Movie Title Sequence Spotlight: Rocknrolla

TGIF and Happy last-day-of-the-month, everyone!

Instead of the usual scene spotlight, I thought I’d highlight a movie-related art form that often goes unnoticed: the title sequence. For me, watching a movie title sequence is almost as fun as seeing a movie trailer. Many of them simply list the credit, but the great ones not only help set the mood, but they also entertain and delight us with the their distinctive visual style, powerful music, or a clever combination of both.

Strong + Butler in Rocknrolla

I’ll have my top ten favorite list in a later post, but here’s one that really stuck out to me: Rocknrolla. I happen to enjoy the movie, it’s got a terrific ensemble cast: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, young Brit rising stars Toby Kebbell and Tom Hardy, and the luminous Thandie Newton. But the one that really shone in this is the give-this-guy-a-leading-role-soon Mark Strong, as Wilkinson’s right hand man. The film might be too fast and too frantic for its own good, but there are funny moments and great dialog here, and looks like everyone had tons of fun making it. Guy Ritchie’s quintessentially British gangster flick won the Jameson Awards Best British Film 2009 given out by Empire Magazine. Now, many might argue it merits such an award, but I bet few would disagree that the opening title is downright awesome!

Designed Danny Yount, a self-taught graphic designer whose work include Iron Man, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the latest Ritchie flick Sherlock Holmes (which is definitely on my top ten). The eye-grabbing visual and the music are frenetic, hip and fun! Love the use of vintage-y colors and the creative mix of comic-book drawing with real photos. The entire marketing campaign for the movie is awesomely creative, too, the quad posters (here and here) and official movie site all have the same gritty, gangster look. Say what you will about Guy Ritchie, but I think that guy is pretty artistic. Not to mention great ears for cool music, the soundtrack is full of catchy rockin’ tunes that complement the movie perfectly.

DVD Picks: Slumdog Millionaire & August Rush

I wrote these reviews before I decided on the Britastic blog series, but they work just fine because they’re both British-related. Slumdog Millionaire is directed by talented British director Danny Boyle, and Freddie Highmore who plays the title role in August Rush was born in London. They both also share a similar fairy-tale element in the storyline, but obviously these are two very different films.

Slumdog Millionaire

I finally got a chance to view the 2009 Best Picture Winner, and I’m glad to say that this one does live up to the hype. British director Danny Boyle paints a compelling and heart-wrenching rags-to-riches story that tugs at your heart right from the start.

The film centers on an unlikely teen, Jamal Malik, who grew up in the slums of Mumbai. He somehow defies all the odds to win the highest prize of the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” and the story of how he got there and knew all the answers is told in flashbacks as he’s being interrogated on suspicion of cheating.

Though the one of the endorsements on the dvd cover says, ‘The feel-good film of the decade,” Slumdog Millionaire is actually tough to watch at times. Boyle doesn’t pull any punches in presenting the stark contrast between the haves and have-nots, and it’s fascinating to see how movie stars there are worshiped as if they’re immortal gods. The length Jamal took to get an autograph from one of them — who arrives on the slum via a chopper no less — is bizarre and devastating at the same time. There’s also scenes of unimaginable tragedy that these two boys have to endure that force that to survive on their own.

Dev Patel & Frieda Pinto

The heart of this fairy-tale is an unfaltering love story between Jamal and Latika, who also manages to escape the massacre in their village. Somewhere along the way they get separated, but Jamal refuses to give up on his long-lost love up no matter what the cost.

Played by three different actors, all of them portray Jamal with such heart and charm, though the older they get the lesser the resemblance between the two brothers (tricky casting I presume). Dev Patel as the older Jamal captures the essence of a young man who’s seen too much too soon, yet somehow retains that seemingly-uncrushable buoyant spirit. Gorgeous Frieda Pinto is enchanting as Latika, and the two share a believable chemistry even with so little words spoken to each other.

On top of all the great points I’ve mentioned above, this movie looks and sounds good as well. The cinematography is exuberant and colorful, and the music by A.R. Rahman compliments the urban realism nicely with its high energy and edgy beat. Kudos to Boyle for creating such an extraordinary film. His versatility is quite impressive, but whether he’s tackling a zombie thriller flick (28 Days Later) or sci-fi adventure (Sunshine), he rarely disappoints.


