Musings on Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR

InterstellarBannerI’ve been a big fan of Christopher Nolan‘s work, in fact I’ve seen all of his work and they’ve pretty much range from great to fantastic. I’ve been looking forward to Interstellar like most movie fans, but to be honest with you, for whatever reason, a couple of weeks before the film opened and as the hype reaches its tipping point, I started to feel… indifferent. In any case, I went to see it Saturday night anyway and instead of a straight review, this is more of my reaction to the movie… what I like and don’t like about it, so pardon if I’m rambling a bit…

The film is essentially about a small group of people going on a space travel adventure to save mankind. Well that’s the elevator pitch version anyway, but at the heart of it is a father/daughter relationship that transcend through space and time. I don’t remember seeing a specific year mention but the story is set in the future when the earth as we know it is dying, food is scarce as dust bowls continually wipe out farm crops. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a widower & former NASA test pilot who’s now taking up farming with his father in-law and his two kids, Tom & Murphy. Cooper hasn’t quite given up his space aspiration as when he and his kids spotted a drone flying close by, Cooper gets all giddy and drives through those supposedly precious corn fields to chase after it.

InterstellarStill1[SPOILER ALERT]
I discussed some crucial plot points here, so beware if you haven’t seen the movie

It’s perhaps one of the only truly joyful moment in the film, and it’s obvious that his 10-year-old daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) shares his enthusiasm for science and space. Soon Cooper is reunited again with NASA in its secret hideaway. How did he get there? Well apparently a dust storm through an open window spells out the coordinates of its location in morse code. Say what? Well, that’s just one of the mind-boggling things about this movie and we’re just getting started. When Cooper gets to NASA, the elder professor Brand (played by Michael Caine, natch) tells him of a possible solution to humanity’s crisis and that is they’ve got to find a sustainable planet on the other side and Cooper is the only man for the job. Hmmm, wouldn’t you think that if he’s truly the only person for this crucial mission, NASA would’ve sought him out instead of waiting for him to somehow stumbles into their base? I mean, Cooper lives pretty much just down the road and they know he has the skills to pilot their ship.

Following the NASA encounter, the film doesn’t waste any time to shoot Cooper into space. Discussions about this movie would likely involve wormholes and black holes which frankly go way over my head, but there are a plethora of plot holes as well to contend with. The one I mentioned in the above paragraph is just one example. Apparently famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have been tweeting about the ‘Mysteries of #Interstellar’ which you can find here. I kept nodding as I read each tweet, especially the one where Cooper cracks his helmet on one of the planet’s he visits and he’s even able to remove his gloves during a fight. Wouldn’t you think the Planet’s air is toxic to the human body??

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Now, plot holes in sci-fi movies are common, in fact, it’s kind of inevitable… I mean it’s ‘fi’ for fiction after all. Interstellar does have the appearance of being grounded in realism however, in fact, Nolan hires a real astrophysicist Kip Thorne in building the Black Hole for the movie and to ensure the depictions of wormholes and relativity are as accurate as possible. But yet, one doesn’t need to be a scientist that a close proximity to the black hole would’ve killed those astronauts instantly and thus that planet being so close to such black hole, which Cooper’s team dub Gargantua, simply cannot exist. I have to admit though, it’s been fun reading about all the stuff that don’t make sense in Interstellar. It seems that with a lot of Nolan’s movies, analyzing it is as fun as watching his movies.

