors ever) in a script written by the Coen Brothers can’t be THAT bad. Alas, despite some comic moments (mostly from Firth in a slapstick mode), there’s very little to recommend this one. Plus Cameron Diaz is as annoying as ever here. (2 out of 5)

The French Minister (2013)
FrenchMinister2013
We’re in the mood for a comedy Sunday night and the trailer for this one piqued our interest. It’s similar to In the Loop but set in France instead of England, with a heck of a lot less swearing. I think it was pretty hilarious and the main actor who plays the Minister’s speech writer, Raphaël Personnaz, reminds me a bit of Jason Bateman with his constantly baffled expression. Highly recommended if you’re in the mood for a zany foreign comedy. (4 out of 5)

Rewatches:

Favorite Movie Seen in August 2014:

This is an easy pick for this month. Though I’m not in love with this movie as most people are, I still think it’s a fun & enjoyable comic-book flick with an absolutely awesome soundtrack. I definitely will rent this later when it’s out on Bluray!

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So, what movies did you get to see in August and which one is your favorite?

Weekend Roundup – ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’ review

Happy Monday everyone! It’s a sweltering HOT Summer weekend and those who know me well know I’m not a big fan of heat and humidity so I actually spend a lot of time indoors and got to see quite a lot of new movies as well as rewatches.

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You could say it’s a pretty eclectic weekend viewing given the variety of movies we saw the past four days. On Friday night we ended up watching The Amazing Spider-man 2 [which wasn’t at all amazing], the psycho thriller ENEMY with Jake Gyllenhaal [as weird as I had expected], and The Philadelphia Story for this month’s Blind Spot. I also rewatched my old fave The Phantom of the Opera, yep the movie that made me fall hard for Gerry Butler oh so many years ago.

I didn’t go to the cinema this weekend, but boy seems that lots of people went to see The Guardians of the Galaxy again as it’s now back on top with $17 mil, beating all the new releases, including Sin City: A Dame to Kill For which bombed big time with only $6 mil, ouch! Well, having seen it, I really think this sequel is utterly unnecessary and after nine years, it seems much too late for a follow-up. Here’s my review:

SinCity2Bnr

I was curious to see this one mainly because of the striking visuals, which was pretty much all I could remember from the first film. That, and how cool, sexy and mysterious Clive Owen was and the stylized brutal violence, especially the bits involving Elijah Wood in a role as far away as Frodo as it could get. This time Frank Miller is back in the directing chair with Robert Rodriguez.

This time, we’ve got Josh Brolin as Owen’s replacement in the role of Dwight, a pity as Brolin doesn’t come close in terms of cool factor as the brooding, hunky British actor. Well, the same could be said about the movie as a whole. The novelty factor of the color palette of black & white with a touch of red is wearing thin, plus the plot is even thinner this time around, chock full of clichéd dialog that ultimately renders the whole thing pointless.

The tagline refers to the main character in one of the four entwined story lines, and admittedly, it’s the more intriguing one simply because of Eva Green. Oh how I’d have loved to have seen her on screen with Clive Owen, she’s my favorite Bond girl and Owen’s an actor who’d make an awesome 007. In any case, Green plays a femme fatale type role in which she played as effortlessly as she ditched her clothes in the film. Being French she’s clearly comfortable with nudity. The stylish lighting and camera angle captured her allure beautifully as she devoured every scene she’s in with aplomb.

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The rest of the story lines are pretty boring by comparison, my least favorite is the one involving Joseph Gordon-Levitt as he seems miscast in the role, especially against Powers Booth who fits the noir genre perfectly. He’s quite sinister here with his deep, gravely voice, but his character is as one-dimensional as the rest. The father/son story is nowhere near as clever or intriguing as it wants to be. Jessica Alba reprises her role as Nancy and with all of her gyrating body as a stripper, she is just so lightweight that she comes across so ho-hum next to Eva Green. Mickey Rourke’s back again as Marv, perhaps the film’s comic relief, even in the most violent parts of the movie.

