10 Actresses I would watch in just about anything

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As part of a continuation to the Top 10 Actors I’d See in Anything post, I figure I’d do the same list for the fairer sex. If anything, my love for actresses seem to be more constant than for actors, not sure why but aside from some new discoveries, I’ve been a fan of most of these actresses for a decade or longer. Again this idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are Blog. The same as the actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in literally anything because there are some movies with them in it I haven’t seen and probably never will. But having their name in a certain film would certainly make me more inclined in watching them.

Here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite:

10. Kristin Scott-Thomas

Top10Actresses_KST

Ever since I saw her as Fiona in Four Weddings & A Funeral years ago, I’ve always been fond of the English actress. There is an air of mystery about her, as well as a certain sadness, which made her perfect for her Oscar-nominated role in The English Patient. She’s always wonderful to watch in anything, even in bit parts in lesser-known films like The Heir Apparent, Mission: Impossible, Easy Virtue, Nowhere Boy, etc. Her dramatic talent is irrefutable, but I think she’s got comedic chops too, as she displayed in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I’d love to see this lighter side of her in other movies. Wish she’d gotten more leading roles, instead of being cast in awful movies like Bel Ami against sub-par leading man Robert Pattinson.

Favorite Role: Fiona in Four Weddings and A Funeral
Least Favorite Role: Virginie in Bel Ami

9. Carey Mulligan

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The first thing I noticed about miss Mulligan is her soothing speaking voice in Never Let Me Go. I already liked her even before she showed up on screen. There is a pleasant countenance about her that I like, as well as a certain childlike innocence that she displayed in An Education. Even when she plays unsympathetic characters like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and the acidic-tongued Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis, you can’t totally despise her. When I saw her in Never Let Me Go, I somehow didn’t realize she was Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice! She’s quite a chameleon. Can’t wait to see her in Far from the Madding Crowd next year.

Favorite Role: Kathy in Never Let Me Go
Least Favorite Role: Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Jessica Chastain

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I mentioned in this post a couple of years ago that miss Chastain sort of came into my cinematic view pretty suddenly. I hadn’t heard of her even six months prior to that, and seems that in an instant she churned out four very distinct performance within the span of a couple of years: The Debt, Tree of Life, Coriolanus and The Help. Then she impressed me once again in Zero Dark Thirty, displaying strong dramatic chops that’s entirely different from the other roles I’ve seen previously. Seeing her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby sealed it for me that she has to be on this list. I think she’s absolutely beautiful, but in an unconventional way. She’s the kind of actress who I think gets even more interesting the longer you look at her. Can’t wait to see her in crime drama A Most Violent Year opposite Oscar Isaac!

Favorite Role: Eleanor Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Least Favorite Role: N/A

7. Marion Cotillard

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What is it with French women that made them so beguiling? Miss Cotillard certainly has screen charisma that appeals to both sexes, and though she’s impossibly beautiful she’s not Bimbo-like at all. Like Kristin Scott Thomas, I also find her a bit mysterious which adds to her appeal. I guess I find people with *sad* eyes more intriguing, perhaps it’s that tortured-soul quality I find very appealing in men as well. She gave such a heartfelt performance in Inception, and she’s my favorite performer even in the all-star cast musical NINE. In fact, her two musical renditions are superb as she shows not only her dramatic prowess, but also her amazing vocals & dancing ability.

Favorite Role: Adriana in Midnight in Paris/Luisa in NINE
Least Favorite Role: Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises

6. Sandra Bullock

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Like a lot of people, I first noticed Sandra in Speed and I’m instantly a fan. Whether it’s action stuff like The Net, Demolition Man, or rom-coms like While You are Sleeping, Forces of Nature, Two Weeks Notice, The Proposal, etc. Sandra is so watchable. Though she also excels in serious dramas like The Blind Side and Gravity, I think I like Sandra most in comedies as she’s just so darn lovable in them. I don’t think Miss Congeniality would’ve been as watchable without her in the lead. She’s also hugely entertaining in interviews and her fun, down-to-earth personality absolutely shines in candid conversations. She’s one of those rare movie stars who seem so approachable that you could imagine her as your best friend!

Favorite Role: Annie in Speed/ Lucy in While You Were Sleeping
Least Favorite Role: Kate in The Lake House

5. Emma Thompson

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I think I’ll always be a fan of Emma given my undying love for 1995’s Sense & Sensibility. I’ll always be grateful for her amazing screenplay and her lovely performance as Elinor Dashwood. Before that, I’ve already liked her in Much Ado About Nothing and The Remains of the Day. Her segment in Love, Actually with Alan Rickman is my fave of the entire film, and she’s wonderful in Stranger than Fiction and in the romantic drama Last Chance Harvey. Her comic-relief performance in Harry Potter is a lot of fun to watch, too. Her latest role in Saving Mr Banks shows she definitely should’ve gotten more leading roles. Playing someone so uptight and controlling seems so far away from her laid-back and goofy, but then again, Emma has a knack for playing eccentric characters.

Favorite Roles: Elinor in Sense & Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Sarafine in Beautiful Creatures

4. Dame Helen Mirren

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Though I had seen Dame Mirren in Gosford Park, it’s not until The Queen that she REALLY came to my attention. She truly won me over with that performance and so every time I saw her name attached in something, I’d want to check it out. Since then she’s impressed me in State of Play, The Debt, The Last Station, and even the goofy action comedy RED & RED 2 where she displayed her bad-assery as a femme fatale. She’s the best thing about the Hitchcock film adaptation as Alma Reville, even her animated character Dean Hardscrabble in Monsters University is fun to watch! Can’t wait to see her in a thriller opposite one of my fave British thespians Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky!

Favorite Roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen
Least Favorite Role: N/A

3. Dame Judi Dench

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Like Helen Mirren, I became familiar with Dame Judi in her latter works. In fact, it’s her most mainstream role as M in Goldeneye that got my attention. She outshone practically every male actor in that role previously, and she delivered such a scene-stealing performance she upstaged even Mr Bond himself! I have to say part of me wish she had been M in earlier Bond films as I’d love to see him going toe to toe with another theater thespian Timothy Dalton as 007!

Since then, I’ve seen Dame Judi in a variety of roles: biopics like Mrs. Brown, My Week with Marilyn and Philomena; and a fair share of literary adaptations like Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and her 8-minute Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love. I LOVE her in the lovely drama Chocolat, as well as in the ensemble comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Recently I saw her in Ladies in Lavender, teaming up again with her real-life BFFs Maggie Smith after nearly 20 years (in A Room with a View). I always enjoyed seeing them together, so I can’t wait to see the ‘Marigold hotel’ sequel!

