Weekend Viewing Reviews: Mirror Mirror and Angel (2007)

The last day of July is coming to an end, in fact it’s already August for some of you, but hey I thought I’d fit in a couple of reviews first before I post my Monthly Roundup tomorrow. Been watching the Olympics much? The only thing I managed to watch is the opening ceremony which was splendid I thought. Great job Danny Boyle! To me the main highlights were the Mr. Bean on the Chariot of Fire orchestra and of course, James Bond escorting the Queen! If you haven’t seen that Happy & Glorious clip you can watch it here.

Anyway, here are the two movies I saw over the weekend:

Mirror, Mirror

By the time I posted this Snow White battle post I was still on the fence about which Snow White movie I was anticipating most, but then after seeing the silly trailer, I decided I wasn’t going to waste my time on Mirror, Mirror. Well this Friday night my hubby and I were looking for something light and fluffy, and it’s either this or This Means War, and since we like a few of Tarsem’s work, we thought ok, what the heck.

Well guess what, it’s actually quite entertaining. Right from the early concept poster, this movie had always been marketed as a comedy and I think on that front it delivered. I was laughing throughout and despite some really cliche moments, I enjoyed it. Lilly Collins is definitely believable as Snow White, and despite marginal acting skills (this isn’t exactly an acting movie after all), at least she is far more expressive than Kristen Stewart!

I’m still bothered by Julia Roberts as the evil queen however, and her atrocious British accent (if you can even call it that) is just laughable. Why did Tarsem even insist on her speaking with a British accent anyway?? I mean this is a fairy tale, she could’ve been speaking with an Icelandic accent and it won’t matter, might as well let her keep her Southern drawl. Thankfully, it doesn’t derail the whole movie, and Armie Hammer as the dashing Prince more than makes up for her shortcomings. The 6’5″ hunky Californian looks like he practically jumps out of the Disney fairy tale princess storybook, but Hammer’s got some decent comic timing to prevent him from being more than boring eye candy. The part where he was under the puppy love spell is quite a hoot! The Prince and Snow White has a sweet chemistry, and there’s an amusing twist about the whole true love’s kiss notion.

Nathan Lane is a natural at comedy and he gets the most laughs here. A major plus here is that unlike Snow White and the Huntsman where the dwarfs were criminally underused, they have a pretty big part here. The relationship between them and Snow White are also much more developed in a whimsical but heartwarming way. That’s not to say this is a deep movie, but at least it’s consistent with the trailer and doesn’t over-promise us with something profound.

Tarsem’s visual is not as spectacular as in The Fall, in fact it seems too CGI-ish coming from the visual visionary. I’m also not too fond of Snow White’s makeup, I mean Collins is absolutely gorgeous but someone needs to wax her Leonid Brezhnev eyebrows! I normally don’t complain about stuff like that but those bushy brows do become quite distracting as I’m watching this.

Overall I thought it was pretty enjoyable and did I mention Sean Bean also had a cameo here? Oh, and Tarsem did an homage to Bollywood in the final scene which I thought was fun, but at the same time I’m glad he didn’t put this scene in the middle of the movie!
…..

3 out of 5 reels


Angel (2007)

Now this movie seems to have everything going for it for me to LOVE it. It’s a period drama, one of my favorite genres, it’s about a writer, and it’s got a nice cast. I actually like Romola Garai in Amazing Grace and Atonement, I think she’s quite underrated. There’s also Sam Neill, Charlotte Rampling AND Michael Fassbender as Garai’s love interest. Ok, what’s not to love, right? Alas, it’s quite disappointing.

The story is set in early 20th century England where Angel Deverell (Garai) grew up with her single mother atop her grocery shop. She is a gifted writer who’s always dreamed of being a novelist. She defies all odds when somehow a publisher (Sam Neill) is willing to take a chance on her and publish her romance novels. The thing is, Angel is as far from angelic as you can get. She is a pompous brat with no manners and treats her own mother and aunt, pretty much the only family she has, like dirt. It’s tricky to create a story based on an unsympathetic heroine. She reminds me a bit of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, only much, much less endearing. Heck, at least Scarlet treats her parents far better than Angel does.

