007 Chatter: BOND 24 is now called SPECTRE

Boy it’s been a while since I posted anything about Bond and this morning a press release came to my email that I simply had to do a post! “Welcome back commander!” 

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[you can see the motion poster over on 007 Facebook]

LONDON, UK, December 4, 2014 – 007 Soundstage, Pinewood Studios, London. James Bond Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the title of the 24th James Bond adventure, SPECTRE. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, is directed by Sam Mendes and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fourth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. SPECTRE begins principal photography on Monday, December 8, and is set for global release on November 6, 2015.

The launch of SPECTRE was streamed live on 007.com and Facebook.com/JamesBond007, and here’s the video if you missed it:

Along with Daniel Craig, Mendes presented the returning cast, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as well as introducing Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott. Mendes also revealed Bond’s sleek new Aston Martin, the DB10, created exclusively for the movie.

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Click to enlarge

Official synopsis:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Bond’s going back to the classic Aston Martin too, which is by far one of my favorite of all Bond’s fantastic rides. Man, the DB10 is going to be specifically built for the film and it’s absolutely drool-worthy!! Heck, I’d rather take his car home than Bond himself, ahah.

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click to enlarge

The 007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.

Commenting on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, “We’re excited to announce Daniel’s fourth installment in the series and thrilled that Sam has taken on the challenge of following on the success of SKYFALL with SPECTRE.”.

Per EMPIRE, the evil organization has not had a presence in the Bond universe thanks to a long-running copyright battle between MGM and the estate of Kevin McClory, the producer of Thunderball and the unofficial Connery Bond, Never Say Never Again. That, however, was resolved in 2013, paving the way for SPECTRE to return to the Bond movies. People have been speculating that Christoph Waltz will be playing Spectre’s leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but according to the UK mag, his character’s name is Oberhauser [??]

Man, I’m super excited for this!! What a cast, too, woo hoo!!! I LOVE Christophe Waltz, the Austrian thespian really impressed me in Inglourious Basterds and he has been working steadily in Hollywood ever since. He’d be great as the villain, with Bautista as his henchmen I presume. Not sure who Andrew Scott is playing, but he’s playing another baddie named Denbigh. They’re playing it *safe* this time in casting actors who’ve won accolades playing bad guys previously, as Scott won BAFTA for portraying Sherlock‘s nemesis Moriarty in the BBC series.

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I’m loving the female cast, too! I have always been a big fan of Naomie Harris as Money Penny, but now we’ve got gorgeous Italian and French beauties Monica Bellucci & Léa Seydoux. I’m actually surprised they haven’t cast Monica in previous Bond films, but she still looks stunning at 50 so it’s cool to see they don’t just cast young actresses as Bond girls!

SPECTRE is set for a October 23, 2015 release in the UK and a November 6, 2015 release in the US. Can’t friggin’ wait for this!!


So, what do you think of this announcement? Would love to hear your thoughts, folks!

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New Releases Double Reviews: Jack Reacher & Django Unchained

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Thanks to Ted for these reviews as I was on vacation when the screenings took place.

Jack Reacher

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Tom Cruise continues his “comeback” on the big screen with another action thriller after the success of last year’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, this time he’s playing another super-spy type in Jack Reacher. It’s based on one of Lee Child’s popular series of novels, One Shot. The film starts out with a mysterious person who randomly shot and killed five people in a public place with a sniper rifle. With the recent tragedies in real life, this opening sequence was a bit eerie, so just a warning if you’re still too upset about what happened in Connecticut, I don’t recommend you go see this movie. Now the scene was well shot and staged and to me it didn’t glamorize the violence but I can definitely understand if someone can get upset when they see it. Later an ex-marine sniper named Barr (Joseph Sikora) was arrested for the crime and during an interrogation he asked the detective on the case Emerson (David Oyelowo) and district attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) to get him Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise).

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Director Werner Herzog as the Russian mobster known as ‘The Zec’

Emerson and Rodin decided to look up Reacher but couldn’t find anything on him. A few moments later Reacher showed up at their office and asked to see Barr. But Barr is in a coma because he got beat up badly by some other inmates while in custody. So Reacher met with Barr’s lawyer Helen (the gorgeous ex-Bond girl Rosamund Pike). Reacher told her that he’s there just to make sure Barr is behind bars because he believed Barr did the shooting, he and Barr had a history together back when they were in the army. But Helen convinced Reacher to help her investigate what really happened and as both of them dig deeper into the case, they got in trouble with some local thugs, Charlie (Jai Courtney aka John McClane Jr.) and his mysterious boss known as The Zec (the great director Werner Herzog).

