FlixChatter Review – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

EleanorRigbyTitleIt seems that a straight love-themed drama is hard to come in Hollywood. Instead we see romance as part of another genre, i.e. romantic comedy, romantic thriller, romantic sci-fi and so on. It’s even more rare to see a love story in a three-film format, not a trilogy mind-you, but the same story told from three different perspective [as you can read in my spotlight here] where director Ned Besson shot three films from his and her perspective, then created a third – more marketable – version, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.

So who’s miss Eleanor Rigby? You might be inclined to think she ‘disappears’ in the same sense as Gone Girl, but no that’s not the case here. But the title makes sense as the film progresses, which is unfolding in an unhurried pace that is far from boring. It opens with a gorgeous young couple, Eleanor and Conor, running off without paying their bill at a restaurant. It’s apparent the two are blissfully in love, which makes you wonder all the more what happen to such a seemingly jubilant marriage. Besson didn’t immediately fill in everything about the incident that trigger the relationship’s collapse, which can be at times frustrating but it also made me appreciate the journey with the characters. 

EleanorRigbyStills1I read afterwards that Besson apparently had a relationship with the lead actress, Jessica Chastain, and that in a way the story is somewhat biographical. Perhaps that’s why I think Chastain is so perfect in the role, though I think she would be anyway without their history. She’s the kind of actress whose got such a captivating screen presence, both strong and vulnerable, as well as being able to remain likable even if her character isn’t always so. In fact, at times I feel like perhaps she’s being unreasonable. What could be so horrible that made her decide to take such drastic measures? I feel that Eleanor chooses to drown in her own grief despite being surrounded by such a supportive family, which I think is still a privilege as not many people would have such a privilege. Yet I couldn’t dislike her and I attribute that to Chastain’s soulful performance.

On the other side is James McAvoy as Conor, the *jilted* husband who tries to win her back. McAvoy is such a capable actor, I always think that given his resemblance to Gerard Butler, the two could be brothers, but he’s the kind of performer I wish Butler could be. McAvoy could juggle big-budget Summer movies like X-Men Days of Future Past, in an iconic role no less, yet he can still *disappear* [pardon the pun] into an entirely different role here. Like Eleanor, Conor is a flawed character who struggles with his crumbling marriage as well as his frosty relationship with his dad. I’d have to say I prefer McAvoy in dramatic fares and I hope he does more stuff like this where he plays a regular guy.

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I feel that under less capable hands, both Conor & Eleanor might not have been as captivating nor as convincing in conveying deep emotional heartbreak. Even in quieter moments, both actors can hold your attention and they definitely get you involved in their story. It definitely helps having a solid supporting cast, I especially like Viola Davis as a college professor who became Eleanor’s unlikely confidant, as well as Ciaran Hinds & William Hurt as the father of Conor & Elinor, respectively. Bill Hader provides somewhat of a comic relief as McAvoy’s BFF. He’s ok but I feel that their scenes felt too much like a traditional *ingredient* of a typical rom-com, so it feels like a weak link in an otherwise unconventional drama.

It’s a small quibble though, the film does a lot of things right in that it really got you involved in the characters’ journey. As I’ve been married for some time to my college sweetheart, it definitely made me think about what I’d do if this circumstance were to happen to me. There is a moment in their apartment where barely any word is spoken, but it was such a heart-wrenching and delicate moment between the two. Yet I don’t feel manipulated into feeling something that’s superficial, there’s no sweeping music to tug your heartstrings, it was all the result of being invested in the story. That said, the music/songs are quite enjoyable and fit the theme of the film nicely. As I mentioned before, I love that Besson took his time to reveal the incident that propel the story. He give you some subtle hints throughout so you can take a guess what happens but the details remain open-ended.

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Overall I’m impressed by Besson’s feature film debut, and applaud him for trying something different w/ the format. I like how intimate and personal this story feels, brought out by authentic and compelling performances of the two main actors. The cinematography of NYC is gorgeous and it shows a warm, even personal side of the city that complements the story. I’d be inclined to check out the His/Her version when they’re out on rental, that’d give me more insight into both characters and their story. It’s too bad that reportedly the film didn’t do well at all at the box office (per The Wrap) as I’d love more people to see this film. I was hoping that Besson, as well as McAvoy & Chastain get some nominations come award season, but that seems unlikely. In any case, I highly recommend this if you’re in the mood for a character-driven drama with splendid performances.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on this one? If you have seen it, I’d love to hear what you think.

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Blogathon: 10 Actors I Would See In Just About Anything

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Thank you to Lady Sati, whom I’ve been commiserating with in the agony & ecstasy of crushing over an underrated Brit, kindly passed the baton to me to join this awesome blogathon! This idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are, and to be honest with you, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Partly it’s because I’ve been nuts about Toby Stephens lately [haven't you noticed?] that he’s sort of ruined it for other actors for me. So apart from Toby [who I'd watch in literally ANYTHING], the title of the post is hyperbolic of course. For the other actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in anything because there are tons of movies with them in it I haven’t seen and probably never will. But having their name in a certain film would certainly make me more inclined in watching them.

Ok now I know this is a list for LIVING actors, but if we could include deceased actors, no doubt Gregory Peck would be on the list as I’ve seen practically everything he’s in by now. Heck, I even made a tumblr because of him though now it’s dedicated to Toby [natch!]

Here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite:

10. Tom Hardy

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First saw the hunky and versatile actor in Rocknrolla, along with two other actors here on my top 10 list (Elba & Butler) where he played Handsome Bob. Incidentally, his character was a closeted gay man who’s been secretly in love with Butler’s character. One thing I noticed right away is Hardy’s gorgeous voice to go with his handsome face, and he’s got such swagger. Then I saw him in Inception where he stole practically every scene he’s in, and it’s interesting that he played a forger consider the actor’s quite a shape-shifter himself. He’s entirely unrecognizable as Bane in The Dark Knight and also in Warrior, where he bulked up considerably that he looked like he’s twice the size of his character in Rocknrolla! Hardy’s proven to be a capable actor even when all he’s got to work with is his face, as proven in the one-man-show Locke. Heck, he’s even watchable in abominable rom-com like This Means War which I saw on the plane just for him.

Favorite Role: Ivan Locke in Locke
Least Favorite Role: Tuck in This Means War

9. Idris Elba

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I also first noticed the hunky former D.J. in American Gangster where I didn’t realize he was British. But I really took notice when he was in Rocknrolla as Gerry Butler’s BFF Mumbles. Like Hardy, he not only looks good but sounds good as well sporting his native Cockney accent. The next few years I saw him in The Losers, Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Elba’s got such a magnetic persona and devilish charm, in fact I felt rather guilty drooling over him when he was playing Mandela. If only the Bond producers were daring enough to cast him as Bond, oh man he’d be a killer 007.  I still need to catch The Wire soon, but he’s definitely an actor whose career I watch closely.

Favorite Role: Stacker Pentecost in Pacific Rim
Least Favorite Role: Roque in The Losers

8. Clive Owen

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There’s something mysterious to Clive that adds so much to his allure. He smolders without even trying and he’s inherently cool because he doesn’t seem to have anything to prove. The first time I saw him was in those BMW films, which instantly wished he had been in the running as Bond. I know Clive is known for his dark, brooding roles like Children of Men and Closer, as well as in action hero roles like King Arthur, Shoot ‘em Up, Sin City, The International, etc. but I also love him in dramatic roles, i.e. Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Boys Are Back and Shadow Dancer. He even shines in slightly comedic roles like the recent dramedy Words & Pictures with Juliette Bincohe.