The transformation from rags to riches feels rather abrupt as well, and I can’t seem to figure just what is the point of Angel’s story. We’re only given a glimpse into her best-selling novels but not enough to see just what made her the way she is. Those novels made her famous and rich enough that she could buy Paradise House, a sprawling estate she’s always dreamed of living in as a kid. But Angel remains an enigma up until the end, and it’s such a lost opportunity since the movie pretty much focuses mostly on her for the entire two hours running time.

Fassbender as the object of Angel’s affection is wonderful to watch, though even he still can’t save the movie. The moment Esme appeared he was quite breathtaking, and despite his not-so-kind words about Angel’s work, she was smitten [well naturally]. Yet there is something wanting about their romance, I don’t know why I just wasn’t enthralled by it, even their love scenes leave me cold, Fassbender’s shapely bum notwithstanding, ehm. There’s also a key relationship between Angel and Esme’s sister, Nora, who’s rather obsessed with Angel, but once again, there’s not much character development in that either, so the whole thing is just frustrating.

I generally like Sam Neill but I feel that he’s wasted here. Charlotte Rampling who plays his wife makes much more of an impression with her sardonic smile, she’s the only character who doesn’t think highly of Angel right from the start. As for the protagonist, I just can’t muster enough sympathy for Angel, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily Romola’s fault as I do think she’s a decent actress.

It turns out that this is French director François Ozon’s first English-speaking movie based on a novel by Elizabeth Taylor [no, not the Hollywood actress]. Well, I’m not exactly impressed by his work here. The set pieces and costumes are beautiful enough, but poor narrative really drags this movie down. Oh, to make matters worse, this film has got the worst special effects I’ve ever seen in a contemporary film. It looks like it was made for only $150K instead of  $15 millions!

So, unless you’re a die hard Fassbender fan, I really can’t recommend this one. It’s too bad as it seems to have the recipe of a charming period drama.

2 out of 5 reels


Well, what did you watch this past weekend? Thoughts about either one of these movies?

Special Birthday Post: Ranking Christopher Nolan’s 7 Feature Films

As part of my Inception-countdown series, I ranked five of Christopher Nolan’s movies. Well, now he’s got two more under his belt, making his total of feature-length film to seven [excluding Following which wasn’t widely distributed].

Just a quick bio per Wikipedia:

Born in 1970 in London, Nolan was one of three sons of a British father, who owned an advertising business, and an American mother, a flight attendant for United Airlines. Nolan and his brother Jonathan spent their childhood in both London and Chicago. He began film-making at the age of seven using his father’s Super 8 camera and his toy action figures.

For his undergraduate, Nolan studied English Literature at University College London Union (UCLU). He chose it specifically for its film-making facilities, which consisted of a “Steenbeck editing suite (real film, real spools) plus a couple of 16mm cameras.” Nolan was president of the college film society from 1992 to 1994; a contemporary described him as talented and focused on learning as much as possible about the mechanics and technology of film-making.

His big break in Hollywood came with Memento, starring Guy Pearce, which was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best screenplay.

So in honor of his 42nd birthday, I thought I’d rank those seven Christopher Nolan feature films in order of favorites. By favorites I mean those that have the best re-playability value to me, as I do think all of these seven are great-to-excellent. So far, there is none of his films that I didn’t like, and Nolan is the only director whose ALL of his work I have seen.

Without further ado, here…we… go:

1. Batman Begins (2005)

The ultimate origins story and I think it’s still the one to beat in terms of the um, inception of a superhero goes. Christian Bale is perfectly cast as the dark, tormented caped crusader and he’s surrounded by a slew of top notch actors such as Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson and Cillian Murphy, etc. The movie also benefits from a fantastic script and a formidable villain in Ra’s al Ghul (Demon’s head in Arabic). I’ve always loved a villain that starts out as friends of the hero, and Neeson’s makes that transformation from fatherly mentor to sinister nemesis convincingly. I’d even overlook the miscasting of Katie Holmes on this one, it’s THAT good!

2. Inception (2010)

Perhaps Nolan’s nod to the Bond franchise, Inception is one of those films that gets better and more satisfying with each repeated viewing. The cast is top notch, with scene-stealing performance from Tom Hardy and fun, rousing action set pieces. What I love most is the intriguing ‘idea heist’ sci-fi concept, and whilst the romance between Cob and Mal wasn’t as compelling as I would’ve liked, I’ve warmed up to it a bit more than I did the first time I saw it.

