Superior British Fare: ‘The Bletchley Circle’ Miniseries (2012-2013)

jackdethbanner

Greetings all and sundry!
Having taken some time from change in the weather cleaning and rearranging of furniture and minor yard improvements. My evenings have been taken up sporadically easing aching muscles while in search of worthwhile or better enterta8inment.

With IFC (Independent Film Channel) and The Sundance Channel being tied up in summer fare. I’ve fallen back on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). Which often excels in finding, importing and disseminating superior series and specials from the United Kingdom.

Doctor Who, Danger: UXB, Brideshead Revisted, The Sandbaggers, Foley’s War and recently, Sherlock and Downton Abbey have been staples of exceptional quality. All have stood well the test of time. No matter their initial longevity. Due to the UK’s innate ability to find an unfamiliar, obscure or forgotten idea or topic. Research the heck out of it. And present it to higher ups for polish, luster and presentation.

With that said. Allow me a few moments of your time to discern and perhaps relish a bit of what the Brits do best.

BletchleyCirclePBS

Superior British Fare: The Bletchley Circle (2012-2013)

Cracking a Killer’s Code.

The story begins in 1952 London.World War II is seven years in the past. Though the economic boom and prosperity enjoyed by the U.S. are distinctly absent along its narrow, cobbled streets and shops doing their best to survive and perhaps, thrive. A weak economy keps rationing in place. Families are pinching shillings and trading them in shops and businesses showing a marked preponderance of women in the workforce, due to lost husbands, lovers and sons during the war.

A war that shortened by between two to five years. Due to the work of many unsung men and women assigned under The Official Secrets Act. To find patterns and create procedures and algorithms feed into captured and manufactured German Enigma machines at Bletchley Park. Breaking their coded messages. And staying one step ahead of the Germans.

Mathematicians. statisticians, geniuses savants and those who have a knack with anagrams and written words. Seeking advantages whenever possible to help discover what’s going on across the Channel in Festung Europa. A tremendous advantage whose secrecy Churchill took extremely seriously. To the point of his not evacuating the city of Coventry and letting the Luftwaffe bomb it than tip his hand. And having an armed Royal Marine with orders to kill any one not authorized to enter the office where Enigma intelligent was collated, read and discussed.

BletchleyCircle3

A tremendous responsibility during a time of war. Where the ladies in attendance worked and shared space in one of myriad outbuildings and Nissen huts at Bletchley. Led by Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin). Scots woman, administrator, librarian and den mother by popular demand to Millie (Rachael Stirling). Fluent in German, written and spoken and able to find patterns easily. Jean (Julie Graham), a wizard at organization and delegating tasks. And Lucy (Sophie Rundle), who possesses a photographic memory.

Four women of unique talents who are trying to make the best of life after the war. Unable to talk about their pasts while trying to have or carry on a relationship. About the only one who pull this off is Susan. Who has married. Has a young son and daughter. And a rather boring, slowly rising, lower tier position in the Foreign Office husband, Timothy (Mark Dexter).

Into this day to day. Women are being found brutally defiled and murdered. Sending newspaper sales soaring and frightening the fairer sex throughout London, the Thames and towns near and far. Worried for her children, Susan starts asking around and finds the papers only slightly more useful than the local flying squads and constabulary. Holding whatever “viable” information dear while basically going through the numbers.

BletchleyCircleStills

Susan takes time from her day to reconnect with Jean. Then Millie. And through several lunch breaks, the women get together under the premise of forming a “Book Club” to keep Timothy in the dark. What few facts have been gathered and laid bare as a spare nursery room is lines with black boards, cork boards and slowly, what seems miles of different colored yard connecting pieces of data, news articles and the like.as clues and a common denominator is sought. Covertly applying what was learned and done years earlier to help find a distinctly bad man.

Body locations are noted and backtracked. Questions are asked of their work and a commonality arises. All rode the Paddington train! A tour of the station is called for and departures and arrivals are noted. Schedules are gathered and late nights are spent crunching numbers to establish time lines. Enough for Susan to go to the local police department to present her collected data.

Only to be ignored up and down the line. Until finding an opening and not taking “no” for an answer. Laying maps and charts out while the Bobbies and Inspectors go through various shades of embarrassment. Taking Susan’s prediction of where to find the next victim with a few grains of damaged ego salts. While only being off by a few hundred yards days later. Though, the ante has been upped. With the woman having been tortured badly before sexual assault.

Sending Susan and the Circle back to comb through the data in search of a mistake. Something overlooked or missing. Shifting the paradigm from the possibility of the perpetrator from a passenger. To an employee!

I’ll close right now to avoid violating the Prime Directive Regarding Spoilers.

Overall Consensus:

Though my narrative may be a bit long. Cracking a Killer’s Code encompasses three near hour long episodes. There is a lot of territory to cover. And this mini-series does it exceptionally well. In set design and dressing. Wardrobe, period surrounding and accessories. Visually, things appear cramped and just a bit shabby indoors. While outdoors discussions, get togethers and picnics appear to occur on those few non rainy days across the isles.

BletchleyCircle1

High marks go to an exceptional use of budget inside the Paddington station. In using its maple enclosed bank of schedules and clocks. Digitally altering the outside of the cars of its still operating steam engine train. Though leaving their interiors alone. And for dressing a section of the Bletchley Park museum to fit the WWII 1940s and post war 1950s. Creating feasts for the eyes that enhance sharp, smart dialogue.

The women delivering that dialogue are all at the top of their games. Whether it’s exchanging a ration card for half kilos of butter or meat. Paring down the number of irrelevants in tightening a victim’s timeline. Or trying to get the staid and stuck in the mud local police to listen and accept a new and very different approach to crime solving.

And that is part of the well executed hook. Seeing the very first glimmers of data collection, sifting and collating in establishing time lines and hints of possible “profiles”. Though, without the flash and panache of NUMB3RS. And more of a bare bones approach with paper, pencils, chalk boards and trial and error.

In the hands of women. Not girls. With a bit of wear and tear and ingrained cynicism. With a chain of command already set in place. Led by Susan, who knows all the others weaknesses and strengths. Leading the charge. While wondering what to fix for dinner. And Jean plying her executive and organizational skills in guiding where Millie and Lucy should look.

BletchleyCircle2

Yet allowing some flexibility should a new piece of information arise. Since Lucy is meticulous with her memory. And Millie has a knack for finding flaws and subtleties in written data.

All wrapped in nipped in, fashionable attire of that time. Creating an intriguing introduction to a continuing story that deals with the sloppy cover up of Chemical Warfare testing on Britain’s own troops. Susan, her husband and family being sent to India through Timothy’s promotion within the Foreign Office. And Millie dabbles in the Black Market to help make ends meet. Then stumbles into hints of higher priced merchandise, white slavery and human trafficking to close the series out.

Having created and executed a sadly cancelled diversion more than worth the time and effort of seeking out in re-runs, DVD or Blu-Ray.

Check out the PBS trailer below:


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


Have you seen this series? The floor is now open for discussion.