Favorite Role: Theo in Children of Men
Least Favorite Role: Smith in Shoot ‘Em Up

7. Alan Rickman

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I actually first saw Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply in my ESL class before I started college. Then later on I learned that he was the same actor playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Since then he’s become one of my all time favorite villains, but also one of my most cherished period drama hero as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Later on I’ve loved Rickman in a variety of roles: Galaxy Quest, Love Actually, Bottle Shock, and I even rented Gambit because he’s in it. Rickman’s line delivery is just one of the things I love about him, as evident in his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. He’s perhaps one of the most impersonated actors out there, young British talents like Benedict Cumberbatch & Tom Hiddleston have done impressions of him. His voice is so golden that even when he voiced Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the android is my fave character in the movie.

Number of movies seen: 18
Favorite Role: Col. Brandon in Sense and Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Lionel Shahbandar in Gambit

6. Gerard Butler

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Ok for those who’ve followed my blog from the beginning already know I’ve had a huge crush on the Scottish lad ever since I saw him in Phantom of the Opera. I definitely prefer his leaner look before he got so buff in 300, though all that crazy training shows his dedication for a role. Well, lately I was dismayed by his role choices, mostly those atrocious rom-coms he kept signing up for like The Ugly Truth and Playing for Keeps. The latter was so horrible I actually swore off Butler for a while in my open letter. But Butler’s the only one of my crushes whom I’ve actually met in real life so perhaps that’s why it’s not easy to just forget about him. To be fair though, it’s not like Butler didn’t bother to act the past few years. In fact, it’s a shame that his compelling work in Machine Gun Preacher was overlooked, and even his surfing role in Chasing Mavericks was decent even if the film wasn’t exactly great. So he still makes my list despite his terrible role choices because well, for some reason I still care for the guy and still have hopes for him, futile though it may be as his next projects are Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen [sigh]. But then I remember him in his earlier roles in Phantom, Dear Frankie and BBC miniseries The Jury, and y’know what, I’m not quite ready to think he’s a lost cause yet.

Numbers of movies seen: 31
Favorite Role: Erik/Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera
Least Favorite Role: Mike in The Bounty Hunter

5. Keanu Reeves

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Ok here’s another actor who perhaps would never win an Oscar, but one can’t refute Keanu’s unusual charm. Believe it or not I think I first saw Keanu in Paula Abdul’s Rush Rush music video, ha! I wouldn’t hold it against him though, I mean he’s probably a young struggling actor making ends meet. Of course the role that made me swoon was Speed, followed by The Matrix (though I’ve only cared to see the first one). Keanu is actually more versatile than people think and despite not being the most expressive actor, he’s just so effortlessly likable. People often forget he’s quite good in My Own Private Idaho with River Phoenix, and able to hold his own against Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate. I absolutely love him in the romantic drama A Walk in the Clouds, yes even more so than in his other romantic roles like The Lake House. Even sporting laughable British accent in Much Ado About Nothing and Dracula I still find Keanu amusing to watch, and I’ve even enjoyed watching him in the little-seen movies like Street Kings and Henry’s Crime. I also admire Keanu on a personal level, as he’s well-known for being super generous with his wealth and shunning the lavish Hollywood lifestyle. I don’t care what people say about him, I’ll always be a fan of Keanu and I don’t think there’s an actor quite like him in Hollywood.

Number of Movies Seen: 15
Favorite Roles: Jack in Speed & Neo in The Matrix
Least Favorite Role: Alex Wyler in The Lake House

4. Russell Crowe

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Thanks to his tremendous performance as Maximus Decimus Meridius, I was quite obsessed with Mr. Crowe following Gladiator. I remember trying to find all his previous roles, even as obscure as his early Aussie movies in Proof, Heaven’s Burning, Rough Magic, Breaking Up, etc. Every time I saw Crowe’s name attached to something, I’m more inclined to give it a shot even if it’s for a rental. A recent re-watch of Gladiator confirmed how much I admire his acting style. He’s not only charismatic but he’s got such a certain astute way in displaying emotion with even the most subtle gesture. I think his performance as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider is his best role to date, yes it even beats Gladiator and he should’ve won his Oscar for that role. Crowe makes a compelling hero to be sure, but his villainous turn in 3:10 to Yuma is just as intriguing to watch. Oh and regardless what critics have you believe, he’s quite good in Ridley Scott’s rare rom-com A Good Year which displays his lighthearted side.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: Maximus in Gladiator & Jack Aubrey in Master & Commander
Least Favorite Role: Alex Wyler in The Lake House

3. Christian Bale

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Before Bale landed the role of Batman, Bale had made an impression of me as Bateman, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. It was such a dark and violent movie as I saw the unrated version by accident, but Bale was nothing short of electrifying. I think before that role, I had already seen Bale in Reign of Fire alongside Gerry Butler AND Matthew McConaughey, an apocalyptic sci-fi movie with fire-breathing dragons [yep, you heard it right, but it's quite worth a look just for the cast]. Of course I LOVE Bale as Nolan’s Batman, especially in the origin story in Batman Begins where we see his transformation from a naive rich kid to a bad ass caped crusader. I also loved him in his more understated roles such as John Rolfe in The New World. Despite being there for only 20 minutes, he’s my favorite character and I bought the dvd because of him. Even in so-so movies, the Welsh thespian is often the best thing in it and makes the movie worth a watch. He’s also awesome in Equilibrium which I probably wouldn’t even bother to watch if Bale weren’t in it. His incredible dedication to his craft is incredible, talk about suffering for his art by losing/gaining ridiculous amount of weight for a role. He may not be as versatile as people think though, as I don’t think he could do full on comedy, but he seems to know how to choose roles that suits him.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: Bruce Wayne in Nolan’s Batman Trilogy
Least Favorite Role: Melvin Purvis in Public Enemies

 

2. Timothy Dalton

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Whaddayaknow, two Welsh actors back to back in my top 5. Most of you likely know I’m a card-carrying member of the Dalton-is-best-Bond brigade. I LOVE his only two roles as 007 which made me a fan for life. But on top of that, he’s also massively awesome as Prince Barin in the sci-fi cult classic Flash Gordon and the Errol Flynn-channeling villain in The Rocketeer. Until Toby Stephens entered the picture, Dalton was my favorite Rochester amongst the ubiquitous Jane Eyre adaptations and he also made a marvelous Julius Caesar in the 1999 Cleopatra TV Movie. He also has a surprisingly great comic timing too as displayed in Hot Fuzz and the silly-but-fun Beautician and the Beast. There’s a certain intensity and passion in Dalton’s eyes that I find riveting and he’s one of the best looking 70-year-old actors out there. In fact, from the clips of the Penny Dreadful series, it’s clear Dalton seems to only get better with age. I don’t normally watch horror, but I would be willing to give it a shot when it’s available to rent. I wish he had been more prolific in his career. I’d think that Dalton could’ve done a number of roles offered to his peers like Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and Patrick Stewart. In fact, I’d have loved to have seen him as Alfred in the inevitable Batman reboots or even better, he’d rock a role of an older Bruce Wayne if they were to adapt Batman Beyond to the big screen.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: James Bond in The Living DaylightsLicence to Kill
Least Favorite Role: Michael Barrington in Sextette

1. Toby Stephens

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Ahhhh… finally we get to the top of the list. The man who gets me all giddy like a school girl every time I watch him on screen. My Tumblr is now dedicated to this fine British thespian and I literally squeal every time his exquisite face come across my dash. There are few actors in life who generates such an extreme reaction from me, in fact so far there’s only been five of them, starting with Christopher Reeve when I was a wee girl, and he’s the first redhead I’ve ever been head over heels in love with.

As I said in my Toby Appreciation post, the reason Toby’s bewitched me so much is more than just his devastating good looks, but it’s his chameleon-like ability and incredibly expressive face that conveys so much emotion. He’s blessed with greenish-blue piercing eyes and he sure knows how to use them well in each and every role, such as below as Captain Flint in Black Sails.