3. The Dark Knight (2008)

It’s rare that a sequel lives up to the original, especially when one already sets the bar so high, but Nolan did just that! It’s nothing short of casting genius to have Heath Ledger play the Joker, though a lot of people were skeptical at first, the late Aussie actor’s iconic performance forever defined that character that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing that role (neither did Nolan as he said here he won’t bring back the Joker character for Batman 3). The complex story and the level of character development in this film makes me forget this is a superhero film! Gone are the circus-y and frivolous-ness of the previous Batman flicks, as both Nolan’s versions become the quintessential thinking person’s superhero movie. This is definitely a welcome trend for this genre!

4. The Prestige (2006)

As I said in this post, I wasn’t blown away by this film on initial viewing. But about a year later I rewatched it and wow, I was riveted. We’ve got a brilliant tale of two magicians who become friends as well as rival, which intensified when one of them came up with the ultimate magic trick, and Nolan cast two great actors in those roles: Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Nolan’s good luck charm Sir Michael Caine also has an important part, and plus who doesn’t get a kick seeing David Bowie’s cameo as the genius inventor Nikola Tesla!

I have a whole new appreciation for it after the second viewing and felt that I could connect to the characters more, especially with Borden (Bale). The whole twist and turns are utterly perplexing (in a good way) and that ending is just WOW! Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London, Nolan did a fine job in setting up a beautifully-shot period piece with gorgeous cinematography, costumes and wonderfully-rich atmosphere.

5. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Now that I’ve seen all three, I think The Dark Knight Rises is my least favorite, though by a very small margin. If you’ve read my super long review, then you’ll know that there are quite a bit of issues I have with it that no amount of cool action pieces would solve. That said, I have only seen it once by now so there’s a chance I might change my mind 😀 I do think visually it just gets better and better, this latest film does boast a visual spectacle that’s meant to be seen on IMAX.

Seriously though, I think Nolan’s Batman trilogy is ace and no doubt I’d buy the Blu-ray box set when it comes out. I think that’s quite a feat considering Nolan didn’t envision a trilogy when he first signed on to do Batman Begins, at least that’s what I learned from various interviews.

6. Insomnia (2002)

Did you ever notice Nolan’s really skimpy when it comes to his movie titles? His one-word-titled movie starting with an ‘i’ is a small film with a budget of less than $50 million. Under less capable hands, the story of two Los Angeles homicide detectives set to investigate a methodical teenage murder in Alaska might’ve end up to be a run-of-the mill thriller. But the smart, twist-ridden script and excellent performances from the cast made this into something memorable and thrilling to watch. Al Pacino as the increasingly unhinged LA detective and Hilary Swank as the young cop who adore him work well together, but it’s Robin Williams’ as the creepy nutcase who’s the scene-stealer. I think comedians actually make for the eeriest villains. Despite the title, Nolan certainly kept the audience wide awake with this one.

7. Memento (2000)

One of the most original story and most innovative narrative structure, it’s one that rewards with multiple viewings. Nominated for two Oscars for Best Editing and Best Original Screenplay, this is the first time mainstream audiences are introduced to Nolan’s genius work. A tale of a man who, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife. Guy Pearce is astounding as Leonard, it’s a shame he was snubbed of any major acting nods! As #28 in IMDb’s Top 250 Movies (along with three other Nolan’s movies), this movie is etched in many people’s memories for years to come. That said, this is perhaps the one film from Nolan that I have yet to see again and I’m not as keen to revisit it as I do the others.


Well, I’m sure everyone will have their own ranking of Christopher Nolan movies, so let’s hear it!

Trailers Spotlight: Cloud Atlas, Chasing Mavericks, The Master

Hello folks! I haven’t done a trailer post since Man of Steel last weekend and this past week there have been quite a few trailers that caught my attention, so I thought I’d highlight ’em here in case some of you have not seen it.

Cloud Atlas

I’ve been quite curious about this movie for some time ever since it was reported over a year ago. I even did a spotlight post for it and boy just check out the star-studded cast! Well, this past week we got an extended trailer (5-min long!) and by golly it looks spectacular! I thought that the Tom Hanks + Halle Berry combo is rather odd, but the whole trailer is so surreal anyway. Despite the length of the trailer though, the story is as cryptic as ever. Truthfully I had no idea what it’s about but reading this description of the plot might give you somewhat of a clue:

An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

The story is based on British author David Mitchell’s award-winning sci-fi novel of the same name, it was published in 2004. On top of the amazing cast from all over the world, I’m curious about it because it’s from the Wachowski siblings. It certainly is an ambitious project, let’s see if the Wachowski could pull this off. Would this be as groundbreaking as The Matrix over a decade ago?

