Five Movies. Five Words – Vol. 3

FiveMoviesFiveWordsCan’t believe I completely dropped the ball on this series! I mean I didn’t do a single Five Movies in Five Words the entire year of 2014! [face palm] Yes I know, I know, one of my New Year Resolution is to be more consistent :P

Thanks to Josh @ The Cinematic Spectacle for reminding me! So basically the idea is to come up with five movies from various genres and capture the essence of the film, or whatever that comes to mind when I think of that film, in one word. As a general *rule* I’m picking films I saw the past year (old or new) that I haven’t had the chance to review yet. So here we go:

The Hundred-Foot Journey

HundredFootJourneyscrumptious

The Imitation Game

ImitationGamemomentous

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

KumikoTreasureHunterkooky

Last Train to Lisbon

NightTrainToLisbon beguiling

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

NightMuseum3riotous


Well, that’s the first 2015 edition of Five Movies in Five Words. Any thoughts on these films?

Everybody’s Chattin’ and Music Break featuring THE GUEST Soundtrack

EverybodysChattinWinter

It’s already three weeks into January and I just realize I haven’t done a Community Links nor a Music Break post. So why not combine the two again, right? Having just seen The Guest, I knew I had to do a post on the awesome 80s retro soundtrack! I really enjoyed the movie too, review up sometime in the next few days.

So here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

There are still a lot of 2014 recaps circulating on the blogosphere and I actually still have one more year-end recap list on Top 10 MALE Performances that I’m hoping to finalize this week yet.

Best2014RecapWell, speaking of cinematic recaps, Margaret and Keith just posted theirs and it’s an absolute blast reading ‘em! LOVE all the creative categories highlighting the best and worst of the year.

Kudos to Eric for finishing his 50 Movies Project! Here’s how he ranked all those films, consider this a list of film recommendations too!

Now switching gears to 2015 Movie Watching plans and glad to see Melissa and Abbi joining the Blindspot series! Check out their film selections on their respective blogs.

I wasn’t going to include any more award-related stuff until Oscar telecast later in late February, but Josh just posted about how his Oscar predictions (which he started 9 months ago!) lined up with the actual nominations.

Now on to reviews!

Dell just posted his review of Selma and Andrew posted his thoughts on the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself. Meanwhile, Natalie and Mark just reviewed the surprise box office smash American Sniper.

Last but not least, Tim just reviewed T3ken which I hope Bryan Mills won’t read, ahah. Seems like it’s as hilariously awful as the trailer!


Now time for some awesome music …

theguest_danstevens2… bad ass & deliciously creepy Dan Stevens!

Here’s another fun action flick from last year besides John Wick that has a hint of 80s/90s retro, not just in terms of the film’s style but also in the soundtrack! Nerdist.com posted an interview with director Adam Wingard about how he crafted the soundtrack,

“…I was thinking more ’80s goth rock stuff like Death In June but as we made the picture, I realized the movie was going in a more poppy direction [becoming] less dark as the movie developed and that kind of evolved more into 80s goth electronica as opposed to straight up ’80s goth rock”

As with a lot of stuff, everything old is new again and the nostalgia factor is what makes it awesome :D My favorite track happens to be the same one that Stevens’ character David love! It’s called Anthonio by Norwegian recording artist Annie released back in 2009. I also love the ending score by Steve Moore.


Hope you enjoyed today’s Music Break!

2015 Oscar Nominations: The Good, the Bad and the WTF

Oscars2015BannerSome movie bloggers (myself included) must be masochists in some ways. I mean, I haven’t quite recovered from some of the disappointments of the Golden Globes and now we’re subjecting ourselves to another disgruntlement of Oscars nominations! :P

Same like last year, I didn’t make a post of my nomination predictions this year, I only tweeted who’d be nominated for Best Picture and a few other categories.


Well, I guessed correctly that it’d be 8 nominations, but apparently I got one wrong, which is the one film I was REALLY hoping would make the cut! (It’s the #2 pick on my Top 10 Movies of 2014)

Oscars15_BestPicture

Here’s what the 20 acting nominees look like this year:

ActingNominationsOscars2015

Yes yes, of course EVERYONE should be nominated based merit (though at least a couple of the noms here don’t really deserve the noms). Anyway you want to look at it, the diversity gap is really quite staggering:

Anyway, you can see the full nominations here. Let’s start with the positive …

The Good

So I guess it’s a good year for Indie Films. I was listening to a critic on NPR saying that the total box office take of ALL the Best Picture nominees combined would probably only top $200 mil, which is drop in the bucket for something like Transformers.

  • Thrilled to see SELMA made the Best Picture list and got Best Original Song nomination for Glory! Sadly it’s the ONLY two good things The Academy bothered to recognize.
  • Happy to see Birdman getting a NINE nominations, yay! It’s pretty much nominated in every major category, including Best Picture, Director, AND three acting nods. Of course Michael Keaton has been a lock for some time but still happy to see him here. It’ll come down to him and Eddie Redmayne (both won Golden Globes), but fingers crossed Keaton will emerges as the winner!!
  • Congrats to Colleen Atwood for her 11th Best Costume Design Oscar nominations. Hey she’s catching up on Meryl, though she’s definitely far far more deserving than Meryl is in their respective categories. The costumes are indeed gorgeous in this movie!

