Trailer Spotlight: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

It’s been a while since I featured a trailer spotlight on my blog, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has a pretty unusual concept that I just had to share.

EleanorRigbyPoster

Once happily married, Conor and Eleanor suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. The film explores the couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

I first heard about this project last year when I heard about James McAvoy casting. At the time I thought that it was more of a mystery thriller or something. Then I saw some photos of McAvoy and Jessica Chastain all over Twitter when it premiered at Cannes. Well apparently there are there versions of this film, told from two different perspectives and also a combined version. Say what?

Well, the concept is quite unusual in that first-time director Ned Benson told the story of a young NYC couple from each character’s point of view. Conor (McAvoy) and Eleanor (Chastain) each get a 95-minute movie told from his/her perspective. Naturally it’s tricky to market two films that’s essentially the same story (especially when the Weinsteins are involved), so Benson’s created a third version (Them) which features footage from both His/Her versions and has a conventional running time of 2 hours. So this new trailer is the unified version of Benson’s ambitious directorial debut, check it out:


I LOVE romantic dramas, not the typical rom-coms but something that isn’t afraid to delve deeper into the nitty gritty of a relationship and the ‘warts and all’ approach to a love story. Seems that they have cast two excellent actors in the lead, I believe both McAvoy and Chastain have the chops to pull off the complexity and depth their roles require. I haven’t seen Chastain in anything this year though I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of her work in the past two years. McAvoy is definitely one of the brightest actors of his generation. He’s also one of my favorite Scots, I kind of think of him as the more talented & versatile version of Gerry Butler who looks like his older brother. If only Butler would pick the kind of roles McAvoy’s signed up for.

EleanorRigbyMcAvoyChastain1

The supporting cast is not too shabby at all: William HurtIsabelle HuppertViola Davis, and Bill Hader. So would we be able to see all three versions in the theater? Well, according to Deadline, “Benson said the plan will be to release the new two-hour cut around September 26. A month or six weeks later, the first two films, Him and Her, will play in limited release in art house theaters.”

Hmmm, I doubt my city would get all three versions, we’d be lucky if we even get this unified version. But hopefully all three would be released on iTunes or DVD/Bluray at some point.


What do you think of this film and/or unusual concept?

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LCR’s Recast-Athon – Recasting characters of 2013 Films

RecastAthon

Jack from Lights Camera Reaction recently invited fellow bloggers to participate in ‘Recast-athon’, where we’d recast characters of 2013 that we either hated or liked, but think that the role(s) could have been done better by another actor. The rule is to pick a minimum of three performances and explain the reasons. 

So here are my picks and for the fourth one, I include one from 2012. Hey, rules are meant to be broken right? In this case I simply bent it a bit. So here we go!

The Great Gatsby

RecastAthon_GreatGatsby

Tom Hiddleston & Jessica Chastain replacing Leo DiCaprio & Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby

Now, it’s not that I dislike Leo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. Both are excellent actors but somehow their pairing just lacks ooomph, for a lack of a better word. I’d love to see someone like the inherently classy Tom Hiddleston try this role on for size. Hiddles seems to come from money himself, having gone to Eaton and Cambridge, and he’s got the versatility to be both charming and mysterious.

For Daisy, I was thinking of a delicate beauty who’s got a bit of an icy quality about her. Jessica Chastain may be eight years older but I think she still looks youthful enough for the role, plus she seems capable of being more seductive than Mulligan. Both actor have theatrical pedigree, Chastain went to Juilliard whilst Hiddleston went to RADA. I’d love to see these two light up the screen as lovers one day.

The Wolverine

RecastAthon_Wolverine

Rinko Kikuchi replacing Tao Okamoto (The Wolverine)

One of my biggest issue with The Wolverine is that I think Wolvie’s love interest is entirely miscast. Sure miss Tao Okamoto is beautiful, she is a fashion model after all, but unfortunately she has no charisma nor the dramatic chops to give her character even an iota of realism. Not to mention the utter lack of chemistry with Hugh Jackman. I think Rinko Kikuchi would’ve been a much more compelling substitute had she not been too busy working on Pacific Rim. I’d even think even Koyuki, another Japanese actress who had a sweet chemistry with Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai would’ve been a better choice if she were slightly younger.

12 Years A Slave

RecastAthon_12Yrs

Greg Kinnear replacing Brad Pitt (12 Years A Slave)

Speaking of weak link, Brad Pitt is the least convincing performer in an otherwise fantastic ensemble in 12 Years A Slave. When his character showed up, it took me out of the movie a bit as he practically looked like a mega movie star playing a role. To make matters worse, he’s got the worst lines in the script, preaching to us how we should feel as if it weren’t obvious enough. As Pitt was the producer, I wish he had cast someone else in that role, perhaps an equally talented actor who’s not quite as famous. I’d suggest Greg Kinnear, who’s exactly the same age as Pitt (50). I think he’d be much more convincing and likely get the Canadian accent right, too.

Jack Reacher (2012)

Now, this one is from 2012, but I saw the movie last year so I thought I’d throw it out there as well who I’d love to see as Jack Reacher. Now, I think Tom Cruise did a decent job and I think the film is decent, but when I read the description of the character in the book, I always get a good chuckle as Cruise’s physicality is so ill-suited for the role.