Performance wise, I thought everyone did a good job. Especially Cruise who was in the command of the role. I’ve never read any of the books but I know some fans weren’t too thrilled that he was cast as Reacher. But I think many of them will find out that Cruise did well here.

The film is a straightforward procedural thriller; there aren’t any major surprises that will wow you. The humors are well-placed and they didn’t feel forced into each scene. The action sequences were pretty great, I’m so glad that the filmmakers decided to shoot action scenes where we can actually see them. Some directors tends to forget that when we go see action films, we want to SEE the action, not trying to figure what’s going on during a scene or get dizzy from it. Christopher McQuarrie who wrote and directed this film, did a tremendous job with his sharp dialogues and action sequences.

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The climatic shoot out was probably one of the most meticulous action scenes I’ve ever seen. The way he laid out each sequence and edited were quite astonishing to me. Then the mano-a-mano showdown between Reacher and Charlie was well staged and looked like a “real” fight between two grown men. Of course this being an action film, it needs a car chase scene and it was well done too. It reminded me of the chase scene from Bullit but I kind of wish it ended similar to that film, if you saw the trailer then you know how the chase ended. I thought it’s too cheesy and didn’t really make sense.

In the end I thought it was a well made action thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously and I like the fact it has that old school 70s thriller feel to it. I would definitely love to see more of Jack Reacher films in the future.

4 out of 5 reels

Django Unchained

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Having read the script last year and loved it, I was very excited to see this film. (Read my script review here.) Surprisingly the film is very close to the script, only a few scenes didn’t make it to the screen. Quentin Tarantino is obsessed with spaghetti westerns and he tends to pay homage to that genre in some of his films, particularly Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. Well now he’s finally made a film that truly pays homage the genre but he also mix in another genre, blax-ploitation, mostly the slave related subject that were popular back in the 70s, the most popular film from the genre was called Mandingo. Anyone who likes 70s films as much as I do will probably have seen some of these films; even though they were considered “trashy” by most critics, I somehow enjoyed them. It also burrowed a lot of elements from Sergio Corbucci’s films, especially Django and The Great Silence; if you’ve seen either of those films, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The film opens with a “dentist” named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) looking for a slave who can identify three fugitives for him. We then meet Django (Jamie Foxx) who said he knows these three fugitives, so Schultz decided to buy Django from his owners but they refused. Well, Schultz being an educated man tried to reason with these clowns but they still won’t budge. So he used his skills with a pistol to convince them. Django is freed and both of them set out to find the three fugitives. After they hunt down the fugitives, Schultz was quite impressed with Django skills so he asked if Django would like to be a bounty hunter like him and join him in the hunt. In return Shultz will help Django with anything he wants. Django agreed and said he wants to find his wife who’s been taken away from him. The first half of the films was about Schultz teaching Django how to become a good bounty hunter and sharp with a pistol.

A few months later, Schultz found out where Django’s wife is being kept. She’s at a plantation known as Candieland which owns by Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio). So in order to rescue her, Schultz came up with a plan by pretending to be a rich German who’s interested in purchasing a Mandingo fighter and Django is his Mandingo expert. The rest of film took place at Calvin’s Candieland plantation.

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I thought the performances by the lead actors were great, especially Waltz and DiCaprio. Jamie Foxx surprised me, I was skeptical when he was cast in the title role but he did a good job. Apparently QT wrote the part specially for Will Smith but Smith turned him down, I was hoping QT would cast someone like Anthony Mackie or Idris Elba. Also, the cinematography by Robert Richardson was excellent, from the snowy landscape of Montana to the muddy streets of Mississippi, every shots looked spectacular. The action sequences were great, there’s a shootout scene that’s similar to the carnage scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 where the Bride took down the Crazy 88s.

