Counting down to X-Men: First Class – 5 reasons I’m seeing this on opening night

In about 72 hours, the wait will finally be over! As you know I’ve been excited to see this movie for some time now. I love the X-Men franchise, I even enjoyed the third one to an extent, despite all the flaws and Brett Ratner’s direction. I just re-watched the trailer of the first one and recalled how much I was so intrigued by the story and particularly the dynamic between Magneto and Xavier. Bryan Singer made a superhero film unlike anything I had ever seen, it was a complex and intelligent thriller that wasn’t all about the ‘Kapow!’ action and special effects, but one that was rooted in a compelling story and heavy on character development. It’s a classic good vs. evil we’ve seen so many times before, but rarely perfected.

Here are just five reasons why I’ll be seeing this on opening night:

1. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy
Two of the brightest British imports working today are perfectly cast to follow the footsteps of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. From the reviews I’ve heard (which currently still stands at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes with 35 reviews), both aren’t simply imitating the two acting greats but they’ve made the roles their own. In an interview on the Den Of Geek site, director Matthew Vaughn said he’s aiming for a Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid type of chemistry. Having just seen that classic film, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that same fun banters between the two. I really enjoy both actors’ work, so seeing both of them squaring off against each other on screen will be such a treat. And the fact that both look so darn handsome in their retro outfit can’t hurt, either 😀

2. The compelling back-story
An origins story always have a certain appeal to me, especially when you’ve got such an interesting pair of characters like Xavier and Magneto. The X-Men universe is ripe with endless possibilities to explore, but I’m glad Vaughn and producer Bryan Singer go back to basics and focus on the story that really matter, that is why the two BFFs become arch enemies and how each mutant chooses to be heroes or villains that we’ve come to know.

3. The retro 1960s vibe
I’m really digging the look of the movie so far, the costumes and set pieces really take us back in time. With the backdrop of the Cold War, the filmmaker mixes history with fiction by inserting factual news items during the Kennedy era. My hubby got this iPad fake magazine promo of the movie, check out the spread below and the photo of Xavier with JFK at the White House:


4. The cool special effects and bombastic action sequences

This movie’s got everything you want in a Summer blockbuster, and then some! I have to admit, I love superhero movies for the fun action and logic-defying effects, I mean it’s the ultimate escapism right? Seeing a big submarine being lifted from under the ocean and Magneto dodging all of those missiles whilst still looking as dashing as ever, these are the stuff we go to the movies for! I also enjoy seeing each mutant discover and learn to control their power, which I’m sure will be in abundant display here. The music used so far in the promos sound awesome as well, which should be the perfect companion for all the fanfare.

5. A Cold War setting + a Bond flick + Frankenheimer political thriller… all in one movie!
This came from the mouth of Matthew Vaughn himself in the interview mentioned above:

I think [this movie is] primarily it’s about the relationship between Magneto and X, but set against a backdrop of political espionage and the Cold War. I always wanted to do a Cold War movie, and I’ve been desperate to do a Bond film, always have been. And here I got my cake and ate it, managed to do an X-Men movie, and a Bond thing, and a [John] Frankenheimer political thriller at the same time. But this process has been nuts.

As you know, I love Bond movies! I grew up watching them and that’s one franchise I’ll always have appetite for. So I take it as good news that almost every review I glance through have mentioned the Bond comparison… one reviewer even said that it could pass for a Connery-era 007 spy thriller. I think Fassbender is unofficially the frontrunner for the next Bond, even Vaughn himself mentioned that in the same interview (note: he’s directed Daniel Craig in Layer Cake). Having seen Stardust and Kick-Ass, I have faith in the British director’s ability to deliver on this promise. With Singer’s backing, I expect to see a return to form of this franchise.


Btw, have you seen this inventive (and expensive!) marketing promos FOX is doing lately? FirstShowing reported this yesterday that the studio has hired planes to fly around and make giant X-Men logos in Southern California to generate the buzz. Apparently it worked as now people have been posting photos of them like the one below on Facebook and there’s even a YouTube video of it. Pretty cool stuff!


