10 Brilliant Acting Performances Defined by One Look

I LOVE LOVE this idea from Brittani that I came across earlier this week that I had to take part.

“Sometimes a simple look an actor gives is nothing short of brilliant,”

I totally agree with her sentiment. Sometimes the quietest, most subtle look or gesture has the power to generate the most emotional response, no words necessary.

It made me think of some of those scenes and really, there are SO many examples that it’s tough to narrow it down to just 10. The fact that I remember these scenes despite the length of time that’s passed since I’ve seen it means they definitely left a big impression on me. In fact, from time to time I still look on youtube to watch that particular scene again. Ok so technically there are 11 here, as I paired up one of them, but I think it still count as one as it happens in the exact same scene where the two actors interact with each other. Anyway, here goes:

Christian Bale in Equilibrium

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I always have a fondness for this dystopian sci-fi thriller despite its flaws. Bale’s Preston came too late to save the woman he loves from being incinerated… and he had to watch her die right in front of him. Bale’s expression of utter despair just breaks my heart. It’s one of my favorite Bale performances from all the amazing work he’s done, even if the film itself is far from perfect.

Emily Blunt – Jane Austen Book Club

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I LOVE miss Blunt and she adds so much gravitas and emotional complexity to her character of a French teacher going through an unhappy marriage. She’s just about to have a rendezvous at a motel with a hot, young student but something precludes her from taking another step. I don’t remember much about the entire film but I always remember this scene.

Toby Stephens – Jane Eyre (BBC – 2006)
Toby_JaneEyreI have to include at least one out of a plethora of Toby’s masterful scenes as Rochester. The no-wedding scene is definitely one of the most emotionally-charged. Rochester’s anguish is so palpable here when ‘bride in the attic’ secret’s been revealed. He was so close to finally be with the woman he loves, but in a single moment, that elusive happiness is snatched away again. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s such mesmerizing beauty in his look of pain and agony. It takes a real craftsmanship to bring such tortured soul persona so beautifully and Toby does it with aplomb.

Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale

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Fireman: Ma’am, were you aware that your car was on fire?
[Bernadine nods her head while smoking a cigarette]

Fireman: Ma’am, did you start this fire?
[she puffs smoke and plainly looks at him]

Fireman: You know, it’s against the law to burn anything except trash in your yard.

Bernadine: [flicks off ashes from her cigarette] It is trash.

Miss Bassett is simply awesome, period. It’s been over a decade since I saw this film but I never forget Bernadine’s rage and heartache when her husband leaves her. She’s crestfallen, but yet she never loses that bad-ass sensibility. Her look says it all, ‘Don’t mess with Bernadine.’

Russell Crowe in The Insider

Crowe_TheInsiderI’ve always believed that Crowe got robbed of his Oscar in this film. As fantastic as his portrayal of Maximus was, the way he completely disappeared into Jeffrey Wigand is nothing short of astounding. This scene at the hotel room is mesmerizing, powerful and heart-wrenching and Crowe only communicates with his body language. There’s a bit of a dream sequence here that was crafted masterfully by Michael Mann, but it’s Crowe’s stillness and inner tumult that you won’t soon forget.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel_12YearsASlaveThis scene is one of the most haunting, which is saying something given how many heart-wrenching scenes there are in this film. At first Solomon didn’t join the other slaves singing Roll Jordan Roll, but somehow, halfway through the song, he started singing. His facial expression stirs up so much expression as I watched it. It’s as if he’d reached the lowest point of his life, losing all hope of ever escaping his fate as a slave… all the grief, desperation, anger and sense of helplessness is all there. Yet there is a glimmer of defiance in him, a flicker of hope still left in him that gets him through another day. Ejiofor deserved an Oscar win just for this scene alone.

Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

Peck_TheHolidayThe finale remains one of the most beautiful and poignant film endings ever. And I think Peck’s facial expression conveys so much. The restrained tears in his eyes, the rigid way he’s standing, it takes so much out of Joe not to say how he feels about Ann. Yet his expression speaks louder than words could ever do.

Kate Winslet in Titanic

Winslet_TitanicIt’s been ages since I saw Titanic but for some reason, this subtle scene of Rose during dinner with her family and Cal still stands out to me. There’s this glazed look on her face, like she finally stops caring about her privileged life that feels more and more like a prison. “That fire is gonna burn out,” Jack tells her at one point and it’s as if it finally sinks in that he is right and she wants out.

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

Joaquin_GladiatorThis is truly one of the greatest scenes in film history IMHO. There’s just so much going on in this scene on psychological and emotional level. Of course Crowe is simply astounding in his ‘Maximus Decimus Meridius’ monologue but one thing that always struck me is Commodus’ stunned reaction. His lips quiver, eyes wide open with shock and his whole body trembles with a combination of rage and fright. It’s like ‘WTF! How could you still be alive?’ He knew at that moment, everything he’s planned so carefully is in shambles. As Lucilla said, at that moment, a slave did become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome, and it’s all written in Commodus’ face.

James Cromwell & Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

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Spacey_LAConfidential

There are certain phrases in movies that will forever be stuck in my head. “Rolo Tomasi” is one of them, and thanks to both Cromwell and Spacey for creating such an iconic and chilling scene. That’s the name Exley (Guy Pearce) gives the unknown murderer of his father just to give him a personality. “Have you a valediction, boyo?” Capt. Dudley Smith asked the dying Sgt. Jack Vincennes. It’s a powerful and totally unexpected response, and one he never thought would eventually lead to his own demise. Even nearing death, Jack still manages to deliver quite a blow to Dudley.


Well, what do you think of my picks? Please share your own picks of great acting defined by one look.

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Question of the week: Actors whose famous role you can’t shake

RDJ_TonyStark

I just reviewed The Judge this weekend and I mentioned how RDJ is playing yet another variety of Tony Stark. He’s always the smartest guy in the room, and always have an arsenal of snarky remarks he can just throw at you at the best opportunity. I’m not just talking about the recent roles he does after Iron Man, but even when I saw Zodiac I still can’t get past his Stark persona. There’s always a hint of that self-assured swagger that’s borderline cocky but somehow still lovable, which is something an actor either has or doesn’t, it’s not something they can teach even at Juilliard or RADA. You know what though, I’m tired of his schtick. As Sati said in her astute comment, his cockiness seems to translate off-screen now that it’s getting on my nerves. No matter how lovable a character, an actor’s job is to be able to pull off a variety of roles convincingly, to make a conscious effort to *disappear* into whatever role they do. I think the bigger/more famous the character is, the more responsibility said actor has to shake that off.

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Source: Eccentric Billionaire Tumblr

Now obviously RDJ isn’t the only actor with this kind of predicament, where somehow they can’t escape their most famous role. I think Johnny Depp can’t seem to shake off his Jack Sparrow image either. I’m not saying RDJ or Depp aren’t capable actors because they are, but perhaps their schtick just sticks in the mind longer than others. On the contrary, someone like like say, Christian Bale doesn’t always remind me of Bruce Wayne when he’s playing other roles post-Batman and I don’t get hang up on Maximus in Gladiator whenever I see Russell Crowe on screen.

I guess I’m just curious if anybody else feel the same, whether it’s RDJ or another actor.


So which actor(s) whose famous role you can’t shake? Or perhaps the question should be, actors who can’t shake their most famous role :)

Blogathon: 10 Actors I Would See In Just About Anything

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Thank you to Lady Sati, whom I’ve been commiserating with in the agony & ecstasy of crushing over an underrated Brit, kindly passed the baton to me to join this awesome blogathon! This idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are, and to be honest with you, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Partly it’s because I’ve been nuts about Toby Stephens lately [haven't you noticed?] that he’s sort of ruined it for other actors for me. So apart from Toby [who I'd watch in literally ANYTHING], the title of the post is hyperbolic of course. For the other actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in anything because there are tons of movies with them in it I haven’t seen and probably never will. But having their name in a certain film would certainly make me more inclined in watching them.

