Weekend Roundup + a preview of the TCFF 2015 film lineup

How’s your weekend everyone? It’s been quite a whirlwind one for me even with Friday off, as I pretty much spent most of Friday preparing for the filmmakers interview scheduled for all day Saturday. More on that in a bit.

In about a month, October 21 to be exact, another fun-filled film festivities will be underway. 11 days, nearly a hundred films, plus Midwest premieres, film educational panels, after parties, and more will pack the ShowPlace ICON Theatres at the West End Shoppes in St. Louis Park. I’m so excited for the new venue for our mixers (after party) which is just a few doors down from the theaters. The TCFF Preview Gala on Friday night took place in what used to be the Love Culture store, and the space is simply gorgeous!

On Saturday, I got a chance to chat with some MN-based filmmakers/actors/producers whose films will screen at TCFF.

Every year I’m thrilled to see such a great variety of films in the TCFF lineup. The trailers below are just a sampling of some of the trailers being shown at the preview night, ranging from studio features, documentaries, MN-made films as well as shorts.

I’m excited to see quite a few female filmmakers being represented this year: Patricia Riggen (The 33), Stéphanie Joalland (The Quiet Hour), Emily Ting (It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong), just to name a few, as well as Vanessa Horrocks (MN-made indie Keepsake) whom I got a chance to chat on Saturday. Apart from Riggen, all of these filmmakers are debuting their first feature film!

Check out some of the trailers below:



Director: John Crowley
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Zegen, Julie Walters

In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.



Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano

A retired orchestra conductor is on holiday with his daughter and film director best friend in the Alps when he receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip’s birthday.


The 33

Director: Patricia Riggen
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne

Based on the real-life event, when a gold and copper mine collapses, it traps 33 miners underground for 69 days.


The Quiet Hour

Director: Stéphanie Joalland
Cast: Dakota Blue Richards, Karl Davies, Jack McMullen

In the aftermath of an alien invasion, a feisty teenage girl sets out to protect her farm from human scavengers who will stop at nothing in order to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.



It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong

Director: Emily Ting
Cast: Jamie Chung, Bryan Greenberg, Richard Ng

An attraction forms when a Chinese American girl visiting Hong Kong for the first time meets an American expat who shows her the way, but timing may not quite be on their side.


Too Late

Director: Dennis Hauck
Cast: John Hawkes, Rider Strong, Crystal Reed

Told in non-linear fashion, TOO LATE explores the tangled relationship between a troubled private investigator and the missing woman he’s hired to find.



Jug Band Hokum

A 2015 feature-length documentary film by Jack Norton which follows the eccentric lives of band members competing in the annual Minneapolis Battle of the Jug Bands.


In Football We Trust

“In Football We Trust” captures a snapshot in time amid the rise of the Pacific Islander presence in the NFL.



Moving On

A short film written and directed by Marcia Fields & Mike Spear, is about what happens when you wake up to the news you need to move on and move out… at exactly the same time.


The Caper

Two women bond over dating fatigue and a love of film noir, created by the writer/director Matthew G. Anderson who made the Theater People web series.


Well, as far as weekend viewing in concerned, not much to report as we only managed to see one film, Star Wars: A New Hope. We’ve been planning to do a marathon of the original trilogy before The Force Awakens is released this December :D


So what are your thoughts on these films? And did you see anything good this weekend?

Labor Day Weekend Roundup: a goofy comedy, a road trip doc + a fantasy romance

It’s been quite a nice and mellow three-day weekend for me… the calm before the *storm* as it were, as the later part of September is going to be a pretty busy one for me. Twin Cities Film Fest is just a month away, but we’ll get a preview of the film festivities this coming Friday with the Fundraising Gala. I have a friend from out of the country staying with us the following week and then we’ll be taking a trip to Sedona, AZ and hopefully meet up w/ my pal Cindy C.!

Well, a good part of my weekend is full of script writing… AND dreaming of Deauville — Deauville American Film Festival that is…

Of course THIS is who I’d most like to meet…


One lucky lady got to meet my French crush, Stanley Weber

Anyhoo, I didn’t go to the cinema all weekend but I must say my home viewing can only be described as eclectic.

Zoolander (2001)

At the end of his career, a clueless fashion model is brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

ZoolanderFinally got around to seeing this movie. I’m familiar w/ the premise and it’s become such a pop culture phenomenon of sort that a sequel is in the works. I thought I’d watch it before it comes out next year. Crazy that it’s been 15 years since this came out and I think both Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson still look pretty much the same.

