Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors working in Hollywood today

Happy St Patrick’s Day everybody! According to this Guinness Store House sign, everyone’s Irish today :D

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I hope you don’t mind me resurrecting this oldie-but-goodie list I did a while back, but I’ve been meaning to update ‘em for some time. This list is limited to performers born and bred in Ireland (at least for most of their childhood), so not those of Irish-descent as it’d take this entire blog to list them all. For the most part, my list stay the same, but you can check out the original list and see who’ve been taken out of the list ;)

Here they are in random order:

  1. Colin Farrell
    ColinFarrellOf all the vile things Joel Schumacher is known for as a director, you could say that he has an eye for talent. He cast Farrell in Tigerland which got the Dublin native noticed. I first saw him in the sci-fi action Minority Report alongside Tom Cruise, and then the Terrence Malick’s The New World. His foray into historical action hero in Alexander was ridiculed panned by critics, and he nearly became a Hollywood cliche with his womanizing ways and drug/alcohol abuse, but he manage to maneuver a career comeback with his Golden-Globe-winning turn in the Irish black comedy In Bruges (2008). His career choices haven’t always been solid (Total Recall remake, Winter’s Tale), but he’s certainly a talented actor. I think he’s wonderful in Saving Mr. Banks.
    ….
  2. Liam Neeson
    LiamNeesonProbably the most famous Irish actors of the bunch, Neeson is one of the hardest working actors right now. His diverse resume is impressive by any thespian standard. From historical figures (Michael Collins, Rob Roy, Schindler’s List), comic-book villain (Batman Begins), to playing bad-ass action star hell-bent on revenge (Taken), Neeson adds gravitas to any role he’s in. Can’t wait to see him as Zeus bellowing ‘Release the Kraken!!!’ in Clash of the Titans. The 61-year-old still looks amazing and obviously has the um, special skills to kick ass. Hollywood offered him to be the next action hero with Taken and he hasn’t looked back since. He probably will be doing action fares like Taken 254 & counting, or a variation of that genre, just like he did with Non-Stop. He’s definitely more watchable than a lot of younger action stars these days anyway, so why not?
    ….
  3. Saoirse Ronan
    SaoirseRonanShe may be only nineteen, but Ronan’s got that wise-beyond-her-years thing going for her, plus enormous talent to boot. She was phenomenal in Atonement as the little girl who couldn’t quite figure out how to channel her attraction to the opposite sex that led to disastrous consequences. She pretty much comes out unscathed even when The Lovely Bones bombed artistically and financially. Since Atonement, Ronan has worked for director Joe Wright again in Hanna as a 14-year old assassin. Boy, talk about range. She’s more than able to hold her own against the likes of Cate Blanchett. Since then, she continues to impress me in The Way Back, How I Live Now, as well as in the small role in The Grand Budapest Hotel. I wish there were more Irish ladies working in Hollywood today so miss Ronan isn’t alone on this list, but she’s the only one so far whose work I really admire.
    ….
  4. Cillian Murphy
    CillianMurphyMost people recognize him as Scarecrow in Batman Begins, but his memorable role is perhaps in the zombie flick 28 Days Later. His impossibly chiseled cheekbones and dramatic eyes somehow make him the perfectly creepy yet sophisticated villain, as he displayed in the horror/thriller Red Eye. Renowned directors such as Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle obviously like working with him, as he’s done two movies for Boyle (Sunshine & 28 Days Later) and Nolan also cast him in his Batman trilogy and Inception. Even in a mediocre movie like In Time, Murphy is usually the best thing in it.
    ….
  5. Michael Fassbender
    MichaelFassbender(Ed note: Though he’s born in Germany, Fassbender is half-Irish and was raised in southwest Ireland)
    I’ve mentioned this guy A LOT on my blog lately and for good reason, he’s definitely eye-candy material but with acting chops to boot. Thanks to Zach Snyder for casting such great actors in 300 even in smaller roles, as I definitely noticed Fassbender as the loyal and valiant Stelios. He’s then proved his amazing range in transformational role in Hunger, and another indie darling Fish Tank which won him several nods from various European Film Festivals. He’s in yet another swords-n-sandals movie Centurion, but he definitely made an impression in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He’s come a looong way since I put him on the original list 3 years ago. His versatility is always on display, whether in costume drama Jane Eyre (as the Byronic hero Rochester) or as a superhero villain Magneto in X-Men: First Class. He even garnered an Oscar nomination for his work in 12 Years A Slave.
    ….
  6. Gabriel Byrne
    GabrielByrneI first noticed Byrne in The Point of No Return as Bridget Fonda’s sympathetic mentor. He may not always get the lead roles, but you always remember him (The Man in the Iron Mask, Little Women, The Usual Suspect, and Miller’s Crossing) The charismatic 63-year-old actor definitely still got the looks to go with all that talent, he won a Golden Globe last year for his performance as a psychotherapist in the HBO drama In Treatment. I cast him in one of my movie pitches, I think he’d be great in a crime noir like this one, wouldn’t you think?
    ….
  7. Ciarán Hinds
    You may not know his name, but you certainly recognize this tall, dark and handsome Belfast native. His dark look makes him suitable to play people from different nationalities: English (Phantom of the Opera, Amazing Grace), (Israeli (Munich), Roman (as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome), Russian (The Sum of All Fears), and that’s just a sampling. His new indie flick set in his native homeland The Eclipse (NOT Twilight 3) is to be released this weekend. Glad to see him get the lead role for a change, hope he’d get another one in the future.
    ….
  8. Kenneth Branagh
    KenBranaghFor all the Shakespearean work he’s done (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet), I initially thought Branagh was an Englishman. The RADA-educated actor had his start in theater when he joined The Royal Shakespeare Company at 23. Soon after he formed his own performance art company called The Renaissance Theatre Company, which counts Prince Charles as one of its royal patrons. He surely brought some of that artsy and sophisticated sensibilities into the comic book adaptation Thor. He’s more than capable doing double duties as actor and director, which he did in the recent reboot of the Jack Ryan movie Shadow Recruit.
    ….
  9. Brendan Gleeson
    BrendanGleesonThis character actor is always fun to watch even in a small role, i.e. as Alastor ‘Mad-­Eye’ Moody in Harry Potter series. But my favorite performance of his would have to be In Bruges with Colin Farrell. I’ve been meaning to see The Guard for ages but it’s not available to rent on iTunes, so I might have to bug my friend who has the Netflix dvd subscription to rent it for me. I’ve been dying to see what happens to At Swim-Two-Birds, which was supposed to be his directorial debut. I blogged about it 2 years ago and still no new news on that one :( Just check out the amazing Irish cast on that one, who wouldn’t want to see that come to life.
    ….
  10. Michael Gambon
    MichaelGambonI first noticed the 74-year-old thespian as the evil tobacco executive in Michael Mann’s The Insider. He’s one of those actors who makes an impact even in a brief appearance. Some of his memorable supporting roles are The Wings of the Dove, Charlotte Gray, The King’s Speech and the latest one I saw was in Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet. He’s probably most well-known to mass audiences as Albus Dumbledore, when he replaced fellow Irishman the late Richard Harris in the Harry Potter series.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS: Chris O’Dowd, Richard Harris, Ray Stevenson, Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn, and Pierce Brosnan.


So, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day (or just the love for the Irish), who are YOUR favorite Irish actors?

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The Weekend That Was… RIP Peter O’Toole & Interstellar teaser

How’s your weekend everyone? Was it an eventful one or busy with Christmas shopping? Well, the arctic air still hasn’t left us yet, it’s really getting pathetic that we got excited when temps go even 15 above zero! Today it’s almost 30˚ F and boy did it feel good! Here’s a recap of what I saw, as well as a few film-related events happening this weekend:

Well this weekend I got to see the new *rePOTO_CameronMackintoshimagined* version of The Phantom of the Opera, created by Cameron Mackintosh. It’s incredible that POTO is celebrating 25 years on Broadway this year and this new production — with a new set, choreography, lighting and scenic design — has premiered in the UK last year. This is the third time I saw POTO on stage and I was mesmerized once again. It’s really all about those gorgeous, haunting music and the younger cast definitely bring the story to life. I LOVE the stage production but it also makes me appreciate the 2004 film with Gerry Butler in the title role, which is decidedly faithful to the stage version. I appreciate both format but the nice thing about the film is that I can easily watch that over and over again on my Blu-ray :D

As I saw three advanced screening during the weekThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (check out my thoughts on the movie), Saving Mr. Banks and Inside Llewyn Davis), so this weekend I opted for home cinema. Thanks to Kim and Fernando for recommending these two animated features.

