10 Actresses I would watch in just about anything

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As part of a continuation to the Top 10 Actors I’d See in Anything post, I figure I’d do the same list for the fairer sex. If anything, my love for actresses seem to be more constant than for actors, not sure why but aside from some new discoveries, I’ve been a fan of most of these actresses for a decade or longer. Again this idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are Blog. The same as the actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in literally anything because there are some 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.

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

10. Kristin Scott-Thomas

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Ever since I saw her as Fiona in Four Weddings & A Funeral years ago, I’ve always been fond of the English actress. There is an air of mystery about her, as well as a certain sadness, which made her perfect for her Oscar-nominated role in The English Patient. She’s always wonderful to watch in anything, even in bit parts in lesser-known films like The Heir Apparent, Mission: Impossible, Easy Virtue, Nowhere Boy, etc. Her dramatic talent is irrefutable, but I think she’s got comedic chops too, as she displayed in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I’d love to see this lighter side of her in other movies. Wish she’d gotten more leading roles, instead of being cast in awful movies like Bel Ami against sub-par leading man Robert Pattinson.

Favorite Role: Fiona in Four Weddings and A Funeral
Least Favorite Role: Virginie in Bel Ami

9. Carey Mulligan

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The first thing I noticed about miss Mulligan is her soothing speaking voice in Never Let Me Go. I already liked her even before she showed up on screen. There is a pleasant countenance about her that I like, as well as a certain childlike innocence that she displayed in An Education. Even when she plays unsympathetic characters like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and the acidic-tongued Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis, you can’t totally despise her. When I saw her in Never Let Me Go, I somehow didn’t realize she was Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice! She’s quite a chameleon. Can’t wait to see her in Far from the Madding Crowd next year.

Favorite Role: Kathy in Never Let Me Go
Least Favorite Role: Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Jessica Chastain

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I mentioned in this post a couple of years ago that miss Chastain sort of came into my cinematic view pretty suddenly. I hadn’t heard of her even six months prior to that, and seems that in an instant she churned out four very distinct performance within the span of a couple of years: The Debt, Tree of Life, Coriolanus and The Help. Then she impressed me once again in Zero Dark Thirty, displaying strong dramatic chops that’s entirely different from the other roles I’ve seen previously. Seeing her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby sealed it for me that she has to be on this list. I think she’s absolutely beautiful, but in an unconventional way. She’s the kind of actress who I think gets even more interesting the longer you look at her. Can’t wait to see her in crime drama A Most Violent Year opposite Oscar Isaac!

Favorite Role: Eleanor Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Least Favorite Role: N/A

7. Marion Cotillard

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What is it with French women that made them so beguiling? Miss Cotillard certainly has screen charisma that appeals to both sexes, and though she’s impossibly beautiful she’s not Bimbo-like at all. Like Kristin Scott Thomas, I also find her a bit mysterious which adds to her appeal. I guess I find people with *sad* eyes more intriguing, perhaps it’s that tortured-soul quality I find very appealing in men as well. She gave such a heartfelt performance in Inception, and she’s my favorite performer even in the all-star cast musical NINE. In fact, her two musical renditions are superb as she shows not only her dramatic prowess, but also her amazing vocals & dancing ability.

Favorite Role: Adriana in Midnight in Paris/Luisa in NINE
Least Favorite Role: Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises

6. Sandra Bullock

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Like a lot of people, I first noticed Sandra in Speed and I’m instantly a fan. Whether it’s action stuff like The Net, Demolition Man, or rom-coms like While You are Sleeping, Forces of Nature, Two Weeks Notice, The Proposal, etc. Sandra is so watchable. Though she also excels in serious dramas like The Blind Side and Gravity, I think I like Sandra most in comedies as she’s just so darn lovable in them. I don’t think Miss Congeniality would’ve been as watchable without her in the lead. She’s also hugely entertaining in interviews and her fun, down-to-earth personality absolutely shines in candid conversations. She’s one of those rare movie stars who seem so approachable that you could imagine her as your best friend!

Favorite Role: Annie in Speed/ Lucy in While You Were Sleeping
Least Favorite Role: Kate in The Lake House

5. Emma Thompson

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I think I’ll always be a fan of Emma given my undying love for 1995’s Sense & Sensibility. I’ll always be grateful for her amazing screenplay and her lovely performance as Elinor Dashwood. Before that, I’ve already liked her in Much Ado About Nothing and The Remains of the Day. Her segment in Love, Actually with Alan Rickman is my fave of the entire film, and she’s wonderful in Stranger than Fiction and in the romantic drama Last Chance Harvey. Her comic-relief performance in Harry Potter is a lot of fun to watch, too. Her latest role in Saving Mr Banks shows she definitely should’ve gotten more leading roles. Playing someone so uptight and controlling seems so far away from her laid-back and goofy, but then again, Emma has a knack for playing eccentric characters.

Favorite Roles: Elinor in Sense & Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Sarafine in Beautiful Creatures

4. Dame Helen Mirren

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Though I had seen Dame Mirren in Gosford Park, it’s not until The Queen that she REALLY came to my attention. She truly won me over with that performance and so every time I saw her name attached in something, I’d want to check it out. Since then she’s impressed me in State of Play, The Debt, The Last Station, and even the goofy action comedy RED & RED 2 where she displayed her bad-assery as a femme fatale. She’s the best thing about the Hitchcock film adaptation as Alma Reville, even her animated character Dean Hardscrabble in Monsters University is fun to watch! Can’t wait to see her in a thriller opposite one of my fave British thespians Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky!

Favorite Roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen
Least Favorite Role: N/A

3. Dame Judi Dench

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Like Helen Mirren, I became familiar with Dame Judi in her latter works. In fact, it’s her most mainstream role as M in Goldeneye that got my attention. She outshone practically every male actor in that role previously, and she delivered such a scene-stealing performance she upstaged even Mr Bond himself! I have to say part of me wish she had been M in earlier Bond films as I’d love to see him going toe to toe with another theater thespian Timothy Dalton as 007!

Since then, I’ve seen Dame Judi in a variety of roles: biopics like Mrs. Brown, My Week with Marilyn and Philomena; and a fair share of literary adaptations like Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and her 8-minute Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love. I LOVE her in the lovely drama Chocolat, as well as in the ensemble comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Recently I saw her in Ladies in Lavender, teaming up again with her real-life BFFs Maggie Smith after nearly 20 years (in A Room with a View). I always enjoyed seeing them together, so I can’t wait to see the ‘Marigold hotel’ sequel!

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, M in Bond movies
Least Favorite Role: N/A

2. Emily Blunt

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Though she didn’t get the lead role, it’s safe to say that miss Blunt was the breakout star of The Devil Wears Prada. She’s so deliciously devious in her comic turn that was so fun to watch. But I think it’s her performance in the lesser-known Jane Austen Book Club as a French teacher that made me a fan. She’s my favorite character in the film and I really sympathize with her despite her flaws.

Finally I saw her in a leading role in The Young Victoria and once again I absolutely adore her. Interesting that she plays the same character that Judi Dench played in her later years in Mrs. Brown, which is also my fave role she’s done. Emily stuns even in bit parts, i.e. playing Tom Hanks’ young lover in Charlie Wilson’s War. Since then I’ve seen Emily in a variety of roles: The Adjustment Bureau, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Looper, and most recently Edge of Tomorrow. She had a more action-packed roles in the last two films, perhaps in an attempt to shed her English-rose image. I think she fits well in drama, comedy or action, which shows her versatility and on-screen appeal.

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria
Least Favorite Role: N/A

1. Cate Blanchett

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Ahhhh… the Great Cate. I absolutely love this woman. Similar my first intro to Carey Mulligan, I too fell for Cate’s soothing narration in The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I LOVE her as Galadriel, perhaps one of the most famous characters she plays in her illustrious career.

What I LOVE about the Melbourne-born thespian is her chameleon ability to play virtually ANY role from all walks of life. Whether it’s a fearless Irish journalist (Veronica Guerin), working class ex-heroin addict (Little Fish), troubled NY socialite (Blue Jasmine), a wounded wife shot on an overseas trip (Babel), an English monarch (Elizabeth) or Hollywood royalty (as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), there’s NOT a role Cate couldn’t pull off. She can do any accent flawlessly, and her voice is just so pleasant to listen to. Ok so I still haven’t seen her in her Oscar-nominated role as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, but no doubt she’s also convincing in portraying the opposite sex.

Borrowing from my Birthday Tribute post, Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

Can’t wait to see her in Kenneth Branagh’s life-action adaptation of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother next year!

