Ten Movie Trailers I Love in 2009

Mere hours until buh-bye to 2009. Movie sites/blogs alike are abuzz with talks of awards and their picks of best-of lists. Well, since I haven’t seen some of those taunted as ‘the best’ of the year (i.e. Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, etc.), I ‘m going to delay my best-of list until sometime in January. Still, I can’t resist making a list … and checking it twice … (um, sorry, been listening to too many Christmas songs lately) of top ten trailers that I think merits a nomination from the Golden Trailer Awards! I couldn’t get enough of these previews, even if  some the movies they represent don’t live up to them. Please note that in order to be eligible on this list, the movie doesn’t have to be released this year, only the trailer does.

Here they are in no particular order:

  1. NINE
    I can’t decide what’s the best part of this trailer: is it the vivacious music, the vintage charm of the visuals/costumes, the gorgeous vista of the Italian Riviera … or is it Guido, Guido, Guido? Daniel Day-Lewis in his disheveled, puzzled self looks so appealing … and all those great actresses, wow! Judging from the reviews, the film itself seems to be suffering from the quandary of ‘style over substance,’ too bad really as this 2.5 minute preview is so darn promising!

  2. Watchmen
    It seems so long ago that I saw this movie, but it was just last March. But I remember thinking how ultra cool this trailer is. The Smashing Pumpkin’s song The End Is The Beginning Is The End is amazingly fitting for the theme of the movie where the US is edging closer to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and looks awesome against Zack Snyder’s dazzlingly dreamy visuals. Snyder has a knack for killer trailers, as the one for 300 3 years ago with Nine Inch Nails’ score just might be one of the best trailers out there.

  3. Public Enemies
    Now, Music often makes a trailer, well that and Johnny Depp’s charm of course. Put the two together and you’ve got yourself an amazingly cool trailer. The opening sequence definitely glamorizes the bank robbers and makes heroes out of crooked criminals. But it no doubt succeeds in getting me excited to see it, alas this trailer is far more enjoyable than the actual movie did (see my review of it here).

  4. Toy Story 3
    Now, there’s a newer trailer than this but this teaser where Woody & the gang work together to form the title name is my favorite. This reminds me how endearing and delightful these toy characters are. I love how they play on Woody and Buzz’s constant rivalry, Woody’s expression (and his friends’ reaction) to Buzz’s creation is priceless!  Looks like Pixar will have another sure hit with this one.

  5. Terminator Salvation
    James Cameron thought that though it was okay, the movie lacked a certain Je ne sais quoi, that ‘something special.’ I agree, but the trailer is a different story. It definitely brings back memories of why I like the franchise. I especially like the bit when Christian Bale is face to face with the chained ‘creature’ played by Sam Worthington. Again the music plays a huge part in making this a great trailer here, and it’s got the coolest ending of the T-100 skull forming in the LA aerial shot. Btw, this one was a Golden Trailer nominee in a couple of categories but lost out to Star Trek, which I thought is cool but not my favorite.

  6. Avatar
    Out of these ten I listed, Avatar is the only one that I think lives up to its trailer. That sense of wonderment that I felt watching the trailer was intact when I saw the actual flick. I love the ethereal sounding music in the beginning that play up the fantastical aspect, and then switch to a fast-paced tempo version to go with all the action. But the spectacular special effect and gorgeous visuals are definitely what sold me. Boy, even watching it now makes me want to see the movie again!

  7. Clash of the Titans
    Another Sam Worthington movie on my list, hmmm… trust me, it wasn’t intentional. I guess the guy just knows how to pick a movie, or is Ari Emmanuel his agent?? Anyhow, what a rockin’ trailer this one is. I’m a sucker for Greek mythology-themed movies and it can’t get more exuberant than this. Of course this is the kind of flick where you simply watch for the special effects and pure entertainment value, the stuff we go to the movies for!

  8. Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
    Ok, I gotta admit this is the most bizarre trailer I’ve seen in a while, but being it’s Heath Ledger’s last movie definitely draws me. It’s an unorthodox way of telling the the good vs. evil classic story, boasted by Terry Gilliam’s colorful visuals and an intriguing cast of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Collin Farrell as Ledger’s replacements. I’m not sure if I’m going to like the actual movie though, but the trailer is definitely a feast for the eye.

  9. Inception
    Intriguing concept, pure eye-candy visuals (the folding cities stuff I mean, NOT Leo), and Chris Nolan’s involvement. What else do you need? The ‘Your mind is the scene of the crime’ tag line arouses curiosity, and the imagery is somewhat reminiscent of The Dark Knight (which is a good thing in my book). I’m not a huge fan of DiCaprio, but in a movie like this, the cast is beside the point. That’s the beauty of Nolan’s work.

