Guest Post: The Joy of Discovering Rufus Sewell – a Birthday Tribute

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Today we celebrate the birthday of a special actor Rufus Sewell. I had a birthday post for him last year, but this time I thought what better way that to invite Mr. Sewell’s number one fan, my good friend Prairiegirl to share her own heartfelt tribute. Read on:
Today Rufus Sewell is 43. Who would have guessed what would happen after I discovered him only two-and-a-half years ago. Since then I have had the distinct pleasure of catching up on all of his work I could get my hands on, from 1992 (Gone to Seed, British TV series, seven episodes) forward. His earliest film work is listed as Twenty-One (1991) on IMDb (just ordered a used VHS copy from Amazon, finally gave in because I can’t find it to rent or to buy on DVD anywhere. It was only $6. If you want a new, unused VHS tape of it be prepared to pay a whopping $47! More about this phenomenon next.) Here’s a very early clip of Rufus as young bus driver Robby Fay in The Man of No Importance (1992), along with middle-aged bus driver Albert Byrne (Albert Finney), in a heartwarming tale of a friendship between colleagues. Here’s a clip of the final scene in the film:

Unfortunately, AMONI is impossible to get on DVD, either for rent or purchase. I gave in and bought this one on VHS also, but it doesn’t play right in my old VCR any more. This Audient blog post laments this sad condition.
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Discovery.
I was half way through watching Tristan and Isolde (2006, recommended by Netflix) in June of 2008. In the middle of the scene with Rufus and James Franco (Tristan) on the bridge where Lord Marke (Rufus) asks if Isolde is faithful to him, I said to myself, “who is this [amazing] guy?!” He spoke with so much emotion, with exceedingly convincing expressions and just so much shear heart that I rewound that scene about fives times and was immediately in love with my first movie boyfriend. When I told “Flixy” (rtm) how excited I was, (now that I had someone comparable to her dear Gerry Butler), she said, rather nonchalantly, oh, yes, Rufus, I like him, he’s in Dangerous Beauty, The Illusionist, The Holiday and knew he was a Brit. Well, imagine my delight, again! So then the relentless hunt began – to see anything I could that mentioned Rufus Sewell, to see if T&I was just a fluke, or if he was always that stunning.
Hunt and Catch.
Very soon after, Flixy and I had a Friday Movie Night and watched Dangerous Beauty (1998), and I totally, completely, fell head-over-heals. I had already seen The Illusionist and The Holiday without realizing at all that Rufus was in either, that’s how much the Bridge scene took me away.

Rufus in Dark City

Turns out many knew him from the 1998 mystery/sci-fi thriller Dark City. Not my usual genre, but understood the praise after watching it. Then came his more well-known parts as vengeful, spurned suitors in A Knight’s Tale (2001, Count Adhemar) and The Illusionist (2006, Crown Prince Leopold), and his downright villainous scoundrel in The Legend of Zorro (2005, Armand). He played rather ordinary men in some rather interesting circumstances in Cold Comfort Farm (1995), The Woodlanders (1997), In a Savage Land (1999), Paris, je t’aime (2006), Amazing Grace (2006) and Downloading Nancy (2008). He is in period-costume glory in Hamlet, Arabian Nights, Helen of Troy and Pillars of the Earth.

He is comfortable either on TV, film or stage. He prefers finite TV series (Gone to Seed, MiddleMarch, The Last King, John Adams, Taming of the Shrew) as opposed to an open-ended series like Eleventh Hour, (which lasted only a year on CBS), but was too long to for him be in one place. According to Rufus… “an interesting experiment” as he calls it, to be polite. And aside from his outstanding acting, in ordinary life the guy is just plain charming, considerate, and friendly… as displayed in Craig Ferguson’s interview… which easily endears me to him even more.