About these ads

FlixChatter Double Review: Snowpiercer (2014)

SnowpiercerPoster2

Ted’s Review

After last summer’s mediocre Elysium, I wasn’t that interested in seeing another sci-fi/action picture about the poor vs. the rich set in the future. Heck even after I saw the trailer, I sort of didn’t really want to see this new film from South Korean director Joon-ho Bong at all. But thanks to so many great reviews from critics, I’ve decided to check it out and I’m so glad I did. I think it’s my favorite film of 2014 so far.

The film opens with a prologue explaining what has happened to earth. A failed global-warming experiment has killed off pretty much all living things on the planet and only the few survivors are now living in a train that can travel all over the globe. In this train, there are two classes of people, the rich and the poor. The rich gets to live in the fancy front side of the train and all of the poor folks have to stay in the back. Of course the living conditions on the back of the train is horrendous. We’re introduced to two friends Curtis (Chris Evans) and Edgar (Jamie Bell), right away we know they’re planning to attack their oppressors and get to the front side so they can have control of the train. That’s pretty much the whole plot of the film, Curtis and his followers battles their way into each car of the train to get to the front side. The message about our current economics system gets a little heavy handed at times but I wasn’t bothered by it as much. Yeah I know the 1% is living large while the rest of us have to suffer and so on. Basically everything that Elysium did wrong, this film got it right.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but Chris Evans has starred in two of my favorite movies of the year, the other one being Captain America: Winter Soldier. I was never a fan of his before and now I think he’s grown as actor. As the lead in another action picture, he did a good job of commanding the screen, we don’t know much about Curtis until the film’s climax and the payoff worked for me. I don’t think I’ve seen Jamie Bell in anything since the dreadful Jumper, here he’s the sidekick/comic relief and I think he did alright. Tilda Swinton looked like she had a blast playing another villainous role, I would’ve liked to see more of her character in the movie though. John Hurt played a minor role as the old mentor to Curtis and the rest of the poor folks and he’s your typical father figure type. I think I’ve seen him played this kind of role so many times that I knew what to expect from his performance. Scenes stealer belongs to South Korea actor Song Kang-ho, he was recruited by Curtis and his team because he invented the train’s door security system and he’s their key to their success. For those who’ve seen Bong’s previous work, you know that Song is his go to actor and here he didn’t disappoint. Another well known actor showed up as the train inventor and main villain, I thought he was quite effective. I don’t want to mention his name since I think most people don’t know he’s in the movie and I think it’s better for people to find out for themselves.

SnowpiercerStill1

To me the main reason this film worked was because of Joon-ho Bong‘s direction. He was able to elevate a silly concept and made into something that kind of original and fun to watch. The film’s actually based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige. Bong co-wrote the script with Kelly Masterson (she wrote Sidney Lumet’s last film Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead), the story had me on the edge of my seat throughout and I like the fact that they didn’t chicken out and end the film in a Hollywood fashion. Bong staged some cool action set pieces, including a brawl between Curtis’ gang and the rich folks’ army and unusual shootout between Curtis and one of the villains. For anyone who’s never seen Bong’s other films, you might find his style a little weird and un-Hollywood like. I also think he pay homage to Sam Peckinpah for this film, in fact I thought had Peckinpah ever made a sci-fi picture, it would be like this one. For a film that cost less than $40mil, the visual effects looked pretty great. I can only imagine what his next film will look like if Bong gets a budget of $150-200mil.

After witnessing the atrocious Transformers 4 a couple of weeks ago, I was glad to have seen this excellent film. It’s smart, exciting and well paced. It surely will be on my top favorite films of the year, this one comes highly recommended.

four reels


SnowpiercerPoster

Ruth’s Review

Science fiction thriller set in post-apocalyptic world is a dime a dozen. Seems that Hollywood is quite obsessed with this sub-genre, even young adult fares are set in this dystopian future, often with a hero/heroine who’s destined to change the world. Thankfully, Joon-ho Bong‘s Snowpiercer manages to set itself apart from the pack. This is my intro into Bong’s work, and it’s also his first Hollywood film. I’ve blogged about the furor over Harvey’s Weinsteins constant meddling with the film’s cut last year, so finally, after waiting for over two years, I got to see this on the big screen.

What strikes me right away about this film is how bleak it is. Bong’s imagined future has that gritty, soiled and grimy look as we’re shown how the poor, unfortunate souls have been living the past 17 years in the tail section of a rackety train, Snowpiercer. Given that earth is now inhabitable due to a cataclysmic accident that renders everything frozen, the train has to keep running nonstop with what’s left of humanity on board. Having been oppressed for nearly two decades with no chance to escape, it’s no wonder the lower class is hellbent on revolt. It’s futuristic Les Misérables set on a train. It’s an intriguing concept surely, but that alone doesn’t always translate to an intriguing film (Ted’s mentioned Elysium and I’d also add In Time  which are more action/adventure than a true sci-fi). Snowpiercer on the other hand, has a nice balance of action and character-driven sequences, and it’s not reliant on special effects to thrill the audience.

I have to admit it’s not the most entertaining film I’ve seen, and at times it’s too violent for my taste. It’s not as graphic as I feared it would be but I still think it’s not for the faint of heart. But I appreciate Bong’s bold vision and the way that Snowpiercer doesn’t glamorize the post-apocalyptic world, which enhances its sense of realism. Despite the fantastical concept, at times it made me think how this bleak reality might not be so far-fetched after all. The geopolitical and socio-economic allegory can be in-your-face at times so I could see why some critics have called it heavy-handed. But overall the pace of the film is good and the slow moments are a welcome relief from all the brutality. I especially like Chris Evans‘ emotionally-charged monologue towards the end which gives us a glimpse into what’s really at stake for the rebels. The confined space of a train gives a heightened sense of claustrophobia that makes everything even more suspenseful. The more we learn about the world within Snowpiercer, the more we realize that nothing is what it seems. There are genuine surprises as well that keeps you on your toes. Just when you think things are calming down, Bong would suddenly pulls the rug from under us! Unlike lot of action films that are loud, bombastic but lacking genuine tension (basically what Bayhem is all about), this one gives me a real adrenaline rush.

SnowpiercerStill2

The international cast is full of inspired casting. Interesting to see Chris Evans in the role of the protagonist. He’s a flawed, reluctant hero, the polar opposite of Captain America, though Evans retains that sympathetic guy-next-door persona even bloody and covered in dirt the entire film. Having seen him in Puncture, I knew he’s got dramatic chops, so I hope he makes wiser role choices from now on so we can see more of what he can deliver. Tilda Swinton once again delivers her chameleonic turn as Minister Mason, a role that’s originally written as a mild-mannered man. The most memorable characters to me are the South Korean father/daughter duo played by Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, both have worked with Bong before in The Host. It’s nice to see Ed Harris in a key role, he definitely makes an impact despite his brief appearance. Jamie Bell, John Hurt, and Octavia Spencer round up the solid supporting cast.