So who’s with me? Anybody else seeing this one on Friday?

Weekend Roundup and The Way Back review

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Hope everyone’s had a lovely weekend. I definitely enjoyed my 3-day weekend though it sure went by real fast. I took a much-needed break from my computer which including blogging and reading other people’s blogs, though I had planned on seeing more movies but only managed to see two of them. One of them is a repeat as one of my good friends hadn’t seen THOR and since we quite enjoyed it the first time around, we saw it again but in 2D (which looks just as good as the 3D one). I still like it the second time around, and I absolutely LOVE the music. In fact the soundtrack is playing right as I’m writing this. After seeing the post-credit scene, I’m excited (mostly out of sheer curiosity) to see The Avengers! Check out this fan-art poster already circulating online, I think it’s a pretty decent Photoshop job.

The other movie I saw was The Way Back. I posted the poster and trailer last year and remember being really intrigued by the story, which was inspired by real events. I’ll get to my short review in a moment but first let me just make a couple of announcements. My good pal and fellow cinephile Paula G. has joined FC as a regular contributor! Please extend your warm welcome to Paula and visit her own page on FC to find out a bit more about her. As always, you can visit each FC contributor’s page by clicking the Contributors tab at the top of the homepage. I’m so excited to have her on board as she’ll introduce a new blog series as well as reviews of various movies.

The second announcement is that the highly addictive and fun Anomalous Material’s Hollywood Fantasy Draft has begun, this time in its third installment! Last week, I spent a few hours drafting my cast for my next movie pitch along with other fine movie bloggers, click on the link to see which actors/directors we’ve selected for our fantasy movie. Look for my dream cast post this week ahead of the actual pitch itself that will go up next Monday, June 6.

Now, on to the review…

THE WAY BACK(2010)

This Peter Weir film is inspired by real events, loosely based on The Long Walk written by a Polish POW in the Soviet Gulag (labor prison camp). The film tells the story of about a half dozen men who escaped the Siberian prison in 1941.

But the escape itself was just the beginning, the much more grueling task is ahead of them as they’d have to find a refuge in a land that’s not yet conquered by the Communist regime. That means covering 4000 miles of treacherous trek that includes the Gobi desert and the Himalayas mountain on foot! If you’re doing a marathon or triathlon this Summer, you might want to watch this film for inspiration… whatever journey you think seem impossible to conquer will undoubtedly pale in comparison to even half of what these people had to go through. Check out the map of their journey from Google map. Seems too good to be true, isn’t it? Well, again it’s said it’s inspired by true events, so we don’t really know what the actual length of the walk really happened.

The time in the prison itself felt rather fast, perhaps even a bit rushed. Presumably because the filmmaker would rather focus on the harrowing journey, which naturally is the heart of the film. The small band of escapees are led by a mild-mannered Polish man Janusz  (Jim Sturgess) who was accused of spying, his own wife turned him in by way of torture. In the camp, he met an American transportation engineer Mr. Smith (Ed Harris) and a tough Russian criminal (Colin Farrell), among others, who later became part of the seven-band of people who made the prison escape. Australian director Peter Weir always aimed for realism in his films, so the film looks appropriately gritty and somber. The actors speak using the accent of their characters’ nationalities, supported by subtitles, which I think is an effective way to get the audience absorbed in the environment.

The acting is really good all around, British young talent Sturgess is quite compelling as the kind-hearted Janusz, whilst Colin Farrell stole scenes in the relatively small screen time he’s in as the brutish Russian criminal who isn’t exactly a people person. It’s quite problematic when you’ve got a small band who must stick together to survive, but he later proves to be a loyal man and actually pretty funny as well, I grow fond of his character as the film progresses. Ed Harris is someone you can always rely on to provide screen gravitas in anything he’s in, and he’s perfectly cast as the weary and cynical Mr. Smith. Speaking of reliability, 17-year-old Saiorse Ronan once again impresses as a runaway girl Irena, who joins the group midway through the journey. In fact, it’s Irena who lets us in on the back story of each escapee, providing us some of the most memorable and heart-wrenching scenes. The other lesser-known actors are pretty good as well, especially Zoran, the Yugoslav accountant who provides the much-needed comic relief.