Ok now I know this is a list for LIVING actors, but if we could include deceased actors, no doubt Gregory Peck would be on the list as I’ve seen practically everything he’s in by now. Heck, I even made a tumblr because of him though now it’s dedicated to Toby [natch!]

Here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite:

10. Tom Hardy

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First saw the hunky and versatile actor in Rocknrolla, along with two other actors here on my top 10 list (Elba & Butler) where he played Handsome Bob. Incidentally, his character was a closeted gay man who’s been secretly in love with Butler’s character. One thing I noticed right away is Hardy’s gorgeous voice to go with his handsome face, and he’s got such swagger. Then I saw him in Inception where he stole practically every scene he’s in, and it’s interesting that he played a forger consider the actor’s quite a shape-shifter himself. He’s entirely unrecognizable as Bane in The Dark Knight and also in Warrior, where he bulked up considerably that he looked like he’s twice the size of his character in Rocknrolla! Hardy’s proven to be a capable actor even when all he’s got to work with is his face, as proven in the one-man-show Locke. Heck, he’s even watchable in abominable rom-com like This Means War which I saw on the plane just for him.

Favorite Role: Ivan Locke in Locke
Least Favorite Role: Tuck in This Means War

9. Idris Elba

Top10Actors_Idris

I also first noticed the hunky former D.J. in American Gangster where I didn’t realize he was British. But I really took notice when he was in Rocknrolla as Gerry Butler’s BFF Mumbles. Like Hardy, he not only looks good but sounds good as well sporting his native Cockney accent. The next few years I saw him in The Losers, Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Elba’s got such a magnetic persona and devilish charm, in fact I felt rather guilty drooling over him when he was playing Mandela. If only the Bond producers were daring enough to cast him as Bond, oh man he’d be a killer 007.  I still need to catch The Wire soon, but he’s definitely an actor whose career I watch closely.

Favorite Role: Stacker Pentecost in Pacific Rim
Least Favorite Role: Roque in The Losers

8. Clive Owen

Top10Actors_Clive

 

There’s something mysterious to Clive that adds so much to his allure. He smolders without even trying and he’s inherently cool because he doesn’t seem to have anything to prove. The first time I saw him was in those BMW films, which instantly wished he had been in the running as Bond. I know Clive is known for his dark, brooding roles like Children of Men and Closer, as well as in action hero roles like King Arthur, Shoot ‘em Up, Sin City, The International, etc. but I also love him in dramatic roles, i.e. Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Boys Are Back and Shadow Dancer. He even shines in slightly comedic roles like the recent dramedy Words & Pictures with Juliette Bincohe.

Favorite Role: Theo in Children of Men
Least Favorite Role: Smith in Shoot ‘Em Up

7. Alan Rickman

Top10Actors_Rickman

I actually first saw Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply in my ESL class before I started college. Then later on I learned that he was the same actor playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Since then he’s become one of my all time favorite villains, but also one of my most cherished period drama hero as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Later on I’ve loved Rickman in a variety of roles: Galaxy Quest, Love Actually, Bottle Shock, and I even rented Gambit because he’s in it. Rickman’s line delivery is just one of the things I love about him, as evident in his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. He’s perhaps one of the most impersonated actors out there, young British talents like Benedict Cumberbatch & Tom Hiddleston have done impressions of him. His voice is so golden that even when he voiced Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the android is my fave character in the movie.

Number of movies seen: 18
Favorite Role: Col. Brandon in Sense and Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Lionel Shahbandar in Gambit

6. Gerard Butler

Top10Actors_Butler

Ok for those who’ve followed my blog from the beginning already know I’ve had a huge crush on the Scottish lad ever since I saw him in Phantom of the Opera. I definitely prefer his leaner look before he got so buff in 300, though all that crazy training shows his dedication for a role. Well, lately I was dismayed by his role choices, mostly those atrocious rom-coms he kept signing up for like The Ugly Truth and Playing for Keeps. The latter was so horrible I actually swore off Butler for a while in my open letter. But Butler’s the only one of my crushes whom I’ve actually met in real life so perhaps that’s why it’s not easy to just forget about him. To be fair though, it’s not like Butler didn’t bother to act the past few years. In fact, it’s a shame that his compelling work in Machine Gun Preacher was overlooked, and even his surfing role in Chasing Mavericks was decent even if the film wasn’t exactly great. So he still makes my list despite his terrible role choices because well, for some reason I still care for the guy and still have hopes for him, futile though it may be as his next projects are Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen [sigh]. But then I remember him in his earlier roles in Phantom, Dear Frankie and BBC miniseries The Jury, and y’know what, I’m not quite ready to think he’s a lost cause yet.

Numbers of movies seen: 31
Favorite Role: Erik/Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera
Least Favorite Role: Mike in The Bounty Hunter

5. Keanu Reeves

Top10Actors_Reeves

Ok here’s another actor who perhaps would never win an Oscar, but one can’t refute Keanu’s unusual charm. Believe it or not I think I first saw Keanu in Paula Abdul’s Rush Rush music video, ha! I wouldn’t hold it against him though, I mean he’s probably a young struggling actor making ends meet. Of course the role that made me swoon was Speed, followed by The Matrix (though I’ve only cared to see the first one). Keanu is actually more versatile than people think and despite not being the most expressive actor, he’s just so effortlessly likable. People often forget he’s quite good in My Own Private Idaho with River Phoenix, and able to hold his own against Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate. I absolutely love him in the romantic drama A Walk in the Clouds, yes even more so than in his other romantic roles like The Lake House. Even sporting laughable British accent in Much Ado About Nothing and Dracula I still find Keanu amusing to watch, and I’ve even enjoyed watching him in the little-seen movies like Street Kings and Henry’s Crime. I also admire Keanu on a personal level, as he’s well-known for being super generous with his wealth and shunning the lavish Hollywood lifestyle. I don’t care what people say about him, I’ll always be a fan of Keanu and I don’t think there’s an actor quite like him in Hollywood.

Number of Movies Seen: 15
Favorite Roles: Jack in Speed & Neo in The Matrix
Least Favorite Role: Alex Wyler in The Lake House

4. Russell Crowe

Top10Actors_Crowe

Thanks to his tremendous performance as Maximus Decimus Meridius, I was quite obsessed with Mr. Crowe following Gladiator. I remember trying to find all his previous roles, even as obscure as his early Aussie movies in Proof, Heaven’s Burning, Rough Magic, Breaking Up, etc. Every time I saw Crowe’s name attached to something, I’m more inclined to give it a shot even if it’s for a rental. A recent re-watch of Gladiator confirmed how much I admire his acting style. He’s not only charismatic but he’s got such a certain astute way in displaying emotion with even the most subtle gesture. I think his performance as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider is his best role to date, yes it even beats Gladiator and he should’ve won his Oscar for that role. Crowe makes a compelling hero to be sure, but his villainous turn in 3:10 to Yuma is just as intriguing to watch. Oh and regardless what critics have you believe, he’s quite good in Ridley Scott’s rare rom-com A Good Year which displays his lighthearted side.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: Maximus in Gladiator & Jack Aubrey in Master & Commander
Least Favorite Role: Alex Wyler in The Lake House

