Weekend Viewing Roundup: Inception & You’ve Got Mail

Happy Monday everyone! It’s back-to-work for most of you but I’m still on holiday until this Wednesday night and I’m taking the entire week off, yay! 😀

I’m going to keep this short as I’m typing this after midnight already but I just miss blogging so much I figure I’ll fit a quick post in. Well suffice to say I didn’t have time for a cinema visit but we’ve got tons of family time so of course it’s all good. I did manage to see two somewhat oldies-but-goodies movies the first day we arrived in Seattle. We just went through my sister’s DVD collection and decided to see Inception in the afternoon and then You’ve Got Mail after dinner. Yeah I know, couldn’t be more different right? But after being fed the brain-twisting fare courtesy of Chris Nolan, we just wanted something light and sweet.

It’s my third viewing of Inception and I find myself still engrossed in the story and the awesome actors Nolan has assembled, especially Tom Hardy in his scene-stealing role as the thief/forger Eames. I had written my full review over a year ago, and in it I said I was quite mystified for a good portion of the movie. Well, glad to say this time I finally had a full grasp of the film and by that I mean, I discovered a lot of clues I didn’t realize before.

I’m sure most of you have seen it by now but if you haven’t consider this a SPOILER ALERT. Like many viewers, I kept pondering about that ending… is it real or is it still part of Cobb’s dream? Well, apparently the key to ‘getting’ just what’s going on in the beginning of the film where Cobb visits Saito as an old man has to do with Saito and Fischer being shot. Someone else in the dream has to descend even farther down the layers within the dream to ‘rescue’ them from being ‘lost in oblivion’ if you will. So yeah, I guess that ending of Cobb finally being reunited with his kids is not as ambiguous as I had thought! That was quite an a-ha! moment for me, though most of you clever sort probably have realized this the first time around 😀

I definitely have a renewed appreciation for Nolan’s masterpiece, no wonder Stevee @ Cinematic Paradox listed 52 reasons she loved this movie, I’m sure between the both of us we can come up w/ more!

You’ve Got Mail (1998) is one of my favorite rom-coms from the 90s. Yes of course the whole Internet chat technology is so dated now but I find that the cute story and chemistry of the lead holds up. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks had starred in another rom-com Sleepless in Seattle five years prior but they shared far more screen time in this and that’s a good thing as they are great together on screen. I think this marked the third time they worked together since Joe Versus The Volcano in 1990.

I know the story is implausible and some schmaltzy-ness is to be expected, but I love this movie! Meg Ryan — and her haircut – is just as cute as a button and Tom Hanks is at his most affable. From the time they ‘meet cute’ where she yelled at him for taking all the caviar “That caviar is a garnish!”, you know they’re gonna end up together. Parker Posey and Greg Kinnear are quite memorable as well as their respective significant others who are obviously not right for Hanks/Ryan as they’re ‘destined’ to be together 😉

I also love Hanks’ rapport with comedian Dave Chappelle as his BFF, that part where Hanks asked him to spy on his blind date who of course turns out to be Ryan’s character. “If you don’t like Kathleen Kelly, you ain’t gonna like this one,” ahah. Say what you will about this one but I think Nora Ephron’s got things right from the start by casting Hanks and Ryan together again.

This movie makes me really want to see The Shop Around the Corner with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart, which is the inspiration for this movie.

Last Saturday we went to Multnomah Falls in Oregon, a few hours drive from Seattle. Apparently that waterfall was used in the first Twilight movie, they even had an Experience Twilight tour! Anyway, look for a waterfall-related post later in the week 😀

So what did you see this Thanksgiving weekend? Thoughts on either one of these flicks, please supply those in the comments.


Guest Post: Cold of Metal, But Warm of (Animated) Heart

Special thanks to Le0pard13 (aka Michael Alatorre) – the sharp-witted blogger of It Rains … You Get Wet | Âť Follow Michael on Twitter

I’ve gone to my fair share of animated movies in my lifetime. However, I have to confess when I’ve taken my children to see these, sometimes they (my kids) are really just around for the ride. I’m really the one going to see the feature. And with Toy Story 3 completing the trilogy with a high note last year, I don’t think my children could be more excited and moved than their old man by the time the end credits arrived. For all the years since I was the child, I continue to be drawn to the classic Disney animation pictures of old, and the Pixar (and other modern animation studio) films of late. Some of these, in fact, do not take a backseat to any of the great live-action films I’ve watched. They remain at the forefront in my library collection, as well.

Last year, I discovered that my friend Pop Culture Nerd, fellow PCN-reader (and artist) Shell Sherree, and I share an absolute fondness for a certain animation character and film. Additionally, not too long ago my kids and I revisited another cherished animated feature (easily our umpteenth viewing), which caused something to finally dawn on me. The pair of animated pictures, in question, has more in common than I originally thought. They share some special properties, I believe, even though you could say The Iron Giant and WALL•E are on the flip side of each other in the sci-fi genre.