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  • YAY for Marion Cotillard amongst the Best Actress nominees instead of Jennifer Aniston! I mean nobody I know has seen Aniston’s performance and from some of the reviews I heard of Cake, it’s not even a good movie. I haven’t seen Two Days, One Night, one of the two possible performances she could be nominated for, but sounds like it’s a more challenging role than The Immigrant.
  • I know that Julianne Moore seems to be the favorite to win for Still Alice, but I’m still rooting for Rosamund Pike all the way!
    GoRosamund
  • I’m glad to see Citizenfour shortlisted for Best Documentary! Now I haven’t seen the other four that are nominated so I can’t say who’s most deserving, but still nice to see this fascinating doc getting major recognitions. It’s currently on my Top 10 of the year!
  • Overall I agree with pretty much ALL of the Best Actor nominations, though I haven’t seen Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking nor Bradley Cooper as the late sniper Chris Kyle. I just realized that ALL four nominees portrayed real-life people, except for Michael Keaton‘s fictional character Riggan Thomson. It makes me root for Keaton’s performance all the more considering how good and how unique it is.
  • Glad to see Big Hero 6 in the Best Animated Feature category! I really do love this movie, if only The LEGO Movie is nominated along with it…. more on that later.
    ///
  • Lots of amazing talents in the Cinematography category. Roger Deakins is one of the few who weren’t snubbed for Unbroken. So this marks his 12th nomination! But I’m rooting for Emmanuel Lubezki (yes again, as I was rooting for him for Gravity last year) to win for Birdman though. Those single long tracking shots are practically iconic and is crucial to the story-telling piece. Here’s a great article on his astounding work.
    Lubezki_Birdman
  • WOW, congrats the ever-prolific and constantly-amazing Alexandre Desplat for getting DOUBLE nominations for The Grand Budapest Hotel AND The Imitation Game, both of them are on my Top 10 Favorite 2014 Scores. Also thrilled for Hans Zimmer for his 9th nomination! I LOVE his score for Interstellar, it just seems to get better the more you listen to it.

The Bad

  • Ok, let’s start with the most egregious one. It’s just a bad year for diversity. What a difference a year makes. Seems that Oscar was quite progressive last year with THREE non-white actors being recognized in the acting categories and 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture. This year NONE of the acting nominees consist of an actor/actress of color, I mean not a single one! Now, shouldn’t the noms be based on merit? Why yes course it is, and both Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo are both worthy of recognition. It’s DuVernay’s direction that made Selma a powerful and stirring film and Oyelowo truly embodied Martin Luther King Jr., delivering a compelling performance that’s fiery, vulnerable and emphatically human.
    Oyelowo_DuVernay_SELMA
    I’d also argue that Gugu Mbatha-Raw‘s stunning performance in both Belle and Beyond The Lights far surpasses Reese Witherspoon’s in Wild.
  • Seems that it’s a bad year for women too. I’ve mentioned DuVernay, but Angelina Jolie got no love for Unbroken, either. No Gillian Flynn in Adapted Screenplay category, and none in the Best Score nor Best Cinematography category. I’ve been hearing great things about the cinematography of Tracks by Mandy Walker, and I absolutely adore Rachel Portman‘s score for BELLE (one of my Top 10 Fave 2014 Scores).
  •  Everything is awesome…. NOT!

    But what’s awesome is how its director is such a good sport!!

  • Hoyte Van Hoytema is robbed once again for his amazing cinematography work in Interstellar (he was also overlooked last year for his work in Her) I mean come on!! Now, I didn’t expect Chris Nolan nor his film would get much Oscar love, but the absolutely mesmerizing visuals is one of the film’s greatest strength, and certainly one of the most memorable of the past year.
    InterstellarCinematography
  • Speaking of robbed, where is Ralph Fiennes?? His first ever comedic leading role, in which he was sensational, went unrecognized. The Academy must have a thing for Bradley Cooper as he’s nominated for the THIRD time in a row for Best Actor!

The WTF

  • Ok now, did The Academy has something against Gone Girl?? I mean look at the trifecta of snubs here. First there’s no love for Fincher for directing nor Gillian Flynn for writing, but the Academy also snubbed Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross for their fantastically atmospheric score!
  • No offense Morten Tyldum, as I love your Danish thriller Headhunters, but sorry I can’t fathom how he’s considered a better director than David Fincher! Yes I included The Imitation Game in my Top 10, but there is no way was it as crafty and bold as Gone Girl.
  • I had the exact reaction last year about Meryl Streep‘s nomination over Emma Thompson in Saving Mr Banks! Well now she’s back for her 19th nomination(!!) for her over-the-top performance in Into The Woods. It’s yet another scenery-chewing performance as she did in August: Osage County as the toxic-spewing matriarch. This time she played a witch, so there’s not much difference in terms of character arc is there??! [sigh] I’d have LOVED to see Carmen Ejogo getting a nod in Meryl’s spot for her heartfelt performance as Correta Scott King in Selma.
    CarmenEjogo_SELMA
  • Now, I haven’t seen either one of the films but I think it’s safe to say that Jake Gyllenhaal got robbed! I mean I’ve read countless reviews praising his chilling psychotic performance in Nightcrawler. Again, was Bradley Cooper really THAT good of an actor that he warrants three Best Actor noms in a row??

The 87th Academy Awards will air on February 22 on ABC.


Well, that’s my reaction to the 2015 nominations. What are your Oscars-related delights and gripes?

Everybody’s Chattin’ and Music Break: John Wick Soundtrack

HAPPY [almost] FRIDAY!! I’m gonna combine this month’s Chattin’ post with Music Break as I missed it the past couple of weeks. I’m getting a bit of a blog fatigue lately and I’m behind on a bunch of reviews, so I might do more mini reviews in the next few weeks. I also have two fantastic guest posts from my pals Jack Deth & Daveackackattack on David Mamet and great TV recommendations, so stay tuned!

Well, since Interstellar opens this weekend, I most likely will go see that on Saturday. It’s nearly 3 hrs long, so I don’t feel like seeing it after dinner or I’ll doze off before the first half is over.

So here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

Michael eloquently talks about his love for film photography which is increasingly become a lost art today.

OnlyLoversLeftAliveImgI can’t believe I still haven’t seen Only Lovers Left Alive, especially after such a glowing review from Mark , but fortunately I have seen Fight Club, and another Mark, as in Mark Walker illustrates why it’s definitely one of Fincher’s finest

Margaret reviewed Begin Again, which sounds lovely and I can see why she’s crushing on Mark Ruffalo ;)

Stu just caught up on The Act of Killing and I’m glad he appreciated that documentary despite not being the easiest film to watch

Drew on the other hand, is lamenting on how boring and pointless The Rover was, I had no idea Joel Edgerton wrote it!

