Question of the Week: What’s Your Favorite Movie Set In Paris?

Happy midweek, everyone! Pardon me for being extra chirpy today as it’s only two days away before my hubby & I are off to Europe. As I’ve mentioned here, we’re going to Amsterdam – Bruges – Paris to be exact, but we’re spending the most time in Paris. We’re renting an apartment in the 15th arrondissement area for 6 nights via airbnb.com, something we’ve never done before but that’s part of the adventure as we’ll be staying away from the tourist-y area.

We wanted to visit Bruges because we saw how gorgeous it is in the 2008 movie In Bruges with Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. That’s perhaps the most famous movie featuring the Belgian city, but Paris has been quite a staple in various films, Hollywood or otherwise. Just look at this super long list in Wikipedia. In fact, this weekend we saw 2 Days In Paris, which was written & directed by Julie Delphy who also starred in it with Adam Goldberg as her American boyfriend.

2DaysInParis

It’s a pretty cute movie, a bit vulgar in parts but also hilarious and has a wonderful scenery of Paris through the lens of a real Parisian, so it doesn’t look too glamorized. Well, it made me think of other movies I’ve enjoyed that’s set in the City of Light, whether in parts or in its entirety.

Midnight In Paris

Moulin Rouge

An Education

Inception

Paris Je T'aime – Père Lachaise Cemetery

Sabrina 1995

Phantom Of the Opera 2004

I know for sure I’d want to visit some of the main landmarks featured in some of my favorite movies. I’ve booked my tour to Palais Garnier where the Phantom of the Opera is set in, which is pretty close to the Père Lachaise Cemetery where Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer’s sequence is set in Paris Je T’aime. Of course Midnight in Paris has a bunch of great Parisian locations, and I have this site to use as a guide. But what I look forward to the most is just enjoying the ambiance and simply being in Paris, strolling through the streets and along the Seine river, people watching whilst sitting in a café, etc.


So my question to you today is, what’s YOUR favorite movie set in Paris?

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

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

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

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


BLOG STATS (Thanks WordPress!)


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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly obsessing again over …

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

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


BLIND SPOT series

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

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

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

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

12. Rebecca

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


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

THANK YOU!

… to all my blog contributors this past year:

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

… everyone who has visited and commented on this blog:

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

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

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

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


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

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

Valentine Special: Spotlight on 14 Favorite Movie Couples

Ahhh… it’s Valentine’s Day.

Yes it’s perhaps a commercial birthday where flower and candy shops get to guilt people to get something nice for their significant other. I actually told my hubby not to get me flowers this year and instead we’d get something nice for BOTH of us to enjoy. It is after all, a holiday to celebrate LOVE and it’s a two-way street.

V-DayCollage

For today’s post, I want to shine a spotlight on movie couples from various genres. Some of these pairings might not necessarily be from a romantic film, but their romance certainly are memorable. I deliberately exclude those that I have included in my first top 10 movie couples list I did three years ago just for the sake of not being redundant. Here it is again as I’m sure most of you didn’t read that post:

  1. Julia Roberts & Hugh Grant in Notting Hill
  2. Gerard Butler &  Emily Mortimer in Dear Frankie
  3. Russell Crowe & Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential
  4. Christian Bale & Emily Watson in Equillibrium
  5. Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge
  6. Harrison Ford & Julia Ormond in Sabrina
  7. Gregory Peck & Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday
  8. David Duchovny & Minnie Driver in Return to Me
  9. Heath Ledger & Julia Stiles in Ten Things I Hate About You
  10. Michael Douglas & Annette Bening in The American President

Just to make things easier for me to narrow down, I’m focusing on films from the 90s and up. If I were include classic movies however, no doubt I’d include Rick and Elsa (Casablanca), Nickie & Terry (An Affair To Remember), Maria & Capt. Von Trapp (The Sound of Music), Joe & Anna (Roman Holiday) and Rhett & Scarlett (Gone with the Wind).