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Sati said about her crush Stephen Dillane that ‘…one look in his eyes is enough to tell you so much about the character he is playing’ I feel the exact same way about Toby and that’s why it’s been such a joy catching up to his work. Toby seems to fit any genre, from period dramas to sci-fi to something like a pirate which one wouldn’t normally associate such a posh, refined and cultured English gent with. Yet Toby effortlessly tackles the role whilst juggling a high-society comedic play in Noël Coward’s Private Lives at the same time.

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Toby with Anna Chancelor in ‘Private Lives’

Clearly looks + talent runs in the family as I’ve been a huge fan of Toby’s mum Maggie Smith, but I really respect Toby that he doesn’t owe his career to her. But of course having been exposed to the acting craft early on made an impact on him and made him such a multifaceted performer, excelling in every acting medium from stage, TV, film and even radio where he acts just using his voice alone. He’s also one of those actors who can master any accent, which he’s used in various roles from playing Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby TV Movie to a CIA operative in BBC’s Strike Back. Heck, he even spoke Hindi in the Bollywood historical epic The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey, right after he played Bond villain in Die Another Day no less. About half of the dialog was in Hindi whilst he had to speak with a Scottish accent the rest of the time as Captain William Gordon.

Role that made me a fangirl – Vincent in The Machine (2013)
Role that officially ruined all other men for me: Mr. Rochester in BBC Jane Eyre (2006)
Number of movies/TV shows I saw with him in them: 19 (so far)
Favorite Roles: Rochester in BBC Jane Eyre + Captain Flint in Black Sails
Least Favorite Role: Victorin in Cousin Bette (1998)
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 The Many Faces of Toby Stephens
(clockwise from top left: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Queen’s Sister, Wired, Jane Eyre, The Rising, Die Another Day, Cambridge Spies, Robin Hood, Black Sails, The Machine, Vexed, Possession, The Great Gatsby)


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! A couple of these actors might’ve made my main list a few months ago but upon looking at some of my old favorites, only three of them made the cut. I’m still a big fan of all of them though, or they wouldn’t even get a mention. Sam Reid is the newbie here as I have only seen him in Belle so far but he really impressed me that I’d love to see more of his work! So here they are and photo shows the role that made me a fan:

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  1. Richard Armitage
  2. Eric Bana
  3. Henry Cavill
  4. Benedict Cumberbatch
  5. Chris Evans
  6. Tom Hiddleston
  7. James McAvoy
  8. Ewan McGregor
  9. Sam Reid
  10. Rufus Sewell

 


Bloggers who have previously shared their almost anything actors/actresses:

  1. Abbi at Where the Wild Things are
  2. Fernando at Committed to Celluloid
  3. Kristin at All Eyes On Screen
  4. Jaina at Time Well Spent
  5. Nostra at My Film Views
  6. KaramelK at Karamel Kinema
  7. Getter at MettelRay

Now I’m passing the torch to my pal Melissa [aka Queen Mel] over at Snap Crackle Watch who shares my taste for cute British boys ;)


So that’s my list folks! Feel free to name your own picks of actors you’d watch in practically anything :)

FlixChatter Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

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I caught on to How To Train Your Dragon (2010) a bit late in that I waited until the Blu-ray to see it. Once I saw the exhilarating flying sequence, I wish I hadn’t missed the theatrical release. So I’m definitely glad I finally got to see the sequel on the big screen and what a treat it was!

This movie takes place five years after the first one so we see the protagonist Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) now all grown up. The island of Berk where he lives looks quite different from the first time we saw it, thanks to Hiccup and his dragon BFF Toothless, dragons and the Vikings community are now in perfect harmony. In fact there’s now a Dragon Race that looks like Harry Potter’s Quidditch with dragons as their broomsticks. At its heart, the story still belongs to Hiccup and his friendship with Toothless. They’re as playful as ever and Hiccup’s engineering genius would rival that of Bruce Wayne. He could even fly on his own with self-made dragon wings!

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I really could watch these two play for hours! Toothless is especially adorable, it’s akin to watching those cat videos, you just can’t get enough! The filmmakers really did an amazing job with the design of the dragon creatures, but most especially Toothless with his big goggly eyes and cat-like mannerism. Even with a slew of new dragon species being introduced here, Toothless is still the cutest one of them all.

But a cute dragon and fun flying sequence alone does not make a film. Fortunately writer/director Dean DeBlois (who also co-wrote/directed the first one) crafted yet another fun adventure that’s as rousing as it is full of heart. A mysterious old enemy of Hiccup’s dad Stoick (Gerard Butler) threatens to steal all the dragons for his dragon-army. But whilst Stoick is hellbent on war (he is voiced by Leonidas after all), Hiccup reasons that perhaps diplomacy is still an option. On his way to find Drago (Djimon Honsou), Hiccup encounter a dragon trapper Eret (Kit Harrington) and Cate Blanchett’s character Valka who lives amongst a whole bunch of dragons. I feel that the less said about her character the better as it’s pretty integral to the plot.

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What I love about this one is that even though there’s quite a lot going on and there are more action scenes than the first one, the focus is still on the Hiccup/Toothless relationship. There is a strong familial storyline here that makes it even more perfect for parents to see with their kids, but also the friendship theme that builds on loyalty and love. The battle of survival for Berk citizens puts Hiccup/Toothless’ friendship to the test, and there are some emotional scenes that really tug on my heart strings. It touches on a slightly darker theme here that is fitting with Hiccup growing up into adulthood.

The voice cast are truly wonderful. Baruchel is downright perfect as Hiccup and this could be one of Butler‘s best work in recent memory. Nice to see Cate Blanchett here and she embodies her character Valka very well. Stoick has a bit more screen time here that shows a different side of him. Kristen Wiig‘s Ruffnut had me laughing the way she is crushing on Eret. The way the camera keep zooming in on his muscled biceps is a hoot! There are genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout, so it’s not just Craig Ferguson‘s Gobber as the only comic relief.

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I have to mention how beautiful this movie is. The meticulous detail on the scenery and each and every single dragon is astounding. Animation technology has come along way even four years ago when the first movie came out but now the effects is even smoother. The flying sequence looks positively dazzling, it’s really meant to be seen on a large screen and I have to admit the 3D looks pretty darn good as well. Of course the music is a big part of the whole experience and John Powell did it again with his amazing score!

That said, I wouldn’t say this movie is perfect. I actually gave the first movie a full 5/5 rating, as I really couldn’t change a thing about it. But the sequel isn’t exactly flawless as I think the villain isn’t terribly interesting nor all that menacing. He also happens to be the only dark-skinned Viking and he happens to be the bad guy? Hmmm. It’s a small quibble however as overall it’s a pretty solid feature that builds on a lot of the great quality of the original. If Dreamworks could keep the quality of the third movie as good as the first two, it could rival Toy Story as the best animated feature trilogy ever.

4.5 out of 5 reels


So what do you think of How To Train Your Dragon 2? Do you like this more or less than the original?

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014! Year-end recap, Favorite Things, Blindspot and a note of THANKS

NewYear2014Another year has come and gone! Wow, what a year 2013 has been. There’s been ups and downs in my personal life, with me losing my dear brother this past Summer being one of life’s biggest blows. But I believe God never gives us more than we can bear, and there are certainly many, many things to be thankful for. It was such a blessing to see my sister in-law got married this year, and I also got to spend Thanksgiving with my best friend in San Diego which was awesome.

Blogging-wise, it’s been a pretty busy and fruitful year. Thanks to the press screenings via ALLIED Integrated Marketing, plus the two film festivals in town, I got to see over 65 new releases from 2013, not counting some films released prior to this year that were screened at TCFF or MSP Film Fest. There are dozens of older films plus all the rewatches that I simply can’t keep track on, yes even with a movie blog, ahah.

