Rental Pick: John Singleton’s SHAFT (2000)

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New York City police detective John Shaft (nephew of the original 1970s detective) goes on a personal mission to make sure the son of a real estate tycoon is brought to justice after a racially-motivated murder.

I’ve been curious about this movie for some time but I forgot that it’s available on Netflix streaming. As my hubby and I were in the mood for an action flick, this was a good a time as any to finally check it out. One thing I noticed right away was how young Samuel L. Jackson looked here, though this was made only a decade and a half ago. He’s basically playing the same tough guy character as Nick Fury and a bunch of other action roles – same snarky attitude and that cocky swagger.

It’s interesting to see him go after some rich SOB Walter Wade Jr. played by Christian Bale, the same year he also plays another rich psychopath in American Psycho and 5 years before he plays an even richer guy Bruce Wayne, but at least he uses his privilege for good in those Batman films. He’s quite convincing as some racist bastard, you really wants to punch his smug face every time he’s on screen. But he’s actually not the most memorable villain in this flick, that’d be Jeffrey Wright who plays a ghetto drug kingpin Peoples Hernandez. It’s amusing to see an African American actor playing a Hispanic man, he’s definitely the movie’s scene stealer here.

The rest of the supporting cast was pretty good. Toni Collette is quite memorable here too as the witness Shaft’s trying to convince to testify and rapper Busta Rhymes provides comic relief as Shaft’s frantic driver. I haven’t seen the original Shaft films, but I’m familiar with Richard Roundtree who had a supporting role as Shaft’s uncle. I also like the fact that they didn’t make the beautiful Vanessa Williams to be just the eye candy factor or damsel in distress, in fact she actually saved Shaft in one key scene.

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The movie itself was pretty entertaining – good pacing, interesting characters and dynamic action scenes. Yet it wasn’t just all about car chases and shootouts, as the story was pretty involving but not overly complicated. John Singleton definitely had style and some of the camera work was pretty cool to watch. It’s also quite violent and there are as many F-bombs flying out as there are bullets, I read on IMDb that there were F-word was used 165 times in this movie, wow! At least the violence wasn’t too gratuitous. The finale also still manages to surprise me, and I remember not having recovered yet from the tense scene between Shaft and Hernandez. Not a bad rental and I’m glad I finally saw this one. I’m actually surprised there isn’t a sequel to this, I’d think that it might’ve been a hit back then.

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Have you seen SHAFT? Well, what did you think?

Weekend Viewing Roundup + The Two Faces of January (2014) review

Well last Friday was the first weekend of Spring but Winter’s still not done with us yet as it was the Winter Wonderland again Sunday night. I didn’t think the snow was going to stick but here’s what my neighborhood looked like as I left work this morning! I do love those snow-covered branches!

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Skipped the cinema again this weekend, but rented a few things from Netflix: Shaft (the 2000 version with Samuel L. Jackson – review upcoming) and The Two Faces of January. Apparently The Phantom of the Opera (2004) w/ Gerry Butler and Emmy Rossum is now on Netflix streaming so of course I had to rewatch that again. In fact, I also watched half of the 2006 BBC Jane Eyre w/ my dahling Toby Stephens. Wintry night in is meant for viewing indulgences ;)

RoyalDeceitOh, on Thursday night also rented what’s supposed to be a Danish re-telling of Hamlet called Royal Deceit. I couldn’t believe how horrible it was, it’s simply ghastly in terms of direction, script (if you can even call it that), production design, as well as acting. I only saw it because of the stellar cast: Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Tom Wilkinson AND a young Any Serkis (this was apparently his film movie), all of them were absolutely wasted in one cringe-worthy scene after another. I honestly thought the cast might’ve lost a bet or something to star in this movie, what a criminal waste of talents! If I were to rate it, it’d get a big fat ZERO reel as there is nothing redeemable about it.

Anyway, here’s my review of …

 The Two Faces of January

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A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.

