Music Break: 5 Memorable Piano Moments on Film

MemorablePianoMoments

As a big fan of classical music, I have always been a fan of piano music. In fact, I grew up listening to Richard Clayderman in the car nearly every single day as the French pianist is my late mother’s favorite.

This month’s music break is inspired by a scene I saw on Monday night. It was in the new drama Breathe-In starring Guy Pearce who plays a music teacher and aspiring concert cellist who’s tempted by a high school British exchange student in the form of Felicity Jones. There is a scene where she played the piano for him right after both being drenched by a thunderstorm. Brimming with breathless sexual tension, let’s just say their mutual attraction reached a crescendo.

It made me think of other memorable piano scenes in movies. Now, I’m not talking about films that are about musicians like Amadeus, Immortal Beloved, Copying BeethovenGreat Balls of Fire! or movies with piano/pianist in the title for obvious reasons (plus I haven’t seen The Pianist yet, but I’m guessing there are many piano moments in it). No matter what the genre, a well-choreographed piano scene is not just about the music itself. As some of these scenes exemplify, they can stir up various emotions, whether it’s sweet, fun, tense, happy, melancholy, or ominous.

Here are five to start with and I hope you, my friends, can add your own favorites in the comment section:

STOKER

Just like the scene in Breathe-In, the sexual tension is ricocheting off the walls and the ceiling of the whole room. So much so that one can’t help but squirm in one’s seat as the scene reaches its er, climax.

Casablanca

“Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake.” It’s one of the most misquoted line from Hollywood classics. I love this scene, it’s romantic but tinged with sadness. Ingrid Bergman never looked so luminous and As Time Goes By remains one of my favorite songs ever.

Corpse Bride

I didn’t plan on having an animated feature on this list but somehow I just remembered how much I enjoyed this scene. It’s one of my fave Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter many collaborations, and they made a sweet musical duet.

Groundhog Day

This is such a great movie as it’s full of surprises. I love Phil’s piano solo, especially when he played Rachmaninoff’s 18th Variation on a Theme by Paganini, as in the music used in Somewhere in Time.

Moonraker

What, a Bond film? Well, why the heck not? I’ve shared it on this blog before that my early introduction to classical music was partly through Roger Moore’s Bond movies, as the Spy Who Loved Me introduced me to Mozart as Bond villain Stromberg played Piano Concerto No. 21. This scene is particularly memorable as it’s the first time Bond met his nemesis Drax, an elegant billionaire with a penchant for killer dogs and classical music.


As a bonus, I had to add this one in The Fabulous Baker Boys. Though really who notices the piano when you’ve got Michelle Pfeiffer in that red dress, ahah. Amazing that Jeff Bridges didn’t make one false notes watching her sexy rendition of Making Whopee.


Well, hope you enjoy today’s music break. What are some of YOUR fave piano moments in movies?

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MSPIFF14 Reviews: JOE & Brave Miss World documentary

MSPIFF_Reviews

JOE

Review by Josh P.

JOEmovieposterOften grim, Joe is well made and gripping, though, perhaps, not for the faint-hearted. In the film’s first scene, writers Larry Brown & Gary Hawkins and director David Gordon Green define Joe as a harsh drama. In it, fifteen-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) accosts his father, Wade (Gary Poulter), for being an abusive alcoholic. Gary’s soliloquy helps solidify the film’s identity, of course, as does Wade’s response, but Green’s camera angle is even more effective; it is an unchanging over-the-shoulder shot, one that shows us the back of Gary’s head and most of Wade’s face.

From this first image, we know that Gary is not in control, that he will have to fight for success. Joe promises to be about a child on the precipice, one whom the world ignores.

It delivers. When Gary meets Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage), an ex-convict with a good heart but uncontrolled anger, the former convinces the latter to hire him and his father for laborious work as corporate tree killers. In his excitement, Gary runs home to tell his family he’s found work, but neither his mother nor father reciprocate his elation. Worse, Wade refuses to help Gary get groceries in town, only finally agreeing to join his son after lengthy conversation. Upon enlisting his father’s aid, Gary sees a stranger, Willie (Ronnie Gene Blevins), and asks for a ride. But Willie does not help. And neither does Wade, no matter what Willie says or does to his son.

Gary is too young and uninformed for such a life, but only Joe and Connie (Adriene Mishler) care. And only Joe helps. Helps so much, in fact, that he becomes Gary’s role model and surrogate father, his own emotional issues notwithstanding. Brown, Hawkins and Green’s plot, then, effectively adheres to theme: as Joe himself asks, more or less, how does society allow its children to be this disadvantaged? Why don’t people help them?