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, M in Bond movies
Least Favorite Role: N/A

2. Emily Blunt

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Though she didn’t get the lead role, it’s safe to say that miss Blunt was the breakout star of The Devil Wears Prada. She’s so deliciously devious in her comic turn that was so fun to watch. But I think it’s her performance in the lesser-known Jane Austen Book Club as a French teacher that made me a fan. She’s my favorite character in the film and I really sympathize with her despite her flaws.

Finally I saw her in a leading role in The Young Victoria and once again I absolutely adore her. Interesting that she plays the same character that Judi Dench played in her later years in Mrs. Brown, which is also my fave role she’s done. Emily stuns even in bit parts, i.e. playing Tom Hanks’ young lover in Charlie Wilson’s War. Since then I’ve seen Emily in a variety of roles: The Adjustment Bureau, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Looper, and most recently Edge of Tomorrow. She had a more action-packed roles in the last two films, perhaps in an attempt to shed her English-rose image. I think she fits well in drama, comedy or action, which shows her versatility and on-screen appeal.

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria
Least Favorite Role: N/A

1. Cate Blanchett

Top10Actresses_Cate

Ahhhh… the Great Cate. I absolutely love this woman. Similar my first intro to Carey Mulligan, I too fell for Cate’s soothing narration in The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I LOVE her as Galadriel, perhaps one of the most famous characters she plays in her illustrious career.

What I LOVE about the Melbourne-born thespian is her chameleon ability to play virtually ANY role from all walks of life. Whether it’s a fearless Irish journalist (Veronica Guerin), working class ex-heroin addict (Little Fish), troubled NY socialite (Blue Jasmine), a wounded wife shot on an overseas trip (Babel), an English monarch (Elizabeth) or Hollywood royalty (as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), there’s NOT a role Cate couldn’t pull off. She can do any accent flawlessly, and her voice is just so pleasant to listen to. Ok so I still haven’t seen her in her Oscar-nominated role as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, but no doubt she’s also convincing in portraying the opposite sex.

Borrowing from my Birthday Tribute post, Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

Can’t wait to see her in Kenneth Branagh’s life-action adaptation of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother next year!

Favorite Roles: Galadriel in LOTR, Veronica Guerin
Least Favorite Role: Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skulls

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! I’ve been a fan of most of these for a while, but there are some newbies added based on their performances this past year (Mbatha Raw & Pike). A lot of the actresses here hugely underrated, but just like a lot of my male crushes, I guess I have a penchant for the under-used and under-appreciated ones. Anyway, here they are in my fave role each of them has done so far:

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  1. Helena Bonham Carter
  2. Angela Bassett
  3. Eva Green
  4. Rebecca Hall
  5. Gugu Mbatha-Raw
  6. Julia Ormond
  7. Rosamund Pike
  8. Saoirse Ronan
  9. Maggie Smith
  10. Kate Winslet

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So that’s my list folks! Feel free to name your own picks of actresses you’d watch in practically anything :)

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Rental Pick: PIRATE RADIO (2009)

PIRATE RADIO

A period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960s.

PirateRadioPosterSo I guess not all *pirates* are bad. This Richard Curtis‘ comedy is [loosely] based on a true story in the 60s era Britain when the then-traditionalist British government deemed it illegal for radio stations to play rock music. I didn’t even know that this actually went on in England, but clearly, making something illegal would only make something even more popular. Kids and adults alike secretly flock to the radio, whether on their own or in a group, hanging on every broadcast and songs played by these pirate radios. The term pirate radio not only refer to the illegal nature of their broadcasts, but there were apparently pirate off-shore radio transmissions in those days. In fact, the original title of this movie was The Boat That Rocked, which I think is a better title.

I had wanted to see this for a while but given that it’s got Philip Seymour Hoffman in it made me want to see it more. He once again displayed his incredible versatility and keen ability to embody a role like no other. Hoffman played the lone American D.J. ‘The Count’ in a group of all-British staff on the Radio Rock station anchored in the North Sea, ran by Quentin (Bill Nighy). It’s quite a rambunctious but lovable bunch, and the arrival of Quentin’s godson Carl (Tom Sturridge) made for an even more interesting dynamic. He’s sent by his mother to spend time on the boat due to his problems at school, as if she thought he’d learn to be a good boy on THIS boat, ahah. The term sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll is really not far from the truth, surprise, surprise.

The arch nemesis of the group is Sir Alistair Dormandy (played with mustache-twirling kind of villain-y by Sir Kenneth Branagh) whose the quintessential hoity toity persona who thinks everyone beneath him has low morals. Branagh is pretty much chewing the scenery here as he instructs his subordinate, appropriately named Twatt (Jack Davenport), to find a way to somehow shut down Radio Rock.

PirateRadio_StillsWhilst continuing to dodge Alistair’s ruthless advances, the boat has its own shares of drama amongst its crews. The arrival of popular D.J. Gavin (Rhys Ifans) increases tension given the rivalry between him and The Count, not to mention his massive celebrity status also cost fellow DJ Simon (Chris O’Dowd) his new bride. January Jones pretty much just strutted around here, I never really liked her as an actress and her role here didn’t exactly change my mind. All the chaos are done in the spirit of fun however, it’s refreshingly not mean-spirited. And for a British film about rock ‘n roll, it’s not as foul-mouthed as one would expect, which is a pleasant surprise for me. It may appear that the filmmaker is demonizing the British government but really the focus is more on the ridiculousness of Alistair’s holier-than-thou attitude even towards his own cabinet members! There is a subplot about Carl finding about his real father that doesn’t get explored as well as it could, but his unabashed naïveté is pretty endearing to watch. His relationship with Nick Frost‘ character is hilarious but also quite moving.

As for the finale, it’s truly the kind of ending that made you want to get up and cheer! Yes, a little mawkish perhaps, but not devoid of wit and charm. The music here well, rocks, which is what one would expect. The who’s who of rock music in the 60s are on display here, from The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, The Hollies, Jimmy Hendrix, Buddy Holly, etc. add to the feel-good fun vibe of the movie. There’s also no real protagonist in terms of one specific actor dominating the screen, I think the entire boat is the star and you could say even say the rock music is the protagonist. Though the narrative is far from being perfect, it’s still quite heartfelt and entertaining that I’d recommend this for a rental. It’s another fun one from Richard Curtis‘ filmography.