PrinceSwitching gear to a music post, check out what makes Chris‘ list of Top 10 Songs by Prince 

Lots of new trailers are released this week, check out what you’ve missed on Terrence‘s Trailer Time Thursday

Now this is a list I can get behind… Tom lists 10 actors he avoids in pretty much anything. Wow, I agree with ALL of them, though I still don’t mind Timberlake in a small supporting role

Last but not least, Dan and Ryan have already set their minds on 2015 Blindspot lists, and they’re asking your help to choose 12 movies that you believe they must watch next year

 


Now time for some awesome music …

JohnWickPuppy

… and John Wick’s puppy, cutest movie dog you’ll see this year!

A lot of you already know I love the movie but one of the things I love about it is this cool and dynamic score from Tyler Bates and Joel Richard. It fits the mood and tone so perfectly and it’ll make for an awesome dance party soundtrack! I can’t help tapping my feet and groovin’ to the beat as I’m listening to it. Screencrush said in their John Wick review that Keanu Reeves is “…the kind of star who is still partying like it’s the mid-to-late ’90s, and that’s totally more than okay…” Y’know what, the music certainly has a 90s vibe to it to match the 90s-style action sequences of shooting guns mid air and the likes.

My fave track is the Shots Fired one at the club scene, followed by Red Circle and a slower one about Willem Dafoe’s character, Old Friend Marcus.


Well have a great Friday, everyone! What are you gonna see this weekend?

Gearing up for Twin Cities Film Fest 2014 – Indie & Documentary Spotlights + Meet the talents in attendance

Finally! Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is coming tomorrow!! In the next 10 days, movie lovers in Twin Cities and beyond rejoice as TCFF features nearly 80 films, with a fun mix of highly-anticipated studio releases, with a bunch of indie films of various genres, some with homegrown Minnesota flavors! I’m glad TCFF has made a home in Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres in St. Louis Park, which has been my cinema of choice for the past few years!

TCFF2014posterI have highlighted some of the lineup in this post, including documentaries and short films, broken down by themes in a block of a half dozen or so. There are still many more films I want to highlight, but before that, I’d like to draw your attention to TCFF Membership ….

At Twin Cities Film Fest, members enjoy several events per year that benefit both film lovers and filmmakers alike. The following benefits are available to all members beginning at just $100/year, which you can write off your tax as our organization is a 501(c)3 non profit. There are LOADS of benefits listed here, but I think the best one is the fact that TCFF members will enjoy year around programming with free screenings for members +1 guest. I mean, that alone makes your membership practically pays for itself.

TCFFMembershipChallenge

Great News! The Pohlad Family Foundation has offered a 1 to 1 match for all new TCFF Memberships! Yep, That means they will donate $100 for every new $100 Membership. TCFF Members receive exclusive benefits – like discounted tickets and festival passes in addition to  Members-Only Screenings and special offers from TCFF Sponsors.

BecomeAMember

FULL SCHEDULE is now online as well, click the image below to download a handy schedule in PDF format.

ScheduleThumbnail

In addition to screening films, Twin Cities Film Fest also have a bunch of great panels where you get to meet and learn from filmmakers and actors in attendance. Here are just a sampling of the actors who’ll take part in the Red Carpet festivities, check out this Red Carpet schedule, and some would also take part in the Actor Panel.

TCFF_ActorInAttendance

Saturday, October 18th, 4-5pm ICON Theatre Lobby

The workshop will include working actors with films screening at the 2014 Twin Cities Film Fest.  They will discuss their journey, training, projects, and the ups and downs of establishing and maintaining an acting career in both film and television.

Panelists include:

  • Haley Lu Richardson – Lead Role in The Well and The Young Kieslowski
  • Sean Maher – Lead Role in BFFs
  • Ryan Kiser – Lead Role in The House of Manson
  • Marisa Coughlan – Moderator, Space Station 76, Freddie Got Fingered, Super Troopers

TCFF14BannerI hope you’ll stop by FlixChatter in the next couple of weeks as a team of bloggers bring you TCFF coverage. I’ll be interviewing some of the talents, starting with Haley Lu Richardson on Friday AM. So stay tuned! :D


Indie Spotlights

On top of the studio releases such as Men, Women & Children, The Imitation Game and Wild, there are a boatload of intriguing indie narratives you absolutely should check out! I’ve highlighted seven of them already [you can see all the trailers here], but there are so many more, starting with this latest addition:

Laggies (Sat, Oct. 25th, 3:00pm)

Director: Lynn Shelton
Cast:
Keira Knightly, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockell

In the throes of a quarter-life crisis, Megan panics when her boyfriend proposes, then, taking an opportunity to escape for a week, hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika, who lives with her world-weary single dad.

Big Significant Things (10/17 – 3:00pm, 10/24 – 2:30pm)

Director: Bryan Reisberg
Cast: Harry Lloyd, Krista Kosonen, Sylvia Grace Crim

A week before they move across the country together, Craig lies to his girlfriend in order to go on his first road trip — to the south. Alone.

Old Fashioned (10/18 – 2:00pm, 10/22 – 4:30pm)

Director: Rik Swartzwelder
Cast:
Rik Swartzwelder, Elizabeth Roberts, LeJon Woods

A former frat boy and a free-spirited woman together attempt the impossible: an “old-fashioned” courtship in contemporary America.