This film seems to have the making of a great psycho thriller, given that it’s from the writer of great mystery thrillers The Talented Mr Ripley Strangers on a Train. I haven’t read Patricia Highsmith‘s novel, but I’d think the book might’ve been more exciting. It has its moments but it suffers from a rather sedate beginning and sluggish second act before it finally picks up in its third act.

I haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen in anything new in a while so it’s always nice seeing him here, playing an older, elegant businessman Chester Macfarland traveling with his young wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst). Mortensen is a solid actor and he does a great job here, but I find myself drawn to the tour guide/con-artist Rydal (Oscar Isaac) with his brooding good looks and dark, enigmatic eyes. There’s a palpable sexual chemistry between Isaac and Dunst, and Isaac also has some great dramatic scenes with Mortensen, especially towards the end.

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The breathtaking cinematography in Athens and Crete is practically a character in itself and it serves as a fine distraction during some of the film’s slower parts. The finale’s foot-chase scene in Istanbul was stylishly shot and that’s definitely the most exciting part of the entire film. Iranian director Hossein Amini made this film with a Hithcockian flair to it, and the use of light is quite dramatic, especially in the night time scene in a Greek ruin. Apparently this is Amini’s feature film debut so that might explain the uneven tone, but I think he did a pretty good job for a first timer and I’m curious what he’d do next.

I think the strength of the film lies in Mortensen and Isaac, and the film’s main conflict is ultimately between these two. Mortensen convincingly displayed the jealousy and paranoia that constantly haunted Chester, whilst Isaac’s character couldn’t seem to shake his lust for Colette that sucked him deeper and deeper into this dangerous predicament. I’ve been a fan of Isaac for some time and I sure hope he’d get more leading roles as he’s got such an effortless screen magnetism.

Given the intriguing plot and the cast, this could’ve been a really compelling and riveting noir thriller. As it is now, the film dragged in parts and felt longer than its 96-minute running time. It’s also hard to care about the unlikable characters, even if there’s a hint of redemption in the end. But overall I still think it was well-worth renting, especially if you’re a fan of Highsmith and Hitchcock and/or any of the cast.

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So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen The Two Faces of January, I’d love to hear what you think!

Birthday List Update: Favorite Films from Each Decade I Live Through

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Today I’m moving up the age bracket. I’m taking the day off because well, it’s my ME DAY and sleeping in is one of life’s greatest joys ;) Well, four years ago I did this list of favorite movies from the past three [full] decades I’ve lived through, so basically from the 1980s to 2000s. Looking at the list, not much has changed from the 80s and 90s, but I did update my 2000s list, swapping out about 5 or so movies from my list as I’ve seen more films since 2011.

Again these are a personal FAVORITE list, not a Best Of list necessarily though I’d argue that some of these are excellent classics.

1980s (in order of release)

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  1. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
  2. Somewhere in Time (1980)
  3. Superman II (1981)
  4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  5. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
  6. The Living Daylights (1987)
  7. The Untouchables (1987)
  8. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
  9. Licence To Kill (1989)
  10. The Little Mermaid (1989)

 


1990s (in order of release)


  1. Beauty and The Beast (1991)
  2. Jurassic Park (1993)
  3. The Age of Innocence (1993)
  4. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
  5. Speed (1994)
  6. Heat (1995)
  7. Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  8. L.A. Confidential (1997)
  9. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  10. The Matrix (1999)

 


2000s (in order of release) 

This decade is when I REALLY started watching more and more movies and saw them with different eyes, even though I didn’t start blogging until 2009. It’s agonizing to narrow them down to 25, let alone just 10, so I decided to just make it a Top 25. It’s interesting how my love for animated movies is quite persistent, as well as my taste in actors. There are three films starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale (including one with both of them together) and hey, two Gerard Butler movies still made my favorite list ;) We’ll see if he’d ever do a worthy film to be included in my future list. I own 15 out of the 25 films listed below, most of them have been re-watched repeatedly.