JoyeuxNoel_2005This Christmas weekend I stumbled onto a 2005 French film called Joyeux Noël which was about the truce that took place on December 24, 1914 during World War I. I don’t know why I haven’t seen that one sooner as the premise intrigued me right away and the fact that it was based on a true story made it even more worth seeing. Once again I was impressed by Daniel Brühl, so that’s three this year with RUSH and The Fifth Estate. I also love the performance of Guillaume Canet, Benno Fürmann and Diane Kruger. Such a wonderful film that shows an uplifting lesson in humanity, though the truce is such a brief one and the troops from three countries had to pay the price for their disobedience. I’m glad I finally saw it and it’s become one of my favorite Christmas-themed films!


BLOG STATS (Thanks WordPress!)


TOP 10 list is coming later in the week or this weekend. I’ve got at least five shoo-ins but I think the last half would be tough to pick. There’ll be some surprises (to those who follow my blog regularly anyway), some good, and some bad. January will be full of list posts, as I’ll be compiling Favorite Performances list, etc. from 2013. In the meantime, here’s …

Top Three Brits I Love in 2013… whom I will likely still adore in 2014 (and beyond!)

Richard ArmitageYup still obsessed w/ the dashing Richard Armitage… but really, can you blame me?
He’s moved to NYC recently so my wish for 2014 is to see more projects from Richard, TV, miniseries, movies, whatever, come on Hollywood!!

Tom Hiddleston
The oh-so-charming Hiddles… Tom Hiddleston ought to do a musical soon, the man oozes charisma… plus the dude can sing & dance! Check him out doing an impromptu Karaoke of Stand By Me!

Benedict CumberbatchIt’s Benedict Cumberbatch‘s banner year, even his voice made headlines as Smaug the dragon. Looking forward to see more of this uber-talented Brits on both movies & TV (hello Sherlock season 3!)

Suddenly obsessing again over …

2004_PhantomOfTheOperaMovieThanks to Cameron Macintosh’s new stage production of The Phantom of the Opera, which I saw twice at The Orpheum this month, I’ve fallen in love again with this gothic romance. Andrew Llyod Webber is such a musical genius, all the songs still have that power to haunt me after all these years. Though I LOVE the stage production, it also makes me appreciate the 2004 Joel Schumacher’s movie. Despite how I feel about his recent casting choices, I shall forever treasure Gerry Butler’s mesmerizing performance as Phantom. The chemistry with young Emmy Rossum (who’s 18 years apart in age!) is positively scorching and she made for an innocent yet sultry Christine.

I saw this movie three times on the big screen when it came out, and I would go again in a heartbeat if it ever got a re-release. It still captivated me so much that I too rewatched the Blu-ray twice in one weekend! Watch for a special appreciation post in the coming year ;)


BLIND SPOT series

One particular blogathon that has eluded me the past couple of years is the Blind Spot series. Originally spearheaded by Ryan at The Matinee, and so when I saw Dan at Public Transportation Snob and a few others posting their list, I thought why not join the fun?

I’ve always said that I need to catch up on more classic movies, so this is the perfect way for me to get on that. The idea of this blind-spot series is to come up with twelve acclaimed films for the year — so one film per month — and write a post on it. Ryan has designated the final Tuesday of every month to post his entries, I might as well do the same.

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1. All the President’s Men
2. Double Indemnity
3. Mr Smith Goes to Washington

4. How the West Was Won
5. Time Bandits
6. The Apartment
7. The Philadelphia Story
8. The Sting
9. Purple Noon
10. Rebel Without A Cause
11.
It Happened One Night

12. Rebecca

Btw, I haven’t decided when I’ll be seeing each of these films, so the list is set in random order. I figure I’ll surprise you which one I’d pick for the month :D


And last but certainly NOT least, I just want to say…

THANK YOU!

… to all my blog contributors this past year:

Ted S., Kevin G., Ashley S., Becky R. and Dave W.

… everyone who has visited and commented on this blog:

Shout out to my top 20 frequent commenters Keith, Mark, Fernando, Josh, Chris aka Terry Malloy,  Michael (thanks for kindly retweeting my posts, too!), Sati, Novia, Eric, Terrence, Dan aka CMrok93, Paula, Dan Stephens, Tim, Chris, Niels, Asrap, Rodney, Nostra, and Ckckred.

… new people I *met* this year whom I’ve enjoyed interacting with:

Steven (Surrender to the Void), James (JJames’ reviews), Zoë (The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger), Katy (The Drama Llama), V (The Verbal Spew), Chris W. (This is Madness), Gene (Let There Be Movies),Kim (Tranquil Dreams), Mikey (Screenkicker Blog), Mark (Three Rows Back), and Cindy (Cindy Bruchman’s Blog). Hope to see more of all of you here in the coming year ;)

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making FlixChatter one of your online spots to talk about movies! I look forward to connecting with you more in the coming year. There are a bunch of movies I’m looking forward to which I’ll surely be blogging about, and stay tuned for my Top 10 list from 2013 coming soon! :D


Here’s wishing you all the best in 2014… and beyond!

So any plans for New Year’s Eve/Day? Whatever you do, I wish you peace, love, and great movies! :D

Top 10 Favorite Scottish Actors

Today’s Gerry Butler’s birthday. For the past three years I’ve been making all kinds of tribute posts to my former crush. But y’know what, I don’t think any of you would be surprised that I won’t be doing a tribute for him this year, instead, I figure I’d finish the list that’s been sitting dormant in my draft folder for some time. I was originally going to post this shortly after I posted my picks of Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors which was three years ago!

Scotland_Bagpiper

As you know, I have a penchant for the Scots. But really, can you blame me? There’s got to be something in the water in Scotland that churn out an endless supply of talented, AND handsome blokes. To top it off, they seem to have a charming personality to go with ‘em too, and of course, there’s the irresistible Scottish burr. I’d say there aren’t enough Scots working in Hollywood right now, especially since Connery’s been out of the game for some time. In any case, here are my current faves right now in alphabetical order [Yes Gerry, you're still on the list... for now] :D

Billy Connoly

BillyConnoly

I’ve only seen him in a few movies but some have become my favorites. Love him in Mrs. Brown alongside Judi Dench, in Dustin Hoffman’s debut Quartet, as well as his voice work in the recent Pixar feature film BRAVE. He’s got such a charming but mischievous personality that I often associate with Scottish men.

Brian Cox

BrianCox

Brian Cox is easily of the most underrated actors working today. It’s one of those actors you wonder why he hasn’t gotten an Oscar yet given his consistently excellent performance. Even in small roles, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Dundee-born actor, i.e. The Bourne Supremacy, Rob Roy, X-Men 2Red, etc. I even like his performance as Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter more than Anthony Hopkins’ in The Silence of the Lambs.

Craig Ferguson

CraigFerguson

Ok so now he’s switched to be a talk show host on CBS, but Ferguson is quite a great comic and voice actor. He was a hoot in Saving Grace with Brenda Blethyn, a hilarious British crime comedy. I also enjoy his voice work in How To Train Your Dragon as well as Brave, and once in a while I’d tune in to The Late, Late Show and watch his gregarious monologue and hysterical interviews!

Dougray Scott

DougrayScott

I think a lot of moviegoers probably only know him from Mission Impossible II or as the actor who missed out on the role of Wolverine in the X-Men franchise. But he’s actually a pretty good actor. I like him as the Handsome Prince in Ever After, as well as in smaller movies like Enigma and Ripley’s Game. Who knows, his breakthrough role could be just around the corner.

Ewan McGregor

EwanMcGregor

Perhaps the most prolific Scottish actor in Hollywood today, McGregor is as hard working as he is talented. He’s quite versatile as well, playing different types of roles and moving from one genre to the next. Just this year alone he was in The Impossible, Jack The Giant Slayer and August: Osage County, which couldn’t be more different from each other. He’s also got a beautiful singing voice too, as displayed in Moulin Rouge! I’d totally buy his album if he ever decide to be a recording artist!