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Have you seen this movie, well what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: GONE GIRL (2014)

GoneGirlBnrFew films this year got as much feverish anticipation as this one. To be honest, I got a bit worried this film wasn’t going to live up to the hype, but I’m glad to report that I wasn’t disappointed. I’m also glad that since I haven’t read the book, I managed to avoid any spoilers about the plot so it was nice to be surprised by the twist and turns as I’m watching the film.

The opening is quite provocative, as it opens with a shot of a beautiful blond woman, along with a male speaking voice saying how it would be nice to crack open her skull to see just what’s inside her head, to see what she is thinking. There’s an air of mystery around her which sets the tone of the entire film. Now, on a different film, we might chalk that narration up as a figure of speech. But in this case, given the title of the film, it definitely makes you think the worst. Well, Gone Girl definitely keeps toying with our perceptions throughout, and that’s part of the fun.

GoneGirl_Still1In case you don’t know anything about the basic plot, here’s the gist: On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) left his home in the morning to a bar he co-owned with his twin sister. When he came back, he couldn’t find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) anywhere in his sprawling house, and there’s obvious signs of a break in. So he reports his wife missing and before he knows it, there’s a growing media frenzy on his case that puts extra pressure on him on top of the also-growing suspicion from the police that he’s killed her.

Instead of a straight who-dun-it type of thriller, this film deals more about the psychological aspect of the crumbling of a seemingly-blissful union and how Nick & Amy deal with their mounting problems. The issue behind the marriage dissolution itself isn’t at all uncommon, lots of us can relate to the issue of layoffs and growing apart when expectations no longer aligns with reality. But of course, this story takes a sinister turn that leaves you wondering just what the heck happens. The beauty of the film is that, it doesn’t rely on the twist [a la M. Night Shyamalan's films] to shock or entertain you. Instead, it’s more of a character study of a married couple – who probably shouldn’t be married in the first place – as well as a commentary of the worst side of media frenzy that toys with the public’s perception about a given story.

GoneGirl_Still3Despite the dark subject matter, this film isn’t overly bleak or depressing. Thanks to the taut screenplay by first-time screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who happens to be the author of the best-selling author novel it’s based on. I’m glad David Fincher agreed to work with her instead of hiring a more experienced screenwriter. I think having been ‘living’ with these characters on her head for so long definitely help make them more fleshed-out.Apparently Flynn actually studied his films as she’s writing the script which explains the synergy going on here. Fincher’s direction is solid all around, the story is clearly tailor-made for him. I like the timeline marking of how many days Amy has been gone, and the use of flashbacks are seamless and effective. The journal entries from Amy’s diary gives us a bit of insight into Amy’s side of the story, yet it wasn’t overdone that it’d actually grind the film to a halt. Fincher’s almost surgical precision is apparent in how he sets up every scene. Just like any real-life crime investigation, painstaking eye for details is absolutely critical.

Fincher’s longtime collaborator Trent Reznor provides a cool and eerie score to go with that somber color-scheme. At first I felt like his score was a bit intrusive in the first scenes when Nick & Amy met, but I think it might’ve been intentional. In some key moments, the vigorous & ominous score definitely gets your heart pounding! Another longtime Fincher collaborator is cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, whose visual sensibility works with Fincher’s style and therefore helps set the mood. The naturalistic style used here fits the tone of the film and the Midwest setting nicely.

GoneGirl_Still2Bringing the story to life are Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, two beautiful people forming a marriage from hell. For once, Affleck just might get some accolades for his acting instead of directing. I do think he was excellent in Hollywoodland, and in a way there’s some similarities between Nick and George Reeves as he was also at his lowest point professionally. The film however, belongs to the girl in the title role. Pike was nothing short of well, amazing. I’ve seen her in about five films so far, but mostly in supporting roles, and I’ve never seen the kind of range she displayed here. She was perfect as ‘Amazing Amy’, a brilliant ice princess type, the embodiment of her parents perfect image in the book series named after their daughter. At times she reminds me of Nicole Kidman’s character in To Die For, but there’s still a vulnerability about her that keeps you from truly despising her. I knew the British beauty could handle the sinister aspect of her character, but still I was floored by how good she was and her American accent is pretty convincing as well. I so hope she’d get some nominations come award-season, she’s definitely the breakout female performer of the year for me.

The supporting cast includes some rather off-the-wall choices playing against type. Tyler Perry is quite amusing as Nick’s top-notch lawyer, and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s creepy ex-boyfriend. The latter threw me off a bit as I somehow didn’t know he was part of the cast. Given Harris’ personal life, it took me a while to see him as a straight guy being obsessed over a girl, but I think he pulled it off. I also have to mention Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens as Nick’s sister and the detective, respectively. Both were excellent playing key roles in the story. Interesting casting of Sela Ward as a TV reporter here given that she played the murdered wife in The Fugitive where the husband was accused of killing her.

GoneGirl_Stills4Spoiler alert [highlight text below if you want to read it]
I feel that Amy might’ve gotten away w/ murder too easily. There’s a moment at the police station when Nick immediately knew she had deliberately killed Desi. “How did she manage to find a box cutter when she’s tied up all the time?” He quipped, but the male cop who’s always disliked him brushed him off. But also there’s the issue about all the blood that was mopped up in the kitchen. If she said she had been hit by her abductor, wouldn’t the cops at the very least try to corroborate her story and find some kind of proof that her story checks out? It’s not a huge quibble but it did bother me after I saw the movie.

So what’s the verdict? Well, Gone Girl definitely lives up to the hype. It’s more entertaining than I thought it would be. This will likely end up in my top 5 favorite Fincher films, perhaps between Fight Club and The Social Network which also have some humorous moments sprinkled throughout. I love it when a movie sparks a lot of discussions and makes you ponder about your own life situation. As I haven’t read the book, I can’t comment if the film is better than that or not, but I think it works in the big screen format. Props to Fincher and Flynn for making a story that might not translate well to film into something cinematic, gripping and wildly entertaining.

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So what do you think of Gone Girl? Did it live up to YOUR expectations?

Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2014 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Inspired by my recent viewing of Gone Girl which features yet another collaboration between David Fincher & Trent Reznor, it made me think of other great director/composer partnerships.

Fincher_Reznor

Fincher & Reznor have collaborated on Se7en, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo previously. There are many other similar partnerships that have churned out amazing works: Steven Spielberg & John Williams, Christopher Nolan & Hans Zimmer, Ridley Scott & Hans Zimmer, J.J. Abrams & Michael Giacchino, Peter Jackson & James Horner, just to name a few. Wiki has a list of all director/composer partnerships if you’re curious.

So what’s your favorite director/composer collaborations?
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2. I just want to highlight a couple of new trailers that came out in the last couple of weeks. The main draw for me for both of these are the filmmakers. Now, first one is Blackhat.