Favorite Roles: Galadriel in LOTR, Veronica Guerin
Least Favorite Role: Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skulls

 …

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! I’ve been a fan of most of these for a while, but there are some newbies added based on their performances this past year (Mbatha Raw & Pike). A lot of the actresses here hugely underrated, but just like a lot of my male crushes, I guess I have a penchant for the under-used and under-appreciated ones. Anyway, here they are in my fave role each of them has done so far:

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  1. Helena Bonham Carter
  2. Angela Bassett
  3. Eva Green
  4. Rebecca Hall
  5. Gugu Mbatha-Raw
  6. Julia Ormond
  7. Rosamund Pike
  8. Saoirse Ronan
  9. Maggie Smith
  10. Kate Winslet

///


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

Weekend Viewing Roundup, Quick Thoughts on Comic-Con, & RED 2 review

Hello everyone! Hope you had an awesome weekend. If you happen to be at Comic-con the past few days, then I’m sure you had a blast (and you know I’m so green with envy!!) It made me feel a bit nostalgic seeing all those SDCC pics, maybe one day I’ll make it there again. Now, I haven’t read all the highlights from the big event but if I were at Hall H on Saturday, these two would’ve surely been the most scream-worthy panels!!

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Click for a larger version

Just LOOK at this X-Men: Days of Future Past cast… I mean seriously!!! It’s incredible how good Hugh Jackman still looks after his breakthrough role as Wolverine thirteen years ago. Can’t wait for this movie already!

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Thor who? Loki ruled Hall H!

I LOVE Tom Hiddleston‘s theatrical style and boy, this would’ve been the closest thing a lot of the Comic-con goers to seeing him ‘on stage.’ He certainly brought the house down with his performance! You can watch a video of it here.

Well, my weekend was ok (well considering I wasn’t at Comic-con), but hey, I got to see TREMORS, thanks to Cinekatz‘ Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap in which I was “gifted” the monster flick from 1990 (review coming soon). I also rewatched Pacific Rim at IMAX Saturday night, which looks absolutely glorious in the giant screen. So that’s TWO monster movies in one weekend, which is a record for me :D

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TREMORS

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PACIFIC RIM

I also got to re-watch one of my favorite superhero movies of all time. Well, even with a slew of comic-book movies since, I still rate this very high on my list. Batman Begins is one of the movies I’d bring if I were stranded in a desert island and I’d definitely pick it again in a heartbeat!

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BATMAN BEGINS

Now, here’s my new release review from the screening a few days ago:

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Though I enjoyed the first movie, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the sequel. The only main draw for me is the cast and really, that’s the main highlight of this movie and the filmmakers knew that. You don’t go into these kinds of movies looking for an engaging story or character study, but you know what, they didn’t pretend to be a bombastic, over-the-top action flick so I still end up enjoying this quite a bit.

There’s really no point talking about the plot here, as the story is set up in such a way where it actually suits the actors playing these cartoonish characters. It’s as if the filmmakers had a checklist of what they want these actors to do in the movie and so the plot is written around that, if that makes sense. Seems like the actors are hired to do what they do best, some of them even did a parody to their famous characters they’ve done in the past (you’ll know it when you see it). The Retired-Extremely-Dangerous gang is once again on the run, being chased left and right as they attempt to solve the puzzle of finding a portable nuclear device.

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It’s too bad Karl Urban isn’t back to reprise his role as he was one of the highlights for me in the first movie. Also, instead of Morgan Freeman, we’ve got another seasoned actor (both happen to be 76 years old!) Anthony Hopkins. Nice to see him doing a comedic role though he’s not as fun to watch as Freeman.

Bruce Willis is back as Frank, which is basically a variation of John McClane (seems like Bruce is done with playing any other characters these days). Mary Louis Parker gets more screen time this time as his love interest Sarah, which is fine by me and she, along with John Malkovich‘s Marvin are the real comic relief in this movie. Their scenes together, especially the car chase all over Paris in a white Citroën, are preposterous fun. I guess you could describe the movie in that way as well. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this movie as much if it weren’t for the actors. I love watching Dame Helen Mirren reprising her bad ass role of Victoria and her car case with Byung-hun Lee is hysterical! It’s right up there with all the outrageous action in those Fast & Furious movies.

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I think the weakest link for me is Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian femme-fatale who used to be Frank’s lover. Her character is so darn boring and her romance with Willis’ character just falls flat. “Katja’s Frank’s ‘kryptonite,” Marvin explained to Sarah, which then drives her to do all kinds of jealous-driven shenanigans to one-up Katja. I do like charismatic Korean actor Byung-hun Lee here (not a bad replacement for Mr. Urban) who has a personal vendetta with Frank. He’s clearly hired for his awesome fighting skills and he totally delivered on that front.

Final Thoughts: The A-list cast seems to have a great time making this and it shows. Whilst it still brings the laughs and I was entertained for the most part, I do think the writing is so lazy and derivative. I hope they’re done with this movie, I mean how many franchises does Bruce Willis need?! I’m being generous here with my rating, because Mirren, Parker and Malkovich made me laugh so hard in this movie! Oh, there’s also Brian Cox in a small but memorable role, so yeah, there are TWO British thespians who’ve played Hannibal Lecter on screen!

3 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend?

FlixChatter Review: Monsters University

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I remember rolling my eyes when I first heard of Pixar making a prequel of Monsters Inc., one of my favorites from its canon of animated features. But then I saw the trailer and I thought it looked pretty funny, and got me curious if revisiting the world of the colorful monsters would be well worth the effort.

Well, after seeing it a week ago, I can happily say that I enjoyed it immensely!! Mike Wazowski, the one-eyed green monster with Billy Crystal‘s high-pitched voice, remains one of my all-time favorite Pixar characters. Here Pixar crafted yet another ingenious storyline, an ‘origin story’ if you will of how the Mike + James P. Sullivan (Sulley), the best ‘scarer duo’ at the Monsters, Inc. end up working together and what the job meant to them.

Right from the get-go, I felt glad to be back in Monstropolis. Ever since he was a youngster, Mike has always been enamored by the profession of collecting screams from human children for the city’s power supply. A school field trip to Monsters Inc. got him all wide-eyed about becoming one of those scarer himself… it’s akin to how a field trip to NASA made some youngsters yearn to be an astronauts! So when Mike’s enrolled in Monsters University (modeled after Univ of Cal Berkeley according to the campus website), he was pretty gung-ho about learning to be the best scarer he could be. I LOVE how they introduce him walking around campus as a freshman, it’s such a fun character development that’s classic Pixar, and visually it’s as beautiful as I had expected. It’s interesting how Mike’s roommate is none other than the chameleon Randall (he still goes by Randy here), who seems pretty harmless and even nice at first, but of course his sinister side is later revealed.

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His meeting with Sulley is a memorable one, both hilarious and moving at the same time. Y’see, Sulley came from a legendary family of scarers, in class the professor actually mentioned the Sullivans by name and holds it in high regards. So Sulley is one of those students who could get by with not much efforts on his part, which infuriates Mike as in contrast, he’s the kind of guy who’s always been told he’s not scary at all, that he’s not cut out to be a scarer, etc. So naturally, he’ll do everything in his power to prove everyone wrong.

MonstersUnivDeanHardscrabbleAs with many Pixar films, it’s chock-full of awesome characters and this one is no different. The fraternity students where Mike & Sully end up belonging to are a hoot, they’re the nerds in school that the cool crowds make fun of, so immediately I sympathize with them. Plus they’re just such a hilarious bunch! One of the most memorable characters is definitely Dean Hardscrabble, a red dragon-like creature with millipede legs and bat wings. Voiced by the great Dame Helen Mirren, she’s quite a terrifying character that’s no doubt feared by everyone at school. Another British actor I like, Alfred Molina, also lends the voice of the professor of the Scaring Program.

I find the story to be quite engaging from start to finish, I was fully invested in Mike’s journey and the plot surrounding the Scare Games is definitely well-crafted. The beauty of this movie, as with many Pixar movies, is how relatable the story is. Even though we’re dealing with weird-looking creatures, the emotional issues they face (disappointment, betrayal, inferiority, etc.), are situations we could all identify with. But of course, they didn’t forgot about the sense of fun and that aspect is definitely here. The scene at the library is perhaps one of the highlights for me as I was in stitches the whole time, and also the finale of the Scare Games that’s action-packed and emotionally-charged.

If you’re a fan of Monsters, Inc. and its fabulous characters, I think you’ll enjoy this movie as much as I did. The chemistry between Mike & Sulley is still the primary strength of the film, and Billy Crystal and John Goodman are such excellent voice actors. Having just rewatched the original though, I still rate that one higher than this. The moment the duo met Boo in the beginning of the movie was pure comedic gold that’s tough to beat, even by Pixar itself. Now, as charming and entertaining this prequel is though, I do hope Pixar will return to delivering fresh, innovative ideas instead of recycling their old ones.


4 out of 5 reels


What say you, folks? Did you enjoy this one?