  10. The Man Who Stares at Goats
    Outrageously funny political comedy with a stellar cast having fun with their roles. George Clooney looks hilarious here, though his other movie Up in the Air is no doubt the better movie, this trailer is a heck of a lot more fun. In fact, people have said the trailer is pretty much the movie, but when you have a trailer as nutty as this, expectations for the movie tend to run high.


Honorable Mentions:

  • Robin Hood

  • Extract


Well folks, let’s hear of your favorite trailer of 2009.


Casting & Misc. News: FlixChatter Highlights

Looks like the last FlixChatter’s news post in 2009 will end with some bizarre ones. So let’s get to ’em, shall we?

Natalie Portman & the twisted-classic book cover
  • Pride & Prejudice meets Zombies
    It doesn’t get more bizarre than this. Based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the movie will focus on heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s quest for love and independence amidst the outbreak of a deadly virus that turns the undead into vicious killers (Variety). Her battle with the zombies inevitably gets distracted by the arrival of the pompous Mr. Darcy. Natalie Portman has signed on to play miss Bennet, and now FirstShowing reported that the movie might’ve found an unlikely director/screenwriter combo: David O’Russell. The famously temperamental director (there’s a link to a vid of him screaming profanities at Lily Tomlin on the FirstShowing article) is currently wrapping up The Fighter with Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg. Hmmm, I wonder how the set is like with him and Bale working together? DPs better have their earplugs handy.
  • Sam Worthington in Flash Gordon reboot?
    Now this one isn’t exactly news, as Cinematical downplayed this one as mere rumor at this point. Reportedly, the Avatar star and Ryan Reynolds are the two being considered to play the American football player. Neither is a stranger to action-packed roles, and though both are foreign actors (Aussie and Canadian respectively), both of them are look like the jock-type that’d fit the role. I always thought the original Flash kind of resemble Ashton Kutcher with blond hair, he’d be a good one if they’re making a spoof of that. According to the article, the potential director of the film Breck Eisner’s vision is to throw away the 80s version … For me it’s about reinventing ‘Flash’ – we’re still staying true to the adventure origins of it, and the adventurous spirit in that movie, absolutely. It’s this man brought to another planet and uniting the disparate groups on Mongo, but there is a gritty, intense, dynamic, active quality to the movie. Very modern. It’s not camp.”
  • James McAvoy in talks to play Bond creator Ian Fleming
    I’m surprised they haven’t made a movie of this sooner as I’d think his life would make for an interesting biopic. The Scottish actor (Atonement, Wanted) will play the English author based on Andrew Lycett’s book Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond. Per EmpireOnline, here’s what we could expect: Fleming lived largely in the shadow of his politician father and more notable siblings, living the life of a wayward playboy before World War II changed his life and gave him the inspiration for Britain’s best secret agent. No director’s been attached to this yet, but this looks like meaty role for the talented McAvoy.
  • Knightley, Fassbender and Waltz cast in The Talking Cure?
    Two Inglorious Basterds stars are joining Keira Knightley in the David Cronenberg’s film. ComingSoon.net described the plot as such: A beautiful young woman, driven mad by her past. An ambitious doctor on a mission to succeed. An esteemed mentor with a revolutionary cure. Let the mind games begin. The film is an adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s 2002 play of the same name. Knightley would play Sabina Spielrein, a Russian-Jewish psychiatric patient, who is said to have inspired some of Carl Jung (Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud’s (Waltz) most remarkable discoveries. Ralph Fiennes played Jung in the theater production back in 2003.
  • Rene RussoRene Russo joined the star-studded Thor
    The Kenneth Branagh’s superhero movie got Russo back from being MIA for about 5 years. Her last movie was Yours, Mine and Ours back in 2005. She will play queen of Asgard Frigga, the mother of hammer wielding Norse hero and wife of Norse god Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins. For more info about the movie, read it in my previous post. The movie is set for release May 20, 2011.

Ten Hottest Aussie Actors/Actresses

Well, by now most of you have probably seen Avatar, and judging from the search terms people used to find my — and others’ — blog, one could deduce that Sam Worthington’s celebrity has pretty much ‘arrived.’ Ever since that flick came out, roughly 99% of the search terms listed on my blog dashboard is about the Aussie actor. It’s quite amusing that a lot of them revolves around his skinny paralyzed legs and whether that’s the actual condition the actor suffers. Seriously, Avatar is a movie where out-of-this world special effects abounds to create a make-believe world and all they’re curious about is an actor’s legs?? That’s got to be the easiest SFX to create out of the whole thing.

