Weekend Roundup: The Machine (2013) Review

Happy Monday everyone! I’m slacking off a bit here, I was hoping to get my Breathe-In review this weekend but just couldn’t find the time to do it. But I was supposed to catch the Brendan Gleeson/Taylor Kitsch comedy The Grand Seduction on Friday but I made a snafu that I didn’t order an extra ticket for my hubby so I have to go to the Sunday night screening instead. So I’ll post my review of Breathe-In together with that one as soon as I get around to it :D

Well, this weekend I got to see a pretty cool sci-fi indie The Machine: TheMachinePoster

This British dystopian sci-fi has obvious nods to Blade Runner. In fact, it says right on the synopsis and the marketing itself. As a fan of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, I was naturally intrigued. Instead of a story of a cop hunting down replicants aka robots, The Machine‘s protagonists are two artificial intelligence (AI) engineers who are working together in a futuristic era where a world is in an economic crisis and a cold war with China is brewing. Their boss is the Ministry of Defense Thomson (Denis Lawson) who’s hellbent on winning the arms race by creating a robotic soldier. The main scientist, Vincent (Toby Stephens) is morally conflicted about his job, but he does it because it’s the only way he could have technological access to help his ailing daughter.

The meat of the story takes place after Vincent’s new science partner Ava (Caity Lotz) is brutally murdered and he then created a cyborg in her likeness. Soon Thomson’s real motive is quickly revealed and Vincent’s life is endangered as he becomes a potential victim of his own creation.

TheMachine_Toby_Caity

Despite the low-budget production (less than $2 mil), I think writer/director Caradog W. James‘ did a nice job in creating a thought-provoking film that’s also visually arresting. The homage to Blade Runner is evident in his stylish visual style with the bleak futuristic setting and use of neon lights, as well as its use of synthesizer music that evokes Vangelis’ theme. I like sci-fi films that’s more atmospheric and even a little bit moody, instead of an all-action extravaganza like Elysium, and that’s partly why I enjoyed The Machine. There’s a lot of heart in the relationship between Vincent and his daughter, as well as with Ava even in robotic form. The developing relationship between a human being and an AI is nothing groundbreaking and foreseeable, but when done well, it’s still fascinating to watch. The love story is also not overblown which adds to its realism.

Both Stephens and Lotz did a nice job in their respective roles. Stephens’ got that brooding, tortured soul thing down pat which works well for this role, and Lotz whom I’ve never seen before is especially impressive. Her transformation from a curious scientist to an AI with childlike vulnerability but deadly power is quite convincing, and I find her struggle with the loss of her humanity pretty moving. She obviously looks more robotic than any of the replicants in Blade Runner, and Lotz gets the mechanical mannerism perfectly. Action fans would certainly appreciate her dance-like but lethal kickboxing moves. The film is rated R for some brutal and bloody action sequences from start to finish.

TheMachine_stills

The story is not perfect though, it gets predictable as the film progresses and some things are not explained too well. The side effect of the sensor-restoring brain implants on the fatally-wounded war veterans *recycled* for the project is that they render them mute as they become cyborgs. For some reason they can still speak in intelligible robotic voice to each other, though later they regained their speech ability and it’s never fully explained why. Despite that, it’s pretty darn entertaining and I highly recommend it if you’re into this genre. The intimate feel of the story gives a nice lingering effect after I watched it, and the ending is perfectly eerie as we imagine what a plausible future shared with an AI could be. The Machine proofs that you can still make an engaging film even on a shoestring budget, I’m curious to see what James would do with more resources at his disposal.

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


Has anyone seen this film? Curious to hear what you think.

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Five for the Fifth: First of the Year (2014) Edition

Hello folks, welcome to the FIRST edition of 2014 Five for the Fifth!!

FiveForTheFifth2014

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

1. As I was thinking for all the questions for this post, I was humming some of the songs from FROZEN so naturally my mind turns to soundtracks. I listen to basically only a couple of genres: classical and soundtracks, with other genres I listen to only when I come across to on the radio. I haven’t decided whether I want to make a top 10 list of favorite soundtracks yet, but if I did, I think these five will surely make the list: The Great Gatsby, The Sapphires, Pacific Rim, Gravity, and of course, FROZEN. That last one is especially addictive, just like a lot of other Disney music, I just can’t get ‘em out of my head! The Kristen Bell & Idina Menzel’s version of The First Time of Forever is my absolute favorite.

So my first question is: What’s your favorite soundtrack/song of 2013?

……
2. I’d like to single out an actor/filmmaker whose birthday falls on Five for the Fifth Day. Well today’s Bradley Cooper‘s birthday, and he and I are apparently only a month apart in age [I'll let you Google it yourself how old that is, ahah].

BradleyCooperBday

I haven’t always been fond of Cooper, though with his tall, lean figure, dark hair and beautiful blue eys, you’d think he’d be my type. The thing is, I kind of find him to be a little too pretty, which actually has the opposite effect. In any case, ever since Silver Linings Playbook, and most recently American Hustle, I’ve warmed up to him more. At least he has a pleasant countenance, though not the most charismatic actor in my opinion.

So what do you think of Bradley Cooper? Are you a fan?

3. The trend in Hollywood with film adaptations is they come in twos. And so is this year with two Biblical epics, one for Easter (NOAH – March 28) and the other just before Christmas (EXODUS – December 12). As much as I LOVE stories from the Good Book getting some attention, granted there are a bunch of them that are worth exploring, I’m more curious rather than excited about these two. My hope is that they’d stay true to the source material and that God doesn’t end up simply being an afterthought.