So here are [a sampling] of fourteen of my favorite movie couples, wonderful pairings elevated by bewitching chemistry of the actors. No matter what the circumstances, even if their romance didn’t work out as they (and we) wish it to be, their passion ignites the screen and warm the heart. Some couples are such an enchanting match that it lives on for decades (Before Sunrise), whilst others have become more memorable than the films themselves (The New World)… at least to me anyways.

Well, as pictures are often louder than words… I’ll let these images speak for themselves:

Aragorn & Arwen
(Viggo Mortensen & Liv Tyler – The Lord of the Rings trilogy)

AragornArwen

Amélie & Nino
(Audrey Tatou & Mathieu Kassovitz – Amélie)

AmelieNino

Kate & Harvey
(Dustin Hoffman & Emma Thompson – Last Chance Harvey)

HarveyKate

Hawkeye & Cora
(
Daniel Day-Lewis & Madeline Stowe – The Last of the Mohicans)

HawkeyeCora

Darcy & Elizabeth
(Matthew MacFadyen & Keira Knightly – Pride & Prejudice – 2005)

DarcyLizzy

Jesse & Celine
(Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy – Before Sunrise)

JesseCelineBeforeSunrise

Frank & Rachel
(Kevin Costner & Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard)

FrankRachelBodyguard

Jack & Rose
(Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet – Titanic)

JackRose

Pocahontas & John Rolfe
(Christian Bale & Q’orianka Kilcher – The New World)

JohnRolfePocahontas

Phantom and Christine
(Gerard Butler & Emmy Rossum – Phantom of the Opera)

PhantomChristine

///

Jin and Xiao Mei
(Takeshi Kaneshiro & Ziyi Zhang – House of Flying Daggers)

Jin_XiaoMei

Paul & Victoria
(Keanu Reeves & Aitana Sánchez-Gijón –
A Walk in the Clouds)

PaulVictoriaAWalkInTheClouds

Bond & Vesper
(Daniel Craig & Eva Green – Casino Royale)

BondVesperTrainScene

Robbie & Cecilia
(James McAvoy & Keira Knightley – Atonement)

RobbieCeciliaAtonement



I invite you to check out my past romance-related posts:
10 Romantic Comedies I LOVE | Favorite Unconventionally-Romantic Flicks | Roman Holiday Appreciation | Favorite Period Drama Heroes Part I and Part II



Thoughts about my picks of movie couples? Feel free to add your own picks in the comments below.

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

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

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

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

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

PFK_RTscore

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

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

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

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

Dear Gerry,

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

PFKposter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Wishes,

ruth m.


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

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

Monthly Roundup: May Movie Watching Recap

Happy June everybody! Summer is officially here, yay! Summer blockbuster months are definitely upon us. I think starting this weekend there’ll be a movie worth seeing on the big screen practically every weekend!

But this month is quite lackluster for me. I only went to the cinema once the entire month, and even catching up on newly-released movies on Blu-ray has been slow. But like the last one, it’s a busy blogging time with no less than three blog-a-thons, as well as some other list-related posts I did. Here are some in case you missed them:

Ok, and here are the [paltry] list of movies I saw this past month…

Movies I haven’t seen before:

Re-watch:
Yes I know, it’s very depressing indeed, especially after seeing Eric’s and Ryan’s lists, I mean just look at all those awesome movies they watched! Hopefully I’ll have more time to watch a lot more movies this month, as this weekend alone I’ll be watching three new films starting with Coriolanus which I watched last night. I can tell you that after waiting nearly two years to see it, I wasn’t disappointed, full review coming next week. This evening we plan to watch Snow White & The Huntsman, and I also got the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus Blu-ray that my pal Vince lent me. I’ve been curious to see Heath Ledger’s last film.

Favorite May Movie:

Shouldn’t be a surprise to you eh? I still haven’t seen it again a second time, but we might do that once this arrives in the discount theater.


So, how many films did you get to watch this month and what’s your favorite?

Random Thoughts: Whatever happened to Emmy Rossum?