That said, I was more than willing to suspend my disbelief and go along for the ride. And what a ride it was. The imagery and visual effects is nothing short of tremendous. It’s something that I’ve come to expect from Nolan’s team, and they did not disappoint on that front. Everything is so meticulously-crafted. Though I’ve seen a lot of spaceships in other sci-fi films, I’m still in awe looking at all the details of the Endurance ship and all the other set pieces. Instead of his usual collaboration with Wally Pfister (who was busy making his first film Transcendence), we’ve got Hoyte van Hoytema in charge of cinematography. The Dutch-Swedish cinematographer impressed me greatly with his work in HER, but he’s outdone himself here with his astounding work. The earth landscape rivals the beauty of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, but it’s the visuals of the outer space and the barren alien planets that’s really breathtaking. But whilst the film’s scenery is truly a feast for my eyes, my ears aren’t so lucky. Hans Zimmer‘s score is often so loud to the point of irritation and it drowns out all the dialog, especially during the NASA visit where Brand is giving Cooper a tour. Perhaps it’s intentional, as this article points out, but really, I wouldn’t care about the thematic significance when my ears are hurting, y’know. I listened to the soundtrack later on and really enjoyed it, though I still love his work on Nolan’s Batman films more.

InterstellarStill5Sometimes I feel that perhaps I’m not smart enough to get Nolan’s movies… let alone TWO Nolans working together. Christopher and his brother Jonathan ‘Jonah’ Nolan collaborated on the script as Jonah originally developed it for Steven Spielberg who later passed on the project. To say that Interstellar is discombobulating is quite an understatement. I LOVE using that word whenever I get the chance to, but I don’t necessarily enjoy being in a constant state of bewilderment. The entire sequence involving Matt Damon is completely lost on me, not only did Damon’s casting completely take me out of the movie – “What’s Jason Bourne doing here?” “Wait, is this Elysium 2.o?” – the whole storyline of Dr. Mann wanting to kill Cooper felt preposterous to me. So he goes space crazy, okay… but I really didn’t expect the sudden villain-y scenario here and it’s a subplot I could do without.

I haven’t quite recovered from Mann’s um, riddle and Nolan’s already hit me with another as the film seemingly raced towards the finale once the film passed its two hour mark. I was totally baffled by the sequence of Cooper and the robot TARS inside some kind of a tesseract portal, supposedly built by ‘future us’ [as Cooper said during his frantic mumbling] which implies there’s advanced humans in existence by then who could build such a thing. Suddenly Cooper discovers it’s him who’s actually the *ghost* that haunts Murphy’s and knocks stuff off her bookshelf. There’s too much to digest here that my mind wander a bit, admiring the gorgeous scenery of that fifth dimension portal or whatever the heck that is. The whole time I kept thinking ‘how did they do that?‘ Then suddenly Cooper is floating again in outer space and before you know it, he gets rescued and wakes up in a whole new earth. O-kay…

When I wasn’t scratching my head pretty much the entire time, there were moments that I winced at the constant sobbing scenes that reminds me of Spielberg’s schmaltz-fest War Horse. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a genuinely emotional moments. I was quite moved by the father/daughter relationship in various points of time, the tearful goodbye and the reunion come to mind, but at times, I felt like I was deluged by over-sentimentality. I don’t know, maybe Nolan felt he’s got a reputation of being a cold or emotionally-detached that he went a bit overboard trying to refute that?

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[End of spoiler section]

Fortunately, the actors are more than up for the task to bring the humanity aspect of this space drama. McConaughey is a convincing everyman here, that I’m willing to overlook his Southern accent playing a character supposedly being from the Midwest. He has an effortless chemistry with Foy who plays his young daughter. My second favorite performance is Jessica Chastain as the older Murphy, not only she resembles Foy but she carries the same sensibilities and stubbornness displayed in her younger self. I’ve never been a big fan of Anne Hathaway but I think she acquits herself well, even delivering such a such a mawkish speech as “Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space” referring to her long lost love Dr. Edmund who went on a previous NASA mission. I’ve mentioned how I feel about Matt Damon above, I really wish they’d cast someone less famous & less ubiquitous than him. Michael Caine is always reliable, though they totally botched the aging process of his character [aka he basically doesn’t age at all in 23 years!]. John Lithgow and Ellen Burstyn both delivered a memorable performance despite their brief screen time.