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As a big fan of How to Train Your Dragon, I definitely enjoyed this short film immensely. The baby dragons are as adorable as ever, but once again, the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless the Night Fury is at the heart of it. I can’t wait for the follow-up to HTTYD coming next year!

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I actually have seen Hunchback of Notre Dame a long time ago but for some reason I didn’t remember much of it. It’s darker than the average Disney animated features, but the story demands it so it works well here. Of course it’s not without the conventional Disney ballads and goofy-but-endearing characters, but the story definitely has a good message of good vs. evil and a heartwarming tale about the triumph of the outcasts.


This weekend, we saw the passing of a true Hollywood legend, Peter O’Toole. Apparently he was being treated at London’s Wellington hospital after a long illness. He was 81.

RIP_PeterOToole

I had just seen his most iconic role in Lawrence of Arabia for the first time earlier this year. In fact, I got the Blu-ray version and both my husband and I was really blown away by it. It definitely lives up to the masterpiece status, both the film and Mr. O’Toole’s performance are hugely iconic. I have only seen Mr. O’Toole in The Lion in Winter, his cameo in One Night with the King, and his voice work in Ratatouille. I should try to see his comedic work in My Favorite Year (which my friend Kevin has reviewed here) and How To Steal A Million with Audrey Hepburn.

Farewell Mr. O’Toole, may you rest in peace.


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As 2013 draws to a close, soon comes a time of huge buzz and anticipation for 2014 movies. One of the big ones is Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi INTERSTELLAR. I just had to post the trailer here in case you haven’t seen it yet:

In the future, governments and economies across the globe have collapsed, food is scarce, NASA is no more, and the 20th Century is to blame. A mysterious rip in spacetime opens and it’s up to whatever is left of NASA to explore and offer up hope for mankind.

Ok so yes I’m a bit of a Nolan groupie but his trailers always get me salivating and frustrated that we have to wait a whole year for this!! The story is intriguing and mysterious, as every Nolan film is shrouded in secrecy. But the cast also got me excited. Matthew McConaughey is hotter than hot right now and I LOVE Jessica Chastain, plus the supporting cast looks great with Nolan regular Michael Caine, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Anne Hathaway and Casey Affleck!

Oh, I also just came across this brilliant fan-made, crossover video from episodes of BBC’s Dr. Who and Sherlock. It’s too awesome not to share:


Well, that’s the weekend recap folks, what did you watch this weekend?

Musings on Batman casting… and the actor who gets my vote for the role: Richard Armitage

Perhaps one of the BIGGEST news out of Comic-con this year was the fact that Warner Bros. is developing a Superman & Batman film coming out in 2015. Zack Snyder (via actor Harry Lennix who played Gen Swanwick in Man of Steel) announced it to 6,500 screaming fans at Hall H, and the reaction was uproarious. Whether it’s a positive or negative reaction is hard to tell at the moment, as it was hugely unexpected.

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My knee-jerk reaction was WTF??! I mean honestly, why on earth would they do such a thing? Seemingly a desperate move to get the ball rolling for the Justice League movie, throwing away all that work developing a compelling origin story on Superman. As much as I like both of those DC characters, in fact, I’ve always said I’m more of a DC than Marvel girl because of Superman AND Batman. But yet, the idea of seeing those two characters on screen TOGETHER in a film seems so… ill-advised. Darryl wrote this in-depth post on how the Superman & Batman film might change the character of Batman as we know it, which further suggest the complicated [read: thorny] predicament of the two co-existing within a feature film.

That said, I have to admit that this news rouse my curiosity whether and how that adaptation would actually look like. Is it one of those ideas that’s so crazy it’s brilliant… maybe?

This piece of news also threw the entertainment media into a frenzy, as article after article not only report the news but dissect or lambast the very idea. Naturally, it’s a pretty BIG news, and one that’ll surely keep on buzzing amongst entertainment fodder and comic geeks alike. I reckon that IF this idea was ever going to work, a SUPER script of EPIC proportion is in order… I mean, it was tricky enough for Marvel to bring all those superheroes together in The Avengers, I think the challenge for Batman & Superman is a thousand times bigger. The other precarious issue is the casting.

Now, before we get to that, I just want to briefly talk about Batman: Year One, an animated feature based on Frank Millers’ comics released in 1987. The story recounts the beginning of Bruce Wayne’s career as Batman and Jim Gordon’s with the Gotham City Police Department, which has been corrupted as much as the rest of Gotham. Bruce Wayne is at the age of 25, having just returned home to Gotham City from training abroad in martial arts, manhunting, and science for the past 12 years. I love the dark tone, grit and realism of the story and the humanity of the titular hero, which obviously inspired Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Now, the one thing that strikes me, as my pal Ted also pointed out, is how much Bruce Wayne in THIS adaptation looks like Richard Armitage!!

BatmanYearOne_BD

Just the past 10 days alone, I’ve read countless of articles speculating just who’ll don the Batsuit and share the screen with Henry Cavill as Superman. My friend Terrence dedicated his Time to Vote Tuesday poll last week on it, combining both TV and Film actors. Now, a bunch of major sites also made their picks of who they’d like to see cast as Batman. Total Film, The Playlist, Screenrant, Nerdbastards, just to name a few, have posted their picks, listing all kinds of actors that got me either nodding enthusiastically or shaking my head in disgust [Joe Manganiello?? I mean, seriously??] But all these sites have one thing in common… all of them got it right to list this classy Brit on their list!

RicharArmitageBatman1

Seriously, this is a no-brainer folks. I mean, he’s already working for Warner Bros for The Hobbit, so why doesn’t the studio just offer him another contract? I don’t think the fact that he’s already playing Thorin Oakenshield is a disadvantage, I mean he doesn’t even look like himself in that role. He’s playing a dwarf under all that beard and stringy long hair which camouflages his tall, lean figure, so I doubt people would confuse the two roles. He’s not a household name yet [which boggles the mind], but I think that fact works in his favor as he doesn’t have a ‘baggage’ if you will, of being associated with a previous role.

Whether it’s the Superman & Batman film or reboot of the Batman franchise, it’s always fun to talk about the casting of this beloved DC hero. I was going to list my top five picks to play Batman but you know what, for me there’s only one actor who I think is PERFECT for this role… so I might as well just list the seven reasons why he’s the obvious choice:

His looks

RicharArmitageBatman3

Let’s face it, this is the kind of role where the look of the actor is of the essence. The 41-year-old Englishman has the entire package. At nearly 6’3″, he’s all lean muscle with a chiseled yet rugged features, rockin’ a permanent five-o’clock-shadow look like nobody’s business. Yes I’d rather not see THAT face covered with the Bat cowl, but that’s ok, there’ll be plenty of Bruce Wayne scenes to make up for that. Even without seeing him in person, he’s what you’d call text-book handsome, but with an edge. There’s the right amount of danger, that rugged masculinity that makes him the perfect go-to guy for various anti-hero roles [i.e. in Spooks, Strike Back, Robin Hood]. It’s time that he makes his big-screen breakthrough, in fact it’s been way long overdue.

His intensity

I don’t often agree with The Playlist, but I LOVE what their post said about Armitage, saying that he “… has a similar, Bale-like intensity and the ability to convey a number of emotions through a glassy stare or purse-lipped facial expression. When it comes to the mood of the Dark Knight, especially when he’s at his darkest, Armitage could easily bring that to life.” Yes absolutely!

