Indie Review: I, ANNA starring Charlotte Rampling & Gabriel Byrne

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I must say that the main draw for me to this film is are the pairing of Charlotte Rampling and Gabriel Byrne. As it turns out, the casting remains to be the strongest thing about this film from newbie director Barnaby Southcombe, who happens to be Rampling’s own son.

The film opens with the protagonist Anna, a beautiful but lonely divorcee living with her daughter and granddaughter, on yet another singles night event. There’s a humorous exchange in the ladies room between Anna and an older lady who happens to be Honor Blackman (a.k.a. Bond’s Pussy Galore!) We later learn that her daughter has been encouraging her to get out there and meet someone new. The two seems to have a friendly relationship but at the same time there’s a certain distance I can’t put my finger on, but then again, Anna is such a mysterious figure and continues to be as the film progressed.

Her story is interwoven with a pending murder case, which is where Detective Bernie Reid (Byrne) comes in. Reid is an insomniac dealing with his own relationship problems, in fact he’s living in a hotel since his marital separation. So when the two lost souls meet, it seems inevitable that they’d somehow connect later on. They meet by chance, in the elevator of the building where the murder case happens, and for a while, it seems nothing more than a coincidence. Or is it?

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As a slow-burn mystery, the film does work in keeping us in suspense, or at least in a state of curiosity, as the truth of what’s happening is slowly revealed in a series of hazy vignettes. At times the film plays like a procedural TV episode with the cops getting a lead on the suspects, etc. though the notion that ‘things are not what it seems’ plays out in a rather predictable way.

As I said before, the strength of this film is in the performances. Rampling and Byrne both brought their A-game to this film. Byrne is appropriately grizzled as a jaded detective who’s clearly smitten by this mysterious woman. It’s always a delight to watch the talented Irish thespian on screen, though this isn’t his best role by any stretch. The star of the film is definitely Rampling—who was 66 when she made this film. She still looks perfectly believable as a femme fatale, her steely gaze and seductive smile are contrasted by a palpable vulnerability. She carries the role with absolute conviction right down to the emotional finale. Though I never quite warmed up to Anna, she was certainly captivating to watch. Hayley Atwell is completely wasted as Rampling’s daughter, however. It’s a shame that she wasn’t given hardly anything to do here, and neither was Eddie Marsan as another detective working on the case.

Sometimes a certain expectations can greatly affect how we feel about a film and this is one of those occasions. The plot synopsis that reads like this “A noir thriller told from the point of view of a femme fatale, who falls for the detective in charge of a murder case.” Boy, that just sounds so juicy, and yes the film seems to have the elements of a noir, right down to the classic trench coat of the protagonist. I also appreciate the fact that a mature woman, and not just some pretty young thing, is at the center of the story. Alas, the idea of this film ends up being far more riveting than the film itself.

Though I didn’t know that this was Southcombe’s feature film debut, I kind of sense that from the way this film was directed. The pacing was much too slow for my liking and whilst the atmospheric cinematography style was intriguing at first, I felt like it was overdone, perhaps to cover up its thin plot. I suppose it’s still worth a watch if you’re a fan of the noir genre, I just wish it could’ve been a lot more compelling given the cast involved.


3 out of 5 reels


Have you seen this one yet? Well, what did you think?

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What I’ve Watched in my First Week on 2013

Happy Monday all! This the first FULL work week I have for a while now, I’m definitely gonna miss the partial work week from the Holiday season, ahah.

In lieu of a weekend roundup, I thought I’d share how my movie watching has been in its first week of the new year. Actually it’s been rather slow and I haven’t been to the movie theater since The Hobbit over a week ago. Not that I miss going to the cinema, though some things are definitely meant to see on the big screen, which is why we’d go see Life of Pi next weekend.

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I miss the movie-going experience, though not the waiting-in-line part

I’ll be going to a couple of advanced screenings this week, but due to the embargo, I can’t talk about ‘em yet. Let’s just say one of them is likely going to be in the running for Academy Awards nominations and the other one is a period action film starring a few very popular actors. So anyways, I’ve only seen about three movies so far and three of them were new to me.

  • The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
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    The inspiration for You’ve Got Mail starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart is lovely. I didn’t know it was set in Hungary. Though the mail correspondent part wasn’t as prominent a plot as the remake, but the scene at the cafe were pretty much identical.

    I need to watch more James Stewart movies, I think The Philadelphia Story is next! Oh, I also like Frank Morgan as the store owner Mr. Matuschek!