Weekend Viewing Roundup – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)review

MSPIFF_PressPassHappy Monday all! It’s going to be quite a busy week for me with three screenings Tuesday – Thursday, starting with Disconnect tomorrow. I’ve got my MSPIFF press pass kit yesterday and all the tickets for the films I’ve mentioned herewell except for Kon-Tiki as it was sold out and the second screening conflicts with another film. I was thinking of going to the Screenwriters Panel but this stupid Wintry weather kept me from going. Seriously, there are icicles forming on my roof as I type this. We seem to be going backwards!! [sigh] In any case, here’s my viewing schedule this week:

  • Disconnect (Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgård)
  • Unfinished Song – or Song for Marion (Terrence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave)
  • Mud (Matthew McConaughey)
  • Oblivion (Tom Cruise)

It’ll take me some time to review them all so this week we’ve got a couple of special guest posts on schedule, so stay tuned! Anyway, here’s my mini review of the one film I managed to see this weekend:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

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Mere seconds before the Earth is to be demolished by an alien construction crew, journeyman Arthur Dent is swept off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher penning a new edition of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

My hubby and I didn’t originally set out to see this one but it’s one of those movies we’ve been curious about for some time as it’s such a pop-culture phenomenon. Truth be told, I don’t know anything about the story, though a short stop at Wikipedia revealed that it’s a comic sci-fi series created by Douglas Adams, which started out as a BBC comedy radio program in 1978 and later adapted to other formats, including novels, TV series and the 2005 movie. When I saw the cast, Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, John Malkovich, PLUS Alan Rickman & Helen Mirren‘s voice, I was more than intrigued! It has the vibe of the wacky sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest, one of my fave comedies ever, but I think is still far more enjoyable than this one. Now, it started out very promising, with the hilarious narration about how the dolphins has been trying to warn humans of their impending doom but they’re mistaken for playful tricks, hence all the dolphin shows in Sea World. The song So Long and Thanks for All the Fish that the dolphins sing before they leave earth is such a hoot and fun to watch. Then we meet a hapless Englishman Arthur Dent — Martin Freeman can portray utter bewilderment like no other — who wakes up to all the ruckus outside his home as it’s about to be demolished. As if that wasn’t a bad enough morning, his friend Ford Prefect (hip-hop artist Moss Def) tells him he’s actually an alien and earth is being destroyed in a matter of minutes! Before you know it, Arthur is whisked away by Ford, by hitching a ride to a spaceship (natch!), and they embark on a madly bizarre adventure! HitchikerGuideGalaxyPics I could see how this story would become so popular, not just people who grew up listening to the radio show, as my hubby’s colleagues often reference this movie. Even Apple’s Siri refer to this giant computer Deep Thought’s answer, the number 42, when asked about the meaning of life. There are certainly some amusing parts in this film, the segment with John Malkovich as a seriously outlandish religious leader with mechanical spiders for legs and Sam Rockwell’s flamboyantly over-the-top portrayal of Zaphod Beeblebrox (I guess with a character name like that one can’t exactly underplay it, ahah) are certainly amusing. Overall though, the pacing is just off, it could be because director Garth Jennings’s lack of directorial experience. On top of that, I just didn’t connect with the story as I found myself falling asleep midway through, and didn’t wake up until Bill Nighy‘s Slartibartfast, the planet designer, gave Arthur a tour of the galaxy. Unlike Galaxy Quest where I was caught up in the characters’ journey, this one sort of become tedious over time, I’m sure the radio show/novels are far more interesting. Most of the characters, while amusing at first, just aren’t really that interesting after all, which is a shame considering the talents involved. Freeman basically playing a similar character as Bilbo in terms of being out of his comfort zone, as he’s pretty much dumbfounded and perplexed for most of the movie. I do love Marvin the Paranoid Android, he’s perhaps my favorite character of the movie, largely thanks to Alan Rickman‘s voice! I don’t know how this guy managed to be entertaining just by lending his voice alone, but all the sarcastic quips of the manically-depressed robot are truly the best lines of the movie!

ManicallyDepressedMarvinMarvin: You can blame the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation for making androids with GPP… Arthur: Um… what’s GPP? Marvin: Genuine People Personalities. I’m a personality prototype. You can tell, can’t you…?

Arthur: I think that door just sighed. Marvin: Ghastly, isn’t it? All the doors on this spaceship have been programmed to have a cheery and sunny disposition.

Marvin: Freeze? I’m a robot. I’m not a refrigerator.

So even though I didn’t love this movie, I’m glad I finally saw it so I know when people make references to this story. I probably won’t rewatch the movie but I definitely would rewatch all the hilarious Marvin moments, courtesy of youtube. 3 out of 5 reels


Fun Trivia bit: The movie was first optioned in 1982 by producers Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross. Douglas Adams wrote three drafts for them per his contract. During this time, Medjuck and Gross were considering Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd to play Ford Prefect, but then Aykroyd sent them his idea for Ghostbusters and they did that movie instead. [per IMDb trivia]


Well, that’s my weekend roundup, folks. What did you see this weekend, anything good?

2012 Year in Review: Best & Worst Movies and Memorable Movie Moments

Bye2012Can’t believe 2012 has come and gone. I don’t know about you but this past year felt especially fast for me, it just flew by before I had a chance to reflect on a bunch of things. I know a lot of bloggers have been putting their stamp on whether this has been a good or bad year for movies. Now, I personally don’t know how to really judge that, I think if someone were to ask me, I’d say it’s been a pretty good year as I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of movies, both the blockbusters and the smaller indie flicks.

Now, as I’ve done in the past couple of years, this top 10 is more of a list of favorites so naturally it’s very subjective. The movies included are reserved for those released in 2012 that I saw on the big screen (whether on regular theatrical release, screenings or at a local film festival).

So here they are in alphabetical order (it’s hard enough to pick just 10 so I sure as heck am not going to rank these):

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Top 10 Favorite 2012 Films:

  • Argo (my full review)
    Ben Affleck’s third directorial work makes up for a stellar ‘trilogy’ of his work. It was an engaging, edge-of-your-seat stuff and it was emotionally satisfying to boot. Great casting on John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the scene-stealing Hollywood folks set out to make a fake movie.

  • A Late Quartet (my full review)
    One of the indie gems at TIFF that totally lived up to my expectations, especially in the performances department. If you’re a fan of Christopher Walken or Philip Seymour Hoffman, I highly recommend this one.

  • Brave (my full review)
    I actually re-watched parts of this on the plane during my vacation and I still loved it. In a year of kick-ass movie heroines, Princess Merida is a highlight. Pixar delivers once again!

  • Looper (my full review)
    One of the best action sci-fi I’ve seen in years, thanks in no small feat to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The make-up might be distracting but Levitt’s performance was still strong enough to overcome that. The first movie by Rian Johnson I’ve seen – this one certainly makes me want to seek out his other works.

  • Silver Linings Playbook (my full review)
    This one was touted as the ‘centerpiece’ feature film at TCFF and glad it lived up to the hype. Another strong performance from Jennifer Lawrence (I actually like her a bit more here than in The Hunger Games) and proves that pretty-boy Bradley Cooper can definitely act. It also marks one of Robert De Niro’s best in recent memory.

  • Skyfall (my full review)
    Thanks to Sam Mendes, his team of writers and of course the blond Bond du jour Daniel Craig, we’ve got a massively entertaining Bond film that packs both brains and heart. I love that Judi Dench’s M is sort of the unconventional ‘Bond girl’ in this one, and the gorgeous cinematography by Roger Deakins certainly makes this one all the more memorable.

  • The Avengers
    The loud, popcorn blockbuster is certainly the highlight of the first half of 2012. Considering the herculean hype surrounding this one, it’s quite a feat that Josh Whedon & co. managed to still meet that, and then some! There are so much to like that I listed a top 10 reasons why The Avengers rocked.

  • The Dark Knight Rises (my full review)
    It’s really a testament to Christopher Nolan that despite all the plot holes, I still enjoyed it immensely. I still rate The Dark Knight higher, but overall it’s a satisfying ending to an amazing trilogy!

  • The Hobbit
    Well I just did my top 10 reasons why I loved this movie, so naturally this would end up on my top 10. Definitely a welcome return to the visually mesmerizing world of Middle Earth. Can’t wait for Part II!

  • The Sapphires (see my review)
    Last but definitely not least. I adore this inspirational true story set in the 60s about four talented young Aboriginal girls who were plucked out of obscurity when they formed into a dynamic singing group. Such an affecting story and the music is a winner, I can’t wait to see this again soon.

10 Honorable Mentions:

These ten films are excellent, they didn’t quite make my top 10 but they’re definitely still worth checking out if you haven’t already (click each title for full review):

Cloud Atlas, It’s A Disaster, Moonrise Kingdom, Robot and Frank, Quartet, Ruby Sparks, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, The Sessions, The Hunger Games, Things I Don’t Understand.


The year of the British Dames Trio

DameSmithDenchMirren

Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren all wowed me in their roles in Quartet, Skyfall and Hitchcock, respectively. Though Hitchcock is not stellar movie, Mirren’s role is the highlight for me and her casting as the filmmaker’s wife Alma undoubtedly made the film a lot better that it otherwise would. Dame Smith and Dench were also wonderful in the delightful The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which marked the second time I saw them together on screen (the first one was A Room with a View). If only these three fine dames would star in a film together one day!


Now, I’d like to give a shout out to these 10 Movies I saw in 2012 (either on a rental or on the plane) that I’d highly recommend (click each title for my full review):

  1. Side by Side
  2. Headhunters
  3. Coriolanus
  4. The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch
  5. The Whistleblower
  6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  7. 21 Jump Street
  8. Margin Call
  9. Daybreakers
  10. Endgame

Five Biggest Disappointments in 2012

Now, to even things out, I also want to list those released this year that I didn’t care for. Fortunately, there are only five of them (that I have seen) that I rated 2.5 out of 5 or below.