Reacher is 6’5″ tall (1.96 m) with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 220 and 250 pounds (100–115 kg). He has ice-blue eyes and dirty blond hair. He has very little body fat, and his muscular physique is completely natural (he reveals in Persuader, he has never been an exercise enthusiast). (per Wiki)

RecastAthon_JackReacher

An actor’s physique is crucial for certain roles, especially when the novelist outline it so specifically in the book. So Tom got the hair color right but that’s like the least important thing and they can just easily lighten an actor’s hair if necessary.

Richard_StrikeBackNow, Richard Armitage is 6’2-1/2″, obviously much closer to the novel version of Reacher than the 5’7″ Cruise. He’s done a lot of military-type roles so no doubt he’s got what it takes to play a former Major in the US Army. He may not have the 50-inch chest but he can easily bulk up his lean-but-muscular frame. But more importantly, he’s got the intensity and bad-assery for the role, just watch BBC Spooks and the original Cinemax’s Strike Back if you need some convincing. Age wise, Richard (42) is also closer in age than Cruise (50) as Reacher is supposed to be in his late 30s.

Fame at times works against an actor as Cruise has done so many famous roles that it’s hard to see him as Jack Reacher (especially since he looks pretty much the same as he is in other action hero roles), so a lesser-known actor would actually be a more prudent choice.


Well, what do you think of my replacement picks? Also, who which role(s) would YOU re-cast from 2013 movies?

The 85th Oscar Nominations: The Good, the Bad and the WTF

85thOscar

It’s a big morning in Hollywood… and it’s a life-changing moment for some filmmakers and actors alike. Take Bradley Cooper, he’s now going to have ‘Oscar nominee’ before his name is spoken in his movie trailers. Being nominated for the same film as Robert DeNiro’s got to be extra sweet!

Now, as I did last year, now that the cat’s out of the bag, it’s time to scrutinize analyze it to death, ahah. Before I get to that, I’m glad to report that my Oscar predictions is not too far off. I predicted 10 noms, but there are only nine and I didn’t have Amour on my list. I also predicted Moonrise Kingdom and The Master would make the list.

BEST PICTURE NOMINATIONS

  1. Amour
  2. Argo
  3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  4. Django Unchained
  5. Lincoln
  6. Les Miserables
  7. Life of Pi
  8. Silver Linings Playbook
  9. Zero Dark Thirty

Anyway, you can see the full nominations here. Below’s my thoughts on most of the major nominations:

The Good

  • Nice to see David O. Russell got a nod for Silver Linings Playbook, his first film after The Fighter, which he also got directing nomination. It’s one of my favorite 2012 films and I do think it deserves the kudos. He captures the bizarre family dynamics brilliantly, and the film is both entertaining and deeply moving at the same time.
  • While we’re on the subject, I think it’s cool that Silver Linings Playbook get four-for-four noms.
    SLP_cast
    That is nominations in all FOUR acting categories: Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro), and Best Supporting Actress (Jackie Weaver). It’s perhaps the first time in Oscar history that three actors portraying members of one family all got nominated!
  • I’ve always been a fan of Jessica Chastain, so even though I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty yet (will do VERY soon), I’ll go out of a limb to say that the nom was well-deserved.
  • Hunt_TheSessionsWoo hoo! Helen Hunt for Best Supporting Actress in The Sessions. She was tremendously brave in that role, I can’t say I’m too surprised to see her here. It wasn’t that she was brave to be fully nude, but it’s the emotional part of her role that I found really affecting. That scene on her last day of the session when she cried in her car, that was heartbreaking.
  • I think this is the first time I actually agree with pretty much ALL of the Best Actor nominations (and no overrated actor this time, yay!), even though I’ve only seen one of the performances. I just think all five of those talented actors have either been overlooked previously and based on what I’ve been reading, have amazing dedication to their roles (especially Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln).
  • YES for Brave in the Best Animated Feature category! You know I adore that movie!
  • YES for Mr. Roger Deakins for Skyfall!
    Deakins_SkyfallSet
    That’s the best looking movie I’ve seen in a long time, surely! I do hope he takes home the Oscar this time, I mean he’s the Susan Lucci of cinematographers, being nominated 9 times previously but never won once!
  • YES for The Hobbit for the Best Makeup and Visual Effects nods, very well-deserved I’d say. I’d love to see Richard Armitage and his band of dwarves make an appearance at the ceremony :D

The Bad

  • As much as I like Joaquin Phoenix and that I think it’s good that the Academy voters disregard how he feels about award season, I’m still bummed that John Hawkes didn’t get an Oscar nod. I mean it was a tremendous performance to act just with your face alone!
    Hawkins_Sessions
    In case you didn’t know about Phoenix, he called Oscar campaigning utter and total bullsh*t in last year’s Interview Magazine, saying this about Award season: “I don’t want to be part of it. I don’t believe in it. It’s the worst-tasting carrot I’ve ever tasted in my whole life. I don’t want this carrot.” (per THR)
  • I guess there’s really room for TWO supporting actors in one film is there? I was really rooting for John Goodman to get a nod for ARGO, I think he was as excellent and memorable as Alan Arkin. He does it so effortlessly. I think he should’ve gotten a best supporting actor nod for The Artist as well.
  • None of my three favorite British Dames got nominated. I was hoping that Maggie Smith might get a nod for either Quartet or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Judi Dench for Marigold Hotel or Skyfall, and Helen Mirren for Hitchcock. The last one especially bummed me out, Mirren was truly the best thing about Hitchcock.
    ….