Another strength of the film is the cinematography by Russell Boyd, whose attention to detail to the overwhelmingly beautiful yet harsh scenery adds so much to the film. National Geographic Society is one of the film’s sponsors, so I guess that’s to be expected. This movie is impressive in many levels, but in the end, I didn’t find it as engaging as the previous Peter Weir’s film I saw, Master and Commander (view trailer). Don’t get me wrong, I’d still give this one high marks, I’m just surprised I wasn’t as emotionally-invested in the characters as I thought I would considering what they had gone through. Nonetheless, it’s a worthy survival tale that paints a convincing narration about human endurance.

4 out of 5 reels

Any thoughts about the movies I mentioned above?  What movie(s) did you get to see this weekend?

THIS JUST IN! First look at Pixar’s first female protagonist in ‘BRAVE’

Finally! After releasing a dozen feature films with all male protagonists, Pixar’s 13th feature film will have a female heroine! And not just an ordinary girl, she is a Scottish princess called Mérida.


Photo courtesy of BleedingCool

Ooooh, a spunky redhead who rivals Robin Hood with her bow and arrow? I like her already! 😀 There’s a lot of milestones associated with this project… this is going to be Pixar’s first fairy tale story, conceived by animation filmmaker Brenda Chapman who was originally going to be Pixar’s first director, but now she’s listed as co-director with Mark Andrews. Chapman envisioned the concept to be in the vein of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.

Here’s the premise per Wikipedia:

Brave is set in the mystical Scottish Highlands, where Mérida is the princess of a kingdom ruled by King Fergus and Queen Elinor. An unruly daughter and an accomplished archer, Mérida one day defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to the kingdom. In an attempt to set things right, Mérida seeks out an eccentric old Wise Woman and is granted an ill-fated wish. Also figuring into Mérida’s quest — and serving as comic relief — are the kingdom’s three lords: the enormous Lord MacGuffin, the surly Lord Macintosh, and the disagreeable Lord Dingwall.

Back in March, EW.com has released some concept art from the project, such as the two below:

The voice cast is appropriately Scottish: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson. First reaction: Where is Sean Connery and Gerry Butler? 😀 Glasgow-born MacDonald replaced Reese Witherspoon due to scheduling conflict and I must say I’m glad she did. A Scottish princess ought to have an authentic Scottish accent! Oh, there is also a bit of a Harry Potter cast reunion as Emma Thompson, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane will also provide voices for the film.

I pretty much love anything from Pixar, I think the only one I haven’t seen is Cars, which interestingly enough is the lowest scoring Pixar feature on RottenTomatoes (which is still high at 74%). That is amazing that for the past 16 years, the studio manages to keep a stellar record of producing quality films embraced by critics and audience alike. I have a feeling I’d have to update my Top Five Pixar Characters list after watching this one.

BRAVE is set for release in Summer 2012 and the teaser trailer will be released along with Cars 2 next month. I really can’t wait for this!


What do you think, folks? Are you looking forward to this latest Pixar original feature?

Guest Post: The rise and fall of Kevin Costner’s career

With the news that Costner will play Jonathan Kent in the new Superman film, Man of Steel, I thought I should write up about his rise to super-stardom and his fall from that status.

You see I never thought of Costner as good actor and yet I’ve seen every single film of his from 1985 to 2003, starting with Silverado and end with Open Range. It’s kind of ironic since both the first and last film I saw him are both Westerns.