August Rush

“I believe in music like some people believe in fairy tales,” Evan Taylor tells us in the beginning of the movie.

From the time the movie opens in the lush wheat field, it sets the fairy-tale tone of the movie. This is the kind of movie cynics need not bother, as it insists that you simply surrender to its sweet energy and let it touch your heart. Really, once the music starts playing, whether it’s a refined symphony or the ‘music’ of the hustle and bustle of every day life, I was ready to be swept away. Predictable? Yes. But the journey is worthwhile to watch.

The story basically revolves around Evan Taylor, an outcast in an orphanage who never stops believing that somehow, somewhere, his parents miss him as much as he misses them. That dream and the music around him keeps the lonely boy company and helps him cope with the harsh reality. The movie is none too subtle in revealing that the young dreamer’s got an extraordinary musical gift, and he knew it’s the key to finding his parents.

Highmore and Robin Williams as 'Wizard'

The rest of the movie goes back and forth between Evan’s journey to New York — which also reveals the significance of the title August Rush — and the flashback story of how music is definitely in his genes. Throughout the movie, music plays an integral part, the blending of classical, hard rock and ‘street’-music was phenomenal. In fact, the music is a tremendous factor in what make the movie so enjoyable. So clearly the filmmaker is as passionate about the music as Evan does.

Freddie Highmore — one of the best young actors working today — first caught my eye in Finding Neverland. As the title role, the 18-year-old actor who was 15 at the time looks believable enough as an 11 year old, and he is affecting with his wide-eyed tenacity and sincere longings, even without much words spoken. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Kerri Russell as the estranged parents have a nice chemistry together, though is it just me or does Rhys-Meyers looks like he’s about to cry in every single scene? Robin Williams as ‘Wizard’ is not as over-the-top as he usually is, though his character isn’t fully developed and we never really know what his real motive is.

Beautiful parents: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers & Keri Russell

This movie is a real tearjerker so have a bunch of Kleenex handy as it was hard keeping my eyes dry throughout the movie. I find this movie far more touching than another musical-themed movie The Soloist, for sure this one is far less tedious. The cinematography of places like Central Park and close-up shots of instruments being played are beautiful, though in some of the close-up shots of the Evan playing the guitar, it’s clear that it’s a mature adult’s hands, ooops!

If you appreciate music of any kind and don’t mind a little schmaltzy-ness and grand happy endings, this is a movie for you.

Pondering the ultra-prolific Ridley Scott’s possible next projects

Man, is this guy trying to work himself to death? Seems like Mr. Ridley Scott never met a project he doesn’t like, even just looking the list of stuff he’s got In Development is exhausting! Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of respect for the man, I mean after all he made one of my all time favorite movies Gladiator, but it’s possible the guy is a tad too prolific? In any case, IMDb lists no less than 18 projects where he might be involved in some capacity, whether directing or producing under his ScottFree production company (with his brother Tony). So, with Robin Hood‘s release in two weeks (May 14), I wonder what he’ll tackle next.

Below is a quick summary of ten of those projects (in alphabetical order), whether or not they’ll see the light of day remains to be seen:

1. Alien Prequel
MTV recently sat down with the 73-year-old director about the prequel to his sci-fi blockbuster, and this is what he has to say:

  • The prequel script is on a fourth draft
  • Set in 2085, about 30 years before Ellen Ripley [Sigourney Weaver‘s character], but not sure if Weaver will be involved in this one, even as a voice-only role
  • The plot is about finding out who the guy who was sitting in the chair in the alien vehicle, the “space jockey.”
  • It will involve the discussion of terraforming — taking planets and planetoids and balls of earth and trying to terraform, seed them with the possibilities of future life
  • It’ll be a stand-alone piece, so seeing other Alien films is not a pre-requisite to understand the new one
  • Hoping to hit theaters late 2011 or 2012.