CroweNOAHvsBaleEXODUS

Russell Crowe w/ Jennifer Connelly in NOAH & Bale as Moses

Last week we got a FIRST LOOK of Christian Bale in the role of Moses. So apparently it’s not enough that he’s played the Ultimate Savior of Humanity (as Jesus in the TV movie Mary, Mother of Jesus) back in 1999. Not the greatest casting call ever IMO. Now, as much as I love Bale and he’s a terrific actor, I feel that he’s rather ill-suited for this role as well, it’d be nice to see Hollywood at least attempt to cast someone ethnic looking even if they couldn’t find an actual Jewish actor. I’d think Guatemalan-descent Oscar Isaac would’ve been a better choice and he’s a very good actor in his own right. Yes I know he doesn’t have the star power yet, and something with a huge budget like this is unlikely to get greenlit without a major star.

Anyway, that official photo shows Moses still leading a comfortable life as the adopted member of the Egyptian royal family. But here are some set photos with lookie here… Aussie Joel Edgerton as Ali Baba, er I mean Rhamses! In the photo of Bale with Ridley Scott, the costume look like it’s a recycled version from his Robin Hood film. Mr. Scott hasn’t captured the glory that was Gladiator since its release 14 years ago, we’ll see if he’d finally do so with this one.

EXODUS_setphotos

Well, what do you think folks? Thoughts on the EXODUS film?

4. I heard about A Promise a couple of months ago and being a fan of period dramas, naturally it piqued my interest. But with a cast that include Alan Rickman, Rebecca Hall AND former Game of ThronesRichard Madden (this ultra gorgeous hunk of a man happens to be Scottish, natch!), I definitely want to see this! Check out the trailer:

A romantic drama set in Germany just before WWI and centered on a married woman who falls in love with her husband’s protégé. Separated first by duties and then by the war, they pledge their devotion to one another.

APromise_Stills

Ok so I’ve read some not-so-stellar reviews from Venice Film Festival that mentioned the lack of chemistry. Heh, I guess I’m willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt, I mean, being torn between Rickman and Madden? A girl can only be so darn lucky! Ah well, I doubt this movie will make it to my city anyway, but I’ll be sure to rent it when it comes out.

What do  you think of this one, folks?


5. Now lastly, since the first week of the New Year isn’t over yet, some of you are probably still working on your New Year’s resolution. Some might’ve actually broken one too, am I right? ;) I actually don’t really have one, I just never bothered with it, but this year, as it relates to my blog and my love for movies, my resolution is to catch up on more classic movies. I’ve been saying that a lot in the past but this time, I’ve got a plan! I’ve signed up for the BlindSpot blogathon, as you can see on my list I posted last week, I’d at least hit 12 of them I’ve been meaning to see. Perhaps you have similar goals, i.e. tackle a certain genre/filmmaker or maybe you want to catch all of AFI’s Top 100 Movies, etc.

So, what’s YOUR movie-related goal in 2014?


Well, that’s it for the first-of-the-year edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D

Everybody’s Chattin’ … and an [FB] announcement

Happy Friday everyone!

Not only is the weekend almost here, Pixar’s BRAVE has arrived, yay! My hubby and I are going to see it tonight.

Move over Rapunzel, I think Princess Merida has the most glorious hair ever!


Now, before I get to the links, I just want to apologize for skipping the Everybody’s Chattin’ post last month. I know most of you probably don’t even notice it but for me, the best part about blogging is the community aspect and I really appreciate my friends who have done so regularly, like Ryan [my inspiration], Sam, Pete, Sati, and my pal Terrence’s Happy Haps. I love spreading link loves, I mean that’s what makes this blogging thing go around :D

Paula’s FCM Blogathon #2
FCM stands for Future Classic Movies and following the success of the first blog-a-thon, Paula is now at it again with its second round. Check out which film made her list and other bloggers’ selections.
Terrence’s BRAVE review
I’m so jealous that he’s seen the movie already. Check out what he thinks of the latest from Pixar, certainly one of my most anticipated from the year.
John’s historical figure roles suggestion for Leonardo DiCaprio
Inspired by his recent viewing of J Edgar, John thinks up even more 20th century historical figures for him to tackle! Leo should definitely give him a call :D
Lady Sati’s Appreciation for Jean Dujardin
One of the most beautifully-designed blogs out there, Sati’s recently made a wonderful tribute on my favorite French actor right now. Ladies, you better sit down first ;)
Fernando’s Ridley Scott Double Bill
The Alien movie must be getting a lot of play this weekend with the release of Prometheus. Check out why Fernando likes both for different reasons.
Kristin’s Double Reviews
I LOVE it when people do a post of two VERY different movies, that’s what Kristin did with her reviews of Prometheus and Rock of the Ages.


Now on to the announcement! Well, isn’t it obvious… I finally bite the bullet after resisting it for a couple of years… FlixChatter is now on Facebook!!

Thanks to those who have LIKED me, now for the rest of you, would be a dear and do so please? I’d sincerely appreciate it :D



So what are you going to see this weekend? Whatever you do, hope you have a good one!

Guest Review: Prometheus – from a die-hard ALIENS fan

In August last year, I posted this Random Question: What movie you’ve seen most often on the big screen as I was inspired by my colleague who saw Aliens twelve times on the big screen. Well, now he’s here to tell us whether Prometheus lives up to his lofty expectations.


Review by Phil Thompson

Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the first 2 Alien movies, Aliens is my all-time favorite movie, and I actually saw it twelve times in theaters. So yeah, I’m a fan.