BFFs (Sat, 10/18 – 6:00pm)

Director: Andrew Putschoegl
Cast:
Tara Karsian, Andrea Grano, Sean Maher, Larisa Oleynik

Kat and Samantha have been best friends for years. Kat is given a couples weekend workshop as a birthday gift by her mother (never mind that her relationship with her ex-boyfriend has been over for six months). Samantha never seems to have a problem finding men to date -they just never seem to last. Samantha convinces Kat to take advantage of the idyllic retreat by pretending to be lovers – how hard could it be? They expect some down time by the pool and maybe a few good stories to bring home with them. What they don’t expect is to get immersed in a world where they are surrounded by couples who are fighting to keep their relationships strong, and by default, make Samantha and Kat face their own shortcomings as they find themselves having to work on their relationship that isn’t really a relationship.

 

The Young Kieslowski (Sun, 10/19 – 3:00pm)

Director: Kerem Sanga
Cast: Ryan Malgarini, Haley Lu Richardson, Joshua Malina

Audience Award Winner, Los Angeles Film Festival: Grand romantic gestures need not apply in this comedic tale of star-crossed young love. Instead, freshman Brian Kieslowski displays endless reserves of bumbling awkwardness as he goes home with a girl for the first time… and then learns that he got her pregnant… with twins… all while she’s going through a rather inconvenient Christianity phase. Could it be that being the good guy and doing what’s right are two very different things? With writer/director Kerem Sanga presenting a seriocomic gauntlet for them to negotiate, Ryan Malgarini and Haley Lu Richardson deliver delightfully nimble performances, hitting all the right off-notes as two kids in just over their heads, whose luck seems as bad as their instincts. The fates may have conspired to prematurely drag them into adulthood, but they intend on going kicking and screaming.

Wild Canaries (Sun, 10/19 – 6:00pm)

Director: Lawrence Michael Levine
Cast: Lawrence Michael Levine, Sophia Takal, Alia Shawkat

A Brooklyn couple suspects foul play when their rent controlled neighbor suddenly drops dead.


Solitude (Tues, 10/21 – 8:45pm)

Director: Taylor Scott Olson and Livingston Oden
Cast: 
Armin Habibovich, Victoria LaChelle, Brent Latchaw, Alex Cotant, Glen Stone, Kelly Lavasseur, Amy Correll

After his mothers death, James Erikson discovers an old storage locker she had, that is filled with journals and newspapers of his family’s history. As he researches it, he finds out about the evil that his family has tried to contain for several generations.

 

Comet (Wed, 10/22 7:00pm)

Director: Sam Esmail
Cast: Emmy Rossum, Justin Long

Set in a parallel universe, Comet bounces back and forth over the course of an unlikely but perfectly paired couples six-year relationship.

No trailer available but here’s Emmy’s interview at LA Film Festival:


Ink & Steel (Sat, 10/25 – 5:30pm)

Director: Jonathan Ehlers and Patrick Ward-Perkins
Cast: Marc Basch, Jason Beckmann, Dennis Blazek, Molly Ryman

In this upstate New York drama, when a turf war engulfs the city, aging mob enforcer Michael retrieves the Don’s troubled son from his college partying. After they survive an attempted hit on the road home, Michael seeks refuge at a rural farm, imposing on a single mother and her teenage son living there. As violence escalates in the city, Michael is ordered to wait it out, keeping the boss’ son safe while coexisting as unwelcome house guests. But, when dark pasts threaten to collide, Michael, a man more comfortable solving problems with force, must find a way to keep the peace, and decide if he should break the Don’s son free of the cycle of violence which has haunted the family for generations.


Documentaries Spotlights

I always catch some intriguing docs during film festivals and this year is no different. I’ve mentioned three documentaries I’m planning to see, here are two more exciting ones I’ll be checking out:

Where The Trail Ends (Thurs, 10/23 – 5:00 pm)

Director: Jeremy Grant

“Where the Trail Ends” is a film following the world’s top free-ride mountain bikers as they search for untraveled terrain around the globe, ultimately shaping the future of big mountain free riding. This unparalleled story, told in glorious, gobsmacking high-definition, documents man’s challenge of mother nature and himself showcased through a cast of colorful characters. One of the most ambitious extreme sports documentaries ever attempted.

 

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter (Thurs, 10/23 – 8:30pm)

Director: David Zellner
Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard

kumiko-poster

Kumiko lives in a cluttered, cramped apartment in Tokyo with her pet rabbit, Bunzo. She works as an office lady, robotically preparing tea and fetching dry cleaning for her nitpicky boss. But on her own time, she obsessively watches a well-known American film on a weathered VHS tape. Rewinding and fast-forwarding repeatedly, she meticulously maps out where a briefcase of castaway loot is buried within the fictional film. After hours of intense research—convinced that her destiny depends on finding the money—Kumiko heads to the United States and into the harsh Minnesota winter to search for it.

[No trailer available yet]

….


Meet the TCFF Bloggers!

Both Sarah and Adam are back to contribute reviews for you dear readers. Feel free to peruse the TCFF Archive page to read some of the films they’ve reviewed here, including We Are What We Are and The Liability starring Tim Roth.

TCFF_SarahJohnsonTCFF_AdamWells

And look who’s the new kid on the block this year! It’s Josh from JJames Reviews who’ve been long absent from the blogosphere [we miss you man!]. Well, he’s helping me review a whole bunch of indie films this year, woo hoo!

JoshP_review

And of course, yours truly ;)

TCFF_RuthMaramis


TCFF’s Silver, Gold & Platinum Passes are now available!

TCFFPasses(Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening or Closing Tickets).

GET THEM EARLY
(while supplies last)

TCFFtickets

Individual tickets are on sale now at twincitiesfilmfest.org

2014 Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening Gala $25 (proceeds going to local charities); Closing Gala $20.

 


Hope you’ll stop by during FlixChatter’s TCFF coverage!

Everybody’s Chattin’ & Question of the Week on Breakthrough Performer of 2014

Happy Thursday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone again today, combining two post *series* in one. I want to highlight some of my fave posts from the past week, as well as pick your brain on the topic of the week: Breakthrough Performer of 2014  :D

EverybodysChattinOk, so let’s start with the links, shall we?