  1. Total Recall
    Their comic-con panel (especially Colin Farrell) was a heck of a lot more entertaining than this stinker
  2. Bourne Legacy
    I wasn’t a fan of Jeremy Renner to begin with and I wasn’t about to become one after this. Rachel Weisz was a lot more charismatic here, which begs the question as to why she signed up to do this one.
  3. Playing For Keeps
    Well, it’s the year I say goodbye to Gerry Butler :( I’ve written an open letter in lieu of the review, but suffice to say this is one of the worst movie I’ve ever seen in recent memory [shudder]
  4. Snow White and the Huntsman
    I couldn’t stand K-Stew but I thought I’d give her a chance in something other than Twilight. Alas, she’s as expressionless as she ever was, so my befuddlement as to why she keeps getting roles continues. The rest of the cast weren’t exactly stellar either.
  5. Nobody Walks
    This was the worst movie I saw in at TCFF, I just didn’t enjoy the story at all, it actually left a bad taste in my mouth after. It turns out that one of the writers of this was Lena Dunham, so it’s highly unlikely I’d ever be interested in her HBO show Girls.


Top Five Favorite Movie-related Moments in 2012:


Well that’s my recap of 2012 in movies, folks. I’ll have a separate list of the films I’m anticipating in 2013.

So what tops your list of best and worst of the year?

A Trio of New Releases Reviews: Wreck it Ralph, Life of Pi and Hitchcock

Happy Friday and the last day of November, everybody! Are you going to the cinema this weekend? Well, unless you’re already set on seeing the new Brad Pitt retro crime thriller Killing Them Softly, perhaps you’re considering what else is worth a watch? Well then these reviews might help you make up your mind.

Thanks to FC contributor Cecilia Rusli and my colleague Sarah McNeal for two of the reviews.

Wreck-it Ralph

Director: Rich Moore
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Voice Cast: John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer

In almost every video game and movies, there’s the good guy, and there’s the bad guy. Wreck It Ralph tells the story of Ralph who has always been the bad guy on a video game and has the duty of wrecking people’s apartments. Every time there’s a villain, there must be the good guy or what’s-so-called  hero. Fix-it Felix is the character which repairs everything Ralph destroyed. Actually the Wreck it Ralph game reminds me of Rampage, a 90s video game where players destroy buildings. I used to play it on PlayStation while i was a kid and it indeed brings pleasure destroying stuff.

While doing his duty on wrecking apartments, Ralph suddenly wants his life to change. He wants to be the good guy who’s being loved by people. Along the way, he met Vanellope, a kid from the world called Sugar Rush. Sugar Rush with its lovable colors looks like the ones I saw at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. A world full of sweet treats.

It turns out that Ralph has to team up with Vanellope in Sugar Rush and help her to win a car race there. A car race is also brings some video games nostalgia. One I remember pretty well is Crash Team Racing on PlayStation where we need to have a car race with Crash Bandicoot and friends. Yes, it’s a very girly video game. I’m pretty sure there are still plenty of car race arcade games nowadays. During the race scenes, the emotions building between Ralph and Vanellope is done pretty well. The connection between them is very heart-warming and yes it officially made this movie another animated feature with a heart.

Wreck It Ralph SugarRush

Wreck-it Ralph surely will amuse people who are into video games. Lots of video games characters have a cameo here that fans will surely notice and actually name during the movie. I will not do that here as it’s more fun and exciting to discover them by surprise. In some scenes I was actually concerned that people would walk in front of the screen and I’d miss seeing the cameos!

The 3D was fine. It doesn’t have much pop-up stuff but the scenes at Sugar Rush indeed looks more exciting in 3D. Overall, Wreck-it Ralph is a sweet time machine to the age of 8-bit video games. Great story with engaging characters, lovely colors and musical score surely make Wreck it Ralph one of the best animated movie this year for me. Can’t help waiting for Despicable Me 2 next summer!

– Review by Cecilia R.

4 out of 5 reels


Life of Pi is magical and marvelous

Director: Ang Lee
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain

Life of Pi has been near the top of my list of favorite books for years. When I heard it was being made into a movie, I wondered how. When I heard Ang Lee was director, I knew he’d nail it.

The story is of a shipwrecked boy named Pi, sharing a life raft with a tiger named Richard Parker. And so much more. This story to me is all about choosing to believe versus choosing not to – be it in God, in magic, in journeys, in life. Sure, you can believe that life is nothing more than the cells we are made up of, and when we die, we die. Or you can believe that life is a fantastic journey, rich in detail, strife, love, endurance. Which is the better story? This is the simple question the story asks.

At the end of the movie, Pi is recuperating in the hospital when some insurance adjusters come to find out why the boat sunk. Pi tells them his incredible story, which meets with stares and more questions. They want the truth, they say, just the facts. Why did the boat sink? I don’t know why the boat sunk, says Pi, but he gives them what they want and retells the story starkly. It’s not just dull, it’s torpid. In the end, even the insurance adjusters chose to believe.

LifeOfPi_Still

As an animal lover, I have to say: That poor zebra. That awful hyena. And Orange Juice, the orangutan, gets dispatched way too early. But how magnificent Richard Parker is! And those flying fish! And the jellies!

As much as this review is of a marvelous book and movie, I feel I have to put it in context. I went to see it with my husband, who knew only that I loved the book, my 15-year-old daughter, and my 62-year-old sister-in-law, who is a minister. An interesting group of people, one a focus group would almost hand select to see this movie. We all found it amazing. And we are all going back next weekend to see it in 3D!

5 out of 5 reels

– review by Sarah McNeil


Hitchcock

Director: Sacha Gervasi
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, James D’Arcy, Jessica Biel

Hitchcock is a love story between one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), and his wife and partner Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). It’s set during the making of Psycho, and it also explored how Hitchcock came into working on what ended up being his most successful film.

I’m not familiar with the filmmaker and so the strong influence of his wife was quite eye-opening. In fact, Mirren has quite a substantial role here and this film explores the side of Hitchcock, most people perhaps aren’t familiar with. Apparently it was quite a tumultuous journey to bring Psycho to the screen and a lot of personal sacrifices had to be made. I always like getting a glimpse of the making of a classic, how films get made back in the day, the relationship between actors and the studio, etc. That’s the part that I find amusing with My Week with Marilyn.

In any biopic, especially someone as well-known as Hitchcock, the makeup is crucial. At times Hopkins’ look is distracting as he doesn’t seem to look quite right to me, like he’s always high-strung or something. After a while though, I managed to just accept that he’s Hitchcock and concentrate on the story, but perhaps having an unknown in that role might’ve worked better.

The casting of Helen Mirren is the main reason to see it for me. The dame is always so watchable and has always been a highlight in everything she’s done. Not only is she beautiful and still has a killer figure for being 3 years shy of 70, but she has that screen prowess like no other. I love all the scenes Alma is in, especially the part where she passionately gave her husband a piece of her mind during a heated argument.

Hitchcock_Still1

As for the rest of the supporting cast. Well, initially I wasn’t too fond of Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh (I think she’s perhaps more suitable to play Jayne Mansfield?) but she turned out to be ok and the filming of the shower scene where she was screaming her head off was quite the highlight. The scene of Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy) meeting with Hitchcock is strangely amusing, it’s quite clear in that scene why Perkins was perfect for the role. There’s also a revelatory scene involving Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), albeit a brief one, that hints on Hitchcock’s unhealthy obsession with his leading lady. One of the most curious thing is the character of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) as the Wisconsin serial killer who’s the inspiration for Psycho’s protagonist Norman Bates. I think their relationship was supposed to be a metaphor — the way Hitchcock seems to be consulting Gein as if he were his therapist, etc. — but it’s not entirely clear to me. Aside from the two leads though, there’s little to no depth in the supporting characters for you to care for them.

I think it’s wise that the film focuses on a specific time frame of Hitchcock’s life, but even so, given the brief 1 hr and 38 minute running time, it still feels a little rushed at times. Tonally this film seems rather off as well, it doesn’t quite work as a drama or comedy and there’s little emotional resonance overall. Perhaps mischievous is the word that comes to mind to describe this film, which I suppose is appropriate given the subject matter.

Just for the record, I actually have not seen Psycho so I was a bit worried that this biopic might be a bit lost on me, but fortunately, the film is more about Alfred and Alma than it is about the film. Perhaps people who are avid Hitchcock fans might appreciate it more though, so I’m curious to hear what they think of this film.

Hitchcock_Still2

So overall, I’m glad I knew a bit more about this iconic filmmaker and how much his wife played a part in his career. However, the film is a bit too uneven and not substantial enough to be all that memorable. Still, I find it amusing and certainly worth a look for anyone who’s seen at least one Hitchcock film.

..

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


Thoughts on any one of these films? Well, let’s hear it!

The Flix List: First Impression from Second Stringers

Greetings all and sundry. Allow me a few moments of your time to delve into an area first experienced as a child. That has reliably borne fruit for more than a few decades. The excitement of seeing a fresh face for the first time plying his or her craft and watching them swing for the fences. Or not. But leaving something worthwhile and memorable in that first meeting. To plant a seed and look for and sometimes anticipate a second or third meeting and follow their careers in cinematic story telling.