Gerard Butler

GerryButler

Ok Gerry, I guess I still have a smidgen of hope that you’d star in something I REALLY want to see again. The ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movie sequel London Has Fallen and that video game movie based on Kane & Lynch aren’t likely to top my must-see list :( He did impress me in Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher, both of which are grossly overlooked, so he’s still got it in him if the role calls for it. I think he ought to take a page from Matthew McConaughey’s book of career re-invention. I wrote this role for him in an espionage drama with Timothy Dalton as his dad and James McAvoy as his half brother. I’d SO love to see him in an ensemble cast like that by a stellar director, even if he’s only doing a supporting part.

James McAvoy

JamesMcAvoy

I always think that he looks so much like Gerry Butler’s younger brother, but the one with the better acting chops. The first time I saw this Glaswegian native was in The Chronicles of Narnia as Mr. Tumnus, but since then he’s had been on a roll in Hollywood, balancing small/medium indies (The Last Station, Atonement, The Last King of Scotland) to big blockbuster movies like Wanted and X-Men: First Class. He’s also not afraid to take on unsympathetic anti-hero roles, Trance, Welcome to The Punch and Filth, all of which are released this year alone.

Robert Carlyle

RobertCarlyle

Yet another great but underrated Scot. Mr. Carlyle has had an illustrious career since the early 90s. His breakthrough role in Trainspotting got him noticed, and since he’s juggling a TV and film career, some of which don’t seem to deserve his talent [*cough World is Not Enough *cough]. He’s also the best thing in the ABC show Once Upon a Time as Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin. Let’s hope he gets more meaty film roles in the near future!

Peter Mullan

PeterMullan

I think I’ve noticed Mr. Mullan in his supporting role in Braveheart, but it was his role in Boy A as a surrogate father to Andrew Garfield that really made me a fan. He’s also memorable in War Horse though his performance is easily overlooked by the younger supporting cast the likes of Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. I still need to see On a Clear Day and Sunshine on Leith that my Scottish friend Mark Walker highly recommends.

Sean Connery

SeanConnery
Ok so technically he’s retired, but really you can’t have a Favorite Scot list and not mention THE most iconic of them all. Yes the Edinburgh-born actor is the first and to most people, he’s still the best James Bond, but I also like his roles post 007. The Hunt for Red October, Finding Forrester, Rising Sun, Just Cause, The Rock, to name a few, as well as two of my personal favorites: The Untouchables and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. He’s not only a distinguished actor, but he’s also got one of the most recognizable accent in all Hollywood.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Billy Boyd
  • David Tennant
  • Iain Glen
  • John Hannah
  • Robbie Coltrane

Now, these five men are talented Scots as well, I just haven’t seen enough of their work to put them on my list. I’d love to see all these actors get more work in Hollywood, especially David Tennant who obviously has got quite a career in British TV. Perhaps that Broadchurch remake would be his American breakthrough. As for Iain Glen, I first saw him in the first Tomb Raider movie and I thought he made a charming villain. He’s also very memorable in BBC’s Spooks, love all his episodes with my Brit crush Richard Armitage! I’ve been slow going catching up with Downton Abbey, but I’m looking forward to seeing Glen’s performance in it, too!


Hope you enjoy my list of great Scots! Who’s YOUR favorite Scottish actor?

Music Break & Scenes Spotlight: Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla

RocknrollaBnr

I quite like Guy Ritchie’s frenetic style. Most of his films have a cool vibe and I think his best work is when he tackles the London underworld. His humorous gangster movies always feature a great cast and witty dialog, and Rocknrolla is no different. His movies aren’t for everyone though, I remember dragging some of my friends to see this on the big screen and half of them didn’t dig it. I think some of the conversations are tough to understand without subtitles, that’s why I actually enjoy it more when I rented it later on. I ended up buying the Blu-ray as it’s something I enjoy watching repeatedly… how could I not, it’s set in my favorite European city AND it stars a lot of my favorite actors!

Today happens to be Idris Elba’s 41st Birthday, so I thought I’d highlight the movie I first saw him in.

RocknrollaWildbunch

The Wild Bunch – comprised of three hunky Brits: Idris Elba, Gerry Butler & Tom Hardy – is no doubt my favorite group in the film. All of my favorite scenes have at least one of these guys in them. They have such great chemistry together I feel like I’m actually watching a documentary of Cockney gangsters, ahah. Oh man, I’d LOVE to see a spinoff of just these guys! I think Ritchie originally wrote this film as a trilogy and I remember seeing several interviews where all the cast are on board w/ the idea. Alas, the movie didn’t make enough money to warrant a sequel! Ritchie is quite busy these days with big-budget film, like The Man From U.N.C.L.E I talked about yesterday, well I still hope that one day he’d still revisit this story again in the future… but it has to be with THIS cast! I quite like Toby Kebell in the title role and Mark Strong in this as well.

There’s a certain style to Ritchie’s movies, down to the title sequence which I’ve featured a while back. But really, the music is one of the major highlights here, it’s almost its own character in the movie! From start to finish, the music never fails to entertain and it just adds so much to the tone of the film. The stylish rock ‘n role vibe definitely lives up to its title!

Here are some of my fave songs from the film:



Just for the fun of it, why not check out some of the great scenes with the boys of the Wild Bunch. I’m not usually fond of colorful language but Ritchie’s certainly has a gift for snappy dialogue. And with the right cast, it’s even better! Seriously, I could listen to these three guys talk all day long. The song in the dance scene of Butler and Thandie Newton is Waiting for a Train by Australian band Flash & The Pan.

Dance Scene

Mumbles & One Two – The Talk

Is This a Robbery?

Handsome Bob


Hope you enjoy the soundtrack & clips. What do you think of Rocknrolla and this cast?

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite White House movie scene?

OlympusHasFallenPosterI’m set for an advanced screening of the white house actioner Olympus Has Fallen tomorrow. Surely you’ve seen the pretty aggressive promos of that one all over the place. Interestingly enough, the marketing for the movie has been putting the White House itself as the main STAR of the film. I mean there are some posters that feature the actors, but the white house is always featured prominently on there, as if we’d forget what that iconic POTUS house actually looks like! Now, that’s perhaps saying something about the lead actor of the movie, don’t you think?

Anyway, early reviews I’ve read so far have been surprisingly decent. Of course we shall see come Thursday what the actual RT score would be, but right now it’s sitting at 67%. WOW! Though this movie was on my radar, I didn’t even put this one on my most-anticipated list, as you know how I feel about Gerry Butler these days. It’s amusing that many reviewers are saying that it’s the best Die Hard movie of the year, ahah, take that Bruce Willis! I’m not expecting much, but I can’t imagine this one would be worse than A Good Day to Die Hard, besides I think Antoine Fuqua is a pretty decent director.

Anyway, it made me think of memorable movie scenes set in the White House (regardless of whether it’s actually shot on location or on a made-up set). Then I’ll turn it over to you folks to give me YOUR pick of memorable White House scene. It doesn’t have to be action-related, in fact the idea here is to give and take movie recommendations to fellow cinephiles.

So here are three that came to mind right away:

Pardon the quality of the video, but this is an awesome intro scene in X-Men 2, my favorite of the whole X-Men saga.

Terrence Stamp and one of his most iconic Superman lines, “Kneel Before Zod!” I’m curious how Michael Shannon would fare in that role in Man of Steel!

Of course who could forget this one. I’d say it’s perhaps the most iconic scene involving the White House to date, and ID4 is what Roland Emmerich will always be remembered for.

Now, not all of memorable scenes are about an attack of the White House of course. In fact, I always remember this scene from Clear and Present Danger where Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) confronted the President. Too bad the clip cuts out the part when Jack defiantly said, “I’m sorry Mr. President. I don’t dance!”

,,,


Now your turn folks. Give us your favorite movie(s) and/or movie scenes set in the White House.