    ..
  • Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

    SafetyNotGuaranteedPosterI’m so glad I finally saw this. I’ve been seeing a ton of great reviews on this one, glad it was available on iTunes. All of the actors were unknown to me, but I was impressed by Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. The story is wonderfully bizarre and it was full of quirky characters as well. Duplass (who reminds me a bit of Sean Bean) plays Kenneth, a supermarket employee who put a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel, and Plaza plays Darius, one of the three magazine employees who head out on assignment to write a story on it.

    The premise makes for off-the-wall and hilarious scenarios, but yet the story ends up being quite heartfelt, especially when it’s between Kenneth and Darius. It keeps you guessing throughout up until that whoa! ending. It’s the kind of ending that makes you stand up and cheer despite how preposterous it is, definitely one of the most original time-travel stories I’ve ever watched. If you’re looking for great, memorable characters and emotional gratification, this movie is not to be missed. I quite like the music too, my favorite part was when Kenneth sang The Big Machine with a Zither!
  • The Wings of the Dove (1997)
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    WingsoftheDovePosterI’ve been wanting to see this movie for quite a while, especially when someone mentioned about the memorable scene at the London Tube. Well, there’s that and a boat load of memorable rainy scenes in Venice too!

    It’s based on a 1902 novel by Henry James. The tagline says it all: A couple with everything but money. An heiress with everything but love. A temptation no one could resist. Helena Bonham Carter in one of her plethora of period dramas was quite bewitching as a young woman, Kate, who’s torn between love and her privileged life. She’s basically an impoverished girl who’s taken up by her wealthy aunt (Charlotte Rampling), but she’s in love with a penniless journalist Merton (Linus Roache). When she befriends a dying American heiress Millie (Alison Elliot), she concocts a plot to enable her to have her cake and eat it too, but things don’t exactly go according to plan.

    Oh, the things people in the name of love… the chemistry between Helena and Linus was scorching, but man, it’s awful and sad how far Kate is willing to do to get what she wants. It’s really a dark, twisted and poignant love story. It certainly makes for a passionate and ravishing period drama. Both HBC and Linus were captivating, Linus was quite mesmerizing, he’s got such an uncanny resemblance to Christian Bale, no wonder he was cast as Bruce Wayne Sr! Bonham-Carter was nominated for an Oscar for this role. I pretty much love all the performances, down to the supporting roles with thespians like Michael Gambon and Charlotte Rampling.

    It’s the kind of story that lingers long after the end credits. In fact, I kept thinking about it all night all the way until this morning. I feel like this film deserves a full write-up, which I still may do in the future. The cinematography alone is breathtaking… all in all a bewitching adaptation.
  • Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (re-watch)
    It never fails to entertain. Sean Connery + Harrison Ford pairing is just brilliant, plus there River Phoenix in the beginning as the young Indy. I wish he were still alive today, I’d rather see him than Shia in the fourth installment! Anyway, we also watched the making-of documentary which was pretty cool as Spielberg went almost scene-by-scene on various locations.


Well, glad to report that the three new ones were all very enjoyable. So what movies did you watch in the first week of the New Year?

Five for the Fifth: End of the Year Edition

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Hello folks, welcome to the very last edition of 2012 Five for the Fifth!!

To those who’ve never missed a single FFtF post, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for making this my most popular 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, it’s only three weeks away to 2013. I think it’s been quite a year for movies, hasn’t it? I mean we’ve got major blockbusters for super lucrative franchises – The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall AND The Hobbit all in the same year! Yes, it’s a big year for Twi-hards as well but for the rest of us, aren’t you glad the franchise is [almost] over? All together now: free at last!! :D

Thanks to TCFF though, I’ve also got a chance to view some awesome indie movies as well, which balance things out nicely. I will do my Top 10 of 2012 at the end of the month, but I think Argo, Skyfall and The Sapphires might make my list.

So my first question is: What’s YOUR top five favorite films of the year (so far)?

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2. Ok, 2012 is barely over and I’m already looking forward to June 14, 2013! Yep, that’s the US release date for Man of Steel. If you’re on Twitter on Monday, most likely you’ve seen it but just in case you haven’t. Behold…

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‘Oooh lookie here, sexy Henry in handcuffs!!’ ;) Ehm, sorry, now that we get that out of the way. Most people were baffled as to ‘why is Supes a villain?’ and just the general logic [or lack thereof] that you can’t technically confine Supes with all his mighty powers behind bars, that is unless the prison is made of kryptonite of course. But judging from the look of Supes’ expression, looks like it’s a voluntary decision on his part to be led by the military convoy. I kind of like the departure from tradition, in fact, Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder seems to be set on defying tradition even from the costume alone. As EMPIRE mag says, “…a little originality is good for the soul.”

So what do you think of the teaser poster, folks? Thoughts about this reboot so far?