They’re both hilarious in this satire of the fashion modeling industry. There are actually some famous male models, like the outrageously gorgeous Tyson Beckford and Claudia Schiffer. In fact, this movie is worth seeing just for the cameo, esp. David Bowie! I expected it to be goofy good fun and it certainly didn’t disappoint. 


Long Way Round (2004)

This documentary series follows actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on a motorcycle trip around the world. The two friends will travel through such places as Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Alaska, before finally ending the journey in New York.

LongWayRoundMy hubby was watching this when I went downstairs to our entertainment room and we ended up watching a couple of episodes. I thought it was fascinating AND quite hilarious as the Scottish actor and his buddy prepare to go on this crazy motorcycle journey around the world for three months!

They also interviewed their wives (as well as their parents) and their reaction of this trip. But the funniest bits are all the challenges of all the logistics and training (medical, even self defense) as they’d go into some dangerous territories like Ukraine.

Of course the main draw initially is the fact that Ewan is a big film star, but after a few minutes we forget about that as he’s such a real and down-to-earth guy and this film is as much about Ewan & Charlie’s friendship as it is about the motorbike roadtrip.


The Age of Adaline (2015)


A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

I’ve been wanting to see this film for ages. There’s something about this romantic premise that beguilles me. I’m a huge fan of period dramas a la Jane Austen, so more on the old school romance so long as it doesn’t have the name Nicholas Sparks attached to it [shudder]. I have my full review ready so I’ll post that sometime this week.


I also rewatched BELLE on Labor Day as I’m in the mood of period dramas. I absolutely LOVE this movie. I’ve seen it a dozen times and it gets me every single time… I have SO many favorite scenes from this film, I wish I could find the one where Davinier declared passionately, ‘I love her, I love her with every breath I breathe!‘ in that carriage [swoon] :P

But I also LOVE this scene between Belle and John… Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid are absolutely perfect together [le sigh]

Well, that’s about it for my weekend. How ’bout you? Seen anything good?

Weekend Roundup: Quick Thoughts on Inside Out & Mini Reviews of ‘A Coffee in Berlin’ + Bollywood sci-fi comedy P.K.

How’s your weekend everybody? To all you dads out there, hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day and that your family spoiled you rotten :D

Well I ended up seeing three new films and re-watched parts of Roman Holiday this weekend so it’s quite a busy movie-watching weekend for me, though not much time for blogging.


I missed the press screening for this as I spent some time with visiting family last weekend. I’m glad I finally did, here’s my initial reaction to Pixar’s latest:

It’s definitely another winner from Pixar and Joy could very well be one of my favorite Pixar characters now! Seems that this is the weekend everyone went to the movies as Inside Out made $91 mil yet it’s STILL didn’t beat the juggernaut box office prowess of Jurassic World which made $102 mil, wow! My full review of this is coming soon.

So here are my mini reviews of the two foreign movies I saw:


A self-ironic portrait of a young man Niko who drops out of university and ends up wandering the streets of the city he lives: Berlin.

I was curious to check this out as I quite like the poster and I only had time for a shorter film under two hours. Well, this German drama proved to be pretty quirky and quite funny at times, but it’s quite boring at times too. There are some interesting moments, such as the plot involving Niko’s former female schoolmate he used to bully who somehow still has a crush on him. There’s also a scene on the set of a Nazi-themed film which concept sounds like it could make for an intriguing feature film. That scene was perhaps the highlight of the movie for me.

I wish I could like this movie more, but perhaps people who identify with the protagonist’s life might find this movie more interesting. Tom Schilling looked like a German version of James McAvoy that it’s a bit distracting, but overall I’m not all that impressed by him here.



A stranger in the city asks questions no one has asked before. Known only by his initials, P.K.’s innocent questions and childlike curiosity will take him on a journey of love, laughter and letting-go.

My mother in-law was the one who tipped us about this movie. I’ve never heard of it before, but then again I’m not exactly well-versed on Indian cinema. So this also marked the first Indian sci-fi movie I’ve ever seen, not sure how many Indian films have been made in this genre.

Apparently this stands as the highest grossing Bollywood film ever, earning over $100mil in worldwide box office. Aamir Khan‘s a pretty famous Indian actor apparently, but this is the first time I’ve heard of him so I was quite flabbergasted that he’s 50 years old! He certainly looked much younger than his age and he’s quite hilarious as the P.K. with green contact lenses and ears sticking out sideways. Once you see the film you’ll find out what that name stands for. It’s a decidedly quirky scifi comedy, which started off with an alien being dropped from a spaceship and then the film moved to Bruges! This could be the first Indian movie set in that picturesque Belgian city, so it’s quite funny to see the classic Bollywood musical scenes being filmed here.