  • Mark reviewed Frank which he calls a wonderful one-of-a-kind, whilst Natalie reviewed Cronenberg’s latest, Maps to The Stars
  • FincherTheGuardianAs Sati‘s been hugely anticipating Gone Girl, she kept up her David Fincher series by ranking his films.
  • Speaking of Gone Girl, Katy wrote this great article about the The Strangely Brilliant Career of Ben Affleck
  • Michael reviewed Tales From Earthsea, a thought-provoking fantasy film from Studio Ghibli and Melissa reviewed the recent thriller The Drop.
  • Cindy‘s perceptive eye is what keeps me coming back to her blog. This week she compares Kubrick’s stares vs Spielberg’s faces in their films
  • There’s been a lot of interesting blog series lately, check out Fisti’s Twice a Best Actress Bloggers roundtable, great discussion with my fellow movie bloggers
  • As I’m anticipating Twin Cities Film Fest in two weeks, my pal Melissa has been busy covering San Diego Film Fest! Check out her latest review of this coming-of-age drama Laggies.
    LaggiesMovieStill
  • A few notable September recaps w/ some great recommendations from Kristin, Chris and Steven.
  • Last but not least, A couple of classic reviews worth checking out: Paula‘s review of PULP for her Mickey Rooney Blogathon, and Stu‘s review of early 50s noir The Hoodlum.

Now for Question of the Week!

RosamundPike_GoneGirlWell, it’s inspired by the release of Gone Girl, more specifically the buzz Rosamund Pike‘s been getting in the role of Amy, I thought this would be an intriguing topic. Now that we’ve only got three months left in the year, we might have a few favorites of performances from this year’s movies. Now, they could either be from *new* actors who’ve never acted before on the big screen, or someone’s who’s been acting for a while but just recently caught your attention. I think the latter is far more interesting and Pike might fit the bill for a lot of people. She has been acting for some time in the UK and has been churning some great performances here in Hollywood as well, but Gone Girl might launch her career on a whole new level.


So my question to you is:

Which actor(s) do you think gives the breakthrough performance of the year?

P.S. I shall be launching a new mini-series highlighting some great performances of the year, so stay tuned! :D

Twin Cities Film Fest 2014 Lineup is here! See what’s playing on Oct 16-25

TCFF2014banner

Woo hoo!! Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is less than a month away, showcasing some award-season heavyweights that’s been generating tons of buzz! From October 17 – October 26, Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON at The Shops at West End will be the place to be at for movie fans, I know I’ll be there! TCFF and Renters Warehouse, the official theater sponsor, will feature a total of 40 full-length films and 37 shorts. Filmmaker and talent attendance will be announced in the coming weeks. 

I’m especially thrilled that one of my most-anticipated Fall films will be showing in the second week, I think you’ll know which one it is :D Here’s a sampling of the awesome lineup this year, for full showtimes & full info, check out the Films page of the TCFF official site.

Feature Films

Men, Women & Children (Thurs 10/16)

Director: Jason Reitman
Cast:  Emma Thompson, Jennifer Garner, Rosemary DeWitt, Judy Greer, Ansel Egort, Adam Sandler

MenWomenChildrenA group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives.

This one definitely looks intriguing and what a great cast! Ok so I never in a million years thought I’d see Emma Thompson and Adam Sandler in a movie together, ahah. But hey maybe in a more serious role, Sandler could be bearable. The premise reminds me a bit of Disconnect which I saw last year, but hopefully not as bleak.

The Imitation Game (Fri, 10/24)

Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Allen Leech

ImitationGameBenedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal.

I’m beyond thrilled to see we’ve got this film! As you know it’s on my most-anticipated Fall movies list, and the film’s been getting a ton of buzz lately. Seems like a shoo-in for the awards race from this year. I LOVE the cast [obviously] and it’s such an intriguing and important film, so I’m glad it’ll have a regional premiere at TCFF before it opens in November!
……

Wild (Sat, 10/25)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast:
Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gabby Hoffman

WildMovieA self-destructive woman (Witherspoon) attempts to leave behind her years of drug abuse and reckless sex with a solo, 1,000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, in this adaptation of Minnesota-native Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir from director Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”).

Given the success of Dallas Buyers Club last year, naturally people are curious if Vallee can continue his critical streak with this one. The premise doesn’t immediately grab me but when handled well, stories like this can be quite powerful.


Indie Narratives

There are a plethora of indie films this year, more than a dozen to be exact. There are a variety of genres featuring new and familiar faces. There’s even a directorial debut from Courtney Cox. Here are just a select few that piqued my interest:

The Last Time You Had Fun (10/17 & 10/24)

Director: Mo Perkins
Cast: 
Kyle Bornheimer, Eliza Coupe, Mary Elizabeth Ellis

When Clark and Will meet Alison and Ida in a wine bar, the foursome struggle to have the most fun that four, bickering, barely married, pre-middle-aged, decidedly dysfunctional adults are capable of having.

The Well (10/18 & 10/22)

Director: Thomas S. Hammock
Cast: 
Haley Lu Richardson, Booboo Stewart, Max Charles

At the edge of a barren valley, all that remains of the Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings and the memories of Kendal, a seventeen-year-old girl who can barely recall when the valley was lush. It’s been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Only Kendal and a few others remain, barely scraping by while dreaming of escape. When a gang leader named Carson lays claim to what little precious water remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for what little she has left in this post-apocalyptic thriller. 

3 Nights in the Desert (Sat, 10/18)

Director: Gabriel Cowan
Cast:
Wes Bentley, Vincent Piazza, Amber Tamblyn

At a remote desert property, three estranged friends and former bandmates reunite to celebrate turning thirty. Travis, the wild man of the group, obsesses over producing revolutionary new music. So he has a plan in mind for his two friends: Barry, now a married lawyer, and Anna,back from years in Asia as a budding solo act. Travis leads his friends to a cave, promising that if they enter, it has the power to give them what they need. Barry and Anna laugh off Travis, still the mythmaker of the crew, but over the weekend unsettling desires rise to the surface. Soon the friends begin to wonder if it’s the power of suggestion that affects them or if the cave has a real power to threaten all they hold to be true.