2. Pompeii four-hour miniseries
Based on Robert Harris’ best-seller of the same name, it’s billed as “… a thriller about the race to survive the looming disaster of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy.” (The Wrap). According to CinemaBlend, this project was previously developed by none other than Roman Polanski 3 years ago, but it fell apart even before the director’s legal troubles. Reportedly Scarlett Johansson and Orlando Bloom were cast as the doomed residents trying to escape the wrath of Mt. Vesuvius.
Pompeii is a strong and compelling character drama set against a backdrop of a flourishing but ultimately doomed civilization – exactly what makes great event television.” Scott says. Well, if anything it’s kinda timely now given the Ejjgkaljakull’s eruption that’s still going on in Iceland.

3. Brave New World
According to Reuters, Leonardo DiCaprio is set to star, who interestingly enough owned the film rights under his production company, Appian Way. It’s based on Aldous Huxley’s dystopian-themed novel Brave New World, which takes place in a seemingly perfect 26th century world that has achieved harmony by tightly controlling birth, which takes place mainly in laboratories, and outlawing family. The world is populated by a series of five castes, each with its own defined roles. Universal studios has brought Apocalypto writer Farhad Safinia to pen the script.

4. Child 44
Set in Stalinist Russia, Child 44 is a political thriller about the inner workings and defects of Communism as seen through the eyes of a KGB officer who gets involved in the case of a serial killer who murders children. This European film news site reported back in 2008 that Scott has paid a visit to Hungary for location scouting and found locations to stand in for 1950’s Soviet Union. No cast or other info have been released yet.

5. Forever War
Yet another sci-fi epic that’s also based on a novel by Joe Haldeman released in 1974. Book revolves around a soldier who battles an enemy in deep space for only a few months, only to return home to a planet he doesn’t recognize some 20 years later. (Variety)
This is what he says about the plot: “It’s a science-fiction epic, a bit of The Odyssey by way of Blade Runner, built upon a brilliant, disorienting premise.” Guardian reports back in Oct 08 that it might be Scott’s new project right after Robin Hood (then called Nottingham), though obviously Scott’s been distracted by a whole bunch of other stuff in the last couple of years 🙂

6. Gucci Biopic

Not satisfied with sci-fi and swords & sandals epic, Scott is reportedly looking to tackle a biopic centering on the founder of the Gucci fashion empire (Screencrave). The film will focus on Italian businessman Maurizio  Gucci and his turnaround of the Gucci empire during the 1980s before he was murdered in a plot executed by ex-wife, Patrizia. And the cast Scott had in mind? Leonardo DiCaprio (again) as Maurizio, with Angelina Jolie as Patrizia. Well, I can certainly see Jolie playing such a character, and they both look Italian enough to pull this off.

7. Monopoly
Now, I’m not going to go as far as SlashFilm in calling it the worst idea ever, but I got to admit it is rather bizarre. But just yesterday, NY Mag posted an article whereScott attempts to convince people he hasn’t gone insane and explain that what he’s got in mind is that he “… decided to make a comedy about a Donald Trump–type character and his dealings with equally vicious real-estate tycoons: “It’s about greed … Greed becomes, hopefully, hysterically funny.” O-kay. Oh, and get this: “I always liked films like ‘Trading Places’ with Eddie Murphy. I’m not saying it’s like that, but it’s somewhere around that route.” Wow, I’d never guess that about him, but this idea just sounds nutty enough it might actually work, no?

8. The Passage
Ok, so now Mr. Scott is after yet another genre: vampire. Well I suppose with Twilight, True Blood being so popular, who blames him for wanting to join the bandwagon? Variety said he might be bringing screenwriter John Logan, his collaborator on Gladiator who also wrote The Aviator & Last Samurai.  The Justin Cronin vampire novel is terminally ill patients become healthy after they are bitten by bats in South America, and the government conducts secret tests on human subjects to see if the virus can cure illness. The result is an apocalyptic unleashing of bloodthirsty vampire test subjects that include death row inmates. Scott’s never done a vampire flick before, but with Logan on board, who knows it might actually be decent.