But the spiritual message of this film turns out to be pretty bold and thought-provoking. I’d imagine this was quite controversial in India given its sensitivity to religious matters and this film wasn’t afraid to question the various religious traditions, from Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, as well as Hinduism. But the main target was really this religious cult led by a massively popular leader.

Anushka Sharma as the female lead is beautiful and charming, she definitely is the heart of the film here. The key scenes between her and P.K. are funny but not without substance. So yeah, I quite enjoyed this movie, I really think people who aren’t usually into Bollywood movies should check it out.


So what did you watch this weekend? Seen anything good?

Weekend Roundup + Casting news I’m excited about

Hello everyone! I’ve been away for most of the weekend and away from my laptop so not much to report here in terms of movie watching. My mother in-law and brother in-law are visiting in town so we’ve been playing tourist around MN since Friday. I was able to finish my Jurassic World review before they arrived though, but I did not see a single thing since Thursday night when I saw Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

I don’t know when I’ll have time to reviewMeEarlDyingGirl_Pic it, but I urge you to check it out if it’s playing in a theater near you. It was a Sundance hit, winning the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, and rightly so. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll definitely appreciate life as you have it and the friendship you have in your life. Plus, if you love foreign movies, you’ll absolutely adore this movie!

Well, even though I didn’t have much time to watch movies nor blog this past few days, I did make a bit of progress on my next novel or more appropriately, my narrative endeavor. I’m not revealing any details just yet as it’s still in its infancy, but I’m happy just to be working on something new as it’s been over three years since I came up with this movie pitch! Let’s just say my crushing on Stanley Weber hasn’t been in vain as it’s mostly inspired by him, as well as my girl crush Gugu Mbatha-Raw ;)

Instagram_logoOh and I also joined the Instagram party just for the heck of it. So if you have an IG account, let’s connect there!

Ok, so here’s the casting news I’m super excited about!

Per TheWrap, Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac will star in The Promise, an epic love story that Oscar-winning filmmaker Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) will direct from a script he co-wrote with Robin Swicord (Memoirs of a Geisha).


Heh, they should do something about that name eh? It’s so darn generic and wasn’t there a period piece with a similar name just released a couple of years ago with Alan Rickman & Rebecca Hall? I blogged about it here but doesn’t look like anyone (including me) saw it.

In any case, I do love the gist of this upcoming project:

Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, “The Promise” follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris — a renowned American journalist based in Paris. Bale will play Chris, an AP reporter in love with both a woman and the danger of being in a combat zone amidst a world that is falling apart. Isaac will play Michael, a medical student in love with the same woman but conflicted by old-world traditions and his heart.

The Ottoman Empire was dissolved in 1922 following the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which resulted in an estimated death toll of between 800,000 and 1.5 million people. The subject has been near and dear to George, who in March 2013, was a guest of the Armenian State Pedagogical University, where the Irish filmmaker compared the Armenian genocide to the Rwanda genocide that he chronicled in Hotel Rwanda.

Boy, who’s going to be the lucky lady who will be *trapped* in THIS juicy love triangle? Whoever it’ll be, I’m already sold on the two male leads who are both gorgeous AND talented. I’m glad Isaac’s career is on fire right now and he’ll get his own Oscar to go with his name very soon too I hope.

JackHustonOn the flip side, I just learned on TheWrap as well that Jack Huston is no longer attached to play The Crow in the remake. Now, I think Brandon Lee had huge shoes to fill in the role and it’s going to be tough to top that film, but I like Huston and I think he could do a fine job. Plus I’d love to see him on screen with Andrea Riseborough who’s cast to play Sgt. Albrecht.

I’ve only seen him in American Hustle and Night Train to Lisbon, but most of you who watch Boardwalk Empire would notice him as Richard Harrow. I’m not too sad about it though, Jack is a talented young actor whom I hope would go on to star in better things. I’m looking forward to seeing him as Ben-Hur as well as Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies next year!


So that’s my weekend & casting roundup. How about you, seen anything good?

Weekend Roundup: In a Period Drama Mood

Happy Monday everyone! Another full week in store for me this week, but I’m excited for the Jurassic World and Inside Out screenings back to back Tuesday and Wednesday.