Now I’m going to talk about why I was very disappointed with this film. As mentioned earlier, I read the script (which I reviewed here) and loved it, but somehow the actual film just didn’t deliver in my opinion. It’s clear that QT really needed his long time editor the late Sally Menke to work on this film with him. I thought the first half of the film was sloppily-edited and just wasn’t coherent. The music selection was kind of odd too. I always love the music QT used in his films but when you hear a Tupac song during a shootout scene in this one, it sort of take you out of the film. Now I understand why QT cast a not so well known actress in the role of Broomhilda, Django’s wife, she hardly spoke in the film. She either screams, cries or look scare in each scene she appeared in.

This was one of the films I most looking forward to see this year and unfortunately it was a major disappointment to me. Now I plan to see it again soon since I saw it almost a month ago, so I might change my mind when I see it again. I’m not saying it’s a bad film, it just didn’t lived up to my expectations. I know that I might be in the minority since after the private screening, many people in the theater thought it was great. If you’re a huge QT fan, you might enjoy it. Just a warning though, the film is violent and very bloody. The N-word were uttered constantly by pretty much everyone in the film, so if you’re easily offended, I don’t recommend you go see this film.

In an interview, QT mentioned that he might release a longer extended cut of the film down the road. At one point his producer Harvey Weinstein tried to convince him to split the film into two parts like they did with Kill Bill but QT vetoed that idea. I assume he shot many scenes that were in the script but decided cut them out. I don’t know if a longer version will improve the movie, I mean most of the scenes left in the cutting room floor were probably just violent and rape scenes. I’m assuming here of course because those sequences were in the script.

2.5 out of 5 reels

– reviews by Ted S.


What are your thoughts on these films? Did they live up to your expectations?

Musings on Django Unchained First Trailer

So the trailer of one of my most anticipated movies of year has arrived, Django Unchained. In case you didn’t know what it’s about, here’s the basic plot:

With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
 


So what do I think of this trailer? To be honest with you I’m a bit underwhelmed by it. I hate to judge a film base solely on its first trailer but somehow I wasn’t as excited as I thought I would be. Some of you may have already read my script review of the movie. From what they’ve shown so far in the trailer, most if not all of the scenes from the script are there. I love the look of the film, even though it’s referred to as a western, most of the film actually took place in the south. Christoph Waltz looks exactly as I had envisioned him when I read the script, although I’m still not sold yet on Jamie Foxx as the hero Django, maybe because when the script was “leaked” Will Smith was being sought for the title role so I pictured him in that role instead. Leo DiCaprio looks like he’s having a blast playing the villainous Calvin Candie, if he’s as good as the role that was written in the script, I predict he’ll get an Oscar nomination.

Now the reason I was underwhelmed by the trailer is the tone of the film. To me it looked too cheesy, I expected the tone to be more of a serious western like The Outlaw Josey Whales or The Wild Bunch. Now I know Quentin Tarantino is paying a homage to the cheesy spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s but I didn’t expect to look this cheesy. It looked more like a comedy/western than a serious action/western. Another reason I wasn’t too excited about the film is that QT is working with a new editor since his long time editor/collaborator, Sally Menke, passed away two years ago. He’s now working with Fred Raskin and I’m not sure if he could translate what QT wanted out of the movie. As some of you know, editing is one of the most important parts in filmmaking and if the editor doesn’t have the same vision as the director then the film could be a disaster.

Even though I was a bit underwhelmed by this trailer, I’m quite sure the actual film will be great, heck they’re still shooting it so hopefully when they’re all done, we’ll get a new great trailer. In the mean time, we can all discussed what they’ve shown us so far.


Check out Ted’s profile and his favorite Tarantino movies


So what do you think of the first trailer folks? Are you looking forward to this movie?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Three Musketeers (2011) & Lambent Fuse Premiere

Happy Monday all! Did you watch an Irish-related movie or were you at the cinema watching 21 Jump Street? I have zero interest in seeing it but surprisingly that movie’s a hit w/ the critics AND audiences to make #1 at the box office!

My hubby and I got Apple TV over the weekend and we absolutely love it! So instead of renting through Amazon on Demand, we now rent stuff via iTunes and the streaming quality is actually a lot better. Anyway, as is customary with most of my weekend viewings, I like to mix up different genres. I was thisclose on renting My Week with Marilyn but we wanted something with a bit more action so we went with The Three Musketeers, well suffice to say we regretted our decision within 10 minutes!