Here they are in order of release:

  1. Chicken Run (2000)
  2. Gladiator (2000)
  3. Moulin Rouge (2001)
  4. Minority Report (2002)
  5. Finding Nemo (2003)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  7. Love, Actually (2003)
  8. Master & Commander (2003)
  9. X-2: X-Men United (2003)
  10. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  11. Phantom of the Opera (2004)
  12. Unbreakable (2004)
  13. Batman Begins (2005)
  14. Dear Frankie (2005)
  15. Casino Royale (2006)
  16. Children of Men (2006)
  17. The Painted Veil (2006)
  18. The Prestige (2006)
  19. Stranger than Fiction (2006)
  20. Atonement (2007)
  21. Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  22. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
  23. The Dark Knight (2008)
  24. Wall•E (2008)
  25. District 9 (2009)

2010 and beyond…

Now, we’re only about halfway through the decade, so I’m only comprising half of my top 20. I’m curious which of these will make my final 2010s list five years from now :D

  1. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
  2. Inception (2010)
  3. X-Men: First Class (2011)
  4. Midnight in Paris (2011)
  5. Brave (2012)
  6. Skyfall (2012)
  7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  8. Gravity (2013)
  9. Her (2013)
  10. Birdman (2014)
  11. Belle (2014)
  12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  13. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

 


So folks, what do you think of my picks? What are some of your favorite movies in the past four decades?

January 2015 Recap + Pick of Movie of the Month

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First month of 2015 has come and gone. Hello February! This is always a special time for me as it’s my birthday month and I reach a milestone this year [moving up the age bracket ;) ]. I don’t fret about getting older though, as I think you are only as old as you feel and I don’t feel a day over 30, he..he..

Well, it’s kinda been a rather sluggish start as I’ve only seen a paltry 7 new-to-me movies. But hey, I did get to see a lot more TV shows than I usually do in a given month.

Posts you might’ve missed:

Random Cinematic Recap of 2014

Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of 2014

2014 Recap: Top Five Favorite Movie Songs

Ranking the 10 Blindspot Movies I saw in 2014

10 Favorite FEMALE Performances of 2014

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10 Favorite MALE Performances of 2014

2015 Oscar Nominations: The Good, the Bad and the WTF

7 Films Screened at Sundance 2015 I’m most curious about

Pictorial birthday tribute to Christian Bale

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BLOGATHON:

Thursday Movie Picks #29: Married Couple Movies

New-to-me Movies:

Blackhat

The Guest

Lucy

112 Weddings Documentary

The Hundred Foot Journey

Selma

Selma is in my Top 10 of 2014 Movies, even though I saw it in early 2015 I just had to include that on my list. Blackhat proved to be a disappointment, which is a major bummer as I generally love Michael Mann’s work. The Guest, Lucy and The Hundred Foot Journey are all great rentals, definitely worth your while if you haven’t seen them.

Rewatches:

The Dark Knight Rises

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Ever After

So it seems that my hubby & I were in the mood for superhero movies this month. We actually bought the Bluray of X-Men: DOFP weeks ago, and I’m glad we bought it as that movie is as awesome as the first time I saw it. Same could be said with The Winter Soldier, though I find myself liking The Dark Knight Rises a lot more this time around.

January Blindspot:

Rear Window

TV Shows:

Broadchurch – Season 1

Black Sails – Season 2

The Honourable Woman

Galavant

The Flash – Season 2

Fleming

Fave Movie of the Month

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Glad I finally got to see this Hitchcock classic. Nice to see 2015 Blindspot starts off strong, and I do have 11 more to go that I can’t wait to see.


Well, has 2015 started off great for you? What’s YOUR favorite movie of January?

Happy 41st Birthday Christian Bale! Pictorial birthday tribute to the Welsh thespian

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Happy weekend everyone! Well, today marks the 41st Birthday of one of my favorite actors: Christian Bale. I’ve done a few posts on the Welsh thespian, including a commentary on his roller-coaster career and a Birthday Tribute post when he turned 37. I couldn’t resist doing a post on him today and I thought I’d just do a pictorial tribute that highlights his amazing versatility and incredible chameleon-like quality.