The Master

I’ve been waiting for Joaquin Phoenix to come back to acting from his supposed *retirement.* So the moment I saw this trailer I REALLY want to see this.

A 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as “the Master” whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man.

From the trailer, the faith-based organization is curiously similar to Scientology and this Daily Beast article written by someone who was a Scientologist for 15 years seems to confirm that The Master character could very well be based on L. Ron Hubbard.

Of course director Paul Thomas Anderson nor anyone from the studio is confirming that. No matter, this looks like an intriguing film indeed and both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Phoenix’s performances seems poised for major buzz comes award season.


Chasing Mavericks

I’ve mentioned this film on the Gerry Butler Special post, and here’s the official description:

CHASING MAVERICKS is the inspirational true story of real life surfing phenom Jay Moriarity (newcomer Jonny Weston). When 15 year old Jay discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, is not only real, but exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home, he enlists the help of local legend Frosty Hesson (Butler) to train him to survive it. As Jay and Frosty embark on their quest to accomplish the impossible, they form a unique friendship that transforms both their lives, and their quest to tame Mavericks becomes about far more than surfing.

Truth be told, I’m not too fond of this trailer. Jay’s story seems compelling but I’m not seeing it in the trailer, it looks bland and formulaic, though those waves do look spectacular. But hey, hopefully a meh trailer means a good movie, after all the Curtis Hanson did direct one of my favorite crime thrillers L.A. Confidential.

I do love the fact that Butler actually learned to surf for the first time for this movie, instead of just using a stand in. Those surf shots look real and Butler looks pretty convincing as a surfer mentor, so I remain optimistic about this one. Now that I think about it, this’ll be the first surfing movie since I watch like Point Break! Btw, I like the first poster that still has the old title, but this latest one is very artistic and has that ‘surfer dude’ personality.


BONUS:

Behold the power of iconic music. Someone made this Man of Steel teaser and set it to John Williams’ Superman score:

It’s got the EXACT same footage but it immediately feels sooooo much more powerful and gives you that holy goosebumps watching it. I know I should give Hans Zimmer the benefit of the doubt that he’d create something special for this film but man, you can’t deny just how amazing Williams’ score is and clearly it’s such a timeless piece of work!


Well, thoughts on any of these films folks? Which one are you anticipating most?

Five Favorite Music of the 2012 Olympics Musical Director David Arnold

In just a matter of hours, the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be underway. So have you been following the Olympics coverage? It’s interesting how a lot of film folks are involved in the ceremony. British directors Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire)and Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Reader) have been tasked to conceptualize the Games’ opening ceremony, which reportedly will  be heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Now, serving as the musical director is renowned British composer David Arnold.

So I thought it’d be fitting that for this week’s music break, I shine the spotlight on Mr. Arnold and five of my favorite scores from his collection. But before I get to that, here’s some info about the 50-year-old composer:

Arnold made his debut into writing music for film in 1993 with The Young Americans, which was directed by his college friend Danny Cannon. He then went on to working on Stargate, amongst others, which led to him scoring two more films of Roland Emmerich: Independence Day and Godzilla. He’s perhaps known for his work on many James Bond films. As I’ve mentioned on my previous music break post Casino Royale, Barry was impressed with Arnold’s James Bond music album that he recommended him to Barbara Broccoli to work on the music for Tomorrow Never Dies. He has since scored four more Bond movies: The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

He won’t be scoring the next Bond film Skyfall, but it’s not because of his Olympics 2012 commitment. As quoted in the Cultbox.com interview, Arnold said, “My availability wasn’t an issue. [The film’s director] Sam Mendes wanted to continue his working relationship with Thomas Newman.”  He is however, involved in the super massive James Bond 50th Anniversary movie box set, it might actually take 50 years to watch everything on that monstrous amount of content!

In any case, here’s five favorite David Arnold scores, and it’s no coincidence that his work I LOVE most is from a Bond movie! 🙂

Casino Royale

You’ve perhaps listened to the City of Lovers score which is my favorite of the entire album. But related to that is this Vesper theme:

The Word is Not Enough

Yes, another Bond movie. But I absolutely LOVE this title song performed by Garbage. Arnold co-wrote the song with Don Black, who’s also no stranger to the Bond franchise, having worked on music from Thunderball to Tomorrow Never Dies. The movie is terrible but I can listen to this over and over again. It’s cool, modern but also has a certain emotional feel to it. Too bad the movie itself doesn’t live up to this awesome song.