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It is an upsetting question, made all the more so because Green immerses in it. When Joe should be disturbing, the directoruses every filmmaking element to fuel the audience’s anxiety. Consider when Wade stalks a homeless man. We hear soft, beat-heavy music mixed with natural footstep sound editing, at the same time we see a wide-angle shot that frames both men. The shot is held so long, the walk so drawn out, that we dread the scene’s resolution. When Wade lights a cigarette, our dread turns to fear. It is only one example of Green’s directorial skill, but it is emblematic. Joe would not be half so effective without the director’s artistic touches.

A narrative that sufficiently develops most of its characters helps, as well. As do powerhouse performances from Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan and Gary Poulter. All three men are note-perfectly captivating. Ditto that for Joe’s occasional flights of humor, which lighten the mood just enough to make the film entertaining.

If still imperfect, mostly because Willie is poorly written. Why, really, does he hate Joe? Why he is so bent on revenge? Why does he freak out at Gary the first time they meet? Why, in other words, is he who he is? We can only begin to answer such questions, and none of our answers move beyond theories.

Despite this significant flaw, Joe accomplishes its objectives and merits a recommendation.

four and a half stars out of five
4 out of 5 reels

Review by Josh

JJamesReviews


Brave Miss World

BraveMissWorldDocI’ve always been attracted to documentaries about social issues and this one immediately grabbed my attention. Linor Abargil seemed to have the world on her feet at 18. I mean she beat hundreds of contestants to win the Miss World title in 1998. But little did most of the world then knew that she was abducted, stabbed and raped in Milan by someone she trusted, her travel agent, just six weeks before she was crowned.

Some documentaries are tough to get into, especially when the subject is as bleak as rape. Yet this film kept my attention from the start thanks to the protagonist of the film. Linor became the reluctant ‘face’ if you will for survivor of sexual violence. Though she had the support of families n friends, she was still haunted by the horrifying event. I applaud her for speaking out however, and using her Miss World fame to help others. Though at times it wore her out and took an emotional toll on her that she had to revisit that terrible night every time another woman confessed she had been raped, she kept going. I wonder why at times, and so did her family members, as her parents candidly shared to the camera how they dread her taking on this cause. It helps that how open and candid her family & friends were, including her then-boyfriend who’s now her husband, about sharing how they felt about Linor and her journey.

As the documentary took us on a journey along with Linor though, I’m inspired that Linor chose to turn a brutal act into be something that brings light to a lot of suffering women around the world. At the same time, the experience of talking to fellow survivors was sort of a healing process for her. It was also a quest to bring her rapist to justice. Turns out her rapist has done this crime before and so she was determined to keep him behind bars when he became eligible for parole. The mix of Linor’s personal journey and the cause to bring sexual violence to light wasn’t always seamlessly done however, and editing could’ve been tightly done to maintain the focus on the protagonist. The abrupt detour showing Hollywood stars (Joan Collins, Fran Drescher) who shared their own experience of being raped felt a bit jarring, as it sort of took me out of the film a bit.

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Towards the end of the film, we saw quite a striking transformation of Linor. Her conversion to Judaism may seem quite drastic but I for one didn’t think that her new-found faith was merely a spiritual *crutch* nor that it was merely an act of desperation of some sort. I felt that her desire to be closer to God is a natural passage as she somehow starts to see herself in a different light. I respect that and I’m glad that her spiritual journey was not cut out from the film. I felt that she’s far more beautiful in her natural state, without any makeup or glamorous clothing, as her inner beauty really shines through.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


BraveMissWorldWebsiteFor more info and how you could take action to support this cause, check out Brave Miss World’s official website. She will be making the film festival rounds for the next few weeks. Hope you’ll check out this film when it’s playing near you.

You can also read (and share your own) stories on the site, as well as info on how to get help if you need it.


What do you think of these films?

Weekend Viewing Roundup & MSPIFF14 Review: Intruders (2013)

MSPIFF14_April6

After the snow storm on Friday, this weekend turned out to be absolutely gorgeous. Saw four movies this weekend:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier for the second time around (yep, still love it!). It’s currently my favorite Marvel stand-alone movie!
  • Capricorn One – a fantastic 1977 space conspiracy thriller (Thanks Michael for lending it to me!). Review upcoming but I really enjoyed this one, and that ending was awesome!
    CapricornOnePostr
  • For my first day at MSPIFF, I saw two films yesterday:
    BraveMissWorld_JOE

I should have reviews of both Brave Miss World and David Gordon Green’s JOE later this week but I’m thrilled to not only saw such a great documentary about such an important yet devastating issue of rape, but I got to meet filmmaker Cecilia Peck, yes Gregory Peck daughter! After the Q&A, I went up to her and tell her how huge of a fan I was of her dad, and that I appreciate her making such a great film on an important topic. She clearly cares about social justice issues like her dad did, and she is just as beautiful inside and out as well. Too bad all four of the photos taken were so dark (turns out the flash was off), but you could see a bit of our smiling faces I think :D

 


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I’m thrilled to tag team with Josh from JJames Reviews (who’s way more than qualified btw) in covering MSPIFF 2014! He’ll be contributing MSPIFF reviews for the next three weeks. Starting with this one from South Korea:

INTRUDERS

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The Festival staffperson who introduced Intruders pitched it as being “Fargo by way of South Korea.” She wasn’t far off, at least when considering the ways both films generate humor through flawed characters and unexpected plot twists. That each includes sweeping wintry landscapes and impressive cinematography facilitates the comparison, as well.

