Everybody’s Chattin: Blog Series Edition

Welcome to the last day of January, folks!

Can’t believe one month in 2012 already gone by… but before we get into my birthday month of February, I thought I’d give a shout out to some of the notable blog series and new blogs I’ve been frequenting lately. Let’s get started shall we?

Trilogy Thursday
I LOVE this idea. Max @ Impassioned Cinema & Claire @ Cinematic Delights team up to discuss their favorite trilogy and they definitely started out with the best… Pixar’s TOY STORY!
Behind the Camera
Max also came up with a new series on his blog, highlighting a filmmaker of choice and he starts the series with one of my faves: Christopher Nolan, courtesy of Matt from Matt & the Motion Pictures
Duo Posts Series
Michael @ It Rains… You Get Wet has been posting a series of parallel reviews with another blogger, examining a noted book and its later film adaptation. The latest edition is on this noir classic The Maltese Falcon.
TDYLF Infographic
One of the most brilliant stuff you’ll find at John’s The Droid You’re Looking For blog is his meticulously-crafted infographics! As the Oscar’s soon approaching, check out his handy Breaking Down the Oscar chart featuring facts and figures about Hollywood’s most beloved statue!
Today’s Minnie Driver’s 42nd Birthday! I really think she’s such an underrated actress, hence my inclusion on this list. One of my favorite roles of hers is Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan in Circle of Friends, which happens to be one of my fave movies set in Ireland


Tuesday’s Overlooked Movies
These insightful posts are courtesy of Iba @ I Luv Cinema. Every week she reviews a movie she thinks more people should check out and it’s almost always something I hadn’t seen before. This week’s edition is Little Voice starring an all Brits cast including Michael Caine and Brenda Blethyn.
Looking Back
My matey Scott @ Front Room Cinema has been doing well on one of his new year’s resolution to feature more classic cinemas. This time he’s got help from Sam @ Duke & The Movies in reviewing Jean Paul Belmondo’s trend-setting French New Wave film Breathless.
The Story Behind Film Studio Logos
The King of all great blog series Nostra @ My Film Views has recently launched a great one that gives us an insight into the brand history of Hollywood’s famous studios. The latest one he’s featuring is 20th Century Fox.
Robert Bresson Marathon
Tyler @ Southern Vision is at it again with his directors marathon… offering great insights into off-the-beaten path works mainstream moviegoers likely overlook. This time he starts with the review of Les anges du péché (1943).
Last but not least, I’d like to give a shout out to these new blogs I’ve been enjoying the past few months. Definitely check ’em out if you haven’t already!

Paula’s Cinema Club
Aziza’s Picks
Duke & The Movies
Never Too Early Movie Predictions
Matt & The Motion Pictures
Splendid & Lovely
The Movie Lounge
All Eyes on Screen


Be sure to stay tuned for another classic flix guest review and the follow up to this favorite actors voice list later this week!

THIS JUST IN: ‘The Cold Light of Day’ first trailer

As you know by now, our new Man of Steel Henry Cavill has been on my radar for a few years now. So a new movie starring him is ALWAYS a good thing. Throw in Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver into this fast-paced thriller and I’m definitely game!

A young American (Cavill) uncovers a conspiracy during his attempt to save his family, who were kidnapped while on vacation in Spain.

It’s been almost 3 months since I posted the official poster and full synopsis, and now the trailer is finally here, check it out below:

I must say that if it weren’t for Henry’s casting, I probably won’t be as enthused about this one, but you know what, this trailer actually looks pretty exciting. I like the fact that it was shot on location in Spain which gives it an International flavor. Henry sure kicks ass in this one, but then again his dad is John McClane, ahah. Still, with Ripley er I mean Sigourney as the lethal villainess, Henry just might have his work cut out for him! In all seriousness though, no wonder he was close to be cast as James Bond before the role went to Daniel Craig, he was too young at the time but in a couple of years he definitely could do it if he choose to, though I’d rather see him do other roles.

French-Tunisian director Mabrouk El-Mechri is helming the project, he did the Jean-Claude Van Damme’s biopic JCVD a few years back. I’m certainly glad that at least there is one Henry Cavill movie to look forward to soon since the Superman movie won’t be released until 2013! Man, that is such a long time to wait, but I am convinced Henry will do such a great job as Supes.