Last night my friend Astrid and I went to the Lambent Fuse premiere, the one I featured last Wednesday. We met briefly with the director Matt Cici who introduced the movie. We’re also treated with a mini concert from a local folk singer (who can rap as well as he sings!) before the movie, definitely making the $10 bucks ticket even more worthwhile!

Here are my mini reviews of the two:

THREE MUSKETEERS (2011)

As I’ve alluded to in my intro, the latest Alexandre Dumas adaptation is a dud! I actually put this on my most-anticipated of 2011 as I love the cast, but was dissuaded by the dismal reviews. But I figure it’s at least worth a rental right? Ahah, well barely.

Ok, I have to admit the three musketeers look good in tight leather ;)

I’m not even going to write about the plot as most of you certainly already know about the tale of the famous French guards: Arthos, Porthos and Aramis and the young D’Artagnan. Paul W.S. Anderson, whose films Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Resident Evil, etc. are definitely NOT my cup of tea, promises a re-imagining story of the legendary swashbuckling adventure. Well, this tells me to NEVER trust a film by this UK director again, no matter how good the cast!

Speaking of which, I really think it’s criminal to waste such a plethora of talents, including Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen and the three actors playing the musketeers: Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson. We know all of these actors are capable of so much more given their resume, but they’re given so little to do and the inept script is practically cringe-worthy! Now, Milla Jovovich as the seductive and skilled assassin and the wildly-ornamented Orlando Bloom are right on their element here as neither of them have any business as an actor.

Oh Christoph, just what are you doing in this movie??!

The worst part of all is of course the D’Artagnan casting. 20-year-old Californian Logan Lerman is so out of his league in that role of a supposedly daring rascal, as he lacks any kind of charisma believability even for a fantasy flick like this one. To say he’s a far cry from Gabriel Byrne’s portrayal in The Man in The Iron Mask is putting it mildly. I really think that if someone with just a smidgen more talent (perhaps someone like Nicholas Hoult?) this movie might have a teeny bit of saving grace. Lerman didn’t even bother attempting a British accent, yes I know the Musketeers are supposedly French guards but at least it’d be more consistent if the actors all speak with the same accent.

The action sequences are nothing new, pretty much a rip-off of Matrix and other similarly-styled action flicks after that. Even the music sounds like a rip-off of The Dark Knight, Gladiator & those Pirates of the Carribean movies! The preposterous plot is topped with the air-ships where a lot of the fighting takes place. Logic doesn’t seem to be a factor in this movie, as these articulate & complex ships seem to have been built in a matter of days! And we’re not talking of just ONE flying ship, but an entire armada! Perhaps the director has secretly wished he had directed a Pirates movie?? [shrugs] The only decent thing about this movie is the set pieces which I thought looked beautiful, but really, set pieces alone don’t make a movie!!

Final Thoughts: Unless you are die-hard fans of any of the cast, I’d say skip this one. Seriously, it made even the 1993 version with Charlie Sheen as Aramis (ha!) seemed like an Oscar contender, at least Tim Curry looked like he had more fun as the Cardinal than Christoph did. Mr. Dumas must be spinning in his grave!

1.5 out of 5 reels


LAMBENT FUSE (2011)

As I’ve described in detail in the interview post with director Matt Cici, this film is a character study of six characters whose decisions and life scenarios somehow get entangled with one another. Each of the characters have a certain condition that practically takes over their lives to a degree, ranging from kleptomania, deep depression resulting from a personal loss, to irrational obsession.

The film doesn’t preach about certain morality so much as presenting in a non-chronological manner, what the characters’ choices affect others and their own. As Matt mentioned in the interview, “… and audience watches this film and becomes more of a participant rather than just a viewer. They may impart judgement on what’s right and what’s not right…” and I find myself doing just that as I’m watching it.

The one character I’m taken with the most is Freddie Goone (Rhett Romsaas) who lost his sister in a hit-and-run accident one night and is overtaken by grief and vengeance pretty much wrecks his relationship with his girlfriend Allison (Heidi Fellner). I feel like his journey up until the explosive ending is the most engaging than the rest, and his encounter with the unlikely ‘enemy’ if you will is done quite well.