3. It’s been a while since I blog about Rufus Sewell, one of my favorite hunky Brits. But I want to let you know on his Sundance Channel two-part miniseries Restless he’s currently starring in, along with Hayley Atwell, Charlotte Rampling and Michael Gambon.

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Adapted from William Boyd‘s spy novels that Boyd himself is adapting, it’s set during the early days of World War II and follows a Russian spy who tries to infiltrate the British Secret Service with the goal of influencing U.S. power brokers and swinging American public opinion in favor of fighting the Nazis.

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Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery plays Ruth Gilmartin, who, in 1976, visits her mother Sally (Rampling), and is handed a diary recounting her colorful past. Turns out mom was actually born Eva Delectorskaya (Atwell), having emigrated from Russia to France. In the wake of her brother’s death in 1939, she’s recruited by British agent Lucas Romer (Sewell) to spy for the U.K. on the eve of World War II. (per Variety) Judging from the picture above, there’s likely some smoldering romance involved as well. Check out the awesome extended preview/featurette below with the ensemble cast:


The premise sounds intriguing and I like the look of this miniseries. Plus the cast is excellent! Rufus and Hayley certainly look fabulous in period costumes.

The first part of the miniseries begins this Friday at 9P E/P on the Sundance Channel. Can’t wait to see this one when it’s available to rent!

Well, what do you think of the trailer? Would you watch this one if you have the Sundance Channel?

4. Well, one of the biggest movie of 2012 has just come out in Blu-ray. Some of you might already pre-order The Dark Knight Rises and even seen it all over again a few times by now? :D Well I might get a copy too but not in a hurry to do so. One thing that I find amusing lately is the emergence of these Honest Trailers by the Screen Junkies (the trailers are made by Break Media digital company. You’ve likely seen their parodies of popular movies like Hunger Games, Prometheus, Avengers and my favorite of all, Twilight on YouTube. Well, Nolan’s final Batman trilogy no exception, check out their latest work below. As you probably guess, these honest trailers do have plot spoilers on them, but really, if you haven’t seen this movie by now, you probably aren’t that interested in Nolan’s Batman movies in the first place.

These guys definitely don’t pull any punches on their parody, but y’know what, it addresses a lot of the questions I had with the movie I wrote in my review. No matter though, this movie is obviously flak-proof anyway as the Blu-rays are likely going off the shelves as we speak.

How many honest trailers have you seen and which one(s) do you like best?


5. Ok, my last question is not exactly movie-related but you are free to make it so if you like. Well, I’ll be off to my two-week vacation on Friday. I don’t usually go on vacation during the holiday season but our schedule just works out that way this year. I haven’t been in any major vacation in over a year, but I’ve been blessed with a lot of memorable one in my lifetime. I think my favorite one is a tossup between the trip to Italy and the UK a few years back. I’m more of a city girl so I love exploring the enchanting cities like Rome, Florence and London that’s so full of history and full of life.

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I still dream to go to Scotland, Australia and Eastern Europe (especially Prague), hopefully one of them would happen in the near future.

So my last question to you is, what’s your most memorable vacation you’ve ever had? I’d also love to hear about your dream vacation :D



Well, that’s it for the last 2012 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. There’ll be more coming next year for sure!

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Weekend Viewing Reviews: Mirror Mirror and Angel (2007)

The last day of July is coming to an end, in fact it’s already August for some of you, but hey I thought I’d fit in a couple of reviews first before I post my Monthly Roundup tomorrow. Been watching the Olympics much? The only thing I managed to watch is the opening ceremony which was splendid I thought. Great job Danny Boyle! To me the main highlights were the Mr. Bean on the Chariot of Fire orchestra and of course, James Bond escorting the Queen! If you haven’t seen that Happy & Glorious clip you can watch it here.

Anyway, here are the two movies I saw over the weekend:

Mirror, Mirror

By the time I posted this Snow White battle post I was still on the fence about which Snow White movie I was anticipating most, but then after seeing the silly trailer, I decided I wasn’t going to waste my time on Mirror, Mirror. Well this Friday night my hubby and I were looking for something light and fluffy, and it’s either this or This Means War, and since we like a few of Tarsem’s work, we thought ok, what the heck.

Well guess what, it’s actually quite entertaining. Right from the early concept poster, this movie had always been marketed as a comedy and I think on that front it delivered. I was laughing throughout and despite some really cliche moments, I enjoyed it. Lilly Collins is definitely believable as Snow White, and despite marginal acting skills (this isn’t exactly an acting movie after all), at least she is far more expressive than Kristen Stewart!