So overall Snowpiercer is definitely worth the wait, though I wouldn’t call it flawless. There’s a certain chaotic madness in Bong’s direction that’s discombobulating, and the emotional involvement with the characters just isn’t as strong as it could be. In the end they’re all still a mystery to me that keep them at a distance from the audience. But what the film does well is that it really makes us ponder on the fascinating, though-provoking ideas whilst we marvel in the visually-arresting cinematography. The contrast between the vast and bright frozen landscape outside the train window and the cramped, crowded and dark interior is striking. The music by Marco Beltrami is also pleasing to the ear and enhances the mood.

The finale is truly something to behold, and the CGI is actually used to a tremendous effect because we’re not so worn-out by it. The lack of a glorified happy-ending is also refreshing, something that would linger long after the end credits roll and inspire countless conversations afterward. If you’re a big sci-fi fan, this one is not to be missed. It’s truly a visceral experience that manages to feel original despite the tried-and-true premise we’ve seen time and again. I’m curious to see what Bong does next, hopefully this won’t be his last collaboration with Hollywood.

four reels


What do you think of Snowpiercer? 

Five for the Fifth: JULY 2014 Edition

FiveForFifth2014

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. Well, since yesterday is Fourth of July, aka Independence Day for good ‘ol USA, for some reason I always think of Roland Emmerich’s 1996 alien disaster flick: Independence Day. It is after all the quintessential Hollywood Summer tentpole flick: big, bombastic and unabashedly patriotic. Regardless how you feel about America, it’s hard not to cheer when Wil Smith punches the slimy, ugly alien or when Bill Pullman made his rousing speech (no doubt one of the most memorable movie presidents/speeches ever).

ID4SummerMovie

I bet there are folks who watch this annually on July 4th, just like it’s tradition to watch The Tenth Commandments at Easter and Miracle on 34th Street on Christmas day. And why not? It’s an absolute blast in every sense of the word, massively entertaining so long as you don’t mind suspending your disbelief for 2 hours and just go along for the ride.

So do you have a go-to Summer movie you like to watch every year? ….

2. Speaking of July 4th, check out this new thematic-trailer of the one Summer movie I can’t wait to see! Fortunately I won’t have to wait too long as I’ll be seeing it next Tuesday. So far the marketing for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has me REALLY anticipating this one, it looks even more sinister than the excellent first film. JFK’s independence day speech from 1962 makes it even more eerie, especially when one of the apes climbed over that American flag!


The early buzz I’ve read so far has been unanimously positive. Could it be one of the best movies of the year? I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case. With the amazing Andy Serkis back in mo-cap performance as Caesar, the rest of the cast is pretty solid: Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Toby Kebell.

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.

I also found some cool posters, both official and fan-made. Click each image to see a larger version:

Are you as excited as I am for this movie?

3. Oh man, here’s another reason why I wish I lived in London!! I just read yesterday that one of my favorite composers Hans Zimmer is planning a concert at Hammersmith Apollo in London. The concert series is titled Hans Zimmer Revealed which will include music from his vast film soundtrack collections. I LOVE a lot of his work, as I’ve highlighted in this Music Break post. Apparently Zimmer’s no stranger to performing on stage. He’s been known to perform during film premieres, such as during Inception premiere in L.A. in 2010. Here he was performing with guitarist Johnny Marr:

HansZimmerJohnnyMarr

Photo courtesy of Variety.com

Per Collider, the concert will be in two parts: the first being some of Zimmer’s classic movie scores including Gladiator, The Lion King and Pirates of the Caribbean, and the second featuring re-imagined versions of some classic scores such as The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception with special guests from the rock and pop world. It’d be sooo cool to hear LIVE orchestra of some of my all time favorite scores, especially Gladiator which I just rewatched last night. I think that could be considered Zimmer’s masterpiece. It’d be even more awesome if he brings his protege John Powell to perform together as well. I hope he’d consider doing concerts in the US as well, though most likely in the major cities like L.A. or New York City anyway.

What do you think of Hans Zimmer concert? Which other composer would you pay to see live on stage?
……

4. Now this question is inspired by my friend Dave’s awesomely-long comment on my Transformers 4 rant post. He mentioned that he’s been binge-ing on lots of TV series lately and he’s not missing movies much at all.

This year TV has surpassed the movies for me. What with series like House Of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, The Americans, Halt and Catch Fire, Veep, Orphan Black, Sherlock, True Detective, Fargo, Downton Abbey… and even going back to the end of last year with Broadchurch, Top of the Lake and The Returned… I can’t say I’m really missing the movies so much. I haven’t even delved into Game of Thrones, Hannibal, or Sundance’s Rectify yet.

He also mentioned upcoming shows he’s anticipating, one of which is Cinemax’s The Knick from Steven Soderbergh, starring Clive Owen. Set in downtown New York in 1900, The Knick centers on Knickerbocker Hospital and the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff who push the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics. Check out the trailer:

Heh, hat looks pretty darn scary but definitely intriguing. Well, having finished all 8-episodes of STARZ’s Black Sails (Season 1) last night, I totally get why people are so into TV these days and indeed, the golden age of television is going on again now. The quality of actors and script, not to mention the huge budget studios invest on these shows are astounding.

My question for you is two-fold:
Have you been watching more TV than movies lately? Which shows are you addicted to right now and/or highly-anticipating?
.

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Andrew from A Fistful of Films Blog. It’s funny how a decade of film can carry with it a certain quality.  When you think about the 80′s, you may call to mind that melodramatic, almost palpable soap opera veneer that found it’s way into so many films.

80sFilmDecade When you think of the 30′s, you may think of the countless screwball comedies and the prat falls that laced them.  Whatever the case, we tend to lump things in groups of ten, and deservedly so.

With that in mind, which decade of film have you found the most rewarding to explore, and which ‘quality’ makes it so rich??


Well, that’s it for the JULY 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

Music Break: Five Favorite JOHN POWELL Scores

John Powell is one of the most versatile composers working today. Just looking at his filmography, his work spans multiple genres: animation, romantic dramas, action/adventure, thrillers, etc.

johnpowell

I’ve been a fan of his work for some time, but for some reason I don’t always recognize that it’s him behind the great music I enjoy. So for that reason, and because I’m such a fan of his work, he’s the perfect subject for my Music Break! According to this Spitfire Q&A, early in his career Powell worked with Hans Zimmer at Media Ventures. His music influence also came from his dad, a tuba player with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the 50s and 60s, who performed on a lot of film scores.

Powell has been nominated for various major awards, including one Academy Award nomination (for How To Train Your Dragon) and three BAFTAs. I’ve said it before that composers are instrumental (pardon the pun) in the filmmaking process. A great score adds so much to the experience as a whole, and at times it could be the best thing about the movie itself.

So for this music break, here are my five favorites  from the talented British composer:

Bourne Ultimatum

Powell did all the Bourne films’ soundtrack except Bourne Legacy, and this one from Bourne Ultimatum is my favorite. He also worked with Moby on the Extreme Ways track that I’ve featured here.


P.S. I Love You

It’s interesting how he could go from an action theme like Bourne to something tender and sweet like this one. But I LOVE this music, I actually have the soundtrack in my car and I always replay this last theme on the CD.