House of Mansion (Sat, 10/18)

Director: Brandon Slagle
Cast: Ryan Kiser, Reid Warner, Chriss Anglin, Devanny Pinn, Tristan Risk, Suzi Lorraine

House of Mansion chronicles Charles Manson’s life from childhood up until his arrest following the raid on Barker Ranch months after the infamous Tate/LaBianca murders that sent a shockwave not just through Los Angeles, but throughout the entire world.

The Heart Machine (10/18 & 10/24)

Director: Zachary Wigon
Cast: 
John Gallagher Jr., Kate Lyn Sheil, David Call

This modern mystery tells the story of Cody (John Gallagher Jr., from TV’s “The Newsroom”) and Virginia, who start talking while he is in Brooklyn and she is in Berlin. It is a romance that could only happen online, and they’re happy together, though they’ve never physically met. Once Cody becomes suspicious that Virginia may not be in Berlin at all, he becomes obsessed with finding the truth. Tracking two parallel journeys that show how technology complicates modern love, “The Heart Machine” explores the evolving relationships among physical and emotional intimacy, isolation in the urban hive, and the seduction of hiding behind a screen.


Time Lapse (Sat, 10/25)

Director: Bradley King
Cast: 
Danielle Panabaker, Matt O’Leary, George Finn

Three friends discover a mysterious machine that takes pictures 24hrs into the future and conspire to use it for personal gain, until disturbing and dangerous images begin to develop.

 

Just Before I Go* (Fri, 10/19)

Director: Courtney Cox
Cast: Seann William Scott, Kate Walsh, Olivia Thirby

Starring Minnesotan Seann William Scott, Directing debut of actress Courtney Cox. The story focuses on Ted, a man who decides to end his mediocre life. But before doing so, he returns to his home- town to revisit the demons of his past: the cruel school teacher; the relentless bully; the girl who got away. While staying with his brother and his dysfunctional family, he makes an unexpected connection with a girl who decides to document his last few days. A motley cast of characters helps Ted realize that life is complicated for everyone and the memories of the past can be reinterpreted.

* No trailer yet, so I will add that as soon as I have it


Documentaries

I always catch some intriguing docs during film festivals and this year is no different. I LOVE documentaries as they immerse you in a world that are often so different from your own. You’re likely entertained whilst you learn and experience something that’d make a lasting impression.

Hunger in America (10/22)

Minnesota filmmakers will again be featured among award contenders, including 2014 TCFF Centerpiece film Hunger in America, a powerful documentary tackling the hunger epidemic in the US. The film’s produced by Minneapolis’ own Tim VandeSteeg and narrated by James Denton. VandeSteeg and Denton will appear at the special benefit with partial proceeds being donated to ­­­­the St. Louis Park Foodshelf, an organization battling hunger in the Twin Cities Community. 

 

Stray Dog (10/20 & 10/23)

From the director of “Winter’s Bone” — Ron “Stray Dog” Hall lives in Southern Missouri where he owns and operates the At Ease RV Park. After seven years of living with four small dogs as his only companions, he is adjusting to life with his wife, Alicia, who is newly arrived from Mexico. Anchored by his small dogs and big bikes, Stray Dog seeks to strike a balance between his commitment to his family, neighbors, biker brotherhood, and fellow veterans. As part of the legacy of fighting in the Vietnam War, he wrestles with the everlasting puzzle of conscience, remorse, and forgiveness. With Stray Dog as our guide, we experience the restlessness of ex-warriors as he tries to make peace with what he can’t change and weathers the incomprehension of those who have never been to war.

 

Flying Paper (Mon, Oct 22)

Flying Paper is the uplifting story of Palestinian children in Gaza engaged in the fascinating culture of kite making and flying.

The film follows Musa, a charismatic teenaged kite-maker in the village of Seifa, and Abeer an aspiring young journalist in the Jabalya refugee camp. They join a remarkable quest, along with thousands of other children, to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown.

It showcases the creative resilience of these children making and flying kites despite the difficult realities they face in their daily lives. The film has been co-produced with young Palestinians in Gaza trained by the filmmakers through a youth media program called Voices Beyond Walls. Through the perspective of children and young people comes a story of determination and artistic expression as the youth in the film work together to achieve a shared goal.

 …


Shorts Block

I think it’s cool that TCFF gives a venue for shorts filmmaker to showcase their work. I saw a bunch of great ones last year, including one from Conor Holt who’s now part of TCFF staff called A Better Life. The short films are offered in a block of a half dozen or so, grouped together based on its themes.

WomenInChargeShortsWomen in Charge (Sat, 10/25)

Run Time: 77 Minutes
We celebrate the advancement and impact of women in this eclectic group of narrative shorts. All of these films in Women in Charge block are either produced or directed by a woman, have a strong lead female character, or both. Whether it’s a clever romance, ageless love, mystery, or a kick ass heroin, you’ll enjoy this diverse journey lead by women. Films Include:

Apartment 3
Carrot Cake
Run
The Contractor
Zugzwang
Inconscious
Beyond Surveillance
Escape

LoveLustLossShorts

Lust, Love and Lost (Fri, 10/24) 

From the first sparks of attraction to the depths of a long term relationship, Lust, Love, and Loss short block examines the complexities of the significant relationships in our lives with both ourselves and with others. How do we grieve? What is the truth? How often should a couple have sex? Films include:

Destroyer
Evergreen
How ‘Bout Now?!
The Cat’s Cradle
North
Sad Clown
What Cheer?

 


TCFF’s Silver, Gold & Platinum Passes are now available!

TCFFtickets

Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening or Closing; Documentary Pass $45 for 8 select films; Gala Pass $80 for a 5 pack of tickets to one gala film of choice (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening or Closing Tickets).