“A king has his reign, and then he dies. It is inevitable.”

These words open the narration of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a return to the Alien universe he created back in 1979 with Alien. A character will speak these words again later in the movie, and their significance will be apparent at that time.

Prometheus is a gorgeous movie, with excellent cinematography, sets, and special effects, and is generally well-cast and well-acted. The soundtrack was a bit of a let-down for me; it never really conveyed a sense of fear or dread. The movie combines the genres of science-fiction, action, and horror, with a touch of religion added in. It has a lot in common with the original Alien, but also interestingly evokes memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And although this is clearly a prequel to the movie Alien, it is not a direct prequel in the sense that the events of this movie will lead to the beginning of Alien. Rather, the events in Prometheus will answer some questions about Alien, and will help you better understand the Alien movies.

The general storyline of Prometheus is that in the late 21st century, a handful of scientists/archaeologists convince the massive Weyland mega-Corporation to bankroll an expedition to the moon (“LV-223″) of a distant planet, where they hope to find some answers about the beginning of mankind on Earth.

The 2 scientists/archaeologists behind Prometheus’ mission are Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Michael Fassbender plays the eerie robot David who must look after Prometheus’ sleeping human passengers on the 2+-year journey from Earth to LV-223. Charlize Theron is the grumpy corporate Meredith Vickers, who is in charge of the expedition for the Weyland Corporation, and Idris Elba is Janek, the ship’s gruff, Christmas-loving pilot. Guy Pearce also appears in heavy makeup as Peter Weyland, the CEO of the massive Weyland Corporation.

Prometheus is Noomi Rapace’s movie, and she is a strong female character in the vein of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the first 2 Alien movies. The harrowing scene where Shaw undergoes a self-inflicted medical procedure is the movie’s best, in my opinion. The other standout star of this movie is Fassbender’s David. He evokes memories of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and you will spend much of the movie trying to understand why he acts the way he does.

Spoiler Alert: [highlight the text below if you want to read the spoiler]

Shaw and David will be part of any “Prometheus” sequels.

Theron’s Meredith Vickers doesn’t have a lot to do in this movie, but she does deliver one of my favorite lines in the movie: “If you’re going down there, you’re going to die.” Interestingly enough, the person(s) she says this to are not the persons she appears to say it to in the movie’s many trailers.

The movie starts out relatively quickly, with a couple quick setup scenes, and in less than 15 minutes, the Prometheus, an opulent trillion-dollar spacecraft with a crew of just 17 people, is in orbit around LV-223.  At this point, Drs. Shaw and Holloway announce to the ship’s crew that they believe some beings they call “Engineers” left some breadcrumbs on Earth “inviting” us to follow them to this exact location, and that they hope to find some evidence of these “Engineers” on this moon, and maybe even meet one of them.

The Prometheus finds some clearly non-natural structures on LV-223, and sets down to investigate them. What they find is not what they expected to find, and some characters’ hidden agendas eventually appear, making things even more interesting. The rest of the movie is a roller-coaster ride, with very few wasted scenes. The ending clearly calls out for at least one sequel, and the final scene of the movie is not to be missed by fans of the “Alien” movies.

So did it live up to my own lofty expectations?

Short answer is: YES. I enjoyed this movie, and I would recommend that you go see it.  But the movie does have several flaws. Its alien creatures (all but one) are surprisingly uninspired (in my opinion), compared to H.R. Giger’s creations for the earlier movies. It has a few serious plot holes – in a trillion dollar expedition to a remote moon, would there really be nobody monitoring 2 scientists stuck off-ship during a storm? And the movie brings up an awful lot of questions that will leave you shaking your head days later. And some of those questions can only be answered by a sequel.  But these are relatively minor flaws, and will not prevent you from enjoying the movie.

As a big fan of both the Alien and Aliens movies, I was a little disappointed that this movie kind of sets off in a different direction. It explains how the aliens in the Aliens movies came to be, but then moves off in another direction with the Engineers and the questions associated with them, and any “Prometheus” sequels would appear to marginalize the “Alien” storylines. I think I might’ve enjoyed the Jon Spaights version of the script more, which supposedly was more of a true Alien prequel, with the same aliens/eggs/chest-bursters that we’ve come to know (and love?).

Thoughts on the Box Office take and the 3D quality:

From what I’m reading right now, Prometheus has opened to a $50 million box-office take in its opening weekend. I think that amount would’ve been a lot higher if the movie didn’t have an R rating. Madagascar 3D bumped Prometheus off the large UltraScreen in the Marcus Oakdale Theater near me, and also out of the main large 3D theater in my local theater. I was stunned that a movie of Prometheus caliber would have to play second fiddle to an animated film about a bunch of animals.

I would recommend getting to the theater on time, as the very first scene of the movie is somewhat important, especially if you want to understand some of the deeper concepts in the movie. Also, I saw the movie both in 3D and on a regular screen, and I didn’t feel that the 3D added much. But I did not see it on an IMAX screen, and I do wear glasses, so any 3D movie for me means 2 sets of glasses. Add in the fact that a lot of the movie’s scenes are in dark scary places, and it doesn’t make for the best 3D viewing.

If you’re like me, you’ll have at least one or two very large questions after the movie ends, and if you go online to get some answers, you’ll find all sorts of them. And you may be surprised to find that the movie may have been hinting at far bigger things than you may have first thought.

4 out of 5 reels

Have you seen Prometheus? Feel free to add your thoughts below on whether this film lives up to the hype.