The Iron Giant

Directed by Brad Bird and released in early August 1999, this animated film is based on a 1968 novel by the late-British poet laureate Ted Hughes. As it happens, the author also was involved in its development and gave approval on the film’s screenplay by Tim McCanlies. Warner Bros. Animation (the successor company to WB Cartoons) produced the film. The feature received rave reviews by critics, which for some unknown reason only seemed to doom it regionally at the box office. Since it didn’t even make back half (barely over $23 Million) of it production budget ($48 Million), it was considered a failure by the studio in the U.S. market. Still, it was a worldwide success since it grossed $103 Million overall. Many media analysts at the time surmised that the WB didn’t know what it had on its hands and mis-marketed the film… big time. The subsequent quick release to VHS tape (remember those?) and disc late in ’99 began its steady upward acceptance among sci-fi and animation fans. It quickly reached cult hit status, and is now thought of as a masterpiece of story and animation.

Synopsis: in October 1957, as the world grows ever deeper into the Cold War with the successful orbit of Sputnik, a giant metal machine falls out of the sky. And while one small town in Maine begins to experience strange and unexplained events, it will come down to a nine-year boy by the name of Hogarth to find the answers.


Released in June 2008, this movie was directed by Andrew Stanton, who also came up with the original story, along with Pete Docter. Furthermore, Stanton performed double-duty on the film as he co-wrote the screenplay with Jim Reardon. This computer-generated film was produced by what still is considered the leading animation studio currently, Pixar. WALL•E was the final story that came from the now fabled brainstorming lunch between Stanton, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Joe Ranft in 1994. The films A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo were the first of the films to come out of that extraordinary group discussion. As had been expected from this studio by just about everyone, the film opened to critical and box office success from day one of its release. It grossed over $223 million in the U.S. and over $534 million worldwide. The film easily surpassed its hefty $180 million production budget. Its subsequent release in November of that year to DVD/Blu-ray Disc only continued its success with audiences (I have to admit, my family also has an soft spot for the BURN•E short on the disc).

Synopsis: in the distant future, since the Earth’s resources have been depleted and ecology ruined by corporate profit and neglect, only a few creatures inhabit the now desolate and deserted planet. The lone organic and artificial life forms remaining will unexpectedly greet a sleek, but formidable, reconnaissance robot sent to Earth to find proof that life is once again sustainable.

Why They Are Distinct Opposites

What is immediately apparent to anyone who views both films is that each production visually reflects their studio’s distinctly dissimilar technical animation philosophies. Pixar is very much a CGI animation house in their product look and feel, while Warner Bros. Animation films retain the classic cartoon appearance (for the most part). The late Steve Jobs-led studio, Pixar, is a relatively young company so it’s no surprise their work is entirely state-of-the-art computer-generated animation. Compare that to the venerable Warner Bros. studio, its name, and its long-time traditional cartoon pedigree with its Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of yesteryear. Yet, WB’s mid-line modern hits, and the DC Comics animation film stable of recent times means it remains a player in this market. Truth be told, there were small segments in The Iron Giant where CGI is well employed. But overall, the two films look nothing like each other; with the exception that each remains a film of moving color drawings.

The main characters themselves are also quite the contrast. On one side, you have the diminutive, but long lived, Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class machine (WALL•E) — which has known only one home its entire existence. On the other, it’s hard to see it match up with the towering bi-pedal, metal-munching behemoth which lands on this planet in Brad Bird’s fore-running film. Story-wise, The Iron Giant‘s account is told through the eyes of the small town inhabitants, while WALL•E’s tale is his to tell. Additionally, the giant metal creature has no name or descriptor that can be turned into a clever acronym… or a readily determinable purpose, unlike his compact counterpart. Nor does the colossus have a memory (again, as opposed to our little load lifter friend, who practically lives byway of his collections).

As well, the time periods for each of these films differ dramatically. The Iron Giant touches down during the paranoia of the late 50’s, at the end of the second Red Scare chapter where security and vigilance were paramount. And, where Communism was to be feared. Measure that against WALL•E’s future time interval (in the year 2805) where the aftereffects of Capitalism and carefree, wasteful consumption have already reaped a toll on the third rock from the Sun. Here, there’s no one left to convert or subvert. Everyone has long gone, and left a mess behind. Additionally, WALL•E’s visual sensors offer a telling perspective. Thus, it would seem that they (the characters and films) have little in common. However, I submit that appearances are deceiving.

Why They Are Very Much Alike

Key point: no one (real or artificial) who comes in contact with either of these leading characters is ever the same again.

First off, each of these characters is prominently non-human. However, through the course of their stories, they each attain an almost spiritual, aware state. Each embodies, for lack of a better word, nobility in their films. It’s almost insulting to refer to them as achieving a human-like quality since both of the underlying science-fiction narratives take careful aim in criticizing the less than praiseworthy aspects and traits of said species.