To that end, I’ve assembled ten then novitiates. Their initial roles that sparked my interest and where their talents and career have taken them since then.

First Impressions from Second Stringers.


10. Lee Marvin

First caught my attention in a brief, sometimes scary role as a sweaty greasy spoon fry cook with a secret life in a no budget, 1955 Red Scare film titled ‘Shack Out on 101′. Not surprising, Mr. Marvin’s character was named ‘Slob’ and he lived up to that name with disgustingly carefree glee. Going out of his way to provoke fights, when not trying to force himself on his boss’s wife as she sunbathes in a cove around Big Sur.

There was something shocking, vile and oddly intriguing and admirable in watching an actor be so free and comfortable in his own lean, leathery, sinewed skin while playing someone so intimidating and revolting. Traits that would rise again in ‘The Wild One’,  ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’, ‘The Big Heat’,’The Caine Mutiny’ and ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’. Later toned it down for  ‘Point Blank’, ‘Hell in the Pacific’, ‘Emperor of the North’ and ‘The Professionals’. Then turned it inside out for his split roles as Kid Sheleen and Strawn in ‘Cat Ballou’.

9. Patricia Neal

First crossed my path as a roving radio show interviewer in ‘A Face in the Crowd’ from 1957. Where she crosses the path of drunken, itinerant hobo, Larry ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes (Andy Griffith) and is quite taken by his talents, down home humor and prowess at spinning yarns (Story Telling). Soon sees him as her ticket out of the backwater sticks of Arkansas while slowly falling under his Svengali charms. Ms. Neal’s Marcia Jeffries shows vulnerability while trying to keep Rhodes in check from being an aspiring, corrupt Senator’s front man. Then steels herself to sabotage Rhodes after his appearance on a local television show. With an open microphone as Rhodes displays his contempt for others. In Elia Kazan’s scathing opus to the marketing of  modern politics.

With such a powerful introduction, it’s always been fun when Ms. Neal shows up in a film. Sometimes as a leading lady and holding her own opposite Paul Newman in ‘Hud’.  Or John Wayne in ‘Operation Pacific’ and ‘In Harm’s Way’. Though more often in a secondary player. As in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’.

8. James Coburn

I have low budget master of Randolph Scott westerns, Budd Boetticher to thank for having Mr. Coburn show up on Saturday afternoons after chores were done. Tall, lean with ropy arms and a watchful, quiet demeanor as Whit. The second or third Right Hand Man of black hatted and attired, Pernell Roberts’ bad guy, Sam Boone in ‘Ride Lonesome’ from 1959.

There was something about Mr. Coburn. Taller than Lee Marvin, though possessing the same cat~like fluidity of movement with just a bit of Steve McQueen cool and swagger. Easily holding the camera through countless television episodes and small, then larger roles in films. Before finding his niche as knife throwing Britt in ‘The Magnificent Seven’. A film that launched many careers. With Mr. Coburn backing up Mr. McQueen in ‘Hell Is for Heroes’ and ‘The Great Escape’. Then carrying along opposite James Garner in ‘The Americanization of Emily’ in 1964 and Charlton Heston in ‘Major Dundee’ a year later.

Deftly switching to comedy and expanding his coolness factor as Derek Flint in two films. When not playing high end thieves in ‘Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round’, ‘Duffy’ and ‘Waterhole #3′ and finally as ‘The President’s Analyst’. Before delivering what is quite possibly his best performance in Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’. Then becoming the Actor Emeritus in far too many television show, made for TV and big screens movies to count.

7. Ellen Page

An actress who came completely out of left field as a red hooded 14 year old gamine with an agenda in 2005’s Hard Candy’. A small budgeted independent revenge film from 2005 that deals with Pedophilia and the death of Ms. Page’s Haley Stark’s best friend,  Donna Maurer. Who had come to a grisly end after meeting an older (32 years old) man at a local coffee shop.

What struck me about Ms. Page’s performance is the sophistication and maturity of thought brought to the fore from the film’s opening scene. Where Haley is chatting on the same site last used by Donna. Setting up the mark, Jeff (Patrick Wilson), who is a lot less clever and more vulnerable, due possibly to repetition  than he thinks he is. They meet. Seduction occurs with the aide of some doctored Screwdrivers. Jeff comes to and finds himself tied to a wheeled computer chair and the games begin!

Psychological for the most part. Humiliating and demeaning as Haley stays three moves ahead. Holds all the trump cards. And twists Jeff into all sorts of contortions before the inevitable happens and Haley walks away. Perhaps satisfied. Perhaps towardsher next victim.

A performance like that immediately put Ms. Page on my radar. Though she made a quite serviceable Kitty Pride and ‘Shadowcat’ in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’. It was her later performance in ‘Juno’ a year later that reinforced my belief that I was watching an exceptional talent. Holding her own in the world of Austin, Texas Roller Derby in ‘Whip It’ before finally coming to play with Chris Nolan and the big boys. As maze mistress, and architect, Ariadne in ‘Inception‘.

6. Joe Mantegna

If there ever was a guy made to add gravitas to the words of David Mamet. It’s this guy, right here! My first impasse with Mr. Mantegna was in 1987 in the film, ‘House of Games’. Mamet’s directorial debut into the sometimes seamy, sometimes glitzy world of mid range grifters and con men. Amongst the smoke hazed, grimy dives and pool halls and elegant hotels around Seattle. Where Mr. Mantegna’s ‘Mike’ is the smooth, suave, undisputed King of his crew. Who happens across an icy, though slowly thawing psychiatrist, Margaret Ford. Flawlessly played by Lindsay Crouse. Who seeks out Mike to intervene in a $25,000 gambling debt owed by one of her patients.

Knowing a mark when he sees one, Mike takes Margaret through a tentative tour and taste of his world. Which she seems to like. Aiding Mike in a relatively high stakes poker game by flirting and spotting the ‘tells’ of the other players. Then deflating the bravado of one player who tries to steal the huge pot with the aid of a leaking Luger squirt gun. The hook is sunken deep as Margaret forgets her patients and proves to be just as obsessive and compulsive as the people she writes about in her best selling books. Helping out in another larger con that doesn’t go to the script. The wheels come off and Mike and Margaret have a final fatal tête-à-tête in an airport luggage dock before Mike tries to flee.

Mr. Mantegna’s Mike put the actor high up on my ‘To Watch List’. Where his versatility shone through as a sympathetic Mafia gofer, Jerry. Opposite Don Ameche in another Mamet gem, Things Change’ a year later. Hitting a solid double as Joey Zasa in the less than great ‘Godfather: Part III’ in 1990. Then knocking it out of the park as Baltimore Homicide Detective Bobby Gold in the Mamet written and directed ‘Homicide’. Who has a moment of clarity and faith regarding his religion while taking down on the run street thug, drug dealer and cop killer, Randolph; wondrously played by Ving Rhames.

Then rising again like a Phoenix in ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’ in 1993. As every day dad and sports writer, Fred Waitzkin. Whose very young son, Josh is an undiscovered Chess prodigy. Regularly winning against all comers. Either in Central Park or musty inner sanctum clubs. Dividing his time between hustler, Laurence Fishburne and Chess Master, Bruce Pandolfini. Played humorlessly by Ben Kingsley. Fred recognizes Josh’s talents as Quality Time is made during trips and tournaments in a surprisingly humane, family friendly film. Where the grown up behave as grown ups and Max Pomeranc’s Josh behaves exactly as a kid would. Showing great potential while nonchalantly stealing every scene he’s in!

Mr. Mantegna’s later work in television, mini series, made for TV movies and voice acting speaks for itself. Though he seems to have revisited and expounded upon his every dad, Fred. As Detective Will Girardi in CBS’s ‘Joan of Arcadia’ from 2003 to 2005.

5. Ellen Barkin

First caught my eye and attention as the hard as nails, cold as ice leader of a smash and grab diamond crew, Sunny Boyd, in Walter Hill’s 1989 Neo~Noir ‘Johnny Handsome’. Sashaying into a local merchant’s shop, distractingly resplendent in low cut, tight black leather. Before pistol whipping the owner and smashing display cases as Lance Henricksen, Scott Wilson and a grossly disfigured Mickey Rourke (Johnny) fleece the place clean. Before an alarm sounds, and Johnny is shot and left for dead.

Thus begins a very well and frugally executed tale of revenge. As Johnny is convicted and sent to a Louisiana penal farm. Where he is shanked and sent to the hospital to be patched up and eventually given a new face, courtesy of Forrest Whittaker. A liberal facial surgeon with a large grant in need of a Guinea Pig. Johnny is released with a new name and face and a job on the docks that allow him to split his time from nice girl, Donna McCarty (Elizabeth McGovern) and trying to connect with Sunny and Rafe (Henricksen).

Sunny is at first intrigued by Johnny. Even more so as Johnny slips and has trouble keeping his stories straight. Setting the stage for a moonlit and street lamp slashed showdown as Morgan Freeman’s Lt. A. Z. Drones knowingly looks on.