Thanks Nostra for the inspiration for my top banner from his ‘Many Faces Of…’ posts. From the time he was a child actor when he was only 12 in Empire of the Sun up until today, Bale remains one of the hardest working actors who constantly challenges himself both physically and mentally to play a variety of roles. I’ve seen about 22 of his 40+ completed TV/Film work, which is perhaps the most from any living actor, yet there are still holes in my Bale viewings that I still need to check out, esp. The Machinist. It’s incredible that in his illustrious career, he’s only been nominated for Oscar twice (The Fighter, American Hustle) and finally won in the latter.

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1987 – Empire of the Sun

So this is a tribute to the performances I have seen over the years, broken down by decades:

1990s

Only Bale would follow up a Glamrock drama (Velvet Goldmine), where he donned heavy eye shadows & glitter AND have gay sex with Ewan McGregor, with playing Jesus Christ in a TV movie just a year later. [ It’s nuts to think it’s Obi-Wan & Batman together, and wouldn’t you know it, Ewan is also playing Jesus in Last Days in the Desert which premiered at Sundance].

2000

This is Bale’s most prolific year and also the decade when he became a household name when he’s cast as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. His breakthrough role is definitely Patrick Bateman in cult classic American Psycho, a role he nearly lost out to Leo DiCaprio [is that why the two movie stars never worked together to this day?] I think that movie became more widely seen after his Batman movies, but it shows what a committed actor he is and that he’s fearless in taking on um, batty roles like Bateman.

Not every movie he does is good however, I mean hell-o Captain Corelli’s Mandolin :P Whatever possessed him to take on that movie, I mean he’s completely wasted in that flick. Reign of Fire was blasted by critics but I actually think it’s an underrated sci-fi extravaganza set in post-apocalyptic England where people had to battle um, fire-eating dragons. It’s amusing that his BFF and dragon-battling partner was King Leonidas himself (Gerard Butler), well before he gained those 12-pack abs that’d eclipse Bale’s buff physique here. Bale’s also pretty much wasted in Laurel Canyon, though he’s so gorgeous in that movie that I didn’t mind ;) And of course Terminator Salvation is more famous for his rant to a DP who interfered him during a take of a supposedly emotional scene. I barely remembered him in Public Enemies, but the following year he emerged in top form (by losing a massive amount of weight) to play real-life boxer Dick Ecklund in The Fighter, which deservedly earned him his first Oscar.

2011 and beyond!

Bale completed his third Batman role in The Dark Knight Rises, looking appropriately world-weary.

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2012 The Dark Knight Rises

The shape-shifting continued as he gained 40+ pounds for the 70s crime drama American Hustle. Not only that, he also sported the most hilarious comb-over ever put on screen!

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2013 American Hustle

Not satisfied with having already played THE main hero from the Bible in Mary, Mother of Jesus, Bale took on the role of Moses in Exodus: Gods & Kings. But even his performance couldn’t save Ridley Scott’s latest effort to reclaim Gladiator’s epic glory.

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2014 Exodus: Gods and Kings

I said on this post that I’d love for him to do an unabashedly romantic movie. It’d be great to see him in a sweeping drama with a deep love story at its core, but perhaps we might see a glimpse of that in Knight of Cups?

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2015 [hopefully] – Knight of Cups

I look forward to what Bale has in store next as he enters a new decade in his life. Which film would earn him his second Oscar? Whatever it is, I know I’ll continue to follow his cinematic career and may it be as fascinating (if not more) as it’s been in the past two decades.

Here’s to you, Mr. Bale. Happy Birthday!!

 


Hope you enjoyed Christian Bale’s pictorial tribute. What’s YOUR favorite roles from this fine actor?