To me, Costner was never a strong leading man, even though a lot of his films in the late 80s and early 90s were box office hits. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of his early films, The Untouchables, Field of Dreams, Revenge and Dances with Wolves were quite good. In those films, he just never stood out; I felt like he was there but not really ‘carried’ the movie but somehow he made it worked. Especially in Revenge, I always thought had someone like Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise starred in it, the film could’ve been even better.

I’ll list the films that made him a superstar and films that ruined his career as a leading man. Here goes:

  1. The Untouchables
    This was his first starring role in a big summer movie, co-starring with Robert De Niro and Sean Connery. The movie was a big hit at the time and catapulted Costner into an A-list leading man status. Looking back, this was a big gamble for Paramount, having a relatively unknown actor as the leading man for a summer film. Of course it paid off for both the studio and Costner, it didn’t hurt that they surrounded him with veterans like Connery and De Niro.
  2. No Way Out
    This film also came out in the summer of 1987, two months after The Untouchables, in fact. Even though it wasn’t a huge box office hit, it cemented Costner as a sex symbol to a lot of his female fans. I saw this film when I was in my early teens and I fell in love with Sean Young, who’s quite sexy in the film.
  3. Bull Durham
    Now that he’s an elite leading man, Costner decided to tackle romantic comedy and his first baseball theme film. This film was released in the summer of 1988 and again it was a box office hit. I didn’t particular like this movie, I thought the chemistry between Costner and Susan Sarandon didn’t really click.
  4. Field of Dreams
    Costner decided to do another baseball theme film and I thought this one was much better than Bull Durham. Again this one was a box office success and Costner can pretty much do whatever he wanted in the Hollywood.
  5. Revenge
    After two lighter films, Costner decided to star in a dark thriller and this was his first box office misfire since becoming a Hollywood star. I did like this film but I thought Costner was wrong for the part. He just wasn’t strong enough for this role and apparently many people agreed since the film barely made more than $20mil at the box office. Also, I think maybe because of the film’s violent content, it might’ve turned off many of his fans.
  6. Dances with Wolves
    He turned down the role of Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October so he could star and direct this Western. Well, I guess it was great a move on his part because the film made close to $200 mil at box the office and won him an Oscar for best director. (Scorsese should’ve won that year, but that’s another debate at another time.)
  7. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
    By this time, Costner was on the top of world and it seemed everything he touched turned to gold. This film came out in the summer of 1991 and again it was a huge hit.
  8. JFK
    In this film he teamed up with another A-lister, Oliver Stone, the film did pretty well in theaters and also got several Oscar nominations. I thought this was a very good movie, just a tad too long in my opinion.
  9. The Bodyguard
    After several serious films, he decided to come back and make a romantic-themed film. He teamed up with Whitney Houston (she was a huge pop singer at the time) and of course the film was a box office gold. I really hated this movie, the chemistry between Costner and Houston just didn’t click and the plot was more of a TV movie of the week than a big screen film.
  10. A Perfect World
    So after a few box office hits, he decided to team up with another A-lister, Clint Eastwood and make this film. I believe this is the film that started his downfall as a box office leading man. The film didn’t do well in theater and it didn’t receive any praises by the critics. I’m sure the studio executives probably thought, hey we got Eastwood who’s just won an Oscar for Unforgiven and a young hot box office star, it’s a sure box office gold. Well it didn’t turn out that way and the film got zero Oscar nominations. Personally I thought the film was okay, the plot’s really uneven and again Costner just wasn’t a strong enough leading man to carry the film.
  11. Wyatt Earp
    After the disappointment of A Perfect World, Costner’s back doing a Western. This time he played the title character and it’s a big budgeted summer film. Unfortunately most people have already seen a similar film a few months earlier, Tombstone. So this movie barely made back it’s $60-mil plus budget and again Costner’s bankable leading man status went down fast. Now I actually like this film better than Tombstone, I know I can’t believe it either, I really dug the whole back story of the Earps family and I thought Dennis Quaid played Doc Holliday in a more realistic way than Val Kilmer’s version.
  12. Waterworld
    Even though his last two films were box office duds, Universal still believed Costner was a bankable star, so they greenlit this $100 mil plus action/sci-fi film. The film was in trouble right from the beginning, Lawrence Fishburn left the project a few weeks before shooting starts and they had to scramble to find his replacement. Dennis Hopper ended up with the role. Then just a few weeks into shooting, a hurricane destroyed the sets and so they had to rebuild them. By now the film’s budget had ballooned up to $150 mil, some even said the film’s final budget was somewhere between $170 to $200 mil, this was the mid-90s when that kind of numbers was unheard of.