At any rate, what I’m getting at is that Worthington is now joining a slew of great Australian actors in Hollywood. From the moment he showed up on my radar in the from of a trailer — Terminator Salvation‘s to be exact — I immediately took notice and been championing for him ever since. I guess I always have a penchant for the Brits and Aussies for as long as I can remember. Anyway, as with any list, this is simply my pick of the ten hottest actors working today from the land down under.

  1. Russell Crowe
    He’s not just the best among fellow Aussie actors, but the whole lot of them in the movie biz today. Very few actors can really disappear into any role. Even when his personal shenanigans make him a tabloid fodder, once Crowe is on screen, we watch the character he’s portraying, not the actor. Gladiator remains one of my all-time faves mostly on account of Crowe’s brilliant performance.
  2. Cate Blanchett
    Crowe’s co-star in next year’s Robin Hood is pretty much his female counterpart when it comes to acting prowess. I’ve watched Cate in the tiniest indie flicks all the way to giant blockbusters like The Lord of the Rings and she always wows me. Whether playing a passionate journalist (Charlotte Grey), English queen (Elizabeth), or a Hollywood screen queen (as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), she consistently delivers a believable performance. She will remain my favorite actress for years to come.
  3. Sam Worthington
    Though he’s considered a newbie to American moviegoers, the actor has made a name for himself back in his native land. Per IMDb, his film with Abbie Cornish, Somersault, won a record of 13 Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards, including Best Male Actor. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m sure that accolades will continue to pour in for him in the future.
  4. Hugh Jackman
    I’m in the camp that thinks Jackman is more than the Mr. Wolverine, as Elisabeth Rappe over at Cinematical pointed out just as I’m writing this. If anything, this guy is ever so versatile, being able to pull off such a macho, bad-ass role whilst singing and dancing away on Broadway AND host the Oscar. I agree though he hasn’t been in a decent flick of late, but I definitely won’t write off this talented actor quite yet. Not even close.
  5. Naomi Watts
    She might not be as well known as her BFF Nicole Kidman, but some might say she’s the better actress. Already rated as the ‘most bankable’ by Forbes magazine (for every $1 Watts was paid, her films earned an average of $44), she’s also earned a plethora of accolades, including a Best Actress Oscar nomination. She constantly impresses me in a variety of roles, most notably in 21 Grams, King Kong and The Painted Veil.
  6. Eric Bana
    The first time I laid eyes on Mr. Bana was in the Greek swords & sandal flick Troy. As the honorable Hector, he’s definitely the saving grace of that movie, in spite of the bronzed drag that was Brad Pitt’s Achilles. He’s also the best thing in Ang Lee’s Hulk and his soulful performance totally won me over in Spielberg’s Munich. It doesn’t hurt that this guy is sooo easy on the eye. At 6’3″ he’s the quintessential talk, dark and handsome image that could very well be the inspiration of those Harlequin romance book covers.
  7. Hugo Weaving
    Known for his trade-mark deep voice (“Hello, Mr. Anderson”), the 49-year-old actor has been in two massively successful trilogy: The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. The two movies couldn’t be more different from each other, but Weaving shone in both, a testament to his amazing versatility. Before the major Hollywood stuff, Weaving truly impressed me in this tiny indie Proof playing a blind photographer alongside a very young Russell Crowe. He also delivered an Oscar-worthy performance as a Cate Blanchett’s drug-addicted father in Little Fish.
  8. Toni Collette
    At first I thought Collette was English when I saw her in Emma (in which she practically outshone Gwyneth Paltrow), but then she managed to pull off a myriad of American roles (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine, among others). I guess the Sydney native has a knack for pulling off all kinds of accents. Not only that, she’s also quite the shape shifter by gaining 40 pounds for her role in Muriel’s Wedding and currently puts her chameleon-like performances to good use as a woman with multiple personalities in Showtimes’ The United States of Tara.
  9. Abbie Cornish
    The blond beauty proves to be more than a pretty face. Her performance in this year’s Bright Star is gaining rave reviews and she will be seen next in the fantasy action thriller Sucker Punch — billed as Alice in Wonderland with machine guns — by visionary director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen). Looks like she and former Somersault co-star Worthington are the hottest Aussie imports right now and perhaps for years to come.
  10. Guy Pearce
    I first saw Pearce in L.A. Confidential, going toe-to-toe against Russell Crowe. But it’s his performance in Christoper Nolan’s Memento that blew me away. The low-profile actor is also known for taking acting risk with his eccentric role as Andy Warhol in Factory Girl and the cannibalism-themed Ravenous.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Mel Gibson
  • Geoffrey Rush
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Simon Baker
  • Alex O’Loughlin

What do you think folks? Any one on this list that particularly stands out to you?