The WTF

Time for the most-uttered four-letter-word-during-award-season to make an appearance once again. Snub this, snub that… so who gets the dishonor this year? Well look no further than the Directing category… which brings me to the burning question I’ve always had during award season… perhaps one of you could enlighten me??

How could a movie get a Best Picture nomination but its director is NOT??
I mean, wasn’t the director the one who called the shots to make the film work the way it did?

  • Both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow are both snubbed for ARGO and Zero Dark Thirty respectively.
    AffleckBigelowOscarSnubs
    I think a lot of people are very surprised since both are nominated by Directors Guild Awards! According to THR, the DGA has historically been the single best predictor of the nominees for and winners of the best director Oscar — and the best picture Oscar. It’s curious that both are political thrillers, and has their shares of controversies. Heh, I’m really rooting for ARGO for the win this year :(
  • WOW, not a single nomination for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises?? I’m not expecting it to nab a Best Picture nod (not that it deserved it), but at the very least in the Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography for Wally Pfister, or Hanz Zimmer for Best Score?
    ….
  • The Intouchables absent from the Best Foreign Language category. WOW, all of the reviews I’ve read so far suggests that this is a shoo-in in this category. The story sounds really heartwarming and uplifting, plus since Amour has made it to the Best Picture category, shouldn’t this film replace that one in the Foreign Language category?? [scratch head]

Some 2013 Oscar Trivia:


This seems to be the nomination of ALL ages, from 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis (good luck to those who have to present the Best Actress category on pronouncing THAT!) for Beast of the Southern Wild to 85-year-old Amour‘s lead actress Emmanuelle Riva.
Riva_Wallis_BestActressNoms

Thomas Newman earns his 11th nomination with his score for the James Bond film Skyfall. The Newman family — Alfred, Lionel, Emil, Thomas, David and Randy — now have 87 nominations altogether.

Michael Kahn is the most nominated film editor; he receives his eighth nomination this year for Lincoln.

Similarly, Roman Coppola, who was nominated with Wes Anderson for their original screenplay for Moonrise Kingdom, is the sixth member of the Coppola clan to receive a nomination — he joins Carmine Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola, Talia Shire, Nicolas Cage and Sofia Coppola — bringing the family total to 24 nominations.

[Source: LA Times]


Well, that’s my reaction to the 2013 nominations. What are your Oscar delights and gripes?

10 Most-Anticipated Movies of the First Half of 2013 (Jan – June)

Ok, Day 3 of 2013 hasn’t left yet where I live, but I’m already anticipating a slew of movies coming out later this year. To make the list more manageable though, I’m breaking it down to two parts. Here’s 10 that’s scheduled to be released (except for one that’s TBD) between January to June.

MostAnticipatedPart1

January

Zero Dark Thirty (Jan 13)

A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Mark Strong


Granted I wasn’t in love with The Hurt Locker like a lot of people did, but one thing I do appreciate is Kathryn Bigelow’s skills as a filmmaker. She’s one of the best directors out there that can direct dynamic action sequences and she’s got the cojones to tackle a controversial topic. This film reunites her with The Hurt Locker‘s screenwriter Mark Boal and boasts a great cast! I’m a fan of Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton, so yeah, I’m super curious to see this. Granted we likely won’t get a balanced viewpoint on this ripped-from-the-headlines story, but should be an intriguing piece nonetheless.


March

Dead Man Down (March 8)

In New York City, a crime lord’s right-hand man is seduced by one of his boss’s victims, a woman seeking retribution.

Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard, Isabelle Huppert

Oplev is the director of the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now, even though that film is not my cup of tea, I’m quite intrigued by this story. The trailer looks pretty intense, albeit a bit too revelatory. We’ll see how violent it is though, I might just rent it if it’s too much for my nerves. I do like the cast, Rapace was impressive in Prometheus and Farrell and Cooper are two of the coolest Brit and Irish exports working today.

Oz: The Great and Powerful (March 8)

A stage magician is hurled into a fantasy world, and must use his wits to stay ahead of three enchantresses who have plans for him.

Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Bruce Campbell


You’re probably surprised I put this here since I actually have not seen The Wizard of Oz (yep, that’s true). But I like Sam Raimi and the female cast looks pretty darn good. The trailer promises a visual spectacle, and the story reminds me a bit of Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, though probably less surreal than the Terry Gilliam’s movie. Anyway, it would’ve been awesome to see Robert Downey Jr. or Johnny Depp who were at one time linked to this project though. But Raimi and Franco did work together before in the Spider-Man movies.


April

Oblivion (April 26)

One of the few remaining drone repairmen assigned to Earth, its surface devastated after decades of war with the alien Scavs, discovers a crashed spacecraft with contents that bring into question everything he believed about the war, and may even put the fate of mankind in his hands.