    Then towards the end of shooting, director Kevin Reynolds and the studio people were in disagreement over the tone of the film. The studio wanted him to cut down the violence so it could get a PG-13 rating; Reynolds on the other hand wanted a more gritty and violent film. Costner stepped in and sided with the studio and Reynolds left the film before editing even started. He still received a directing credit even though Costner finished the movie in post-production. The film opened in the summer of 1995 and of course it tanked big time and pretty much ruined Costner’s cred as a bankable leading man.
  13. Tin Cup
    After a string of box office misfires, Costner decided to go back and starred in another romantic comedy. The film opened in the summer of 1996 and it did a pretty decent business at the box office. I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit, probably because I was madly in love with Rene Russo at the time and not because of Costner. A lot of people in Hollywood around this time still think that he’s a bankable star. Which explained why his next film got made.
  14. The Postman
    Warner Bros. somehow believed that Costner could still open a movie with just his name alone, why else would they give him $80 mil to shoot this movie, right? This film was based on some little-known novel of the same name, which I had never heard of the book until they announced the movie. I assumed Warner Bros. thought Costner can make another Dances with Wolves since they scheduled the film to open on Christmas Day of 1997.

    Well, a few months prior to the film’s release date, the trailer was shown and a lot of people in theaters around the country laughed out loud at the title and the test screening didn’t go too well either. A friend of mine got selected to the test screening at the Mall of America theaters and he told me to stay away from it at all cost. I didn’t listen and went to see the movie anyway; after I saw it I wish I’d listened to him. A few months before the film open, it got such a bad word of mouth that Warner Bros. decided to not to even spend big money promoting it. The film made about $17 mil and pretty much destroyed Costner’s career as a bankable leading man.

After The Postman, Costner made a few films with similar genre that made him a big star in the first place but none of them were big hits. By the late 90s and 2000s, leading men weren’t really necessary to open films anymore, people went to see big films for only certain genres. Of course, some big-named stars could still open films on their names alone, i.e. Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Will Smith and Tom Cruise, just to name the few. But around this time, it’s clear that Costner is not in that club anymore. As I mentioned earlier, the last film of his that I saw was Open Range and I thought it was great. It didn’t wow many people so it didn’t really help Costner’s career at all.

I’m curious to see how big a screen time he’ll get for the new Superman film, it’s hard to believe how his career has fallen so fast as it did. [rtm’s note: Deadline has just reported yesterday that he’s working on a TV miniseries for the History channel]


What do you think of Kevin Costner? Are you a fan or do you feel the same way as I do that he’s just not a strong leading man?

Happy Birthday Cillian Murphy! 35 reasons I’m a fan of the Irish actor

A few weeks ago, my friend Novia from the awesome blog Polychrome Interest asked me and a few other bloggers to write a tribute to her all-time favorite actor. Of course I agree to do it. I like Cillian, he’s one of my top ten favorite Irish actors whom I first noticed in Batman Begins as the creepy Jonathan Crane, a.k.a Scarecrow. I have seen about a half dozen of his movies since and he continues to impress me. So for his 35th birthday, here are a list of 35 reasons why I’m a big fan:

(Facts obtained from IMDb and Wikipedia)