Inception International Teaser Trailer (English version)

A new International teaser trailer for the upcoming Christopher Nolan movie is here, showing a lot more footage than the original teaser back in August. Unfortunately, it’s in French right now. I saw the exact same version in English when I saw Sherlock Holmes yesterday and I literally jumped off my seat when I saw it. It’s The Dark Knight meets The Matrix, with Leo as Bruce Wayne/Neo perhaps? Nolan sure knows how to ruffle our feathers, and for the first time in a long while I’m actually psyched to see a Leo DiCaprio movie. But then again, I’ll watch anything Nolan does.

See it below courtesy of TrailerSpy.com before it’s yanked off. I’ll post the English version when it’s available.

Here’s the English version of the trailer:

Again, I’m glad Nolan keeps the plot kind of obscure in the trailer, I mean the purpose is to tease us instead of revealing the entire synopsis! I’d say the less we know about this flick, the better.

FlixChatter’s Sherlock Holmes Review

Let’s just say one thing for sure, this isn’t your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes. This version breathes the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, but purists beware that Guy Ritchie definitely takes some, ok a lot of liberties with his interpretation of the legendary detective. Reportedly, Madonna’s ex is a Holmes aficionado who’s clearly been an astute student of the subject, having gone back to Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and short stories to uncover a less tedious version of Holmes that what we’re used to seeing.

The plot basically revolves on a battle of wits & brawn between the titular detective and his partner, with a bloodthirsty nemesis whose evil scheme poses a threat to all of England. People are likely aware that Holmes is renowned for his intellectual prowess and skillful use of astute observation, deductive reasoning and forensic skills to solve difficult cases. But most, including me, aren’t used to seeing the brawny and scruffy side of him. This Holmes is more akin to Indiana Jones than the tedious version of the 1940s film version. The biggest complaint from critics is that Ritchie’s distinct directing style of fast-cutting, frenetic camera work might not fit the subject matter, but I for one don’t mind it. If anything, it perhaps broaden its appeal for those who otherwise won’t see a typical (read: stodgy) Holmes flick. The movie also benefits from casting such an inherently likable persona of Robert Downey Jr., which I initially thought as a rather odd choice. His British accent is pretty good, even if it’s intelligible at times, which is rare for most American actors to pull off. But the best part is how he infuses his title character with effortless charm and infectious wicked humor from start to finish.

Before the flick, Iron Man 2 trailer was shown. I got to admit I like RDJ’s role as Holmes a tad better than fellow action hero Tony Stark. Sure they’re both brilliant, science/technology junkie who strive to stop bad guys. But there’s something to be said about a hero who relies on their brain power than putting on a cool, practically indestructible suit. I really enjoy seeing how this guy’s mind works and his meticulous method of compiling clues and solving all kinds of mysteries, delivered with such dynamic energy that keeps it far from being boring. I don’t think this interpretation would’ve worked without RDJ, who I initially thought was somewhat of an odd choice but ends up thinking what an inspired casting it is.

As with a lot of Ritchie’s movies, there’s that element of bromance involved (as I’ve noted in my previous post). Their scenes together are the best thing in the movie to me, and their banter amusing and witty. No doubt RDJ and Jude Law as Dr. Watson have a genuine chemistry together, but it’s more in the vein of the Paul Rudd/Jason Segel’s I Love You Man and those buddy cop movies, not the Brokeback variety.

Jude Law also delivered a terrific performance as the detective’s BFF. No more just a blundering associate, Law’s Watson proves to be a capable partner who saves Holmes more times than he can count. Their relationship is like a butt-kickin’ odd couple, they bicker constantly but they feed off each other so well Holmes has a hard time accepting that his buddy’s getting married. Holmes also has a soft spot for con artist Irene (played by the appealing Rachel McAdams), who’s the crook who can outwit the detective. The ubiquitous Mark Strong is sneeringly effective as the murderous Lord Blackwood. He seems everywhere these days, as he’s got four movies this year alone (the other three are Endgame, The Young Victoria, and The Odds), and in Body of Lies and Rocknrolla last year. I like the bloke, he’s a darn good actor who deserves to get some lead roles by now. In any case, fans of Holmes who expect to see arch nemesis Prof. Moriarty might have to tune in to the sequel however, as he’s reduced to brief and disguised appearance. The rumor mill apparently has been buzzing with the possibility of Brad Pitt being cast as Moriarty, but according to Examiner.com, WB rebuffed that idea. I’m not too keen on it either, as I’ve never been a Pitt fan (I still haven’t even seen Snatch because he’s in it). I agree with the article, Hugo Weaving seems like a better choice, or any English or Australian actor of that age for that matter.