A man is released from prison to help American and Chinese authorities pursue a mysterious cyber criminal. The dangerous search leads them from Chicago to Hong Kong.

Now, I’m most curious to see this mostly because I LOVE Michael Mann‘s work and he’s the kind of director who’d go into great lengths into researching his films. His last film he directed was Public Enemies in 2009, and though it’s my least fave film of his, I’m still hugely anticipating what he’ll tackle next. I wonder if he’s spent the last five years researching about cyber crime, but that doesn’t seem far-fetched to me. The casting of Chris Hemsworth as a hacker is a bit odd, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m a fan of Viola Davis however, and the cast & scenery does have an international flair to it. Btw, did you catch that ‘big hammer’ reference in the trailer? ;)

The other one that really piqued my interest is Paul Thomas Anderson‘s comedy caper Inherent Vice.

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.


Confession: I haven’t seen any of PT’s film before. Yes I know, I know, I guess I better get on that. This one might be the first of his movies I’d see on the big screen. It looks like a dark comedy and there are some goofy parts in the trailer, which is interesting as I don’t normally see him directing comedies, but it intrigues me even more. Plus the cast is fantastic, especially Joaquin Phoenix who’s such a chameleon!

Does either one of these trailers pique your interest?

3. Now, this is a VERY special topic for me, considering how big of a fan I am of the massively talented Toby Stephens. Not only is he joining Twitter, woo hoo, he’s also making his directorial debut in a short film called In Vitro, hence his Twitter handle. Ahah, his Twitter background photo is hilarious!

TobyOnTwitter

As Toby’s described in his own words, In Vitro is a film that subtly explores how infertility can erode a marriage, and what can happen when cold science, replaces passion and a sense of mutual purpose. It’s a subject that’s rarely explored in film, but it’s one that [he] feels needs to be. Sounds like one of my fave British actors, Rupert Penry-Jones, have signed on to be the lead actor! How awesome, as both will be in Black Sails 2 next year!

Toby’s looking to get support via the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, here’s the direct link to his project. I’m so thrilled for him and you can bet I’m one of the contributors! ;) Check out the video w/ all the details:

Thoughts on this project? I’m also curious which crowd-funding project(s) are you supporting and/or planning to?
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4. Last night I watched Jon Favreau’s Chef which was pretty enjoyable. Man, even though we watched it after dinner, those food porn shots definitely got us salivating.

ChefMoviePics

Chef is the perfect feel-good movie for the weekend, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The story is pretty engaging though editing could’ve been much tighter. I think a 90-min film would’ve suffice for a story like this one, and the two Iron Man cast (RDJ & Scarlett Johansson) weren’t given hardly anything to do in their gratuitous cameos. Still, the food stuff are incredible. It certainly made me want to take up more cooking and I wish there’s a Cubano food truck like El Jefe here in town!! Last time I was wiping my drool as I watching was when I saw Julie & Julia and Today’s Special.

What are YOUR fave food movies you’d recommend?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Melissa from SnapCrackleWatch blog!

SnapCrackleWatchBlog

Originally we’re going to discuss holiday movies, but let’s table that until November :)

CharlieBrownPumpkinSpecialSince it’s October, and a lot of people are excited about Halloween, Melissa was wondering if you have a film tradition, whether it’s horror or otherwise, to celebrate the season. Melissa mentioned the Charlie Browns Pumpkin Special, which is something I’d be far more inclined to watch than any of the horror offerings out there. For those not a fan of scary movies like me, there are some horror-comedies that are fun to watch year after year, like Shaun of the Dead, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, The Corpse Bride, etc.

So, do you have a Halloween viewing tradition, if so what is it? 


Well, that’s it for the October 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Everybody’s Chattin’ & Question of the Week on Breakthrough Performer of 2014

Happy Thursday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone again today, combining two post *series* in one. I want to highlight some of my fave posts from the past week, as well as pick your brain on the topic of the week: Breakthrough Performer of 2014  :D

EverybodysChattinOk, so let’s start with the links, shall we?

  • Mark reviewed Frank which he calls a wonderful one-of-a-kind, whilst Natalie reviewed Cronenberg’s latest, Maps to The Stars
  • FincherTheGuardianAs Sati‘s been hugely anticipating Gone Girl, she kept up her David Fincher series by ranking his films.
  • Speaking of Gone Girl, Katy wrote this great article about the The Strangely Brilliant Career of Ben Affleck
  • Michael reviewed Tales From Earthsea, a thought-provoking fantasy film from Studio Ghibli and Melissa reviewed the recent thriller The Drop.
  • Cindy‘s perceptive eye is what keeps me coming back to her blog. This week she compares Kubrick’s stares vs Spielberg’s faces in their films
  • There’s been a lot of interesting blog series lately, check out Fisti’s Twice a Best Actress Bloggers roundtable, great discussion with my fellow movie bloggers
  • As I’m anticipating Twin Cities Film Fest in two weeks, my pal Melissa has been busy covering San Diego Film Fest! Check out her latest review of this coming-of-age drama Laggies.
    LaggiesMovieStill
  • A few notable September recaps w/ some great recommendations from Kristin, Chris and Steven.
  • Last but not least, A couple of classic reviews worth checking out: Paula‘s review of PULP for her Mickey Rooney Blogathon, and Stu‘s review of early 50s noir The Hoodlum.

Now for Question of the Week!

RosamundPike_GoneGirlWell, it’s inspired by the release of Gone Girl, more specifically the buzz Rosamund Pike‘s been getting in the role of Amy, I thought this would be an intriguing topic. Now that we’ve only got three months left in the year, we might have a few favorites of performances from this year’s movies. Now, they could either be from *new* actors who’ve never acted before on the big screen, or someone’s who’s been acting for a while but just recently caught your attention. I think the latter is far more interesting and Pike might fit the bill for a lot of people. She has been acting for some time in the UK and has been churning some great performances here in Hollywood as well, but Gone Girl might launch her career on a whole new level.


So my question to you is:

Which actor(s) do you think gives the breakthrough performance of the year?

P.S. I shall be launching a new mini-series highlighting some great performances of the year, so stay tuned! :D

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Movie of SEPTEMBER 2014

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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)

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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)

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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!

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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?