RicharArmitageThornton

I first noticed Richard as John Thornton in BBC’s North & South and one thing I noticed right away is the fierce intensity he brings to the character. Plus he’s got that enormous screen presence even with no words spoken. But don’t confuse his stillness with being wooden, in fact, he always comes across as a sensitive loner who’s got a lot going for him that he simply can’t reveal to the world. Now who does that remind you of? ;)

He can act

Looks alone just won’t cut it, but thankfully Richard certainly CAN act. His versatility allows him to go from one genre to the next, whether it’s a period drama, fantasy adventure set in an ancient universe, or modern-day spy thriller, he always fits right in. He described himself as being ‘quite a detailed actor’ and he has this controlled ferocity that’s so mesmerizing to watch. I really think he’d bring so much to the role as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and casting him will be the making of that character.

He already looks good in black

Richard seems to wear a lot of black, on and off screen. But dark colors suits him… it brings out the pale complexion and those piercing blue-grey eyes nicely. He was clad in ALL black leather to play Guy of Gisborne in the BBC Robin Hood series, which seems to prepare him for a Batsuit, no? I mean, all he needs is a cape and he should be set :D

ArmitageGuyRickmanSheriff

I LOVE this Photoshop work someone did with Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991). It’s be a bonus if Rickman has a supporting role in the movie as well, that’d be heavenly!!

He already looks like a billionaire

RicharArmitageBruceWayne

Sometimes people just have that look that gives an aura of class… and Richard definitely has it. I mean sure, there are lots of actors who are far more ripped for those inevitable shirtless scenes, but are we going to believe them as a business magnate? I have trouble picturing some actors as someone who’ve stepped foot in an office, let alone being the owner of an establishment like Wayne Corporation. Richard has the right combo of brain and brawn, entirely convincing as a bad ass fighter as well as a brilliant thinker. He’d be as convincing in a Batsuit as well as pinstripe suit.

He’s got the tortured soul thing down pat

RichardArmitageTorturedSoul

Ok so this trait isn’t exactly a make-or-break thing, but I do think for certain roles, i.e. Jane Eyre‘s Rochester, Hamlet, and certainly, Bruce Wayne, such quality would really come in handy. Richard has played a number of these roles, so yeah, portraying the troubled, conflicted persona of Bruce Wayne should come naturally to him. Most importantly, he can make the whole angst and heartache disposition look irresistibly sexy.

His deep, baritone voice

Now, even the most die-hard fans of Nolan’s Batman films have to admit that Batman’s disguise voice is awful and downright hilarious. I know there’s a certain popular actor who’s one of the top picks for this role but sorry, not only does his smug face bugs me, but that guy sounds like Mickey Mouse! One thing I like about the animated features are the voices of the cast are pretty good. Benjamin McKenzie did a good job providing the voice of Bruce Wayne in Batman: Year One, but really, it’s still no match for Richard’s smooth baritone voice. He’s one of those actors who’s as delightful to look at and listen too (eye candy AND ear candy!). Check out this clip that shows off not only his vocal chops, but his amazing voice acting ability:

As we’ve seen briefly in his villainous role as Heinz Kruger in Captain America, Richard can pull off a convincing American accent too, as do most Brits. I love it when the voice matches a man’s stature, and Richard certainly has that signature commanding voice fit for a superhero


Well, I hope you’re convinced now that Richard is the one and only choice for Batman :D

Curious to hear your thoughts on the Batman & Superman movie… and of course the Batman casting, so let’s hear it!

Musings on Man of Steel: What works and what doesn’t in the latest Superman reboot

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Oh boy, where do I begin… Some films are tough to review and I find this one to be particularly so because I feel like I’ve invested myself in this movie even long before I saw it. It’s strange I know, and perhaps I shouldn’t have been sooo incredibly pumped but if you’ve read my ‘history‘ if you will, with this character, I can’t help myself. And really, Warner Bros have done a tremendous job building the marketing for this movie and pacing the trailers to get fan boys/girls like me to wait with baited breath.

Well, at 7:30 pm last Tuesday night — after two and a half years wait, and numerous countdown posts — my hubby and I finally sat down and watch this film. I’m glad there were only two trailers before this film came out, though I wish one of them had been for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, as I didn’t want to wait a moment sooner for this film to start. Now, here’s my thoughts after a few days processing it… pardon the long post, but you know I’m rather indulgent when it comes to Superman :D

What Works

An absorbing backstory of the hero and his planet

When the filmmakers said this is going to be an origin story, they REALLY meant it. The film opens with our hero still in his mother’s womb and his father, the brilliant scientist Jor-El, helping her deliver him. We know he’s a special ‘man’ on earth, but he’s also a special baby in his native planet, as Kal-El is the first baby born of natural conception in thousands of years. We get a glimpse of a more organic version of Krypton than I’ve ever seen. The landscape and creatures from the alien planet reminds me a bit of Avatar, brushed with much more warm color scheme than the icy, futuristic look of the Richard Donner version. We see the ‘S’ symbol as a prominent element of his family, and I like that this film gives that iconic emblem a bit more background than in previous movies as it’s such an integral part of the character.

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The send-off is an emotional one, giving us a picture of the kind of people brought Kal-El into the world, and the grim circumstances of the world he was born into. The extended history scenes was explored pretty well here, which certainly makes me think of Krypton in a different light, that’s it’s a world that’s not so entirely different from our own. It’s definitely a thought-provoking Superman film that lingers with me for days after I saw it.

Exploring the sci-fi aspect

It’s interesting that I never regarded the previous Superman as a science-fiction movie, but this time you could say that Man of Steel is a sci-fi action/drama as it really tackles the ‘science’ of the two worlds of Superman. Words like terraforming, codex, world engines, etc. are terms I never associate with Superman, and we also get vibes of The Matrix or Gattaca in earlier scenes.

There’s a scene that touches upon the fact that Superman’s no longer used to his native Kryptonian atmosphere, as his body’s adapted to earth’s oxygen after living here for three decades. It seems to have a similar weakening power the way Kryptonite does, though there’s no mention of that in the film. It’s fascinating stuff and adds a different layer to the Superman story that’s overlooked in the past.

The non-linear storyline

This is sort of a Christopher Nolan‘s trademark if you will, and I’m glad David S. Goyer decided to interweave the Clark Kent’s upbringing in flashback mode as the adult Clark is grappling with the notion of ‘Where do I come from?’ and ‘Why am I here?’ This narrative style isn’t confusing to me because well, I (as well as most people) already know the story, but it’s still good to see it being played out in a whole different way. I think it helps pace the story as well, because let’s face it, when you’re in the theater watching a Superman movie, you yearn to see Supes in THAT suit. The buildup makes the moment when he comes out of what we’ve come to know as Fortress of Solitude, with his cape billowing in the wind, all the more sweeter. Not a moment too soon, I’d say, and though I’ve seen that clip a bazillion times in the trailer, I’m still getting goosebumps watching it.

Supes ‘super’ Dads

It’s perfect timing that Man of Steel is released on Father’s Day weekend, as both of his fathers in the film are so awesome they’re even worthy of their own ‘My Two Dads’ spinoff, ahah. The reviewer at HitFix.com astutely pointed out one of the most fundamental difference between DC’s two flagship heroes “…Batman is defined by his missing parents, while Superman is defined by his surplus of parents.” That’s so true! And it’s nice to see the excellent casting for both roles. I really enjoy watching Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Supes’ Kryptonian and earth-bound father, respectively. It’s interesting that both Oscar winners have played Robin Hood and Cavill was quite the masterful archer in Immortals, I guess it runs in the family :D

I appreciate seeing Jor-El’s character being covered in more depth, with Crowe is in top form here, as valiant and heroic as he was in Gladiator (the ‘This is madness’ line cracks me up a bit though, an homage to Snyder’s previous hit film perhaps?) Thankfully, he’s not relegated to just a talking head like Brando and he appears throughout the film in a hologram, traveling with his son in ‘spirit’ if you were, just like God the Father is in Christ the son. The Judeo-Christian theme in Superman films are always palpable, and here Clark becomes the earthly savior at the exact age of 33. Thus the father/son scenes are easily the highlights of the film for me, and Crowe’s Jor-El is perhaps my favorite character in the film next to the title role.