The FCM Blog-a-thon — What movie(s) will become a Future Classic?

What a brilliant idea! My pal Paula, who’s a confirmed TCM addict, have often wondered what movies from the 21st century would stand the test of time, like CasablancaGone With The Wind or Out of the PastInstead of just mulling those over on her own, she decides to get all of us movie bloggers to join in on the fun. And so the FUTURE CLASSIC MOVIES (FCM) BLOGATHON was born.

So what do we have to do? Well, we get to pick a movie (or more) from 2000 or later, and writes about why they think it will endure to become a Future Classic. 


To me, the key to a film’s endurance has to do with the main subject matter itself, whether its theme will resonate with people no matter what age/era. The reason Casablanca achieved its iconic status and can still be enjoyed by a new generation 70 years later is that the theme of lost love, patriotism and sacrifice are all something we can relate and aspire to, no matter how many years have passed since WWII.

All of these films below are visually stunning, but just like people, looks can only be interesting for so long. It’s the substance and message that makes a movie timeless. 

So with that in mind, here are three that I think has the ingredients to become a Future Classic.

It should be obvious but spoilers may be present in this post,
consider yourself warned. 

Gladiator

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’d likely know I adore this film. It’s the first film that came to mind when Paula invited me, and in my mind, it already IS a classic and I believe generations to come would still appreciate this one even decades from now.

I selected the very same film two years ago for a blog-a-thon called Movies That Makes Going to the Movies Suck as this Ridley Scott masterpiece pretty much launched a trend of swords-and-sandals flicks that threatens to tarnish the original’s legacy. One sign of an enduring film is that some of its quotes are still used even today, but of course that alone won’t make a *classic* if it doesn’t have an engrossing story and fused with a thrilling spectacle of action and memorable performances.

Brain, brawn and heart… there’s not a lot of films that capture all three perfectly, and still manage to impress us visually with its amazing cinematography. Oh, and there’s the soundtrack. I still get chills listening to Now We Are Free, it speaks so beautifully about Maximus’ humanity. Oh I long to see this film on the big screen once again in all its glory.

HUGO

A love letter to the movies, what could be more timeless? At first glance, Scorsese’s first family film seems to be about this 12-year-old orphan boy Hugo Cabret who lives in a railway station. That’s pretty much as much as I know when I went it to see it, so what a joy it is when the film takes us into a journey that ties the boy with a real life French illusionist and filmmaker Georges Méliès.

Loneliness, abandonment, disillusionment are sentiment any of us can relate to as we’ve all felt it at some point of another. No matter how modern technology has evolved, even when we’re able to watch movies via a hologram or what have you, our humanity is what will connect us across generations. And that’s what films do in many ways. That’s why *classic* films shall always have a place in the modern world and years to come. Our great, great grand-kids will still likely be fascinated by how the past generations create the films that  become the medium they enjoy today.

The 1930s world with that marvelous vintage clock where Hugo lives in is absolutely enchanting. There’s something so magical about the way its filmed that captures your imagination. 3D will become old news one day but its charm and heartwarming story won’t likely be lost with the passing time.

[read my Hugo review]

Midnight in Paris

Here’s another one from 2011 that’s also nominated for Best Picture Oscar. I didn’t plan it that way, but I do think both films has that certain everlasting charm, and not only because they’re both set in the city of lights. The fixation with time period of past and present drives the story here and the idea of time travel certainly has a lasting effect in cinema. It’s similar to Woody Allen’s other time travel fantasy The Purple Rose of Cairo, but even more beguiling.

The protagonist Gil is obsessed with a bygone era of the 1920s, so when he’s somehow magically transported to that period at midnight, the *lost generation* looks ever so fresh and as fascinating as ever. We watch in awe just like Gil marveling at its beauty… the car, the clothes, the music… and of course the seemingly immortal personas like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso… the people in history books that we’ll always treasure for years to come.

What’s more, the predicament Gil faces is something we can all relate to. No, I’m not talking about his obsession with a certain era, but about pursuing his dreams and having the courage to break free from his stifling life to do so.

“Maybe the present is a little unsatisfying because life is a little unsatisfying” – Gil

The message about appreciating one’s life in the present will also resonate well no matter what era one lives in. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned that Paris in the rain in the finale, it doesn’t get any more timeless than this.

[read my Midnight in Paris review]


Do check out what other films people think will become a Future Classic.


Well, what do you think of my picks? Feel free to share what movie(s) you think have a long-lasting appeal.

My Movie Year: The Year 2000

Thanks to Andy for inviting me to My Movie Year blog-a-thon. This is the second time I’ve participated in Fandango Groovers’ blog event since the massively popular Desert Island DVDs. Below is the simple rule for the post:

All you have to do is pick your favourite year for movies and back I up with five classics from that year, no more no less. You can do as much or as little as you want with your selections; a simple list, images and posters, reviews, trailers. Or anything else you can think of.

It’s quite a daunting task as most of the movies I love come from different decades. I actually didn’t see all that many movies back in college, but I pick the year 2000 as this is the year where I moved in to my first ever house after living in one apartment after another in college and shortly after graduation. I didn’t watch a lot of movies on the big screen then either, but it turns out a lot of movies released in 2000 have become one of my all time favorites. So here they are:

Gladiator

I can’t possibly NOT include this movie. I mean, I’ve always LOVED swords and sandals movie ever since Ben-Hur, and this one has such a fantastic story and wonderful performances all around. I even picked this as the subject for the blog-a-thon ‘Movies that makes going to the movies suck‘ because it’s been copied so many times and studios are launching similar type of movies to capitalize on its popularity.