For example in The Iron Giant, it is our tendency to overreact based (and perhaps fed on) by fear and mistrust (in this case, spurred on by controlling, authoritative segments of our society) that’s examined. It may not be a sin, but it seems criminal that this cycles back on us with almost clock-like regularity. Hence, Iron Giant‘s story bears repeating. By the way, look closely and you’ll see the Sputnik satellite appears in both films.

In WALL•E‘s prospective future, while you have technological proficiency, it is corporate dogma and malfeasance that are on prominent display (one only needs to look at the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to see how it applies to current times). In the film, the questioning of authority (in response to such wrongdoing) garners a regulated response to sweep such infractions under the rug in automaton fashion (where have we seen that before?). The challenging of convention, and those in charge of stewarding the people and planet respectively, is an underlying motivation in both films. Moreover, both principal characters represent the mechanized tools of their creators — they are the byproducts of genus and scientific success over time. WALL•E and the Iron Giant are utilitarian mechanisms almost in the extreme (with the quality and capacity of self-repair being major).

However, as the story (and audience) reaches the climax in both films, each machine life form evolves into something substantially more than their originators intended. Director Stanton said it best of his film, but it really applies equally to WALL•E and The Iron Giant:

“… irrational love defeats life’s programming”

At the core of these two specific animation films lies a very similar and tender essence. And, it is through the deuteragonist in each of these films where they locate their story’s heart. It is situated with the 9 year-old Hogarth Hughes in The Iron Giant. And it is literally within EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), the sleek and powerful state-of-the-art robotic probe with her role in WALL•E. Brad Bird (who’d would go on to join and develop The The Incredibles for Pixar years later), like Stanton, pushes his film in an identical open-minded (but touching) direction — even though it becomes clear in the story that The Iron Giant was originally intended as a weapon… a rather powerful one. But, it is through Hogarth, after befriending the metal titan, that the creature learns the real-life meaning of friendship and empathy. His revealing use of comic books (featuring Superman and his antithesis robot counterpart) brings an unexpected insight for the metal being. It learns that it can instead choose what it wants to be. The Giant’s choice — it’s not just about being a gun — at the end recognizes all of that.

WALL•E on the other hand has evolved after 700 years of labor into a sentient entity. One that now knows how alone it really is since it is the last of its kind (on the now abandoned Earth). Making a friend of the eternal cockroach only goes so far, it seems. Yet, it is EVE’s introduction into the environment that sparks the chain reaction that liberates and literally saves WALL•E, and humankind. But, it still takes WALL•E’s selflessness to overcome the ingrained ways of others at almost every turn in the tale. For example, it is EVE that learns to find her capacity to feel (beyond her programming) through WALL•E’s acts of kindness and undying love for her (and her directive). If you’re not touched by each of these animation stories (like PCN, Shell, my kids and I), it’s doubtful this post will reach and convince you otherwise. Still, the culmination of watching either of the two films is not to draw the audience to the notion that love is good. Not hardly. Each story emphasizes a greater, more touching affirmation. The real meaning in both films is that it illustrates (beautifully I might add) how one learns to love.

It is that last similitude that continues to hold my interest and increases my fondness for both films. Never more so than because my children seem to hold it in the same high regard as I do (at least I hope so). And if someday, my children’s children find a similar fascination in the stories of the metal characters with the warm hearts, then there is always something to hope for. For these reasons, both animated films, and their commonality, remind me of an optimistic line from another favorite (live action) sci-fi film of mine, which may finally convince the softhearted among you reading this of the point I’ve been attempting to make:

“You have to look with better eyes than that.” ~ Lindsey Brigman, The Abyss

Have you seen Wall•E and/or The Iron Giant? Well, what are your thoughts about these animated films?

A Thanksgiving Post: 24 cinematic things I’m thankful for this year

To my American friends all over the States, I want to wish you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope that you’re all enjoying some time together with family/friends and cherish those moments dearly. To those in other parts of the world, I bid you happy-almost-weekend day 😀

Well, it’s not as if you need a special day to give thanks, right? But just for the sake of being timely, here are 24 random movie miscellanea I’m thankful for this past year:

1. Well I think it’s quite obvious isn’t it, yours truly has fallen under the spell of the beautiful creature that is Gregory Peck. It’s been such a delight to discover his classic films all the way from the early 40s. He’s just so compelling to watch in any genre! The more films of his I watched, the more I appreciate just what a wonderful actor he truly was.

Playing against type as a gritty, dusty outlaw in 'Yellow Sky'

2. Though he’s passed on last February, John Barry’s music lives on… there are so many wonderful movie music he’s left us with, but my favorites shall always be Somewhere in Time and Out of Africa.

3. The casting of Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

4. Andy Serkis‘ performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

5. The gorgeous Paris scenery… and Marion Cotillard‘s radiant beauty in Midnight in Paris

6. Tarsem’s visual panache in Immortals

7. Gerry Butler‘s heart-wrenching and fearless performance as Sam Childers in Machine Gun Preacher

8. This wonderful black & white trailer of The Artist, can’t wait to see the actual film!

9. Discovering Tom Hiddleston from THOR.

10. The fantastic rapport between James McAvoy & Michael Fassbender as Xavier & Magneto in X-Men: First Classjust one of the 40 reasons I LOVE this film!