Trailer Spotlight: Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight of Cups’ starring Christian Bale

I don’t usually post a trailer spotlight so early in the week, but I’ve been waiting for this movie since back in 2011! Knight of Cups was also on my most-anticipated films of 2013, alas it’s Terrence Malick we’re talking about here. But looks like we WILL see this one in 2015 as apparently the film will now open at Berlinale, Berlin Film Festival, next February.

I was already sold on this film when they cast Christian Bale and the incomparable Cate Blanchett. There’s something about Bale’s look in this film that really appeals to me. At the time, all that’s known about the premise is that it’s the story of a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess. Check out the trailer:


Well, per Deadline we’ve not got the full synopsis:

“Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl and fell into a deep sleep. Rick’s father used to read this story to him as a boy. The road to the East stretches out before him. Will he set forth?”

I must say I’m quite mesmerized by the trailer. But then again, Malick’s films are always chock full of gorgeous, poetic and evocative imagery. He’s working with his longtime cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki again so we can expect another visual spectacle.

Somehow though, this one doesn’t seem as cryptic as his previous films. The story seems to be a cautionary tale or even just a commentary about the repercussion of hedonistic lifestyle.

“You don’t want love… you want to love… experience.”

“You have love in you… I know it.” 

Of course with Malick, he tends to communicate via metaphors and such, so who really knows how accessible and comprehensible this film is.

With the bass-heavy paired with all kinds of debauchery and decadence in the first half, and later with a more soul-stirring classical style, it’s such a beautifully-cut trailer that I hope the film itself will live up to. As I’m watching it, it made me think that Malick should perhaps do a short film. I think if you take out all the reflective long shots, this story could potentially be told under 20 min. Heck, given his penchant for leaving so much stuff in the cutting room floor, you’d think short films would be his forte.

The cast is pretty eclectic, though some of them are barely featured in the trailer. For sure we’ve got Natalie PortmanJason Clarke and I hear Antonio Banderas‘ voice on there. The rest: Brian Dennehy, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Imogen Poots, Armin Mueller-Stahl and apparently, the voice of Ben Kingsley.

I’ve seen four of Malick’s films so far and I actually like all of them to varying degrees. Even though I didn’t quite comprehend Tree of Life, there are still a lot to like about it and I appreciate Malick’s poetic style. That reminds me, I should rent To The Wonder at some point. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m anticipating this now, even more so than before.


What do you think of this trailer? 

FlixChatter Review: EXODUS: Gods and Kings (2014)

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Sir Ridley Scott maybe the most inconsistent successful film director ever, he first burst into fame by directing Alien in 1979 but made two big budget misfires a few years later, Blade Runner and Legend. He came back into prominence again in 1991 with Thelma & Louise, but the rest of his work in the 90s were mostly forgotten. Not until 2000 when he finally became an A-list director by making Gladiator and many of his films in that decade were very successful. He’s now back with another big budget period epic adventure, but unfortunately I think it might be one of his worst films.

Before I go into the review, I would like to note that I’m not a religious person so I don’t know the story of Moses, heck I’ve never seen The Ten Commandments so I went into this movie with zero knowledge of the subject.

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In the Egyptian city of Memphis, the film introduced us to Moses (Christian Bale) and Rhamses (Joel Edgerton), they’re preparing to go into a battle and getting a blessing from King Seti (John Turturro) who also happens to be Rhamses’ father. Right away we get the feeling that there’s some kind of animosity between Moses and Rhamses and the King seems to have more love for Moses than his own son. During the battle, Moses saved Rhamses’ life and this somehow made him resent Moses even more. In the said scene, Rhamses was so offended he even considered killing Moses. After defeating their enemies, both Moses and Rhamses were heralded as heroes back in their hometown. Again King Seti seem to be more impressed with Moses than his own son, later on he told Rhamses to go and check up on a close by city because some of the slaves aren’t behaving. Not expecting to receive this kind of menial task from the king, Rhamses was not happy. So Moses volunteered to go instead. Upon arriving at the city, Moses met with the elders of the slaves including its leader Nun (Ben Kingsley). It’s here that Nun confronted Moses and told him that he’s a Hebrew and needs to lead his people to freedom. Of course Moses didn’t believe a word of what Nun said. I think anyone who’s familiar with the story probably already know what’s going to happen so I won’t go deeper into the plot of the movie.