The movie is only 1 hr 42 min long but it started to drag pretty quickly. The stylized violence and all that nudity + sex scenes felt more like a gimmick that became more ho-hum as the movie progressed. As I came out of the theater I thought, it took them 9 years to come up with THIS? [shakes head] Despite the beautiful 3D, the film falls exasperatingly flat. Proof that visual flair alone doesn’t make a movie.

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So that’s what I saw this weekend folks, what about you? Seen anything good?

[Slow] Weekend Roundup, X-Men 2 & Musings on Expendables 3

It’s been a slow weekend for me in terms of movie watching but a hectic one otherwise. My hubby & I hosted a potluck Saturday night which was a ton of fun. There was a ton of food as well, three different kinds of curry dishes, a Kim-chee dish, coconut rice, tofu w/ peanut sauce, etc. and I haven’t even talked about desert yet :D

Sunday afternoon I went to the second staff meeting for the fifth annual Twin Cities Film Fest! It’s coming up in less than two months (October 16!) and I’m waiting with bated breath which movies we’ll be getting this year! Film fans who live in the area, please consider supporting this amazing event tailored for cinephiles like you. We’ve got a special Member Drive where you can catch a sneak preview into films premiering at TCFF, see info below or click the graphic for more info.

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So this weekend I didn’t go to the cinema at all. In fact I only saw one movie and that’s a rewatch of X-Men 2. I was inspired by this Superhero Blog Relay last week, and the fact that it’s perhaps my favorite from the franchise before X-Men: Days of Future Past came along. I still loved it as much as I did before, perhaps one day I might do a full review of it.

X-Men2

My favorite scenes are the Magneto prison escape, anything with Brian Cox as the villain William Stryker, and that awesome finale with Jean Grey turning into Phoenix. After seeing this, my hubby said how much he hated Brett Ratner for ruining her character in X-Men 3, especially after such a breathtaking cliffhanger!  There’s so much potential for her character arc that wasn’t explored well at all by that hack director. Heh, I sure hope he won’t ever be back working on another X-Men movie ever again… or any good franchise for that matter.

Quick notes on this weekend’s box office. WOW, the power of Bayhem is really something! Those Ninja Turtles won again, practically beating every new movies opening this week. Even those Geriatric action heroes in Expendables 3 can’t overpower those ninja turtles?! Only the Guardians of the Galaxy in its third week was a close match!

1. Ninja Turtles $28,400,000
2. Guardians of the Galaxy $24,735,000
3. Let’s Be Cops $17,700,000

Earlier this year, I asked if people still love geriatric movie stars blowing stuff up in action flicks. Majority of the commenters said yes, they still do love ‘em aging stars, but maybe not enough to see ‘em on the big screen?

Expendables3Cast

Expendables 3 made only $16 mil, which was only about half of what the second movie made two years ago. Hmmm, so maybe this franchise is on its last leg eh? Same could be said about most of the cast anyway. Really, Sly should stop now anyway, I mean stretching this bombastic shoot-em-up party to a trilogy is already well, quite a stretch as it is. But what I didn’t know until an hour ago was that apparently the entire movie got leaked online three weeks before its release. According to Variety, as of July 27, there’s been 1.13 million illegal downloads of Expendables 3 worldwide!!

Though I hated the first movie, and I’ve only seen the Chuck Norris part of the 2nd movie, part of me actually still curious to check this one. So *maybe* I’ll go to a matinee showing ;) After all Wesley Snipes is back! I’m curious to see this just for him, plus we’ve got Harrison Ford & Mel Gibson!

This week I’ll be going to Sin City 2: Dame to Kill For screening on Tuesday. Boy it’s been almost a decade since the first movie was released. I barely remember what it’s all about but I do remember liking the visual style.


So that’s it for the roundup. What did YOU see? Anything good?