Rufus in a scene from Pillars of the Earth

Anticipation
Now that I’ve seen most there is to see of Rufus outstanding work, (except, or course, his stage plays, which include performances in Arcadia, Translations and Rock ‘n’ Roll), the only thing that’s left to do is see it all over again, or look forward to what’s coming up. The Pillars of the Earth (eight-part mini series) debuted in the USA in July, is playing on BBC4 in Britain currently, premiering in Germany this week and has been seen in Italy, Greece and maybe more. I haven’t even seen any episodes yet, but there’s buzz that Emmy nominations can’t be far behind. I don’t have Starz, so am anxiously waiting for the DVD to come out at the end of November here in the USA. To see the extraordinary range that Roof is capable of, watch this compilation of him as Tom Builder in Pillars of the Earth. Even where the music eclipses the dialogue, you can’t miss the depth and range he conveys:

Rufus in a scene in The Tourist

And then we can look forward to seeing him out of 11th Century garb and back in a suit again in the Aurelio Zen series he stars in on PBS sometime in the future and another contemporary role (a “small, but significant” role, according to Ruf) in the major Hollywood film The Tourist opening here December 10.

Real World.
And lastly, I have to give a shout out to all my fan girl friends over at The Rooftop (Everything Rufus, All The Time – made up tagline, but so true). Life would be a little less bright without it. And I would feel a lot crazier as a Ruf fan if not for them, because their fantasies (and “Caps” ;-)) are usually more than I could ever dream up. But some really do come true however, just ask Gloria, aka Dreamer who met Ruf on the set of Zen in Rome this summer.
So, in this second year of FlixChatter, comes the second salute to one of the most endearing, splendid and remarkable actors. Mr. Sewell, if you’re reading this, I wish you a very happy birthday!

Everybody’s Chattin’: 5 Blog Links to Start Off Your Weekend

Happy Friday everyone! It’s an especially sweet Friday for me as I’m taking the day off today and get to have brunch with hubby instead of going to work! 🙂 Tonight I’m also hosting my monthly Girls’ Movie Nite with my girlfriends, we’ll be watching a Merchant-Ivory production A Room With a View starring Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands. None of the new releases appeal to me this week so I might skip the cinema again and watch Watchmen on Blu-ray that my pal Vince kindly lent me.

Well, enough with my weekend plans. Time to highlight some great posts I think you ought to check out:

  • Sam @ Banana Oil movies has started her Shakespeare in Movies posts this month and this week she reviewed Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. I missed this in my Best Ensemble Cast list but this one definitely deserved to be included!
  • My go-to movie blog Anomalous Material turns one in November! Woot, woot! Do congratulate both Castor and Red for maintaining the blog where everyone shows up to mingle! Make sure to check out some of the highlights of their tremendous first year!
  • Katie from Stories That Really Mattered reviewed two movies I’ve always wanted to see that I haven’t gotten around to: Harry Brown and The Pianist.
  • Andrew at THEfilmBLOG was one of those lucky fellas who got to attend TRON Night, a special 20-minute preview of Disney’s TRON last night in Belfast. Read what he’s got to say about the experience and what we could expect from one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year.
  • The ScarletSp1der lists 20 movies he can’t wait for in 2011, and that’s just between January and July! Boy, too many flicks too little time. I’ll probably post my own list sometime closer to year’s end.

Well, before you click away to these wonderful blogs, do share your weekend movie-viewing plans or if you’re going to a Halloween party… what costume will you be wearing? 😀

FlixChatter Review: How to Train Your Dragon

I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it, as I’ve heard about this movie when Gerard Butler was cast a few years back. But in any case, I’m so glad I finally did. The movie exceeds my already-high expectation, and now stands as one of my favorite animated features ever!

The story centers on a Viking teenage boy Hiccup in a mythical Viking island where the common pests are dragons. It’s his tribes tradition to become a dragon slayer, but despite being the son of the tribe leader, Hiccup is a bit of an misfit as he doesn’t quite share the same warrior mentality as the rest. He’s small, clumsy but inventive. In fact, one of his invention ended up capturing a mysterious dragon. But his life is transformed when Hiccup and the dragon he calls Toothless form an unlikely friendship that break down the preconception each of them have about their species.