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Costner hits all the right notes as as the humble and wise farmer from Smallville who loves his adopted son so much he’s willing to lay down his life. I’m glad we get to see Jonathan Kent interacting with the adult Clark in one scene, which happens to be one of the most emotionally-charged moment that no doubt shapes the rest of Clark’s life. The strong moral compass in the hero’s early life is covered in great depth, which made the first half of the film the more compelling part of the movie.

Henry Cavill as Superman

Naturally, to portray someone as iconic and beloved as Superman, in the year of its 75th anniversary no less, it’s crucial that we get an actor who could bring that character justice. Let’s face it though, Christopher Reeve was a tough act to follow in the role, and the comparison is inevitable. Truth be told, Reeve’s Superman will always have a very special place in my heart, I don’t think anyone could ever take his place.

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That said, I’ve been a fan of Cavill’s casting from the get-go, obviously he looks every inch the part both in chiseled physique and down-to-earth mannerism. But the true test is really seeing him on screen, BEING Superman and interacting with the people in the story. Well, I can say with confidence and positive giddy-ness that Cavill did the character justice. Sure we didn’t get the bumbling Clark trying to get Lois’ attention, but that doesn’t mean this version is one dimensional at all. In fact, Cavill believably portrays a more layered persona, showing the vulnerable side of such a larger-than-life character. Not quite the tortured soul the way Bruce Wayne was, but appropriately solemn as a conflicted man haunted by the past dealing with a constant internal struggles within him. Seems like some critics are expecting a wisecracking character with a slew of one liners at the ready, but you know what, I’m not expecting that from Cavill. I’m glad he made the character his own instead of simply channeling Reeve. I like that he’s a man of a few words, someone who wisely prefers to listen than being heard.

Michael Shannon as Zod

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I was glad when it was announced that General Zod was going to be the main villain, and boy, did they get an excellent actor to play the part. In some interviews, Michael Shannon said that he never thought of playing a comic-book character and that he found something sympathetic about his character. I appreciate his take on the role as a staunch military leader who’s loyal to a fault. So he’s not simply a megalomaniac who enjoy making people suffer, though of course his mission to save his own kind is basically genocide, something that neither Jor-El nor his son would ever condone. Ok so his bowl cut and goatee is not exactly an attractive look on Shannon, but it’s nice to see a villain who also looks physically menacing. Shannon’s athleticism makes him a formidable foe even for the mighty buff Cavill.

The chemistry of the Cast

The fantastic ensemble cast would be for naught if they don’t have chemistry with each other. But there’s none of that issue in this film, all the performances are strong here and they play off each other well. Despite being the youngest and least experienced actor amongst the key players, Cavill’s able to hold his own effortlessly. I love all his scenes with Crowe and especially this one with Diane Lane as his earth-bound mother. It’s one of the cheeriest moments in the movie where Clark came home after being away from Smallville for some time. The mother & son moment is poignant and sweet.

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The visual imagination of the film

As I’ve mentioned above, the long opening sequence of life in Krypton shows the vast planet where Superman came from. The scene is beautifully realized, with lush valleys, caverns and water mass, with what looks like a primeval animals and wing-like creatures that serve as means of transport.

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The look of Smallville captures the picturesque small town sensibilities and the iconic Kent farm that’s apparently built from scratch looks appropriately earthy next to the massive corn fields (Kevin Costner must’ve felt a sense of déjà vu from filming Fields of Dreams, ahah). Contrast that to the design of the baby Kal-El’s rocket ship that launched him from Krypton. The key word here once again is organic, with its clean lines and a more rounded shape that forms the S-shield. Oh, and if you look closely, seems like Pa Kent’s been collecting all kinds of books about aliens, UFOs, etc. which of course leads to him saying “Youre the answer to ‘Are we alone in the universe?’” when the time comes that he can’t hide it from his adopted son anymore.

I LOVE, LOVE the costume design of this film! The texture and ornate design is just fantastic, and the armor that Jor-El wore has an interesting dichotomy of being ancient looking as well as futuristic at the same time. The iconic Superman suit is re-imagined with a darker, more monochromatic hue. Again, the sleek texture beautifully accentuate the perfectly-sculpted physique of Cavill, and certainly a heck of a lot more bad ass without the red underwear on the outside. I’d love to see Man of Steel being considered for Best Costume Design come Oscar time.

Lois Lane’s larger involvement in the story

I never thought that Lois is merely a damsel in distress in the Superman movies, I mean she’s always been a shrewd career woman. But here, the stellar reporter actually gets more to do in the story and actually gets to be a part of Superman’s mission in saving humanity. No doubt Amy Adams is perhaps the best and most ‘decorated’ actress (with her four Oscar nominations under her belt) to play that character. Though I think Margot Kidder’s spunk in the role remains unmatched, Adams is quite believable and more importantly likable, as Supes’ love interest. Despite the relatively brief screen time between them (less than what I’d have liked to see anyway), Cavill and Adams have a nice chemistry together. But seriously, what girl wouldn’t have a good chemistry with Henry Cavill! I’ve got to admit the scene of them locking lips gets me green with envy! ;)

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It’s no surprise that Snyder likes a strong female character in his films and in this one, we’ve got one on both sides of good and evil, as Zod’s right hand woman Faora (Antje Traue) is a force to be reckoned with!

Last but certainly NOT least…

The flying sequences

Flying is the quintessential powers that makes Superman different from other superheroes. So I’m glad that Snyder put a lot of effort into it and truly makes the whole flying thing SUPER cool! There’s a scene where Jor-El tells his son to ‘keep testing his limits’ as neither of them knows just how powerful the earth’s sun would fuel him. There’s even a sequence of Superman learning how to fly properly, and the scene of him flying all over the globe seemingly faster than a speeding bullet is awesome!

MOS_flying

At the same time, though Supes’ super strength here is magnificent, I’m glad the suspension of disbelief required of us doesn’t go beyond risible grandiosity such as turning back earth axis and turning back time. I mean, I love Superman: The Movie as you all know, but that’s just stretching the preposterous meter way too far even for a superhero movie.

What Doesn’t 

Ok, now you all know how much I want to LOVE this movie. I want to clap and cheer when the end credits roll and shout out ‘awesooooooooome!!’ at top of my lungs. Well, it didn’t quite happen at first viewing, and here’s why…

The fight scenes go on way too long

Yes I know that from the trailers and featurettes that there are going to be some significant butt-kicking sequences in this one. I mean, after such a lengthy battle-free exposition if you will, naturally people are expecting more robust stuff, but I think it ends up being a bit of an overkill as the fight scenes grows increasingly relentless. As soon as Zod descend on earth with his small band of Kryptonian army, all hell breaks lose!

The destruction in Metropolis would make Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich green with envy. It’s as if Zack Snyder is over-compensating for some people’s complaints that the previous Superman movie didn’t have ‘enough’ action. Seriously, by the time Superman fights Zod & co. for the fifth or sixth times, and it just gets tedious. There’s also an overlong scene of Superman fighting these weird alien creatures with long tentacles towards the end, it’s really hard to see what the heck is going on. It’s a case of CGI-overload, which is never a good thing.

MOS_battleinSmallville

Seeing Supes and his nemesis going through building after building, leaving heaps of destruction in its wake, it quickly becomes pointless as we all know these Kryptonians are all indestructible. Plus, their fights actually cause more human casualties as skyscrapers are collapsing all around them.

Lacking one stand-out scene that exemplifies Superman as the ‘savior of humanity’

Ironically, with sooo many battle scenes and so much time devoted to Supes kicking all kinds of butt, there is not a single defining moment, if you will, that makes me want to get up and cheer. Superman: The Movie has that iconic chopper-rescue scene with Lois, Superman II has the battle at the end with Zod & co. that leads to the finale at the Fortress of Solitude, and even Superman Returns has that rousing plane rescue scene that earns Supes a thunderous heroes’ welcome! (Btw you can watch all of those scenes here).