Director: Joseph Kosinki
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau


Another Tom Cruise movie in which he’s playing another character named Jack?? That’s what I thought when I saw the trailer but when it’s over, I actually found it intriguing. Visually it has an epic feel to it and everything with Morgan Freeman should be good, no? :) It’s interesting to note that this was based on Radical Comics graphic novel that the TRON: Legacy director Kosinski himself wrote with Arvid Nelson. MTV had an interview with Kosinski on how the story came about for the graphic novel:

“I started writing this small character-driven science fiction story that was in the vein of those science fiction films of the 1970s that involved this lone survivor among the ruins of civilization, like ‘Mega Man’ or ‘Silent Running’ — it was kind of in that vein. I thought if it was going to be my first movie it would have to be something very small and contained in order to even get a chance at pulling it off. So it’s the story of a drill repair man, Jack Harper, who is one of the last human beings left on earth after a massive war, which was the result of an alien invasion. Even though humankind won the war, Earth was left in such a state that we had to look for another place to settle, and Jack is left behind to monitor and secure the resource gathering operation that’s happening where we’re gathering the last bit of energy out of the earth’s seawater in order to move onto the next step.”

Well, let’s hope it won’t disappoint like TRON: Legacy did!


May

The Great Gatsby (May 10)

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carrey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton


I’ve covered this one extensively exactly year ago, but the release was delayed significantly. I never got around to reading the book but I’m still excited for this. It’s been a while since I’m excited for a Leo DiCaprio movie, but he looks pretty good as the mad billionaire Jay Gatsby. He seems to have a believable chemistry with the lovely Carey Mulligan, and Tobey seems perfectly cast as the Midwesterner Nick Caraway who’s inexplicably drawn into the world of glitz, glamor and madness! I’m optimistic this would be more like Moulin Rouge! than Australia.

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17)

After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Director: JJ Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana


It’s Sherlock terrorizing a whole star fleet, perhaps he can actually outwit Mr. Spock? ;) Kidding aside, I think this looks awesome! Well I love the original and the charismatic cast is set to be on board again, yay! I know all the lads are all pining for the pretty blue-eyed Capt. Kirk but for me it’s all about Dr. McCoy (the gorgeous Karl Urban, natch!).

,,,


June

Much Ado About Nothing (June 7)

A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.

Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz

No trailer available that I could find (which is odd since the film has premiered at TIFF), but here’s a Toronto interview of Whedon with two of the major cast Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg:


From a band of superheroes to Shakespeare? That Josh is one versatile dude! Apparently the movie adaptation took place at Joss Whedon’s residence, in Santa Monica, and was filmed entirely in black-and-white over 12 days. It currently has a pretty high Rotten Tomatoes rating so far. Curious to hear what fellow Marvel director Kenneth Branagh (Thor) thinks of this? ;)


Man of Steel (June 14)

An alien infant is raised on Earth, and grows up with superhuman abilities. He sets out to use these abilities to guard his adopted world.

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne


If there is ONLY one movie I could see in 2013, let it be this one! When I saw this full trailer during my vacation I literally went berserk! My undying love for the Kryptonian hero dated all the way back to when I was only 3 years old. I even had the Superman suit and everything. Yes, Superman Returns was rather disappointing, but that was a different era. It’s now Superman Begins, ehm, a collaboration between the DC-savior Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder. Of course I’ve got to mention one of my Brit crushes Henry Cavill, a man so gorgeous it’s out of this world ;) I’m glad Snyder doesn’t make him look like some pretty boy though, he sure looks pretty darn rugged in and out of that bad ass new suit.

Nolan had a lot of positive things to say about Snyder. As quoted by THR, ““Zack was the perfect man to take this on,” Nolan says. “He is unbelievably skilled at creating a coherent, cohesive world — whether it’s a very stylized world, like 300, or something that’s more challenging, more varied, like he did with Watchmen.” He also praised how Snyder handled Man of Steel itself:

“In my honest appraisal, taking on Superman and creating that world is far more difficult than creating the world of the Dark Knight. He has a lot of finishing to do on the movie — it has a very long post-production schedule because, unlike Batman, Superman flies… I try to be as supportive as I can, and I’m just amazed by what he is doing. It’s not something I would know how to do.”

Of course Mr. Nolan is being modest. I think he very well could tackle Superman but hey, having him as the consultant on the project is a very good thing. I can hardly wait for this!!


Monsters University (June 21)

A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at the University of Fear — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

Director: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi


Mike Wazowski is one of my all time favorite Pixar characters so surely I’m excited for this! The latest promo clip is such a hoot, man I’d go to MU for sure if I could hang out with Mike and Sully! :) Normally I’m not fond of sequels but I love the first movie so much and I trust that Pixar would come up with a pretty clever and fun story this time around.


Ok, this one hopefully would come out in the first half of the year, though kinda unlikely given how Terrence Malick likes to tinker with editing his movies :D Before I get to Knight of Cups, the one Malick movie that would sure hit theaters in April 12 in To The Wonder, starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko (who turns out to be the real lead). It premiered at TIFF and Ryan at The Matinee has the review here.

I might check that one out but I REALLY want to see this one:

Knight of Cups (TBD)

A story of a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess.

Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Imogen Poots, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas

The first time I heard about this one in 2011 when I posted about it along with another Malick’s project in the works. I read several reports recently and it sounds like this film is set against the backdrop of the movie business. I’m guessing Bale plays some sort of celebrity surrounded by beautiful women as his life spins out of control?? Of course that’s a wild guess without a real synopsis, trailer, nor even a poster! There are a boat load of on-set pics on Google though.