  • I initially thought, ‘Wow, Hollywood actually has a fresh, original plot for once!’ But later I learned this movie is loosely based on a book of the same name by Cressida Cowell. But still, the story feels fresh to me the way Shrek was when it first came out.
  • Though it’s an animated feature, it actually deals with some deep themes, such as overcoming fear of people/things that you don’t understand. Instead of seeking to destroy, the message is to take time to understand and build relationship to overcome old prejudices. I even read one review that suggests this should be Hilary Clinton’s approach concerning the Middle East! Now, that’s oversimplifying things just a bit too much, don’t you think? I mean, after all this is a fantasy children flick. Nonetheless, it’s a poignant message. I even think of Hiccup as applying the Samaritan’s sensibility in loving and caring for his enemy.
  • Steve over at The Film Cynics also saw an underlying message of overcoming one’s disability. I won’t say throw much of it away to those who haven’t seen this, but Hiccup and his dragon BFF will later have something to commiserate with considering their circumstances.
  • Great voice cast of Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, and Jonah Hill help bring the character to life. Baruchel is especially engaging and sympathetic as the young protagonist Hiccup–a strange name for a Viking, eh? Both Butler and Ferguson got to revel in their native Scottish brogue, clearly they’re having fun with ’em and I for one could listen to either of them read the phone book for hours! 😉 Butler got to reprise some of 300‘s Leonidas’ leadership prowess with lines like “Either we finish them, or they’ll finish us!”
  • Hiccup’s relationship with Toothless is really the best thing about this movie. Their mutual affection for each other is believable, and when the wall slowly crumbles between the two worlds, I couldn’t help getting all teary-eyed.
  • The film has incredible animation with a variety of dragons flying across the screen. It kind of remind me of the scene in Avatar when Jake first ride the banshee when Hiccup rides Toothless as he flies through the clouds. Beautiful aerial view of the village, it’s as if they’re actually filming it on a helicopter instead of simply a CGI creation.
  • I wish I had seen this in the theater to see it in its full 3D glory, but even in 2D on a home theater it’s still impressive and I was ooh-ah-ing over the breathtaking visuals. Besides the visual eye candy, the movie also offers plenty of heart… which is more than most animated features can offer these days. It’s right up there with Wall-E in terms of how much this movie affected me.

I highly recommend this film to everyone of all ages, it’s bound to entertain even those normally not fond of animation. Don’t worry, the characters won’t suddenly burst into songs on this one a la Disney movies. This one is not only worth renting but worth buying as well. After the movie is over, my husband and I both agree we definitely are getting this one on Blu-ray! 😉

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What do you think of this movie, folks?

Conspicuous Trailer & Poster of the Week: Made in Dagenham

I’ve been watching quite a few movies set in retro UK lately—Nowhere Boy, An Education—it’s an interesting period of time and this one is no different. Made in Dagenham is based on a real life event in 1968 where a group of female workers at the Ford Dagenham assembly plant went on strike for equal pay and against sexual discrimination. It’s a serious subject matter but delivered with humor to entertain as well as inspire.

It so happened that yesterday was Bob Hoskins’ 68th birthday when I came across this movie. He plays a sympathetic union representative in this comedy drama, along with a strong female cast led by Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, and Rosamund Pike. Hawkins and Pike are actually both in An Education but they didn’t share a screen together. Hawkins won a Golden Globe last year for Happy Go Lucky, which I still hope to see one of these days. The movie I did see her in was BBC’s latest adaptation of Persuasion which was decent but not nearly as good as the 1995 version with Ciaran Hinds. I haven’t seen Nigel Cole’s previous movie Calendar Girls either, which I heard was a hoot. He also did the off-kilter comedy Saving Grace starring Craig Ferguson which was pretty hilarious, judging from the trailer, looks like this one captures the same whimsical spirit.