In Intruders, writer Sang-jin (Jun Suk-ho) takes a bus to the Gangwon province in South Korea’s mountainous north, where he plans to stay at a closed and otherwise unoccupied bed and breakfast that belongs to his boss’s family. While alone at the resort, Sang-jin hopes to finally complete his screenplay, for which his boss is impatiently waiting. Unfortunately, the writer faces significant challenges, including writers’ block, a talkative ex-convict named Hak-su (Oh Tae-kyung), two scary hunters, a group of young skiers who think he manages the resort, and a local police officer (Choi Moo-soung). It only gets worse when he becomes increasingly convinced that the bed and breakfast is unsafe.

Along the way, Intruders reminds us of several mainstream films, including, of course, Fargo (1996), but also Prisoners (2013) and Misery (1990), a project writer/director Noh Young-seok jokingly references in Intruders’ first act. All are favorable comparisons, largely because Noh makes many strong authorial and directorial decisions. Start with his screenplay, which impressively shows not tells the most important characters. We know Sang-jin intimately, despite only passing references to his backstory and limited dialogue explaining his current motivations. Then, we see him change through carefully developed scenes.

Hak-su and the cop are similarly well written, but Noh struggles a bit with his secondary characters. The hunters are enigmas and most of the skiers are stereotypically inconsiderate youngsters, indistinguishable from one another. Only Yu-mi (Han En-sun) is given some treatment, but even she is too thinly defined, what with only two character traits: angry and shrill.

Intruders_Korea_Stills

Yet, Noh Young-seok’s screenplay mostly overcomes flaws in development of secondary characters, partially because it masterfully foreshadows plot twists, so well, in fact, that we are never certain what will happen next, but also never stunned into disbelief by new developments. In his long opening sequence, for instance, Noh shows Sang-jin’s obliviousness, playing it for humor but also staying with it long enough that we know it will be important later. Frequent newscasts foreshadow what is to come, as do many other examples I will not directly cite.

That Intruders is often laugh out loud funny, even in its darkest moments, helps as well. As do the actors, all of whom are perfectly understated. Special mention to Oh Tae-kyung who plays Hak-su so skillfully that we can never be certain whether or not the character is an innocent bystander, a villain or something in between.

Neither the screenplay nor the actors are Intruders greatest merit, however. Noh’s direction is. Take for example, his camera work. By frequently placing subjects in the center of the screen, and by using lengthy point of view shots, the director increases our sense of intimacy with his characters. Plus, he keeps the camera perfectly still for the majority of the film, only to move it in bursts of lengthy pans, arcs and editing cuts, techniques that heighten or lessen tension fittingly. As just one more example of Noh’s directorial talent, Intruders’ ambiguous symbolism works very well; when, at one point, Noh cuts away to a close up of a spider web, we have to wonder: is Sang-jun the spider or the trapped prey?

The director is so good that we can overlook Intruders’ unsatisfying jump cut to end credits or its inconsistent use of telephones. No matter its few minor flaws, this film is very good.

four and a half stars out of five
4 out of 5 reels

P.S. So far, Intruders lacks US distribution. Hopefully that changes.

Review by Josh

JJamesReviews


Thoughts on the film(s) above? What did YOU see this weekend, folks?

Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2014 Edition

FiveForTheFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only 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. April Fools was just four days ago, man it seems like it was ages ago for Unbreakable_Postersome reason. Some of you caught the prank I pulled that day, and surely the interweb was full of fake news. One of them I read was this article listing three fake news stories we wish were real. One of those fake headlines says that M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable 2 Confirmed for 2015.

Per the article, ‘the studio indicated that the sequel will be set well after the events of the original film, and will follow Willis’ character as he learns more about his powers and the responsibility that comes with them.’ Oh man, if only that were true!! I’ve long been awaiting to see Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their roles, Unbreakable is my favorite M. Night’s film and one I’d wish to see a follow-up on. It’s been 14 years since its release and I still think it’d be worth revisiting the first truly *dark* superhero film.

Did you read any April Fools fake news you wish were real?
….

2. Switching gear to a superhero follow-up that’s been breaking box office record [pardon the pun]. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is poised to be the biggest movie of 2014 so far. According to Box Office Mojo, the Friday take of $37 mil would likely wind up to about $110 -$120 mil final weekend tally. I’m glad it’s doing well as I’ve said in my review it’s my favorite Marvel stand-alone movie yet, though I still have a special fondness for the first film.