GET THEM EARLY
(while supplies last)

Individual tickets will go on-sale at twincitiesfilmfest.org beginning October 3.

2014 Ticket Prices are as follows:  General Admission $10; Opening Gala $25 (proceeds going to local charities); Closing Gala $20.


What do you think of TCFF’s 2014 lineup folks? Any one of these on your must-see list?

Weekend Roundup: TCFF Sneak Peek, a French comedy & the Great Gatsby

Happy Sunday everyone!

Well it was a rather packed weekend starting with the a TCFF Insider Series event on Friday night. It was the perfect venue for early September as a touch of Autumn filled the air as we gathered poolside at the University Club in St Paul on top of Ramsey hill, whilst sipping cocktail & munching delicious hors d’oeuvres.

TCFFSneakPeek

We watched a compilation of 12 trailers of some indies/docs/features films that’ll be showing at the film fest in mid October. One of the features are already on my most-anticipated Fall movies list, yay! I can’t tell you yet which films are playing as details are still being finalized, but let’s just say I’m super excited!

Well I only got to see two movies this weekend. Somehow my hubby and I have been in the mood for French comedies lately. Last week we saw The French Minister, well this weekend we saw…

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)

I’m not always a fan of Luc Besson movies but this one turns out to be entertaining. It’s got a bit of Indiana Jones/The Mummy but with a female heroine instead. But this movie is more of a zany fantasy-comedy with some laugh-out-loud moments involving mummies being brought back to life. Louis Bourgoin as the protagonist is fun to watch. She reminds me a bit of Katherine Heigl with dark hair but with more spunk and likable presence. Mathieu Amalric (who I remember as the villain in Quantum of Solace) has a small role but entirely unrecognizable here under heavy *ugly* makeup.

AdeleBlancSec_movie

The movie is loosely based on a French comic of the same name that takes place in in 1910s Paris which features some gorgeous scenery of the city of Light. Some of the movie’s more fun and fantastical part involves a large Pterosaurs that hatched when a Professor uses a telepathic technique. The CGI looks pretty good and definitely enhances the fantasy element of the story. I was quite surprised however, that the reason for all those adventures Adèle went through turns out to be quite a heart-wrenching, albeit there were some creepy moments involving Adèle’s sister. Besson made some hilarious *historical* reference as to the origin of the pyramid in front of the Louvre, though the cliffhanger involving a doomed ocean liner is rather odd.

Overall I enjoyed it, I think if you like the two action-adventure movies I mentioned above, you might enjoy this one too.

3.5 reels


Sunday night is usually reserved for some Toby Stephens watching and this time I chose this TV Movie of …

The Great Gatsby (2000 TV Movie)

GreatGatsby_2000_TVmovie

I’ve seen this movie three times so far and I enjoyed it every single time. Sure it didn’t have the lavish style of Baz Luhrmann’s version nor its budget to depict the lavish, over-the-top parties in Gatsby’s house, but it certainly didn’t put me to sleep like the 1974 version with Robert Redford. I wish this adaptation had captured the manic energy of the roaring 20s though, even the music was a bit melodramatic. But the two performances, Toby as Jay Gatsby and Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway, won me over. In fact, just like in the 2013 movie, there’s more chemistry between Jay & Nick than Jay and Daisy.

Toby made for a charming & suave Gatsby, with that signature smirk of his and looking dapper in those tailored suits, but what I like about his performance was how emotional and real it was. The way he looked at Mira Sorvino’s Daisy made you believe he truly was infatuated with her, that he was besotted beyond reason. I’ve grown to like Rudd’s performance here as well as the story’s most relatable character. I’ve seen him mostly in comedies but he certainly had dramatic chops and he makes for a compelling and sympathetic narrator of the story. What’s more important than the visual style and costumes, which this adaptation lacked due to budget constraints, it does capture the tragic story of Gatsby and like Nick, I certainly was on Gatsby’s side.

Since I bought the dvd, it came with a great biography of its author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who undoubtedly has lived an intriguing life that rivals his most famous literary hero.

3.5 reels


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

July 2014 Blind Spot Film: Purple Noon / Plein Soleil (1960)

PleinSoleilPoster

It’s been over three years since I saw an Alain Delon film, that was  Le Samouraï  where he played a silent-but-deadly assassin. Well as Tom Ripley, he isn’t quite as taciturn but he’s just as deadly. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, I was familiar with the story from the 1996 film version. I can’t remember much of the details of that one thankfully, so when I watched it, the story still felt fresh to me. Though it’s based on the same novel, the two films were pretty different. There’s a homo-erotic undertones in the 1996 version that wasn’t present in this one, and the ending is also very different.

SPOILER ALERT!
Just like other Blindspot entries, this review may contain some plot discussions.

Right away I thought Delon was a far more appealing and at the same time more sinister version of Tom Ripley than Matt Damon was. With his razor-sharp cheekbones and steely gaze, Delon possesses a certain coldness, that dangerous undercurrent lurking beneath his impossible good looks. Sent to Italy by a wealthy Mr. Greenleaf to retrieve his playboy son Philipe and bring him back to San Francisco. Though Delon essentially plays an American, he barely spoke a word of English as this is a French film.

Tom is to be paid $5000 for his services but later the offer is retracted when Mr Greenfield realizes Tom fails to do his mission. By the time we see him hanging out with Philipe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), the two are like inseparable friends. Even as Philipe’s longtime friend Freddie (Billy Kearns) resents Tom for being a moocher, Philipe enjoys spending time with him … for a little while at least.

PurpleNoon_stills1

Philipe’s fiancee Marge (Marie Laforêt) feels sorry for Tom but at the same time she’s not comfortable having him around. Well, can’t say I blame him, especially when it’s someone who obviously doesn’t mind spending other people’s money and wears her fiance’s clothes. There’s a really disturbing scene where Ripley is mimicking Philipe in front of the mirror whilst wearing his clothes and shoes. What’s more disturbing is that Philipe is well aware that Tom is lusting after his lavish lifestyle, yet he still lets him hang around with him. They even go on a yacht trip together, the three of them. Whilst Philipe is making out with the beautiful Marge under the scorching Mediterranean sun, Tom’s lustful eye follows every inch of them.