Here’s the gorgeous score itself which I quite like:

Independence Day

I’m not a big fan of Roland Emmerich’s work but ID4 is undeniably still one of the best alien-invasion disaster movie to date. In fact, it’s become a traditional viewing every 4th of July for a lot of people, and you don’t have to be Americans to cheer to Bill Pulman’s rousing speech as the US president: ‘…today we celebrate Independence Day!” One of the best things about that movie is the equally patriotic and heroic score, it even has that unabashedly defiant tone. Whenever I hear this end title score, I could imagine Will Smith punching the slimy alien with that smug look on his face! 🙂

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I didn’t like the third movie of the first one [maybe I just miss Mr. Tumnus, ehm] But I LOVE the majestic score. It has that epic, mythical feel to it which is perfect for the film, but yet it’s warm and heartfelt, I like the subtle sound of children choir in the background as well.

BBC Sherlock

One of the things I notice right away when I watched this marvelous BBC series is the lively theme song! It just fits the tone and this contemporary re-imagining of Sherlock of the 21st century. It has a bit of an ethnic feel to it and I love how fabulously whimsical and witty it sounds, just like the dialog. The music is composed by Arnold with his long-time collaborator Michael Price.



So do you enjoy any of these? Now tell me, what’s YOUR favorite work from David Arnold?

Counting down to TCFF: ‘Ruby Sparks’ Review and Q&A

In about three months time, one of the most exciting event in my neck of the woods is touching down. YES, the Twin Cities Film Fest starts on FRIDAY, October 12 through Saturday, Oct. 20!

For more info, click on the banner to go to the official site and also LIKE TCFF on Facebook!


I’ve always loved a movie about writers. And the premise of Ruby Sparks no doubt intrigues me:

A novelist struggling with writer’s block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.

Now, what writer hasn’t dreamed of having this happens to them? Especially when one of your characters has all the criteria of the man/woman of your dreams 😉 But as Calvin Weir-Fields finds out, it’s a lot trickier than you think. At first glance, this movie shares some similarities with Stranger than Fiction, but with a few twists on its own. Whilst the Will Ferrell movie focuses on the character who finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear, this one focuses more on the writer.

Paul Dano stars as Calvin, a young writer who’s under pressure to relive his shining moment of having a New York Times best seller before he turns 20, but now suffers from a massive writer’s block. The way he portrays that agony is spot on and I immediately empathize with his character. One day Calvin sort of got his mojo back after having a vivid dream about a girl. Ruby Sparks is the name of that ‘dream’ girl, the protagonist of Calvin’s narration – a vivacious, bubbly red head, played with an infectious zest for life by Zoe Kazan. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, there she is! A living, breathing person who looks and sounds just like how he’s imagined her.

The moment Ruby enters Calvin’s life, hilarity ensues. Calvin is downright flabbergasted but Ruby is baffled by his reaction and acts as if she has always been living in his house the whole time. It’s a hilarious and endearing, funny and touching at the same time. Both Dano and Kazan played their part convincingly.

Some of the funniest moments also comes from Calvin’s married brother, Harry (Chris Messina), a stereotypical guy’s guy who thinks Calvin ought to get out more. He’s the only one who’s read Calvin’s unpublished draft about Ruby, so the moment they all meet over dinner is a hoot! They find out that Calvin can make Ruby do ANYTHING he wants, just as soon as he types it into the story. She can speak French, be a gourmet chef, etc. and of course the first thing Harry thinks of is all the um, physical alterations Calvin can do on Ruby, and basically whatever a man would want their dream girl to be and do for them.

Whilst it has plenty of amusing moments, things aren’t always so rosy. In fact, there’s a lot of dark moments here that merits its R rating. In many ways, the tone and themes are similar to Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ 2006 debut, Little Miss Sunshine where thigh-slapping humor are seamlessly mixed with intense pathos and emotional anguish. In fact, there is a fight scene towards the end of the film that is so raw, intense and utterly gut-wrenching.