MarvelStudiosFilms

Surely everyone’s going to have a different opinion on this. So, just for the heck of it, how about we rank 10 Marvel Studios movies from 2000, but only those involving character that appear in The Avengers. That means we’re NOT counting the X-Men movies, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, etc. Here they are alphabetically:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Hulk
  4. The Incredible Hulk
  5. Iron Man
  6. Iron Man 2
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Thor
  9. Thor: The Dark World
  10. The Avengers

So how would you rank these 10 Marvel movies?

……
3. Right now I’ll be watching a bunch of indie films at MSPIFF  2014. One of them I sadly have to miss because of a scheduling conflict is Tom Hardy‘s LOCKE.

LockePoster

A successful construction manager’s life is drastically changed by a series of phone calls while he drives.

Now this film that puts one actor in a confined location, more of a one-man-show for the entire film if we’re to judge from the trailer that I posted here. We’re only seeing Hardy as Ivan Locke as he takes a series of phone calls as he’s driving in a car, but boy is it gripping! I really think that the casting is what make or break this types of films, as that actor would have to be charismatic enough to hold our attention whilst seemingly not much is happening. As I’m a big fan of Hardy, naturally I’m intrigued.

My question is two fold: What do you think of Locke? And which actor would you like to watch in a similar confined setting like this one? 


4. Any casting news involving Chiwetel Ejiofor always makes me smile as I’ve been championing him for some time. Last time he was rumored in Star Wars also made a Five for the Fifth subject, if only that were true! Now as a massive Bond fan, of course this casting news piqued my interest!

ChiwetelEjioforBONDvillain

Seems that lately, or at least since Sam Mendes was on board, the new plan seems to be only to hire Oscar winners/nominees as Bond villain, ahah. In Skyfall we’ve got Oscar winner Javier Bardem, and now, Ejiofor is reportedly the top choice for Bond 24 which is currently in production. I’m definitely stoked if he were cast, though my initial thought was that fellow Black Brit Idris Elba would also make a great choice, given he’s got that devilish charm about him. I’ve never seen Ejiofor’s sinister side on screen before but I’m sure the massively talented actor is more than up for the task! With Ralph Fiennes and Naomi Harris returning, boy this is going to be one heck of a Bond cast. This might be the case where I’d love the villain more than the hero, ahah.

Thoughts on this casting rumor? Who would YOU like to see cast as Bond villain?

5. What a perfect segue to the last topic as we’ve got a former Bond villain in this one. I just backed this Kickstarter project ENEMY OF MAN, starring Sean Bean, Rupert Grint, James D’Arcy, Jason Flemyng and Charles Dance.

EnemyOfManMovie

Enemy of Man is an ambitious feature length retelling of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Macbeth.

This will be the feature directorial debut of actor Vincent Regan. I really like him in TROY and 300, I thought he gave one of the best performances in 300, as well as the most heart-wrenching. Regan is no stranger to Shakespeare, he’s a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare and National theaters. Sean Bean apparently played Macbeth on London West End and this gave him a chance to revisit the character for a larger audience.

All money raised from this campaign will go towards taking the film into pre-production. You can read the details on the Kickstarter link above as well as a preview to the teaser trailer. Below is Sean Bean talking about his involvement in this project:

This looks pretty promising and the talented British actors involved are quite underrated. I hope they’ll meet their goal and get this film made! As of right now, there is only 15 hours left and they still need about $33K to meet their goal.

Whether or not you choose to back it, what do you think of this project and the cast involved?


Well, that’s it for the APRIL 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

FlixChatter Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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It’s always nice when a movie lives up to one’s expectations, even better when it exceeds it. As a big fan of the first film, I’m already invested in the character of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. I think director Joe Johnston did an outstanding job in introducing a superhero who’s not inherently cool like most of his peers, but his origins story has its undeniable charm and intrigue, not to mention that it perfectly sets up the larger universe of The Avengers. Naturally I was slightly dismayed that Johnston was replaced by a relatively *unknown* pair of directors, Joe & Anthony Russo have done mostly TV work, but as it turns out, I needn’t worry.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier picks up where the first film left off and immediately hits the ground running. Literally. Cap and his future ally Sam ‘The Falcon’ Wilson (Anthony Mackie) *meets cute* during a morning jog near the Washington Monument. It’s a humorous scene filled with all kinds of patriotic symbolism and an efficient throwback to our formerly frozen hero adjusting to modern society, what with his notebook filled with pop culture references he’s missed out on and his ride Black Widow calling him a old fossil. It’s tough living as a man out of his time, the only place he’s most familiar with is the Smithsonian which puts the bygone era on display. The ideals Rogers fought for and believed in has been long gone. “S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the world as it is, not as we’d like to be!” Nick Fury tells him, and he’s given a tour to the monstrous helicarrier hangar that reminds me of the Shatterdome (Jaeger-making factory) in Pacific Rim.