3. Christian Bale

Top10Actors_Bale

Before Bale landed the role of Batman, Bale had made an impression of me as Bateman, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. It was such a dark and violent movie as I saw the unrated version by accident, but Bale was nothing short of electrifying. I think before that role, I had already seen Bale in Reign of Fire alongside Gerry Butler AND Matthew McConaughey, an apocalyptic sci-fi movie with fire-breathing dragons [yep, you heard it right, but it's quite worth a look just for the cast]. Of course I LOVE Bale as Nolan’s Batman, especially in the origin story in Batman Begins where we see his transformation from a naive rich kid to a bad ass caped crusader. I also loved him in his more understated roles such as John Rolfe in The New World. Despite being there for only 20 minutes, he’s my favorite character and I bought the dvd because of him. Even in so-so movies, the Welsh thespian is often the best thing in it and makes the movie worth a watch. He’s also awesome in Equilibrium which I probably wouldn’t even bother to watch if Bale weren’t in it. His incredible dedication to his craft is incredible, talk about suffering for his art by losing/gaining ridiculous amount of weight for a role. He may not be as versatile as people think though, as I don’t think he could do full on comedy, but he seems to know how to choose roles that suits him.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: Bruce Wayne in Nolan’s Batman Trilogy
Least Favorite Role: Melvin Purvis in Public Enemies

 

2. Timothy Dalton

Top10Actors_Dalton

Whaddayaknow, two Welsh actors back to back in my top 5. Most of you likely know I’m a card-carrying member of the Dalton-is-best-Bond brigade. I LOVE his only two roles as 007 which made me a fan for life. But on top of that, he’s also massively awesome as Prince Barin in the sci-fi cult classic Flash Gordon and the Errol Flynn-channeling villain in The Rocketeer. Until Toby Stephens entered the picture, Dalton was my favorite Rochester amongst the ubiquitous Jane Eyre adaptations and he also made a marvelous Julius Caesar in the 1999 Cleopatra TV Movie. He also has a surprisingly great comic timing too as displayed in Hot Fuzz and the silly-but-fun Beautician and the Beast. There’s a certain intensity and passion in Dalton’s eyes that I find riveting and he’s one of the best looking 70-year-old actors out there. In fact, from the clips of the Penny Dreadful series, it’s clear Dalton seems to only get better with age. I don’t normally watch horror, but I would be willing to give it a shot when it’s available to rent. I wish he had been more prolific in his career. I’d think that Dalton could’ve done a number of roles offered to his peers like Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and Patrick Stewart. In fact, I’d have loved to have seen him as Alfred in the inevitable Batman reboots or even better, he’d rock a role of an older Bruce Wayne if they were to adapt Batman Beyond to the big screen.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: James Bond in The Living DaylightsLicence to Kill
Least Favorite Role: Michael Barrington in Sextette

1. Toby Stephens

Top10Actors_TobyStephens

Ahhhh… finally we get to the top of the list. The man who gets me all giddy like a school girl every time I watch him on screen. My Tumblr is now dedicated to this fine British thespian and I literally squeal every time his exquisite face come across my dash. There are few actors in life who generates such an extreme reaction from me, in fact so far there’s only been five of them, starting with Christopher Reeve when I was a wee girl, and he’s the first redhead I’ve ever been head over heels in love with.

As I said in my Toby Appreciation post, the reason Toby’s bewitched me so much is more than just his devastating good looks, but it’s his chameleon-like ability and incredibly expressive face that conveys so much emotion. He’s blessed with greenish-blue piercing eyes and he sure knows how to use them well in each and every role, such as below as Captain Flint in Black Sails.

TobyTurbanFlint

Sati said about her crush Stephen Dillane that ‘…one look in his eyes is enough to tell you so much about the character he is playing’ I feel the exact same way about Toby and that’s why it’s been such a joy catching up to his work. Toby seems to fit any genre, from period dramas to sci-fi to something like a pirate which one wouldn’t normally associate such a posh, refined and cultured English gent with. Yet Toby effortlessly tackles the role whilst juggling a high-society comedic play in Noël Coward’s Private Lives at the same time.

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Toby with Anna Chancelor in ‘Private Lives’

Clearly looks + talent runs in the family as I’ve been a huge fan of Toby’s mum Maggie Smith, but I really respect Toby that he doesn’t owe his career to her. But of course having been exposed to the acting craft early on made an impact on him and made him such a multifaceted performer, excelling in every acting medium from stage, TV, film and even radio where he acts just using his voice alone. He’s also one of those actors who can master any accent, which he’s used in various roles from playing Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby TV Movie to a CIA operative in BBC’s Strike Back. Heck, he even spoke Hindi in the Bollywood historical epic The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey, right after he played Bond villain in Die Another Day no less. About half of the dialog was in Hindi whilst he had to speak with a Scottish accent the rest of the time as Captain William Gordon.

Role that made me a fangirl – Vincent in The Machine (2013)
Role that officially ruined all other men for me: Mr. Rochester in BBC Jane Eyre (2006)
Number of movies/TV shows I saw with him in them: 19 (so far)
Favorite Roles: Rochester in BBC Jane Eyre + Captain Flint in Black Sails
Least Favorite Role: Victorin in Cousin Bette (1998)
TobyManyFaces
 The Many Faces of Toby Stephens
(clockwise from top left: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Queen’s Sister, Wired, Jane Eyre, The Rising, Die Another Day, Cambridge Spies, Robin Hood, Black Sails, The Machine, Vexed, Possession, The Great Gatsby)


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! A couple of these actors might’ve made my main list a few months ago but upon looking at some of my old favorites, only three of them made the cut. I’m still a big fan of all of them though, or they wouldn’t even get a mention. Sam Reid is the newbie here as I have only seen him in Belle so far but he really impressed me that I’d love to see more of his work! So here they are and photo shows the role that made me a fan:

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  1. Richard Armitage
  2. Eric Bana
  3. Henry Cavill
  4. Benedict Cumberbatch
  5. Chris Evans
  6. Tom Hiddleston
  7. James McAvoy
  8. Ewan McGregor
  9. Sam Reid
  10. Rufus Sewell

 


Bloggers who have previously shared their almost anything actors/actresses:

  1. Abbi at Where the Wild Things are
  2. Fernando at Committed to Celluloid
  3. Kristin at All Eyes On Screen
  4. Jaina at Time Well Spent
  5. Nostra at My Film Views
  6. KaramelK at Karamel Kinema
  7. Getter at MettelRay

Now I’m passing the torch to my pal Melissa [aka Queen Mel] over at Snap Crackle Watch who shares my taste for cute British boys ;)


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

Wordless Wednesday: 7 Favorite Scenes of the Roman Epic GLADIATOR (2000)

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This past weekend, I rewatched an old favorite. Well it’s not just an oldie-but-goodie, it’s perhaps one of my top 10 favorite of all time: GLADIATOR. It’s the one cinematic masterpiece Ridley Scott’s been trying to replicate ever since, to no avail. After seeing the trailer for Exodus: Gods and King, well it seems that Mr Scott’s glory days is behind him. Ah well, we’ll always have Gladiator. Amazing that even fourteen years later, this film still holds up extremely well, everything about it is perfect, absolutely perfect.

I’ve written an extensive appreciation post on it a few years back, as part of a ‘Movies that made going to the movies suck‘ blogathon. Yes I think that blogathon name is a hoot, but once you read people’s posts on it, it totally make sense. Anyhoo, it’s supposed to be a wordless post so I’ve said enough already. Here are some of my favorite scenes from the Roman epic:

First Battle in Germania

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius


“The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end…”


Commodus Enters Rome

“Are you not entertained?!”