The acting is top notch here. The two young cast, Dano and Kazan, definitely carry the film with aplomb. They have amazing chemistry together, Ruby’s spunky-ness perfectly balances Calvin’s awkward, somewhat socially-inept self. The supporting cast add richness to the story: Annette Bening plays Calvin’s sympathetic, free-spirited mom, Antonio Banderas as her warm, carpenter boyfriend and Elliot Gould as his therapist. Steve Coogan and True Blood‘s Deborah Ann-Woll had bit parts but are memorable despite their brief screen time.

My only issue with the film is the predictable and rather saccharine-sweet ending. I feel like if it had ended just a few minutes before the final scene, it would’ve been perfect for me. I kind of like a little bit of uncertainty at the end, where things are not always neatly tied with a big, red bow. Still, Ruby Sparks is a well-written, engaging love story.

Final Thoughts: I highly recommend this one, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and definitely enjoy the performances. As Dayton and Farris used to be music video directors, the use of music is also compelling here, I’m sure the soundtrack is equally charming. Props for Zoe Kazan for writing an offbeat love story that feels refreshingly authentic, which is rare to see. It reminds me a bit of (500) Days of Summer, but to me, Zoe Kazan is far more endearing than Zooey Deschanel.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Summary of the TCFF Q&A with the filmmakers and leading cast:

I saw this last Monday July 16, and what a pleasant surprise to see both filmmakers and the two leading cast, Zoe and Paul were in town to promote the movie! I knew TCFF had announced there’ll be a Q&A afterwards but I didn’t think the cast would be there. TCFF executive director Jatin Setia moderated the event.

One question from the audience was about the believable chemistry between the two leading cast. Well, straight from Paul himself, apparently he and Zoe are dating. Zoe is just as bubbly in person as she is in the film, which is cute to see. I realized shortly afterwards that she is the grand-daughter of Elia Kazan! Obviously she shared his talent and I do think she has a bright future in Hollywood.

Paul seems more introverted and shy, and this is the second time he collaborates with the husband-and-wife directing duo as he previously starred as the reclusive, Nietzsche-obsessed teen in Little Miss Sunshine.

I asked Paul how he portrayed the novelist persona so convincingly, especially in conveying the writer’s block with such agony. I told him that though I knew he was an amazing actor, I wonder if he did any extensive research on that, y’know, like following a real novelist for a week or something like that.

Well, apparently he didn’t. Paul explained in his modest manner that he as an actor, he could easily empathize with a writer’s plight as he put it, ‘we’re artists who live and die by their work.’ He said that it can be extremely agonizing for an artist to be required to produce something creative, whether it’s a narration or performance, in a given allotted time in order to meet deadline. I thought that was a cool answer!

One insight I got from the filmmakers on the music was the fact that their experience as music video directors comes in handy in that they’ve become quite efficient in their film productions. They also understand the importance of music in film, so even on a paltry budget of $8 million, they had a 60-piece orchestra for the soundtrack!

Paul Dano complimented the filmmakers in that on top of being musically and visually gifted directors, Dayton and Farris also have a keen talent for story and character, which definitely shows in Ruby Sparks!

What’s next for Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan?

Paul’s been steadily turning up great work in a relatively short career. He’s worked with renowned directors like Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are). At the Q&A he said that from Minneapolis he’d be off to Louisiana to film Twelve Years A Slave with Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch (wow!) for British director ‘du jour’ Steve McQueen. He’ll also be seen in Looper with equally gifted young actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

This is the first time I saw Zoe Kazan on film, but she’s got almost two dozen TV/movie work under her belt. She’ll be starring with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe in an upcoming romantic comedy The F-Word.

Ruby Sparks filmmaker/cast with TCFF staff

Thanks to TCFF and Allied Integrated Marketing for bringing such a special screening to Minneapolis!


Thoughts on the movie and/or the talents involved? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Classic Flix Review: The Purple Plain (1954)

Quite early on in The Purple Plain, I realized the main character was going to be a different Gregory Peck role than any other I had seen. Pilot Bill Forrester (Peck), a Canadian serving in the Royal Air Force during World War II, is suffering from suicidal tendencies and what we today call post-traumatic stress disorder (you’ll see why in a couple of seamlessly done flashbacks). He’s rude and reckless, having spent his RAF career trying to get killed. “You’d think that would be easy in a war,” he says, “but I just keep getting medals instead.” Despite being considered “a loony” by the rest of the squadron, he’s been promoted to squadron leader. They are stationed in Burma, fighting the Japanese, and the squadron physician Dr. Harris (Bernard Lee, familiar to millions as M in the James Bond films) has been ordered to gauge Forrester’s sanity and suitability for continued duty. But instead of conducting a physical or psychological exam, Harris takes Forrester to the home of an English missionary, Miss McNab (Brenda Banzie), where he meets Anna (Win Min Than), a quiet, beautiful Burmese girl.