CapAmericaWinterSoldierStills1

The conspiracy theory stuff harkens us to the 70s paranoia thrillers, which also borrows some themes from Minority Report when Cap quipped ‘I thought the punishment usually came AFTER the crime.’ Yet somehow the story feels so timely thanks to the Edward Snowden NSA scandal about how the Big Brother style government is still very much with us.

Fans of espionage movies like me would love the story arc here where Cap struggles with a moral dilemma and trust issues, but action fans should be pleased with the amount of exciting fight sequences, hand-to-hand combat, and one of the most relentless car chases in history! It’s an exhilarating, adrenaline-pumping scene of the geek-gasm variety. Nice to see Samuel L. Jackson given more screen time here, instead of merely showing up to berate the Avengers or give out orders. But he also gets to do his usual scenery-chewing best. The dynamic between Cap and Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson sporting a sleek new haircut) is fun to watch as well. They couldn’t be more different from each other. Cap with his straight-as-an-arrow sensibilities where he sees things as black or while, whilst ex-KGB Romanoff practically lives in a gray area all her life. It’s an unlikely Avenger-pairing, as she also volunteers to be his matchmaker, that works quite well here as she unrelentingly tries to brings Cap out of his shell. Anthony Mackie is delightfully charming as The Falcon, I secretly cheer every time he came on screen. The interaction between him & Cap provides some of the biggest laughs, but there are also moments that highlights our hero’s humanity.

I overheard someone complain right after the screening that there were too much drama and not enough action. Now I couldn’t disagree more with whoever said that, as I definitely think there’s a nice balance of thrilling action and engaging dramatic tension throughout. Even the decidedly quieter moments has its purpose, and without giving anything away, it’s one I was particularly looking forward to. Even during the most action-packed fight scenes, there’s emotional moments that keeps the blam, whack, pow punches from ringing hollow, especially the moment Cap realizes who The Winter Soldier turns out to be. The action stuff looks quite spectacular all around, which I’ve come to expect from the $170 mil budget. I’m glad to say I didn’t get dizzy from slo-mo or shaky-cam techniques and there’s just the right amount of CGI as the fight sequences felt pretty realistic.

CapAmericaWinterSoldierStills2

Kudos to Chris Evans for truly bringing the character to life in such a compelling way. He seems far more confident in the role as well as an actor, which makes Steve Rogers’ journey all the more intriguing. He comes across as someone who’ve seen a lot and been through a lot, a broken-hearted man who somehow doesn’t become embittered by it all. He’s not just a hero because he’s a super soldier with perfect human specimen physique, but it’s his unapologetic goodness and abiding principles that makes him truly worth rooting for. That said, we still get to see plenty of cool scenes that shows what Cap is really capable of physically that’s amplified even more than the first film. He and his seemingly indestructible shield are truly pushed to their limit this time around. There are lots of action-packed scenes worth rewinding for once I get my hands on the Blu-ray!

The supporting cast is first rate all around. Robert Redford effortlessly adds gravitas as the S.H.I.E.L.D. big honcho Alexander Pierce. It’s shrewd casting given how a few of his early espionage films inspired the screenwriters of this film. He serves as a nice contrast to the more larger-than-life villain [but perhaps deemed too cartoonish] of the first Captain America film. Nary of a maniacal laugh or anything of the sort, Pierce is quite a sinister figure. There is one particular scene in his house that actually makes my blood run cold. Sebastian Stan gets most of the action scenes and perhaps not as much of the dramatic stuff, but I do think he has the chops. That’s a good thing as the actor signs multiple-picture deals with Marvel as the inevitable successor of the franchise. I also have to mention Frank Grillo who elevates his character way above the typical thug-ish bad guy. He’s one reliable character actor who I wish would get more prominent roles in Hollywood.

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I think it’s brilliant that this sequel is set in the political thriller genre and not focusing too much on the fish-out-of-water cliché of Cap’s existence. I applaud the studio for making bold choices in the plot, which has been aptly called ‘a game changer’ in terms of its effects to the future Marvel movies. The story gives a nod to his past but also boldly moves the story forward.  I feel that there’s truly something huge at stake here, not just for Cap but for everyone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Thoughts: Thanks to screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and the spirited direction of the Russo brothers, this has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero. It’s nice to see that the story and character still take center stage here and not get drowned out by ultra-bombastic and unnecessary action scenes. I’m thrilled that the Russos will be back for the third film. I think by the time that one wraps, the Captain America franchise could be the most cohesive one as its storyline flows as one unit from one to the next. Hail to the Cap!

four and a half stars out of five
4.5 out of 5 reels

P.S. Make sure you stay until the second post-credit scene. Trust me, it’s worth the wait!


What do you think of this movie? Did you like it more or less than I did?

MSPIFF 2014 (April 3-19) The films I’m excited to see!