September Blind Spot: Double Indemnity (1944)

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This is the second Billy Wilder film on my Blindspot [first one was The Apartment] and the fourth film of his I’ve seen, which happens to be the fourth film he directed. It’s also the first Barbara Stanwyck movie I saw as well as my first viewing of Fred MacMurray in the lead role. Ok now that we’ve got the stats out of the way, let me tell you that I LOVED it! Some people say it’s one of the best Hollywood noir films and it’s currently ranked #29 Greatest Movie of All Time by AFI. Well, I’d say it lives up to the hype.
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The story is quite simple and easy to follow, though there are twists as the story goes on that makes it all the more intriguing, even if it’s a tad predictable. The gist of the story is this: MacMurray is Walter Neff, an insurance agent who upon meeting the sultry wife of his client somehow got himself talked into a murderous insurance fraud scheme. Double Indemnity refers to a life insurance policy clause where the payout doubles when the recipient dies of an accidental death. The film begins with Walter going into his office at night and starts talking into a Dictaphone Machine. In the shadowy B&W lighting, I slowly notice he has been hurt and that he’s making a confession of a crime he’s committed. The story then goes into flashback mode that clues the audience into just what has happened to Walter and why he’s confessing it all.

It’s a By the time Walter Neff realizes he’s been ensnared by her deceitful net, it was all too late. In a way, I too felt like I had been played by Phyllis into thinking she had been wronged by her husband. But of course as the story unfolds, we learn that Phyllis has been planning this scheme all along and it’s not the first time she’s done something like this. I have to say that the romance isn’t particularly gripping, though the flirtatious banter the first time they meet is quite amusing. It’s obvious Walter was lusting after Phyllis the second he saw her during his routine house call.

“I was thinking about that dame upstairs, and the way she had looked at me, and I wanted to see her again, close, without that silly staircase between us.”

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The dialog sounds a bit cheesy and simplistic at times, it made me laugh how Walter kept calling Phyllis baby. But both actors fit the role nicely, and they do look good together even if the chemistry isn’t exactly scorching. What I do enjoy is the dialog between Walter and his claims adjuster colleague Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). I’ve only seen Robinson in The Ten Commandments as Moses’ adversary Dathan, but he’s the kind of scene-stealing character actor who lights up any scene. He reminds me of Claude Rains in Casablanca, one of my fave performances of all time. At first Keyes seems to be on Walter-Phyllis side, unknowingly working in their favor when he insisted that Phyllis’ husband’s death wasn’t a suicide. Little did they know soon he became their biggest *adversary* that puts their evil scheme in jeopardy. I LOVE this part when Keyes laid it out on Walter that he isn’t easily fooled… and once he’s on to something, he wouldn’t ever let it go.

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Barton Keyes: Eh? There it is, Walter. It’s beginning to come apart at the seams already. Murder’s never perfect. Always comes apart sooner or later, and when two people are involved it’s usually sooner. Now we know the Dietrichson dame is in it *and* a somebody else. Pretty soon, we’ll know who that somebody else is. He’ll show. He’s got to show. Sometime, somewhere, they’ve got to meet. Their emotions are all kicked up. Whether it’s love or hate doesn’t matter; they can’t keep away from each other. They may think it’s twice as safe because there’s two of them [chuckles]

Barton Keyes: but it isn’t twice as safe. It’s ten times twice as dangerous. They’ve committed a *murder*! And it’s not like taking a trolley ride together where they can get off at different stops. They’re stuck with each other and they got to ride all the way to the end of the line and it’s a one-way trip and the last stop is the cemetery. She put in her claim… I’m gonna throw it right back at her. [Walter hands Keyes a light]

Barton Keyes: Let her sue us if she dares. I’ll be ready for her *and* that somebody else. They’ll be digging their own graves.

I love how quickly the table’s turned on Walter/Phyllis, it’s inevitable yet the film manages to create some suspense thanks to Wilder’s direction. There are many iconic scenes here, the store scenes where Walter & Phyllis secretly meet and the scene at Walter’s apartment when Barton drops by unexpectedly come to mind. They both are laden with tension despite not having much action going on.

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The story immediately grabs me, just like The Apartment was. It must be Billy Wilder’s gift to create such a compelling intro. Of course it helps having celebrated crime novelist Raymond Chandler co-writing the screenplay. Though it was only his fourth film, I could see why this was regarded as one of Wilder’s best work. The way the story flows, combined with Miklós Rózsa‘s unsettling score and John F. Seitz‘s stunning cinematography, this film is as captivating as its femme fatale. Barbara Stanwyck‘s Phyllis Dietrichson is beautiful and seductive, but there’s still a certain softness about her that somehow camouflages her wickedness. Stanwyck isn’t over-the-top in her portrayal either, the way some of today’s femme fatale might play someone like her. Think of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct for example, or even Eva Green in the Sin City sequel, Stanwyck’s charm and seduction is a lot more subtle, though definitely not less lethal.

I have to mention the cinematography again here as it really enhances the mood of the film. I read in Wikipedia Seitz used a lighting technique called the “venetian blind” which almost gives the illusion of prison bars trapping the characters. Stanwyck later reflected, “…and for an actress, let me tell you the way those sets were lit, the house, Walter’s apartment, those dark shadows, those slices of harsh light at strange angles – all that helped my performance. The way Billy staged it and John Seitz lit it, it was all one sensational mood.” MacMurray was terrific as well, no wonder my friend Jack D. dedicated a post to him as a superb louse. I love the scenes when his conscience is creeping up on him … “I couldn’t hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.” 

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I’m impressed once again by Wilder’s work here. It’s amazing that this is his first ever thriller as it’s now been regarded as one of the most important film in its noir genre. Though there is very little action in this film, but it’s far from boring. It’s the quintessential film noir driven by story and character, not laden with violence but lacking in real suspense *cough* Sin City 2 *cough* Apparently Stanwyck’s character set the mold of unforgettable femme fatale, and signals a noir trend centered on women of questionable virtue.

The trifecta of main actors: Stanwyck, MacMurray and Robinson are all superb. Everything about this film just works, so I’m surprised it didn’t win any of the seven Oscar nominations. I even like the small details such as the lighter, how Walter often lights Barton’s cigarette. It sort of becomes a thing between the two of them, and in the finale, it’s Barton who lights Walter’s cigarette in his moment of desperation. Whilst the film’s main focus was on the unholy romance of Walter & Phyllis, there’s also a story of friendship between the two men. In a way, his friendship with Barton might’ve given Walter his conscience back. I also learned from Wiki that the ending is different from James M. Cain‘s novel it’s based on, but the author was actually pleased with it.

I’m glad I finally got to see it. I could see how this film inspires countless imitation, in terms of story and character development. Few could match the brilliance of Wilder’s noir masterpiece.