Face/Off

One of my fave soundtracks from the 90s and it’s still awesome to listen to today. I love both the slower theme as well as the action-packed version. This is Powell’s big film project and at times it sounds a bit like something Hans Zimmer would’ve done. Of course over the years Powell’s created his own unique style in his music.


How To Train Your Dragon

This score won a bunch of awards, including an Oscar nomination. It’s perhaps one of my favorite scores of all time! The entire soundtrack is excellent but my all time favorite is this one that I’ve highlighted in this post. It literally makes my heart soar!


The Italian Job

Some of Powell’s music has that tribal sounding and this is one of them. Yet it sounds very cool, modern and exciting. I like this boat chase one a bit more than the mini cooper chase through the tunnel. Fun stuff overall.


Hope you enjoy today’s music break, folks.
So which John Powell’s score is YOUR favorite?

Trailer Spotlight: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

It’s been a while since I featured a trailer spotlight on my blog, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has a pretty unusual concept that I just had to share.

EleanorRigbyPoster

Once happily married, Conor and Eleanor suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. The film explores the couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

I first heard about this project last year when I heard about James McAvoy casting. At the time I thought that it was more of a mystery thriller or something. Then I saw some photos of McAvoy and Jessica Chastain all over Twitter when it premiered at Cannes. Well apparently there are there versions of this film, told from two different perspectives and also a combined version. Say what?

Well, the concept is quite unusual in that first-time director Ned Benson told the story of a young NYC couple from each character’s point of view. Conor (McAvoy) and Eleanor (Chastain) each get a 95-minute movie told from his/her perspective. Naturally it’s tricky to market two films that’s essentially the same story (especially when the Weinsteins are involved), so Benson’s created a third version (Them) which features footage from both His/Her versions and has a conventional running time of 2 hours. So this new trailer is the unified version of Benson’s ambitious directorial debut, check it out:


I LOVE romantic dramas, not the typical rom-coms but something that isn’t afraid to delve deeper into the nitty gritty of a relationship and the ‘warts and all’ approach to a love story. Seems that they have cast two excellent actors in the lead, I believe both McAvoy and Chastain have the chops to pull off the complexity and depth their roles require. I haven’t seen Chastain in anything this year though I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of her work in the past two years. McAvoy is definitely one of the brightest actors of his generation. He’s also one of my favorite Scots, I kind of think of him as the more talented & versatile version of Gerry Butler who looks like his older brother. If only Butler would pick the kind of roles McAvoy’s signed up for.

EleanorRigbyMcAvoyChastain1

The supporting cast is not too shabby at all: William HurtIsabelle HuppertViola Davis, and Bill Hader. So would we be able to see all three versions in the theater? Well, according to Deadline, “Benson said the plan will be to release the new two-hour cut around September 26. A month or six weeks later, the first two films, Him and Her, will play in limited release in art house theaters.”

Hmmm, I doubt my city would get all three versions, we’d be lucky if we even get this unified version. But hopefully all three would be released on iTunes or DVD/Bluray at some point.


What do you think of this film and/or unusual concept?

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Movie of June 2014

June2014Recap

Man, where has June go??! It’s nuts that this weekend is Fourth of July already which means we’re already halfway done with Summer :(

I feel that this month is a blur already, I actually have a hard time just what in the heck I’ve been watching this past month. Well, one thing for sure, I’ve been doing more Toby Stephens marathon since May. When I say an actor is versatile, I truly mean it with Toby. The man can play virtually ANY role brilliantly and no matter what genre he tackles, the British thespian effortlessly fits right in. It pains me how underrated he is as immense talent + chameleonic ability is quite a rare combination in an actor, the fact that he’s SO easy on the eyes is of course icing on the cake.

TobyMarathonJune

Clockwise from top left: Toby in Black Sails (2014), BBC Jane Eyre (2006), BBC Wired (2008),  and The Machine (2013)

So thanks to my pal Becky (aka Prairiegirl), I got to catch up on Black Sails! I’ve only got half of the 8-episodes of Season 1 and it’s pretty good! Of course I’m not going to lie that Toby’s the main reason I watched it and he’s definitely the BEST thing about it. I LOVE what The Guardian said about Toby’s role as Captain Flint: “Stephens’s Flint is every inch the modern anti-hero that those accustomed to the moral greys of Tony Soprano or Walter White will appreciate.” I’m impressed by the quality of the series though, it’s definitely not the clichéd pirate stuff that’s often depicted by Hollywood. Can’t wait to see more from Season 1 and Season 2 can’t come soon enough!! I’ll definitely be doing a review of it once I’m done with the first season. In case you have no idea what the show is all about, here’s an inside look video of season 1:

Ok, on to the monthly recap!

Posts you might’ve missed:

New-to-me Movies/TV/Miniseries:

Rewatches:

I just realized I watched quite a lot of period dramas this past month! I wasn’t planning on it, but hey, it’s one of my favorite genres :D

  • Belle (2013)
  • BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006 miniseries)
  • Ever After – A Cinderella Story (1998)
  • Love, Actually (2003)
  • Mansfield Park (1999)
  • The Machine (2013)
  • Pacific Rim (2013)
  • Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Favorite Movie Seen in June 2014:

HTTYDbanner

I think Edge of Tomorrow is pretty darn good but I have such a soft spot for Hiccup, Toothless & co and this second installment definitely lives up to the fantastic original! Plus the soundtrack by John Powell is simply astounding. Stay tuned for a John Powell Music Break coming soon!


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

FlixChatter Double Review –Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers4Banner

Ted’s Review

After a three year absent, the Transformers are back on the big screen. They still have to deal with annoying human characters, fight the bad Transformers and destroy every big city as much as they could.

The movie picked up about 5 years after the last one, we’re introduced to some new human characters Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Yeager is a failed inventor and he’s close to being broke and lose his farm. One day he found an old truck which happens to be Optimus Prime, he’s hiding from the government. Apparently after the events of the last movie, all of the Autobots are being hunted down by the CIA. The mission is being spearheaded by a high level CIA executive Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). When Attinger finds out that Optimus Prime is hiding out at Yeager’s farm, he sends his operatives including its leader James Savoy (Titus Welliver) to bring Prime in. Of course things didn’t turn out well as they’d hoped and Yeager, his daughter and Optimus were able to get away from the agents. I was going to write more about the “plot” of the movie but let’s face it, no one go to see this movie for its plot, which by the way didn’t make a lick of sense. If you’re a fan of the previous three movies and enjoy all the explosions and robots fighting then you’re going to love this one. For anyone who can’t stand this franchise, I’d advise you to stay far away from it!