The most memorable part for me is the scene where Supes first tackles Zod, destroying his helmet that protects him from being overwhelmed by his heightened senses. I think it’s brilliant that they show an insight to just how crucial Clark’s parents teaching was in getting him to control his powers. But it falls short from being a truly glorious scene, and most importantly, we never quite see Superman as being welcomed by the people of earth as their alien hero, even though the stake in this film is even greater than anything Lex Luthor ever posed to humanity. There’s only acknowledgement from a few military people and some Daily Planet employees, but most earthlings pretty much are still in the dark as who Superman is.

Hans Zimmer’s score didn’t quite hit an emotional high for me

This is really a bummer as I’ve grown to enjoy this soundtrack, and accept the fact no score is going to be as iconic as what John Williams’ has done (even Zimmer himself realized this). I’ve actually been listening to the score on its own and really enjoyed it. But somehow, I don’t really remember the music being all that memorable in the film. Perhaps it’s intentional to make the score to sort of blend in with the story, but I expected it to give me this emotional rush like it did in the previous film, but it wasn’t quite there. Perhaps on second viewing I might have a different opinion on it, but as it is now, it’s a bit underwhelming.

The Verdict?

Despite the flaws I’ve pointed out, there are still a LOT to love in this film. So yeah, I still LOVE Superman and Man of Steel certainly did not dampen my love for the character. The bold new interpretation certainly didn’t frustrate me the way Superman Returns did with the ‘Supes boy’ twist, though it could’ve been more engaging all the way through. The first half of the film before we even see Kal-El donning the suit is definitely more compelling to me than the later when Superman perform all kinds of impressive heroic stunts. I think Richard Corliss in his TIME review sums it up nicely: “The super part of Man of Steel is just O.K.; but the man part is super.”

MOS_CavillSuperman

I do want to point out that there IS a beating heart amidst all the booming spectacle and I do think the filmmakers deliver on the promise of a ‘first contact’ story. In addition, just because it’s a darker and grittier interpretation, it doesn’t mean it’s gloom and doom. The message about hope is not lost on me here,  I think Christopher Nolan + David Goyer + Zack Snyder‘s vision certainly has the potential to launch a lucrative franchise for DC. I for one wants to see more of THIS version of Superman, surely with Henry Cavill in the title role!

So no, I’m NOT disappointed in this one. In fact, the longer it sits with me the more I appreciate it and I’m still eager to see it again (in fact I’ve already got my tickets for an encore later tonight) :D Well, after a second viewing, I’ve now settled with the higher score than what I’ve originally intended…


4 out of 5 reels


What are YOUR thoughts on this film? Let’s compare notes on this one, folks!

Five for the Fifth: JUNE 2013 edition

fiveforthefifth

Hello folks, welcome to the 6th Five for the Fifth of the year!

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.

Wahlberg_2Guns1. Today Mark Wahlberg turns 42! It’s funny how I first noticed this Boston-native when he was still Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch. Well, he’s certainly has come a long way from that as he’s now been quite a force to be reckoned with as a movie star, even garnering critical reception with not one but TWO Oscar nominations for The Departed and The Fighter.

Now, I haven’t seen any of his latest films, I mean Broken City and Pain & Gain just didn’t appeal to me. I might rent the later as it looks pretty hilarious. Interestingly enough, Wahlberg’s latest films have consist of him being paired with another movie star. Russell Crowe in Broken City, Dwayne Johnson in Pain & Gain, and now he’s paired up with Denzel Washington in what appears to be an action comedy where he & Denzel played A DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer being set up by the mob.

Check out the trailer:

Looks like it’s more of a rental for me. I’ve only seen about 10 of Wahlberg’s movies so far, and I think my favorites are The Fighter and The Other Guys, yes I know, it couldn’t be more different from each other, but I actually think Wahlberg’s quite fun to watch in comedies, though generally he doesn’t really have much range, ahah.

So what’s YOUR favorite Mark Wahlberg’s movie? Will you be watching 2 Guns?

……


2. Now, for my second question, I’m actually borrowing from the Twitter #MTOS series (Movie Talks on Sunday) which you should absolutely follow if you haven’t already. This past weekend, the focus was on Christopher Nolan, hosted by @Pandadeer. I particularly like this question:

Nolan is known for returning to the same pool of actors; who would you like to see added to it?

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Nolan with his Batman posse

I like Andrew’s answer below, esp. one about Lazenby:

Recently Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain have joined Nolan’s upcoming sci-fi film Interstellar. Though of course he still has his regular go-to actor Michael Caine in his cast. Now these would be my top 5 wishlist for Nolan to consider: Richard Armitage, Clive Owen, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch and Helen Mirren.

What about you? Which actors would you like to see working with Chris Nolan?


3. It’s been a while since I talk about Bond on this blog! Well, there have been some developments on Bond 24. As you might’ve read on Terrence’s Movie News Monday, Sam Mendes is expected to return in the director’s chair for both Bond 24 and Bond 25, so probably until the end of Daniel Craig’s reign as Bond.

Mendes_Cruz_Bond24

Now, we’ve also got news that Spanish beauty Penelope Cruz has been cast as Bond girl! Wow, so they’re upping the ante as far as getting more quality performers in Bond movies. I mean, Cruz is an Oscar winner for Vicky Cristina Barcelona and has been nominated three times for an Academy Award. Funny that Daniel Craig is probably the first Bond ever to be seduced by a team of husband and wife, ahah. Cruz’s real-life hubby Javier Bardem sort of put the moves on Bond in Skyfall, remember? :D

Well, most of you might not know this, but this won’t be Cruz’ first time appearing with a Bond actor. As a Timothy Dalton fanatic, I also noticed her brief appearance as Dalton’s girl in the British miniseries FRAMED back in 1992. As Lola Del Moreno, her character name is almost Bond Girl-ish too, no? It’s a great crime/thriller series if you haven’t seen it, fantastic performance by Dalton and David Morrissey.

Dalton_Cruz_Framed

In any case, what’s your thoughts on Mendes coming back and Cruz as the next Bond girl?


4. Now this is a film that wasn’t on my radar previously but boy, I love the pairing of Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall in this intriguing crime drama CLOSED CIRCUIT.

ClosedCircuit

Martin and Claudia are lawyers — and ex-lovers — who find themselves put at risk after they join the defense team for an international terrorist’s trial.

I was quite impressed with director John Crowley, who did this great indie Boy A with Andrew Garfield (which could be his breakthrough role) and Peter Mullan. We’ve also got the script by Steve Knight (Amazing Grace, Eastern Promises) and a slew of great character actors Ciarán Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Anne-Marie Duff, Julia Stiles and Jim Broadbent. I was VERY impressed by Ahmed in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, so I’m looking forward to seeing him in another film.

What do you think of this  movie? Does it appeal to you?


5. Now, last but not least. Time for some TV updates. Yes, I know I’m quite terrible with keeping up with TV shows, but with Karl Urban, this just might be the new show I’d be [trying] to watch regularly this Fall.

AlmostHumanFOX

We’ve got some detailed synopsis from Teaser-trailer.com:

The year is 2048. John Kennes (Urban), a cop who survived one of the most catastrophic attacks ever made against the police department, wakes up from a 17-month coma, he can’t remember much – except that his partner was killed. Because of the attack he lost one of his legs and is now outfitted with a highly sophisticated synthetic appendage.

Now by mandate, every cop must partner with a robot. And despite his passionate aversion to androids, John is paired up with Dorian (Michael Ealy), a discontinued android with unexpected emotional responses. Although such responses were deemed flaws, it is in these ‘flaws’ that John relates to Dorian most. After all, John is part-machine now, and Dorian is part-human. John and Dorian’s understanding of each other not only complements them, it connects them.