  1. I love that his name is unique… there’s no other actor w/ his name in Hollywood. Btw, his first name pronounced “Kill-ian” not “Sil-ian”
  2. He’s got a nice, deep voice… always a plus in any man
  3. Cillian’s got the world’s most gorgeous piercing blue eyes ever…
  4. … not to mention the enviable chiseled cheek bones
  5. On top of being so easy on the eyes, he’s an intelligent and talented actor…
  6. … if I were to use three words to describe his acting ability, it’d be versatile, charismatic & daring
  7. He’s a family man… he’s been married since 2004 and lives in London with his wife and two sons
  8. I love that he puts his family first… it’s said that he does not want to move to Los Angeles because of the cultural differences and distance from his family
  9. Always watchable even in a small cameo in Tron: Legacy, if only he had more screen time in that movie
  10. Seems like a sweet and romantic guy… I read that he proposed to his then longtime-girlfriend while hill-walking in Ireland
  11. He starred in three really good sci-fi movies I like: 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Inception
  12. His great iconic shots in 28 Days Later… such as this one:
  13. He strikes me as a down-to-earth guy who goes into acting for the craft, not for the fame and money…
  14. He’s not a primadona. He doesn’t have a stylist or a personal publicist, travels without an entourage, and has said that he has no interest in the celebrity scene
  15. “I’d probably have been wealthier if I had stayed with law, but pretty miserable doing it,” he’s been quoted as saying. I respect people who take a leap of faith to pursue their dreams
  16. There’s an air of mystery about him that I find intriguing
  17. Just like my favorite actor Gerry Butler, he was planning a career in law until he discovered the world of acting
  18. He’s quite the chameleon, even able to pull off a role as a cross-dresser in Breakfast on Pluto
  19. Love his intense but soulful performance in The Edge of Love with Keira Knightley
  20. He’s quite the linguist, fluent in French and Irish, as well as English of course
  21. He has a knack for accent. His American and British accent comes out natural and convincing…
  22. … yet his native Irish lilt is darling!
  23. He’s obviously got a strong work ethic on top of his massive talent, as big directors like Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle cast him repeatedly in their movies
  24. He’s got stage-cred on top of his Hollywood career, he’s done more than a dozen theater work and has worked with Tony-winning directors, such as Garry Hynes and Neil LaBute
  25. He looks good with glasses… especially as Jonathan Crane in Batman Begins… I like cute guys in glasses 🙂
  26. Men who are musicals appeal to me… and Cillian played in a rock band The Sons of Mr. Greengenes, named after a Frank Zappa’s song
  27. Equally convincing as a sociopath (in Red Eye) and as a hapless guy on the run from zombies (28 Days Later)
  28. Though he’s starred in highly successful Hollywood blockbusters, he still balances his resumes with indie fares, such as Perrier’s Bounty with Brendan Gleeson (his co-star in 28 Days Later)
  29. Awesome in Inception, his scenes with Pete Postlethwaite as his father was heart-wrenching
  30. He may be known mostly for his villainous roles, but still he’s not typecast in those roles…
  31. He’s intelligent enough to pull off a character of a brilliant physicist in Sunshine
  32. His role Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow is one of the most memorable in Chris Nolan’s Batman films
  33. Despite all the kudos and awards he’s received, he remains humble and always have a positive thing to say about his co-stars
  34. He doesn’t forget his Irish heritage and where he came from … he recently gave an interview in his hometown of Cork, Ireland.
    And last but not least,
  35. I made new friends because of him… Novia found my blog through my top 10 Irish actor post and we’ve become friends ever since. Oh, did you know she’s from my hometown Jakarta? 😀

    So thanks Cillian and I wish you a wonderful and blessed birthday!

So what are your thoughts on Mr. Murphy? Please join me in wishing him a happy birthday or share your favorite Cillian Murphy role(s).

Weekend Roundup: Five Minutes of Heaven and JJ Abram’s Star Trek

I hope y’all had a lovely and storm-free (weather or otherwise) weekend. Boy, the weather’s been strange this weekend, it couldn’t decide whether it wants to be rainy or sunny, so it alternated back and forth practically every half an hour! There’s even some strong storms hitting our neck of the woods, even a tornado touched down last night about 20 miles north of my house! I think some people in North Minneapolis are still without power now, man it certainly makes me feel blessed to wake up with a roof over my head.