ExodusStills

Scott is known for being a perfectionist when it comes to how his films should look and here again his film looks spectacular. Shot natively in 3D, the effects were very immersive, but unfortunately he only included some few WOW 3D effects. So save yourself some money and see it on 2D instead. I haven’t mentioned about the plagues and the Red Sea parting scene because even though the effects were great, I wasn’t so into the movie so I didn’t even care about them. Aside from the visual aesthetics, the movie itself was kind of mediocre. For the first hour or so I thought this was made by a amateur director. The story narrative was all over the place and the editing was even worse. I’m quite sure we’ll get the inevitable longer “Director’s Cut” version when it comes out on video. I’m not quite sure of what he’s trying to say about the main leads, especially Moses. He started out as some kind of a non-believer but then out of nowhere became this savior who only answers to God. Maybe because I’m not familiar with the story and also a non-believer, I just didn’t buy into his transformation. For those expecting to see a Gladiator or even Kingdom of Heaven action style, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The movie contained one big action sequence but the marketing folks did a good job of promoting the movie as this non-stop action/adventure.

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There’s been a lot of controversies when it comes to the cast, the filmmakers decided to cast mostly Caucasian actors in the lead roles. Truth be told, many of them look kind of ridiculous with heavy tanning and make up, especially Joel Edgerton. Personally I don’t have any issues with the casting, I mean this is a $140mil Hollywood produced movie and they need to cast some well-known actors to get their money back. Controversies aside, most of the actors were pretty good in their respective roles. This is a Christian Bale‘s movie since he appeared on the screen 90% of the time. Even though I thought the role was poorly written, Bale did what he could with the material. Edgerton was also good playing the “villain.” I don’t think I’ve seen him in any other movie except the atrocious Star Wars Episode 2. Here he played a pretty menacing character and he even outshone Bale in a couple of scenes they appeared together.

I’m pretty sure Sigourney Weaver must’ve been quite upset when she sees the final movie since she appeared on the screen for only about 5 minutes and spoke about 5 lines of dialogs. I’m guessing most of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Ben Kingsley did a fine job as this Yoda kind of role. The oddest person in the cast here is Aaron “Jesse” Paul, he played this sidekick to Moses and I just thought he’s way out of his elements here. Another bad casting is John Turturro, he looks ridiculous in the weird make up and spoke with a weird accent that I wanted to laugh when he appears on screen.

For all the bad casting, writing and directing, the worse crime this movie committed was that it’s so boring! I actually dosed off a couple of times during the screening. This was yet another misfire from a director whose career may need to come to an end. I can forgive the bad editing and writing if the movie was entertaining, unfortunately it’s just a bad movie that can’t be saved even though it looks so good.

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Have you seen Exodus? Well, what did you think?

Question of the week: Which seasoned director do you think has lost his mojo?

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Sir Ridley couldn’t even keep Christian Bale awake on set

Though this falls under my Random Movie Question categories, you’d surmise that it’s really NOT so random. I was inspired by my friend Ted who texted me after the EXODUS screening that he was surprised the film was made by an experienced director of Ridley Scott’s caliber, he said it looked like it had been done by some newbie filmmaker.

You’ll see his full review later this week, but that confirms my dread that Sir Ridley seems to have really lost his mojo. I mean this is the same visionary director who did sci-fi classics like Alien, Blade Runner in his early 40s, then Gladiator (one of my faves of all time), Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Dawn, etc. in his 50s. A lot of people might’ve said he’s lost it long ago and perhaps the 77-year-old should’ve retired and just stick to be an executive producer. Yet I somehow still defended him when he made Robin Hood (which I still enjoyed though I wish he had stuck with the Sheriff of Nottingham concept), and I even think A Good Year has its charm. But after Prometheus, which was fun but definitely no masterpiece by a long shot, The Counselor was panned by critics and audience alike. His latest *Biblical epic* seems um, poised to fall in that same category, and not only because of his questionable casting choices.