This definitely looks very promising and the set pieces looks pretty sleek. I do realize that with a lot of these shows, the premise and promo seems to be more compelling right off the bat. The show’s created by the same folks behind the popular FOX sci-fi Fringe, J.H. Wyman & J.J. Abrams.

I’ll definitely give this one a shot. I mean a futuristic sci-fi + Karl Urban already sounds like a winner to me :D

Well, now my last question to you is two-fold: Are you excited about this show? Otherwise, what’s the TV show you’re looking forward to most this coming Fall season?


That’s it for the JUNE 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these subjects.

Trailer Spotlight: Man of Steel – the S stands for smashing – now the countdown begins!

ManofSteelBanner
I knew I would be inside of a movie theater watching Disconnect when this trailer hits … so I was super excited when I got home to see it on my big screen TV! Well, all that waiting is not for naught. I have a bunch of superlatives I could use for this trailer… but I’m going to restrain myself. As you could surmise from the title, it’s absolutely smashing!!

Hope is the key word in this latest Superman adaptation … that “S” on Superman’s chest doesn’t stand for “Superman” or “Smallville”… Apparently it’s not even an “S.”

“In my world it means hope.”

That’s what Kal-El told Lois in the interrogation room. Superman has always been portrayed as the beacon of hope for humanity as he identifies and cares more with his adopted universe than his own. And in practical term, this is the movie that Warner Bros and DC is most hopeful about, as it holds the key to the future of the DC comic franchise in its cinematic universe. Looks like Zack Snyder, in collaboration with Christopher Nolan as producer & David Goyer penning the script, just might deliver the biggest movie event of the year!

ManofSteelTrailer_LoisInterrogation

Now, as a big fan of this DC hero, I’m super hopeful that this would live up to my expectations and the signs are pointing in the right direction. I love that there are going to be more Krypton scenes with Russell Crowe channeling Marlon Brando as Jor-El, as well as stirring moments of our Kryptonian protagonist with earthly parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). Of course mostly I’m looking forward to Henry Cavill rockin’ this role, Michael Shannon as a menacing Zod and the flirtatious banter between Supes and Lois [lucky Amy Adams!!] ;) To me, this trailer promises us that high-octane action and emotional pay off are not mutually-exclusive.

The only gripe I have is the lack of a truly mighty score that’ll go with our mighty hero… I mean Hans Zimmer himself has talked about being intimidated by the task of following John Williams footsteps [per Collider], though I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’d create something great. But after hearing his score here, I’m afraid it only makes me miss Williams’ iconic creation, THAT’s still the score that immediately evoke the image of Superman for me.

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It’s no secret that this is THE one movie I’m looking forward to ALL year. Yes it’s a superhero movie and I know some of you are probably rolling your eyes. I mean, to some it’s just another one in a string of comic book movies that Hollywood’s been churning out the past few years. But no, when it comes to Superman, I’m not jaded, yet, not sure I ever will. I’ve loved that character since I was three years old, with Superman the Movie being my first memorable movie-going experience and Christopher Reeve as my first official crush. So yeah, even though there have been some disappointing films along the way, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being a Superman fan.

Now the countdown to Man of Steel officially begins here at FlixChatter!

I’ll have Superman-related posts a few times a month all the way to its US release date on June 14! Thanks to Bubbawheat from Flights Tights and Movie Nights and Michael from It Rains… You Get Wet and Terrence from The Focused Filmographer for agreeing to participate in this mini blogathon of sort. So stay tuned for some super posts!! :D


Well, what say you? Thoughts on the trailer and/or Superman in general?

10 Favorite Directors’ Quotes Relay Race

Another relay race has been circulating around, similar to the Best Actors and Actress Relay Race I did a few months ago. This time it’s David from Taste of Cinema who started the relay race to share some of our favorite quotes from filmmakers. Thank you John @ John Likes Movies for tagging me!

Here’s David’s explanation of the relay race:
People love wisdom from great minds. As a cinephile, I prefer director quotes more than words from any other group of people in the world. Their thoughts on cinema not only provide insights into a deep understanding of cinema, but also open the window to their own films, their genres, and their filmmaking methods, thus the need to receive more exposure as their films did.

The rules have been altered, but basically the one rule is simple: Replace one director and their respective quote with one of your own.

Here’s who’s participated in the Relay Race so far:

Chris at Movies And Songs 365
Alex at And So It Begins…
Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle
Stephanie at On Page and Screen


And here are the quotes as it stands now…

“I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it – if my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together. If people don’t like that, then tough titty, don’t go and see it, all right? I steal from everything. Great artists steal; they don’t do homages.”Quentin Tarantino

“Unlike all the other art forms, film is able to seize and render the passage of time, to stop it, almost to possess it in infinity. I’d say that film is the sculpting of time.” – Andrei Tarkovsky

“Why make a movie about something one understands completely? I make movies about things I do not understand, but wish to.” – Seijun Suzuki

“I don’t like the idea of ‘understanding’ a film. I don’t believe that rational understanding is an essential element in the reception of any work of art. Either a film has something to say to you or it hasn’t. If you are moved by it, you don’t need it explained to you. If not, no explanation can make you moved by it.”Federico Fellini

“When I make a film, I never stop uncovering mysteries, making discoveries. When I’m writing, filming, editing, even doing promotional work, I discover new things about the film, about myself, and about others. That is what I’m subconsciously looking for when shooting a film: to glimpse the enigmas of life, even if I don’t resolve them, but at least to uncover them. Cinema is curiosity in the most intense meaning of the word.”Pedro Almodovar

“All my movies are about strange worlds that you can’t go into unless you build them and film them. That’s what’s so important about film to me. I just like going into strange worlds.”David Lynch

“You make films to give people something, to transport them somewhere else, and it doesn’t matter if you transport them to a world of intuition or a world of intellect…The realm of superstitions, fortune-telling, presentiments, intuition, dreams, all this is the inner life of a human being, and all this is the hardest thing to film… I’ve been trying to get there from the beginning. I’m somebody who doesn’t know, somebody who’s searching.”Krzysztof Kieslowski

“I wonder whether my bleak-o-meter is set differently from other people’s. I have such passion for what I do that I can’t see it as bleak. When people use that word, or “grim” or “gritty,” I just think, “Oh, come on, look a bit deeper.” My films don’t give you an easy ride. I can see that. The sense I get is that people have quite a physical experience with them. They feel afterwards that they’ve really been through something.”Andrea Arnold

“Truth is hard to tell! And you have to be willing to be criticized for it.”Lee Daniels

“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end… but not necessarily in that order.” 
Jean-Luc Godard

I’m removing…

There are some directors here I’m not familiar with, but I really like what they had to say so I wouldn’t remove their quotes simply because I haven’t seen any of their films. So I chose the quote that I don’t find as interesting as others, so it’s not a reflection of how I feel about said director. So that said, I bid adieu to…

Francis Ford Coppola 

“An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?”

My addition:

Christopher Nolan

“Every film should have its own world, a logic and feel to it that expands beyond the exact image that the audience is seeing.” 

I choose to go with a contemporary director whose complete feature films I have seen, including his first feature film shot on a shoe-string budget Following. He’s one of my personal favorites and I think the British auteurs is one of the greatest filmmakers working today. I like that quote because he lives up to that concept with his films, they’re cerebral, imaginative and has that sense of wonderment. There’s another quote of his I like where he said that film is first and foremost entertainment, but that it can be both serious and intellectually stimulating. His films definitely has those qualities.

Ok, now the easy part:

I’d like to tag my friend Keith @ Keith and the Movies whose phenomenal blog is one of my favorites. Take it away, Keith!


Well, what are your thoughts on these quotes and my pick in particular?

Weekend Roundup: Side by Side Documentary Review

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope y’all had a nice weekend. I skipped the cinema again this weekend as it’s quite a hectic one with my hubby Ivan’s triathlon on Saturday morning and we also had people over for dinner this weekend.

But Friday night we had a chance to check out the documentary we’ve been wanting to see for a while. I posted the trailer a while back, check it out if you haven’t already.