11. Pixar’s BRAVE’s beautiful poster and a very promising trailer!

12. Working on my third pitch this past Summer for Castor‘s Fantasy Draft Pitch blog-a-thon… tentatively titled RESTAURO — starring Viggo Mortensen, Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving, directed by Duncan Jones.

13. Finally getting around to seeing Kenneth Branagh’s HAMLET and loving it!

14. Gentleman’s Agreement, one of the most compelling Oscar-winning film with a bold message about a then-controversial and risky topic about antisemitism… more people should see this even today.

15. Having the privilege to interview Anton Yelchin and Drake Doremus in person for Like Crazy during Twin Cities Film Fest… my first ‘official’ press junket 😀

16. Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain’s compelling performance playing the same character in The Debt

17. Going to Comic-Con this past Summer … and meeting Captain America himself, Chris Evans!

18. The exquisite cinematography of The Big Country by William Wyler… and the joy of seeing Moses and David (Charlton Heston & Gregory Peck) beat each other up in an epic fight scene

19. Harry Potter franchise ends with a bang… and seeing the back story of Severus Snape, played brilliantly by Alan Rickman

20. Terrence Malick‘s suddenly prolific streak, reportedly attached to direct two new films Lawless and Knight of Cups, which means we may see up to five Malick films within a few years!

21. Well-designed and iconic movie posters… such as this one:

22. Spellbound‘s surreal dream montage designed by Salvador Dali… and how dreamy Gregory Peck is in this [sigh]

23. The Hobbit‘s video journals (thanks to Claire Packer for posting the updates). Bless Peter Jackson for constantly updating fans with the progress of one of the most anticipated film of next year.

24. And last but not least… I’m ever so grateful for the joy of blogging and ‘meeting’ fellow movie lovers via the blog and Twitter… thank you everyone who have supported this blog for the past couple of years. Hope you’ll stick around for more 😀

So what are you thankful for this holiday season?

Six Un-produced Scripts I’d Love to See On the Big Screen

Most of us who follows Hollywood knows that there are many scripts movie studios refused to turn into films. For whatever reasons the executives just didn’t believe in any of these scripts but of course they had no problem greenlighting several bad scripts each year. But that’s how the business works, if the scripts aren’t about sequels, reboots, remakes or comic book based, then they won’t get made into actual films.

Below are list of scripts I would love to see come alive and shown on the big screen someday but chances are these will never make it to the cinemas.

  1. Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis
    Coppola spent years working on this script and around early 2000s he was ready to shoot the movie and he even got Russell Crowe on board to star as his leading man. The story is about government corruption in New York City set 300 years in the future. Coppola said he needs $200mil to make this world come alive but the problem is he hasn’t had a box office hits in years and he knows no studio in Hollywood will give him that kind of money to make this film. So he decided to put the project on hold and focus on smaller films. I hope he gets to make this film someday because I think it sounds great and the film could be a big comeback for him. I’m sure he’ll have to get another actor for the lead role since Crowe is not the A-list actor he once was 10 years ago.
  2. David Fincher’s Mission: Impossible 3
    When Paramount hired David Fincher to take over the Mission: Impossible franchise back in 2002, I was quite excited to see his take on the spy flick. To read more about why Fincher left the project this project, please read my full article about this film. I do hope Fincher take this script and make it into his first action/adventure film someday.
  3. Torso

    This script based on a graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko was supposed to be David Fincher’s next film after The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but again Paramount didn’t want to put the up the big money so it’s currently stuck in a limbo. The story takes place in the 1930s and it’s about a serial killer who only left torsos of his victims after the he killed them. The investigator of the case was Elliot Ness, yup that’s the same Elliot Ness from The Untouchables. According to this HeroComplex article from back in December 2008, “…[Paramount] studio’s rights to the project… are due to expire on Dec. 15 [of that year].”

    Matt Damon was rumored to be the front runner for the Ness role. According to some reports, Fincher was demanding a budget of $100mil or more and Paramount wasn’t willing to give him that kind of cash to shoot a movie about a serial killer in the 1930s. I understand the risk, but I think this film could be something special. Didn’t Paramount executives see Se7en? Currently the producers are pitching the project to other studios in Hollywood, I hope we get to see it on the big screen soon. Maybe Henry Cavill could step in and play Elliot Ness since he’ll be a household name by the time this film is ready to start shooting.
  4. I, Robot (The unproduced script from the late 1970s)
    Yes I know I, Robot‘s already been made into a film but I’m referring to this script. It was written back in the late 1970s and it’s considered one of the best sci-fi scripts ever written. If you haven’t read it, please give it a try it’s excellent. The reason it was never made into a film was because back in the 70s, the technology just wasn’t available for filmmakers to make the script come true and also it would’ve cost 3 times more than any Hollywood’s film budget at that time.