Hemsworth as George Kirk

Well, we had planned to see Thor again on Saturday with some friends but didn’t end up going. We did see a Chris Hemsworth movie though, JJ Abram’s Star Trek, well he’s got a much smaller part in it as Capt. Kirk’s heroic dad.

Apparently the latest Pirates of the Carribean movie ruled box office again. I actually had the [dis]pleasure of seeing the last installment before this one, can’t remember what it’s called, it was playing on TV when we were at our friend’s house. It is mind-boggling to me how this movie could be such a smashing success. There’s sooo much going on but yet there is very little story, let alone character development. Things seem to be happening at random for no apparent reason and by the end of it, we all just looked at each other and said, ‘just what in the world was all of that all about?’ It was utter rubbish I’d say, Johnny Depp was the only saving grace as Jack Sparrow, but still not enough to make it bearable.

Anyway, now on to the two real good movies I did see this weekend:

Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

When I saw this description on Netflix, I was immediately intrigued to add it to my queue:

A powerful meditation on guilt, forgiveness and reconciliation, this potent drama stars Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt as two men on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political struggle: one a killer, the other the brother of the man he killed. In crafting his keenly sensitive film, director Oliver Hirschbiegel eschews the predictable to deliver a work of tremendous insight and emotional complexity.

It’s a relatively short film, clocking in at 89 minutes, but man does it pack an emotional punch! The film starts out in flashback mode of the two main characters in a small town in Ireland at the height of the region’s civil war. They’re at the opposite end of the spectrum and one fateful night, their path is about to cross in the most tragic ways. It’s an amazingly effective set up to the scenario we see decades later, the day when  the two now grown-up men are about to face one another.

Both Neeson and Nesbitt are fantastic in this character-driven drama. Neeson as Alistair (speaking in his native Irish brogue) is a picture of inner turmoil – he may seem calm and composed but inside he’s a wreck, forever tormented by the sin he committed decades earlier. Nesbitt’s Joe Griffin is the same way, as his mother somehow blamed him for his brother’s death, he carried that insurmountable guilt with him all his life. There are so much emotions going on in the scenes leading up to their meeting, but amazingly, despite the nail-biting intensity, there are still elements of humor infused in them. There are so many mixed emotions you don’t know whether to laugh or cry at times, but throughout you really feel the anguish of both of them.

I really appreciate the poignant message against violence and terrorism. Alistair confesses repeatedly during his counseling sessions that it’s not only the victim who suffer greatly from the ordeal, but the perpetrator is also forever scarred by it and the psychological toll can be unbearable. And revenge isn’t the answer either… “My five minutes of heaven, how can that not be good for me?!” Griffin screamed, rationalizing his vengeful plan. But the filmmaker wants us to think that only through letting go, and perhaps even forgiveness, that one can achieve inner peace.

4Reels


Star Trek (2009)

The crew of SS Enterprise

When I saw this at the theater, I remember how much I really enjoyed it. I’m not a Trekkie mind you, so I don’t know all the details about any of the characters other than knowing the names of the actors who played Capt. Kirk and Spock in the original TV series. So it’s a good thing this JJ Abrams’ feature film is an origins story, going back to the history of the USS Enterprise’s crews and how they got there.

The original and the new Spock

And what an entertaining journey it is! Much like X-Men: First Class where there are many characters involved but the main story really boils down to Professor X and Magneto, the story here is centers on the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are both perfectly cast as the eventual BFF. Pine has the wit, swagger and rebellious streak as the inherently smug but lovable Kirk, whilst Quinto is appropriately calm and unruffled as the ultra-intelligent half Vulcan/half human who feels trapped between the two worlds. The exchange between the two characters are the highlights of the movie, including the Leonard Nimoy as the elder Spock. (Thanks to Gowiththeflow blog for the two Spocks photo)