I was just browsing IMDb and noticed it’s Emmy Rossum’s birthday today. I can’t help wondering whatever happened to this once promising young actress. Her first major role is in Phantom of the Opera as Christine, and she was actually nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Believe it or not, in between moments of being mesmerized by Gerry Butler’s Phantom :), I actually noticed her smashing performance and wonderful singing voice. I was floored to learn she was only 16 when she was got the role (half Butler’s age) as Joel Schumacher wanted a youthful cast for his POTO adaptation. For someone so young she was able to portray both the innocence of an Opera ingenue and the sensuous object of the musical genius’ affection, and judging from this screen test, it’s obvious she is a talented young lady with lots of potential:

But then I realized she hasn’t been in anything prominent since Poseidon back in 2006, whilst she did both Phantom and The Day After Tomorrow in 2004. I kind of forgot about her and seems like she’s sort of disappeared from acting?? I did notice her in magazines’ fashion section once in a while but that’s about it. Not sure what’s happened to her and I don’t really have any theory of my own, I just want to reminisce a bit on how good she was as Christine and how well she portrayed that iconic role in a young age.

Well, what do you think of Emmy? Or have you ever felt the same way about another actor whose performance impressed you but then suddenly, poof, you never see them in anything else since?

Stage Musical Review: Love Never Dies

This is my first attempt at reviewing a stage play, so bear with me folks. I saw the show last Thursday night at Adelphi Theater. Walking from the main square from Covent Garden, we asked a couple of people along the way how to find the theater, and one of them remarked, ‘Oh is that the one showing Tomorrow Never Dies?’ Ha! Perhaps Andrew Lloyd Webber and James Bond’s producers flip a coin on the title?

Anyway, having loved the original Phantom of the Opera and its beautiful, haunting music, I was really curious to see how the sequel pans out. No, I’m not one of those ‘phans’ who’ve seen the original hundreds of times and collect all kinds of memorabilia, who apparently are none too keen on the sequel idea even before they even saw it. Many of them are even posted on ALW’s own company site Really Useful Group. It’s interesting that POTO is still playing just a few blocks away at Her Majesty’s Theater, and the stats on what’s dubbed as the most successful single piece of entertainment of all time is staggering. Now, I’ve only seen the stage show twice when it toured in my hometown, but I’ve enjoyed the songs since I was in high school and still love it to this day. But when I caught a glimpse of Ramin Karimloo‘s singing voice as the Phantom, I found myself swept away by the song ‘Til I hear you sing, so it was a real dream come true to see it months before it opens on Broadway!

The Phantom and his muse, Christine

The Story:

Love Never Dies continues the story of The Phantom of the Opera, who has moved from his lair in the Paris Opera House to haunt the fairgrounds of Coney Island. It’s set 10 years after Phantom’s mysterious disappearance, and he’s now a successful impresario with his own freak show appropriately called Phantasma. Even after all this time, he still pines for (read: obsessed) with the French soprano singer Christine Daaé, who no longer performs. She now has a 10-year-old boy Gustave and her husband Vicomte de Chagny/Raoul has squandered much of their fortune on drinking and gambling. The Phantom invites her to sing an aria he’s written especially for her, and as soon as she arrives in the then-popular beach resort, the roller-coaster romance continues.

The Good:

Before I proceed, let me just say that I had no doubt in my mind before I even saw it that this show wasn’t going to top the original, especially in terms of the music and the story. But with that said, I found the show to be enjoyable and delightful, even if I wasn’t as enchanted as I did the first time I saw the original show.

High marks should go to the visually-stunning and inventive production design of Coney Island, which is a feast for the eyes. Mixing digital projection technology and art nouveau pieces, it was electrifying-ly bizarre. Things and creatures in the Phantom’s new home are far more freaky than those in his former underground lair, i.e. medusa-like singing chandelier; half-skeleton, half-woman legs in fishnet stocking pushing what looks to be a tea cart, which are fittingly set to the eccentric, loud rock-opera tune “The Beauty Underneath.”

The Phantasma staff: Squelch, Fleck and Gangle

Then there’s the spectacular voices from the main cast. The Iranian-born, Canadian-bred Karimloo has impressive set of lungs, his rendition of the main tune ‘Til I hear you sing gave me goose-bumps and moved me to tears. We’re sitting on row F which is quite close to the stage and I thought his performance was good, sure he didn’t quite have the imposing stature as the titular hero, but he nailed the emotional scenes nicely. He had a sort of peculiar hand gesture as he belted out a tune, but it wasn’t overly distracting.