4.5 out of 5 reels


BlindSpotSeriesSidebarCheck out my previous 2014 Blind Spot reviews


So have you seen Double Indemnity? I’d love to hear what you think!

A Fisti Recast-athon: The Devil Wears Prada, Gravity, and Michael Clayton

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Now THIS is a blogathon I can’t wait to take part! Andrew over at A Fistful of Films blog just had a brilliant idea for a recast-athon, similar to what I did here but this time with a slight twist. I’ll let him explain in his own words…

Here is my issue with Hollywood. It seems like these talented women (the men have it much easier) are either relegated to minority-necessary casting (like, we NEED a black actress in this movie because the character is a slave) or they get shoved onto television, where they flourish in short-lived TV shows that the average cinephile has probably never heard of.  It is very rare that a top rate director is going to use an actress of color in a role that doesn’t call for one. Obviously, there are a lot of biopic nominations going on all over the place, but taking those out…look at some of these roles and tell me if they couldn’t have been filled by an actress of color.

  • Nina Sayers (Black Swan)
  • Nic (The Kids are All Right)
  • Cindy (Blue Valentine)
  • Megan (Bridesmaids)
  • Tiffany (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Cheryl (The Sessions)
  • Dolores (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Jasmine (Blue Jasmine)
  • Ryan Stone (Gravity)
  • Ginger (Blue Jasmine)

So here are the RULES:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn’t require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don’t need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person).  This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time. So, in other words, don’t select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968’s Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn’t born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit.  Plead her case.  Let’s tell those Hollywood casting directors what they’re missing.


I LOVE this idea! I often think the same thing too that a lot of these roles could’ve easily been done by so many non-white actresses. I love that Drew focuses on actresses as non-white MALE actors certainly do get it easier than the female counterparts. It’s a shame really as there are SO many talented & beautiful actress of color out there who remain so underutilized. So here are three actresses who I think could’ve given an equally good performance in these Oscar-nominated roles:

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Angela Bassett as Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)

BassettMirandaPriestlyI have always been a big fan of miss Bassett. In fact, I have sort of a girl crush on her from Waiting To Exhale. She obviously epitomizes a strong, perceptive, no-nonsense woman but she has a certain vulnerability as well that make me think she’d be great as Miranda. Bassett is nine years younger than Meryl Streep, but I don’t think age is an issue here. In an era where Lucky Fashion Magazine’s editor in chief and Banana Republic’s creative director are of Taiwanese and Korean descent respectively, why not have a Black woman play a Fashion Mag editor in the movies?

I think Bassett would rock the role with her dramatic chops, and she also has a playful side and a rockin’ body that’d look phenomenal in high fashion. As Meryl portrays Miranda less as a sadistic monster of a boss but more of a fierce/demanding figure, I think Bassett can do the same given her naturally-likable persona.

Bonus: It’d be cool to see gorgeous British actress Naomie Harris in the role of Andy Sachs, the naive college grad who moved to NYC and lands a job as Miranda’s co-assistant.

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I’ve been impressed by Naomie in 28 Days Later, Skyfall and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and I’d LOVE to see her in more prominent roles. She’s even more beautiful than Anne Hathaway but I think she could be made up to look more like the girl-next-door.

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Michelle Yeoh as Ryan Stone (Gravity)

YeohRyanStoneWhen I first saw the trailer of Gravity, I was a bit surprised to see Sandra Bullock as Biomedical engineer Ryan Stone on her first space shuttle mission. She just wasn’t the actress I had in mind in the role, though she did a great job in the end and I think her Oscar nomination was well deserved. Now, I read that Natalie Portman was originally the first choice for the role, but heh, if only Hollywood would think outside the box once in a while. I think an actress who’d suit the role nicely is Michelle Yeoh. It’d somewhat coincide nicely the fact that in June 2012, Chinese space pilot Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space.

Yeoh is actually two years older than Bullock at 52, though both look at least 10 years younger than their age. I always think of the former Miss Malaysia is hugely underrated, despite having churned out great performances in Crouching Tiger, Sunshine, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies and recently, The Lady.

I think her martial-art training and dance background would help with the rigorous physicality required for the role. She also has the dramatic chops to pull off the quieter moments of desperation that Stone encounters when she was all alone in space. I really think Yeoh would’ve done a wonderful job in the role and the film would’ve had an ever bigger International appeal given her popularity in Asia.

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Viola Davis as Karen Crowder (Michael Clayton)

ViolaDavisKarenChowderI had put down miss Davis in this role before I saw her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them where she played a tough but compassionate NYU professor. But now I’m more convinced she’d have been awesome in the role. As she is now playing yet another sharp-witted character, a tough-talking, shrewd defense attorney/law professor in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, you know she would be perfect as the general counsel of an agricultural conglomerate.

I think Hollywood might be reluctant to cast an actor of color in such an unsympathetic role, but I think it’d be a challenging and fun role for someone of Davis’ talent. Chowder is ruthless and even callous, willing to take a life when her cause demands it. But she’s also suffering from a mental breakdown and tough she appears tough and in control in the outside, on the inside she is crippled with anxiety and fear. Though I LOVE Tilda Swinton’s Oscar-winning performance, I can totally see Davis pulling off such an inner conflict with aplomb. Davis’ adept use of subtle body language as well as her magnetic screen presence would also work wonder for such a role.


What do you think of my recast-athon picks? If you were to do your own recasting, who would YOU pick?

FlixChatter Review: The Equalizer (2014)

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With the comic book based films dominating the box office, the trend in Hollywood of turning old TV shows into films has died down the last decade or so. I remember back in the 90s, there were new movies based on TV shows coming out every year, Mission: Impossible, The Fugitive, The Brady Bunch Movie and The Saint were some examples. Of course that doesn’t mean Hollywood is going to stop turning old shows into movies, this latest one has been in development for a few years. Originally the late Tony Scott was attached to direct and Russell Crowe was set to star as the lead. After a couple of years of development, Crowe had to drop out to do other films, Denzel Washington was then cast but of course we all know what happened to Scott. The film was put on hiatus for a couple of years until Antoine Fuqua was hired to direct.

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Set in Boston, the movie opens with the daily life of a mysterious man named Robert McCall (Washington), he works at store that’s very similar to Home Depot. We get to see his every day routines and who interacts with at work. He couldn’t sleep at night so he’d always go to a local diner next to his home. One night he strikes up a conversation with a young woman named Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), right away we know that Teri is a working girl. But McCall is nice to her and never sees her as anything more than a kid who’s having a tough life. A few days later, McCall found out that Teri was rough up by her pimp named Slavi (David Meunier, cousin Johnny from Justified). He decided to pay Slavi a visit and offer him $9800 for Teri’s freedom. Slavi refused and as most of you probably seen in the trailer, McCall took out Slavi and his men easily. As it turns out Slavi was a one of the pawns of a ruthless Russian mobster named Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich), he’s one of the biggest crime lord in the world. Upon learning that one of pawns in the US was taken out, he sends his right-hand man Teddy (the always over top and cheesy Marton Csokas) to investigate and bring in who ever was responsible for the killings.