Check out some behind-the-scenes pics I found of Bale with a bunch of his female co-stars:

KnightOfCupsSetPics

Man, that cast is just awesome isn’t it? I’m most excited to see Bale co-starring with Blanchett. It’s been far too long since I saw her on screen besides her brief appearance in The Hobbit. The plethora of actors sounds like a Woody Allen ensemble-cast movie, the movie also stars Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer, Ryan O’Neal, Jason Clarke, Joel Kinnaman and Shea Whigham. I hope this one gets a release date real soon, come on Mr. Malick, get crackin’ :D

Honorable Mentions:

  • Welcome to The Punch
  • Gangster Squad
  • Broken City
  • Stoker
  • Olympus Has Fallen
  • Trance
  • Iron Man 3


Well, that’s just what I’m looking forward to in the next six months. Which one(s) are you most excited about?

FlixChatter Review: Coriolanus (2011)

Coriolanus is one of the renown playwright’s lesser-known works that Ralph Fiennes has played on stage back in 2000. It’s sort of a passion project for him so naturally he knows this character inside and out. For his directorial debut, the British thespian translates the story as a modern wartime film set in a ‘place calling itself Rome.’ So the story is not set in the Italian capital city but a model of an urban war zone complete with tanks, machine guns, and camouflage. The media coverage and TV talking heads reveal a society in turmoil. Grain is scarce and its people impoverished and hungry, unsatisfied by the way the government, particularly its General Caius Martius, treats them.

Fiennes set up the scene using found footage of people looting, rioting, demonstrating, carrying banners of their general with a big red ‘x’ on it. From the exchange between Martius and the people, it’s clear that he has no regard for them. Martius is a warrior, a man of battle, but not exactly a man of nor for the people.

Even in the time he goes to the people to appeal to them and ask for their votes, Martius (who’s now called Coriolanus as an honor following the battle in Corioles) does it reluctantly. He’s not keen on the idea of promoting himself, and the idea of political campaigning repulses him.

The second act is much more politically charged, quite a contrast to the vehemently action-packed first act. The battle scenes between the Romans and the Volscian army, led by Tulus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) are reminiscent of The Hurt Locker as it shares the same choreographer, Oscar-winner Barry Ackroyd. The knife fight between the two arch nemesis is brutal and very, very bloody.

Just like most of Shakespeare’s work, its hero shares complicated relationship with the people around him. His relationship with his mother Volumnia is one of the film’s major themes, brought to life by a pair of strong stage performers, Fiennes and the great Vanessa Redgrave. A conversation with Martius’ wife reveals that Volumnia has raised her son as a soldier that bred such an extreme conviction on his part…

Had I a dozen sons, I had rather eleven die nobly for their country than one voluptuously surfeit out of action

The person who believes in Martius the most is Senator Menenius (Brian Cox), he’s practically his biggest cheerleader in his quest for political life. But the rest of the senate, led by the two Tribunes Brutus and Sicinius, rally against him and their schemes of manipulating the crowd gets Martius banished from the city.

From then on, what follows is the electrifying scenes between Coriolanus and Aufidius, as he appeals to fight Rome together with the Volscian army. The two sworn enemies hate each other, surely, but there is deep mutual admiration between the two. Aufidius is perhaps the kind of leader Coriolanus wishes to be as he’s courageous, but also loved by his men and his people. The homoerotic undertones is quite palpable here, and Fiennes revealed in the commentary (and in this article) that it’s what Shakespeare intended it to be, though more to suggest an obsession than a literal romantic attraction.

The political relevance of the world we’re in today and all the maneuvering and manipulation that’s going on is as thrilling as the action. Fiennes has proven himself a capable director here, surrounding himself with a massively talented cast and crew, starting with John Logan (Gladiator, Hugo) developing a taut script, and filming on locations in Serbia under Ackroyd’s capable hands as a cinematographer.

He’s also able to cajole great performances from his cast, and he’s assembled a wonderful set of actors to do the job. The critics praised Redgrave’s performance left and right. Indeed she was marvelous and also Jessica Chastain in a small role as Coriolanus’ wife, but I was mostly taken by Brian Cox’s performance as the seasoned politician Menenius. How this Scottish thespian has never been nominated for an Oscar is a travesty. “Coriolanus has grown from man to dragon…” his character said in one heart-wrenching scene, and it’s palpable that Coriolanus’ betrayal cuts deep into his soul.

Fiennes himself is at his most effective, delivering his lines with sheer clarity and intelligence. Coriolanus is a tough character to sympathize with, but Fiennes gives a fascinating look into a flawed antihero. He’s also chosen the perfect actor as his adversary. In interviews Fiennes said that he had wanted a ‘warrior’ to play Aufidius and who could be more fitting than King Leonidas himself. But just like in 300, Butler is just as efficient in the action scenes as in those that demand emotional intensity. The highlights in the film are no doubt the fierce face/off between Fiennes and Butler and the two men seem to relish in them. The knife fight apparently took two days to film and it’s as cutthroat as one can get. There’s barely any music playing during a lot of the action scenes, it feels authentically gritty and realistic, almost documentary-like at times but without the overused hand-held style.