    The script is nothing like 2004’s I, Robot, it’s in the same vein as Blade Runner, more of a thinking man’s sci-fi thriller as oppose to shoot’em up action/adventure. The last I heard Fox is developing a sequel to their 2004’s hit, I wonder if they’ll incorporate some of the elements from this script. I highly doubt it since they’ll probably make it into louder and bigger than the first film.
  5. Batman: Year One
    As much as I love Nolan’s Batman Begins, I still would love to see Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One made into a film. Back in early 2000s, Warner Bros. hired Darren Aronofsky to reboot their Batman franchise. Darren then got Frank Miller to come on board as his screenwriter. To read more about what happened, check out this from-vision-to-film post.

    Maybe 15 years from now when Warner Bros. is ready to reboot the franchise again, we might get to see Miller’s Batman: Year One on the big screen.
  6. The Prisoner
    Back in the 90s, Hollywood was crazy with turning old TV shows into films thanks largely to the success of Batman, The Fugitive and Mission: Impossible. So it was no surprise that they planned to churned out more films based on old TV shows, next on the list was The Prisoner. Even though it aired for only one season in England, the premise was intriguing enough that a movie studio, Paramount Pictures if I remember correctly, was confident that it will make a great tent pole picture for them. So in the late 1990s, they hired Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) to develop the film version.
    Unfortunately by the late 90s, TV shows turned into films weren’t that successful, The Saint came out in 1997 and it tanked, the next year The Mod Squad made into the big screen and it also was a huge failure. So when the studio realized the trend is dying, they’ve decided to put the project on hold.In early 2000s, the project was again circling around Hollywood.

    At one point Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott names were attached to the project but nothing happened. Then after Chris Nolan made a name for himself with Momento, he said he was developing a film version of The Prisoner, this was a year or two before he landed the Batman Begins gig. Even though he was working on the Batman films, Nolan was still working on The Prisoner’s script. But then in 2008 AMC Network announced they’re going to make a TV mini-series version, so in late 2009 Nolan decided stop developing the film version.

    I was little bit upset when I heard he left the project, so much so that I decided to not watch the TV mini-series version. I guess I didn’t miss much since it didn’t do that well at all on ratings and most TV critics hated it. Now no one really know why Nolan decided to stop working on the film version, I’m assuming he wasn’t happy with the news that a mini-series was coming out and also maybe there are some legal issues and he didn’t want to deal with them. I do hope he goes back to work on developing the film version again, who knows he might do that once he finished with the third Batman film. I mean the premise of the TV show fits well at what Nolan does best and with a big budget and a good leading man, he could turn it into a great summer action/sci-fi/psychological thriller.

Well, what do you think, would you like to see any of these projects on the big screen? Do share your own wishlist of scripts you wish would get made into feature films.

Musings on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life

Well, I feel like I’m the last person who saw this film. I had been so intrigued by this from the first time I heard about it. When it won Palme d’Or at Cannes, I said I couldn’t wait to see it, alas I finally got around to seeing it.

I’m not a Terrence Malick fangirl but I do respect his work and enjoyed three of his films in the past. However, all of his films seem to fit into the one-time-viewing-is-enough category — with the exception of the last half hour of The New World as I adore Christian Bale as John Rolfe — and this one is included.

The concept of a tree of life, a many-branched tree illustrating the idea that all life on earth is related, has been used in science, religion, philosophy, mythology, and other areas. (per Wikipedia) Now, Malick started the film with a verse from Job 38: 4 & 7 of God’s response to Job’s complaint:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation … when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

The verse seems to suggest that it’s leaning towards the Judeo-Christian worldview, but I feel that this is not so much a Christian film as a spiritual one… the gospel a la Terrence Malick if you will. It’s so deliberately vague that whatever message you want to take away from this really depends on your own worldview.

I’ve been warned of the lack of coherent narrative in this movie, but even with that in mind, nothing could prepare me into what I’m about to experience. I guess all of Malick’s movies are something of an enigma, but this is perhaps his most obscure and cryptic work to date. There is barely any dialogue in this film. I even joked to my husband that the whole script probably consist of a single page, front and back, and that’s about it.

The point of view we get is mostly from the eldest son Jack (Hunter McCracken), though there is female voice over narration that seems to suggest a mother mourning the loss of a son… at times questioning God… “Lord, Why? Where were you? Did you know what happened? Do you care?” and other times she’s letting go… “I give him to you. I give you my son.”

Triggered by a tree being planted outside his skyscraper office building, the adult Jack (Sean Penn) who’s now a successful architect begins to reminisce on his childhood memories growing up in 1950s Texas. He and his two brothers were raised by a stern father (Brad Pitt) and loving mother (Jessica Chastain). That is pretty much all Malick let on in the way of plot… we’re on the outside looking in as we observe scenes of family life — kids playing, mothers comforting her child, kids being disciplined by his father, etc. Those scenes are interspersed with breathtaking imagery that seem to symbolize life’s origins and origins of the universe.