…..

Ending scene – w/ Now We Are Free score

Gracchus on the Gladiatorial Games

I couldn’t find the exact scene for this but I LOVE Derek Jacobi‘s scene here. His lines is one of my favorite movie quote ever, but most importantly, it’s how he delivered it.

Gracchus_Gladiator

[SCENE: Gaius and Gracchus at a restaurant, discussing the games which Commodus revived to lure the mob. Outside can be seen a juggler, merchants calling out their wares (wine), and the crowd visiting and moving about.]

GAIUS: Games! 150 days of games!
GRACCHUS: He’s cleverer than I thought.
GAIUS: Clever. The whole of Rome would be laughing at him if they weren’t in fear of his Praetorian.
GRACCHUS: Fear and wonder. A powerful combination.
GAIUS: Will the people really be seduced by that?
GRACCHUS: I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. He will conjure magic for them and they will be distracted. He will take away their freedom, and still they will roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble floor of the Senate, it is the sand of the Colosseum. He will give them death, and they will love him for it.


These are just a sampling of my favorite scenes from GLADIATOR. What do you think? Feel free to share yours.

FlixChatter Review: Winter’s Tale

WintersTale

Let me preface this review by saying that Akiva Goldsman should stick to writing screenplays or producing films instead of working behind the camera. In his debut feature, Goldsman’s wearing multiple hat as producer, writer AND director. The film takes place at the turn of the century New York City, where the protagonist, Peter Lake, has a Moses-like beginning. His immigrant parents [Russian?] were denied admission at Ellis Island and his dad set baby Peter adrift in NY harbor in a miniature model ship called City of Justice. Fast forward to about 30-some years and we find Peter (Colin Farrell, sporting an odd looking haircut) being on the run by some Irish gangster led by Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe, trying his best to mimic Farrell’s Irish accent). Miraculously he’s saved by a winged white horse who later doubles as his guardian angel plus transportation. All of this sounds quite enchanting on paper but the plodding pace of this film didn’t exactly stimulate me, but I was hoping the story would pick up soon enough.

The horse then somehow leads Peter to a house where he’d inevitably meets the love of his life. As Peter is a burglar, he’s about about to rob her mansion when the chance encounter happens. It turns out that the beautiful but frail Beverly is dying, but that of course doesn’t get in the way of the two falling in love. Now I don’t know if her disease causes her to speak in some kind of poetic language because that is how she talks in this movie. I quite like Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sibyl from Downton Abbey) but the script made it tough to relate to her character and the schmaltzy-ness of it all is starting to get on my nerves. To top it off, I still have no clue what’s the deal with Pearly’s vengeance against Peter, and suddenly he now wants Beverly dead. It’s never fully explained why, but it’s quite obvious that this mission is a personal one for Pearly. He’s even more upset as Peter then snatches Beverly away from his grasp, thanks once again to the winged horse.

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The supernatural elements of the story just gets weirder, not to mention incomprehensible, as we meet Pearly’s boss named Lucifer. Yep, you read that right, the fallen archangel/devil himself, played by Will Smith. It’s quite an odd casting choice but really that’s the least of this film’s problem. So the the lord of ALL evil beings in the universe lives in a dingy tower with only a twin bed and lit by a single lightbulb?? [shrugs] Neither Pearly nor Lucifer are the least bit menacing nor sinister enough to make any real impact, and the whole conversation is so cringe-worthy that my mind kept wandering just how much Crowe and Smith got paid to star in this stinker. Both actors (as well as Jennifer Connelly) have worked with Goldsman before so I wonder if this is some kind of favor they’re doing for him or something. I read somewhere that Goldsman wrote the role of Pearly with Crowe in mind, hmmm not sure that’s a compliment for the Aussie thespian after seeing the film.

Farrell and Findlay did their best to sell their romance and I have to admit there are some touching moments but overall it just wasn’t as gripping than it could’ve been. By the time the film takes place in present day, I’m still barely invested in any of the characters and the story remains a huge mystery to me, and not in a good way. Apparently Peter is immortal as he doesn’t age a day in his life and here he meets a couple of new people, as well as someone from the past, played by Jennifer Connelly and Eva Marie Saint. Despite the A-list ensemble’s (especially Farrell at his most earnest) best efforts to win us over, they’re all wasted here by the cloying and over-sentimental script that drags early and repetitively. The behind-the-scene talents are equally first rate but none of them can really save this film. Hans Zimmer‘s score is pleasant to the ear but it also heighten the lovey-dovey mood of the whole thing. Caleb Deschanel‘s gorgeous cinematography of New York City is quite a feast for the eyes, but it makes my brain desperately ache for something meaty to feast on as well.

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The agony is complete with an ending that is utterly predictable and so gratingly mawkish that would make any of Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation seems gritty. There are themes of good versus evil, love, life, loss and redemption here, but the narrative is neither cohesive or compelling. Plus it’s chock full of trite dialog with dreary lines about *destiny* and *everything is connected* mumbo jumbo. It leaves me scratching my head as this comes from the writer of A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man, but this mishmash script is perhaps more akin to Batman & Robin which Goldsman also wrote. 

Final Thoughts: All the talks about miracles, stars and magical moments amounts to a film that is totally devoid of magic. It’s really a shame as reading the premise of the novel later on (which was altered quite a bit for the film) makes me think that Mark Helprin‘s mythical story deserves so much better. We don’t get enough romance fantasy so I was really hoping this would be a decent enough movie even if it’d probably fall short of Goldsman’s grandiose ambition. Well, I really wasn’t expecting to see one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time.

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What did you think of Winter’s Tale? 

Musings on Man of Steel: What works and what doesn’t in the latest Superman reboot

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Oh boy, where do I begin… Some films are tough to review and I find this one to be particularly so because I feel like I’ve invested myself in this movie even long before I saw it. It’s strange I know, and perhaps I shouldn’t have been sooo incredibly pumped but if you’ve read my ‘history‘ if you will, with this character, I can’t help myself. And really, Warner Bros have done a tremendous job building the marketing for this movie and pacing the trailers to get fan boys/girls like me to wait with baited breath.

Well, at 7:30 pm last Tuesday night — after two and a half years wait, and numerous countdown posts — my hubby and I finally sat down and watch this film. I’m glad there were only two trailers before this film came out, though I wish one of them had been for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, as I didn’t want to wait a moment sooner for this film to start. Now, here’s my thoughts after a few days processing it… pardon the long post, but you know I’m rather indulgent when it comes to Superman :D

What Works

An absorbing backstory of the hero and his planet

When the filmmakers said this is going to be an origin story, they REALLY meant it. The film opens with our hero still in his mother’s womb and his father, the brilliant scientist Jor-El, helping her deliver him. We know he’s a special ‘man’ on earth, but he’s also a special baby in his native planet, as Kal-El is the first baby born of natural conception in thousands of years. We get a glimpse of a more organic version of Krypton than I’ve ever seen. The landscape and creatures from the alien planet reminds me a bit of Avatar, brushed with much more warm color scheme than the icy, futuristic look of the Richard Donner version. We see the ‘S’ symbol as a prominent element of his family, and I like that this film gives that iconic emblem a bit more background than in previous movies as it’s such an integral part of the character.

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The send-off is an emotional one, giving us a picture of the kind of people brought Kal-El into the world, and the grim circumstances of the world he was born into. The extended history scenes was explored pretty well here, which certainly makes me think of Krypton in a different light, that’s it’s a world that’s not so entirely different from our own. It’s definitely a thought-provoking Superman film that lingers with me for days after I saw it.