My only gripe is that the scenes between the politicians and the people often feel overly-simplified. I understand that the timeline perhaps isn’t as swift as depicted in the film, but it just feels like thing happen way too fast how Coriolanus goes from hero to scorn exile. I’m not too keen with James Nesbitt’s performance either as one of the tribunes, he feels somewhat miscast in this role. The scenes of the Roman politicians with the crowd also didn’t seem to work as well, perhaps it’s more suitable for stage performance but it just didn’t feel right on film. Coriolanus as a character also isn’t as compelling because there’s barely any reflective moments that gives us insights into his motivations and why he despise the people the way he does.

Those are minor quibbles however, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and apart from the first act and the very last scene, it’s thankfully not as violent as I had thought. The use of Shakespearean language in modern setting is tricky but I think Fiennes and the cast pulled it off brilliantly. It feels a bit odd at first but after a while I enjoyed listening to it. I’m glad I ended up watching this on Blu-ray so I can turn on the caption however, as it helps me grasp the story a lot better.

Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for an intriguing political thriller filled with great performances, then this is the film for you. Once you get past the Shakespearean language, it’s surprisingly accessible and its themes are eerily relevant to our world today.

It’s been nearly two years since I first heard about Ralph Fiennes’ passion project. Well, after appearing in my most-anticipated list for TWO years in a row, I finally bought the Blu-ray. I’ve actually watched it twice, one with Fiennes’ commentary and one without. If only the special features had been more robust though, it’d be nice if it had more scenes of the on-location shoot in Serbia like I talked about here. Still, it’s certainly well worth the purchase.

4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen CORIOLANUS? Do share your thoughts on the film.

THIS JUST IN! John Hillcoat’s ‘Lawless’ Trailer

The first time I heard about this movie was when there’s news circulating about Shia LeBeouf and Tom Hardy clashing on the set and got into a bar brawl. Now, I don’t really care about what’s really going on between those two, but the movie they’re working on does sound intriguing. Formerly called The Wettest County in the World, which is a bad title but at least not as generic as this new one, is one of those movies I’d watch just for the cast! Besides the two I’ve mentioned, we’ve got Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain!

Now check out the brand new trailer:

Hardy, LaBeouf and Jason Clarke play three brothers who find their bootlegging business under threat in Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia. The story is based on the true-life tales of Matt Bondurant’s own grandfather and great-uncles, who were the inspiration of the events in his novel The Wettest County in the World.

Man, that’s a pretty intense trailer! I’m guessing this’ll be a hard R like most of Hillcoat’s previous films, i.e. The Proposition, The Road. The Aussie director seems to have a penchant for the utterly dark and bleak stuff. I do like the setting in the Prohibition era, there’s something so riveting about that period and the true-story aspect of it certainly adds to the intrigue.

I think we can expect some fine performances as well as some really bad ass shoot-outs! Hardy looks like he’d steal the show here, but LaBeouf actually doesn’t look too bad. I think he gets a bad rap after Transformers like R-Patz with Twilight, but I think he’s got potential. The main draw for me are Hardy and Chastain whose career are stratospheric to say the least, as well as the two veterans Oldman and Pearce, the latter is barely recognizable here with that hideous haircut. We’ll see who’ll be chewing the scenery the most between those two.

This movie will be premiering in 2012 Cannes Film Festival this May, and the US release date is set for August 31.


What do you think of this trailer? Will you be watching this one?

Five For The Fifth – February 2012 Edition

Hello folks, welcome to the February 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?

1. Well today’s the biggest night of football, I know my hubby will park himself on the sofa and watch Giants and Patriots battle it out at the Superbowl XLVI. You can’t say that I’m a fan of team sporting events nor sport movies for that matter, I can count with my hands how many sports-related or specifically American football movies that I enjoyed. I did like Rudy when I saw it in high school with my brother, but not so much because of the football part, but I just love the underdog story. I also like Jerry Maguire more for the relationship of Tom Cruise’s title role with his client and his loyal assistant-turned-girlfriend.

Another fun one I remember is The Replacements... no I’m not saying it’s the greatest football movies ever, in fact it’s kind of a screwball but pretty enjoyable. Keanu Reeves plays a washed-up quarterback who’s recruited as part of the replacement team during a pro football strike. It even got Gene Hackman as the coach who believe in the unlikely if not preposterous players that include a Welsh former soccer player called ‘The Leg’ (Rhys Ifans) and a crazy defense lineman played by Jon Favreau. This dance scene done to the Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive is a hoot, always puts a smile on my face every time I watched it.


So what’s your favorite football movie(s)? 


2. The box office results hasn’t been posted yet but as of last Friday, Daniel Radcliffe’s horror flick The Woman in Black and the superhero-themed sci-fi Chronicle are on a tight race. Chronicle tells the story of three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. It’s done in a low budget, shaky cam movie ala Paranormal Activity, which also has mostly unknown cast. From what I’ve been reading lately, it sounds like an interesting entry into the whole superhero genre, some even call it a deconstruction of the conventional superhero mythology.

My matey Scott @ Front Room Cinema made up a top 10 list of alternative superhero movies last Thursday, and my favorite of all of them remains to be Unbreakable, which is also my favorite M. Night Shyamalan’s work. It’s one of those rare films that despite the ‘whoa’ ending, it’s still rewarding to watch it several times over as there’s always something new you discover and appreciate. I might give Chronicle a rent, I always like a fresh new take of the oft-told plot of ordinary folks acquiring extraordinary superpowers.

So what’s your favorite alternative superhero movie? Or if you happen to see Chronicle already, what did you think? 