The poster is cheerful yet defiant. She may be feminine and dainty, but her pose suggests her no-nonsense attitude and of course, red is a bold, valiant color. I love the vignettes behind the main focal point, it balances things nicely and the vibrant color scheme looks so fresh and playful. This is one to watch for the fun 60s costumes, too!

Looks like fun. I might check it out with one of my girlfriends when it’s out on limited release on November 19. How about you?

Random Thoughts: Where have these once-famous actresses gone?

Upon hearing this news from CinemaBlend that Meg Ryan is cast along with John Lithgow in a Crash-eque drama, it dawned on me how long I haven’t seen her in ages. The last movie I saw her in was Kate & Leopold which was nearly a decade ago! I did see her in the trailer of a dark comedy Serious Moonlight, but I guess nobody saw that (the movie’s total worldwide gross was a paltry $138,696 according to Box Office Mojo). The trailer was so dismal it made me cringe, I mean, didn’t Timothy Hutton won an Oscar?? And what’s with Ryan’s hair that looked like a replica of Jennifer Aniston’s, super straight and super shiny. Even in the poster and dvd cover, they hardly showed her face… people could easily mistake it for an Aniston rom-com, not sure if that’s intentional?

In any case, unlike Julia Roberts, Diane Lane or Sandra Bullock who somehow could still open a movie, looks like Ryan’s acting career has officially gone kaput. That’s too bad, I kind of like her. Not the best actress in her generation by any means but her movies were entertaining, to me anyway. When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail… LOVE ’em. She was the rom-com queen when rom-com was still enjoyable and quite poignant.

She’s obviously not the only once-famous actress who’ve seemed to have *disappeared* from Hollywood from the past decade. I reckon there is generally a much shorter shelf life for female performers than than the male counterpart, but is that really the only reason? I mean look at someone like 65-year-old Helen Mirren who’s so ubiquitous lately with no sign of slowing down. I don’t know why some actresses are still prolific and others seems as if they struggle to find even a single decent project. And we’re talking about those who’ve had considerable success both commercially as well as critically, a few even won major awards in the past. Here are just a few name that came to mind:

  • Rene Russo (Lethal Weapon 3 & 4, The Line of Fire, Ransom, Thomas Crown Affair)
  • Madeleine Stowe (The Last of the Mohicans, Twelve Monkeys)
  • Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall, Sabrina)
  • Sean Young (Blade Runner, No Way Out)
  • Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business, The Hand That Rock the Craddle)
  • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)
  • Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets, What Women Want)
  • Jeanne Tripplehorn (Basic Instinct, The Firm, Mickey Blue Eyes)
  • Elisabeth Shue (Cocktail, Leaving Last Vegas)

Anyway, those are just the ones I can think on the top of my head, the list goes on. I don’t really have a theory to offer about this topic, so perhaps you can offer one? And while we’re at it, which female actress was your favorite from the 80s & 90s that you wish would make a *comeback*?

Random Thoughts: Man of Steel casting ideas

Upon hearing news last week that Zack Snyder & co. are looking for a middle-aged Superman (though he specifically mentioned 35-40, now since when is that middle aged??!), I immediately conjured up a list of actors previously starring in Snyder’s movies worth considering. But before I posted that list, my blogger friend Sam from Banana Oil Movies came up with an utterly brilliant casting idea that I practically threw my list away! She suggested Eric Bana for the role, and you ought to pay a visit to her post to see her rationale. I can’t believe I didn’t come up with that myself as I adore the Aussie actor and as Sam pointed out in her post, though at 42 he’s 3 years older than Mad Men‘s fans’ choice Jon Hamm, to me he actually looks much younger and I think he’s got the right physique and talent to pull off both Superman AND Clark Kent.