Exploring the sci-fi aspect

It’s interesting that I never regarded the previous Superman as a science-fiction movie, but this time you could say that Man of Steel is a sci-fi action/drama as it really tackles the ‘science’ of the two worlds of Superman. Words like terraforming, codex, world engines, etc. are terms I never associate with Superman, and we also get vibes of The Matrix or Gattaca in earlier scenes.

There’s a scene that touches upon the fact that Superman’s no longer used to his native Kryptonian atmosphere, as his body’s adapted to earth’s oxygen after living here for three decades. It seems to have a similar weakening power the way Kryptonite does, though there’s no mention of that in the film. It’s fascinating stuff and adds a different layer to the Superman story that’s overlooked in the past.

The non-linear storyline

This is sort of a Christopher Nolan‘s trademark if you will, and I’m glad David S. Goyer decided to interweave the Clark Kent’s upbringing in flashback mode as the adult Clark is grappling with the notion of ‘Where do I come from?’ and ‘Why am I here?’ This narrative style isn’t confusing to me because well, I (as well as most people) already know the story, but it’s still good to see it being played out in a whole different way. I think it helps pace the story as well, because let’s face it, when you’re in the theater watching a Superman movie, you yearn to see Supes in THAT suit. The buildup makes the moment when he comes out of what we’ve come to know as Fortress of Solitude, with his cape billowing in the wind, all the more sweeter. Not a moment too soon, I’d say, and though I’ve seen that clip a bazillion times in the trailer, I’m still getting goosebumps watching it.

Supes ‘super’ Dads

It’s perfect timing that Man of Steel is released on Father’s Day weekend, as both of his fathers in the film are so awesome they’re even worthy of their own ‘My Two Dads’ spinoff, ahah. The reviewer at HitFix.com astutely pointed out one of the most fundamental difference between DC’s two flagship heroes “…Batman is defined by his missing parents, while Superman is defined by his surplus of parents.” That’s so true! And it’s nice to see the excellent casting for both roles. I really enjoy watching Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Supes’ Kryptonian and earth-bound father, respectively. It’s interesting that both Oscar winners have played Robin Hood and Cavill was quite the masterful archer in Immortals, I guess it runs in the family :D

I appreciate seeing Jor-El’s character being covered in more depth, with Crowe is in top form here, as valiant and heroic as he was in Gladiator (the ‘This is madness’ line cracks me up a bit though, an homage to Snyder’s previous hit film perhaps?) Thankfully, he’s not relegated to just a talking head like Brando and he appears throughout the film in a hologram, traveling with his son in ‘spirit’ if you were, just like God the Father is in Christ the son. The Judeo-Christian theme in Superman films are always palpable, and here Clark becomes the earthly savior at the exact age of 33. Thus the father/son scenes are easily the highlights of the film for me, and Crowe’s Jor-El is perhaps my favorite character in the film next to the title role.

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Costner hits all the right notes as as the humble and wise farmer from Smallville who loves his adopted son so much he’s willing to lay down his life. I’m glad we get to see Jonathan Kent interacting with the adult Clark in one scene, which happens to be one of the most emotionally-charged moment that no doubt shapes the rest of Clark’s life. The strong moral compass in the hero’s early life is covered in great depth, which made the first half of the film the more compelling part of the movie.

Henry Cavill as Superman

Naturally, to portray someone as iconic and beloved as Superman, in the year of its 75th anniversary no less, it’s crucial that we get an actor who could bring that character justice. Let’s face it though, Christopher Reeve was a tough act to follow in the role, and the comparison is inevitable. Truth be told, Reeve’s Superman will always have a very special place in my heart, I don’t think anyone could ever take his place.

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That said, I’ve been a fan of Cavill’s casting from the get-go, obviously he looks every inch the part both in chiseled physique and down-to-earth mannerism. But the true test is really seeing him on screen, BEING Superman and interacting with the people in the story. Well, I can say with confidence and positive giddy-ness that Cavill did the character justice. Sure we didn’t get the bumbling Clark trying to get Lois’ attention, but that doesn’t mean this version is one dimensional at all. In fact, Cavill believably portrays a more layered persona, showing the vulnerable side of such a larger-than-life character. Not quite the tortured soul the way Bruce Wayne was, but appropriately solemn as a conflicted man haunted by the past dealing with a constant internal struggles within him. Seems like some critics are expecting a wisecracking character with a slew of one liners at the ready, but you know what, I’m not expecting that from Cavill. I’m glad he made the character his own instead of simply channeling Reeve. I like that he’s a man of a few words, someone who wisely prefers to listen than being heard.

Michael Shannon as Zod

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I was glad when it was announced that General Zod was going to be the main villain, and boy, did they get an excellent actor to play the part. In some interviews, Michael Shannon said that he never thought of playing a comic-book character and that he found something sympathetic about his character. I appreciate his take on the role as a staunch military leader who’s loyal to a fault. So he’s not simply a megalomaniac who enjoy making people suffer, though of course his mission to save his own kind is basically genocide, something that neither Jor-El nor his son would ever condone. Ok so his bowl cut and goatee is not exactly an attractive look on Shannon, but it’s nice to see a villain who also looks physically menacing. Shannon’s athleticism makes him a formidable foe even for the mighty buff Cavill.

The chemistry of the Cast

The fantastic ensemble cast would be for naught if they don’t have chemistry with each other. But there’s none of that issue in this film, all the performances are strong here and they play off each other well. Despite being the youngest and least experienced actor amongst the key players, Cavill’s able to hold his own effortlessly. I love all his scenes with Crowe and especially this one with Diane Lane as his earth-bound mother. It’s one of the cheeriest moments in the movie where Clark came home after being away from Smallville for some time. The mother & son moment is poignant and sweet.

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The visual imagination of the film

As I’ve mentioned above, the long opening sequence of life in Krypton shows the vast planet where Superman came from. The scene is beautifully realized, with lush valleys, caverns and water mass, with what looks like a primeval animals and wing-like creatures that serve as means of transport.

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The look of Smallville captures the picturesque small town sensibilities and the iconic Kent farm that’s apparently built from scratch looks appropriately earthy next to the massive corn fields (Kevin Costner must’ve felt a sense of déjà vu from filming Fields of Dreams, ahah). Contrast that to the design of the baby Kal-El’s rocket ship that launched him from Krypton. The key word here once again is organic, with its clean lines and a more rounded shape that forms the S-shield. Oh, and if you look closely, seems like Pa Kent’s been collecting all kinds of books about aliens, UFOs, etc. which of course leads to him saying “Youre the answer to ‘Are we alone in the universe?’” when the time comes that he can’t hide it from his adopted son anymore.

I LOVE, LOVE the costume design of this film! The texture and ornate design is just fantastic, and the armor that Jor-El wore has an interesting dichotomy of being ancient looking as well as futuristic at the same time. The iconic Superman suit is re-imagined with a darker, more monochromatic hue. Again, the sleek texture beautifully accentuate the perfectly-sculpted physique of Cavill, and certainly a heck of a lot more bad ass without the red underwear on the outside. I’d love to see Man of Steel being considered for Best Costume Design come Oscar time.