But this often-quoted Ridley Scott masterpiece remains on top in this genre and to this day I’m still enamored with it as the first time I saw it. It’s one of those movies that has the whole package, everything from the story, dialog, set pieces, performances, and even the soundtrack makes up for an epic entertainment.

Russell Crowe gave an iconic performance, even his name Maximus Decimus Meridius is a classic. Equally memorable are Joaquin Phoenix as the despicable incestuous Commodus, and the more I watch this movie the more I appreciate all the character actors that make this movie great, most especially Derek Jacobi with his theatrical line delivery. It’s not as popular as the others, but I pick this line as one of my favorite movie quotes of all time.

Unbreakable

I LOVE this imaginative take of a superhero movie. People tend to mock M. Night Shyamalan’s these days but I’m still willing to give him a pass because he’s made some creative work in the past, especially this one.

An intriguing concept that’s brilliantly executed, Unbreakable is a quiet but suspenseful thriller that’s rich in character development. The astute cinematography adds so much to the eerie and mysterious tone of the film, in many occasion, it even help tells the story in such a breathtaking way. That scene where Elijah falls on the stairs of the train station is such a heart-wrenching scene… it’s as if I could feel his pain as he breaks nearly every bones in his body. It’s also one of those movies where it’s not a simple good vs. evil kind of story, and we can’t help but feel sympathy for the bad guy.

Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world, to not know why you’re here. – Elijah Price

It shows that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson certainly can act if they choose to. Both seem to gravitate more for the action-packed stuff and sure they’re good at it, but I’d love to see them do something more understated like this again.

Oh, and I actually do like the ending, it’s unexpected and definitely made you go ‘whoa’ the first time around. But unlike Sixth Sense, it doesn’t lose its impact even after repeated viewings.

Chicken Run

When I first saw this, I had never seen Wallace & Gromit before but I absolutely adore this Peter Lord and Nick Park’s creation. It’s odd since I’m usually not into claymation, but I think this movie is just so fun and joyful to watch. Inspired by The Great Escape, the chickens led by Ginger rebels against against the evil Mrs. Tweedy’s farm with the help of Rocky the rooster.

Right from the start, I was so enthralled and empathized with the poor ‘imprisoned’ chickens, as they’re depicted as having humanly activities like knitting, dance, bicker with one another, and seemingly having more lively existence than the humans at the farm.  The dialog is sharp and funny, with hilarious yet poignant lines like “I don’t want to be a pie.” or “We’ll either die free chickens or we die trying.” The voice cast are a hoot, especially Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson as Ginger and Rocky.

It’s definitely one of my favorite animated features of all time. I even feel a bit guilty eating chickens for a while after watching this, especially chicken pot pie! :D

Return to Me

I think I’ve talked about this movie quite often. It’s always on my list of favorite rom-coms, and I even dedicated a whole post for it. This movie doesn’t follow the typical formula of a rom-com, in fact it starts out with a tragedy. But yet it’s a joyful movie despite its poignant subject matter, filled with a wonderful depiction of family live, sincere friendship and a love story between two people who’ve gone through a lot by the time they find each other.

Both David Duchovny and Minnie Driver are wonderful here, they’re not your go-to actors for this genre which is a shame as they’re so natural here. Same with director Bonnie Hunt as she is quite adept with creating wonderful characters and engagingly funny dialog. It’s too bad that this is her only feature film in her resume. Oh, and the soundtrack is wonderful, too!

Check out the trailer below:

X-Men

I readily admit that I have a penchant for superhero movies, and the mythology and the allegory with the reality of our world of the X-Men universe is particularly fascinating to me. I absolutely loved it when it first came out and both my hubby and I were hugely anticipating it. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint and it’s still good after repeated viewing. Bryan Singer made superhero movies not only cool but has something meaningful to say. It’s intelligent AND fun.

The casting is key here, from hiring two British thespians as the two leaders of polar opposites — Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart — to taking a chance with a then-unknown Aussie actor Hugh Jackman as the tormented Wolverine. He may be indestructible but he’s still vulnerable and Jackman’s gruff but soulful portrayal won him many fans and launched his career. He’s got an undeniable chemistry with Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey, which makes their unrequited romance quite irresistible.

It’d be nice if Singer stays on throughout the trilogy, then we’d have three solid movies in this franchise. But the consolation is that he came back, albeit as a producer, in the excellent X-Men: First Class, which has a lot of the great things I love about the original and then some!

Other great movies I like from 2000:

  • Billy Elliot
  • Chocolat
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Memento


My runner-up year: 1995

I almost picked this year because I absolutely adore Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility, plus it’s also got two other dramas I love: Circle of Friends and A Walk in the Clouds. I also like Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Usual Suspects and Se7en a lot, but in the end I feel like I have more affinity for the five movies I picked for 2000.



Thoughts about the movies listed here? Now, what year would YOU pick?

7×7 Award

You like me, you really like me!

Ehm, pardon my heartfelt enthusiasm but I really am grateful for this award and pardon my tardiness in getting this post up. I share this award with my wonderful contributors, especially Ted S. and Jack Deth.

Firstly, let me say thank you so very much Michael, Diana, Ruth, Julian, Niels, Richard, Pete, Andina and Dan for tagging me. Now I gladly oblige to the rules that come with this award :)

The rules to the 7 x 7 Link Award are simple:

1: Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.

2: Link to a post I think fits the following categories: The Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride-worthy Piece.

3: Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers.