3.  Ok time for some casting news. Last week, they announced a couple of duo casting I like. One of them is Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana in an untitled thriller by John Crowley (Boy A, Is Anybody There). I quite like Boy A, it’s an understated indie drama that shows the would-be Spider-man Andrew Garfield that he’s got some serious acting chops.

The plot for this upcoming project is quite intriguing… Hall and Bana will play former lovers who must work together on the defense team during a terrorist trial (per THR). I certainly like the cast, both aren’t A-listers yet, not sure why as they’re both not only gorgeous but massively talented.

So which casting news that you’re thrilled about from the past week?


4. Now, another two duo casting I like feature two actors whose stars are quickly rising: Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton. Edgerton is another Aussie on my watch-list after his terrific performance in Warrior, and you already know from this post that I adore Chastain.

Now the projects are quite peculiar, they’re signing on to a double feature films called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Hersa New York-based couple going through a rough patch in their marriage. His will follow the events from the perspective of the husband, a restaurant owner; Hers will tell the tale from the wife’s point of view as she heads back to college. According to SlashFilm, these two films are intended as standalone features based on a script by Ned Benson (In Defiance of Gravity).

So what do you think about this project? Would you watch a double feature like this one?


5.The Oscars is taking place in a couple of weeks, and since 1991, the Academy Awards ceremonies has made the Kodak Theater its permanent home. But soon that won’t be the case as the company has since filed bankruptcy and won’t be able to make the $4 million annual payment to retain that name on the building.

Per Reuters, last Wednesday the 131-year company asked a U.S. bankruptcy court judge to allow it to get out of its $75 million naming rights deal with the real estate company behind the complex. THR also reported last December that the Oscar ceremonies might actually move to another spot entirely after 2013. It’s kind of sad what’s happening to Kodak, given their crucial role in the entertainment industry and long-standing relationship with film makers for decades.

So what do you think about the Kodak predicament… and what sponsor do you think would replace the theater name? 


Well, that’s it for the February edition of Five for the Fifth. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all!

Spotlight on three new favorite actors: Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston & Benedict Cumberbatch

It’s been a while since I highlight a particular actor here, and since we’re on the first week of the new year, why not highlight some new-ish actors who’ve made the mark the past year. Ok, the term ‘new’ is relative of course, as all of these actors have had stage, TV and even film experience in the past, but until fairly recently, we haven’t heard much about them. I pick these three because in the past year or so, I’ve seen at least three of their films, whether in lead or supporting roles, and I REALLY like what I see. I didn’t want to include anyone that I’ve already included on this list nor this one, which includes the likes of Michael Fassbender, Andrew Garfield, Tom Hardy, etc. Though I might do what Iba from I Luv Cinema suggested, that is doing a follow-up post of where are they now. What a splendid idea!

So anyway, here are my three new favorite actors that I hope will have a lasting cinematic career (All bio info from IMDb):

Jessica Chastain

Films seen: The Debt, Tree of Life, The Help

Why she’s awesome: The first time I saw Jessica was in The Debt and I liked her straight away. There is something so intriguing yet likable about her, and an effortlessness in her acting. She is beautiful but not drop dead gorgeous, or worse, plastic-looking like a lot of Hollywood starlets are. 2011 was truly her banner year with no less than SIX films under her belt, which is quite impressive considering a year ago even arden cinephiles had not even heard of her. When I saw her performance in The Help, I was floored at her versatility. What a complete departure from both her roles in The Debt and even Tree of Life. She had to gain weight for her role which proves that she’s dedicated to her craft, but it’s her performance that was truly outstanding.

The 30-year-old California native began performing in Shakespearean productions in the Bay area at age 13, and graduated from The Juilliard School of Drama in New York.

What’s next for Jessica: She has five films to be released this year and 2013, including the yet Untitled Terrence Malick project with Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams. Updated 5/6 – Jessica will also make her Broadway debut this Fall in the adaptation of The Heiress (per LA Times). I’m sure she’ll be splendid.

Tom Hiddleston

Films seen: Thor, Midnight in Paris, War Horse

Why he’s awesome: I guess I have a thing for bad boys, but I wasn’t immediately drawn to his character Loki when I first saw Thor. But one thing that caught my eye was the way he delivered his lines which seemed to have a theatrical style to it. Sure enough, director Kenneth Branagh apparently had worked with Hiddleston on stage before he cast him in this film. There are so many variety of British accents, but Tom’s is just so pleasing to the ear. Plus he’s got this big, spontaneous smile that lights up his face. He’s attractive without being too perfect-looking which gets tiresome after about two minutes.  The 30-year-old Londoner’s pedigree is quite impressive, too. He’s a grad of Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), and attended Eton College (popular with the British Royal Family) and studied for his Classics degree at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.

Hiddleston proved his range in memorable supporting roles in Midnight in Paris and War Horse, playing sympathetic characters in both, perhaps a calculated strategy to balance out being the arch nemesis in this Summer’s The Avengers.