Playing for Keeps Review… (a.k.a. my Open Letter to Gerry Butler)

[sigh] I didn’t really want to write this letter. Not only because I had done it once before when The Bounty Hunter came out, but I was quite anticipating Playing For Keeps for a while. I was thrilled when I got and advanced screening invite on the same day as The Hobbit (yay!) right before I left for vacation.

I saw The Hobbit first which I loved, and a few hours later, I went to another cinema to see Playing For Keeps with my girlfriend Becky (aka PrairieGirl). I really wanted to LOVE this movie and I thought the premise had potential. I mean Butler was [seemingly] perfect as a former soccer star (with his Scottish brogue intact), starring as a former player of his beloved Celtics no less. I’ve seen him in a soccer movie before (the based-on-a-true-story Games of Our Lives and also those Soccer Aid Charity Match), so he’s very believable in that role.

Alas, I’d have to agree with the Rotten Tomatoes summary:

Witless, unfocused, and arguably misogynistic, Playing for Keeps is a dispiriting, lowest-common-denominator Hollywood rom-com.

PFK_RTscore

Actually, the weekend I checked the RT score, it was at a woeful 0% and you know what, I really can’t disagree with that. It’s truly one of the WORST movies I’ve ever come across and to add to the sting, GB didn’t just star in this movie, he also produced this stinker (yikes!!). In the trailer post, I had hoped that it would at least be a feel-good dramedy this Winter, alas, it barely even give us that! It’s even more discombobulating that actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid, and the affable Judy Greer agreed to do such an embarrassingly-thankless roles. Forget one-dimensional, yes there’s that, but mostly, their characters are just bizarre, disturbing and cringe-worthy!

I’d like to recall my letter to him I wrote in March of 2010, clearly he did NOT read it…

Please don’t waste your talent on sub-par scripts, especially those that require you to be a neanderthal/ chauvinistic/ boorish/ obnoxious (and in the case of The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter, all of the above). I’m inclined to say ‘get off the rom-com’ trail, but to be fair, I quite enjoyed P.S. I Love You and your ‘Gerry’ character is both charming and sexy, a perfect combination of being manly and hopelessly-romantic at the same time. What I do want to say is, stay away from bad scripts! It doesn’t matter what genre, a bad script is a bad script, and it’s just not going to help your career.

Well, suffice to say I just can’t be a GB fan anymore. Consider this my goodbye letter Mr. Butler…

Dear Gerry,

I can’t believe it’s been nearly an entire decade since I saw you in The Phantom of the Opera. It still remains one of my favorite musicals and my favorite roles you’ve done to this day. It’s a testament of the quality of your role choices lately that when I was about to update my list of Favorite GB roles for your birthday, I was quite stumped. So I kept my original list which includes one of your finest performance to date, that is in Dear Frankie, as I didn’t really think your recent performances in the past two years wowed me enough to replace any of them on that list.

PFKposter

It’s quite astounding that the movie itself could actually be worse than this poster!

Now, let me just speak for a moment of my monumental disappointment with your recent dramedy Playing For Keeps. Well, I was expecting some drama and comedy but got neither! Let me start with your performance. I don’t know if you’re trying to be understated and cool, but it came across as lethargic to me. Yes I get it, your character is down-on-his-luck as George had squandered his good fortune as a soccer star and now he could barely able to pay rent as he dreamed on being a sportscaster. George had good intentions, wanting to reconnect with his  young son, and preferably rekindle his romance with his ex-wife. It’s all [potentially] heartwarming stuff, except that the relationship with his oh-so-adorable kid was hugely overshadowed by all that creepy soccer moms lusting over him. There’s nothing fun or amusing in any of George’s encounters with any of these women, and it didn’t help that George (nor you playing the role) seemed to have much fun doing the scenes either. Don’t even get me started with the predictable ending, which you could’ve surmised from the trailer. Now, there have been some movies that I still appreciate despite the predictability factor because the journey was worthwhile, but in this case of PFK, the journey was so excruciating that it was like being kicked whilst you’re down!

I must’ve gained an extra wrinkle on my face from cringing so much during the entire movie! There’s not even a moment of sincerity I could find, or even to relate to, the whole time I kept wondering just what the heck was Gabriel Muccino trying to do with this movie, what Robbie Fox was trying to say with this script, and most of all, how did this kind of movie ever got greenlit?? There’s no depth whatsoever in any of the characters, not even George himself on whom the whole story hinges on. Poorly-conceived plot is just putting it mildly, I think the only word that came to mind about PFK is ill-advised. It’s everything that’s wrong about Hollywood’s rom-coms… and sadly Gerry, you’ve been in more than your fair share in them. I mean heck, even Matthew McConaughey had been off the rom-com trails and has since garnered some kudos for his recent performances.

Going back to those favorite roles once again, three of the movies I listed (Dear Frankie, BBC’s The Jury and PS I Love You), and I should also mention your excellent performance Coriolanus, you had a supporting role in them. You didn’t carry the movie but yet your presence was a highlight. It made me think that perhaps you should take a well-deserved break and take a good long look at your career so far. It might be a good idea to seek out supporting roles (no I’m not talking about a stint in something so far-off like Movie 43), I’m talking about a small but important supporting roles in a quality project. It’d be nice if it’s with an acclaimed director, but so long as it’s got a strong script, that’s all that matters. Forget the pay check, I’m guessing you’ve made enough to last a couple of centuries. If you truly care about acting, don’t you want to be remembered for the craft of your work? Perhaps your entourage/groupies tell you that you’re a star and you must always play the lead. Well, as your [former] fan, let me tell you that it’s far more gratifying to see an actor in a good performance in a brief screen time than seeing him/her in an awful one scene after scene.

As I said in your Birthday post, I still think you’re a talented and capable actor. I just can’t fathom your role choices, especially now that you actually have the opportunity to seek out good ones with your own production company. Please don’t let the disappointment of the marketing of Machine Gun Preacher give you an excuse to forgo strong characters. Granted not everybody loved the film, but you did your best with the role and the story of Sam Childers was inspiring, so I’m glad you did that film and I was happy to recommend it. I could even enjoy a so-so movie like Chasing Mavericks because at least I could see the value of the story and I appreciate the dedication you did for the role, even to the point of almost dying in a surfing accident. Roles like George on the other hand, just left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Pardon my harsh letter but I feel that things need to be said for my own sake, as I don’t think you’d care to read it and your still-ardent fans probably would just brush me off. I do hope that your recent flops would be an eye-opener for you and hopefully you have the humility to take a look at what you have become. Everyone needs a ‘wake up call’ once in a while and perhaps you’ve been hitting the snooze button for far too long.

Best Wishes,

ruth m.


Well, it feels good to get it off my chest. Don’t cry for Gerry Butler, folks, I’m sure he’s still got a legion of fans ready to defend him :D

So that’s one crush I’m saying good bye to after all these years. Whilst we’re on the topic, which of your movie crush disappointed you this past year?

My Movie Alphabet Blogathon – Actors/Directors Edition

Thanks to Mettel Ray for starting this Movie Alphabet as part of her 400th Blog Post celebration! Her original list consists of movies, directors, actors and actresses, but to switch things up, I’d like to just focus on actors and directors for my list as I’ve done the film version in this Cinematic Alphabet a year ago. So for each letter in the alphabet, I choose to highlight those whose work and performances have become my favorite over the years. I might add honorable mentions later on but it’s taken me much longer than I thought to even just coming up with these, so without further ado, here we go:

A  – Audrey Hepburn

The epitome of beauty and class. I love Audrey ever since my mother brought My Fair Lady from her trip to Europe when I could barely speak any English. She’s such a captivating actress beautiful inside and out, I really admire her charity work outside of her iconic performance in many delightful films.


B – Ben Affleck

I never thought I’d  put Ben Affleck on any of my favorite list, but the only reason I’m putting him here is for his DIRECTING work, especially Gone Baby Gone and ARGO. I think he’s become one of the most talented directors working today.