As displayed in Immortals, no doubt he’s a capable leading man with a trifecta of star formula: good looks, screen presence and talent. Even his American accent is quite convincing which always helps him be competitive with fellow US actors his age. I sure hope Cavill continues to be cast in Hollywood movies!


What do you think folks? Will you be seeing this come April 6th?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Margin Call and Another Earth

It’s been almost a month since I’ve last been to the cinema, but it’s customary for January as the new releases don’t interest me. I’m quite surprised to see the raves for The Grey however, Dan over @ FogsMovieReviews gave it a solid A, though Terrence @ The Focus Filmographer wasn’t as enthused about it. In any case, it proves to be quite popular this weekend as it took the number 1 spot with $20 million!

Well, for me it’s a weekend to catch up on recent DVD releases that I’ve been curious about. One of them actually nabbed an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. So let’s start with that one, shall we?

MARGIN CALL

Now, this film can be fittingly called ’24’ as the plot takes place over a 24-hour period during the early stages of financial meltdown a few years ago. The story can’t be more timely with the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement that continue to spread all over the country.

The key players work at a nameless investment bank in New York City. It begins with the lay-off of a veteran risk management executive named Eric Dale (the always excellent Stanley Tucci). As he’s escorted out of the building, he hands over a flash drive to his subordinate Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) with a word of caution, ‘be careful.’

If I were Peter, I’d do exactly what he did, which is find out just what the heck is on that drive. The severe reaction written on Peter’s face after he’s done processing the data that Dale started clues us in to just how significant his boss’ warning really is. What this data tells us is that the firm has been sitting on a large pile of liquid assets that are worth less than they ought to, which means the firm will owe far more than what they own, what they’ll do with that predicament not only threatens the markets stability but also triggers financial meltdown.

I’m glad I rented this movie as I don’t think I’d be able to get all the trading jargons here without using subtitles, though I think the filmmaker did a decent job in presenting them in layman’s terms. At the heart of this film isn’t the financial crisis itself, but how each player in question reacts to this given situation. I think writer/director J.C. Chandor is able to capture the moral compass if you will, of the main characters, which is the main strength of this film.

I’m truly impressed by Chandor’s direction and primarily the shrewd script, considering this is his first feature film. He’s also assembled a top notch cast: Oscar winners Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey and nominee Stanley Tucci are all superb in their roles. Spacey is a perfect fit in displaying a range of emotions his character goes through. Irons and Tucci’s screen time is considerably less than Spacey’s but both turn in memorable performance. Irons’ line that’s used as the tagline for this film, “Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat.” is such a chilling reminder just how ruthless and heartless these Wall Street folks are.

The younger cast are equally compelling. Most notably Zachary Quinto (in his signature stolid but sympathetic demeanor) as the rocket scientist (literally) who becomes a trader as the money is too good to pass up, and Paul Bettany as the senior trader who gives us a glimpse of the kind of life these yuppy bankers lead. He tells his colleague on the building rooftops as they’re waiting for the big honcho to arrive just what he spend his $2.5 millions he made in a given year. It’s disheartening to see just how removed these kids are from the real world — they’re so occupied with numbers that sincere connection with fellow human beings has no place in their lives. In fact, money is nothing more than means of pleasure or a measure of worth — Penn Badgley‘s character’s obsession with how much people make is an obvious sign of that.

Margin Call a solid thriller that relies on a clever script and nuanced performances in place of special effects. The fact that this film had a paltry $3 million budget and was shot within 17 days is all the more impressive. I do think it merits the Best Original Screenplay nod, I’m curious to see how it’d fare come Oscar time.

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ANOTHER EARTH

This is another small-budget film that delivers a sizable impact. What draws me in about this film isn’t the cast but the unique, implausible-yet-thought-provoking plot.

In a single day, the life of the protagonist Rhoda Williams, a bright high school graduate on her way to MIT,  is turned upside down by a tragic accident that kills a woman and child, and leaves the husband/father in a coma.

Though alcohol is certainly a factor as Rhoda just came home from a party, she’s actually distracted by the appearance of a new planet resembling earth that has moved into our solar system. Earth 2 as it’s called, supposedly contain a duplicate version of ourselves and its inhabitants mirror our earthly existence.

The film then jumps to the time when Rhoda leaves prison after serving her four-year sentence. Before long her path crosses to that of the Yale music professor John Burroughs who lost his family that very night. He’s recovered from his coma but understandably his life is never the same again. Clearly having lost his zest for life, his existence now consists of slouching in his sofa watching TV or playing video games. It’s inevitable that these two broken people end up being involved despite the unorthodox circumstances of their connection.