This weekend ends up being rather busy but I managed to fit in a couple of rewatches and a new movie I haven’t seen before, the Irish animated fantasy Song of the Sea (review upcoming). My tumblr feed has been filled with all kinds of Jane Austen gifsets lately and so it puts me in a period drama mood.

BBC Sense & Sensibility (2008)

Most Austen fans would say that their favorite is Pride & Prejudice but for me, Sense & Sensibility reigns supreme, followed by Persuasion. So nearly every year I have to watch at least one version of this adaptation. The Ang Lee version is still superior on the whole, it’s after all one of my top five favorite films of all time. But there are quite a lot of things I love about this version, especially in the casting of Hattie Morahan & Dan Stevens as Elinor Dashwood & Edward Ferrars, respectively. Oh and I also love Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood. Hard to beat Alan Rickman but David Morrissey is more than adequate as Col. Brandon and I’ve grown to like his portrayal more and more. I didn’t care for Dominic Cooper as the dashing cad Willoughby though, and still don’t this time around.

Bride & Prejudice (2004) 


This is a Bollywood version of Austen’s most popular novel. I’ve reviewed it here, and this is such a fun movie to watch over and over. So goofy and at times hilarious, but I think it captures the essence of the story as Austen intended. Aishwarya Rai is mesmerizing as Lalita Bakshi (Lizzie Bennett) despite being far too beautiful in the role. Martin Henderson provides quite an eye candy as Darcy with his dimpled good looks, and fellow Aussie Daniel Gillies makes quite a charming Wickham. Gurinder Chadha did a nice job adapting the classic story and somehow fit it into the Indian culture. I thought that the portrayal of Lizzie’s parents are spot on, especially Mrs. Bakshi who’s unabashedly eager to marry off their daughters. Naveen Andrews makes for the most charming version of Mr. Bingly, can’t imagine any of the British actors be up for THAT kind of vigorous dancing, ahah.

North and South(2004)

I’ve dedicated a post for Richard Armitage‘s performance as John Thornton in this amazing BBC miniseries a while ago. It still stands as one of my top five period dramas of all time!


From time to time I’d watch clips of this on Netflix streaming, but this weekend I watched the last two episodes… and of course the ‘Look back… look back at me‘ scene gets me every time! Nothing like a gorgeous tortured soul to stir my heart and Armitage looks positively gorgeous as the venerable & vulnerable Mr. Thornton.

The Rise & Fall of Versailles (2009)

Speaking of gorgeous, of course not a weekend passes by these days without at least one Stanley Weber viewing ;) And because of the recent casting news that Stanley will be portraying a French nobleman in Outlander season 2, I re-watched this documentary on King Louis XV. It’s also available in the full French version called Le Soleil Noir (The Black Sun) which I’ve also seen despite not having English subtitles.


For anyone who’s into French history, this three-part documentary that goes all the way to the French revolution is fascinating and insightful, not to mention damn right sexy! The French sure knows how to make history lesson so titillating by casting such hot young actors as their monarchs, ahah. Louis XV is known for being quite a virile King with a colorful sexual history and this documentary doesn’t shy away from that. The set pieces and cinematography is fantastic for a TV documentary and it was filmed on location in Versailles. It’s especially fun to watch this as I was just there last year. So Outlander fans curious to see Stanley in French aristocracy regalia, be sure to catch this one and it’s on youtube and Hulu!

Well that’s my weekend, what did YOU watch?

Weekend Roundup – ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’ review

Happy Monday everyone! It’s a sweltering HOT Summer weekend and those who know me well know I’m not a big fan of heat and humidity so I actually spend a lot of time indoors and got to see quite a lot of new movies as well as rewatches.


You could say it’s a pretty eclectic weekend viewing given the variety of movies we saw the past four days. On Friday night we ended up watching The Amazing Spider-man 2 [which wasn’t at all amazing], the psycho thriller ENEMY with Jake Gyllenhaal [as weird as I had expected], and The Philadelphia Story for this month’s Blind Spot. I also rewatched my old fave The Phantom of the Opera, yep the movie that made me fall hard for Gerry Butler oh so many years ago.