C – Cate Blanchett

I love this beautiful and massively talented Aussie actress. I haven’t seen her in anything all year so I’m so looking forward to seeing her reprise her role as Galadriel in The Hobbit! I’m also excited to see her in Terrence Malick’s upcoming film Knight of Cups with Christian Bale! I think she might be in two films with Terrence Malick next year.

D – Denzel Washington

I just love how dignified his name sounds and he certainly is a classy actor, not to mention gorgeous. There are some films that don’t appeal to me until he’s cast, and even in so-so movies, Denzel is still great to watch. I think one of his best roles is Philadelphia and American Gangster (I have yet to see Training Day yet).

E – Ewan McGregor

Clearly I have a penchant for Scottish guys, especially the cute ones who can sing ;) I haven’t seen too many of Ewan’s work but I LOVE him in Moulin Rouge and boy, he could’ve easily have a singing career! He also sang in Velvet Goldmine in his earlier days but his role as the romantic poet Christian stole my heart. His duet with Nicole Kidman is just lovely!

F – Frances O’Connor

I just saw this Aussie actress in Lumpy at TCFF screening and was pleasantly surprised to see her in that film. I think she’s so massively underrated, I wish she had gotten more roles in Hollywood. I absolutely love her in Mansfield Park and also in the time travel adventure Timeline.

G – Gerard Butler

Speaking of cute Scots who can sing ;) Well I think it’s obvious who I’d pick for G right, he..he.. Seems like a lot of my crushes’ names start with G… Gregory Peck, Gabriel Byrne… but I think Gerry is the only one I’m most consistent on. It’s been interesting following his career over the years and even though he hasn’t got a hit yet lately, I think he’s a charismatic and talented actor, not to mention versatile! So yeah, I think I’ll be a GB fan for years to come.

H – Harrison Ford

It’s amazing how he almost quit acting after American Grafitti! Can’t imagine a more successful actor with so many lucrative franchises under his belt. I like him in action films, but he also shines in dramas like Regarding Henry. My all time favorite role shall always be Indiana Jones though, I mean, he’s the epitome of effortless machismo.

I – Ian McKellen

I was flabbergasted that Sean Connery turned down a high-paying job playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings franchise, but now I can’t imagine anyone else by Sir Ian McKellen in that role. His gravitas and THAT voice that can be both authoritative and soothing makes his performance so iconic. I also love his villainous turn as Magneto in the X-Men films, as well as his super creepy role in Apt Pupil.

J – Judi Dench

One of my three favorite British dames – along with Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith – the 77-year-old thespian has such a strong screen presence and an un-inimitable voice to boot! As I said in my Skyfall review, it’s the best casting decision ever to have her play M. She made the usually forgettable character so much more interesting, no wonder Mendes gave her so much more screen time in the latest Bond flick. I also love her softer side in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

K – Keanu Reeves

I love Keanu… or Chuck as my friend Mark calls him. Yes he’s not the most expressive actors but he’s got quite a screen presence and that certain unique-ness that separate him from the pack. He’s great in action flicks surely (The Matrix, Speed, Constantine, etc.), but I also love him as a romantic lead in A Walk in the Clouds. I just rewatched Point Break recently which was done 21 years ago, and seeing him in the 2012 documentary Side by Side, it’s amazing how this guy practically doesn’t age!

L – Lee Pace

Ok I just realize there are like five Hobbit-related people on this list, ahah, trust me it’s not intentional but clearly Peter Jackson has a keen eye for casting. I’m truly hoping that this highly-anticipated LOTR prequel will launch a few actors’ career, one of them is this super talented Oklahoma native who wowed me in The Fall and also Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day. How this guy is not more famous than Ryan Gosling is beyond me!

M – Michael Mann

For someone as accomplished as Mr Mann, I’m surprised he’s not as prolific. He’s only got ten feature films under his belt, and out of the seven I have seen so far I’ve only been disappointed with this one. I’ve been watching his work as executive producer of the Miami Vice TV show which was one of my favorites growing up. But he’s done at least three that I’d consider a masterpiece: Heat, The Insider and The Last of the Mohicans; whilstthe other three are very, very good.

N – Nicole Kidman

I don’t always seek out every movie she’s in but she’s definitely a darn good actress. It’s quite interesting to see her transformation from a freckled-face redhead to a glamorous porcelain-skinned doll much like her character in The Stepford Wives. I really think she needs to lay off Botox or whatever it is she’s using, as I think she’s already very beautiful. She can be quite fierce if she wants to be, like in To Die For, but one of my favorite roles is the tormented courtesan Satine in Moulin Rouge.

O – Olivia Williams

There are two Olivias I was going to include here, the other one was Olivia de Havilland who played Melanie in Gone With the Wind. But I decided to go with the one I’ve seen more of. I’ve only seen the London native’s work in supporting roles (The Sixth Sense, An Education), but they’re all very good. She was particularly good in a scene-stealing role in The Ghost Writer as the wife of a retired UK Prime Minister. I’m not too fond of the film but she was memorable.

P – Peter Jackson

He hasn’t made many films, but the Lord of the Rings is one of my all time favorite franchise, hence my anticipation for The Hobbit. I’m also one of those who likes King Kong, so I might still give The Lovely Bones a try one of these days despite the dismal reviews. Even when he’s not making films, he’s indirectly contributed to major hits like X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Prometheus, etc. through his visual effects company WETA Digital.

Q – Quentin Tarantino

As I’m not a fan of violent movies, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of QT’s films but I can’t deny his talent and brutal honesty for ‘copying’ other filmmakers work whilst still making them his own. Out of the three of his films I’ve seen, I think I like Inglourious Basterds the most. It’s one of those films I never thought I’d enjoy but it was definitely a pleasant surprise despite my nerves being stretched to its snapping point in more than one occasion.

R – Richard Armitage

I think if you’ve read this blog you should notice this tall, dark and handsome Brit gets a lot of mentions. In fact, I dedicated a post when he was cast in The Hobbit as Thorin! I fell for him in the BBC miniseries North & South, but he also wowed me in other series since – The Vicars of Dibley, MI-5 and Strike Back. I sincerely hope this role in The Hobbit will (finally) catapult his career in Hollywood. He’s far too gorgeous and too talented to only be confined in TV world!

S – Sean Connery

Ok, even as a Bond aficionado, I wasn’t exactly planning on putting two Bond actors back-to-back on this list, but hey, why not? Sir Sean was perhaps the most famous Scottish movie star when he was cast as 007 and having seen Dr. No recently, he certainly has the looks and swagger like nobody’s business. The former body builder is more than just a Bond actor though, he’s great in various roles such as The Untouchables, The Hunt of Red October, Just Cause, The Rock, and of course, his scene-stealing role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

T – Timothy Dalton

Here’s another Bond actor who’s sooo much more than his most famous role. In fact, even though he’s my favorite Bond (yes Daniel Craig is a close second), I absolutely adore him in a role that’s as far away as 007 as you can get: Mr. Rochester in BBC’s 1983 Jane Eyre. He’s wonderful in larger-than-life heroic roles like Julius Caesar, but I also love him as a baddie in The Rocketeer and the made-for-TV thriller Framed with David Morrissey. I’ve already covered how criminally underrated he is and how much I’d love to see him in a romantic thriller with the likes of a fellow seasoned Brit Helen Mirren, so I think my feelings for him is clear.

U – Uma Thurman

I haven’t seen Uma in anything lately but I quite like her in some roles. Her Oscar-nominated performance in Pulp Fiction made her a star and a cult classic status. Seems like QT knows how to tailor a role for her as she was memorably bad ass in the Kill Bill movies. She’s going to co-star with Gerry Butler in his upcoming soccer dramedy Playing for Keeps but curiously absent from all the promos for the film as they seem to only feature Catherine Zeta-Jones or Jessica Biel. Does that say something about her current star power??