Keanu at Berlinale

This is an insightful and thoughtful documentary produced and narrated by none other than Keanu Reeves. I’ve always thought that Keanu is one of those actors who are far more intelligent than meets the eye, and despite his stoic style, I quite like him as an actor and enjoyed a lot of his movies. Here he collaborated with Christopher Kenneally who previously worked with him as production manager in Henry’s Crime to direct the film. I think Keanu is the perfect person to conduct all the interviews, not only has he worked with a variety of directors in over 50 films, he’s also got that friendly, laid-back personality that would help make all the directors feel at ease discussing this hot-button issue. It’s nice to see Christopher and Keanu’s passionate curiosity on this topic as they asked some honest questions on both sides of the spectrum.

Oh I’m sure Nolan would be happy to continue making more 70 mm films, but man those are expensive!!

Does digital kill film?? That’s the key question that’s running through the vein of this film as it investigates the history, process and workflow of both digital and photochemical film creation. It was certainly insightful for people like me who don’t really know much about the technical aspect of film and just what it took to get a film from the set all the way to the reels being delivered to our local cinemas. It does get quite technical at times which went over my head a little, but it’s always fascinating and they did a good job presenting it in layman’s terms with simple charts and graphs. There are also some footage from participating directors shown as examples.

Keanu had a pretty impressive list of filmmakers discussing digital vs. film, George Lucas, James Cameron, David Lynch, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Danny Boyle, the Wachowskis, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, etc. as well as famed cinematographer such as Wally Pfister, Vittorio Storaro, and Anthony Dod Mantle who won an Oscar for his cinematography work in Slumdog Millionaire. There’s also a fascinating interview with Anne V. Coates who edited the 70 mm film of Lawrence of Arabia! I read in Movieline.com that apparently Nolan was the toughest to get for this film, but he got a kick out of Keanu’s snail mail letter using an old-fashioned typewriter. So Nolan agreed to be interviewed during filming The Dark Knight Rises in L.A.

As a cinephile, of course the best part is listening to the arguments each of the filmmakers makes on each of the two form. It’s no surprise that Nolan and Pfister would be the biggest defense of celluloid and that Lucas and Cameron are the champions for digital. But most of them realize the art and beauty of traditional film, but yet can’t deny the power of digital, not to mention the financial benefit and convenience of being able to film scenes that were impossible to do before. For instance, Danny Boyle shared the filming of the exquisite Westminster Bridge scene [undoubtedly one of my favorite scenes in London], and how it’d have been impossible to film those without the use of digital cameras. Scorsese seemed gleeful at the infinite possibilities storytelling could go with digital technique, having just been immersed in 3D technology with HUGO. Seems to me that according to this documentary, there are more filmmakers who are more pro-digital, even David Lynch likes the fact that digital cameras allows him to film for more than 10 minutes at a time.

The film seems pretty comprehensive in discussing the merit of the two forms, it even went briefly into related aspects such as coloring and archival process. Yet it seems to gloss over what it’d all mean to the local movie theaters and the effect of the digital process affect them as more movie studios are pushing to abandon 35 mm film. My dad used to work as a projectionist before he got into film, but that’s surely going to be obsolete now, as most films are going to be projected digitally in no time.

Wherever you are in the film vs. digital debate, this documentary is a must-see for you. No matter how articulate one’s argument about 3D though, I’m still not fond of it until they can figure out how people could see 3D films without those pesky glasses. And for me, whichever form they go with, the most important thing about a movie is still and will always be, the story. I sure hope no matter how advanced film technology goes, filmmakers won’t ever forget the art of storytelling.

4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen this film? Thoughts on the digital vs. film topic?

FlixChatter Review: The Dark Knight Rises

In an era where seemingly every Summer we get a superhero cinematic event, Christopher Nolan still manages to kick it up a notch with The Dark Knight Rises. Really, even without the ruckus over death treats over negative reviews and the tragic event that happened in Aurora, CO, during a midnight screening, the hype over the final chapter to Nolan’s Batman saga is still a colossal one. The over-exposure is really quite overwhelming, to the point where I have to make extra effort to tune it out and be as fresh as possible.

Well, I’m happy to say that it paid off to know as little as possible about the plot as I was surprised a couple of times watching this. I think those of you that still have not seen this yet, I suggest you do the same and avoid reading about it as much as you possibly can.

Now, the gist of the story is actually pretty simple… it’s eight years after Bruce Wayne has hung up the Batman mantle, still haven’t moved on from his lost love Rachel who perished in The Dark Knight. But suddenly a disturbance of great proportion threatens to destroy his beloved city of Gotham, and so he feels compelled to help its citizens, even at the risk of facing an adversary that’s even greater than he had faced before. So the gist is simple, but somehow, Nolan and his team of writers concocted a complicated storyline involving a myriad of characters that at times I was left discombobulated trying to make sense of it all.

Before I go further with my critique, let’s start with the positive first.

Nolan has certainly done a remarkable job in maintaining the tone and quality of all three films that they work seamlessly as one spectacular trilogy. In keeping most of the cast intact and most importantly, the writers, we are already fully invested in the story and characters, and when new characters are introduced, there is no dissonant.

Two of the new main characters are both impressive — Anne Hathaway as the masterful thief Selina Kyle [she was never described as Catwoman though she essentially is one] and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as rookie policeman John Blake. Both actors bring something new to the table and I’m happy to say that my doubt about Hathaway’s casting was quickly erased the moment she appeared on screen. She was sassy, strong and playful but yet has that vulnerable side to her for the emotional moments in the film. Marion Cotillard as a philanthropist businesswoman Miranda Tate doesn’t have much screen time by comparison, but her character is certainly a crucial one.

As for Bane, now I think he’s a pretty formidable villain though not the character itself and Tom Hardy‘s performance is not as iconic as the one from the previous installment. Yet I think he’s quite a force to be reckoned with and there are some scenes that made me shudder just on the sheer of physical strength he had.

The rest of the returning cast (Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman) are in top form as well, but if I were to rank my favorite Nolan’s Batman saga characters, I’d say Alfred Pennyworth will be in my top five. Michael Caine brings so much heart into the story, and there’s one pivotal conversation between him and Bruce Wayne that makes me cry. He’s such a father figure to Bruce, and as I’ve said in this Father’s Day post, Alfred really is the one who helps shape Batman to be the kind of hero we’ve come to know and love. Christian Bale proves once again he is the perfect choice to play the conflicted, tormented hero and he even looks like he’s aged a bit here, eaten up by such deep sense of grief.

As Ted mentioned in his review on Saturday, I also think the action scenes are brilliantly-executed. There are not as many of them but once they appear, it is so thrilling and fun to watch, especially the moment Batman first appeared with his brand new toy, the flying tumbler fittingly dubbed The Bat. I feel like I was one of Gotham’s citizens happily cheering my hero once again! As for the mano-a-mano with Bane, well this moody poster with the broken Batman’s cowl on the ground certainly delivers its promise. That fight scene is brutal! Nolan is not afraid to make the hero suffers and Batman has never been more in peril than he is here, both physically and emotionally. Yet we will see why the title ‘Rises’ is aptly used here.

Visually it’s a wonder. Seriously, it’s worth every penny seeing it on the giant IMAX screen. Over an hour of this movie was filmed on 70 mm IMAX film and boy did it show! I was ooh-aahing throughout seeing those gorgeous aerial shots of Gotham, I am certainly glad he chose this format instead of 3D. His longtime collaborator, Wally Pfister ought to get an Oscar nod for his cinematography work here.

At 2 hours 44 seconds, the film also able to keep me engrossed the entire time, which is quite a feat.

So, what doesn’t work here?

A couple of them is on the technical level, such as Bane’s often unintelligible voice that makes it even impossible to comprehend when Hans Zimmer’s score is blaring so loudly in the background that it drowns out everything else happening in that scene. There are moments where I wish they’d turn the volume of the music down a bit so I could hear the sound of the environment the scene is set in and more importantly the dialog! Even when the characters are screaming, I still have trouble hearing what they are saying. I think the score is good, but because it’s so irritatingly loud, I can’t appreciate it as much as I would otherwise.