The nice things about watching a locally-made film is that we’re not focusing on the unknown actors and our predisposed feelings about them, but more on the narration. By the same token though, I feel that some of the actors are not as experienced and thus compromise the quality of the film. The emotional scenes between Freddie and Allison for example, could’ve been much more heart-wrenching but I didn’t really feel the connection between the two actors. The robbery scenes are whimsical and get the most laughs but again, most of these characters are so unsympathetic it’s hard to really connect with them. Speaking of whimsical, the fast-paced finale taking place at the Mpls/St. Paul airport ends up being unintentionally comical to me than I’m sure it’s intended to be. I also think the link between all these characters isn’t as strong as I would have liked it, but the concept is certainly intriguing.

Overall I think Lambent Fuse is a worthy debut from Matt Cici. Despite some of the really slow parts, there are much to be enjoyed here, and I do think the cinematography is beautiful. The use of music also adds to the mood without overpowering the story, and it’s great that he collaborates with local musicians for this film. I think the fact that he chose such a challenging non-chronological style is to be commended, the story is quite dense and hard to follow at times because there are so much going on, but I was able to digest quite a bit of it in my first viewing.
Final Thoughts: This is not a ‘feel-good’ movie, in fact it’s more of a somber, melancholy affair. I enjoyed it for the most part, and in some degree the story still lingers with me even hours after I watched it. A promising debut from Matt Cici, I hope he continues to make films in the future!
… 
3 out of 5 reels

So what did you see this weekend, folks? Thoughts on either one of these films, please do share in the comments!

Weekend Roundup: Golden Globes 2012, Henry’s Crime, Water for Elephants

Hope y’all had a fine weekend. I skipped the Golden Globes telecast this Sunday, I only tuned in every once in a while when the winner I was rooting for did get the trophy. So I updated this Golden Globes nominees list with the winners.

Incidentally I only got two of my predictions right:

  • Best Supporting Actor in Comedy/Musical: Jean Dujardin for The Artist Love that last part of his acceptance speech when he gave a silent nod to Douglas Fairbanks. Classy!
  • Best Supporting Actress in Comedy/Musical: Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn

But Michel Hazanavicius is definitely snubbed that he didn’t win Best Director! I like Hugo but really, but let’s face it, The Artist is a far better film out of the two. I was also rooting for Viola Davis to win for The Help, but as I said, it’s really a tough call when you’re in the same category as Meryl Streep!!  Her win for The Iron Lady marks for her EIGHTH Golden Globe wins, WOW! A few of my friends have posted their predictions as well, Anomalous Material, The Focused Filmographer, or Impassioned Cinema … you can check out their posts and see how they fared.

Ok so that’s my two cents about the Golden Globes… now we can begin to speculate on the Oscar picks :) The Academy Award nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time.


Anyway, here are my mini reviews from this weekend:

Henry’s Crime

Since I’ve done the time, I might as well do the time. That’s pretty much the plot of this film. Henry (Keanu Reeves, in his usual stoic performance) is a lethargic toll booth attendant who somehow got sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Interestingly enough, during and after his prison time is when his new life begins, prompted by meeting his cellmate Max (the inimitable James Caan) and being ran over (literally!) by Julie (Vera Farmiga).

I only rented this ’cause I like the cast and the trailer looked pretty funny. Plus, it got pretty good review from TIFF. Well you know what, it’s actually pretty enjoyable. The tie in between the bank heist and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard play is quite amusing, not to mention the presence of awesome character actor Peter Stormare as the stage director. The scene where he’s teaching Henry (or Keanu?) how to act is hilarious. Caan’s effortlessly adds comic relief and he’s got quite a nice rapport with Keanu. Judy Greer is kind of wasted here as Keanu’s straying wife though, which is a pity as I know she’s capable of more.

As for the romance, Reeves and Farmiga actually works well together. Even playing a supposedly cold character, Farmiga still radiates warmth, she’s always a joy to watch and playing a stage actress, I could almost picture her on stage performing in such a play! Now Keanu is as stoic as ever, there’s little insight into what’s really going on inside Henry’s head as Keanu didn’t really display any kind of emotion (save for the finale when he’s dressed as Lopakhin, one of the play’s protagonists). But it’s sort of what one would expect from this seemingly ageless actor (could you believe he’s 47 years old?!), and somehow his brand of acting works out just fine here.