This is a sci-fi film done as a meditative human drama… there’s no CGI or technical mumbo jumbo, so don’t expect to see an extra-terrestrial creature of any kind, it’s just not that kind of sci-fi movie. The central themes are those of atonement and second chances. Reminiscent to the theme of Joe Wright Atonement, guilt-ridden and suicidal Rhoda has been hoping for a way to atone for her sins. By pretending to be a cleaning lady for John, she hopes that one day, that opportunity will finally come. The fact that she likes to clean is also a metaphor for her attempt to ‘clean up her mess’ if you will.

The film not-so-subtly asks the beguiling question of ‘if you get the chance to see yourself as a third person, how would you feel or expect to see?’  It may not offer a satisfactory answer and the ‘whoa’ conclusion is more of a head-scratcher than anything else, but it certainly is an intriguing concept worth exploring.

Like Margin Call, this film also marks the directorial debut of its director Mike Cahill. It’s certainly a worthy first-time effort though his rather barren style is perhaps an acquired taste. The visuals does have a low-budget quality to it but it’s not exactly a detriment, in fact, the simplicity and starkness adds to its indie charm.

Relative newcomer Brit Marling who also co-wrote the script with Cahill, turns in a pretty affecting performance as Rhoda. She is beautiful in an earthly kind of way, her naturally tousled hair almost becomes a character in itself here along with her melancholy gaze. Character actor William Mapother (Tom Cruise’s cousin) is pretty effective in displaying believable transformation from being morose to one who’s full of hope once again. The scene of him playing the solo musical saw to an audience of one is deeply moving. Thanks to SawLady who plays the saw in the soundtrack for sending me a link to this page, it’s definitely a soulful piece of music with a haunting quality about it.

I highly recommend this if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path feature film. It’s a slow-burn story done in a mind-numbingly quiet way that makes even The Artist seems deafening. But if you can get past its stillness and allegorical quirks, it certainly is worth a watch.

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So what did you see this weekend, my friends? Any thought on either one of these films, do share them in the comments.

Music Break: Mozart in the Movies

Today January 27th 2012, marks the 256th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth. I listen to classical NPR to and from work a lot and they’re promoting a special program commemorating this event. Well, as my two of my all time favorite music genres are classical and soundtracks, I thought I’d sort of combine the two in today’s music break post.

Tom Hulce as Mozart in AMADEUS

Just a bit of history on one of the greatest classical composers of all time… Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria and started composing from the age of five and already performed before European royalty at such a young age. He only lived until the age of 35, but in such a short life he was incredibly prolific and influential. Per Wikipedia, he composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers and his music will always remain timeless.

Whether you notice it or not, you’ve likely have heard Mozart’s music in all kinds of films. Whatever the genre, Mozart’s music seems to have a place in a variety of them. This forum from a few years ago compiled over 400 movie titles from all over the world that uses Mozart’s music. And this site actually compiles a list of how many times Mozart’s work has been used in dozens of films.

This piece called Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music) is the most widely used, 13 times as of 2006, in movies ranging from Ace Ventura, Bonfire of the Vanities to Nikita, and of course it’s part of the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning film about the musical genius, Amadeus (1984) .


If you haven’t seen Amadeus, I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not a fan of classical music, it’s still a fascinating story and the film was amazingly done. It won 8 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham for his superb performance as Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s main rival. Tom Hulce in the title role was also nominated for an Oscar. The film is told in flashback mode by Salieri who’s now confined to an insane asylum. Check out the trailer below:


My introduction to Mozart in movies is actually courtesy of an unlikely source, a James Bond film! Ahah, yes, it was The Spy Who Loved Me as it’s played in this scene where Bond’s arch nemesis Stromberg played Piano Concerto No. 21 as his octopus-like hideout rises from the sea. I didn’t even know it was a Mozart piece until much later as I was only a wee kid at the time. I was mesmerized by that music… and Jaws’ teeth 😀 It remains one of my all time favorites to this day.


Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar-nominated soundtrack for The King’s Speech also uses Mozart’s piece La Nozze di Figaro. One of my favorite parts about this film is definitely the music, and naturally classical music is fitting for the subject matter.


So those are just some of my favorite Mozart’s music in movies. Do you have one? Please do share in the comments.