Now, plot-wise, seems like in seven years, the complexity level has quadrupled since Batman Begins and as I’m watching it, I feel like Bane is not the only one having trouble breathing as Nolan doesn’t seem to give much room for us to come up for air. This film is sooo jam-packed with layer after layer of plot, and whilst it has the power to thrill, it also can be quite frustrating at times. Now, I don’t mind the complexity of the story, but I feel that Nolan seems to be more concerned with the bigger picture of the plot that the *smaller details* seem to have gone by the wayside.

Interestingly, I just read this well-written article on Anomalous Material by Nick Prigge that talks about how the Nolan brothers certainly know their set-ups and payoffs. That is, with every small set-up in the movie, even a seemingly trivial one, there’s always a pay-off, which is always a good rule of thumb in screenwriting. Yet I feel that the writing team drops the ball a few times in this final installment. I’m only going to mention those examples in the spoiler section below for those of you who have seen the movie, but let’s just say that the suspension of disbelief is often stretched too far, and I’m saying that because Nolan has pride himself in creating such a realistic universe in his Batman films that I expect more from him. It’s not a deal-breaker in the grand scheme of things, but yet it’s big enough that I’d have to take into account when I rate the film.

Final Thoughts:

Is this THE best Batman film of the three? I’d say no, and not only because Heath Ledger’s The Joker was such a more compelling villain, but more because of the lack of inconsistencies in the way Nolan set up the universe of Batman and Gotham. I guess I scrutinize this film more because I have come to expect so much more from Nolan and the director himself has set the bar so high to justify such expectations.

Still, overall The Dark Knight Rises is a satisfying finale to a fantastic [and lucrative] franchise, and it boasts such a WHOA ending to boot! The conclusion mirrors that of the spinning totem in Inception where we’d be endlessly discussing what we *think* happens at the end [that darn Nolan does it again!!]. I’m also glad that there’s surprisingly a lot of heart beneath such an exhilarating, rip-roaring superhero blockbuster.

4 out of 5 reels

SPOILER ALERT!

Highlight the text below to read this section:

As I stated in my review above, my beef is that Nolan is inconsistent in the way he set the universe of Gotham. In this final movie he suddenly introduces the notion that Gotham is part of the United States, hence that televised presidential speech, but yet the city seems to function as if it’s on its own and no other states exist. I mean how could the cops be trapped under the rubble for three whole months and NO Federal aid comes to the rescue?? I mean all they had to do is to have a Pentagon-like military headquarter send some kind of help by air (since the bridges are burned down) and just blow up those rubble so the cops can get out?? Instead they had to wait for Batman’s aid to do so. I find that really hard to believe.

Another thing is about Bruce Wayne. Now, why is he wearing a walking stick for eight years walking around in Wayne manor and suddenly when he’s back as Batman again, he no longer has a limp and can withstand such brutal beating from the brute force that is Bane. Even the back-breaking thing, well, we’re entering incredible fantasy territory again with how speedy his recovery is and even if that is plausible, my suspension of disbelief is already stretched thin to see him able to walk normally again, but he can actually make such a giant leap to escape the prison of the League of Shadows?? Wow, I think that’s asking too much because everything in this movie is already set up in such a realistic tone. I mean Gotham itself doesn’t have the fantastical element like in Tim Burton’s Batman movies, it’s set up just like an ordinary metropolitan city like New York. So the inconsistencies feel jarring to me.

Lastly, there’s that part where Miranda, a.k.a. Thalia Al Ghul stabs Batman up close with a big knife and it’s clear Batman is hurt as she sadistically twists the knife before she pulls it out. Yet in the subsequent scene, Batman doesn’t show ANY sign of pain whatsoever, it’s like the stabbing never happened. Make that what you will, but I think that’s sloppy writing, no?? I mean tell me where the payoff is on that one, maybe I’m missing something??

I’m curious to hear what you think about Gordon-Levitt’s character. At the end of the movie, his real name is revealed to be Robin [unlike in the comics where Robin is actually an alias] and seems as if based on Blake’s conversation with Bruce Wayne, Batman is grooming him to take over his mantle as the protector of Gotham. I wonder if there’s going to be a follow-up to that in the future with perhaps Nolan serving as a ‘mentor’ of the project, like he does with Man of Steel.

Now lastly… do you think Batman perished at the end? If so, then that scene at the Italian cafe, is that just Alfred’s imagination of wanting his master to finally have a normal life or was Bruce really there with Selina? Well, my hubby reminded me at brunch today about that auto-pilot thing that Bruce apparently fixed, unbeknownst to Lucius Fox. So that piece of seemingly trivial scene might imply that perhaps the Bat had been flying on auto pilot which allows Batman to rescue himself to safety. So my position is that Batman lives! What do YOU think?


Soooo, what did you think of the movie? Do you agree with my assessment? Feel free to discuss about the spoilery stuff but please state a warning in your comment as a courtesy :)

The Good & Not-So-Good about The Dark Knight Rises – Ted’s Review

Well it’s finally here, The Dark Knight Rises opens in theaters everywhere this weekend. I was lucky enough to have seen it at an advanced screening Wednesday night. Since not many people have seen it yet, my review won’t go into any plot points or spoil anything for you.

The movie is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne/Batman is still mourning the death of his true love, Rachel Dawes, while Gotham is living the high life because their White Knight, Harvey Dent, died to keep the peace. For those who went to see M:I-4 last winter at the 70mm IMAX theater, you’ve already seen the opening scene of the film. It starts with Bane high jacking and then clashed an airplane. The first half hour of this film started out kind of clunky but once Bane started his chaos and Batman shows up, you’re in for a treat. That’s all I’m going to say about the story, for this review I’ll go through what I thought worked well and what didn’t.

The Good:

Performances-wise, most of the actors did a great job. I was surprised how effective Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman was in the film. She played a key role and I thought Hathaway did a great job, he role is much more serious and “realistic” than Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns.

The returning players are great as always, especially Michael Caine’s Alfred. His one particular scene with Bruce Wayne was quite emotional, well it was to me. But in my opinion, this movie belongs to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I know it sounds strange to say that but when you see the film, you’ll understand. Whatever speculations you’ve read or heard about his character, let’s just say you’ll either going to be excited or not surprised by it. Bale of course was great as always, in fact Wayne has more screen time than Batman.

Just like all of Nolan’s films, the cinematography in this film was nothing short of spectacular. As you’ve probably already heard, half of the movie was shot with IMAX cameras so if there’s a true IMAX theater in your area, do please see it there. Some of the set pieces were quite stunning on the giant screen. You’d be surprised that the film didn’t have as much action as you’d think but when the action does happen, there were well-staged and no shaky-cam or fast-editing. Thank you Nolan for actually filming action scenes that were exciting to watch. The mano-a-mano fight scene between Bane and Batman was pretty awesome, those who’ve read the comics Knightfall series won’t be disappointed.

Also, I have to mention Hans Zimmer’s thunderous score, the theme is very similar to The Dark Knight‘s but it was still good.

The Not-So-Good:

I know it’s hard to top Heath Ledger’s The Joker but I was hoping Bane could at least be as good but unfortunately I thought Bane was kind of underused as the main antagonist. Even though they fixed some of his voice, sometimes it’s hard to understand what he was saying. Now again I can’t say more without spoiling it for you, so I’ll let you judge his character for yourselves.

Marion Cotillard’s Marinda Tate was also underused, I think the film would’ve worked better had her character was fleshed-out more, her character sort of reminds me of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight.

With that said, I still think this is one of the best big summer films I’ve seen in a long time. Is it better than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? I can’t say that at the moment, I plan on seeing it a few more times, then maybe I can decide whether it’s better than the previous two films or not. When Nolan said this film will wrap up the trilogy, he meant it. To me it felt like he finally finished his take on the Caped Crusader.

– review by Ted S.


Well that’s it, for those who’ve already seen it, do you agree with my review? And for those who’re planning to go see it this weekend, hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.