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The longer I mull over it, the more I feel that Interstellar is a film I appreciate but not love. It’s not because it’s too confusing because I have loved other films I don’t completely understand, Nolan’s own Inception being one of them. It’s just that in the end, I just don’t feel as much connection with any of the characters and their journey. Despite all that crying in the film, overall the film didn’t tug my heartstrings as much as I had hoped. Heck I was more affected by the relationship of the robot Baymax and its protagonist Hiro in Big Hero 6, that movie was so joyful and emotional all at the same time. Speaking of robots, I thought TARS is a hoot and perhaps as memorable as any of the human characters. And hey, for once the robots are actually loyal to the humans whilst the main enemy of man is ‘Mann’, get it? ;)

The film has been called overly-ambitious and that its intellectual reach exceeds its grasp. I can’t refute either of those points, but I still have to give props to Nolan for making something bold and audaciously cerebral. I’m not just talking about dazzling us with jaw-dropping visuals but in the way he challenges viewers with stupendous and imaginative ideas. I appreciate that Nolan never asks us to ‘check our brain at the door’ or dumb stuff down to make things more digestible. But at the same time, there is also such a thing as having too many ideas and themes to process in a single film. There’s perhaps enough substance here to warrant say, a miniseries. The movie is nearly 3 hours long but it’s still not enough time to focus on one of those ideas, the result is sensory overload that threatens to suck the joy out of what’s supposed to be a piece of entertainment. I might revisit this film again later when it’s out for rental and perhaps I’d have a different opinion then.

Interstellar_TARSThis is one of the longest musings I’ve done in a movie, which is funny as I originally wanted to do a mini review of it but it proved to be impossible as there’s so much to say. Despite my gripes and what a lot of reviewers have said that it’s a beautiful-but-flawed film, I still urge you to see it. It’s the kind of film that’s meant to be seen in as big a screen as possible, as some of the sequences shot using IMAX camera are simply stunning. However you feel after you see it, Interstellar is still a worthwhile experience and it also makes for a fun discussion/reading afterwards. The Nolan brothers are certainly one of the most powerful siblings working in Hollywood today. Even if this one isn’t quite a masterpiece, they’re still a force to be reckoned with and I still look forward to what Chris Nolan will come up with next.

3.5 reels


So, that’s my thoughts on Interstellar. Do you agree/disagree? I’d love to hear what you think!

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Five for the Fifth: NOVEMBER 2014 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! 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.

1. Can’t believe this is already the second to last Five for the Fifth of the year! First off, I want to highlight one of my favorite character actor who’s definitely got the leading-man charisma: Sam Rockwell. The California-born actor turns 46 today.

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I honestly don’t know when I first spotted Rockwell, as I’ve missed out on a lot of his earlier roles in the 90s. But he’s the kind of actor whose presence is always welcomed as he’s so fun to watch. He certainly lives up to his name as he pretty much rocks well in any role.

There’s a chameleonic ability about him that he can effortlessly portray a repulsive killer in The Green Mile and a goofy & paranoid third-rate actor in Galaxy Quest in the same year. I also love his brief performance as a wrongly-convicted felon in Conviction, a flamboyant, surfer-dude type alien in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as well as a carefree man-child with a heart of gold in The Way Way Back. He’s memorable even in smaller roles in Iron Man 2 as Tony Stark’s rival weapons manufacturer, that’s as equally charming, sarcastic and witty. In fact, his weapons demo is my fave scene of the whole movie! In fact, someone on youtube actually pitches a spinoff of his character Justin Hammer, and you know what, if they make it, I’d watch it! I’m bummed that I missed Laggies last month at TCFF, and I have yet to see Moon as someone spoiled it for me, but I’d still see it at some point just to see his performance.

So what’s your favorite Sam Rockwell role?

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2. I saw a couple of trailers this weekend that piqued my interest. I didn’t realize it until today that both of them have Oscar Isaac in it. I think he’s one talented actor so I’m glad he continues to get a variety of roles that highlight his versatility. Now, first one is A Most Violent Year.