Transformers4Stills1

Wahlberg stepped in as the new leading man this time and I didn’t think he was as annoying as Shia LaBeouf but he didn’t really add anything much to the movie. Since he’s done many action movies prior, the writers did write in scenes where he’s part of the action instead of just running and screaming like LaBeouf did in the previous movies. Young actress Nicola Peltz became the new eye candy in this one, when I say eye candy, I meant it literally. Bay pretty much focused the cameras on every part of her body, just like he did with the other pretty girls in the previous movies. Another young actor (Jack Reynor) showed up as her boyfriend and I think he’s supposed to play LaBeouf’s part because I found him quite annoying. Then later in the movie, Stanley Tucci showed up as this Steve Jobs type of a character. Grammer was pretty much your typical one dimensional villain, he’s bad, he’s greedy and he doesn’t about anyone but himself.

Now let’s talk about Michael Bay and his Bayhem. I don’t know if it’s possible but this movie might have had more climatic action scenes than any other movies I’ve ever seen. Bay kept blowing things up and robots smashing into one another for close to 3 hours! The man has no restrain and as long as people keeps paying to see this franchise, he’ll never stop. I remember a while back he said he’s done with the franchise but I guess the studio probably offered him money more than any average person would ever see in their lifetime.

Transformers4Still4

Now I do have a couple of good things to say about this movie. First, it’s the first movie to have been shot with the new IMAX 3D cameras and since I’m a big fan of IMAX, it’s nice to have seen it on the biggest screen. If you’re going to see it on IMAX, know that it will have aspect ratio switching. Second, the 3D effects were quite impressive, maybe one of the best I’ve seen. There were scenes where I felt like I was in the movie, Bay did a good job there with the 3D. Of course the 3D supposed to enhance the story and not be the story, so it gets tiresome about an hour into the movie.

The movie is expected to be the summer’s biggest hit and I have no doubt that it will be a big hit. If you’re a fan of the franchise then you’ll love it, but for me it’s another bloated piece of turd from a director who only cares about making money and not quality films.

oneandahalfreels

TedS_post


Ruth’s Review

Ok so this is not so much a straight-on review as my rant reaction to this movie [if you can even call it that]. I’ve only seen the first movie [only because I was at a friend's party and everyone wanted to watch the Transformers movie], and frankly I had no interest in seeing any more from this franchise. The only reason I went to this press screening is because it was at the IMAX theater and this was supposedly the first film shot with IMAX 3D Digital Camera. Silly reason really, and definitely NOT a worthy one to waste three whole hours on (more if you include the bazillion trailers before the movie starts).

Pretty much the only thing one needs to know about the Transformers universe is this: the Autobots are the good alien robots and the Decepticons are the evil ones. The humans are disposable creatures, as interchangeable as the parts in a kid’s toolbox. So supposedly an epic battle had happened in the previous film that left the world in pieces, though you wouldn’t know that from looking at the shots of Chicago and Beijing as they look pretty much unscathed with all of the skyscrapers intact. For some reasons, the Autobots are now being hunted down by the CIA, whilst the top level CIA agent (Kelsey Grammer) happily makes deals with another group of alien robots as they agree to leave earth. Meanwhile, a lowly farmer inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) inadvertently discovered that a beat-up old truck is actually the leader of the Autobots, called Optimus Prime. So of course soon enough Yeager and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) become fugitives themselves as they want to keep Optimus from getting caught. That’s pretty much the gist of it.

Transformers4Stills2

As if the obtuse storyline wasn’t enough, Michael Bay‘s execution and directing style makes this fourth installment so unbearable in every sense of the word. At 165-min long, it’s overstuffed yet hollow, loud and verbose with nothing to say. As the end credit rolled, my hubby and I just shook our head. Yes I know it’s not the first time Hollywood studios spent a mind-boggling $180 mil budget on such a stinker, but this one is especially horrid with barely any redeeming quality whatsoever. Now, I’m not saying I can’t enjoy a movie about monstrous alien robots. After all, I LOVE Pacific Rim, which I’ve rewatched several times and still entertained by it. Funny that the lead character’s name is Yeager sounds just like Pac Rim‘s robotic weapon Jaeger. If only this movie is even half as entertaining!

Bay’s Transformers franchise should go down in film history as the quintessential piece of garbage, as it represents the worst thing that one dreads from a Summer blockbuster… vapid, trite, overindulgent, overwrought, plus a dose of self-satisfied smug-ness. After all, Bay remains defiant, here’s his response to those who are critical of his *masterpiece*: “They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate … They’re still going to see the movie! [per mtv.com]. Wish he were wrong but he’s not. As I’m writing this, the movie has made over $40 mil in one DAY, on track for a $100+ mil weekend [sigh] It’s ironic that the title tagline is ‘age of extinction.’ Well, it seems that creativity in Hollywood is on the verge of extinction [if it isn't already]. The best line of the movie comes early in the movie, inside a ruined vintage cinema, when an older man lamented how all movies these days are sequels and remakes. Was Bay poking fun at himself and what he represents? Highly unlikely, considering his comment above.

You know something is out of whack when during watching a movie, you’re thinking about why so many good actors sign on to this and wonder how much money they made for it. That is if you’re not busy counting how many product placements are scattered during the action scenes [hint: it's too many to count]. Every actor here is utterly wasted, Wahlberg is not immune to bad movies [The Happening, anyone?] but I’m still baffled as to why he signed on to do this. You would think he’s got enough cash that he never need to do a project only for monetary reason. Talented young actors like Sophia Myles and Jack Reynor probably just want the exposure one could get from mainstream blockbusters, but it’s still painful to see them in something THIS bad. Let’s hope they pick better roles in the future. As for Peltz, she is an exact embodiment of a damsel-in-distress, yet another eye candy type for the purpose of Bay’s unabashed female objectifications. As Wahlberg’s character complained about her daughter’s skimpy outfit, Bay set up a shot from between her thighs as she stood with her short shorts that barely covered her behind. Peltz was only 18 during filming, Bay’s nearing 50. It’s really a new low even for Bay.

I don’t know what’s worse, the wooden acting or the clichéd dialog coming out of their mouths. Even Stanley Tucci who’s always watchable even in a bad movie made me cringe here. His character is a multi-billionaire Tony Stark-type inventor who has been making man-made robots from the remains of the evil alien robots Decepticons. For someone who’s supposedly a brilliant scientist, his character does the most idiotic things throughout. In the third act, the main characters resort to dragging an alien *seed* that can turn organic material into metal. You’d think they’d be more careful with something THAT lethal, but it’s as if they’re dragging a body bag. It’s like watching a slapstick comedy except that it’s neither funny nor entertaining.

Transformers4Still3

I better end my rant now as I’m running out of adjectives to describe this movie. This FilmInk reviewer sums up my sentiment perfectly: “Transformers: Age of Extinction has appalling dialogue, deplorable representations of women, un-self-aware action sequences, very little humour and racial stereotyping. In other words, it’s a Michael Bay movie.” Suffice to say, this is by far the worst movie I’ve seen in a long time, rivaled only by Die Hard 5 but even that one is still more watchable as it’s only about half as long. I actually had to make a new rating graphic for this one as I’ve never given a rating this low before. I don’t care what state-of-the-art equipment is used to make this or even how good the visual quality is. I actually took my 3D glasses off a few times just to give my tired eyes a break. It’s really a sensory overload in the worst possible way.

ahalfreel


Well, what do you think of the latest Transformers movie? 