The visual effect of the movie is awesome. Ritchie captures that old, antique look of the grimy industrial nineteenth century London beautifully with the help of the vivid cinematography by Oscar winner Philippe Rousselot. No wonder this movie’s shortlisted to win Best Visual Effects Oscar, along with Avatar, District 9, and 14 others vying for the award. The bleached color photography sets the mood, and the costumes and set pieces is done with painstaking detail. This article went in depth into recreating that world: In creating a tangible feel of Sherlock Holmes’s London, Guy Ritchie wanted to portray a city at the crossroads between the past and a newly dawning future–an expansive and gritty place with bold new architecture being layered over the old.

Ritchie’s might have more luck making a sequel of this movie than his last one Rocknrolla (which he initially wrote as a trilogy). I happen to think that one is a pretty good movie and I could see how the trilogy idea might work. But the success of Holmes ($65 million in its first weekend) means a followup is far more likely. Wow, Downey just may have another profitable franchise under his belt, this guy is the biggest comeback kid of the decade!

All in all, Sherlock Holmes is a jolly entertaining movie that’s quintessentially very British, just like any other Ritchie’s flick, but I for one wouldn’t want it any other way. So if you’re willing to break traditions and be willing to accept the British PI outside of his hounds-tooth coats, you’d be in for a rollicking good time.

Random Thoughts: Sam Worthington’s Five Fave Flicks

My go-to review site RottenTomatoes.com has a regular feature where random movie actors/directors list their five favorite movies and why. Earlier this month, it featured AVATAR’s star Sam Worthington’s Five Favorite Films. Please note these are his favorites, not his ‘best films’ list:

  • Lethal Weapon 2 (1989, 82% Tomatometer)
    Lethal Weapon 2
    — because that’s the movie where I thought, ‘If those guys are doing that and getting paid for it, I want in.’ [laughs]
  • Mad Max 2, aka The Road Warrior (1981, 100% Tomatometer)
    Mad Max 2
    , along with The Year of Living Dangerously. As far as I’m concerned that was a time of filmmaking in Australia when we were excelling. And I can watch Mad Max 2 over and over again.
  • The Year of Living Dangerously (1983, 96% Tomatometer)
    And The Year of Living Dangerously, I love it because it’s an Australian movie not set in Australia.
  • Beverly Hills Cop (1984, 83% Tomatometer)
    Beverly Hills Cop
    , ’cause I think it’s Eddie Murphy at his finest. You know, we think of Norbit and things like that nowadays… but go watch Beverly Hills Cop to see the man in top form.
  • Die Hard (1988, 94% Tomatometer)
    Die Hard
    is the best action movie ever. [laughs] Nailed them out, didn’t I?

He’s obviously got a thing for action flicks… and Mel Gibson! Granted it’s quite a personal list, with three out of five being Aussie-related, but I guess now we know why he can rock out those action-hero roles, as that’s what he seems to gravitate towards.

It’s cool that he mentioned The Year of Living Dangerously. The title is a quote which refers to a famous Italian phrase used by former Indonesian President Sukarno; vivere pericoloso, meaning “living dangerously” that he borrowed for the country’s Independence Day speech in 1964. I sheepishly admit I haven’t seen the entire movie, but having grown up in Jakarta during the Suharto era, this movie hits close to home for me. Per Wikipedia, the story is about a love affair set in Indonesia during the overthrow of President Sukarno in 1965. It follows a group of foreign correspondents (including Gibson’s character, Aussie journalist Guy Hamilton) in the nation’s capital Jakarta on the eve of an attempted coup by the so-called 30 September Movement by military-led vigilante groups that killed hundreds of thousands. It wasn’t shot on location however, as the Indonesian (read: dictatorial Suharto’s) government wouldn’t allow it, so filming took place in Manila, Philippines. Not surprisingly, the movie was banned in Indonesia until 1999, and at last screened in the country during the Jakarta International Film Festival in 2000. This Peter Weir’s movie featured young Mel Gibson at his best (not to mention hottest), and interestingly enough his love interest was Sigourney Weaver (as Jill Bryant, a British Embassy officer), who later became Worthington’s co-star in Avatar. Linda Hunt won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Billy Kwan, Gibson’s character’s best friend, becoming the first person to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex (according to Wikipedia).

Back to Worthington, well, based on this list, and the projects he’s got going so far, I’m hopeful this guy won’t do any insipid rom-com any time soon! It’d be cool to see him in an action comedy a la Beverly Hills Cop or the Lethal Weapon franchise. He looks like someone versatile enough to be both bad-ass AND funny, something even talented actor like Christian Bale couldn’t quite master. I mean, you could say American Psycho was a dark (VERY dark) satire and some scenes are quite funny (albeit in a deranged kind of way), but I’ve never seen Bale do a light-hearted comedy, action or otherwise. People have labeled Sam the next action star, but I’d say he could be more than that. Perhaps he’s looking to mimic his favorite actor’s career, as Mel Gibson can balance both intense thrillers/action-pack roles with dramatic and comedic ones, not to mention his achievements as a director.