Brit Joseph Millson as Raoul

Sierra Boggess was equally enchanting as Christine, and seems to be age-appropriate as the heroine who’s supposedly be in her mid twenties by now. In contrast, the Phantom seemed to have grown even younger ten years on (Gerry Butler in the 2004 movie version was already a younger version of Michael Crawford, and Karimloo looks at least five years Butler’s junior!). In any case, Boggess’ vocal prowess was downright amazing, the aria Love Never Dies already started quite high but it soared to what sounded like a five-octave range towards the end, I was breathless just listening to her! Joseph Millson gave equally strong performance as the handsome but crestfallen Raoul, as did Summer Strallen with her impressive dancing sequences as Meg Giry, who ended up being the ‘villain’ of the show.

Summer Strallen as Meg Giry

Of course, there’s the music itself. Of course POTO is a formidable act to follow musically as the tunes such as Music of the Night, All I Ask of You and The Point of No Return are so unabashedly romantic, haunting-ly beautiful, and has that inherent timeless quality. Now that I’ve gone back to listen to POTO music again, I realize those will remain a cut above the rest of all Webber’s work, including LND. At the same time, I really enjoyed the new music, particularly ‘Til I Hear You Sing, which was far more moving when heard live on stage. It’s packed with a strong emotional punch and more than a hint of romantic obsession and frustration. Boggess’ rendition of the aria Love Never Dies gives me goose-bumps the way the original theatrical Christine Sarah Brightman does with most of her songs, which is always a good thing in my book. It was hard to keep my eyes dry during the two scenes. The rockin’ The Beauty Underneath may seem out-of-place in a romantic tale, but it fits just fine in the Coney Island freak-show theme, though it’s probably not a tune I’d rewind and listen over and over again like the ballads.

Which brings me to …

The Bad:

IMO, the major problem with the sequel is the implausible plot. A Guardian reviewer said it best, “Romantic obsession may be common to both shows, but where one may feel sympathy for a doomed outsider, it is hard to feel much for an omnipotent impresario.” That’s precisely how I felt. For me, the reason I had so much sympathy for the tragically-flawed character was because he was an outcast, rejected by the world, even those he loves so dearly. But now, he’s got a slew of staff ready at his beck & call, and even his arch nemesis, the formerly influential Vicomte is now reduced to a drunken wreck.

Christine & Phantom during ‘Beneath a Moonless Sky’ scene

Love triangle is apparently not complex enough for ALW, as now we’ve also got Gustave, who’s more-than-implied to be the fruit of Phantom/Christine sexual tryst (wha–?). Apparently, upon his disappearance, Christine was able to locate the disfigured masked-one and the song Beneath A Moonless Sky intimates their err, intimate rendezvous “… and I held you, and I touched you and embrace you… and I felt you, and with every breath and every sigh …” (whew, is it hot in here?)

Ok, fine I’ll buy that, I confess that despite his deformity, the Phantom could be quite seductive. But get this, in this story, he’s actually the one who left Christine in the middle of the night, which left her no choice but to choose Raoul. Yeah right, I find that extremely hard to believe. I mean I’ve always thought in POTO that Christine wasn’t so much in love with the Phantom as much as she was indebted for his teaching and felt sorry for him. There was no way the relentlessly obsessive Phantom would’ve let her go after he finally won her over.

The mystique and thrilling mystery of the main character is also lost somehow, which IMO is the biggest issue I had with the show. The biggest draw for me in watching and listening to the Phantom is its untouchable, otherworldly quality, he is after all the Opera ghost… dark, tormented, terrifying… yet we’re drawn to his wretchedness and genius musical creation. Alas, there’s not much of that here. Perhaps the fact that we see him so often on stage (with and without his mask) have something to do with it. Nothing in Karimloo’s portrayal depict him as a threatening character who can suddenly lose his temper and go for the kill, and instead of his trademark punjab lasso, he’s now a gun-totting curmudgeon.