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Not surprisingly, the movie was pretty much a by-the-number action thriller, nothing will surprise you except for maybe the over the top violence. Some might say it’s gratuitous but I think we are use to seeing watered down PG-13 action movies the last decade or so that we forgot how violent action movies were back in the 80s and 90s, so I wasn’t bothered by the violence.

Director Antoine Fuqua kept some elements from the TV show but wisely update many things for today’s audiences. I wasn’t a fan of his last flick; the dreadful and ugly looking Olympus Has Fallen. Here I thought he did a good job of balancing the drama and action, the movie was borderline of becoming too serious for its own good but I never thought it took itself way too serious like some other action pictures. He reunited with his cinematographer Mauro Fiore, they previously worked together on Training Day and Tears of the Sun. I thought the movie looked great, it has that gritty feel to it that reminded me of Scorsese’s gangster films and even though the movie was shot digitally, they still made it looked like it’s shot on film. I’ve mentioned many times, I can’t stand watching movies that looks like it’s shot with consumer camcorders. Fuqua also staged some cool and very brutal hand to combat sequences, the climatic fight between McCall and one of Teddy’s henchmen was quite bloody and painful to watch. For this kind of movie I wanted to see more shootouts and explosions but there were enough action that I wasn’t too disappointed. But for the climatic action sequence, I didn’t understand why Fuqua decided to copy Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider. Seriously he must’ve watched that movie and thought “Hey I can do that for my movie and no one will probably know since Pale Rider came out almost 30 years ago!” Sorry Fuqua, film geeks like myself will always know.

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This movie was a one-man show and again Washington shines as the action hero. McCall’s a mix of Creasy from Man on Fire, Travis from Taxi Driver and the Preacher from Pale Rider. He’s one-man army that can take down an army of assassins with no problems. As mentioned earlier, the always over-acting Marton Csokas does it again here as the antagonist Teddy. He wasn’t as cheesy as his character in XXX, kind of similar to his assassin turn in The Bourne Supremacy. Moretz only appeared in the movie briefly as the young hooker and then disappeared and she did okay for her part, kind of similar to Jodie Foster’s character in Taxi Driver, pretty sure she won’t get an Oscar like Foster did though.

As fan of the old TV show I was satisfied with the movie version but again it’s nothing new but just another by the number action thriller. If you’re a big fan of the TV show then you might have issues with some of the changes the movie made for today’s audiences but like Mission: Impossible, you can’t please everyone. It’s obvious that Sony hopes this one will be hit because the movie set up with sequels in mind. I say this was an entertaining action picture and good for a matinee or rental.

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Have you seen The Equalizer? Well, what did you think?

Twin Cities Film Fest 2014 Lineup is here! See what’s playing on Oct 16-25

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Woo hoo!! Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is less than a month away, showcasing some award-season heavyweights that’s been generating tons of buzz! From October 17 – October 26, Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON at The Shops at West End will be the place to be at for movie fans, I know I’ll be there! TCFF and Renters Warehouse, the official theater sponsor, will feature a total of 40 full-length films and 37 shorts. Filmmaker and talent attendance will be announced in the coming weeks. 

I’m especially thrilled that one of my most-anticipated Fall films will be showing in the second week, I think you’ll know which one it is :D Here’s a sampling of the awesome lineup this year, for full showtimes & full info, check out the Films page of the TCFF official site.

Feature Films

Men, Women & Children (Thurs 10/16)

Director: Jason Reitman
Cast:  Emma Thompson, Jennifer Garner, Rosemary DeWitt, Judy Greer, Ansel Egort, Adam Sandler

MenWomenChildrenA group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives.

This one definitely looks intriguing and what a great cast! Ok so I never in a million years thought I’d see Emma Thompson and Adam Sandler in a movie together, ahah. But hey maybe in a more serious role, Sandler could be bearable. The premise reminds me a bit of Disconnect which I saw last year, but hopefully not as bleak.

The Imitation Game (Fri, 10/24)

Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Allen Leech

ImitationGameBenedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal.

I’m beyond thrilled to see we’ve got this film! As you know it’s on my most-anticipated Fall movies list, and the film’s been getting a ton of buzz lately. Seems like a shoo-in for the awards race from this year. I LOVE the cast [obviously] and it’s such an intriguing and important film, so I’m glad it’ll have a regional premiere at TCFF before it opens in November!
……

Wild (Sat, 10/25)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast:
Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gabby Hoffman

WildMovieA self-destructive woman (Witherspoon) attempts to leave behind her years of drug abuse and reckless sex with a solo, 1,000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, in this adaptation of Minnesota-native Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir from director Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”).

Given the success of Dallas Buyers Club last year, naturally people are curious if Vallee can continue his critical streak with this one. The premise doesn’t immediately grab me but when handled well, stories like this can be quite powerful.


Indie Narratives

There are a plethora of indie films this year, more than a dozen to be exact. There are a variety of genres featuring new and familiar faces. There’s even a directorial debut from Courtney Cox. Here are just a select few that piqued my interest:

The Last Time You Had Fun (10/17 & 10/24)

Director: Mo Perkins
Cast: 
Kyle Bornheimer, Eliza Coupe, Mary Elizabeth Ellis

When Clark and Will meet Alison and Ida in a wine bar, the foursome struggle to have the most fun that four, bickering, barely married, pre-middle-aged, decidedly dysfunctional adults are capable of having.

The Well (10/18 & 10/22)

Director: Thomas S. Hammock
Cast: 
Haley Lu Richardson, Booboo Stewart, Max Charles

At the edge of a barren valley, all that remains of the Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings and the memories of Kendal, a seventeen-year-old girl who can barely recall when the valley was lush. It’s been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Only Kendal and a few others remain, barely scraping by while dreaming of escape. When a gang leader named Carson lays claim to what little precious water remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for what little she has left in this post-apocalyptic thriller. 