It’s pretty much a given that if you watch movies, particularly classic movies, you either believe in love at nearly first sight or you are able to suspend whatever disbelief you may have. In this case, Peck and Than make it plausible that Anna would be calming to Forrester’s troubled soul, and vice versa. Anna also suffers from PTSD, as she, like many of the Burmese in the story, is a refugee from the Japanese destruction of Rangoon [per Wiki].

Forrester now has something, someone, to live for, and rather quickly, he begins to return to what was apparently his former, more genial, self. If Plain were a different kind of movie, it would just stop there. But Forrester and his new navigator Carrington (Lyndon Brook) are sent on what’s supposed to be a routine flight, with another RAF man, Blore (Maurice Denham), as a passenger. One of their plane’s engines begins to leak oil and bursts into flame; they crash land in the Japanese-controlled wilderness, with barely any water and limited everything else. Carrington is horribly burnt and can’t walk, and Forrester and Blore are at odds and can’t agree on how to survive — should they stay with the wreckage and hope to be rescued, or save themselves by walking toward the river miles away?

In short, after spending the first half of the film chasing death, Forrester now wants to live, only to find himself in the perfect position to die.

I am always reluctant to use biography to explain someone’s excellence (or lack thereof) in a particular role, because there’s no way to really know what was going on in their minds. But Peck was going through a tough divorce at the time this film was made and I wonder if he wasn’t able to use that experience. However he did it, he makes Forrester’s angst and recovery very real. When he first sees Anna, he slowly begins to relax. By the time the plane has crashed, his entire bearing has  changed and he is no longer troubled, even when angry.

Director Robert Parrish uses visual motifs, subjective camera, and triangle setups to subtly suggest mood, imply alliances between characters, and foreshadow events. Parrish and cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth particularly distinguish themselves when depicting the oppressive heat and light, and the gorgeous scenery of Burma (actually Sri Lanka). (The saturation of the color reminds me of another film set in South Asia, Black Narcissus, though that film incredibly was not shot on location.) There’s one pan shot about an hour in that shows both the beauty of the surroundings and the enormity of what the men are up against if they want to survive. The score serves to build the tension and hint at Forrester’s mood. There’s big Hans-Zimmer-style staccato horns in the wilderness and a serene theme reinforcing the stability that Anna represents.

The film invites contemplation on a few themes. A scene with a child and a lizard is a comment on the savage side of human nature that is made explicit elsewhere in the film. “To kill or not to kill…. Strange how fascinating death can be, isn’t it?” Forrester says. “The purple plain” is apparently a British nickname for Burma, but given the setting of the film around Easter, I also think it has religious significance as well. There is certainly some exploration of the role of faith — “God will provide” vs. “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

Check out this amusing scene of the dinner scene with miss McNab and singing the Easter hym:

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At any rate, none of the themes are heavy-handed. One person who watches may think the film is saying that God works in mysterious ways (that would be me); another may see it as a comment on the transitory nature of life; and yet another sees an anti-war statement; and the fact that all are correct, along with its excellent overall quality and really perfect ending, indicates to me that The Purple Plain, though under-appreciated, deserves a place in the “timeless classic” category.

– review by Paula G.


Check out Paula’s Bio and her blog Paula’s Cinema Club



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My Movie Confessions – My Film Views Blog-a-thon

Nostra at My Film Views is at it again with yet another fun blog-a-thon. This time we’re talking about *movie sins* that we all have committed but has been reluctant to admit… that is until now 😀

All I had to do is answer these questions below, so let’s get on it shall we?

Which classic movie don’t you like/can’t enjoy and why?

This is easy. Spartacus! For a long time I had been curious to check it out as it was supposedly made because Kirk Douglas had wanted to star in Ben-Hur, so this is supposedly his way of ‘I’ll show them’ kind of reaction to William Wyler (per IMDb trivia).