Fan-made Opening Credits of The Dark Knight Rises


I always love a good opening/closing credit sequence. I compile ’em from time to time and make a favorites list like this one from last year. Seems like the excitement for The Dark Knight Rises just keeps on building. The fan-made posters since have been popping up since almost a year ago and now we’ve got a fan-made opening credits that my hubby just showed me during dinner (via Screenrant). It’s quite impressive so I thought I’d share.

The video is created by a Turkish motion graphics designer by the name of Doğan Can Gündoğdu. It’s reminiscent of the opening credits for David Fincher’s SE7EN which is also seen from the point of view of the villain John Doe.

This video shows the footage of what appears to be some grisly criminal plan that Batman’s juggernaut nemesis Bane is concocting. It’s very forensic CSI-ish and feature the people of Gotham City as portrayed by  The Dark Knight Rises‘ cast: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, etc. I love how each of the cast name is introduced and the music by Massive Attack titled Suck Me Up Dub combined with the sounds of rain & thunder creates a disturbingly creepy atmosphere. The breathing sound of Bane under his mask during the footage of Batman’s broken scowl is a nice touch too.


What do you think folks? Does this make you even more excited for Nolan’s final Batman film?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Raven

Relativity just released this eerie-looking new poster for The Raven. Now, I still prefer this teaser poster that was released last July. I just think that one is much more creative and so brilliantly creepy. This new one isn’t not bad, I kind of like the subtle raven design on the title, but the wings reminds me a bit of this Constantine‘s poster.

Unfortunately, I also learned that this movie’s released has been pushed back from March 9 to April 27. No reason was given for this delay, which is a bummer as I’ve been curious about this for some time.

I’ve always been fascinated with movies about writers and lately I’ve been watching quite a few of them because Gregory Peck has played a number of writers roles, from novelist, journalist to screenwriter.  The title of the film refers to a narrative poem by Poe that was first published in January 1845. Per Wikipedia, it tells of a talking raven’s mysterious visit to a distraught lover, tracing the man’s slow descent into madness. So no, it’s not a remake of the 1963 horror comedy of the same name starring Vincent Price and Peter Lorre.

Here’s the official synopsis:

In this gritty thriller, Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) joins forces with a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans, Immortals) to hunt down a mad serial killer who’s using Poe’s own works as the basis in a string of brutal murders. Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin), the film also stars Alice Eve (Sex and the City 2), Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Faster).

When a mother and daughter are found brutally murdered in 19th century Baltimore, Detective Emmett Fields (Evans) makes a startling discovery: the crime resembles a fictional murder described in gory detail in the local newspaper—part of a collection of stories penned by struggling writer and social pariah Edgar Allan Poe. But even as Poe is questioned by police, another grisly murder occurs, also inspired by a popular Poe story.

Realizing a serial killer is on the loose using Poe’s writings as the backdrop for his bloody rampage, Fields enlists the author’s help in stopping the attacks. But when it appears someone close to Poe may become the murderer’s next victim, the stakes become even higher and the inventor of the detective story calls on his own powers of deduction to try to solve the case before it’s too late.

Director McTeige with Cusack
I’m intrigued by the story and James McTeige is the director of the stylish and compelling V for Vendetta, so this is quite promising. I think Cusack isn’t a bad choice as Poe, though I’m more familiar with his romantic/whimsical side in things like High Fideliy, Serendipity, etc. From what I heard at the Comic-Con panel, he seemed quite well-versed on Poe, which is always a good sign. There’s also Brendan Gleeson, whose presence is always welcome in any film.

One major highlight for me in this is Luke Evans, the dashing Brit I’ve been watching for some time. He played Zeus in this Fall’s Immortals, but he wasn’t given much to do there but look good in his barely-there mystical outfit. I think he gets to flex his acting muscles on this one as he has a more prominent role here. My pal Ted astutely suggested a few times would make a great James Bond when it’s time for Daniel Craig to retire his tux. I absolutely concur! 🙂

Here’s the latest trailer from a few months ago, as soon as they released the newest one I’ll swap it:



P.S.
Thanks to a tip from my friend Dezzy from Hollywood Spy, The Raven was filmed in Eastern Europe, mainly Budapest, Hungary and Belgrade, Serbia.

I also heard on NPR a few weeks ago that the Poe’s Historical Museum in Baltimore is in danger of being closed down as city leaders have chosen not to subsidize it (per LA Times). Perhaps an interest in this movie might help save Poe Museum?