Lois Lane’s larger involvement in the story

I never thought that Lois is merely a damsel in distress in the Superman movies, I mean she’s always been a shrewd career woman. But here, the stellar reporter actually gets more to do in the story and actually gets to be a part of Superman’s mission in saving humanity. No doubt Amy Adams is perhaps the best and most ‘decorated’ actress (with her four Oscar nominations under her belt) to play that character. Though I think Margot Kidder’s spunk in the role remains unmatched, Adams is quite believable and more importantly likable, as Supes’ love interest. Despite the relatively brief screen time between them (less than what I’d have liked to see anyway), Cavill and Adams have a nice chemistry together. But seriously, what girl wouldn’t have a good chemistry with Henry Cavill! I’ve got to admit the scene of them locking lips gets me green with envy! ;)

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It’s no surprise that Snyder likes a strong female character in his films and in this one, we’ve got one on both sides of good and evil, as Zod’s right hand woman Faora (Antje Traue) is a force to be reckoned with!

Last but certainly NOT least…

The flying sequences

Flying is the quintessential powers that makes Superman different from other superheroes. So I’m glad that Snyder put a lot of effort into it and truly makes the whole flying thing SUPER cool! There’s a scene where Jor-El tells his son to ‘keep testing his limits’ as neither of them knows just how powerful the earth’s sun would fuel him. There’s even a sequence of Superman learning how to fly properly, and the scene of him flying all over the globe seemingly faster than a speeding bullet is awesome!

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At the same time, though Supes’ super strength here is magnificent, I’m glad the suspension of disbelief required of us doesn’t go beyond risible grandiosity such as turning back earth axis and turning back time. I mean, I love Superman: The Movie as you all know, but that’s just stretching the preposterous meter way too far even for a superhero movie.

What Doesn’t 

Ok, now you all know how much I want to LOVE this movie. I want to clap and cheer when the end credits roll and shout out ‘awesooooooooome!!’ at top of my lungs. Well, it didn’t quite happen at first viewing, and here’s why…

The fight scenes go on way too long

Yes I know that from the trailers and featurettes that there are going to be some significant butt-kicking sequences in this one. I mean, after such a lengthy battle-free exposition if you will, naturally people are expecting more robust stuff, but I think it ends up being a bit of an overkill as the fight scenes grows increasingly relentless. As soon as Zod descend on earth with his small band of Kryptonian army, all hell breaks lose!

The destruction in Metropolis would make Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich green with envy. It’s as if Zack Snyder is over-compensating for some people’s complaints that the previous Superman movie didn’t have ‘enough’ action. Seriously, by the time Superman fights Zod & co. for the fifth or sixth times, and it just gets tedious. There’s also an overlong scene of Superman fighting these weird alien creatures with long tentacles towards the end, it’s really hard to see what the heck is going on. It’s a case of CGI-overload, which is never a good thing.

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Seeing Supes and his nemesis going through building after building, leaving heaps of destruction in its wake, it quickly becomes pointless as we all know these Kryptonians are all indestructible. Plus, their fights actually cause more human casualties as skyscrapers are collapsing all around them.

Lacking one stand-out scene that exemplifies Superman as the ‘savior of humanity’

Ironically, with sooo many battle scenes and so much time devoted to Supes kicking all kinds of butt, there is not a single defining moment, if you will, that makes me want to get up and cheer. Superman: The Movie has that iconic chopper-rescue scene with Lois, Superman II has the battle at the end with Zod & co. that leads to the finale at the Fortress of Solitude, and even Superman Returns has that rousing plane rescue scene that earns Supes a thunderous heroes’ welcome! (Btw you can watch all of those scenes here).

The most memorable part for me is the scene where Supes first tackles Zod, destroying his helmet that protects him from being overwhelmed by his heightened senses. I think it’s brilliant that they show an insight to just how crucial Clark’s parents teaching was in getting him to control his powers. But it falls short from being a truly glorious scene, and most importantly, we never quite see Superman as being welcomed by the people of earth as their alien hero, even though the stake in this film is even greater than anything Lex Luthor ever posed to humanity. There’s only acknowledgement from a few military people and some Daily Planet employees, but most earthlings pretty much are still in the dark as who Superman is.

Hans Zimmer’s score didn’t quite hit an emotional high for me

This is really a bummer as I’ve grown to enjoy this soundtrack, and accept the fact no score is going to be as iconic as what John Williams’ has done (even Zimmer himself realized this). I’ve actually been listening to the score on its own and really enjoyed it. But somehow, I don’t really remember the music being all that memorable in the film. Perhaps it’s intentional to make the score to sort of blend in with the story, but I expected it to give me this emotional rush like it did in the previous film, but it wasn’t quite there. Perhaps on second viewing I might have a different opinion on it, but as it is now, it’s a bit underwhelming.

The Verdict?

Despite the flaws I’ve pointed out, there are still a LOT to love in this film. So yeah, I still LOVE Superman and Man of Steel certainly did not dampen my love for the character. The bold new interpretation certainly didn’t frustrate me the way Superman Returns did with the ‘Supes boy’ twist, though it could’ve been more engaging all the way through. The first half of the film before we even see Kal-El donning the suit is definitely more compelling to me than the later when Superman perform all kinds of impressive heroic stunts. I think Richard Corliss in his TIME review sums it up nicely: “The super part of Man of Steel is just O.K.; but the man part is super.”

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I do want to point out that there IS a beating heart amidst all the booming spectacle and I do think the filmmakers deliver on the promise of a ‘first contact’ story. In addition, just because it’s a darker and grittier interpretation, it doesn’t mean it’s gloom and doom. The message about hope is not lost on me here,  I think Christopher Nolan + David Goyer + Zack Snyder‘s vision certainly has the potential to launch a lucrative franchise for DC. I for one wants to see more of THIS version of Superman, surely with Henry Cavill in the title role!

So no, I’m NOT disappointed in this one. In fact, the longer it sits with me the more I appreciate it and I’m still eager to see it again (in fact I’ve already got my tickets for an encore later tonight) :D Well, after a second viewing, I’ve now settled with the higher score than what I’ve originally intended…

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What are YOUR thoughts on this film? Let’s compare notes on this one, folks!

Russell Crowe Birthday Tribute: Top 10 Favorite Roles of the Aussie Thespian

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I almost missed Russell Crowe’s birthday today. On April 7, the Aussie thespian turns 49. In case you didn’t know, before Gerry Butler, I was quite obsessed with the New Zealand-born actor after seeing his performance in Gladiator back in 2000. The following year, I tried to watch as many of his older films as possible, including his obscure Aussie movies like Heaven’s Burning and Proof, and his early Hollywood role in the campy Rough Magic. Even in his slimmer days, Crowe is not exactly a matinee idol known simply for his chiseled good looks. I mean sure he’s a handsome fellow, but in a rugged, rough-around-the-edges kind of way… add to that the gruff voice and stern, piercing gaze, he’s as manly as they come.

I did a mini tribute of sort in 2010, spotlighting his superlative performance in The Insider. Samantha from Banana Oil Movies listed her top 5 Russell Crowe movies that same year, and in the comments I told her what my top five would be, but since I’ve seen nearly 20 of his films by now, I figure I’d rank my top 10 favorite roles from Crowe.

Ok, before I rank my list, I’d have to tell you that I haven’t seen his breakthrough role as a skinhead in Romper Stomper yet, somehow I just haven’t got around to it yet. I also haven’t seen Body of Lies and Les Miserables. Well, without further ado, here we go:

10. Cort – The Quick and the Dead

Crowe_TheQuickandtheDeadI’ve got to admit I saw this film for the first time for Leonardo DiCaprio, but it was Crowe’s hunky henchman-turned-reverend who made an impression. He had this sly smile the moment he entered the screen, that casual, nonchalant demeanor that Crowe pulls off so well. I think he’s never looked as sexy on screen as he was in his role as Cort, and he’s got such scorching chemistry with Sharon Stone. This movie was a flop though clearly it didn’t ruin the career of then-unknown actors as both DiCaprio and Crowe became superstars within five years after its release. This is not the greatest Westerns, but it’s still fun to see Crowe’s brooding performance and he’s easily one of the most interesting characters of the bunch.