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Photo courtesy of mspfilm.org

Another film-filled event is just around the corner! I really feel so privileged to live in a city where we’ve got not one but TWO film festivals, one in Spring and the other (TCFF) in the Fall. Founded in 1962, The Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul is Minnesota’s foremost film exhibition organization, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Presented every April, The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) is the largest spring arts event in the region, showing more than 200 films from some 60+ countries each year! Check out the awesome MSPIFF official trailer done by Crash + Sues & audio by Echo Boys Music:

On Thursday April 3, MSPIFF will host its Opening Night Presentation with a special screening of Amma Asante’s BELLE, followed by its opening night party at the Festival Pavilion across the street from the St. Anthony Main Theatre.

Unfortunately I can’t make the opening night festivities, though I’ve been looking forward to seeing Amma Asante‘s period drama Belle for some time. I’ve even posted the trailer here back in November, but here it is again:


More than 200 films are presented this year from over 70 countries, and it’s quite a lineup! I’ve picked up my Press Pass as well as about a dozen tickets earlier this week, woo hoo!

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Here are the movies I’ll be seeing in the next three weeks:

FEATURE FILMS

Half of a Yellow Sun
Nigeria | 106 min | English
Directed by: Biyi Bandele
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton

Joe
United States | 117 min | English
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Nic Cage, Tye Sheridan

The Grand Seduction
Canada | 115 min | English
Directed by: Don McKellar
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch

Words and Pictures
United States | 111 min | English
Directed by: Fred Schepisi
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Clive Owen

Breathe In
United States | 98 min | English
Directed by: Drake Doremus
Starring: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones

A Thousand Times Goodnight
Norway | 111 min | English
Directed by: Erik Poppe
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

The Last of Robin Hood
United States | 88 min | English
Directed by: Richard Glatzer
Starring: Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Dakota Fanning

No trailer available yet

No trailer available yet

I REALLY want to see Locke, which is a one-man show with the charismatic Tom Hardy (also starring Ruth Wilson), but I might not be able to see it as it conflicts with the Transcendence screening. If there’s an additional screening for that one, I’ll definitely check this one out! Here’s the trailer:

 

DOCUMENTARIES

Beyond the Edge
New Zealand | 90 min | English
Directed by: Leanne Pooley

Brave Miss World
United States | 90 min | Hebrew
Directed by: Cecilia Peck

Charlie Victor Romeo
United States | 90 min | English
Directed by: Robert Berger

Google and the World Brain
United Kingdom | 90 min | English
Directed by: Ben Lewis

 

I’m also thrilled to see my friend (and FC contributor) Conor Holt’s sci-fi short film A BETTER LIFE screening on Thursday, Apr 10 | 6:30 PM.

ABetterLifeShortFilm

It’s one of my favorites at TCFF last year, you can check out my mini review of it here.


AdmitOneTicketGet your tickets and MSPIFF passes before they sell out!

$12 General Admission | $10 Film Society Members* | $6 Students w/ Student ID

The MSPIFF website is a great resource for the lineup, schedule, tickets, etc. You can download the 2014 Official Guide which has all the details about each film featured at MSPIFF.


What do you think folks, does any of these films interest you?

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Film of March 2014

March2014Recap

Welcome to April everybody! I finally got my flip-flops out yesterday for the first time in … well I can’t even remember! Temperature actually reached 60˚F on Sunday! I saw a bunch of people in shorts either jogging or on their bikes. It’s just a tease though as we’ll be back in the 30s again tomorrow, complete with SNOW! :(  Thank goodness blogging is something I can do indoor or there’d be only like two posts a month, ahah.

Now, before I get to the recap, I just want to make a small but significant announcement:

APRIL FOOOOOOLS!

This past weekend I rewatched The Notebook again (in tandem with Drive) and now I’ve fallen madly in love with Ryan Gosling! YES I know, I know, better late than never right? I felt like I have been missing out that I have not blogged about the oh-so-hunky & massively talented movie star. So to make up for lost time, I will be dedicating the entire month of April to Ryan Gosling and his films. I even made a special header to commemorate this special occasion!

Ahah sorry to those who fell for my April Fools prank, I wanted to do something cheeky and my hubby helped me come up with the idea. So don’t expect me blogging about Gosling anytime soon. No hard feelings ok, friends? ;)


Ok now that we’ve got that out of the way… here are some posts from March you might’ve missed:

Lots of Blogathons I participated this month, here are three I participated in:

New Releases:

Rental:

Rewatches:

March Blindspot Film: All The President’s Men (1976)

Favorite Movie Seen in March 2014:

FaveMarchMovie_CapAmerica2I happen to enjoy the first Captain America movie, even more so every time I watched it. Yet this one managed to surpass it. The conspiracy theme they promised us definitely delivered, and Chris Evans is much more comfortable in the role and he absolutely rocked it. Review coming later this week!