Everybody’s Chattin’ & Question of the Week on Movie Franchises

Happy Thursday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone today in combining two post *series* in one. Well, inspired by my recent viewing of Transformers 4 and some other news, the topic this week is: Hollywood Movie Franchises.

EverybodysChattin

Ok, so let’s start with some of my favorite posts from the past couple of weeks:

  • RIPEliWallachI LOVE actors appreciation posts! Cindy wrote a fan letter to the great Bill Murray, while Fernando paid birthday tribute to Queen Meryl, as in Meryl Streep. As we’ve just lost Eli Wallach, Michael paid tribute by listing his favorite films of one of the master Hollywood character actors. RIP Mr. Wallach.
  • A few reviews of 2014 movies I haven’t seen yet: Josh reviewed ENEMY, Sati reviewed MALEFICENT, and Melissa reviewed PALO ALTO, which was by yet another Coppola, Gia Coppola (Sofia Coppola’s niece)
  • Keith reviewed QT’s latest from 2012: DJANGO UNCHAINED and Mark reviewed a 90s sci-fi that’s definitely worth your while: CONTACT.
  • On the classic film front, Steven just reviewed yet another film by Douglas Sirk, Written On The Wind, starring Rock Hudson & Lauren Bacall.
    ///
  • Now, Andrew has been doing Recasting Posts of Best Picture Lineups, which is a VERY cool idea! Of course this one on Roman Holiday caught my eye, I mean I don’t think anyone could top Gregory Peck/Audrey Hepburn, but still it’s fun to see his picks.
  • Mikey recently interviewed Eli Roth & Lorenza Izzo and talking about the World Cup!
  • Vic gave us an updated list of what’s just been added to Netflix Streaming. Very informative, thanks Vic!
HitchcockJimmyStewart

Hitchcock w/ Jimmy Stewart on the set of Rear Window


Now for Question of the Week!

Interesting that on the same day I saw Transformers 4, I read Josh’s post on 10 Movie Series (Franchises) that he gave up on. Fortunately there’s only a couple there that I have seen, Twilight and Underworld, both of which are NOT worth following anyway.

EW_MadMaxCover

This past week I’ve also seen news updates on the reboot of the Mad Max franchise from the late 70s-mid 80s. In place of Mel Gibson, we’ve got the charismatic & bad ass Tom Hardy in the role. Check out the cover of EW with the first look with Hardy and Charlize Theron. Boy it’s been FIVE years since I first started blogging about that movie! Everything is old is new again, as it’s always been the case in the Hollywood… as the creativity has dried up long ago. I also heard news about the upcoming PREDATOR sequel or reboot, what have you. Something that made Tim VERY happy indeed ;) He’s already offered up 5 Ways to do the Predator sequel right.

Well, I don’t mind some reboots and not every sequel is automatically horrible. I for one am anticipating this Mad Max movie that’ll be out May of next year. I’m also looking forward to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the third Hobbit film, as well as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I later in November. Speaking of which, check out the latest teaser:

Whoah, that’s pretty creepy! Can’t wait to see that one.

But out of the few movie franchises I do like, there are dozens and dozens I wish would never get made. I think all that Josh has mentioned in his post are such time-wasters, and I definitely would add Transformers on the list as this fourth installment is so mind-numbingly horrible! And at 165 min (that’s nearly 3 hours long!!), it’s such another overindulgent Michael Bay’s plaything masquerading as a movie! It’s like eating the most gut-growing, heart-threatening, life-shortening junk food saturated with sugar & fat, but the worst part is, it doesn’t even taste good! Ok I’ll save my rant until my review this weekend.


So my question to you is two-fold:

Which film franchise(s) are you a big fan of & don’t mind that it keeps on going and which ones you wish would die a thousand deaths?

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION interview with Jack Reynor and Nicola Peltz

FCInterviewBanner

TransformersAgeOfExtinction

Hello everyone! Earlier this month, on June 8th to be exact, I got a chance to interview a couple of cast members from TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION: Nicola Peltz & Jack Reynor. It’s part of their press tour around the country and they showed clips from the movies as well as signed autographs for fans. Surely most of of you already know what the movie is about, after all it’s the fourth one in the franchise. I personally have only seen the first movie which was years ago, so I’m not exactly well-versed in the Transformers universe. So here’s what to expect in this latest movie:

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION begins after an epic battle left a great city torn, but with the world saved.  As humanity picks up the pieces, a shadowy group reveals itself in an attempt to control the direction of history…while an ancient, powerful new menace sets Earth in its crosshairs. With help from a new cast of humans (led by Mark Wahlberg), Optimus Prime and the Autobots rise to meet their most fearsome challenge yet.  In an incredible adventure, they are swept up in a war of good and evil, ultimately leading to a climactic battle across the world. 

 Trailer:


Thanks ALLIED for co-ordinating the interview roundup at Mall of America. There are seven interviewers in the roundtable so below are all the questions, I marked MY questions with an (*) in front of it.

Transformer-4-Jack_Nicola

Here’s the transcript from the interview with Jack Reynor and Nicola Peltz:

Q (for Veronica): With a lot of the strong female leads in entertainment films these days, does your character continue the strand of [being] strong female character in this movie?

Nicola: Tessa is definitely… you know how in the beginning of the movie she lives a normal life day to day, and she’s suddenly thrust into this extraordinary situation where she has to fight for her life and get back with her family. But she’s definitely a tough girl, she lives in a farm. She definitely gets her butt kicked a lot… a lot, but she has her moment.

Jack: I think she’s probably more of a bad ass than a lot of the other franchises that are around right now, in all honesty. She’s not the sensitive wilting flower [Nicola: she's no wilting flower]… more of a bad ass, I mean she’s going out with a race car driver so she better be [laughs]

Q: So what scene do each of you guys enjoy shooting the most?

Nicola: I don’t know if you guys saw the trailer but when we were running, Jack, Mark and I were running in slow motion and there’s this huge explosion…well that was real. We found out about it like four minutes before. We got on set and we had no idea. We saw all these explosives, twelve cameras and we’re like ‘What is going on?’ Michael does add random scenes so we’re very pleased. So he got on set and said: you have to run from here to here in 4.6 seconds and we had our practice runs and then he said, ‘Ok are you ready?’ And we’re like ‘Ok, yeah.’ And so we just did it and he said, ‘Well don’t mess it up ’cause we can only do it once.’ It was so exciting though, I mean your adrenaline was going crazy, it was really fun.

Q: To follow up on that… could you just talk about the different challenges about doing television or independent films versus doing a monumental blockbuster film like this one?

Jack: Well for me at least, independent films and films like this aren’t really that different in terms of my approach to my character and a performance. You still have to try your best to suspend your disbelief and draw on your imagination and your emotion and invoke certain thoughts for yourself to invest in your character. The real differences are that with a film of this kind of budget and scale is that there are so many more people around all the time. And the effects are so heavy and the wait time between shots are kind of substantially longer. So things like that are really different. Y’know people ask all the time how does it feel like to star opposite a giant imaginary robot, well I think it’s not so different from any other films you try to do. Like I said it’s about drawing from your imagination, so it’s an extension of that from the world of independent film and television.