Well sorry but I don’t think this film even came close to the masterpiece that was Ben-Hur in so many levels. Mainly I just don’t buy Douglas in the role of a slave who leads a revolt against Rome, and I found the whole thing to be so darn boring, and that’s something coming from a big fan of swords & sandals genre!

Which ten classic movies haven’t you seen yet?

There are sooo many but these ten represent those I REALLY want to see fairly soon [in alphabetical order]:

  1. An Affair to Remember
  2. Cat On A Hot Tinroof
  3. Citizen Kane
  4. It Happened One Night
  5. Lawrence of Arabia
  6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  7. On The Waterfront
  8. Singin’ in the Rain
  9. Some Like It Hot
  10. The Apartment

Have you ever sneaked into another movie at the cinema?

No, I just don’t have the energy to see two movies back to back even if I wanted to.

Which actor/actress do you think is overrated?

This is an easy one also, and I wholeheartedly agree with Novia’s picks of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, especially the latter. In fact, I’m so bored with him that I haven’t seen any movie starring Pitt in quite a while now, I think the last one I saw was Spy Game which my friend lent me. I just don’t find him attractive at all or even THAT talented, and I’m so sick of seeing him being put up on such a pedestal by the the media and bloggers alike.

As for the actress, well if you’ve read my Breaking Dawn and Snow White and the Huntsman reviews, obviously it’s Kristen Stewart! I’m absolutely baffled as to why she’s in so high demand, I mean the girl only has about two facial expressions, either nervous or despondent, that’s pretty much it! [shrugs]

From which big director have you never seen any movie (and why)?
I’m embarrassed to say that have not seen any work by Ingmar Bergman nor Akiro Kurosawa. Not sure why really, just haven’t got around to any of them. Any suggestions?

Which movie do you love, but is generally hated?
Ahah, well my friend Ted and I made a post of a dozen movies we secretly adore. But out of the recent ones, I guess it’d be John Carter. I don’t LOVE it enough to buy the Blu-ray but I gave it a 4/5 and as I’ve said in my review, it’s unfairly judged because of its terrible marketing, but it’s actually quite entertaining.

Have you ever been “one of those annoying people” at the cinema?
Not really. I always turn off my cell phone just before the trailers starts, nor do I kick the chair in front of me, etc. I mean it’s just basic courtesy stuff. I’m surprised how many people don’t seem to know or practice them though.

Did you ever watch a movie, which you knew in advance would be bad, just because of a specific actor/actress was in it? Which one and why?

Oh yes. I think we all have certain actors we adore that would make even bad movies watchable. One such movie was Beautician & The Beast which I rented solely because Timothy Dalton stars in it, even with that hideous mustache and silly premise, the movie ends up being quite fun. Yes, I could even endure Fran Drescher’s voice if you can believe that! No, I did NOT buy the movie. Hey, even I’ve got standards, ahah.

Did you ever not watch a specific movie because it had subtitles?
Nope. I came from Indonesia where most Hollywood movies have subtitles, so I’m used to that. In fact, I much prefer that over dubbed movies, now those I absolutely refuse to watch.

Are there any movies in your collection that you have had for more than five years and never watched?
Hmmm, I actually do have quite a few. I’ve started collecting Blu-ray discs now so a lot of my DVDs have not been watched in a while. In fact, I haven’t even watched Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that I bought at a used bookstore over five years ago!

Which are the worst movies in your collection and why do you still own them?
Well that’s what guilty pleasures are all about, right? I have a couple Gerard Butler that fit into such categories: Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life and Attila the Hun, both are a must for any GB fans 😉

Do you have any confessions about your movie watching setup at home?
Well, my hubby actually does all of the set-up in our entertainment room in our basement, I’m quite technically-challenged in that department, ahah. We had the wiring done for surround speakers when we built the home and Ivan set it up in such a way that those unsightly cables aren’t visible. I don’t have a TV on the upper level though, so that’s why I hardly ever watch stuff unless I specifically make my way downstairs. Some of you might find this weird, but I generally don’t like watching full-length movies on my laptop. I prefer to settle nicely into my sofa when I’m watching something 🙂

Any other confessions you want to make?
Not really, I think I’ve made some embarrassing confessions already, ahah. Well, ok so just one more. I think I’ve watched less movies now that I’ve started blogging, but the upside is that I appreciate them all the more.


Well that’s it. So what are some of YOUR movie confessions? Come on, fess up 😀