9. John Brennan – The Next Three Days

Crowe_NextThreeDaysAnother underrated film from Crowe, as the film barely made up for even the low production budget of $30 mil. I actually got a free screening to this and I’m glad I got to see it. The crime drama centers on a married couple whose life is turned upside down when Crowe’s wife is accused of a murder. A lot of the time, Crowe’s the only one on screen in this thinking-man’s thriller. If you have seen the trailer, you’d probably think it’s a fast-paced thriller set in the vein of the Bourne movies, but as I said in my review, this film is more of a character-driven thriller anchored by Crowe’s excellent performance. He’s utterly believable alternating between a gentle, dotting dad and an unrelenting man-on-a-mission, it proves that Crowe can’t be pigeonholed into a certain type of actor. Elizabeth Banks also surprised me with her compelling turn in more serious role than what I’m used to seeing her in.

8. Cal McAffrey State of Play

Crowe_StateOfPlayBased on a six-part British TV series of the same name that aired in 2003, this is another *quiet* role for Crowe that really showed his dramatic intensity. As a road-smart reporter probing into the suspicious death of a Congressman’s mistress, Crowe’s sporting a long-ish locks and he looks disheveled throughout the film, and he’s also sporting a pretty convincing American accent. It was originally a role for Brad Pitt, but I’m glad Crowe replaced him. Crowe portrayed the gutsy, stubborn reporter with sometimes questionable ethics with such aplomb, and not without with and humor. I quite like his banter with Dame Helen Mirren, and out-acting Ben Affleck, though to be fair, Affleck is suitable as the unscrupulous Congressman.

7. Ben Wade — 3:10 To Yuma

Crowe_310YumaBen Wade stands as one of my favorite charming bad boys, perhaps the only actor who could actually outshine the likes of Christian Bale. Now, don’t get me wrong, Bale was excellent as the good guy Dan Evans who’s escorting Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma. But Crowe played the Bible-thumping outlaw in such a charismatic way you can’t help but root for the guy. I’d love to see Crowe played more antihero roles as he bring so much layer and complexity that’s far from being one-dimensional. The battle of wills between Crowe and Bale is the highlights of the film, which stands as one of my favorite Westerns I’ve seen so far.

6. Jim Braddock Cinderella Man

Crowe_CinderellaManI think Crowe was robbed of an Oscar nomination here as Jim Braddock, a down-on-his-luck boxer who came back to become a champion during the Great Depression. It seems like a tailor-made role for Crowe that showcase his both physical and emotional strength as an actor. Portraying a real-life persona is tricky but I think Crowe was more than up for the task. The boxing stuff are incredibly-made, but the emotional scenes packed even more punch. The level of despair and extreme poverty presented in this film is visceral and gut-wrenching, and Crowe brought his A-level game to play this incredible unlikely hero. His performance made this film work so well, along with supporting performances from Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti.

5. John Nash — A Beautiful Mind

Crowe_ABeautifulMindYet another biopic that earned Crowe his third Best Actor Oscar nominations. This film got much flak for winning Best Picture in 2002. Now, I don’t know if this film deserved its win over other nominees that include LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring and Gosford Park, but I do believe Crowe’s performance as a brilliant mathematician John Nash is Oscar-worthy. Portraying someone suffering through schizophrenia certainly takes an equally brilliant actor, and it’s a testament to Crowe’s talent that though the character descend into madness, he didn’t make the performance descend into some sort of caricature.

When I saw this on the big screen, I was amazed by how authentic Crowe’s performance was, as he didn’t so much rely on the makeup to make himself look like Nash, but his gestures, manner of speaking, his walk, etc. made the character so compelling to watch. His effortless chemistry with Jennifer Connelly is the emotional center of the film as well as provide some of the most hilarious scenes in the film.

4. Jack Aubrey — Master & Commander

Crowe_MasterCommanderWhen I made my tribute three years ago, I haven’t seen this film. Well I finally did a couple of years ago and was blown away! I never thought I’d enjoy a film that takes place in a boat from start to finish, with zero romance or even a female interaction. But Peter Weir crafted such a fantastic historical drama during the Napoleonic Wars. Crowe played a strong and charismatic British captain who pushed himself and his crew to the limits. As the courageous and sympathetic Capt. Jack Aubrey, Crowe owned his role and is really the best thing to watch in this film and made the 138 running-time a worthwhile journey with nary a boring moment!

It proves that Crowe truly is one of the best leading men of the last two decades, as he commands your attention and respect every minute he appeared on screen, just like Capt. Aubrey commands loyalty and admiration from his men. I wish the two Aussies would work together again. A Weir-Crowe collaboration is one of my wish-list of director/actor reunions I’d love to see again.

3. Bud White – L.A. Confidential

Crowe_LAConfidentialOne of my favorite crime film noirs, Crowe played one of the three L.A. cops who were all investigating a series of murder in their own style. Bud White is the brute one of the three, and it’s interesting that the finest acting in this film came from the two Australian actors, Crowe and Guy Pearce. The interaction between the two is exciting to watch, as well as his romantic scenes with Kim Basinger (how’s she the only one nominated for acting, I’ll never know!). He’s a tender lover, but you don’t want to cross him… Bud’s reaction as he’s betrayed is downright terrifying.

The film works as an ensemble piece and proves that Crowe is just a fine character actor as he is a leading man. But one thing’s certain, his unflinching intensity dominates the screen and his performance is the one I remember most even amongst such a terrific ensemble delivering one of their best performances.

2. Maximus – Gladiator

Crowe_GladiatorThe role that put Crowe in the Hollywood map and beyond, this would perhaps remain as Crowe’s most memorable performance. I was mesmerized by his staggering screen presence the second he showed up on screen in the bloody battle in Germania, right up until the end at the Colosseum. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’s the ultimate tough guy with a heart, as his scene mourning the slain wife and son is as riveting as his gladiatorial fights. The film is chock full of memorable scenes, but none as unforgettable as the moment where he first uttered his full name that made his enemy shudder. Maximus Decimus Meridius is one of the greatest screen names ever, and Crowe made that character into an icon.

Apparently Crowe was so unhappy with the script for the film that he often rewrote the lines to suit his style. Per IMDb trivia, he initially refused to say the lines “In this life or the next, I will have my vengeance,” telling one of the screenwriters William Nicholson: “Your lines are garbage but I’m the greatest actor in the world and I can make even garbage sound good”. Cocky perhaps, but you know what, he made every line worked even if they sounded corny on paper, as he brought so much gravitas to the role. So many of the quotable lines from the movie became so iconic largely because of the way he delivered them and his timing was always spot on.

1. Jeffrey Wigand – The Insider

Crowe_TheInsiderThis is the role that Crowe should’ve won his first Oscar for. As great as his performance as Maximus—which was decidedly more sensational—his quiet but incredibly astute portrayal of a tobacco whistle blower still stands as his greatest role to date for me. Not only was this a transformative role for the actor, having to gain 35+ pounds to play Jeffrey Wigan, he also embodied the role with his meticulous performance. It’s a prime example where the actor disappears as what you see on screen is this character, at times I felt as if I was watching a documentary. The humanity of the role is incredibly moving, as Wigand is really just a regular guy—a dotting father and loving husband—driven to the boiling point, trying his best to cope with the incredible pressure of his situation. The Insider is also one of Michael Mann’s finest directing moment, and perhaps one of Al Pacino’s best roles as well as CBS’ 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman.