As for a fact that nobody knows… Well, I think with the exception of a few close friends, most people don’t know that Gerry Butler inspired me to write a novel. An unusual inspiration I know, but when I had a massive crush on him after seeing Phantom of the Opera back in 2004, I actually started writing a novel a year later in which the protagonist is inspired by him. I even named the character Eric, a variation of ‘Erik’ which is the real name of the Phantom in the original Gaston Leroux’s novel. You can read an excerpt from an earlier draft of one of the chapters here. I’ve since put that post on the back burner since I started this blog, but I’m still hoping to pick that up again in the future.

The Most Beautiful Piece

Beauty is so subjective, but I think I’d have to go with the two part list of 15 favorite period drama heroes that I collaborated with my friend Paula. It took quite a bit of effort to do this and I must say, it’s filled with a lot of really beautiful men :D

The Most Helpful Piece

Hmmm, I don’t want to be presumptuous that people find any of my posts helpful, but I suppose for non-Bond fans or those who aren’t familiar with this franchise might find Our picks of Best & Worst Bond films from each decade handy when they want to get into Bond movies.

Most Popular Piece

To this day, no post has been able to beat this Actors who are (surprisingly) good singers post I did back in November 2009. Thanks to IMDb hitlist (which sadly is going away soon), this post got nearly 20,000 hits in one day and over 100 comments. I guess everyone has some strong opinions as to who they think are good singers… or not :)

Most Controversial Piece

No doubt this one is the most controversial so far – Tired of boys ruling Hollywood? Get these real men to the rescue. It’s another post that got picked up by IMDb in 2009 that generated quite a lot of angry responses! Some actually call me a racist for the lack of colored actors in the post. Geez, I’m not white myself but since when is it wrong to have a preference in actors?? People take these things way too seriously, ahah.

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece

Well, unlike the King of Blog Series that is Nostra, there’s barely any that I keep regularly here on FC. But the Five for the Fifth series prove to be quite successful ever since I launched it back in January of 2011. Thanks everyone for participating on these posts every month!

Most Underrated Piece

Well, I often mention Return to Me on this blog as one of my favorite rom-coms ever. I wrote a lengthy piece as to why it’s such a beautiful, poignant chick flick more people should check out, sadly I don’t think anyone’s read it.

Most Pride-Worthy Piece

I spent a ton of time on each of the fantasy movie pitches that Castor of Anomalous Material started, so those posts are very special to me. My favorite of all of them remains to be Hearts Want, a romantic thriller starring Timothy Dalton and Helen Mirren in the lead roles, directed by Ridley Scott. It’d be a dream come true to someday translate that into a real screenplay.


Well, since I’m quite late into this meme, seems like everyone has done this already or been tagged by others. So I’d like to pass this award to those who hasn’t done this yet but whose blogs are one of my favorites. So here goes:



Thanks everyone for your support of this wee blog. Your readership and comments are always sincerely appreciated!

Trailers of the Week: Trailer 2 of Prometheus & Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Happy Sunday all!

Hope you’ve recovered your festive St. Patrick’s Day! This is quite a big weekend for trailers, and given their epic-ness I can’t help but not posting ‘em here.

PROMETHEUS

Woo hoo!! I was already looking forward to this from the start but with this trailer, my excitement just jumped tenfold! In case you haven’t seen it (or you just want to watch it again for the umpteenth time :)), here it is below:


EPIC is the word here, don’t you agree? I thought the first one was good but I was annoyed by title treatment but THIS, it’s nothing but mystifying awesomeness. This looks like Ridley Scott’s return to form and to a genre that he knew how to do so well! If the cast of Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapaci and Patrick Wilson didn’t sell you, this trailer surely will.

This has got to be the BEST trailer of all the 2012 blockbusters… it grips me right from the moment we hear Charlize Theron’s narration. It then begins asking a series of enigmatic question…

“An invitation … from whom?”

“What do you mean a life form?”

“They’re changing… changing into what?”

“They’re moving… to go where?”

The last 30 seconds are so damn intense my nerves is stretched to its snapping point… and ends with android-looking Fassbender stating… ‘big things have small beginnings.’ Woof!! Seriously that trailer is so goosebumps-inducing I don’t know if I’ve got the nerves to sit through the entire movie! The eerie background music definitely adds to the whole edge-of-your-seat experience.

Thanks to my pal Ted who sent me the International version, I decided to add this one to the post as well:


As Ted said in the comments, it’s perhaps closer in tone to the actual film, instead of the all-out action flick the US trailer suggest. Still, it promises a hair-raising and ominous journey for the team of explorers when they discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth.

This is poised to be the sci-fi event of this Summer folks! JUNE 8 can’t come soon enough!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Ok, switching gear now from a futuristic space adventure to a supernatural but earth-bound adventure taking place in the 1800s. You’ve likely seen the International trailer a month ago which shows the US President his bad-ass side and his ax-wielding skills. Well the second one shows a bit more history and background to the story of the 16th US President’s secret life as a young man.

Check it out:

Historical fiction doesn’t get anymore free rein than this one, ahah… but this trailer definitely shows even more promise than the first one.

“History prefers nobility to brutality… prefers soaring speeches to quiet deeds… history remembers the battle, but forgets the blood…”

I like that this trailer shows more backstory of the and the idea of an American president trying to stop vampires from taking over the United States certainly capitalizes on the whole superhero theme, but with a giant twist. Nice to see Rufus Sewell as the villain leader being shown in the trailer, albeit way too quick… “It’s time we have a nation of our own,” he declares. Heh, blood sucking vampires in American politics?? Now that’s an idea ;) Anyway, Rufus’ character is actually not in the Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel, he’s created specifically for the film.