I find it impossible to properly review this film, nor can I find an appropriate rating for this. In fact, even after this film sits with me for 48 hours, I’m still trying to process just what it was that I saw. So what I’m going to tell you is how this film makes me feel. At first I was really intrigued by Malick’s direction and oohed-aahed at the overwhelmingly beautiful nature and cosmic imagery, but about three-quarters of the way in, I actually almost dozed off, spurred by the lack of action on screen and the sweet-sounding classical score by Alexandre Desplat.

In the end, the whole thing left me rather um… indifferent. Even now I don’t have any strong feeling one way or the other, which is odd considering how polarizing this film is. I think the only character I feel some sympathy with is Jack when he was a kid, as he seems to suffer the most from the way his dad treated him, but the rest of the characters fail to engage. Not that the actors’ performances weren’t good mind you, it’s just that these I couldn’t really connect with them. I think Pitt and Chastain are effective in their roles, though Penn is utterly wasted here as he wasn’t given anything to do other than looking lost and forlorn.

I’m also surprised that I didn’t shed a single tear even though I’m a crier. I mean, I bawled my eyes out watching Wall-E! With all that said though, I’m still glad I saw this film. In fact, I recommend people to actually take a chance with this film even if you have trepidation about this based on what you may have read. It’s definitely worth a watch even just to marvel at the cinematography and Malick’s keen eye of capturing nature in its most delightful way.

My husband liken this to seeing a piece of fine art in a museum, sometimes you might not understand what you are looking at in front of you, but it may have the power to touch you in a profound way… but then again, maybe not.

Well, that’s the best way I can ‘review’ this film. So what’s your thoughts about this film? I’d love to hear ’em.

Weekend Viewing Roundup & the Gregory Peck Marathon Update

Hello folks, hope your weekend’s been great now that Monday is just around the corner. I’ve been enjoying a pretty relaxing three-day weekend and watched quite a bit of movies. The first snowfall finally arrived so I pretty much spent all day indoors yesterday and pretty much continued my Gregory Peck marathon, ehm.

So far I’ve seen four five more of his films after Spellbound & Duel in the Sun:

  • David & Bathsheba, which chronicles the most famous Biblical adulterous affair. Peck perfectly portrays the charismatic leader and passionate lover, and the more desolate scenes of David pleading for God’s mercy is one of my favorite scenes.
  • Gentleman’s Agreement, a moral drama about antisemitism
  • The Great Sinner, about a novelist who gets caught in a gambling addiction as he’s doing a research on it
  • Keys to the Kingdom, Peck’s 2nd film where he nabbed his first Oscar nomination. He played a young priest sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese.
  • Another classic Western The Big Country starring another favorite classic actor, Charlton Heston
Clockwise from top left: David & Bathsheba, Gentleman’s Agreement, The Keys to the Kingdom, The Great Sinner, The Big Country

I’ve also started watching Designing Woman, a rom-com w/ Lauren Bacall. It’s cute to see Peck in a comedy and so far it’s quite enjoyable. I can’t help thinking though that his role seems to be tailor-made for Cary Grant.

The Big Country is directed by Roman Holiday and Ben-Hur director William Wyler, which has now become Wyler’s third favorite feature of mine. Peck played a New Englander who arrives in the Old West to marry his fiancĂŠe and becomes embroiled in a feud between two families over a valuable patch of land. I never thought I’d be enjoying Westerns so much, but I guess with the right cast anything is possible 🙂 Peck is good as always as the quiet hero, and it’s fun to see Charlton Heston being a rogue and lusty cowboy after his major role as Moses in The Ten Commandments. It’s only a year later that he worked with Wyler again in the epic Ben-Hur.

My admiration for Mr. Peck continues to grow with each film I watch. I’m not going gush about him all over again, as I’m afraid this one post won’t be able to contain it, ahah. I just want to share with you this awesome find I discovered over the weekend. It’s sort of a mini-documentary of sort, here’s the full description:

One of Hollywood’s most enduring and popular stars draws on his memories to tell the amusing and touching story of how it was when the studios ruled supreme, and a shy and inarticulate boy from a broken family could rise to superstardom to become one of the most handsome, attractive and respected of movie leading men.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Well, I managed to squeeze in Tree of Life in between my GP marathon 🙂 I have mixed feelings about it, more on that tomorrow.

So what did you see this weekend? And if you want to indulge yours truly here, what’s your favorite Gregory Peck movie that you’ve seen?

Flix News of the Week: Ridley Scott possibly teaming up w/ Gerry Butler for an African thriller

Ok yes I know, given how prolific Ridley Scott is (just check out this long list even from a year ago), who knows when we’ll see this project off the ground. But one can hope, right? I love Ridley’s work and you know how I feel about Butler, and so I’ve been hoping one day these two would work together! In fact, in my first Fantasy Movie Pitch I did called Hearts Want, I had both of them teaming up in romance thriller set in London.