Definitely not a bad movie to rent on a Friday night, especially if you’re a fan of one of the cast.

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

Water for Elephants

I posted the trailer ages ago but haven’t got around to watching it. The thing that appealed to me most is the setting, there’s something beguiling about the world of the Circus. Told from the point of view of a 90-something year-old Jacob Jankowski (Hal Holbrook), similar to how Rose in the movie Titanic reminisces on his life aboard the doomed ship, Jacob is nostalgic about the time he spent as a circus veterinarian during the Great Depression.

Following a tragic accident that killed his parents, the young Jacob (Robert Pattinson) ended up working for the brilliant but brutal head animal trainer August and his wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), the star performer. It won’t be long before Jacob falls for Marlena as they bond over their love for the adorable elephant Rosie.

Pattinson is pretty compelling here as a romantic leading man, though there are times his melancholic look reminds me a bit of Twilight‘s Edward at times. Fortunately there’s the fabulous Christoph Watlz to remind me here that it isn’t a dreadful teen vampire flick (thank goodness!) and he naturally steals the show with his performance, teetering between charming and terrorizing, both with the animals and the people around him. In a way not too different from his role as Col. Landa in Inglourious Basterds.

Reese looks the part as a circus star, which is no mean feat, but overall her performance is serviceable. She’s not bad, but not great either. Even her chemistry with Pattinson isn’t all too convincing. I could see how Jacob and Marlena would fall for each other given the circumstances, but the actors didn’t really sell the romance as well as they could. In fact, Holbrook did a better job conveying his love for Marlena in his brief scenes of telling the story about her in the present day.

Water for Elephants is a rather conventional drama, it could’ve been a great film but the way it is now, it’s enjoyable but in the end pretty forgettable. It looks beautiful but somehow the circus world created here lacks the magic and that certain charm that made me go ‘wow!’ the way Moulin Rouge! did the first time I saw it. It’s a pity as the novel by Sara Gruen is so celebrated. Given the intriguing subject matter, this movie could’ve been a classic.

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


I also saw another one of Gregory Peck’s films called Mirage (1965) which is an excellent noir thriller. But instead of doing a mini review here, I’d save that for one of my classic flix reviews.


So what did you watch this weekend folks? Feel free to share your favorite part of the Globes if you’d be so inclined.

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Water for Elephants

Happy almost-Friday folks! Wow, I just realize I haven’t posted ANY trailer since the Jane Eyre one last November. Heh, I guess I should be more consistent, but why be predictable? ;)

This movie has been on my radar since casting began, something about the story intrigues me. The movie is adapted from a novel of the same name by Canadian author Sara Gruen. Here’s the gist of the story:

Set in the the Great Depression, the story focuses on 90-something Jacob Jankowski as he reminisces on his youth working at the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show. Upon his parents death, Jacob leaves his veterinary training and ends up becoming a vet at the circus. It’s there that he falls for Marlena, the beautiful circus performer married to the charismatic but vicious animal trainer, August. Jacob and Marlena’s shared compassion for a certain ‘un-trainable’ elephant makes for an unlikely trio and their bond becomes their only hope for survival.

Well I’m certainly glad to see Christoph Waltz in place of Sean Penn who was previously cast. Looks like August is a juicy role worthy of him instead of being a run-of-the-mill comic book villain you see him in The Green Hornet. But it seems to be a Hollywood tradition that a relative newbie is cast in a superhero movie following their award-winning turn. Go figure.

Pattinson & Witherspoon on set

Reese Witherspoon as Marlena shows that she’s a versatile actress, jumping from her typical rom-com genre (as in the generic looking How Do You Know). Robert Pattinson must be delighted to be away from the Twilight set and actually get the opportunity to actually act instead of brooding and sparkling day and night. He looks pretty good here, he obviously has screen presence and he seems to have that melancholy, love-struck look down pat which I reckon works swimmingly for this role as young Jacob. Seasoned actor Hal Holbrook plays the older Jacob. I’m not as familiar with the director, Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Constantine) as I am with the screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, who penned the script for The Bridges of Madison County, The Horse Whisperer, Beloved, Freedom Writer and P.S. I Love You, among others)

A couple of interesting trivia courtesy of IMDb:
In a deleted scene of Vanity Fair (2004), Reese Witherspoon plays Robert Pattinson’s mother., but in this movie, they play lovers. Scarlett Johansson apparently turned down the role of Marlena, that’s a good thing in my book as I like Reese better as an actor. I am however curious to see how Andrew Garfield would fare as Jacob. He auditioned for the Jacob role but I guess he’s not considered bankable enough, yet. Just wait until Spiderman comes out and he’ll be in high demand.