I’m quite optimistic about this one, I do hope it’ll deliver!


You can read more about these two films on my Anticipated 2012 Part II post.


Thoughts on either one of these folks? Are you excited for Summer blockbuster to arrive?

Flix News of the Week: Ridley Scott possibly teaming up w/ Gerry Butler for an African thriller

Ok yes I know, given how prolific Ridley Scott is (just check out this long list even from a year ago), who knows when we’ll see this project off the ground. But one can hope, right? I love Ridley’s work and you know how I feel about Butler, and so I’ve been hoping one day these two would work together! In fact, in my first Fantasy Movie Pitch I did called Hearts Want, I had both of them teaming up in romance thriller set in London.

So anyway, here’s the gist per Deadline: Sir Scott is reportedly attached to direct and produce this African thriller through his Scott Free banner, with Gerard Butler to star as the protagonist Simon Man, and Robert Edwards (The Bomb In My Garden) to write the script.

What’s the story about?

Simon Mann is a former British army officer who in 2004 put together a band of mercenaries to attempt a coup against the president of Equatorial Guinea. The coup attempt was thwarted in Zimbabwe, where Mann went to pick up weapons. He spent five years in a harsh prison there before being taken to Equatorial Guinea where he was sentenced to 34 years–but spared that sentence when he received a presidential pardon in 2009. His backers –Mann said one was Mark Thatcher, son of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—disavowed involvement with Mann after the coup failed. Both Mann and his wife Amanda have been making the rounds at studios the past several days along with Edwards, and insiders say there are high hopes this will end in a deal.

Well, it’s not exactly a romance thriller I was hoping for (seriously Hollywood, we need more of that genre!!), and after Machine Gun Preacher and Coriolanus, I’m kind of hoping he’d do a drama without weapons involved for a change. But still I’m excited for this. The real-life story is intriguing and I know Butler is perfect for such a role.

For sure I’d rather see him do this than Thunder Run, yet another action thriller starring Sam Worthington and Matthew McConaughey that Castor talked about last month on his blog. It’s to be made with motion-capture 3D, bla, bla, bla… I’m just not crazy about that one. Well, I hope this African thriller will materialize, I’ll keep you posted as soon as I hear more about this. Oh and I’ll also be posting about Butler’s upcoming soccer comedy Playing the Field this weekend. Stay tuned!


Well, what do you think of this casting news, folks? Let’s hear it!

The Flix List: Ten books we wish to see adapted to the big screen

Every year, dozens and dozens of movies are made based on literary works, be it a fiction, non-fiction, short story, children’s book, what have you. Even Wikipedia has to break it down to multiple subcategories to list them all. I guess the mindset in Hollywood is that if the book is successful, it could mean that there is enough public interest to see a film adaptation of it, with the hope that its considerable following would likely support it as well.

Some of my favorite movies of all times are based on books, Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Sense & Sensibility, just to name a few. Yet, there are still more books out there we would love to see adapted to the big screen, either for the first time or as a remake of what’s been done previously. So today my guest blogger Ted Saydalavong and I team up to bring you our wish list of top five literary works each of us would like to see adapted to the big screen:

Ted’s List

(Click on each title to link to the book detailed info on Wikipedia or Amazon)

1. Fahrenheit 451

Just finished reading it again since high school and would love to see a new film version that stays true to the book. I do hope Frank Darabont can convince someone to finance it. Maybe if The Girl With Dragon Tattoos and The Dark Tower series became huge hits, some studio finally give it a go. (read Ted’s post on Fahrenheit 451‘s remake)

2. The Talisman

Another of Stephen King novel that I love and almost made it to the big screen way back in early 2000s. The story of a 12 year old boy who has to travel across America to find The Talisman was quite an adventure and would definitely work well on the big screen. Spielberg actually bought the film rights back in the 80s and was going to make it himself but decided to do the other story of a 12 year old boy, Empire of the Sun. At one point Spielberg said he wanted to turn it into a mini-series after it didn’t make it to the big screen in early 2000s. Hopefully if The Dark Tower is a big hit and then we might get to see the film version of this book hitting local cinemas in the future.

3. Blood Meridian or An Evening Redness in the West

Cormac McCarthy’s ultra violent western epic has been in development hell for years now. At one point Ridley Scott was attached to direct but left because he wanted to stay as close to the book as possible but the producers wouldn’t grant him that wish. For those of you who’ve read the book, you know that there’s no way they include some of the things that were written on the pages. James Franco is trying to convince the producers to hire him to write and direct the film’s adaption, I hope to God that this will never happened. This is the kind of project that a more experienced and well respected director should be in charge, not some pretty boy actor who couldn’t even do a good job at hosting the Oscars.

4. A Brave New World

Aldous Huxley’s futuristic drama has been adapted to a movie twice, in 1980 and then again for a TV movie in 1998. I’ve never seen either of those but I think with a talented director and the right budget, it could be something very special. Leonardo DiCaprio still owns the film rights and he’s still trying to get Ridley Scott on board to direct, let’s it will happen soon. (rtm’s note: Blood Meridian and Brave New World are just two of the many projects Ridley was reportedly attached to)

5. The Prometheus Deception

One of the last books Robert Ludlum wrote before his death and I’m surprised that none of the Hollywood studios have picked up the movie rights yet. The Bourne films made tons of money and people seems to like seeing spy flicks, I thought we’d already see this book made into a movie by now. The story of spy who worked at a secret agency, later found out that it was actually run by Russian intelligence and that all of his successful missions actually hurt America’s interests instead of helping it. I think with a decent director and strong leading man, this could be a fun spy action/adventure flick.