3 Nights in the Desert (Sat, 10/18)

Director: Gabriel Cowan
Cast:
Wes Bentley, Vincent Piazza, Amber Tamblyn

At a remote desert property, three estranged friends and former bandmates reunite to celebrate turning thirty. Travis, the wild man of the group, obsesses over producing revolutionary new music. So he has a plan in mind for his two friends: Barry, now a married lawyer, and Anna,back from years in Asia as a budding solo act. Travis leads his friends to a cave, promising that if they enter, it has the power to give them what they need. Barry and Anna laugh off Travis, still the mythmaker of the crew, but over the weekend unsettling desires rise to the surface. Soon the friends begin to wonder if it’s the power of suggestion that affects them or if the cave has a real power to threaten all they hold to be true.

House of Mansion (Sat, 10/18)

Director: Brandon Slagle
Cast: Ryan Kiser, Reid Warner, Chriss Anglin, Devanny Pinn, Tristan Risk, Suzi Lorraine

House of Mansion chronicles Charles Manson’s life from childhood up until his arrest following the raid on Barker Ranch months after the infamous Tate/LaBianca murders that sent a shockwave not just through Los Angeles, but throughout the entire world.

The Heart Machine (10/18 & 10/24)

Director: Zachary Wigon
Cast: 
John Gallagher Jr., Kate Lyn Sheil, David Call

This modern mystery tells the story of Cody (John Gallagher Jr., from TV’s “The Newsroom”) and Virginia, who start talking while he is in Brooklyn and she is in Berlin. It is a romance that could only happen online, and they’re happy together, though they’ve never physically met. Once Cody becomes suspicious that Virginia may not be in Berlin at all, he becomes obsessed with finding the truth. Tracking two parallel journeys that show how technology complicates modern love, “The Heart Machine” explores the evolving relationships among physical and emotional intimacy, isolation in the urban hive, and the seduction of hiding behind a screen.


Time Lapse (Sat, 10/25)

Director: Bradley King
Cast: 
Danielle Panabaker, Matt O’Leary, George Finn

Three friends discover a mysterious machine that takes pictures 24hrs into the future and conspire to use it for personal gain, until disturbing and dangerous images begin to develop.

 

Just Before I Go* (Fri, 10/19)

Director: Courtney Cox
Cast: Seann William Scott, Kate Walsh, Olivia Thirby

Starring Minnesotan Seann William Scott, Directing debut of actress Courtney Cox. The story focuses on Ted, a man who decides to end his mediocre life. But before doing so, he returns to his home- town to revisit the demons of his past: the cruel school teacher; the relentless bully; the girl who got away. While staying with his brother and his dysfunctional family, he makes an unexpected connection with a girl who decides to document his last few days. A motley cast of characters helps Ted realize that life is complicated for everyone and the memories of the past can be reinterpreted.

* No trailer yet, so I will add that as soon as I have it


Documentaries

I always catch some intriguing docs during film festivals and this year is no different. I LOVE documentaries as they immerse you in a world that are often so different from your own. You’re likely entertained whilst you learn and experience something that’d make a lasting impression.

Hunger in America (10/22)

Minnesota filmmakers will again be featured among award contenders, including 2014 TCFF Centerpiece film Hunger in America, a powerful documentary tackling the hunger epidemic in the US. The film’s produced by Minneapolis’ own Tim VandeSteeg and narrated by James Denton. VandeSteeg and Denton will appear at the special benefit with partial proceeds being donated to ­­­­the St. Louis Park Foodshelf, an organization battling hunger in the Twin Cities Community. 

 

Stray Dog (10/20 & 10/23)

From the director of “Winter’s Bone” — Ron “Stray Dog” Hall lives in Southern Missouri where he owns and operates the At Ease RV Park. After seven years of living with four small dogs as his only companions, he is adjusting to life with his wife, Alicia, who is newly arrived from Mexico. Anchored by his small dogs and big bikes, Stray Dog seeks to strike a balance between his commitment to his family, neighbors, biker brotherhood, and fellow veterans. As part of the legacy of fighting in the Vietnam War, he wrestles with the everlasting puzzle of conscience, remorse, and forgiveness. With Stray Dog as our guide, we experience the restlessness of ex-warriors as he tries to make peace with what he can’t change and weathers the incomprehension of those who have never been to war.

 

Flying Paper (Mon, Oct 22)

Flying Paper is the uplifting story of Palestinian children in Gaza engaged in the fascinating culture of kite making and flying.

The film follows Musa, a charismatic teenaged kite-maker in the village of Seifa, and Abeer an aspiring young journalist in the Jabalya refugee camp. They join a remarkable quest, along with thousands of other children, to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown.

It showcases the creative resilience of these children making and flying kites despite the difficult realities they face in their daily lives. The film has been co-produced with young Palestinians in Gaza trained by the filmmakers through a youth media program called Voices Beyond Walls. Through the perspective of children and young people comes a story of determination and artistic expression as the youth in the film work together to achieve a shared goal.

 …


Shorts Block

I think it’s cool that TCFF gives a venue for shorts filmmaker to showcase their work. I saw a bunch of great ones last year, including one from Conor Holt who’s now part of TCFF staff called A Better Life. The short films are offered in a block of a half dozen or so, grouped together based on its themes.

WomenInChargeShortsWomen in Charge (Sat, 10/25)

Run Time: 77 Minutes
We celebrate the advancement and impact of women in this eclectic group of narrative shorts. All of these films in Women in Charge block are either produced or directed by a woman, have a strong lead female character, or both. Whether it’s a clever romance, ageless love, mystery, or a kick ass heroin, you’ll enjoy this diverse journey lead by women. Films Include:

Apartment 3
Carrot Cake
Run
The Contractor
Zugzwang
Inconscious
Beyond Surveillance
Escape

LoveLustLossShorts

Lust, Love and Lost (Fri, 10/24) 

From the first sparks of attraction to the depths of a long term relationship, Lust, Love, and Loss short block examines the complexities of the significant relationships in our lives with both ourselves and with others. How do we grieve? What is the truth? How often should a couple have sex? Films include:

Destroyer
Evergreen
How ‘Bout Now?!
The Cat’s Cradle
North
Sad Clown
What Cheer?

 


TCFF’s Silver, Gold & Platinum Passes are now available!

TCFFtickets

Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening or Closing; Documentary Pass $45 for 8 select films; Gala Pass $80 for a 5 pack of tickets to one gala film of choice (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening or Closing Tickets).

GET THEM EARLY
(while supplies last)

Individual tickets will go on-sale at twincitiesfilmfest.org beginning October 3.

2014 Ticket Prices are as follows:  General Admission $10; Opening Gala $25 (proceeds going to local charities); Closing Gala $20.


What do you think of TCFF’s 2014 lineup folks? Any one of these on your must-see list?