What I’m looking forward to in April:

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Just got my Press Pass yesterday so I’ll be posting which films I’ll be seeing. Stay tuned!


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

Blogathon Relay: 10 Most Iconic Movie Characters

10IconicFilmCharacters

Woo hoo! Nostra from My Film Views is at it again. I crowned him King of Blog Series a couple of years ago and clearly he deserves that title ;) Here’s the gist of the Blogathon Relay:

A list of 10 iconic movie characters has been made. That list will be assigned to another blogger who can then change it by removing one character (describing why they think it should not be on the list) and replace it with another one (also with motivation) and hand over the baton to another blogger. Once assigned that blogger will have to put his/her post up within a week. If this is not the case the blogger who assigned it has to reassign it to another blogger. After you have posted your update leave the link in the comments here and I will make sure it gets added to the overview post.

Now, the first baton went to my friend Keith, one of my favorite bloggers whom I admire and respect. If you haven’t visited his awesome blog before, well you’re missing out big time! He had the arduous task of being the first to remove and replace one iconic movie character from the original 10, and I think he made a great choice! Check out the reasoning behind his decision in this post. I love this brilliant blogathon idea, but like Keith said, it’s a REALLY tough one! I’m up for the challenge though, so let’s take a look at the current Top Ten as it stands now, with Keith’s pick at the very end, followed by MY subtraction and addition:

Indiana Jones

Ellen Ripley

Terminator

Darth Vader

James Bond

The Tramp

Tony Montana

E.T.

Rocky Balboa

“Dirty” Harry Callahan

DIRTY HARRY


Who I’m removing: TONY MONTANA

RemovingTonyMontanaSorry Scarface fans, please don’t shoot me! Yes I know he’s got the highly-quotable ‘say hello to my little friend’ quip. At this point though, we’re arguing not whether he’s an iconic movie character, obviously he is but just how iconic is he compared to the other nine on this list.

When I think of ICONIC, I think of a character that needs no explanation, not only in the US but internationally. It’s the kind of character anyone from any continent in this world would instantly recognize, or at least which movie they’re from even if they don’t know that character’s name. I’m not sure that Al Pacino’s most famous role fits that category. Great and memorable yes, but I don’t know if he deserves to be in the Top 10 MOST iconic list. He might make my Top 20 though, but that’s not the assignment of this blogathon, folks. So after much deliberation, he’s the one I have to say goodbye to.

My addition: Princess Leia 

Top10IconicCharacters_PrincessLeia

Now, I know there’s already a character from Star Wars but there’s no rule we can’t add more than one character from a given film or franchise. Given that Star Wars is THE biggest and most enduring franchise in Hollywood history, we could probably make up half of this list just from that franchise alone!

Princess Leia is not just one of the coolest female movie characters but she’s a film AND pop culture icon. I mean, if you just draw a silhouette with her hair buns on each side of her head, I think people young and old would instantly know who that is. From the baby boomers all the way to Millennials, it’s interesting to see fans still dressing up as Princess Leia at Comic-con and various other conventions. I remember at SDCC 2012 my hubby taking pictures with a bunch of girls in Leia’s equally iconic teeny bikini, with little regard whether they look like Carrie Fisher circa 1977 or more like she is now in her mid 50s. I’m actually not a huge Star Wars fan, but I do get the appeal and why it remains so popular to this day. I’m glad George Lucas wrote such a strong female character who’s beautiful, witty and spunky. She’s a fiery rebel who’s able to hold her own amongst the rest of the mostly-male cast. We need more strong female icons like her in Hollywood!


Passing the baton to:

AFistfulOfFilmsBlog

I’ve been following Andrew‘s blog for some time now and I love his reviews and personal & passionate style in blogging. Do yourself a favor and check out A Fistful of Films Blog!


Well, what do you think of my decision? Agree/disagree, let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: SABOTAGE

TedSaydalavongBanner

SabotagePoster

Just like his pal Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzegger is trying to reclaim his glory days as the box office king of the 80s and 90s by starring in action films again in the 21st century. So far though, both them have had more duds than hits and I’m afraid this trend will continue with Arnold’s latest action thriller.

The movie opens with a group of elite DEA agents being lead by John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnie) raiding on some drug dealers’ fancy mansion. They found at least $100mil cash stashed away in the lower level of the mansion and the team decided to steal $10mil of that money and burn the rest so no one at the DEA will know they took the cash. Of course things didn’t turn out as planned, when they tried to retrieve the cash later, it’s nowhere to be found. Things got worse when the DEA found out that the $10mil is missing and they accuse Breacher and his team of stealing the money. All of them were under investigation and Breacher lost his team. About six months later, the DEA couldn’t find enough evidence to build a case against Breacher and his team, so the case will be close.