I didn’t go to the cinema this weekend, but boy seems that lots of people went to see The Guardians of the Galaxy again as it’s now back on top with $17 mil, beating all the new releases, including Sin City: A Dame to Kill For which bombed big time with only $6 mil, ouch! Well, having seen it, I really think this sequel is utterly unnecessary and after nine years, it seems much too late for a follow-up. Here’s my review:


I was curious to see this one mainly because of the striking visuals, which was pretty much all I could remember from the first film. That, and how cool, sexy and mysterious Clive Owen was and the stylized brutal violence, especially the bits involving Elijah Wood in a role as far away as Frodo as it could get. This time Frank Miller is back in the directing chair with Robert Rodriguez.

This time, we’ve got Josh Brolin as Owen’s replacement in the role of Dwight, a pity as Brolin doesn’t come close in terms of cool factor as the brooding, hunky British actor. Well, the same could be said about the movie as a whole. The novelty factor of the color palette of black & white with a touch of red is wearing thin, plus the plot is even thinner this time around, chock full of clichéd dialog that ultimately renders the whole thing pointless.

The tagline refers to the main character in one of the four entwined story lines, and admittedly, it’s the more intriguing one simply because of Eva Green. Oh how I’d have loved to have seen her on screen with Clive Owen, she’s my favorite Bond girl and Owen’s an actor who’d make an awesome 007. In any case, Green plays a femme fatale type role in which she played as effortlessly as she ditched her clothes in the film. Being French she’s clearly comfortable with nudity. The stylish lighting and camera angle captured her allure beautifully as she devoured every scene she’s in with aplomb.


The rest of the story lines are pretty boring by comparison, my least favorite is the one involving Joseph Gordon-Levitt as he seems miscast in the role, especially against Powers Booth who fits the noir genre perfectly. He’s quite sinister here with his deep, gravely voice, but his character is as one-dimensional as the rest. The father/son story is nowhere near as clever or intriguing as it wants to be. Jessica Alba reprises her role as Nancy and with all of her gyrating body as a stripper, she is just so lightweight that she comes across so ho-hum next to Eva Green. Mickey Rourke’s back again as Marv, perhaps the film’s comic relief, even in the most violent parts of the movie.

The movie is only 1 hr 42 min long but it started to drag pretty quickly. The stylized violence and all that nudity + sex scenes felt more like a gimmick that became more ho-hum as the movie progressed. As I came out of the theater I thought, it took them 9 years to come up with THIS? [shakes head] Despite the beautiful 3D, the film falls exasperatingly flat. Proof that visual flair alone doesn’t make a movie.


So that’s what I saw this weekend folks, what about you? Seen anything good?

Weekend Roundup: Catching up on Downton Abbey + a ho-hum Hitchcock film

Happy Bastille Day Monday everyone!

Man now I wish I were back in Paris again [sigh] So how’s your weekend? It was another glorious Summer day on Sunday, ahead of the Polar Vortex (or you can call it the cool Canadian air) that keeps temps only in the 60s today. Yep, I actually have to wear a light jacket today, heh.


I guess he has every reason to feel triumphant

So it seems that a lot of you saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes this weekend. ‘Apes’ Goes Bananas says Box Office Mojo [though we never saw any of the apes actually ate a banana], and the mojo is definitely with director Matt Reeves as the sequel brought in a whopping $73 mil domestically, and it’s already over $100 mil internationally. It’s the only tentpole film opening this weekend so basically there’s no competition. Besides who in the right mind would want to see those dreadful robots over these intelligent & emotive apes?

Well, if you’ve read my review then you already know I LOVED it. I actually don’t mind renting that again when it’s out on Blu-ray, maybe a double feature w/ the 2011 reboot. I sure hope Reeves will be back at the helm for the third film, man it’s poised to be one heck of a sci-fi trilogy!


My weekend viewing is mostly home cinema. After nearly a year, I finally caught up with Downton Abbey again. Yes I know, my TV viewing is quite pathetic, I’m still on season 2! I don’t know if I’ll finish all four seasons by year’s end but I sure will am gonna try.

Well, everything I loved about it that I wrote last year is still true. I love all the characters, there are a lot of them but even the minor characters like Mr. Lang is intriguing. Dame Maggie Smith still has the best lines, and I LOVE seeing dashing Iain Glen as a newspaper mogul Sir Richard Carlisle. It’s a testament to his versatility that he’s starring in Downton Abbey AND Game of Thrones around the same time, the two couldn’t be more different from each other.


There are lots going on this season! What with Downton being turned into a hospital & all the intricacies that brings, Anna and Mr. Bates, not to mention the scandals of Lavinia and Sir Richard. Plenty of juicy scenes awaits!