One heck of an introduction to an actress who would dominate the Bad Girl/Femme Fatale arena for five years with ‘Sea of Love’ and ‘Bad Company’. Then turning on a dime and delivering a klutzi-ly believable turn as lecherous Perry King stuck inside a stiletto heeled, gorgeous blonde’s body in Blake Edwards’ ‘Switch’ from 1991. Watching Ms. Barkin struggle in spikes and short or pencil skirts is well seeking out or worth the price of admission.

Which caused a search for Ms. Barkin’s earlier works. Where she established herself as the damaged relation in ‘Tender Mercies’ and Lumet’s take on the surviving son of the Rosenberg Trial in ‘Daniel’ from 1983. Where Ms. Barkin played Timothy Hutton’s radical wife, Phyllis. Then keeping busy as the smart woman reporter in ‘Eddie and the Crusiers’ and damsel in distress in ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Across the 8th Dimension’ the following year. Before switching up to be the determined District Attorney wanting to lock up possibly corrupt New Orleans  Detective, Dennis Quaid in ‘The Big Easy’ in 1986.

Creating a body of work that began with Barry Levinson’s ‘Diner’ in 1982 and has branched out into television and a return to the Bad Girl in ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ in 2007. And ‘Operation: Endgame’ in 2010.
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4. Michael Ironside

Arrived without preamble in the role of troubled psychic, Darryl Revock in David Cronenberg’s ‘Scanners’ way back in 1981. Looking about as anonymous and harmless as a career postman. Sitting in a small audience while listening to a lecturer. Until veins begin sticking out on Revock’s neck and forehead and one lecturer’s head explode!

That, friends and neighbors, is an Entrance! The opening act of an intriguing little gem by a budding master of the odd, weird and often creepy. That pits good people with extrasensory powers against Revock and his band of equally gifted evil doers. All quite possibly the victims of Thalidomide like mutations before birth. At the hands of chemical corporate head, Patrick McGoohan. With Mr.Ironside shining throughout as his megalomania begins controlling his actions. For a final showdown with his half brother and good Scanner, Stephen Lack.

More than enough to look for Mr. Ironside in a few low budget films and a guest spot on ‘Hill Street Blues’ before coming under the attention of US audiences as recurring bad guy, Ham Tyler in NBC’s sci-fi lizard series, ‘V’ in 1984. Which set the stage for his roles as humorless Aggressor Pilot, Jester in ‘Top Gun’ in 1986. And corrupt and sweaty Colonel Paul Hackett in Walter Hill’s modern western Guy Flick, ‘Extreme Prejudice’ the next year. Staying in medium budgeted film-dom before achieving near cult status as Lt. Jean Rasczak in Paul Verhoeven’s take on Robert Heinlein’s ‘Starship Troopers’ in 1987. And corporate henchman, Richter in ‘Total Recall’ in 1990. Keeping his hand in both film and television before finding a lucrative niche as a voice actor for Warner Brothers animation.

3. Frances McDormand

Allow me to posit a question to the ladies. If you were part owner in a kind of sleazy Texas road house, married to and sharing your bed with an even sleazier Dan Hadaya. Would you not want to find a lover, who’s clever, yet easily tempted and manipulated into murdering Dan?

That’s where Frances McDorman finds herself in this debut role as Abby in the Coen brothers’ first film ‘Blood Simple’. A gritty, sometimes sweaty Neo~Noir from 1984, where everyone is out to kill everyone. Abby wants to off Dan’s character, Julian Marty. Who has already hired the rarely slimier M. Emmett Walsh to get incriminating photos of Abby and her lover, Ray (John Getz). Who works as a bartender at the road house.

It soon becomes a question of which is cheaper for Marty, murder or divorce? Quickly answered when Ray quits and Marty calls Walsh’s Loren Visser to seal the deal while Marty is away fishing in Corpus Christi. Half of the payment is given. With the promise to pay the other half when Marty returns.

Visser breaks in while Abby and Ray are busy. Then waits until after the festivities to steal Abby’s shiny .32 revolver. Meets Marty the following night and shoots him twice. Setting up a double or triple cross while taking his payment, but leaving his lighter at the scene of the crime. Comes the morning and Ray finds Marty slumped in a chair and prepares to bury the slowest dying man in Texas and possibly, cinema history in a remote field. Ray returns to Abby to tell her that he’s ‘cleaned up her mess’ and the fireworks begin. Interrupted by a call from Visser that sets the groundwork for a great, shadowy game of extortion and cat and mouse.

What raised my eyebrow about Ms. McDormand was her unremarkable normality as Abby. Not stunningly beautiful or crafty or even beguiling at first sight. Abby’s just a wife in a possibly abusive, violent marriage who has had enough and has found a way out. Though the sly and crafty come out once Visser starts cleaning up loose ends.

Bits of Abby showed through in her six episode role as Officer Connie Chapman in the fifth season of ‘Hill Street Blues’. Where a lot of big named, contemporary talent got started and noticed. Before taking on the quirky, comedic role of Dot opposite an even quirkier, hard luck Nicholas Cage in ‘Raising Arizona’. Honing her talents in ‘Mississippi Burning’, ‘Chattahoochee’, Darkman’ and a cameo as the Mayor’s secretary in ‘Miller’s Crossing‘. Keeping busy on stage and television before given the plum role of pregnant local cop, Marge Gunderson in ‘Fargo’ and OCD, compulsive game stat freak, Bunny in John Sayle’s ‘Lone Star’ in 1996. Holding her own in other films and embracing her inner, no nonsense uber Mom, Elaine Miller in ‘Almost Famous’ in 2000. Then returning as Billy Bob Thornton’s wife, Doris in The Man Who Wasn’t There’. And Christian Bale’s super hot, record producing mom in ‘Laurel Canyon’ the following year.

Ms. McDormand seems to be blessed with talents and beauty that have become more pronounced and elegant with time, like fine wine. Whether in dramatic or comedic roles. Her subtlety and ease makes for great entertainment!

2. Gene Hackman

Crossed my path when I was in my early teens. On an episode of NBC’s ‘I Spy’. Where this kind of dumpy, thinning haired nobody wanted to blow up a mid tiered US diplomat in Mexico by planting a Nitroglycerine bomb in a Pinata for the diplomat’s son’s birthday party. There was something about this nobody’s voice, attitude and the confident, easy way he carried himself. That had me rooting for him. Even as he was being chased down by Robert Culp and Bill Cosby through some aged ruins before the final shoot out and explosion at the story’s end. Something to make me look for his name in the final credits and remember it for future reference.

Which didn’t take long. A double feature of ‘Bonnie and Clyde‘ and ‘Bullitt’ sealed the deal. Mr. Hackman’s older brother, Buck was a slob in the classic Eli Wallach mode. The kind of guy you could dress up in an expensive suit and tie and still come up far short. Yet easily comfortable in his own and character’s skin. A trait that would show up repeatedly in smaller ensemble films that made money, though many have forgotten. ‘Riot’, ‘The Gypsy Moths’, ‘Downhill Racer’ and ‘Marooned’ in 1969. With a side trip to period pieces, ‘I Never Sang for My Father’ and The Hunting Party’ filled time before the role of NY Detective Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle planted Mr. Hackman on the map with William Friedkin’s procedural masterpiece, ‘The French Connection‘ in 1971.

Though the plump, fat roles didn’t arrive right way, his quality of cast improved with ‘Cisco Pike’ (Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black). ‘Prime Cut’ (Lee Marvin). ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ (Everyone), ‘Scarecrow’ (Al Pacino). Which led to his most understated role as surveillance demi-God, Harry Caul in Coppola’s ‘The Conversation’ in 1974 (The film was robbed at that year’s Oscars!). Which sent Mr. Hackman back to ensemble gems, ‘Young Frankenstein’, a much more personal. ‘French Connection II’. Plus a standout performance as a Chandler~esque private eye in Arthur Penn’s ‘Night Moves’ and ‘Bite the Bullet’ in 1975. Then taking a crack at recruited convict turned assassin, Roy Tucker in Stanley Kramer’s ‘The Domino Principle’ in 1977.

Comedy seems to have come late to Mr. Hackman as Suerman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor before turning up opposite Nick Nolte in Robert Spottiswoode’s Nicaraguan uprising, ‘Under Fire’ and as the bank roller of the Vietnam POW rescue film, ‘Uncommon Valor’ throughout 1983.

The roles continued to arrive at a pace where Mr. Hackman would seem to fade from the spotlight. Then find a role to put him back squarely in the spotlight. In either the lead or a supporting role. Very much like Sean Connery before him. Making films much more memorable with his presence. Specifically, ‘Hoosiers’, ‘Mississippi Burning’, ‘Unforgiven’, ‘Crimson Tide’, David Mamet’s ‘Heist’ and a fine comedic turn in ‘The Royal Tennebaums’.