Just an additional trivia: Worthington came thisclose to becoming James Bond as he was a runner-up for Daniel Craig. He revealed to CommanderBond.net that “[The Bond people] had seen my tapes and wanted to make Bond younger, like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity.” I’d say he’d make a smashing Bond, but I’m glad he didn’t get the role as I’d rather not see him get typecast.

I have high hopes for this Aussie. Now that I think about it, lots of my fave actors are Aussies… hmmm, I feel a list of hottest Aussie actors coming on. Stay tuned for that, folks! 🙂

FlixChatter Spotlight: Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special

It’s what our local newspaper call a very Messy Christmas today with nonstop icky snow and sleet outside. There’s already at least a foot of snow already on the ground, our grill and plastic chairs on the deck are buried in snow, and so are most cars parked outside.

Some of you are spending time with family/friends or watching classic Christmas movies. I have yet to catch most of them on this list, but one I can watch any day of the year is the Christmas Special finale of BBC’s The Vicar of Dibley. I bought the DVD a few years ago and it’s certainly got a lot of play in my house.

Created by English writer/producer/director Richard Curtis, the man behind British rom-coms, such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, and Love Actually, as well as the hit sitcom Mr. Bean, The Vicar of Dibley starrs Dawn French as Geraldine ‘Gerry’ Granger, the Vicar of the rural parish of Dibley. It’s filled with typical British zany humor, largely due to the comic skills of the lead actress, but the supporting cast are equally great. You’ve seen some of them in other Curtis’ films, i.e. James Fleet (Tom in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Emma Chambers who played Hugh Grant’s oddball sister in Notting Hill). I LOVE everyone in the cast, they’re all such a hoot!


In the two-hour long Christmas Special called A Holy Wholly Happy Ending, the vicar who complained that she’s ‘always the vicar, but never the bride’ finally gets her man. Oh, and what a man indeed. The handsome stranger who swept Gerry off her feet is played by hunky Richard Armitage (star of BBC’s Spooks and Robin Hood series’ Guy of Gisbourne). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but one thing for sure you’ll fall in love with the mischievously endearing Vicar. Here’s a clip from the unexpected-proposal episode I can watch over and over again:

You have got to check out the hilarious rehearsal as well with Hugh Boneville‘s hilarious cameo as a fellow vicar who bears a longtime crush on Gerry. What a brilliant ending to such a witty and funny series!

Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are!

Merry Christmas from FlixChatter

Photo courtesy of PixelCrave (a.k.a. ze blogger's hubby)

When I woke up this morning, it’s like a Winter Wonderland out there with the pretty snow-covered tree branches and the fluffy white stuff everywhere. It’s been snowing non-stop since yesterday, and by the end of the long snowstorm, there’ll be at least a foot or two on the ground. So those who’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas, dream no more and start shovelin’ 🙂

Well, I won’t be bloggin’ about movies today, but instead, I’m going to take the time to reflect on what Christmas means to me. With all the presents and holiday wish list, I cherish the greatest gift of all… and the only reason I celebrate Christmas for. Thank you Lord Jesus for coming to earth to save us all… and for Your unfailing love day in and day out, even when we don’t deserve it. My wish is that I’d pay more attention to what my pastor calls GPs (God Promptings) and treasure what matters most in life.

Thank you readers for visiting and reading my blog. I wish you all the best the season can bring and may you find joy in small blessings today and all through the year!

Robin Hood Stills & This Week’s DVD Releases

I had planned on posting a top ten list, alas, I didn’t get to finish it in time. So in the meantime, check out these new stills from the next Robin Hood flick (thanks to MovieInsider.com). If you haven’t already, check out the trailer I posted last week.