I’m still bothered by Julia Roberts as the evil queen however, and her atrocious British accent (if you can even call it that) is just laughable. Why did Tarsem even insist on her speaking with a British accent anyway?? I mean this is a fairy tale, she could’ve been speaking with an Icelandic accent and it won’t matter, might as well let her keep her Southern drawl. Thankfully, it doesn’t derail the whole movie, and Armie Hammer as the dashing Prince more than makes up for her shortcomings. The 6’5″ hunky Californian looks like he practically jumps out of the Disney fairy tale princess storybook, but Hammer’s got some decent comic timing to prevent him from being more than boring eye candy. The part where he was under the puppy love spell is quite a hoot! The Prince and Snow White has a sweet chemistry, and there’s an amusing twist about the whole true love’s kiss notion.

Nathan Lane is a natural at comedy and he gets the most laughs here. A major plus here is that unlike Snow White and the Huntsman where the dwarfs were criminally underused, they have a pretty big part here. The relationship between them and Snow White are also much more developed in a whimsical but heartwarming way. That’s not to say this is a deep movie, but at least it’s consistent with the trailer and doesn’t over-promise us with something profound.

Tarsem’s visual is not as spectacular as in The Fall, in fact it seems too CGI-ish coming from the visual visionary. I’m also not too fond of Snow White’s makeup, I mean Collins is absolutely gorgeous but someone needs to wax her Leonid Brezhnev eyebrows! I normally don’t complain about stuff like that but those bushy brows do become quite distracting as I’m watching this.

Overall I thought it was pretty enjoyable and did I mention Sean Bean also had a cameo here? Oh, and Tarsem did an homage to Bollywood in the final scene which I thought was fun, but at the same time I’m glad he didn’t put this scene in the middle of the movie!
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3 out of 5 reels


Angel (2007)

Now this movie seems to have everything going for it for me to LOVE it. It’s a period drama, one of my favorite genres, it’s about a writer, and it’s got a nice cast. I actually like Romola Garai in Amazing Grace and Atonement, I think she’s quite underrated. There’s also Sam Neill, Charlotte Rampling AND Michael Fassbender as Garai’s love interest. Ok, what’s not to love, right? Alas, it’s quite disappointing.

The story is set in early 20th century England where Angel Deverell (Garai) grew up with her single mother atop her grocery shop. She is a gifted writer who’s always dreamed of being a novelist. She defies all odds when somehow a publisher (Sam Neill) is willing to take a chance on her and publish her romance novels. The thing is, Angel is as far from angelic as you can get. She is a pompous brat with no manners and treats her own mother and aunt, pretty much the only family she has, like dirt. It’s tricky to create a story based on an unsympathetic heroine. She reminds me a bit of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, only much, much less endearing. Heck, at least Scarlet treats her parents far better than Angel does.

The transformation from rags to riches feels rather abrupt as well, and I can’t seem to figure just what is the point of Angel’s story. We’re only given a glimpse into her best-selling novels but not enough to see just what made her the way she is. Those novels made her famous and rich enough that she could buy Paradise House, a sprawling estate she’s always dreamed of living in as a kid. But Angel remains an enigma up until the end, and it’s such a lost opportunity since the movie pretty much focuses mostly on her for the entire two hours running time.

Fassbender as the object of Angel’s affection is wonderful to watch, though even he still can’t save the movie. The moment Esme appeared he was quite breathtaking, and despite his not-so-kind words about Angel’s work, she was smitten [well naturally]. Yet there is something wanting about their romance, I don’t know why I just wasn’t enthralled by it, even their love scenes leave me cold, Fassbender’s shapely bum notwithstanding, ehm. There’s also a key relationship between Angel and Esme’s sister, Nora, who’s rather obsessed with Angel, but once again, there’s not much character development in that either, so the whole thing is just frustrating.

I generally like Sam Neill but I feel that he’s wasted here. Charlotte Rampling who plays his wife makes much more of an impression with her sardonic smile, she’s the only character who doesn’t think highly of Angel right from the start. As for the protagonist, I just can’t muster enough sympathy for Angel, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily Romola’s fault as I do think she’s a decent actress.

It turns out that this is French director François Ozon’s first English-speaking movie based on a novel by Elizabeth Taylor [no, not the Hollywood actress]. Well, I’m not exactly impressed by his work here. The set pieces and costumes are beautiful enough, but poor narrative really drags this movie down. Oh, to make matters worse, this film has got the worst special effects I’ve ever seen in a contemporary film. It looks like it was made for only $150K instead of  $15 millions!

So, unless you’re a die hard Fassbender fan, I really can’t recommend this one. It’s too bad as it seems to have the recipe of a charming period drama.

2 out of 5 reels


Well, what did you watch this past weekend? Thoughts about either one of these movies?