A consummate character actor who worked his way through the system to achieve his rightful place high in the firmament!
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1. Helen Mirren

The woman who near silently beguiled me as Bob Hoskins’ love interest, Victoria. In the east End, London docks thriller. ‘The Long Good Friday’ from 1980. Mixing poise, polish. yet subtle and unadulterated sex appeal. Ms. Mirren held the camera’s attention no matter where she was placed in a scene. Rarely showing vulnerability and creating the perfect foil for Hoskins’ Harold Shand. Lifelong thug and survivor with grand dreams of criminal enterprise along the Thames.

That performance helped me understand why and how the Brits do some genres of films so much better than we in the states. Less is often more. And that was writ large in my next encounter. In a small, little known gem titled ‘Cal’ four years later. Where Ms. Mirren taps into vast wells of vulnerability as Marcella. A recent widow whose husband, a Protestant policeman was killed by the IRA. And who slowly falls in love with her husband’s killer. Young and on the run first timer, Cal. Then turning in a better than serviceable role as Russian Science Officer and Pilot Tanya Kirbuk opposite Roy Scheider and John Lithgow in Peter Hyams’ decent ‘2001’ sequel, ‘2010’ the same year.

From there it was as Georgina Spica, in Peter Greenway’s ‘The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover’ from 1989. And onto a role that would make her and her character, DCI Jane Tennyson in Grenada Televison’s series of ‘Prime Suspect’ films. When not busy playing Queen Charlotte in ‘The Madness of King George’ in 1994. And Mrs. Wilson in Robert Altman’s ‘Gosford Park’ in 2001. Soaring into the stratosphere of title and talent by becoming Dame Helen Mirren, while taking on the role of Chris in Nigel Cole’s ‘Calendar Girls’ in 2003. Then playing Elizabeth II in Stephen Frear’s epitome of sublime pomp and formality, ‘The Queen’ in 2005. Then turn in strong performances in ‘The Debt‘ and as Prospera in ‘The Tempest’ in 2010. Before taking on a dry, prim comedic tone as retired assassin, Victoria. The most alluring woman ever behind a Browning M-2 Heavy Barreled Machine Gun, Sniper’s Rifle, or an elegantly compact Uzi sub machine gun, in ‘Red‘.


Check out Jack’s profile page and links to his other reviews



Well, what do you think of  these actors? Feel free to share which film(s) you first saw them in.

FlixChatter Review: The Debt

It’s nice to see a film you’ve been anticipating actually meets your expectation. I’ve been waiting to see The Debt for quite a while, and when Miramax studio was shut down by Disney last January 2010, I feared that this movie would’ve gone straight to DVD. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, so as soon as the film was released here, I went to see it on opening night.

I love the fact that they put Dame Helen Mirren front and center on the poster, that definitely appealed to me because she is an actor I admire and also because I always love to see a strong female protagonist on film.

The story takes place in flashback mode in the year 1965, when three young Israeli Mossad agents were sent on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Thirty years later, a man claiming to be the very same Nazi surgeon Dieter Vogel has surfaced in the Ukraine and the former agents must figure out what to do with such revelation that threatens their current reputation.

Moviegoers have seen a fair share of Nazi thrillers to date, but I’d say The Debt has got something different to offer and British director John Madden’s direction keeps the suspense going right up until the end. Even the more mellow moments when they’re holding the criminal captive, the tension doesn’t let up. The look of the movie is gritty and realistic, and the younger actors capture that sense of dread and anxiety convincingly.

It’s especially interesting to see three pairs of actors playing the older and younger versions of the same character: David Peretz (Ciarán Hinds/Sam Worthington), Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson/Marton Csokas) and Rachel Singer (Mirren/Chastain). Despite Worthington not resembling Hinds at all, it didn’t really matter in the end as the actors did a good job keeping the integrity of the characters.

Apart from Mirren, the younger actors had more to do in this film as they carry out their mission. The retro scenes were full of edge-of-your-seat moments, especially the scenes in the hospital. I’m not undermining what the two male agents did, but really, Rachel no doubt has the most difficult assignment out of the three, pretending to be a patient of the guy they’re trying to capture who’s working as an gynecologist (’nuff said). Danish actor Jesper Christensen as the sinister Vogel is evil through and through, right up there with Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List.

There is a bit of an unrequited love story interwoven into the espionage plot, but it actually serves the story, so it isn’t just there for the sake of softening things up. I really feel for the characters and I’m glad to say that Worthington is actually more expressive than I’ve seen him in previous films. The rest of the cast are excellent all around, especially Mirren in the last 20 minutes or so. The last scene was brilliantly filmed as Madden kept us guessing for what about to unfold. Let’s just say the film ended with bang that made me jump out of my seat. As I’ve mentioned here, this is the first time I saw Jessica Chastain on screen and I must say I’m quite impressed with her. I look forward to seeing her other movies, which are quite a few in this year alone: The Help, Tree of Life and the upcoming Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus.

I highly recommend this film for anyone, even those who normally isn’t into Nazi thrillers like this. The violence are unflinching at times but not overly gory. The story itself is intriguing and the dialog is sharp and intelligent, which is no surprise considering it was written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class). I don’t even mind renting this one again when it’s out on DVD. It’s not every day I come across a solid espionage thriller that’s as taut and well-acted as this one.

4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen this film? I’d love to hear what you think.

The Flix List: Top Ten Favorite Seasoned Actors

In an industry seemingly obsessed with youth, the world of cinema is actually quite forgiving to those suffering from the inevitable phenomenon called aging. I mean, compared to another lucrative career such as sports, where athletes are forced to retire well before they reach ‘middle aged’ period, there are plenty of opportunities for actors not only to survive in the business but continue to thrive despite their age. In fact, a select few are akin to fine wine… they just get even better with age. Not just in their looks mind you (though indeed some still look smashing in their 60s), but professionally, they’re still relevant and consistently churn out compelling performances. These thespians have the dignity to always do their best, never appear as if they’re ‘phoning it in’ just because they can.

I still think there ought to be far more interesting roles for older actors though, and not just those relegated to supporting categories. There’s a market for it obviously, look at the success for RED and Gran Torino, whose leading cast are all way past AARP eligible age. I for one would love to see more love stories in the vein of Last Chance Harvey than something like oh, I dunno, Something Borrowed.

It’s really tough to whittle it down to just ten as I generally like older actors than the those below 25, my criteria for picking these ten are that they are all over 60 years of age, they’ve done quite a few roles that have become my all-time favorites and they’re still working in the business today (hence my exclusion of Sean Connery, whom I like but unfortunately he’s already retired from acting).

So anyway, here they are in alphabetical order:

1. Michael Caine, 78

It’s Sir Michael to us, folks. The tall, bespectacled English gent is more than just a screen legend, he’s practically an pop culture icon. His distinctive manner of speaking is a popular subject used by impressionists and mimics, but he’s such a good sport about the whole thing which makes me like him more. He’s got over one hundred movies and TV works under his belt, with no signs of slowing down (he’s got four upcoming movies in the next couple of years, five if you’re counting voice work for Cars 2).

Top 3 Fave Michael Caine roles: Alfred in Chris Nolan’s Batman flicks, Cutter in The Prestige, Jasper in Children of Men

2. Timothy Dalton, 65

It would be unthinkable for me to have this kind of list and not include Dalton. Whoever wrote his IMDb page is spot on… “At a consistently lean 6′ 2″, green-eyed Timothy Dalton may very well be one of the last of the dying breed of swashbuckling, classically trained Shakespearean actors…” He’s got the looks, talent, and not to mention that iconic silky, throaty voice.

Sure he may not be the most prolific in his later years, but the dashing Welshman has done so many iconic roles in his career: Bond, Rochester, Julius Caesar, even Rhett Butler in the ill-advised Gone with the Wind follow-up Scarlett. His Bond and Jane Eyre’s Rochester renditions are my absolute favorite from each of the franchise, but his bad boy roles are also memorable: Flash Gordon‘s Prince Barin, Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer and Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz. With his recent stint in NBC’s Chuck and The Tourist, it proves that he’s still got it. I only hope he’d get a leading role in the future worthy of his charisma and talent!

Top 3 Fave Timothy Dalton roles: Rochester in 1983 BBC Jane Eyre miniseries, Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer, Eddie Myers in Framed.
,,,

3. Judi Dench, 77

The grand Dame has sheer screen presence despite her 5’1″ frame that she often plays strong female characters. I first saw her as M in Goldeneye, the first female portraying the 007 character. I love her tough-as-nails performance… who told Bond straight on that he’s a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur.’ Oh and this quote from Tomorrow Never Dies has got to be my favorite from M in all of the Bond movies:
..
Admiral Roebuck: With all due respect M, sometimes I don’t think you have the balls for this job.”
M: “Perhaps. But the advantage is that I don’t have to think with them all the time.”

She is of course equally compelling in period dramas, i.e. as Queen Victoria in her Oscar-nominated turn in Mrs. Brown, and who else could nab an Oscar for being on screen for merely 8 minutes!