And lastly, I’m not a fan of the ending. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but let’s just say that though love might never die, but a major character does, and it’s the most drawn-out death scene ever. One that defies logic of course – I never knew someone suffering a short-range gun-shot wound is still able to not only talk effortlessly but sing as well! And all that convoluted gothic love story is reduced to a mere father-son hug. Heh!

In conclusion, it’s not as bad as the ‘paint never dries‘ notion this blog said, but phantastic? Not exactly. Still, the experience of going to Adelphi to see Karimloo and Boggess sang their hearts out was worth every pence!

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By the way, when this sequel was first announced, there were rumors that Gerry Butler might reprise his role as the Phantom in the the movie version of LND. In my eyes, the Scot will always be the best and most captivating Phantom – as legions of his fans would agree – so to see him swing his cape and smolders will always be a welcome sight. Besides, as of now Butler has never done a follow-up to any of the role he’s played, so why not go back to the one he’s obviously born to play.

But now come to think of it, it’s probably best for him to move on to other things. The sequel story is just too weird and preposterous for a film adaptation. Plus, even though he’s supposedly the same character, in LND, the Phantom’s essence has been altered so much from the original that the mystique is lost. Thus, I’d rather have my memory of him as the perfect opera ghost I wouldn’t mind having as a stalker :) Why mess with perfection, y’know?

So, has anybody’s seen either POTO or LND? If so, I’d love to hear your take on ‘em.

Actors who are (surprisingly) good singers

Ewan_NicoleMoulinRouge

As is often the case when I’m on YouTube, when I was browsing around to find Keira Knightley’s clip for yesterday’s post, I got sidetracked watching other similar clips. She’s just one of a handful of actors who surprisingly has a pretty decent singing voice. So I decided to list 10 of them that I think are particularly noteworthy. Now, I’m not talking about actors who may have some vocal training unrelated to a film role. Emmy Rossum, for example, who played Christine in Phantom of the Opera, she blew me away with her amazing Soprano but apparently she was trained at the NY Metropolitan Opera. I’m also excluding actors who double as singers/musicians, such as Scarlett Johansson, Russell Crowe with his The Ordinary Fear of God band, Keanu Reeves with Dogstar, and others listed here. But these are contemporary actors who blew us away with their singing voice, despite any vocal training prior to their given movie roles. So here goes:

Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman
I was totally dazzled by both of them in Moulin Rouge, especially by McGregor’s stunning voice. If he were to record an album one day, I’d definitely be the first to buy it! He’s got such amazing control for a non-singer, even during the high notes. His voice is the reason the movie’s soundtrack remains one of my favorites!

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Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon

Not only did Joaquin and Reese have to sing all the Johnny Cash songs themselves, they also had to learn how to play the musical instruments from scratch. I thought they sounded really good together, not to mention the amazing chemistry between them. According to the movie’s trivia on IMDb, when Joaquin was learning how to sing and play guitar like Johnny Cash in the months following the start of filming, his voice was too high and the band had to learn how to play Cash’s songs in a higher key. But then just before they started filming, Joaquin’s voice dropped closer to John’s level and the band had to re-learn the songs in their original key.

I guess he is destined for a musical career after all, but I never thought in a million years it’d be rap! I certainly hope he’d come to his senses and return to the acting business.


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Gwyneth Paltrow
I actually never saw Duets, but I heard this song she did with Huey Lewis on the radio and later learned it was indeed her own voice! I thought she sounded far better than actual singers. It’s interesting that she ended up marrying a lead singer of Coldplay. Wonder if she’d ever do a duet with Chris Martin? Nah, I doubt it.

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Kevin Spacey

We know he’s a great actor, but when I saw him in Beyond the Sea, I thought he could definitely have a musical career if he wanted to. I’m sure the real Bobby Darin (pardon the misspelling earlier)  would’ve been proud, though he apparently died before he reached the actor’s age at the time he played him (44). I recently learned Spacey’s a great impersonator as well. He did a bunch of impersonations (Pacino, Brando, Chris Walken, etc.) during Inside the Actor’s Studio interview, and completely nailed every single one of them.