9. Red Riding
I talked about this one back in January when I featured the Red Riding trailer. So it’s going to be a remake of the UK Channel 4’s crime trilogy. This time he’s reportedly going to be working with Oscar-winning writer Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List, American Gangster) to “… to relocate the story from Yorkshire to a run-down industrial state such as Pennsylvania” (Guardian). The TV show (or miniseries I should say), was well received here in the US. The Guardian article says, “…film historian David Thomson caused a stir at the recent Telluride Film Festival by writing in the festival program that Red Riding was “better than The Godfather.” WOW.

10. Untitled Reagan/Gorbachev Projects
Now, this one definitely sounds intriguing, though he might have to rethink the filming location in light of Eyjafjallajökull’s volcanic eruption. BBC news reported that Scott’s been scouting locations in Reykjavik, Iceland as the movie will focus on the 1986 arms control summit that took place in that city. He did obtained permission to use the historic house where the summit took place. Apparently there’s already a TV movie Breakthrough at Reykjavik in 1987 where actors Robert Beatty and Timothy West played Reagan and Gorbachev respectively. Casting might be tricky for this one.

Of course there’s also reports that Scott is interested in the Robin Hood sequel, as he tole Times Online that he’s a huge fan of the genre. But I’d think it’s premature talk as it remains to be seen if this flick will be a blockbuster the way Gladiator was. Out of all these, I’d like to see him work on the Pompeii series, Brave New World, and Forever War, the last two sounds epic and it’s a genre we know he can handle really well.

So what do you think folks? Which of these possible Ridley Scott projects appeal to you?

London, here we come! The inevitable Britastic blog series begins today

Photo courtesy of

Counting down to our London trip in less than two weeks, allow me to be a bit indulgent and in celebratory mood for a bit. From now until our departure Friday, May 7, FlixChatter will feature British-themed posts, whether it’ll be a British movie review or scene spotlight, featured posts on British filmmakers/actors, or whatever UK-related random item that comes to mind.

Hope you can stomach 10 days of all things British, there are so many British actors in Hollywood and tons of iconic scenes are set in the UK, specifically London, so the possibilities are endless.

Just for fun, here’s a scene from The World is Not Enough where the River Thames, as well as other London iconic symbols, are on full display. Surely it’s a preposterous scene, heck the entire Bond flick defies common sense (Denise Richards as a Bond girl? ’nuff said). And why in the world is Pierce Brosnan is adjusting his tie as his watercraft dives under water??! Granted it lacks the whimsy of Moonraker‘s gondola chase in Venice, though both are equally ridiculous, but it’s still pretty fun scene to watch.

I can’t wait to get on a boat tour on the Thames!

Upcoming Project Spotlight: ‘Paul’

The Cast of Paul – clockwise from top left: Pegg/Frost, Weaver, Bateman, Rogen, Hader, Wiig & Lynch

Originally this was one of my most anticipated flicks of 2010, but it turns out this road trip comedy is delayed to 2011. Via Twitter, the prolific Twitterer Simon Pegg wrote this last February: Due to an extensive post production schedule you won’t be seeing our little desert caper any time soon. Rest assured it will be worth it.

Well, it does sound like it’ll be worth the wait. I’m a big fan of Simon Pegg/Nick Frost duo, and the storyline sounds like a hoot: Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. (to attend the San Diego Comic Con, no less) encounter an alien outside Area 51. As if the Pegg/Frost combo isn’t enough, looks like some of the top Hollywood comedians have joined the cast: Seth Rogen (as the voice of the alien), Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Jane Lynch. Oh, there’s also Sigourney Weaver! She might be known for kick-ass or dramatic roles, but she’s proven her comedic chops in the underrated sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest, as well as the TV pilot satire The TV Set. What a cast! I’m really excited to see Weaver and Bateman here, and Wiig and Hader are definitely the funniest SNL regulars of the current season.

First Look from the movie, photos courtesy of

This project will mark the first time the two real-life buddies are working on the screenplay together, though Pegg is no stranger to screenwriting. Per IMDb, he also penned the script for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Run, Fatboy, Run (I’d recommend all three of these fun comedies if you haven’t seen them).