So anyway, here’s the gist per Deadline: Sir Scott is reportedly attached to direct and produce this African thriller through his Scott Free banner, with Gerard Butler to star as the protagonist Simon Man, and Robert Edwards (The Bomb In My Garden) to write the script.

What’s the story about?

Simon Mann is a former British army officer who in 2004 put together a band of mercenaries to attempt a coup against the president of Equatorial Guinea. The coup attempt was thwarted in Zimbabwe, where Mann went to pick up weapons. He spent five years in a harsh prison there before being taken to Equatorial Guinea where he was sentenced to 34 years–but spared that sentence when he received a presidential pardon in 2009. His backers –Mann said one was Mark Thatcher, son of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—disavowed involvement with Mann after the coup failed. Both Mann and his wife Amanda have been making the rounds at studios the past several days along with Edwards, and insiders say there are high hopes this will end in a deal.

Well, it’s not exactly a romance thriller I was hoping for (seriously Hollywood, we need more of that genre!!), and after Machine Gun Preacher and Coriolanus, I’m kind of hoping he’d do a drama without weapons involved for a change. But still I’m excited for this. The real-life story is intriguing and I know Butler is perfect for such a role.

For sure I’d rather see him do this than Thunder Run, yet another action thriller starring Sam Worthington and Matthew McConaughey that Castor talked about last month on his blog. It’s to be made with motion-capture 3D, bla, bla, bla… I’m just not crazy about that one. Well, I hope this African thriller will materialize, I’ll keep you posted as soon as I hear more about this. Oh and I’ll also be posting about Butler’s upcoming soccer comedy Playing the Field this weekend. Stay tuned!

Well, what do you think of this casting news, folks? Let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: Immortals

Every once in a while, there’s a movie that comes along that’s critics-proof. This is one of those movies. I love swords and sandals genre and I went in with the expectation for Tarsem’s visuals and Henry Cavill’s performance to wow me and it delivered on both counts.

Apparently I’m not the only one who didn’t heed the critics as the Greek mythology visual feast reigned supreme at the box office with $32 million. Now, with that in mind, let me give you a rundown of what works and what doesn’t with this film.

The good

• Well obviously the visuals — the world Tarsem built is pure eye candy material. It’s artistic, bold, imaginative, which is what I had hoped from the first time I saw the first trailer. Given that this film shares the same producers as 300, the comparison is inevitable. At the same time, it’s got a pretty distinguished visual flair and style that’s entirely Tarsem’s. For one, Tarsem’s use of color is more vivid and rich, it’s like seeing a fine art painting, albeit a very bloody one, come to life.

There’s obviously painstaking details invested into building the sets and the costumes. The get-ups the gods wear as they watch mortals from way above the clouds are over the top but that’s the stuff of a fantasy flick. Apparently everyone has a Gold Gym membership up there in Zeus country.

• Henry Cavill’s on-screen charisma. Though I’ve followed his career for the past few years, this is the first time I’ve seen Henry carry a movie and I have to say he did a great job. It’s no doubt he looks the part as a peasant mortal chosen by Zeus to fight against the ruthless King Hyperion, but fortunately he’s got the confidence and gravitas to match those chiseled muscles.

• Mickey Rourke actually makes for a pretty brutal and vicious villain as Hyperion. The kind of enemy that makes your skin crawl with his sadistic shenanigans, especially to one traitor who comes to him and actually offered to help. He’s certainly more effective than Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes with all his gold body piercing. Hyperion is evil through and through and the relentless mano-a-mano fight between him and Theseus is quite rousing at the end.

• The special effects are definitely cool. Whenever the gods came down to earth, there’s a certain slo-mo technique used to illustrate just how much faster they move compared to humans, kind of like how in The Matrix, Neo is often shown as being able to move at lightning speed. I think it’s quite efficient and there are no annoying quick-cutting between scenes seemingly employed by every action directors. All the fight scenes involving Zeus and co. are incredibly bloody, but like 300, the stylized way they’re done makes ’em a bit more bearable to watch. I still cover my eyes a few times though.

The not-so-good

• The supporting cast is quite lame, to be honest. Even British thespian John Hurt wasn’t really given much to do, but my biggest quibble is with Stephen Dorff. He tried to be this wisecracking sidekick, but I find him to be irritating and silly. Kellan Lutz and Isabel Lucas barely had any lines or anything worth writing about. Compared to the compelling actors who fought alongside Gerry Butler in 300: Michael Fassbender, Vincent Regan, Dominic West, and David Wenham, these pretty young things just pale by comparison.