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Gerard Butler
I’ve been listening to Andrew Llyod Webber’s music for as long as I can remember, but the second I heard Gerry sing the Music of the Night, I was done for. He may not have the best vocal chops, but there’s something about the way he sang each song that was so mesmerizing. In fact, I now prefer Gerry’s version of the Phantom songs than that of Michael Crawford’s!

He’s said in many interviews that he took vocal lessons as soon as he was considered (though not yet confirmed) for the role, and continued practicing the songs even during filming Dear Frankie. My favorite part is in the DVD deleted scene when he sang No One Would Listen.

Here’s also a clip from P.S. I Love You where he sang I Love You ‘Til The End. I don’t care what critics say about this film but I LOVE this film, and it’s one of Gerry’s best roles IMO (yes, playing a character also named Gerry no less!)

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Val Kilmer
Most people probably know Kilmer is a good singer from playing Jim Morrison in The Doors. But I first heard him sing in this WWII spy movies parody Top Secret! where he played an American rock and roll singer Nick Rivers. His comic skills and vocals are amazing, he even got the Elvis moves down pat!


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Kate Winslet
Apparently there’s few this multi-talented actress can’t do. Winslet sang this beautiful, melancholic song in Sense & Sensibility, where Col. Brandon first saw and fell in love with her. I thought she sounded really good even without a full orchestra behind her. She also sung in the musical comedy Romance & Cigarettes along with James Gandolfini.

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Johnny Depp
Though he’s been a guitar player in several bands, according to IMDb, Sweeney Todd marked the first time he’d ever publicly sung in his life. This wasn’t Depp’s first musical, but his voice was actually dubbed in Cry Baby. To prepare for Sweeney’s role, he often practiced singing the songs during filming the third Pirates movie.


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I’m sure I’m forgetting some important people here. Please do chime in if you think of other actors that belong in this list.

Charming bad boys on film

After watching Public Enemies this weekend, it’s clear the film portray the dangerous criminal as a charming hero. Obviously his real life story offers a stark contrast to how the film made him out to be.

Hollywood does this all the time it seems, making a hero out of otherwise shabby characters. I thought of some ‘bad boys’ that not only ‘captured’ the audience’s hearts, they are essentially the ‘heart’ of the movie itself.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. Phantom in Phantom of the Opera
This is the flix that I came to know and love Gerard ‘Gerry’ Butler. One look at this seductive brooding ‘opera ghost’ and you’ll know why Christine’s lured by him. The half-deformed rogue is supposed to be an ugly creature not much to look at, but it’s hard to take your eyes off Butler’s Phantom. Raoul who??

2. Castor Troy in Face/Off
This despicable character is fascinating to watch, played by both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. When playing Troy, each actor got the best lines and both seemed to have more fun playing that character than the good guy Sean Archer.

3. Hans Gruber in Die Hard
The masterful performance by Alan Rickman always made the list of ‘best villain.’ He’s ruthless but yet so refined, elegant and polite that you can’t help rooting for him. He offers such a stark contrast to the crass and ‘everyman’ John McClane (Bruce Willis) and made the game of cat and mouse so much more fun to watch.

4. Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma
The Bible-quoting outlaw played by Russell Crowe is a complex yet sympathetic character. Even Dan Evans (Christian Bale), the good guy who escorts Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma, can’t help liking the guy. The battle of wills between the two of them is the essence of the film right up until the end.

5. The Joker in The Dark Knight
The role that eclipsed the Dark Knight himself. Heath Ledger was ‘lost’ in this quintessentially evil character that might’ve cost him his own life. The Joker stole literally every scene he’s in, yet despite our abhorrence to the things he did, we were mesmerized by him.

Honorable mentions:

- Simon Gruber in Die Hard 3 (Jeremy Irons)
- Dr. Octopuss in Spiderman 2 (Alfred Molina)
- Elijah Price in Unbreakable (Samuel L. Jackson)

What do you think? Any particular bad boy stood out to you?