Instead of Edgar Wright, who’s a frequent collaborator with Pegg/Frost, we’ve got Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) at the helm. He’s also directed a few episodes of Arrested Development, which is probably how Jason Bateman comes in.

Check out this clip of Pegg and Frost introducing the story, cast and crew:

Nice tees, guys! It’s always fun to see them together again, I’m definitely looking forward to this next year. What about you, folks?

Friday Guilty Pleasure Flix: The Saint

TGIF! Time for another guilty pleasure post! I usually just pick one at random, and that’s how this one comes to mind. My hubby and I don’t have an extensive dvd collection, but we actually own this movie as we both enjoy it a lot. He describes it as part James Bond, part McGyver, with a bit of Mission Impossible‘s Ethan Hunt thrown in for his knack for various disguises.

Plot summary: Simon Templar – a fictitious name a young orphan boy invented for himself in a Hong Kong orphanage years ago – is now a suave, debonair, international thief who needs to pull-off just one more exuberant heist to put him at the $50 million mark in his Swiss bank account (his goal amount for retirement). An easy job: simply steal Dr. Emma Russel’s formula for cold-fusion, and deliver it to a Russian billionaire bent on sending Russia back to Communism – no problem, Right? Wrong! There’s one thing Mr. Templar, master of disguise didn’t count on … falling in love.

It’s a pretty light movie and not meant to be taken so seriously, in fact, Val Kilmer plays the title character Simon Templar with tongue firmly in cheek. He’s fun to watch in this movie, he believably inhabits his various false identities, infusing it with charm and wit as he masterfully goes about his charade. Kilmer is generally a likable actor to begin with, I mean, I like him as Batman (in Batman Forever), though I can’t say the same about the movie… I think any Batman flick with Robin in it is doomed for failure! Elisabeth Shue plays the brainy scientist who’s a bit naive and excitable, this is her second role post her Oscar-nod for Leaving Las Vegas. She’s not bad I suppose, nothing memorable in her performance considering how juicy Kilmer’s role is. The movie also pays a slight homage to original actor who played Simon Templar on British TV in the 1960s, Roger Moore, before he goes on to be Bond a decade later.

Marc from G-S-T recently mentioned this movie and its director in his movie meme. Phillip Noyce did the excellent political thrillers Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger (with the BEST Jack Ryan ever: Harrison Ford), as well as the acclaimed war drama The Quiet American in which Michael Caine nabbed his sixth Oscar nomination. The Aussie director recently finished the action/thriller SALT with Angelina Jolie as the wrongly-accused CIA officer.

Anyhow, you can check out the trailer below:

Have you seen this movie? If so, what do you think of it?

The Art of Movie Posters

I was taking a break from blogging and just browsing randomly last night, and I came across this site that gives out International movie awards annually. It’s called IMP Awards which stands for Internet Movie Poster. How cool is that? I didn’t even know this existed, I kind of found this out the same way I did about Dragon Trailer Award for, well… movie trailers.

I love looking at movie posters, every once in a while there are some that really captured my attention. My hubby and I were thinking at one point to decorate our lower level entertainment room with movie posters, but we’d be arguing too much about which ones to hang in there 🙂 I love, love, love this French poster from Bright Star, more so than the movie itself. How romantic it is to read love letters amidst such gorgeous fields of lilac.

Anyhoo, you can go as far back as 1999 to see what posters have won, and they have a bunch of categories, even whimsical stuff like Creepiest Poster, which fittingly went to Antichrist this year. Hiiih, even the poster itself gives me the hibijibis! It’s interesting that the Best Movie Poster winners for 2008 and 2009 both star the late Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight and Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (that’s model/actress Lily Cole who plays Valentina on the poster).

IMP Award's Best Movie Poster of 2008 & 2009

I wonder which one they’d pick for 2010. For sure The Expendables poster should at least be nominated, it just looks super cool and clever. I also quite like the one for The Losers which features the entire cast, the angle is pretty unique and has that fun, mischievous feel about it. Not sure if the fact that it’s basically the photography version of the comic book cover would make it ineligible though.

So what about you, folks? What poster(s) caught your attention lately?