What’s next for Tom: The Avengers of course. Even amongst such an all-star-cast, Tom is the one I look forward to the most in that superhero flick! He’s also doing a BBC TV-movie adaptation of Henry IV  and V with Jeremy Irons, directed by Sir Richard Eyre.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Films seen: Amazing Grace, Atonement, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Why he’s awesome: I guess I’ve always liked Benedict since I first saw him as William Pitt in Amazing Grace (a great but underrated movie btw, do check it out). He’s got such a classic British look, even his name sounds very English to me. Benedict is one of those actors that blends seamlessly into his character that one often forgets he’s in the movie until after. I realized later on that he was in Atonement and was really impressed with his performance.
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My friend Novia likes Benedict a lot, almost as much as she likes Cillian Murphy (I think), because of his role in BBC’s Sherlock, she even puts him in one of the five actors she’d watch in anything. His latest role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is what makes me include him in this shortlist. He’s definitely got the chops to act alongside of British veterans such as Gary Oldman and John Hurt, in fact, besides Oldman’s and Tom Hardy’s, his performance stood out the most for me in that film.

Just like Hiddleston, Benedict is London-bred and has a degree in drama from University of Manchester, followed by a study at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

What’s next for Benedict: The Hobbit… I’m thrilled to see Benedict amongst such a great ensemble cast. He’s also got a TV movie with Tom Stoppard, hopefully there’ll be more film roles lined up for him soon Update on 1/5: Max @ ImpassionedCinema just reported that Benedict will be joining JJ Abram’s Star Trek sequel! Not sure yet what role he’ll be playing but my hunch says he’ll be the villain.
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On a related note, THR just announced the top five breakout stars of 2012 list. Look for another actors-spotlight post in the next few months highlighting a couple of ‘em on that list once I see more of their work.


Any thoughts on any of these actors? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Musings on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life

Well, I feel like I’m the last person who saw this film. I had been so intrigued by this from the first time I heard about it. When it won Palme d’Or at Cannes, I said I couldn’t wait to see it, alas I finally got around to seeing it.

I’m not a Terrence Malick fangirl but I do respect his work and enjoyed three of his films in the past. However, all of his films seem to fit into the one-time-viewing-is-enough category — with the exception of the last half hour of The New World as I adore Christian Bale as John Rolfe — and this one is included.

The concept of a tree of life, a many-branched tree illustrating the idea that all life on earth is related, has been used in science, religion, philosophy, mythology, and other areas. (per Wikipedia) Now, Malick started the film with a verse from Job 38: 4 & 7 of God’s response to Job’s complaint:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation … when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

The verse seems to suggest that it’s leaning towards the Judeo-Christian worldview, but I feel that this is not so much a Christian film as a spiritual one… the gospel a la Terrence Malick if you will. It’s so deliberately vague that whatever message you want to take away from this really depends on your own worldview.

I’ve been warned of the lack of coherent narrative in this movie, but even with that in mind, nothing could prepare me into what I’m about to experience. I guess all of Malick’s movies are something of an enigma, but this is perhaps his most obscure and cryptic work to date. There is barely any dialogue in this film. I even joked to my husband that the whole script probably consist of a single page, front and back, and that’s about it.

The point of view we get is mostly from the eldest son Jack (Hunter McCracken), though there is female voice over narration that seems to suggest a mother mourning the loss of a son… at times questioning God… “Lord, Why? Where were you? Did you know what happened? Do you care?” and other times she’s letting go… “I give him to you. I give you my son.”

Triggered by a tree being planted outside his skyscraper office building, the adult Jack (Sean Penn) who’s now a successful architect begins to reminisce on his childhood memories growing up in 1950s Texas. He and his two brothers were raised by a stern father (Brad Pitt) and loving mother (Jessica Chastain). That is pretty much all Malick let on in the way of plot… we’re on the outside looking in as we observe scenes of family life — kids playing, mothers comforting her child, kids being disciplined by his father, etc. Those scenes are interspersed with breathtaking imagery that seem to symbolize life’s origins and origins of the universe.

I find it impossible to properly review this film, nor can I find an appropriate rating for this. In fact, even after this film sits with me for 48 hours, I’m still trying to process just what it was that I saw. So what I’m going to tell you is how this film makes me feel. At first I was really intrigued by Malick’s direction and oohed-aahed at the overwhelmingly beautiful nature and cosmic imagery, but about three-quarters of the way in, I actually almost dozed off, spurred by the lack of action on screen and the sweet-sounding classical score by Alexandre Desplat.

In the end, the whole thing left me rather um… indifferent. Even now I don’t have any strong feeling one way or the other, which is odd considering how polarizing this film is. I think the only character I feel some sympathy with is Jack when he was a kid, as he seems to suffer the most from the way his dad treated him, but the rest of the characters fail to engage. Not that the actors’ performances weren’t good mind you, it’s just that these I couldn’t really connect with them. I think Pitt and Chastain are effective in their roles, though Penn is utterly wasted here as he wasn’t given anything to do other than looking lost and forlorn.

I’m also surprised that I didn’t shed a single tear even though I’m a crier. I mean, I bawled my eyes out watching Wall-E! With all that said though, I’m still glad I saw this film. In fact, I recommend people to actually take a chance with this film even if you have trepidation about this based on what you may have read. It’s definitely worth a watch even just to marvel at the cinematography and Malick’s keen eye of capturing nature in its most delightful way.

My husband liken this to seeing a piece of fine art in a museum, sometimes you might not understand what you are looking at in front of you, but it may have the power to touch you in a profound way… but then again, maybe not.


Well, that’s the best way I can ‘review’ this film. So what’s your thoughts about this film? I’d love to hear ‘em.

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.