You might’ve seen this fan-created photo of what Hamm might look like as Supes. I personally think that looks like a botched Photoshop job and as this article says, might actually hurt the actor’s chances for the role. Well, I promised Sam I’d attempt to do my own Photoshop job of visualizing what Bana might look like as both the Kryptonian hero and his bespectacled alter ego, so here we go:

Well, what do you think folks? Did I convince you? 😉 It didn’t take me long to create the Clark Kent version, but the Superman one is a bit tricky. Christopher Reeve is such a perfect Superman that everyone else just didn’t come close. Even looking at Brandon Routh’s photos, he’s lacking that ‘IT’ factor that Mr. Reeve possessed. He’s obviously extremely good looking and had the quintessential chiseled-look, but yet there’s nothing effeminate about him (Routh kinda look too pretty in the film, though it’s likely the makeup people’s fault). I think the same could be said about Bana in that he’s definitely a man’s man. Plus the guy certainly can act, he can do intense (Munich, The Other Boleyn Girl), great at fighting scenes (Troy), and has a romantic/vulnerable side (Time Traveler’s Wife). He was great in Ang Lee’s Hulk, too, I hope the studios don’t think of that movie’s failure as Bana’s fault, as it certainly wasn’t the case. However, the actor himself might be weary of taking on another superhero role because of that though, which is a huge pity.

In any case, all this casting speculation is kinda fun. While we’re at it, why stop at just the main character? You know who I’d love to see as General Zod, now I’ve got some ideas for Lois Lane. I thought I’d start with those who’ve worked with Zack Snyder before, and since we’re going with a middle-aged hero, I should think we want someone mature enough as his love interest. How about 37-year old Lena Heady (300), or 39-year-old Carla Gugino (Watchmen)? Or maybe Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch)? She’s 28, which is 5 years older than Kate Bosworth at the time she was cast in Superman Returns.

Well readers, I’d love to hear what you think of these casting choices. Agree, disagree? Let’s hear it!

Weekend Roundup: The Dark Knight & How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray

Happy Monday, everyone. I didn’t get to the movies again this weekend, but a whole bunch of people showed up in droves to see Paranormal Activity 2, making it the #1 movie with $41 million! No surprise I suppose, as the horror genre usually reigns in October. As I’m not a horror fan, nor am I particularly fond of anything to with Halloween, we opted to see a fun family flick How to Train Your Dragon. Given all the positive reviews, we both had a high expectation for it. Fortunately it didn’t disappoint! LOVE Toothless, now I want my own pet dragon!

Anyway, this week is shaping up to be a cold and wet one in my neck of the woods 😦 Oh well, I knew we’d have to pay for all those gorgeous sunny Fall days we had all last week. But you know what, we’ve got something that might help chase out the blues of the upcoming Winter… we finally got our Blu-ray player! We were going to order online for our player but hubby took the day off on Friday and came across the exact Sony player we were going to buy at a giant retail store in town for 20 bucks cheaper! He then called me to ask which Blu-ray disc we should get first: Avatar or The Dark Knight. It didn’t take me a second longer to yelp, “The Dark Knight, of course! There’s no question!” He..he… I can be so decisive when the occasion calls for it 🙂

I was with my pal Prairiegirl Friday night to see this wonderful BBC production of the Taming of the Shrew, which is one of the four ShakespeaRe-told series, a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s work. You can see a clip of Rufus Sewell and Shirley Henderson in my Rufus b’day tribute post, I’ll discuss this series in more detail once I see all four of them. In any case, as soon as I got home, hubby was already playing the disc so I couldn’t resist to join him and watch some of the scenes. The image quality obviously is striking in Blu-ray, especially the breathtaking truck-flip scene (so yep, it still deserves to be on this list). The movie itself still holds up well, we were as immersed in the story as we did the first time we saw this in the theater. And after that spectacular, cliff-hanger ending, I’m even more excited to see what Nolan has in store for us for Batman 3. Curious to see what he’ll call it. My friend Ted told me via Twitter he hoped it’ll be The Caped Crusader. Y’know what, I can live with that.

Well readers, hope your weekend was fun. Did you get to see any good movie(s)? Oh, just out curiosity, those who own a Blu-ray player, what disc did you either buy or watch for the first time? Any suggestion for a ‘must-own’ Blu-ray disc?