• Freida Pinto is beautiful but forgettable… she did have more to do here than in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but that’s not saying much. So yeah, she’s no Lena Heady. Even the sex scene is pretty ho-hum, it lacks passion and least of all, heart. Though guys surely remember Pinto’s body double’s derrière 😉

• Weak script — Tarsem’s story-telling skills doesn’t quite match his visual flair. The Fall was quite a disconcerting in terms of narrative, but there’s at least a strong connection between the two main characters. There’s not much going on between Theseus and Paedra, nor between him and any of the crews. Speaking of 300 again, the bond King Leo had with his soldiers make the nonstop battles mean more to the viewers than simply artistic amusements. I feel like there’s really not a whole lot at stake in Immortals. Of course the story tells us there is but we just didn’t feel it.

In my pal Scarlet Sp1der’s review, he mentioned that the stirring speech rounding up the troops pales in comparison to King Leo’s. I definitely agree with that, Butler’s certainly got that commanding presence that’s tough to beat. But to be fair, Leo has been a king for a long time, thus his troops were all ready to die for him, whilst Theseus is practically a stranger.

• Oh, and what’s with the Epirus Bow? I feel that for something so integral in the story, I find it odd that it somehow felt ‘forgotten’ by the end. The archery scenes are pretty cool though, I just wish they’d show more of those.

The Verdict?

Immortals is more style than substance, but at least Tarsem did deliver on his promise of Caravaggio meets Fight Club, complete with the ‘what the heck is going on’ ending. So yeah, despite the flaws I’ve mentioned, it’s still well worth-seeing for pure escapism’s sake. It’s a well-crafted production that’s sure to please anyone who appreciates fine workmanship and classic design. A quick note about the 3D: I saw this in 3D and though it didn’t really add much to it, it didn’t detract from it either. I’d say you probably won’t go wrong seeing this in 2D but the showtimes for those are much less than the 3D ones.


Anybody else seen this one? Do share your thoughts on Immortals in the comments.

THIS JUST IN! Pixar’s BRAVE first trailer

Yet another trailer post in a week? Another fairy tale, no less. Well, normally I reserve only one trailer post per week but this one just can’t wait, folks!

As you know, I LOVE Pixar’s movies and I grew up watching those Disney fairy tales. With this 13th feature film, we’ve got Pixar’s first foray into fairy tale territory with BRAVE. You’ve perhaps seen the initial pics and poster, and I’ve also reported that Scottish composer Patrick Doyle is doing the score, so now behold the first trailer:

Here’s the official story per Pixar’s official site:

Since ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. In “Brave,” a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) confronts tradition, destiny and the fiercest of beasts.

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

This trailer looks good!! Princess Merida looks sooo adorable with her fiery red hair and I have a thing for anything Scottish and the lush Highland setting is gorgeous! The visuals reminds me a bit of How to Train Your Dragon somehow, as I said to Castor when additional stills were released. Once again I ask, why aren’t Gerry Butler in this?? 😀 His pal Craig from HTTYD is part of the cast after all, and he once played Billy Connolly’s brother in Mrs. Brown.

Anyway, I can’t wait for this one. With the talents involved and how this looks visually, I can’t imagine I’ll be disappointed. So it’s about 8-month wait until it’s released on June 22, 2012.

What say you, folks? Are you as excited for this as I am?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Mirror, Mirror

Whoa! What have we here… just last week we’ve got Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman‘s trailer, a decidedly grittier take of the fairy tale. Well today, we’ve got Tarsem’s version which is decidedly… well, whimsical.

Check it out below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

An evil Queen steals control of a kingdom, and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright in a spirited adventure comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal that will capture the imagination of audiences the world over. The film also stars Armie Hammer as the object of their affection, Prince Andrew Alcott, and Nathan Lane as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen.

As I’ve mentioned in my Snow White Battle post, Tarsem’s version seems to be the more ‘faithful’ version story-wise to the Disney version, and it certainly has a more kiddie appeal geared more for families. Even on the concept poster I posted a few months ago, it said ‘A Comedic Adventure Awaits’. It’s kind of like Enchanted, whilst the Huntsman one is a darker version that would appeal more to adults. I think it kind of make sense that Tarsem is going after a different set of audience with this one. I mean, why even do TWO versions of the same fairy tale if you’re going to make ’em tonally and visually similar??

I have issues with this trailer but to be fair, this one has a couple of good things going for it. For one, Lily Collins with her girly-face and porcelain skin looks more like what I’d picture the fairy tale princess to be. Hunky Armie Hammer also makes for a dashing prince, and the costumes are beautiful.

But whilst I’m not totally sold on Kristen Stewart as Snow White in the Huntsman version, Julia Roberts fares worse as evil queen here. She’s just not menacing at all and what’s her fakey British accent, I mean, why bother? There are creepy stuff going on all around as well, what’s with the Queen having the hots for the Prince?? I mean that is just plain weird and disturbing. And what’s with the dwarf quoting Scarface at the end… ‘Say hello to my little friend.’ Huh?? Seriously??

So with that said, based on the first trailer from both sides, I’m more likely to see the Saunders version.

What do you think of this trailer, folks? Will you be seeing this one?