Ruth’s List


1. Love Walked In

I read this book several years ago by Marisa de los Santos and was blown away by her amazing writing style and this unconventional love story. The protagonist Cornelia’s life is turned upside down the minute a little girl walks into her cafe, who turns out to be her boyfriend’s daughter Clare. What’s unique about this novel is that the writer tells the story from the perspective of Cornelia and alternating it with Clare’s. So it’s not a typical romance of boy-meets-girl, but there’s definitely a sweet romance between Cornelia and her Cary Grant-like boyfriend Martin Grace, and the unexpected one she finds as the story progresses.

There have been reports that Sarah Jessica Parker has bought the rights to the film adaptation, but that was a few years ago so I don’t know if there is any progress to it. I actually hope Parker WON’T be playing the petite, intelligent but hopeless romantic Cornelia. For one, she’s too old to play someone in her early 30s, so I’m thinking someone like Rachel McAdams or Emma Stone might work.

2. King David’s story from The Book of Samuel
(Or The David Story by Robert Alter, a translation with commentary which offers a lot of historical and cultural context to the story)

Now, you probably said there have been movies done in the past on the most famous King that ever walked this earth. There was David and Bathsheba with Gregory Peck as the titular monarch, and the much-panned 1985 version King David with Richard Gere. NBC has also adapted a modern-day retelling of King David in the 2009 series KINGS starring Ian McShane, but was canceled after only one season due to low rating. There is also a 3D Biblical epic in the works based on Cliff Graham’s historical novel Day of War (the first of the 5-book Lion of War series) which sounds very action-packed as the filmmaker would focus on the battle-filled adventures of David before he became king of Israel (per Collider).

The tricky part about adapting such a vast narrative is that it’s it can get overwhelming to contain into a 2+ hour feature film, so I’d try to focus on just one specific aspect of his life to adapt, with only brief flashbacks to a few of the milestones. Ideally I’d like to see a Lord of the Rings‘ type treatment that can include his early life (including the David vs. Goliath tale), the ‘warrior’ David prior to him being anointed as King, and his affair with Bathsheba which led to him pleading with God to save his son. Even more of a wishful thinking on my part is that the film would stay true to main source that is the Book of Samuel from the Bible, so the spiritual side isn’t just simply glossed over to just zone in to the violent and sexy parts of his life story. After all David is known as the man after God’s own heart and he wrote the Psalms, so there’s the musical side to him that could be explored as well.

3. Persuasion

I had seen two film adaptations of this before I read the book. The first was the 2007 BBC version with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, which then prompted me to rent the 1995 feature film starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. Though in the end I thought that the film version was the superior one of the two, I still wish they’d give a fresh new spin in a feature film adaptation.

It’s perhaps my favorite story of all Jane Austen’s novels (which happens to be her last), the story of second chances between Anne Elliot and Fredrick Wentworth is enchanting as well as heart-wrenching. Anne is persuaded to break off her engagement by her family, only to be reunited again when Fredrick returns from the war as a naval captain. Will their love survive? It’s the kind of story that beguiles me and the social relations between cultural classes of that era is quite fascinating and is a good opportunity for a great ensemble cast to portray the various peculiar characters in the book. But of course it’d be fun for me to speculate who should play the two lovebirds :)

4. Teacher Man

This is a memoir by Frank McCourt, the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes (which was adapted into a critically-acclaimed movie in 1999 starring Emily Watson). The memoir covers his 30-years experience as an English high school teacher in New York City and how he often struggled with insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. I haven’t read the book yet actually, but from everything I’ve read, it sounds like a great material for an engaging movie.

The Irish author is a fascinating individual with an equally fascinating story to tell, and he’s got a way to tell it. His self-deprecating humor and wit surely would make a fun script peppered with quotes like “Look at me: wandering late bloomer, floundering old fart, discovering in my forties what my students knew in their teens.”

A couple of years ago, IMDb listed this project under Gerard Butler’s profile and that his production company ‘Evil Twins’ was going to produce it, but now it no longer appears to be the case.

5. Innocence

I read this quite a while ago and while I don’t think this was a masterpiece, I was quite taken by the doomed romance story and the tales about pursuing one’s dream. Evie is a young, aspiring actress leaving her hometown in Ohio to study drama in London, where she falls for a young punk rocker, Jake. There’s also the theme of friendship between Evie and her drama student friends, particularly the Bohemian New Yorker Robbie. It’s not a happy-go-lucky story and in fact, it’s quite tragic in parts, and it also got pretty peculiar when the ghost of her best friend visits her to remind her not to let go of her dreams. It’s an interesting character-study type of novel that might translate well to the big screen.

The author Kathleen Tessaro has a knack for describing places and situations astutely, setting the mood for her colorful characters. I could practically picture the sexy and passionate rendezvous between Evie and Jake, though what happened between them is heartbreaking. I could picture any of the three guys in this breakout performances post (especially Tom Hardy) as Jake and somebody with a more naive vibe like Amanda Seyfried could perhaps play Evie.

P.S. Speaking of book adaptation, there is also the romantic drama Last Voyage of the Valentina, the fantasy movie pitch I did a few months ago. I’d love to see that get a big screen treatment, preferably with the cast I came up with :)


Well, any thoughts on any of them on this list? Feel free to also add your own wish list in the comments below.