In New York City 1981, an ambitious immigrant fights to protect his business and family during the most dangerous year in the city’s history.

There are many things that piqued my interest. Firstly, I love the pairing of Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, both Juilliard grads who’ve made good in Hollywood. It’s also cool to see David Oyelowo and Alessandro Nivola here, two underrated actors I wish would get more roles. Secondly, the director is J.C. Chandor, it’s his third film that he wrote as well as directed. I was quite impressed by his debut Margin Call, and his sophomore effort was All Is Lost, a one-man show starring Robert Redford. Let’s hope the film is as gripping as the trailer.

The other one is a sci-fi thriller with yet another man-and-machine theme Ex-Machina.

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

This is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later and Sunshine, two of the best sci-fi films that happen to be directed by his frequent collaborator Danny Boyle. Garland also wrote Never Let Me Go which I found really heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. So naturally I’m intrigued by this one and the trailer certainly looks promising. Interesting to see Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander pairing up again after Anna Karenina two years ago.

Does either one of these trailers pique your interest?

3. Happy Movember! The annual mustache-growing event to raise awareness about men’s health issues starts on November 1st. I know there are some folks in my company who does this annually, and as the weather’s turning chillier, I suppose facial hair is like a ‘fur coat for one’s face’ :D

Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of men with mustaches, but some do look good with ‘em and I can’t imagine some actors without their mustache (i.e. Tom Selleck, Nick Offerman, just to name a few). So I thought just for the fun of it, I’d highlight some memorable Movie/TV Mustaches, including several of my own personal favorites.

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So who’s your pick(s) of favorite movie/tv mustaches?
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4. I literally just spotted this as I’m working on the post last night. According to SlashFilm, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has revealed the 20 animated films that have been submitted and will be eligible for up to five nominations for Best Animated Feature Film at next year’s Oscar! Here’s the list:

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Book of Life
  • The Boxtrolls
  • Cheatin
  • Giovanni’s Island
  • Henry and Me
  • The Hero of Color City
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
  • Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
  • The Lego Movie
  • Minuscule – Valley of the Lost Ants
  • Mr. Peabody and Sherman
  • Penguins of Madagascar
  • The Pirate Fairy
  • Planes: Fire and Rescue
  • Rio 2
  • Rocks in My Pockets
  • Song of the Sea
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Boy there are SO many I haven’t seen yet but my top 3 are easily The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 in that order. Actually, The Lego Movie and Big Hero 6 are pretty much neck and neck for me, as both are REALLY fun, heartwarming and simply a fantastic piece of entertainment.

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I talked about Song of the Sea back in June, but sadly I haven’t seen it yet. I’m also curious about The Book of Life which has been getting some good reviews. As for the rest, some of them I’ve never even heard of and some I simply have no interest in seeing [I’m looking at you Planes: Fire & Rescue].

So which three of these 20 animated features are you rooting for?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle blog!

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The topic is on ensemble-cast movies from the past year. I know I’ve brought up this topic back in April in this discussion about which ensemble cast that fail to deliver. It was inspired by my viewing of All Things To All Men which totally waste talents the likes of Gabriel Byrne, Rufus Sewell and my personal fave Toby Stephens! Of course there are many other ensemble cast movies released in 2014, i.e. Monuments Men, This is Where I Leave You, Grand Budapest Hotel, Expendables 3, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, FURY, Men Women and Children, just to name a few. It’s an eclectic list and some obviously work better than others. But perhaps, some films are still worth seeing just for the cast alone, and sometimes a particular ensemble can actually elevate a so-so film.

So, Josh would like to know … what are your favorite ensemble casts of 2014? 


Well, that’s it for the November 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

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

Top10Actresses_Marion

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

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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

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

FlixChatter Review – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

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

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

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

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

EleanorRigbyStill2

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

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

EleanorRigbyStill3

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

4.5 out of 5 reels


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

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?

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?