Well folks, any interest in seeing this one?

31 Days Movie Meme Day #10: Movie I ended up loving

A movie you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving:
Inglourious Basterds

The marvelous IB opening sequence

When the buzz for this movie started even months before it opened, I had no interest whatsoever in seeing it. I’ve never been a Tarantino fan and though I enjoyed Pulp Fiction, I’m not familiar with his work. Plus, Brad Pitt’s mug all over the poster isn’t what I’d consider enticing. But then a girlfriend—whom I thought are more into chick flicks—said how much she enjoyed this movie. My guest blogger and loyal FC reader Mike also raved about it, I mean rave with a capital ‘R,’ marveling about QT’s masterful filming style and how spectacular the opening sequence was.

Needless to say I was intrigued and you know what, they were right. I loved the movie! If you read my glowing review in five parts, clearly I was pleasantly surprised by it. Despite some of the violence and highly suspenseful scenes, I was blown away by the story and the distinctive way it’s presented.

The lethal beauty Shosanna Dreyfus

Though Pitt got top billing, the movie really belongs to Christoph Waltz! He deserved all the kudos for his bravura performance, a perfect mix of menace and whimsy. I just wish French actress Mélanie Laurent had gotten her share of nods as well as her performance was equally amazing. The always-watchable Michael Fassbender also delivered a memorable performance as Lt. Hicox, an English soldier who goes undercover as a German Captain.

In any case, I’m glad I gave the movie a chance. In fact, I was rooting for it to win Best Picture, alas, another movie that didn’t blow me away walked away with the Oscar. Oh well, I stand by this one and out of the 10 Oscar nominees last year, Inglourious Basterds is definitely one I wouldn’t mind watching again.

FlixChatter Review: Inglourious Basterds

InglouriousBasterdsPoster
Ok, 2 down, 10 more to go. As I mentioned in my Oscar nom musings, I’ve got twelve movies to catch up on by Oscar time (both nominated for Best Picture and those that feature Oscar-nominated performances). In the past 2 weeks, I finally caught this one and The Hurt Locker, here’s what I generally think of it.

Since the movie is divided into five chapters, I thought I’d break down my review into five main parts just for the heck of it. Now, I’m not hugely familiar with Tarantino’s work, nor did I know much about his movie influences as this LA Times article pointed out. I have no qualms with him ‘borrowing’ certain aspects from obscure or foreign movies, as long as he’s able to make those scenes his own with his own actors and approach/style, which is exactly what he did in this movie.

Before I continue, here’s the plot:

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds”, led by Lt. Aldo Raine, are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.

PART I: The Story

Before I saw this I expected it to be an ultra-violent anti-Nazi flick, a revenge fantasy with Tarantino’s brand of panache and style. Well it was all that indeed, but it’s also so much more. The Basterds are absolutely hell-bent on revenge, but there’s more to the story than what Lt. Aldo (Brad Pitt) and the gang are up to. Their mission is cleverly interwoven with the story of Soshana Dreyfuss (Melanie Laurent), the sole survivor when his family was ambushed early on. There are many layers to the story, one knotty predicament after another — thanks to the shrewdness of Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) — keeps on unfolding until it builds to a gratifying climax.

PART 2: Direction

It’s quite obvious that Tarantino must’ve paid homage to old-school film-making style in the opening sequence. It’s a long continuous shot of just two people – a French farmer and Col. Landa – conversing. That scene runs for a good 10-15 minutes with the camera focusing between the two characters and not much else, yet the dialogue (switching from French to foreign-accented English) and the expression of the French farmer  is immensely tense. This is one of the three segments of the movie where I literally had to get away from the room and distract myself in order to calm my nerves. Of course after my husband assured me it wasn’t “that bad” that I came back and he re-wound the scene for me to watch. It’s an absolutely brilliant opening sequence that pretty much establish Christoph Waltz as one extraordinary actor. I was in for a surprise how much dialog-centric the script was, not so much a gore-fest merely to satisfy fans of the Saw franchise, despite Hostel director Eli Roth’s involvement. Yet, even the more talky scenes are so charged with suspense that my every nerve was stretched to its snapping point.