What do you think folks? Does this one interest you?

Oscar 2012 Nominations: The Good, the Bad and the WTF

All right, now that the nominations are announced, it’s time to pick ’em all apart 😀 You can view the full nominations here (thanks to Red Georges at AM).

The Good:

  • First off, I’m thrilled to see both Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis getting nominated for The Help! Now I’d be even more thrilled if Davis will take home the statuette instead of Streep.
  • Bérénice Bejo up for Best Supporting Actress, yay! Her performance is as equally compelling as Dujardin, so I’m glad she wasn’t left out. I’m equally stoked for Jessica Chastain getting recognized for her compelling supporting role in The Help.
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  • Gary Oldman and Nick Nolte getting a nod, yes! It’s about darn time for Mr. Oldman! As I said on this post, the thespian has never gotten a single nomination, atrocious if y’ask me. So I’m glad he got recognized for his turn in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It’s also nice to see veteran actors like Max Von Sydow and Christopher Plummer getting acting nods.
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  • Nice to see such an international mix on the Best Actor list… Mexican Demian Bichir, French Jean Dujardin and English Gary Oldman against two American heartthrobs (well to some anyway, not moi) Pitt and Clooney.
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  • Legendary composer John Williams breaking Alfred Newman’s record for the most Oscar-nominated composer/conductor ever (45 times) by not one but TWO nominations for War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin!
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  • Even though The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is so not my cup of tea, I’ve read enough about Rooney Mara‘s dedication to the role that I’m glad she got a nod.
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  • Glad to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes amongst Best Visual Effects nominees… but the good is outweighed by the not-so-good,

    which brings me to…

The Bad

  • Well let’s start with the one snub that I shouldn’t be surprised about but yet I’m still disappointed with… As I mentioned on my review, I really think Andy Serkis deserves a nomination, darn it!
  • So The Academy loves Scorsese more this year than Spielberg, eh? No, I was NOT going to suggest Spielberg for Best Director for War Horse, but seriously, The Adventures of Tintin deserves to be amongst the Best Animated Feature before Rango does! As a huge fan of the comics, I had trepidation how Spielberg could translate than to screen but I think he did a great job. It captured the adventurous spirit of Herge’s story and it was wholly entertaining from start to finish. I think Rango is fine but too uneven to be Oscar-worthy!
  • Last but not least, I was really hoping to see 50/50 to be singled out in the Best Original Screenplay category. The beauty of this cancer-themed comedy is in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance AND the brilliant writing, it strikes the perfect balance between whimsy and poignancy, not a mean feat considering the dismal subject matter. Ok so I have yet to see three out of the five nominees in this category but is Margin Call REALLY better than 50/50‘s script??  Those who’ve seen both, perhaps you can enlighten me…

The WTF

As is customary every year, the bigger news come Oscar nominations time is always, who gets snubbed? There are just a couple biggie I could think of right of the bat…

  • The snubs of the Michaels… both Michael Fassbender and Michael Shannon are absent from the nominees. Say what?? Granted I have not seen Shame or Take Shelter yet but even from the trailer and reviews, it seemed that either one of them would garner a nod? I’d be happy to see either one instead of Pitt who’s curiously nominated for Moneyball instead of Tree of Life [shrugs]
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  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close up for Best Picture?? I have not read a single review praising it and it’s only got a paltry 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not saying the critics should always agree with Academy voters but still, it’s a real head-scratcher this one.
  • I had just seen Ides of March over the weekend and I was pretty sure either Paul Giamatti or Philip Seymour Hoffman (who pretty much stole the scenes from the lead actors) would be nominated, but NO, they’d rather give that to Jonah Hill instead. Maybe I’m being harsh, those who’ve seen Moneyball thinks he’s worthy of a nomination over these two. No?
  • What’s with just the two nominations for Best Song??? Is the qualifying system so bonkers this year that a whole bunch of great songs just aren’t eligible?

This list would’ve been a lot longer had I seen more films released in 2011, but anyway, these are my two cents. At least some folks still have their sense of humor intact. Movieline captured Patton Oswalt’s (Young Adult) tweets from this morning about organizing an Academy’s snubculture party with fellow snub-ees (ok I just invented a new word) Albert Brooks, etc.

Ahah, I think I’d rather attend that party than the Oscar luncheon any day!


So what’s your picks of ‘biggest snubs’ and which nominations make you go jump for joy?