Now, he’s certainly not the only director out there who can’t seem to follow up their past success. People have been saying that about Brian de Palma, Oliver Stone, even Francis Ford Coppola are in the same camp.


So I’m curious, which seasoned/famous director(s) you think have lost their touch in recent years?

10 Brilliant Acting Performances Defined by One Look

I LOVE LOVE this idea from Brittani that I came across earlier this week that I had to take part.

“Sometimes a simple look an actor gives is nothing short of brilliant,”

I totally agree with her sentiment. Sometimes the quietest, most subtle look or gesture has the power to generate the most emotional response, no words necessary.

It made me think of some of those scenes and really, there are SO many examples that it’s tough to narrow it down to just 10. The fact that I remember these scenes despite the length of time that’s passed since I’ve seen it means they definitely left a big impression on me. In fact, from time to time I still look on youtube to watch that particular scene again. Ok so technically there are 11 here, as I paired up one of them, but I think it still count as one as it happens in the exact same scene where the two actors interact with each other. Anyway, here goes:

Christian Bale in Equilibrium

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I always have a fondness for this dystopian sci-fi thriller despite its flaws. Bale’s Preston came too late to save the woman he loves from being incinerated… and he had to watch her die right in front of him. Bale’s expression of utter despair just breaks my heart. It’s one of my favorite Bale performances from all the amazing work he’s done, even if the film itself is far from perfect.

Emily Blunt – Jane Austen Book Club

Blunt_JaneAustenBookClub

I LOVE miss Blunt and she adds so much gravitas and emotional complexity to her character of a French teacher going through an unhappy marriage. She’s just about to have a rendezvous at a motel with a hot, young student but something precludes her from taking another step. I don’t remember much about the entire film but I always remember this scene.

Toby Stephens – Jane Eyre (BBC – 2006)
Toby_JaneEyreI have to include at least one out of a plethora of Toby’s masterful scenes as Rochester. The no-wedding scene is definitely one of the most emotionally-charged. Rochester’s anguish is so palpable here when ‘bride in the attic’ secret’s been revealed. He was so close to finally be with the woman he loves, but in a single moment, that elusive happiness is snatched away again. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s such mesmerizing beauty in his look of pain and agony. It takes a real craftsmanship to bring such tortured soul persona so beautifully and Toby does it with aplomb.

Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale

Bassett_WaitingToExhale

Fireman: Ma’am, were you aware that your car was on fire?
[Bernadine nods her head while smoking a cigarette]

Fireman: Ma’am, did you start this fire?
[she puffs smoke and plainly looks at him]

Fireman: You know, it’s against the law to burn anything except trash in your yard.

Bernadine: [flicks off ashes from her cigarette] It is trash.

Miss Bassett is simply awesome, period. It’s been over a decade since I saw this film but I never forget Bernadine’s rage and heartache when her husband leaves her. She’s crestfallen, but yet she never loses that bad-ass sensibility. Her look says it all, ‘Don’t mess with Bernadine.’

Russell Crowe in The Insider

Crowe_TheInsiderI’ve always believed that Crowe got robbed of his Oscar in this film. As fantastic as his portrayal of Maximus was, the way he completely disappeared into Jeffrey Wigand is nothing short of astounding. This scene at the hotel room is mesmerizing, powerful and heart-wrenching and Crowe only communicates with his body language. There’s a bit of a dream sequence here that was crafted masterfully by Michael Mann, but it’s Crowe’s stillness and inner tumult that you won’t soon forget.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel_12YearsASlaveThis scene is one of the most haunting, which is saying something given how many heart-wrenching scenes there are in this film. At first Solomon didn’t join the other slaves singing Roll Jordan Roll, but somehow, halfway through the song, he started singing. His facial expression stirs up so much expression as I watched it. It’s as if he’d reached the lowest point of his life, losing all hope of ever escaping his fate as a slave… all the grief, desperation, anger and sense of helplessness is all there. Yet there is a glimmer of defiance in him, a flicker of hope still left in him that gets him through another day. Ejiofor deserved an Oscar win just for this scene alone.

Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

Peck_TheHolidayThe finale remains one of the most beautiful and poignant film endings ever. And I think Peck’s facial expression conveys so much. The restrained tears in his eyes, the rigid way he’s standing, it takes so much out of Joe not to say how he feels about Ann. Yet his expression speaks louder than words could ever do.

Kate Winslet in Titanic

Winslet_TitanicIt’s been ages since I saw Titanic but for some reason, this subtle scene of Rose during dinner with her family and Cal still stands out to me. There’s this glazed look on her face, like she finally stops caring about her privileged life that feels more and more like a prison. “That fire is gonna burn out,” Jack tells her at one point and it’s as if it finally sinks in that he is right and she wants out.

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

Joaquin_GladiatorThis is truly one of the greatest scenes in film history IMHO. There’s just so much going on in this scene on psychological and emotional level. Of course Crowe is simply astounding in his ‘Maximus Decimus Meridius’ monologue but one thing that always struck me is Commodus’ stunned reaction. His lips quiver, eyes wide open with shock and his whole body trembles with a combination of rage and fright. It’s like ‘WTF! How could you still be alive?’ He knew at that moment, everything he’s planned so carefully is in shambles. As Lucilla said, at that moment, a slave did become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome, and it’s all written in Commodus’ face.

James Cromwell & Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

Cromwell_LAConfidential

Spacey_LAConfidential

There are certain phrases in movies that will forever be stuck in my head. “Rolo Tomasi” is one of them, and thanks to both Cromwell and Spacey for creating such an iconic and chilling scene. That’s the name Exley (Guy Pearce) gives the unknown murderer of his father just to give him a personality. “Have you a valediction, boyo?” Capt. Dudley Smith asked the dying Sgt. Jack Vincennes. It’s a powerful and totally unexpected response, and one he never thought would eventually lead to his own demise. Even nearing death, Jack still manages to deliver quite a blow to Dudley.


Well, what do you think of my picks? Please share your own picks of great acting defined by one look.

Question of the week: Actors whose famous role you can’t shake

RDJ_TonyStark

I just reviewed The Judge this weekend and I mentioned how RDJ is playing yet another variety of Tony Stark. He’s always the smartest guy in the room, and always have an arsenal of snarky remarks he can just throw at you at the best opportunity. I’m not just talking about the recent roles he does after Iron Man, but even when I saw Zodiac I still can’t get past his Stark persona. There’s always a hint of that self-assured swagger that’s borderline cocky but somehow still lovable, which is something an actor either has or doesn’t, it’s not something they can teach even at Juilliard or RADA. You know what though, I’m tired of his schtick. As Sati said in her astute comment, his cockiness seems to translate off-screen now that it’s getting on my nerves. No matter how lovable a character, an actor’s job is to be able to pull off a variety of roles convincingly, to make a conscious effort to *disappear* into whatever role they do. I think the bigger/more famous the character is, the more responsibility said actor has to shake that off.

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Source: Eccentric Billionaire Tumblr

Now obviously RDJ isn’t the only actor with this kind of predicament, where somehow they can’t escape their most famous role. I think Johnny Depp can’t seem to shake off his Jack Sparrow image either. I’m not saying RDJ or Depp aren’t capable actors because they are, but perhaps their schtick just sticks in the mind longer than others. On the contrary, someone like like say, Christian Bale doesn’t always remind me of Bruce Wayne when he’s playing other roles post-Batman and I don’t get hang up on Maximus in Gladiator whenever I see Russell Crowe on screen.

I guess I’m just curious if anybody else feel the same, whether it’s RDJ or another actor.


So which actor(s) whose famous role you can’t shake? Or perhaps the question should be, actors who can’t shake their most famous role :)