PART 3: Acting

The marvelous Christoph Waltz

There’s no doubt that Christoph Waltz is a revelation in this movie. He practically steals every single scene he’s in, he’s got that delicate combination of being comical yet deranged, a Nazi Patrick Bateman, but with less affinity for business cards surely. Many times during the movie I actually stopped and marveled how good his performance was, and the Austrian actor’s  knack for languages is even more mind-boggling, such a talent that’s as potent a weapon as any rifle. I could write an entire post on him the way I did for District 9‘s Sharlto Copley, he really is that good! According to NY Times, the Tarantino admitted “I knew Landa was one of the best characters I’ve ever written and probably one of the best characters I will ever write” and  thus “I literally had to consider I might have written an unplayable part.” Without Waltz, Tarantino might’ve given up making this movie and I agree, under less capable hands, Col. Landa would’ve been nothing more than a sadistic caricature villain. No wonder he’s nabbed just about every award given out this year, with last night’s BAFTA being the latest, and he’s definitely a shoo-in for Oscar.

Besides Waltz, the rest of the cast is also terrific. It’s no secret that I’m not a Brad Pitt fan, but he actually suited his character perfectly. Just like Ben Affleck, he’s got a real gift in comedy as I liked him more here than his more serious roles. Diane Krueger proves she’s more than a pretty face here, but it’s French actress Melanie Laurent that truly stands out to to me. Her scenes at the restaurant is such an exquisitely-controlled and affecting performance, her expression as Col. Landa finally leaves the room is one that stayed with me for a long time. She’s definitely overlooked in this year’s award season. Major eye candy Michael Fassbender is fantastic here and his bar scene is soooo full of suspense. LOVE a man in uniform and he definitely looks great in one. German actor Til Schweiger is quite good as one of Basterds’ allies, oh, even Mike Myers has a pretty memorable cameo.

Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender

PART 4: Accent, accent, accent

If I wrote this post about movie accents after seeing this movie, I’d have listed it as one of the best examples of using subtitles. The way a person speak is an integral plot point here so naturally the actors have to pull off the various accents believably. I really enjoyed listening to the different languages spoken here (most notably by Mr. Waltz who speaks French, German, English and Italian fluently), it makes the movie all the more richer and adds a tinge of ‘foreign film’ flavor to it. Accent truly becomes a matter of life and death during the meeting point of “Operation Kino” at the basement of a French tavern, it’s one of the most nerve-racking and violent scenes in the movie, but the dialogue is absolutely to-die-for. Best movie sequence I’ve seen in a long time!

PART 5: Other observations: music and costumes

1940s costume is utterly fabulous!

The music is as quirky as the film itself. It doesn’t exactly fit the period but it certainly fits the scene and when put together, it just works. I mean, you’d never think of pairing renowned composer like Ennio Morricone (Cinema Paradiso) with cuts from David Bowie, that’s exactly what Tarantino did. This L.A. Times blog wrote about the method of how the Tennessee native went about choosing the right song for a particular scene, and how unlike other directors, he doesn’t work with a songwriter to custom-made a song for his movies, “… he handpicks each song and painstakingly injects them into scenes instead of simply hiring a music composer to do the work.”

Tarantino also pays careful attention to the beautiful costumes in his first period film, as costume designer Anna Sheppard said in this interview. The fabulous 1940s fashion provides a nice distraction from all the violent scalping and shooting scenes, there’s almost a Cinderella moment (with a nasty twist of course) with Col. Landa slipping on her pump on Bridget von Hammersmark’s delicate foot. The red dress that Melanie Laurent wore at the pivotal night at the cinema is almost as memorable as her iconic performance.

All in all Inglourious Basterds is a glorious film that truly exceeds my expectation in many levels. If you have reservations about this as you’re not really a ‘Tarantino fan’, give it a chance. Trust me, you’d be glad you did.


What are your thoughts of this film?