And with Mark being on set, and Michael, and don’t get me wrong, Stanley [Tucci] and Kelsey [Grammer] as well, these are all veterans of the industry, they’ve all done a movie like this before. So for Nicola and I to be able to observe them in the environment, ehm making a blockbuster film has been an eye-opener for us and it’s taught us a lot on how to relate to the industry and how the industry relate to us. It’s very beneficial for us at our stage of our careers.

Transformer-4-SetPhoto

Photo courtesy of sciencefiction.com

*Q (for Jack): Since you’ve done a bunch of independent films like What Richard Did and then this movie. You sort of touched on that a little bit but then you’re going to be doing Macbeth [Jack: I've finished Macbeth]. Is there anything that’s particularly memorable in filming this as opposed to those indie films?

Jack: Yeah again, it’s that crazy scale… rolling through f***in’ giant explosion y’know, crazy car chases. I mean driving rally cars having helicopters flying over my head. Cars with cranes chasing me and stuff like that. I shouldn’t be driving behind the wheel of a car like that, that’s mental. But yeah, it’s a really fun experience. It’s great. It’s a massive departure for me from the world of independent films so I enjoyed it, I relished the challenge, certainly.

Q: Transformers is a whole different animal from what the work you’ve done in the past. Have you found that your life changed now with the added exposure that comes with being in the Transformers 4 movie?

Nicola: My life? No, not at all. I still walk around and no one really cares. But then we just started this tour. We haven’t had the premiere yet which I’m super excited for but yeah, it’s been amazing.

Jack: Well on a personal level, for both of us on a personal level, things hasn’t changed an awful lot as of yet. In Ireland for me, a lot of people are really happy there’s an Irish guy as part of a massive franchise like this. We don’t have an Irish character in movies like this ever, this is kind of the first time we’ve actually seen an Irish character kind of in a large supporting role so that’s a real great thing. But professionally, on a professional level I think both of us have certainly noticed that we’re in a position that we can potentially finance the kind of projects that we want to make ourselves and we have a lot more freedom and leeway in what we want to do. And it’s afforded us a lot of opportunities in the industry and we both want to take full advantage of that. So that’s been a definite difference.

Transformer-4-Nicola

Q (for Nicola): Transformers is known as more of a guy film. So what do you think will bring the female audience in.

Nicola: Well I grew up with six brothers so I’ve always been into more of the guy movies and action films, those are the kind of movies I’m excited to go see. But Tessa is really relatable to a lot of girls, I know I can relate to her. Her dad is overprotective, I know I can relate to that definitely with six brothers. She’s in a no-dating household so I get all of that. But she is definitely relatable to a lot of girls. She is a tough girl, I think a lot of girls would be into this. I know I am.

Q: I saw an interview with Mark Wahlberg, and he had said ‘Jack and Nicola’s life is going to change quite a bit when the movie comes out. And it’s something you could deal with so well or it’s going to be a problem.’ Specifically as a mentor and father figure, as you enter huge celebrity, can you tell us a bit what that meant to you and what his best advice was?

Transformer-4-Jack

Jack: Well the thing is, during filming at least, Mark really lead from the front. And just to be able to observe him in that environment is something that’s very beneficial to us. It helps us to develop a healthy work ethic in this industry.

[ed note: Jack and Nicola has quite a lot to say about working with Mark Wahlberg and their thoughts on fame and celebrity. I figure I'll let you take a listen to it yourself so you can hear what both of them sound like. Jack still has a pretty thick Irish accent as he still resides in Dublin.]

Q: So going more into the story of the film. What’s at stake for each of your character. What does your character stand to lose if you fail?

Nicola: Our lives [laughs] Well like I said in the beginning of the movie you see them live their lives, how they’re all normal relatable people and they’re thrown into this crazy situation. So in the film my character got separated from my dad and being a 17-year-old girl it’s really scary. And for her to be in this crazy situation and not being with her dad is super intimidating and scary. So she’s definitely scared about her life and also not only worrying about herself but also worrying about her dad. Is my dad ok? Is my boyfriend ok? So yeah there’s a lot of that.

Jack: At the heart of my character. Well he’s a young Irish guy who lands in Texas and he has this incredible ability to race rally cars. It gives him confidence in himself and y’know gives him the ability to assume his position in that world and also in terms of his relationship with Nicola’s character. I think that throughout the course of the film, he’s trying to find his place, he’s trying to prove who he is, what he’s worth. At the same time, his relationship with Nicola’s character is something that helps her to become more independent and to grow and approach the adult world and to diverge her relationship with her dad in a healthy way. So that’s the purpose that my character serves.

NicolaPeltzJackReynorMOAsigning

Q: So Transformers is like an extremely beloved series. Do you guys feel any pressure to live up to what has become of this franchise?

Nicola: Well we’re not replacing any character, so there’s no pressure to live up to something that we’re not replacing. But as me being a huge fan of Transformers and growing up with boys and being obsessed with it and I knew the whole story… I’m also a huge fan of Michael Bay and everyone involved in this film, so even being able to audition for this film and then to being able to be a part of it is so exciting for me. That’s all I was worried about. I’m just so excited to go on set and to work with such talented people.

And that’s a wrap! :D
The interview was only 15-min long so that was the last question.


Transformers4_MoAInterview

Pardon the blurred photo. I was actually standing to the left of Jack in this photo but it was so blurry it’s best to just cut me off from the picture.

JACK REYNOR BIO

Reynor recently wrapped filming on the human trafficking story Glassland, alongside Toni Collette in Dublin, Ireland. This is the second feature from Irish director Gerard Barrett. Reynor has recently begun filming the upcoming adaptation of Shakespeare’s MACBETH, directed by Justin Kurzel. He will be playing the role of Malcolm alongside Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender.

Last winter, Reynor garnered rave reviews for playing the titular character in the Irish independent film What Richard Did. Labeled as one of the best movies to come out of the Tribeca and Toronto Film Festivals, it is a story about a young boy who has to confront the question of who he is and who he wants to become. Reynor delivered a spectacular performance receiving glowing remarks from film critics around the globe. “Mr. Reynor’s portrayal of this man-child is an extraordinary screen performance…,” stated Stephen Holden of The New York Times. Leslie Felperin of Variety wrote “Promising young thesp Jack Reynor particularly impresses as the title character… The climactic scene between Peter and Richard is powerfully thesped, especially by Reynor.”

Proving his multifaceted talent, Reynor made his US film debut in the recently released Vince Vaughn comedy DELIVERY MAN (Dreamworks) which came out in theaters nationwide on November 22nd 2013. Reynor was born in Colorado, but grew up in Ireland.

NICOLA PELTZ BIO

Later this summer Peltz will also star in Kevin Asch’s Affluenza which is set for limited release in July. The film is a coming of age story inspired by The Great Gatsby and is set amongst the upper class in the Long Island suburb of Great Neck during the weeks leading up to the financial meltdown of 2008.