As part of my Hitchcock catch-up, I also saw a lesser-known film Torn Curtain (1966) as part of this Hitchcock Blogathon by Rob & Zoe. I learned about the blogathon pretty late so the films are all picked over. Still I was curious to see this one because the premise sounded intriguing and so is the casting of Paul Newman + Julie Andrews. Heh, I wish I had picked another film, it was such a bore!


As I read the IMDb trivia, apparently Hitchcock himself didn’t like the film. So much so that he didn’t even want to appear in the trailer. He’s apparently unhappy with the screenplay and Newman’s performance but my main beef is with Julie Andrews’ casting. Well I’ll spare you the detailed review until August, but suffice to say I’d never watch it again.

Well so that’s my weekend viewing folks. How about you? Seen anything good?

Weekend Roundup & MSPIFF14 double reviews starring Juliette Binoche

Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend.

I took a bit of a break from blogging this weekend, but this week has been pretty busy in terms of movie watching. It’s the last week of the MSPIFF 2014 and I saw three more films, one short of what I intended to see but fortunately there’ll be a press screening of Locke next Monday. As the film fest continues with Best of Fest screenings all week, there’ll be more reviews coming from both me and Josh ;)

Here are the three new movies I saw over the weekend:


I’ve blogged about All Things To All Men quite a while ago and finally it’s available on Netflix streaming. Remember how I always say some movies are well worth seeing just for the cast. Well, in this case, the ONLY thing worth seeing is the three actors: Toby Stephens, Rufus Sewell and Gabriel Byrne in that order [I’m having a serious crush on Toby, didn’t you notice?] Alas, the film itself left so much to be desired, and leaves me scratching my head why these actors signed on to do such a project. Did they lose a bet or something? I’m not sure I could even review it, but let me just say that unless you’re absolutely in love with any of the cast, I can’t exactly recommend it.

These two from MSPIFF, on the other hand, is well worth a look.


A Thousand Times Good Night

Rebecca is one of the world’s top war photographers. She must weather a major emotional storm when her husband refuses to put up with her dangerous life any longer. 

This is one of those dramas that at times play out like a thriller. Even from the first moments when the protagonist is witnessing a ceremonial custom of an Afghan suicide bomber being prepped for self sacrifice, it’s quite an emotional roller coaster all the way to the very last scene.

For Rebecca (Juliette Binoche), covering the war is not just a job, it’s her way of life. When she comes home injured from Afghanistan, it’s apparent that it’s just as tough for her family to deal with her dangerous job. It’s apparent that her husband Marcus is constantly worried sick for Rebecca and this incident puts him over the edge which compels him to give her an ultimatum. It’s her family or her job. At first I felt that it’s not fair of him to do so, but as the film progresses, we’re shown how her two young daughters are dealing with her absence whilst she’s away in a war zone. It’s a tricky dilemma that I find myself grappling with as I watched this film. I read that this film is semi-autobiographical as Norwegian director Erik Poppe was a war photographer himself. No doubt this story is quite a personal one for him.


The main quibble I have with the film is the slow pace. I don’t mind quiet moments on film, but at times it felt a bit too indulgent that it threatens to grind the film to a halt. The metaphor of Rebecca drowning/suffocating by her life dilemma also grows repetitive. But the cinematography is simply stunning, nearly every shot is like a work of art. It’s also very atmospheric and the conflict felt genuine. The sense of authenticity comes from a committed performance from the always-reliable Binoche, as well as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays her sensitive & caring husband. I’ve always been a big fan of Nikolaj from his short TV stint in New Amsterdam, long before he played Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, and he proves himself once again to be a capable and versatile actor. Lauryn Canny as Rebecca’s eldest daughter Steph is also quite good. When they’re in Africa, something happened that was quite traumatic for Steph. Some of the most emotional scenes in the film feature the two of them.

The heart of the film is no doubt Binoche. She conveys so much even in scenes where no words are spoken. This is the first of two films I saw her in and she’s absolutely excellent in both of these. There’s a certain aura of mystique about her that seems unreachable, and she’s very convincing as an fiercely idealistic woman. There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness and I think this film often blurs that line. There is a hint at the finale where Rebecca is back in Afghanistan that perhaps she’s a changed person after what happened between her and Steph, but the film lets us interpret that for ourselves.


Words and Pictures

An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important.

Romance that’s sparked out of rivalry has been done many times before, but with the right cast, it can still feel fresh. The pairing of Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche is what intrigues me about this film and they’re still the reason to watch to movie.