V – Vanessa Redgrave

Did you know that Vanessa Redgrave was in a relationship with Timothy Dalton for fourteen years? Apparently they met on the set of Mary, Queen of Scots and were both passionate about Shakespeare, natch! I have been seeing her in a few films lately and she’s certainly a force on screen, from her younger years starring in Camelot all the way to her spectacular supporting role in Coriolanus. I love her in Letters for Juliet where she actually co-starred with her current husband Franco Nero.

W – William Wyler

Every time I go through his filmography, I’m always amazed at Mr. Wyler’s varied work. He’s one of those directors who can’t be confined into any genre as he could do tackle any one of them. Three of my favorite films of his are a Biblical epic (Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ), a western (The Big Country) and a romantic comedy (Roman Holiday). I still need to see the war drama Mrs. Miniver, amongst a plethora of his other work.

X – Professor X

Ok, I don’t know of ANY actor/director with this name so I broke the rule a bit and feature one of my favorite characters instead. Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men franchise was played by two brilliant actor: Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy in the prequel X-Men: First Class. I LOVE both of their performances and the character itself is inherently intriguing and his relationship with his friend-turned-nemesis Magneto is the most compelling part of that franchise.

Y – Yul Brynner

Ok, there are very limited names that starts with Y so I chose Yul Brynner for his iconic performance in The King and I and The Ten Commandments. Apart from those two films I haven’t seen anything else he’s done. The Russian actor (his real name was Yuli Borisovich Bryner) has one of those ‘exotic’ look that made him quite versatile playing all kinds of ethnic characters. He’s also an accomplished photographer and often take pictures of the sets of the various projects he worked on over the years.

Z – Zhang Yimou

I had just become acquainted with his work a few years ago when I saw House of Flying Daggers and was treated to such a visual feast of vivid colors and breathtaking cinematography. His distinct visual style is legendary, which you might have seen in the Jet Li movie Hero or if you saw the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games Opening Ceremony in which he directed. His latest work was Flowers of War which I still need to see one of these days.


Well that’s my Movie Alphabet, folks. Hope you enjoy my list. If you haven’t done one already, I invite you to join in on the fun!

Weekend Roundup – Indiana Jones, BBC’s Sherlock + Chasing Mavericks Review

Today I truly appreciate the simple things in life. Well not that I wouldn’t any other day but especially so the past couple of days after reading all the news and weather updates on the Frankenstorm that is Hurricane Sandy. The fact that I can drive peacefully on the road without being pounded by crazy winds and heavy rain, and the fact that I have electricity in the house and place of work. The Empire State Building was trending last night on Twitter and it turned out it was because of this instagram of the Empire State Building’s light that shone when NYC went completely dark. What an eerie but yet striking image.

My thoughts and prayers goes out to everyone in the path of the storm… please do stay safe!

This weekend I actually opt for home cinema as I’ve seen both Cloud Atlas and Chasing Mavericks early last week. We had bought the Indiana Jones Blu-ray set a couple of weeks ago but couldn’t watch ‘em right away as I had to cover for TCFF.

We rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark and it was still as entertaining as ever. The picture quality is just brilliant, and Harrison Ford is perfectly cast as the rugged explorer, I really can’t picture anyone else in this role so whoever’s gonna replace him in the reboot would have HUGE shoes to fill. I also love Karen Allen as Marion, her spunk and demeanor reminds me so much of Margot Kidder as Lois Lane!

We finally caught up with BBC’s Sherlock Season 2, starting with Scandal in Belgravia. It’s by far the most confusing episode for me, the plot is just so darn complicated for my little brain. But still it’s entertaining to watch Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the odd couple and there are some really hilarious moments, especially when they first encounter Lara Pulver as Irene Adler. I thought she was brilliant in the role — Sherlock’s definitely met his match in her and watching the two psychopaths flirt with each other is quite amusing.


Now, on to the review:

I’m NOT a surfer, I’ve never even been ON a surfboard, not on land, let alone on water. But something about the surfers’ lifestyle fascinates me so I don’t think you need to know anything about surfing to enjoy this film.

The film tells the true story of Jay Moriarity, a young Santa Cruz surfer who’s immortalized in the Live Like Jay movement that just celebrated the 10th anniversary of his death last June. It was a short life as he drowned when he went diving in the Maldives just a day shy of his 23rd birthday, but the movie showed just how he lived.

Jay (Jonny Weston) first met Frosty Hesson (Gerry Butler) when Frosty rescued him from the ocean when he was only 8 years old. That experience didn’t put him off surfing, in fact, the opposite is true. He found it to be his true calling, not unlike someone like Felix Baumgartner who has a penchant for heights. Jay just loved the water and that 40-foot waves seems to be calling his name each time it hit the shores.

The fact that he lives with a single mom and an absentee father, he also yearns for a father figure and he finds that in Frosty, even though he himself is a loner who doesn’t seem to have it all together despite having a saintly wife (Abigail Spencer) and two kids. Predictably, the two bonded as Frosty trains Jay to be able to achieve his dream to chase ‘Mavericks,’ which refers to the surfing location north of Half Moon Bay in California where after a strong winter storm could top out at over 80 feet! I appreciate that this is truly a movie about surfing, not about some girl in a bikini or a procedural action flick. It focuses on the sport and shows the dedication it takes to be a darn good surfer in a sport where even the smallest miscalculation could cost one his/her life. Butler himself surely knew that by heart as he experienced a near-death accident when he was knocked off his board by a freak wave during filming. Talk about suffering for your art!

Jay certainly has a story worth telling, though I wish the story could’ve been as groundbreaking as the subject matter. Seems like when the movie is not so much focused on surfing, the script sort of loses its footing, so there’s barely any depth to any of the relationships portrayed in the film aside from Jay and Frosty’s. Even the romance between Jay and his eventual wife Kim (Leven Rambin) is so darn cheesy it comes off like an after school special.

The formulaic script really doesn’t give the actors any favors. It’s really too bad as I think Butler shows what he’s capable of all along. It’s an understated role that shows his vulnerable side, so it’s not the typical alpha-male action hero he’s known for. He not only look the part with his svelte physique and surfer hair, but he’s also got that convincing surfer swagger. As for Weston, I had been skeptical about his casting initially but I thought he captured the jovial spirit of what I picture Jay would be. The female characters are under-developed however, with Elisabeth Shue as Jay’s mother suffers the worst fate of being completely wasted here. There’s also an attempt to add a ‘villainy’ character in the film that goes absolutely nowhere.

What I do love about it is the spectacular cinematography that captures the glory of surfing. Those giant waves are amazing, and I’m glad I saw this on the big screen! I love that it was filmed on location which adds a high level of authenticity to the film. One of the main draw of this movie for me is the fact that L.A. Confidential’s director Curtis Hanson’s at the helm (reportedly Hanson had to bow out of filming because of health reasons and Michael Apted took over, so they share directing credit). I do think given the filmmakers’ credentials, this could’ve been a lot more compelling, but it’s not a bad movie by any means. In fact, I’m glad to hear according to Santa Cruz Patch, this film was well-received by the community where Jay used to surf.

I think a lot of the lessons that Jay learns in this movie, about the ‘Four Pillars of the Human Foundation’ and other disciplines can be applied to other parts of lives. The rousing ending is quite a spectacle, with those giant, mystical waves taking center stage and I could see how surfing is as much a mental sport as it is a demanding physical one.

3 out of 5 reels


P.S. I’m quite bummed that his movie was a total bomb. I didn’t expect it to be in the top five, but I certainly didn’t think it’d do so badly with a paltry $2.2 mil. Vulture asked Why Does Hollywood Think America Likes Surfing? and seems like the sub-genre of surfing movies are inherently not very marketable. Ah well, I’m glad I saw it and I’m glad they brought Jay’s story to life in this one.


Well, that’s it for the roundup this week. How ’bout you, seen anything good?