Crowe's Robin prepares for battle
Robin and Marion riding together
Ridley Scott directing Cate and Russell

With quite a few days off until the end of the year, it’s been quite a mellow holiday season for me, a welcome rarity indeed! I just may catch Nine on Christmas day, or Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps Up in the Air, too. But with the chance of a white Christmas imminent (we might get a foot of snow by Saturday!), we might opt to stay in and watch some DVDs instead. Lots of notable ones being released this week. Here are the three already in my rental list:

DVDs releasing this week
  • 500 Days of Summer
    This looks like the antithesis of a typical rom-com – always a good thing. Comes highly recommended by friends, praising it for the fresh way of telling an unconventional love story. Being that it was on my must-see list that I haven’t got around to seeing, this is definitely one to check out.
  • Extract
    The trailer was hilarious, alas the reviews weren’t too kind on this flick. But I’m sure it’s still worth a rental for the always affable Jason Bateman. Plus Ben Affleck looks like a riot here as a stringy-haired dopehead.
  • District 9
    The surprise hit of the Summer just might be a hit on the DVD also. I gave this one a glowing review back in August, as well as praised the performance of newcomer Sharlto Copley (who should’ve been nominated for a Golden Globe, IMO). I’m intrigued to see how extensive the Special Features is. Hopefully there’ll be plenty of behind the scenes stuff.

What are you excited to see this week? Or perhaps you have some recommendations for ze blogger & fellow readers?

FlixChatter’s AVATAR review

To say Avatar is like nothing you’ve seen before is a quite an understatement.

Back in June, I list Avatar as one of five must-see flix of the rest of 2009 and ever since then, the hype promised it to be something of an epic thrill ride. Well, I can confidently say that fifteen years after his still-unmatched blockbuster Titanic, James Cameron delivers on that promise. Really folks, it’s like NOTHING I’ve ever seen in my 30+ years of movie-going experience. I felt like a kid again being whisked to a cinematic ‘ride’ on a jaw-dropping-ly beautiful planet that is Pandora, a journey that never cease to amaze me for the full 2.5 hours of the movie running time. The movie doesn’t feel long at all, in fact, there wasn’t a dull moment from the time we put our 3D glasses on.

No wonder it took Cameron more than a decade to bring this project to light as according to Wikipedia, filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Titanic, and the film would have been released in 1999, but according to Cameron, “technology needed to catch up” with his vision of the film. That span of time also allowed the ambitious director to invent a new language (like Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings) with the help of a linguistic expert. All that hard work and a whole lot of moolah (all $300+ million of ’em) paid off. The first time a couple of the Avatar program participants’ took a tour of that distant planet, the female pilot (played by the fiery Michelle Rodriguez) snickered at their wide-eyed wonder, ‘you should see your faces.’  The same could be said for much of the moviegoers, as for much of the time, I too was blown away by the spectacular visuals. The world that is Pandora is so spellbinding words cannot do justice, you simply have to see and experience it for yourself. One critic said it’s as if Cameron took a trip to an real island somewhere and took his video camera out, they’re that lifelike. If it’s beyond gorgeous during daytime, it’s pure magical at night. The Pandora jungles are filled with luminous phosphorescent plants and creatures, the ethereal airborne jellyfish especially, they’re ever so graceful and downright mesmerizing. Then there’s the alien creatures themselves. Five years ago, The Polar Express used a similar motion-capture technology — where live actors’ motions are digitally recorded and then applied to 3D models — but the result was a cold, inhuman, even creepy computer-generated characters with inexpressive ‘dead’ eyes. In Avatar however, the cat-like eyes of these blue aliens actually have realistic, even emotive expressions, and their movements are seamless and graceful.

Lovebirds Neytiri and Jake Sully

Now, how about the plot? Well, I made this comment in response to ‘the five reasons to see Avatar’ posted on an unofficial movie fan site: “How about the story? All those special effects without a compelling story we can root for would be meaningless. Would I care for the Na’vi people? Empathize with Jake Sully’s journey and the predicament he finds himself in? I’m pumped to see this movie but am hopeful that there is a ‘heart’ underneath all the techie mumbo-jumbo to balance things out.” Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed.

The story takes place some 145 years into the future. The term ‘avatar’ in our computer lingo is used to describe an icon that represents a person in virtual reality or cyberspace. But in the movie, it refers to a manufactured body which is remotely controlled through brain waves generated by a human being. Because the air in the alien planet is toxic to human body, a group of scientists led by Dr. Grace (the fabulous Sigourney Weaver) develops a procedure that allows humans to ‘drive’ their avatar whilst they’re asleep, as they’re being transported to Pandora as a 10-foot-tall, blue indigenous people. Their job is to ‘study’ the Na’vi, not simply for cultural research sake however, but because this planet is ripe with a precious mineral called unobtanium (is that short for unobtainable plutonium?), that according to the corporate honcho Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is worth twenty million a kilo. The goal is to figure out how to get these ‘savages’ to surrender their land peacefully before they do it the ‘hard way.’ Initially, it’s an appealing mission to the paraplegic ex-marine Jake Sully, who was initially on board as a replacement for his deceased scientist twin-brother. Instead of being wheelchair-bound, he gets to freely run around, jump, fly about, and perhaps find that ’single thing worth fighting for.’ Oh, did he ever.