Top 3 Fave Judi Dench roles: Queen Victoria in Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, M in Bond movies, Eleanor in A Room with a View.
sss…

4. Clint Eastwood, 80

There’s no stopping Mr. Eastwood, who despite hitting the big 8-0, there’s no sign of slowing down! He’s got one of the most varied and rich career of any actor that seem to transcend generations. Having been famous for his bad ass roles like Dirty Harry, he’s become more successful as a director, winning 2 Oscars for directing Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, two completely different genres no less. I actually haven’t seen either one of them as they’re not my cup of tea, but I’ve seen enough of his other great work to consider him on this list. Oh, as if he weren’t a triple threat already, the pianist and composer is also a darn good singer, as displayed in Paint Your Wagon and in the credits of Gran Torino.

Top 3 Fave Clint Eastwood’s work: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Director) , Frank Horrigan in In The Line of Fire, Robert Kincaid in The Bridges of Madison County

5. Harrison Ford, 69

Ok so Cowboys & Aliens failed to ignite at the box office this past weekend, but I doubt it’ll make a dent in his amazing Hollywood career. Ford is a cinematic icon, having played so many classic roles, including my all time favorite, Indiana Jones (have you voted in his b’day poll yet?) Btw, I had just seen The Conversation where he had a minor role, that movie was released 37 years ago and it struck me how much Ford ages well. I like Ford in both his action as well as dramatic roles, recently I rewatched Regarding Henry as it was on TV and I was so moved by it — it’s perhaps his most underrated roles as he didn’t garner any awards for that nuanced performance.
,,,The Chicago-native reportedly just signed on to do another cowboy role as an aging gunfighter Wyatt Earp in Black Hats, set in 1920s New York (per THR)

Top 3 Fave Harrison Ford roles: Indiana Jones, Henry Turner in Regarding Henry, Linus Larabee in Sabrina (1995)
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6. Morgan Freeman, 74

The first time I saw Mr. Freeman was in Street Smart with Christopher Reeve, this was at the time I was crushing on Superman so I watched everything he’s in. I didn’t like the movie but Freeman gave an Oscar-worthy performance in his first nomination (he went on to garner four more nods in his career). I absolutely adore his role as Lucius in Nolan’s Batman films, a man of gravitas who also provides comic relief effortlessly. His scenes with Bruce Wayne in both Nolan’s Batman movies are always the major highlights as they have such a great rapport. Freeman is perhaps best known for his dramatic performance in Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, but the Memphis-born actor also shows he’s got comic skills in Maiden Heist and RED.

Top 3 Fave Morgan Freeman roles: Lucius Fox in Chris Nolan’s Batman flicks, Red in Shawshank Redemption, Nelson Mandela in Invictus.
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7. Ed Harris, 61

I don’t know what it is about Ed Harris but I always enjoy seeing him on screen, even when he’s playing an unsympathetic character. Perhaps it’s his soulful eyes or his seemingly unruffled demeanor. Ted just posted the box office misfire article where he mentioned about The Abyss. I really like that film largely because of Harris’ performance, and I could say the same thing about a lot of the movies he’s in. I like the fact that he’s also a family man, having been married to the same woman since 1983.

Top 3 Fave Ed Harris roles: Bud Brigman in The Abyss, Christof in The Truman Show, Mr. Smith in The Way Back
,,,

8. Anthony Hopkins, 74

Hopkins first scared the pants out of me when I saw Silence of the Lambs in the theater (what was I thinking?) But the beauty of the Welsh actor is that in the movies that follow, he easily disappeared into his roles that I wasn’t ‘haunted’ by Hannibal Lecter every time he appeared on screen. Apparently Sir Laurence Olivier himself discovered him, who invited him to join The National Theatre in 1965 (per IMDb). I suppose it takes one to know one, as both are über talented Oscar winners who are easily one of the greatest actors in of their respective generation.

Top 3 Fave Anthony Hopkins roles: James Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Ludlow in Legends of the Fall, Don Diego de la Vega in The Mask of Zorro.

9. Helen Mirren, 66

I’ve mentioned her a lot on this blog so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I adore this classy lady. Mirren is one of those rare beauty who doesn’t let age get in the way of her inherent sensuality. My friend Vince recommended Excalibur to me where Mirren played a seductive temptress and seeing her most recently in State of Play, it’s clear she hasn’t lost that twinkle in her eye. She can also play buttoned-up obviously, having won all kinds of awards for playing the title role in The Queen. I haven’t seen Calendar Girls yet but I’ll be sure to get to that soon.

Top 3 Fave Helen Mirren roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen, Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station, Victoria in RED.

10. Alan Rickman, 65

Last but definitely not least. Again, no surprise as I’ve mentioned him a lot… just yesterday I was raving about his performance as Snape in the Harry Potter movies. That accent with that inimitable delivery… like Dalton, one of the best thing about this Londoner is his silky voice. He’s got quite a female following and I’m not at all surprised. His role as Col. Brandon alone earns him a place on this list, but he’s also fantastic in almost everything he’s in. I also think he should do more comedy as he was such a hoot in Galaxy Quest. It’s funny that I actually first saw Rickman in Truly Madly Deeply when my ESL teacher invited her foreign students to her home, and at the time I wasn’t at all interested. Only later on that I realized it was Rickman as the romantic ghost Jamie.

Top 3 Fave Alan Rickman roles: Col. Brandon in Sense & Sensibility, Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, Severus Snape in Harry Potter franchise.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • Jim Broadbent, 62
  • Brian Cox, 65
  • Ian McKellen, 72
  • Vanessa Redgrave, 74
  • Tom Wilkinson, 63

I feel like I could’ve made this into a top 20, but now it’s your turn. Who are your favorite seasoned thespians?

FlixChatter Review: RED

I saw this back in August on an advance screening. Before the movie began, they told us that the special effect wasn’t final yet, but I didn’t really mind as the main draw for me to see this is the cast, mainly Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, AND John Malkovich. I thought that even if the story is crappy, the cast would still make it entertaining. Glad to say I was right, and the story actually isn’t too bad.

RED is a rowdy and facetious espionage action comedy. As I learned when I posted the trailer, apparently the decidedly the movie is a far cry from the ultra-violent Warren Elis’ comic series. The movie also expands the focus from Frank Moses (or Paul in the comic, played by Willis) to include Freeman’s, Mirren’s and Malkovich’s characters: Joe, Victoria and Marvin.

The four former CIA top agents have all (except Marvin) seemed to settle in their retirement life. Frank leads a pretty boring life in the suburbs all by himself, with only Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) from the federal pension-benefits office keeping him company via phone conversations. Suddenly, his peace and quiet existence is interrupted by a covert strike from a group of special forces. Willis can pretty much do this type of role in his sleep, channeling his Die Hard‘s John McClane, only with a slightly more deadpan mannerism, as he takes out every single one of his attacker with ease.

Soon we learn that the fact that he knew too much, the Agency wants him and his friends dead. So Frank goes on the road to find them, but not before he finds Sarah, as he reckons they will also target those close to him. Inevitably she gets entangled into the whole spy business as the team must use their collective experience to stay one step ahead of the people after them and expose the government’s conspiracy cover-up.

Parker is pretty funny as the befuddled Sarah who soon becomes Frank’s enthusiastic ally in his mission. I suppose if I’m chained to my desk at work daily, I’d be as eager to live it up a bit. Morgan Freeman, who’s as adept in comedy as he is in dramatic fares, also brings in the laughs in most scenes he’s in, including one where he gleefully ogles the retirement home nurse as she fixes the TV.  Looks like Joe is the most comfortable with his retirement life. Now Marvin on the other hand, hasn’t moved on much from his old life. He lives on an underground bunker and is extremely high on conspiracy theories—a result of years CIA’s LSD experiments, Frank tells Sarah. Malkovich relish his inherent nuttiness with panache. He’s truly a great comic relief, as he often is, and his over-the-top acting is put to good use here.

Dame Mirren doesn’t show up until about 45 min to an hour into the movie, but when she does, it’s such a treat! Her Victoria is a classy lady who seemingly enjoy her Martha-Stewart-like activities. But she too never quite gets over the high of being a spy, and confesses to Frank that she still takes contract jobs on the side. One of the movie’s highlights are the shootout scene from a hotel’s kitchen to the parking garage, it’s such a hoot seeing Dame Mirren dressed in a cocktail dress going all trigger happy with that big machine gun!! Her bad assery is a real scene stealer. She was quoted at ComicCon saying “It was great to have guns instead of words, …because long speeches are harder.” (per MTV blog) Methinks the dame ought to do more action movies! :)

Oh did I mention the Scottish thespian Brian Cox also co-stars? He plays Mirren’s Russian love interest, who’s also Frank’s former arch nemesis. And 90-something Ernest Borgnine also has a memorable cameo appearance as a CIA archivist.

Last but not least, there’s Karl Urban, the other non-AARP member besides Louis Parker. I’ve talked about how I was quite mesmerized by the New Zealander in this post, which prompted me to think he’d make a great Bond. His character as a young CIA officer tasked to bring Frank in is pretty one-dimensional, but he plays him with such amiable charm that makes me care for his character and the dilemma he’s faced with.

The best part of this movie is how everyone seems to be having a ball making this fun caper, which makes the ride so enjoyable even if it’s not always smooth. It doesn’t have the tidiest script, but the cast more than makes up for it. I don’t even mind paying to see this again in the theater!

Well folks, any of you planning to go see it this weekend?