After the good news, Breacher tracked down his old teammates and try to get them back to doing what they do best, kill lots of bad guys. Unfortunately things didn’t come back to normal for the team, three of them were killed and this lead to the involvement of a homicide detective Caroline (Olivia Williams). Caroline suspects the drug cartel is behind the killings but Breacher and his team aren’t willing to help her with the investigation. The trailers let us to believe that this was a non-stop action adventure but it’s really a procedural thriller with some shootouts and a car chase. Not the usual Arnold’s flicks from the past.

SabotageStills1

The script by Skip Woods and David Ayer was pretty good, nothing too deep or over the top. Instead of giving us one liners after another, some of the dialogs were quite witty and Arnold delivered them perfectly. The script might think it’s smarter than it’s actually is but I went along with the plot. Ayer made a name for himself by writing Training Day and the first Fast & Furious film, so don’t expect anything new or original from this movie. I’m not the biggest fan of his directing style though, he basically incorporated the look and feel of his last movie (End of Watch) into this one. I’m sort of getting annoyed by some directors who think that by shooting their movie digitally, they think it will look more “realistic”. I don’t get why they couldn’t add some effects in post production and make the movie look more cinematic, I can’t stand watching a movie that looks like it’s shot with a home camcorder. Despite the flat and uninspired cinematography, Ayer did shoot some good action scenes, particularly the climatic car chase and shootout.

Performance wise, I thought Arnold did a pretty good job, again it’s Arnold we’re talking about here so don’t expect an Oscar caliber acting. Olivia Williams pretty much played the second lead and I thought she’s good in the role, I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her in a movie. The rest of the cast including Sam Worthington (I guess he’s already lost his leading man status now), Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello and Josh Holloway did a serviceable job in their respective roles.

SabotageStill2

For a movie like this, I think most people expect to see lots of shootouts and explosions, so it’s a nice surprise that it does have some sort of a plot and kept my attention without something blowing up every 10 minutes. I think I might give it a higher rating had Ayer and his team made the movie look more like a real movie instead of home video. But I’m glad they didn’t scale back the blood and violence, I think this is a good rental.

threereels
3 out of 5 reels


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What do you think of Sabotage?

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Previews of Into The Storm & SHOWTIME’s Penny Dreadful

EverybodysChattin

Hello everyone! As promised, here’s the second Everybody’s Chattin’ post to make up for the one I missed last month.

So here are 10 of my favorite post from fellow bloggers from the past week:

Now this is a post every movie blogger should read and undoubtedly can relate to … Dan wrote about this thought-provoking article on finding a voice in film criticism.

Ryan of The Matinee, the original founder of The Blindspot Series posted an intriguing Canadian-made film I’ve never heard of before: Jesus of Montreal. I’m definitely intrigued!

Bowie_ThePrestigeIf you haven’t checked out Cindy’s blog, consider this your recommendation. She’s always got great film observations and commentaries, like this one about Musicians Who Become Actors. Surely you have your favorites?

Speaking of favorites, have you checked out Sati’s 10 Favorite Female Characters from both TV & Movies?

And since I just posted my entry to Sati’s Spin-off Blogathon, check out which character Chris (Terry Malloy Pigeon Coop) and Mark (Marked Movies) wanted a spin-off on. Both are such cult favorites!

Now, speaking of blogathons, the reigning King of such blog event Nostra is at it again with his Blogathon Relay! This time the focus is on 10 Most Iconic Movie Characters. The first blogger he passed the baton to is my pal Keith of Keith & the Movies, drop everything now and see which one he’s taken out & add to the list!

Last but not least,  Biblical films seem to be the genre du jour in Hollywood this year, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah opens this weekend and Ridley Scott’s Exodus w/ Christian Bale as Moses opens later in December. I haven’t seen it yet but A Fistful of Films’ Andrew has, check out what he has to say.


Now, before you’re off, check out these previews of my two crushes’ next film/TV show:

IntoTheStormTrailer

Richard Armitage‘s disaster thriller INTO THE STORM with The Walking Dead‘s Sarah Wayne Callies is released on October 8. Nice to see Richard in the lead role, yay! That last part with all those Boeing planes are too darn eerie given what’s happened with the Malaysian Airlines though, I’m quite surprised they didn’t take that out of the preview.

 

PennyDreadfulShowtime

And for you horror lovers out there, this SHOWTIME series Penny Dreadful should be right up your alley. I blogged about this one a while back when Timothy Dalton was cast. I don’t have cable but once it’s out on iTunes or Netflix I’ll watch it for Dalton who plays Sir Malcolm, a hardened African explorer on a deeply personal quest. I’m glad he’s not playing one of the demons, ahah. He still looks sooo good and it’s interesting to see him alongside my favorite Bond girl Eva Green here.

Created by John Logan  (screenwriter of Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall) and produced by Sam Mendes, seems like the Bond connection is quite strong here, ahah. Check out the hair-raising trailer:

 


Stay tuned for Ted’s review of Sabotage tomorrow!


Thoughts on Into The Storm and/or Penny Dreadful?