PurpleNoon_still2

Director René Clément filmed the psychological thriller in an expertly manner. The tension isn’t overt but it’s always lurking, waiting for the right moment to strike. The dialog at the yacht between Philipe and Tom is particularly fascinating as Tom jokingly tells him about his whole plan about killing him and taking his identity. At first Philipe seems nonchalant about the joke, even pointing out the weak points about Tom’s plan and all that. He gradually begins to suspect it wasn’t a joke after all, but by then it was too late. This is the most action-packed scene in the whole film, and Clement doesn’t overwhelm us with ominous score, instead he lets the natural elements like the choppy waters and high winds build  tension. Delon’s shirtless tanned body as he vigorously grabs the yacht steering wheel in this scene definitely sticks with you. An iconic combination of sex appeal and disquieting menace set in a panoramic vista.

PurpleNoon_still3

The cinematography by Henri Decaë is absolutely striking, whether it’s the narrow, cobblestone streets or the vast blue ocean, every frame is postcard-worthy. This movie could practically double as a Italian tourism video, especially mixed with Nino Rota‘s jazzy score. Best scenery of all is in Delon himself, what with cheekbones you could cut yourself on and those chilling, penetrating blue eyes that Decaë often frame in extreme close-ups. The devil comes in attractive packages and there are few men more attractive than the French actor. All the beautiful people and striking scenery gives a staggering contrast to the ugly-ness and darkness of the human soul. Even Philipe who’s the victim in the story is not a sympathetic character as he’s a hedonist and a bully. In a strange way, as wicked as Tom was, there’s a bit part of me that’s curious if he would get away with it. I’m not saying I sympathize with him, but like any great cinematic villain, he remains magnetic and captivating despite his vice.

Delon practically outshines everyone in the film as you can’t take your eyes off him. Obviously he’s devastatingly beautiful, but looks alone isn’t enough to carry a role like this. Peter Bradshaw’s review at the Guardian says it best “… his almost unearthly perfection is creepy itself, as if he is imitating a human being.”

PurpleNoon_still4

Now, about that ending. I found out after watching the film that in the book, Ripley did get away with his crime, but he becomes haunted with paranoia that he would be caught. But the ending in the film implies that Ripley was arrested when the policemen discovered Philipe’s decomposed body still tied to the anchor cable that’s tangled around its propeller. I do think the book’s ending is far more intriguing and audacious, it seems that the censorship code is to blame for the more tame finale. But still, it was a memorable ending with the sun-drenched Ripley sipping cocktails on the beach… the tranquil sight of the beautiful Riviera contrasted with a stomach-churning shot of a decomposed hand peeking out from a body bag.

If you have seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, I highly recommend you to check out this one. I’ve never seen Mr. Clément’s work before but I definitely should check out more. I’m also curious to see other roles by Delon as the two I’ve seen so far depict him as this cool and calculated persona, which he obviously excels at. He’s the perfect Tom Ripley here, far more effective than Damon and even John Malkovich in Ripley’s Game. Clément’s been called the French Hitchcock and it’s definitely fitting, yet his direction is still unique in that somehow the suspense is more subtle and there’s even a laid-back approach, keeping us mesmerized and on edge at the same time.

4.5 out of 5 reels


This is the fifth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .


What do you think of  Purple Noon? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: SEX TAPE (2014)

AshleyBanner

SEXTAPE_poster

This review will be short and sweet because honestly there’s not a whole lot to say about Sex Tape.

A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts. 

Yep. That’s about it. I went in with low expectations and it’s exactly what I got. The story is pretty simple. Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) met in college and had an intense physical relationship, but an accidental pregnancy, marriage and another kid later, they find their sex life is somewhat nonexistent. Annie is a mommy blogger whose blog is being courted by a Fisher Price type company and Jay is a music producer who is constantly gifting his iPads to family, friends and strangers. So, when Jay upgrades to a cloud based storage system and they film their sex tape on his iPad, it’s automatically sent to all of Jay’s used iPads. Yikes.

Sounds like a great foundation for a comedy right? Eh. When a film isn’t even rated half good (4.9/10 on IMDB), how do you expect audiences to be excited for it? Sure, there were some comical and awkward scenes, but it just felt tired. It was Jason Segel being Jason Segel. With the exception of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, his comedy has become redundant. And, he can’t seem to let go of that one character.

SexTapeMovie_Stills

I’m a big fan of Cameron Diaz’s humor because she’s physical, expressive and isn’t afraid to make herself look ridiculous. But, not even she could save this film. Which is a shame because I really enjoyed her last film, The Other Woman. True, it didn’t receive great reviews either, but maybe because the humor of that film was on the weird and complex nature of female relationships.

Honestly the amount of nudity and the premise of the film just didn’t work for me. The nudity was completely gratuitous and at times very awkward. Segel and Diaz spent more time naked than actually acting. Plus, it wasn’t believable that an intelligent, tech savvy couple couldn’t figure out how to delete their file from the cloud. I guess it wouldn’t make for an interesting film, but the couple embarked on a race to individually delete the file. Their journey leads them to Annie’s possible future boss’s house. Frank (Rob Lowe) appears to be clean cut, but Jay and Annie find him home alone and letting loose. I swear Lowe doesn’t seem to age, but he’s plays the eccentric, aloof characters so well. The film is almost worth seeing just because of him. Almost. 

I originally was going to give this three reels, but the more I’ve been thinking about it, it really only deserves a two. Sorry, I really dug into this one I know. But, I’m just being honest!

tworeels


PostByAshley


So what do you think of this movie? Am I alone on the Jason Segel thing?