Owen is Jack ‘Mr Mark’ Marcus, a gifted English teacher at an upscale prep school. His best days as a published author seems to be behind him and he’s got a drinking problem. Perhaps that’s a result of his disillusionment with his life, as he seems to have lost his mojo, as well as in danger of losing his job. Meanwhile, a renowned painter Dina Delsanto (Binoche) has just been hired at the school. Her nickname is icicle for obvious reasons, but her coldness seems to also stem from her disappointment that she can no longer paint as much as she did due to her server Rheumatoid arthritis.


The two couldn’t be more different from each other, but as they say, opposites attracts. It’s fun to watch Owen in a softer role like this where he’s not firing a gun every two seconds, but his intensity is still there as he bud heads with the school principal and board members. He’s a deeply flawed character and in the most vulnerable moments, especially between him and his estranged son, is where I enjoyed his performance most. I wish the film would focus more on these two characters, as all the drama with the students are not as intriguing to me, and they don’t really add much to the story. The whole school competition of Words vs Pictures is more of a personal *war* for Marcus and Delsanto, and though it’s predictable that they’d end up together, it’s still fun to watch their banters. I personally like the pairing of Owen and Binoche more than him and Julia Roberts in Duplicity, which I find rather contrived. The only other actor I like in this movie is Bruce Davison as one of the more sympathetic faculty members.

Binoche is lovely here and it’s a testament to her versatility that she is also very convincing as a painter. I didn’t know that she’s an artist herself but in the credits I noticed that the Delsanto’s work is by Binoche, wow! I think out of the two films I saw last week, her dramatic chops perhaps suits something like A Thousand Times Good Night better. I like the idea of two broken people finding each other and to see a romantic film between people over the age of 40. Alas, I think the ending is almost as rough as Owen’s unkempt stubbles. Even the finale of the competition just didn’t have the oomph needed to make the story soar. Overall it’s an enjoyable dramedy though, eons better than a lot of the rom-coms are churning out these days. If you’re a fan of these two actors, this one is definitely worth a look.


So what did you see this Easter weekend? Anything good?

Question of the Week: Which conspiracy movies would you recommend?

My hubby and I opted for home cinema this weekend. Specifically we’re catching up on 70s conspiracy thrillers in anticipation for The Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Huh? Well, if you’ve been reading articles about the sequel to the First Avenger, you might’ve read that the filmmakers have said that The Winter Soldier is essentially a conspiracy thriller. I’ve read here and other sites that directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo were influenced by the likes of Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View (check out our contributor’s Jack Deth’s in-depth review here) and Marathon Man. This article suggested 5 things to watch before watching The Winter Soldier and The Parallax View (1974) made an appearance again, as well as All The President’s Men (1976).


Well, so we ended up watching both of those movies. All The President’s Men is on my Blind Spot list anyway, so it’s like catching two birds with one stone. I’ll have my review of that in the last Tuesday of this month. Both of these are directed by Alan J. Pakula within two years of each other. While both are excellent & thought-provoking conspiracy thrillers, I enjoyed All The President’s Men more as the pacing is a bit better. I’m just not as impressed with Warren Beaty (and his distractingly big hair) than w/ Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman, but both films are certainly worth seeing.

Now, I’ve always been a big fan of conspiracy thriller movies. On the top of my head, apart from the ones I’ve mentioned above, these are some of the best ones I’ve seen so far: The Conversation, State of Play (the 2009 movie), The Insider, The International, Michael Clayton, The Constant Gardener, No Way Out. I got some nice recommendations from this blog, and that’s just from the 70s!

Surely there are a bazillion out there I’ve missed out on, so in the spirit of recommendations between us movie fans, I ask you this:

What conspiracy movies have you seen that you’d highly recommend?

Weekend Viewing Roundup & Musings on BAFTA Awards 2014

Hi everyone! Did you have a nice weekend? It’s another long weekend for me as I got Monday off for President’s Day. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as Winter storm is brewing as I’m typing this, glad I didn’t have to drive in this Wintry condition.

Before I get to my thoughts on BAFTA, here’s a summary of what I saw this weekend:

How’s your Valentine weekend? Hope you didn’t have to endure see Winter’s Tale. If you’ve read my review, then consider it a warning. I know it’s early, but it could easily end up being one of the biggest duds of 2014.