This role is a must for any Russell Crowe fan, or anyone who ever doubts his acting prowess. The first of many thinking-man’s thrillers where Crowe’s immense talent is put to good use.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Proof
  • A Good Year
  • Mystery Alaska
  • Robin Hood
  • American Gangster

I look forward to more great roles from Crowe, be that as a leading man or supporting roles, such as the one as Superman’s father Jor-El in Man of Steel.


Well, those are my picks of top 10 Russell Crowe’s roles. What about you? Please list your own favorite roles in the comments.

Featurette Spotlight: Les Misérables … Can’t get ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ out of my head!

One thing for sure, there won’t be a lack of awesome films this December. There are a few I’m giddily anticipating, Gerry Butler’s soccer comedy Playing for Keeps and of course, The Hobbit!! I’m not posting the second trailer as right now I’m already sold on it long ago anyway, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s on Terrence’s Trailer Time Thursday post.

Now, I had been curious about Les Misérables, and the first trailer has certainly sold me. This new featurettes shows just another reason why this movie quickly shoots up to be my most-anticipated musicals ever!! It’s not enough that Tom Hooper has assembled a brilliant cast that seems to fit the roles, he’s also got this shrewd technique of having all the actors sing the songs LIVE on set! Check it out:

I LOVE this kind of featurette as you get a glimpse into the actors’ and filmmakers’ head and the challenges they face in portraying their roles. I’m a sucker for all the behind-the-scenes stuff that go on before the final piece is presented, and to me, for a story that’s already so well-know, the magic is not lost. I that high level of authenticity in the way the actors perform the song.

I could easily title this post ‘the year I’m warming up to Anne Hathaway‘ as I have been quite impressed with her lately, first with her performance in The Dark Knight Rises as Selina, and now this. Even before seeing the final film, she seemed to have worked her super hard on this film and obviously she’s got a great set of pipes for all that singing. The crucial part is the emotional resonance, as without that this film wouldn’t have made a dent. On that note, I think Anne pulled it off as I truly feel for Fantine’s well, misery. There’s something authentic about her portrayal that the words of the song I’ve heard over and over again somehow feels fresh and oh so heart-wrenching!! I’m a crier by nature but for the life of me I can’t stop my tears from falling even just hearing a few notes of this song!! I definitely will be packing a BOX of tissue going to the movies on Christmas day. I Dreamed A Dream has been stuck in my head since yesterday, and every few minutes I find myself humming it, just ask my poor husband, ahah!

Now, I realize you can’t compare the two stories but since both are costume dramas, I just want to say that Keira Knightley’s attempt to evoke her marital despair in Anna Karenina fails to elicit even the slightest pity from me.

Nothing much to say about the two main male cast: Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, both certainly have the charisma and showmanship to carry off the roles of Valjean and Javert, respectively. I can’t wait to see these two hunky Aussies to square off against each other, in tunes no less!

I’m also excited to see Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier, and Eddie Redmayne in the second movie I’ll see him in. He was quite good in My Week With Marilyn. Now, since I haven’t seen Victor Hugo’s stage adaptation before, this will be my first introduction to one of the most celebrated musicals of all time. Can’t wait!!


Are you excited for this one folks?

DC Geekgasm Day: Man Of Steel Teaser Trailer is here!!

Seems like the past few years it has been the year of Marvel comics, what with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Spiderman, and of course the behemoth that was The Avengers! But this week and you could say even this whole month, belongs to DC… this Man of Steel trailer is released just mere hours before I head out to see The Dark Knight Rises!! Man oh man…

You could say I’m more of a DC girl because of my long-lasting LOVE for Superman. I have mentioned it several times on this blog how I’ve been a huge fan of the character ever since I was a wee girl, my mom even bought me a Superman costume that I often wore running around in our backyard. I even said on this post that Christopher Reeve is the one and ONLY actor I have ever written to, and I got not one but TWO autographed photos from the legend himself.

So you could understand my excitement for yet another Superman movie… starring one of my favorite Brits no less. And today, WB released TWO versions of the long-awaited teaser trailers… this one has the narration of Kevin Costner as Pa Kent:

And this is the Russell Crowe‘s version as  Jor-El which has the exact same footage:

It’s hard to say which one I like best, I guess the Crowe’s version has a certain gravitas, a dignified tone of a powerful leader giving his words of wisdom to his son on his ultimate providence. However, Costner’s narration provides such an emotional weight to the story. I tear up listening to Pa Kent seemingly choking up as he tells his adopted son,

“You’re not just anyone… one day you have to make a choice…you have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be… whoever that man is, good character or bad… he’s gonna change the world.”

I LOVE how understated, moody and unmistakably human this trailer is… well that is until that heart-pumping sonic-boom flying sequence at the end, woo hoo!! The typical fast-cuts and slo-mo action shots that you’d expect from Zack Snyder are noticeable absent. In fact, the tone is very much Batman Begin-ish in the way the origins story is handled, and with Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer involved, that is promising indeed!

The music may sound familiar to most of you. It’s by Howard Shore in the LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring, specifically the Bridge of Khazad Dum scene when the fellowship lost Gandalf. It’s an incredibly emotional and heroic scene of one powerful figure laying his life to save others, so I guess it’s quite appropriate. This is a teaser after all, and we still have about a year to go yet for Hans Zimmer to compose the original music for this film.

I have to say I’m beyond optimistic for this movie. Yes I know there are naysayers out there and I get it because we haven’t got a spectacular Superman movie since, well Superman II in 1980, that’s over 3 decades ago!! As I’ve mentioned here, I believe they’ve got the right actor for the job. I guess I have known that since a decade ago!!


So, what did you think folks?? You’re ready to see Superman fly again?

THIS JUST IN: ‘Les Miserables’ First Trailer

Les Misérables is one of those Broadway plays I still haven’t got around to seeing. The acclaimed musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 French novel will probably gets a surge with the release of this latest film adaptation.

This movie adaptation does seem to have a lot going for it. I mean the male cast alone will get me to the theater pronto, I do enjoy musicals and also have a thing for tragic love stories. Behold its first trailer:

Prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). Set in early 19th-century France, the story reaches resolution against the background of the June Rebellion, or the Paris Uprising of 1832.

You all know I adore The King’s Speech, which nabs director Tom Hooper his first Oscar. Will he nab another nom with a musical? Well, if we’re to judge from this trailer, it certainly looks VERY promising indeed.

I’m not a huge fan of Anne Hathaway, but I’ve got to give it to her, that girl CAN sing! Her stirring rendition of I Dreamed A Dream rivals that of … Susan Boyle? Just kidding, Anne’s self-sacrificing Fantine sounds quite heart-wrenching. They’re definitely going with the emotional appeal here with just her singing and no dialog. I’m already tearing up watching this so I better stack up on tissues when I go see it. Apparently Hooper had the actors sing the songs live on set [as you can see in this video], which explains that high level of authenticity in the way the actors perform the song.

Props for these good looking actors on going the *ugly* route for the roles they play. I mean it’s like a bad hair day all around on the set, especially Anne and the hunky Aussie Hugh Jackman. As you’ve probably seen at the Oscars a few years back, these two can belt out a tune, all right. I’m so looking forward to seeing Jackman and fellow Aussie Russell Crowe facing off here. Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne are also part of the cast.

This movie opens the same day as The Hobbit here on December 14th. Now, of course I’ll be first in line for the LOTR prequel but I’ll definitely be checking this out on the big screen. So it’s Catwoman, Wolverine and Maximus singing together, brilliant! :D


What say you, folks? Is this on your must-see list?