It’s quite evident from the trailer that it’s not exactly cinematic groundbreaking. The similarities to Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai are palpable, but it’s not a bad thing necessarily as Cameron chose to go the ‘safe’ route of the tried-and-true tale of a soldier going ‘rogue’ as he falls in love with the people he was sent to conquer. It’s no surprise that he does, as the Na’vi’s harmonious existence and deep, sacred connection with their planet is such a contrast with the world he lives in. It reminds me of the indigenous bush people from The Gods Must be Crazy, who live such a simplistic life yet they’re far more fulfilled and happy compared to those living in the modern world. Like Jake said in his video log, there’s nothing in our world that the Na’vis want, so there’s really no ‘carrot’ to entice them to leave their beloved home. It’s a familiar but still compelling story that doesn’t take away from the state-of-the-art way it’s delivered.

The love story between Jake and Neytiri might not be as feverishly passionate as Titanic‘s Jack and Rose, but their slow-burn romance felt genuine and moving. Jake was drawn to the graceful and alluring Na’vi princess (Zoë Saldana) almost instantly, but Neytiri takes her time before she finally trusts him. It’s a worthwhile journey and makes for a rewarding pivotal scene towards the end involving the princess and the ‘real’ Jake. Another key scene is when Jake learned how to ride a banshee, this colorful flying dragon-like creature (visible in the film poster) that could very well cost him his life. That’s pure movie magic that makes you go ooh and aah with wonder, as well as an emotionally gratifying one as it was a turning point for Jake to be ‘accepted’ by the Na’vi people. Both Sam Worthington and Saldana are convincing as leads, especially the first, as he’s in almost every scene as both human and Na’vi. If I have to nitpick though, it’s the inconsistency of Neytiri’s English. Sometimes she speaks in simplistic ESL English, other times she’s quite sophisticated. The same with Worthington’s on-and-off Aussie accent. But despite that, he’s definitely got that leading man confidence. He’s a strong and manly guy but with a certain earthy quality about him that’s relatable and endearing. No doubt he’ll have a fruitful career here in Hollywood.

One thing for sure, the movie boast one of the best villain we’ve seen since perhaps The Joker. Stephen Lang as Col. Quatrich is evil through and through, there’s not a shred of compassion in that massive body-builder-ish physique. During a heart-wrenching scene involving a destruction of something sacred to the Na’vi, some people in the corporation were shown lamenting the situation, except for Quatrich who praised the pilot for achieving his task. He has no regard for the Na’vi, or their home turf. In one of the most memorable quotes from the movie, he quipped, “If there’s a hell you might want to go there for some R ‘n R after a tour of Pandora.”

The central message of the movie is obviously aimed at corporate greed, though some people will make this out to be a political statement against a certain administration. Again, this flick was conceived back in the mid 90s just to give you some perspective. At the London premiere, Cameron said, “We have this tendency to just take what we want. And that’s how we treat the natural world as well. There’s this sense of we’re here, we’re big, we’ve got the guns, we’ve got the technology, therefore we’re entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That’s not how it works, and we’re going to find out the hard way if we don’t wise up and start seeking a life that’s in balance with the natural life on Earth.” It seems that the Na’vi is the poster child for the ‘green’ alien (as in environmental, not in skin color, natch). They’re also very spiritual people. So even if I find all the new-age-y and unknown-deity worship stuff unsettling, I consider it part of the fantasy and imaginary world created by the filmmaker, instead of an agenda they’re trying to promote.

I can say a whole lot more about this movie, but I feel that the less you know about what happens the better. I’d say even if you don’t normally like sci-fi, give this one a chance just to experience it and simply to find out what the fuss is about. When you do, I’d urge you to see it in the glory of 3D as it’s meant to be (trust me, you wouldn’t want it any other way). As this one reviewer puts it, “Immersion is, I think, the new standard being set here. Very few films so completely allow you to block out the rest of the world and mentally live in a fantasyland for several hours. I’d be hard-pressed to recall another movie, outside of ‘Star Wars,’ that so fully transported me to a world that doesn’t exist.” I’m not discounting George Lucas’ work, but I have to admit Avatar did that for me much more so than the last Star Wars film I saw in the theater. I feel that Avatar brought a whole new movie-watching sensation unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and for that reason Cameron has elevated the history of cinema up a notch. In fact, all my friends who went with me said that after watching everything ‘pop’ in 3D, watching stuff in 2D just wouldn’t cut it anymore. We’ve already made plans to see it again (and again) in an IMAX theater instead of the conventional 3D-enhanced theater. This is one of those movies that warrant repeated viewings just on the visual spectacle alone.

4 out of 5 reels

Well, what are your thoughts of AVATAR?