On the small screen Peltz is currently reprising her role as Bradley Martin, a troubled high school student, in the second season of A&E’s critically acclaimed series Bates Motel. The series is a modern reimagining and prequel to the1960 Alfred Hitchcock cult classic Psycho, which focuses on the life of Norman Bates and his mother Norma portrayed by Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga.

In 2012, she starred alongside Melanie Lynskey and Campbell Scott in Eye of the Hurricane, a compelling family adventure about a small Everglades community struggling to put their lives back together in the wake of a devastating hurricane. In 2010, Peltz starred in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender opposite Dev Patel and Jackson Rathbone. The film was written, directed and produced by Shyamalan and was based on the first season of Nickelodeon’s animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Peltz made her feature film debut in 2006 in Deck the Halls with Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth.

A New York native, Nicola made her stage debut in 2007 opposite Jeff Daniels and Alison Pill in the Olivier Award-winning production of “Blackbird” at the Manhattan Theatre Club directed by Joe Mantello.
///

 TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION in out in theaters this Friday, June 27


Hope you enjoy the interview! What are your thoughts on Transformers movies and/or the cast?

June 2014 Blind Spot Film: REBECCA (1940)

Rebecca_1940Poster

As with a lot of the BlindSpot viewings this year, there are a lot of firsts in regards to REBECCA. No, it’s not the first Hitchcock film I saw, but it’s the first Laurence Olivier AND Joan Fontaine film I ever saw. I didn’t know David O. Selznick produced this, which was interesting given that I first saw Fontaine’s sister Olivia deHavilland in Selznick’s epic drama Gone With The Wind just the year before.

This was billed as a dramatic thriller, as well as a gothic romance, which immediately made me think of Jane Eyre. Interestingly enough, I noticed a few similarities with Charlotte Brontë’s classic tale (and not only because Fontaine did play Jane Eyre in 1943 with Orson Welles). Both of the protagonists in Jane Eyre and Rebecca are still haunted by his first wife. A wealthy man named Maxim de Winter (Olivier) meets a young, naive girl who accompanies her employer on a trip to Monte Carlo. Their first meeting wasn’t exactly a ‘meet cute,’ in fact he was rather rude towards her [yet another similarity to Jane Eyre's Rochester] but after a whirlwind romance, the two got married and he took her to his estate, Manderley.

Rebecca1940Stills1

Now by the time the film starts, Rebecca is no longer in the picture, but no doubt her presence is felt throughout the film. Rebecca is definitely an overwhelming force despite the character never being shown on screen, not even in flashback. And that’s definitely what the filmmaker wanted Fontaine’s character to feel throughout the movie, that she’s overwhelmed by this unseen force who clearly still has a strange hold on everyone in Manderley.

The real suspense starts to build as soon as the couple get to Manderley. The big, expansive mansion looks and feel eerie, not unlike the ominous Thornfield Hall with a strange woman locked in the attic. The house is almost a character in itself, and it definitely plays a big role in the story. Manderley’s domineering, creepy housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) definitely gives me the hibijibis. I really feel for Fontaine’s character and what she had to go through, not only did she have to endure her husband’s coldness, she also has to deal with a deranged, obsessive housekeeper who wanted to be rid of her. I kept wondering though why they couldn’t just fire Mrs. Danvers, I mean she is after all an employee at the estate. Right from the very moment she’s introduced in the movie, Mrs. Danvers is one of the most spine-chilling characters that really gets under my skin. I think the most terrifying scenes in the movie is when she gives Fontaine’s character a tour to Rebecca’s room, reminiscing on her former master and her obsession with her.

Rebecca1940Still2

Mrs. Danvers: [just as the second Mrs. de Winter reaches for the door] You wouldn’t think she’d been gone so long, would you? Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor, I fancy I hear her just behind me. That quick light step, I couldn’t mistake it anywhere. It’s not only in this room, it’s in all the rooms in the house. I can almost hear it now.

Mrs. Danvers: Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?

The Second Mrs. de Winter: [sobbing] N-no, I don’t believe it.

Mrs. Danvers: Sometimes, I wonder if she doesn’t come back here to Manderley, to watch you and Mr. de Winter together. You look tired. Why don’t you stay here a while and rest, and listen to the sea? It’s so soothing. Listen to it.

[turning away towards the window as the second Mrs. de Winter slips out the door]
Mrs. Danvers: Listen. Listen to the sea.

Rebecca1940Still3

You could say Judith was quite the scene-stealer in this film as you simply can’t shake her for some time after you’ve seen this film. She’s THAT creepy. The rest of the cast is equally excellent in their Oscar-nominated performances. I’m quite impressed by the luminous Joan Fontaine who’s the heart of the film whomI sympathize with right away. She went from being this frail, nervous and self-conscious young bride in the beginning, to a woman who’s able to hold her own by the end. Her character definitely *grew up* as the film progressed and her transformation is very believable. Sir Olivier is perfectly suited as the wealthy tortured soul type, hardened and enigmatic. The British thespian has played another Bronte’s dark hero, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights just the year before, sounds like the type of roles he could play in his sleep. There’s not much chemistry between him and Fontaine but given the plot of the story it sort of make sense. Based on the documentary included in the disc, apparently Olivier was keen on having his then-girlfriend Vivien Leigh to play Fontaine’s role, but I personally don’t think Leigh would suit the role as well.  George Sanders plays this weasel character who’s trying to frame Maxim, I’ve seen him play a similar character in All About Eve not too long ago. His character seems too lively to be really sinister or threatening however, I think out of all the characters, I feel that his performance is the least convincing to me.

Rebecca1940_Olivier_Fontaine

As to be expected from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock truly delivered the goods with this one. This is his second feature adaptation from Daphne Du Maurier novel and clearly the material suits his style. The gothic story lends itself to the eerie, bone-chilling atmosphere, and Hitchcock is the master at building up the suspense and that dreaded sense of impending doom. Every frame, sound, ambiance is carefully crafted, coupled with Franz Waxman‘s ominous score for a total immersive experience. I didn’t see the twist coming which is always nice when that happens. Yet Rebecca isn’t reliant on that twist for you to truly appreciate the film because it’s more than just a gimmick. The story is rich, with a deep, layered symbolism that stays with you long after the credits. It’s also a beautifully-shot film with the lush setting, gorgeous costumes, and evocative lighting that brings out its supernatural quality.

This is definitely one of those films that lives up to the hype. The heightened suspense and tension is what I expect from Hitchcock — he brought Du Marier’s story alive and kept me engrossed from start to finish. Just like the literary work it’s based on, this film has that timeless quality that would stand the test of time. I am surprised that this is the only Hitchcock film that ever won Best Picture Oscar. I definitely think it’s Oscar-worthy but I haven’t seen his later works such as Vertigo and Rear Window that’s far more popular than this one. I definitely have a lot of Hitchcock to catch up on and I’m looking forward to it!

4.5 out of 5 reels


This is the fifth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .


What do you think of  REBECCA? I’d love to hear what you think!