But just like any massive ship, it can only function properly when all the crews does its job well. Abrams runs a tight ship with this movie, the ensemble cast work nicely together and make for an exceptional team. My favorite New Zealander Karl Urban is awesome as the amusingly grumpy Dr. McCoy, his screen presence is undeniable, more than capable for more leading man roles. I like Zoe Saldana as Uhura as well, she’s definitely got the ‘it’ factor and has the sex appeal without looking like a bimbo. Oh, and Bruce Greenwood as the wise Capt. Pike is wonderful as well, he is a great character actor whose presence is always welcomed in any movie. Eric Bana is unrecognizable as the villain, playing a Romulan creature with a personal vendetta against the Vulcans and humans. He was decent, but he doesn’t seem menacing enough. Simon Pegg also does a memorable turn as Scotty, he might have overdone his Scottish accent a bit but still his bit parts are a hoot.

This movie is massively entertaining from start to finish, just don’t think too much about the plot. It’s technically impressive as well, no wonder it nabbed four Oscar nominations including sound editing and visual effects (it deservedly won an Oscar for Best Makeup). I’d think this movie would satisfy any Trekkie out there. Even I get a bit giddy when Spock did the Vulcan salute and said, ‘Live long and prosper.’

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So what movies did you watch this weekend? If you’ve seen either one of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or! Congrats to 2011 Cannes Film Festival Winners!

What an interesting journey Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life has been at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. Just a week ago, it was booed in its first screening (read the story on Entertainment Weekly), but today it’s won the top honors the Palme d’Or for Best Picture! This isn’t the first time he nabbed top honors from Cannes, he actually won a directing prize for Days of Heaven back in 1979.

Apparently Malick is notoriously press-shy and is often absent from film festivals or even film premieres. This time is no different, so producers Dede Gardner and Bill Pohlad were on hand to receive the awards. “Why isn’t he here? I’m not saying it’s an easy question to answer, but he personally is a very humble guy and a very shy guy,” Pohlad said after the awards ceremony (per Washington Post). “He just very sincerely wants the work to speak for itself.” Minnesota-native Pohlad was actually at the Twin Cities Film Festival (TCFF) last year to promote the CIA drama Fair Game which concluded the festival. I’ve mentioned in my coverage of the event that he was producing this epic drama under his production company Apparition.

Check out the trailer below if you haven’t already:

After reading the reviews from Cannes, I must say I’m even more intrigued by this film (it’s one of my most anticipated movies this year). I came across this ScreenDaily article while checking out those reviews and found out that Malick is a devout Christian (Episcopalian to be specific) and according to Martin Sheen’s Wiki page, had a big influence in restoring the actor’s faith while filming Badlands. I guess I’m not terribly surprised by that and it certainly makes me like him more. I kinda thought that Days of Heaven had some Biblical allegory in it as this article suggests, so I wonder if the reason for the boos at Cannes is that the audience aren’t keen on the deeply spiritual aspects of the film? I won’t be surprised if that’s the case, either.

Anyway, here are the other major winners at the festival (per Yahoo News), chosen by a jury headed by Robert De Niro:

  • Best Director: Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive
    I haven’t seen any of the Danish director’s work (still have to check out Valhalla Rising). His star is definitely on the rise and perhaps this movie will make him a household name? The story is certainly intriguing: A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong. It also has two super talented actors: Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Reportedly Gosling handpicked Refn to direct the movie.

  • Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
    Awesome! I just put up the trailer last week and I must say Dujardin’s performance is a must-see. I hope this silent movie will find a decent audience here in the States.
  • Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
    Happy for Kirsten but I don’t really care for the movie nor the filmmaker… as Castor reported last Thursday, Cannes’ organizers banned Melancholia‘s director Lars Von Trier from the festival for his remark about sympathizing with Hitler. I must say I’m glad they did, though I doubt he learned his lesson.

Big congrats to all the winners!


Well, what are your thoughts about the festival winners and specifically Tree of Life? Are you looking forward to seeing the film?