On V-day, my hubby and I opted for a simple dinner and a movie, home cinema to be exact. I’ve been wanting to re-watch Austenland since I saw it last August and so that’s what we did. I still enjoyed it and my hubby liked it, too, there’s a reason I love my man ;)

On Saturday night, we went to see RoboCop, a second time for my hubby as he went with Ted last Monday. He liked it well enough he didn’t mind seeing it again with me. Y’know what, I quite enjoyed it. It’s not as violent as the first one, and it’s not an all-out action movie either. In fact, there’s quite a lot of backstory for the character that made me care about the ‘man inside a machine.’ There’s a lot of heart in this reboot, the humanity aspect as well as his relationship with his family is explored quite well I think. Joel Kinnaman is pretty good in the lead role in that he’s got a commanding presence and effortlessly likable. I might actually give this 3.5/5 if I were to review it, and I agree with Ted that Gary Oldman is my favorite performer in the ensemble, he just always elevates everything he’s in.


I completely missed seeing this LIVE yesterday. I was out and about that by the time I realized BAFTA’s on, it’s already too late. So this morning I was playing catch up on the winners via The Guardian. Let’s start with the acting honors:

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle


Thrilled to see Chiwetel Ejiofor and Cate Blanchett in the Best Leading Actor/Actress category. Both did a superb performance in 12 Years a Slave and Blue Jasmine respectively. I had been rooting for Sandra Bullock before I saw the Woody Allen film, but once I saw Cate’s performance, there’s no doubt in my mind that she should be sweeping all the awards. Classy Cate paid a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman … “Phil, your monumental talent, generosity and unflinching quest for truth in art and life will be missed by so many people. You raised the bar continually so very, very high and all we can do in your absence is try to continually raise the bar. Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you’re proud.” [per Deadline] We truly missed a great talent, but it really took one to know one.

Congrats to Barkhad Abdi, what a year it’s been for the former Minneapolis limo driver! Though I think he did a fine job opposite Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, I had wished that Daniel Brühl would get the honor. Same with Sally Hawkins who should win instead of Jennifer Lawrence who’s absent from the festivities. I’m more disappointed in that than Brühl not winning. I’m REALLY hoping the Academy does right by Hawkins and give her the well-deserved honor.


Oh… one of my top 3 favorite British Dames Helen Mirren was honored the BAFTA Fellowship Award, yay!! I LOVE that Prince William joked that he should call her ‘Granny,’ referring to her award-winning portrayal in The Queen. I read about her charming speech in that she offered her gratitude to a great teacher who encouraged her to be an actor.


Now to the question of Best Film of the Year.

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best British Film: Gravity

Seems that there still is no clear winner and come Oscar I think it’ll still come down to a thriller set in space and a slavery drama. Interesting that there’s a Best Film and Best British Film category, which went to 12 Years a Slave and Gravity respectively. As quoted by Deadline, Alfonso Cuarón said backstage that, “There are rules that make a film eligible for Best British Film. Gravity definitely has all the requirements, except a couple of Mexicans that came here — legally! — and a couple of American stars. It was shot in this country, developed in this country, and with cutting-edge technology developed by British artists.” I have no qualms about the eligibility stuff, obviously the BAFTA deems it eligible and that’s that. Gravity deserves all the kudos, it won six out of the possible 11 noms, including Best Original Score, Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Visual Effects, Sound AND Best Director honor for Alfonso Cuarón. It’s my number 1 film of the year so I’d be happy if it sweeps the Oscars as well!  

Other BAFTA winners I’m thrilled about: 

Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Production Design The Great Gatsby
Best Costumes: The Great Gatsby

BAFTA_JoshuaOppenheimerHuge congrats to Joshua Oppenheimer for winning Best Documentary!! It’s the only documentary that I included in my Top 10 films of the year, and Joshua was gracious enough to grant me an interview. I told him I would be rooting for him come award season, so I’m super thrilled that he’s also up for an Oscar! I love that he dedicated his award to his anonymous crew, “I dedicate this award to them. This film couldn’t be made without people who risked their safety and changed their careers to work on it. Professors, human rights leaders. … They stopped everything they were doing to work on the film, knowing they couldn’t take credit for their work.”  [per Deadline]

Yay for FROZEN, another one of my Top 10 favorites! It’s no contest they will win Best Animated Film at the Oscar, it’s a shoo-in at this point. The production design and costumes of The Great Gatsby are definitely the major highlights of the film so kudos to Catherine Martin! Seems that she’s gotten far more honors in her husband Baz Luhrmann‘s films than Baz himself.

So this is the last major award ceremony before the Oscars on March 2nd. BRING. IT. ON!

So what did you see this weekend? Thoughts on the BAFTA winners?