Everybody’s Chattin’, X-Men: Days of Future Past mini review and Holiday Hiatus!

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Happy Weekend everyone, and to my fellow Americans, Happy Memorial Weekend!

Well, by the time you read this I’ll be on my way to Amsterdam, then Bruges and of course, Paris! So naturally I’ll be taking a blog break for the time being, but before that I’d like to share some of my favorite posts from my fellow bloggers and my quick thoughts on X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Let’s start with the reviews:

Keith and Tim reviewed Godzilla 

Mark reviewed Enemy

Brian over at Vic’s Movie Den reviewed one of my sci-fi faves District-9

Natalie, Mikey & Dan reviewed X-Men: Days of Future Past

As for the rest …

Nostra is back with another edition of Many Faces Of – this time on Clint Eastwood!

Another CinSpec Award post is up from Josh, this time the focus is on 1952

Michael highlights the opening title and song of one of the best modern noirs ever, L.A. Confidential

Sati’s Rambling Friday is here! I even enjoyed her Game of Thrones’ coverage though I don’t even watch the show. That Pedro Pascal guy needs to get more roles! I actually noticed him when he was in BBC’s Robin Hood, man there are sooo many hunks playing supporting roles on that show!

Oh and lastly, check out Ted’s entry to Katy’s BLOGBUSTED B-Movie Blogathon: Action Jackson (1988) & Dark Angel (1990).


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I’ve been wanting to see this one for ages. It’s perhaps my top 3 most-anticipated movies of the year. Well, I’m happy to report that it’s well worth the wait! In short, I loved it. I’m a big fan of the X-Men franchise, yes even the worst one (X-Men The Last Stand) is still quite watchable. I recall how excited I was when I first saw the X-Men movie trailer 14 years ago in 2000, that’s still one of my favorite superhero films to this day before the genre became so ubiquitous.

My favorite X-Men characters, Professor X, Magneto and Wolverine, are the major players in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the complicated relationship between Charles & Erik is one of the main highlights once again. What I love about the X-Men movies is the social themes of prejudice and alienation that are thought-provoking and even relevant to our world today. This film adds a layer of complexity to the story of humans vs mutants struggle with the time travel aspect. The X-Men sends Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both species.

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I’m not going to go into details about the plot on this mini review, but I just want to point out that I was a bit worried at first that the whole time travel aspect would be confusing, but it turns out to be pretty easy to follow. Despite the back and forth between multiple dimensions, somehow the pacing and transition helped me figure out just what the heck is going on. Kudos to Bryan Singer for still retaining all the things I loved about this franchise in the first place and adds an extra dose of cool factor in some of the big action moments. And most importantly, he’s able to tell a complex story in a compelling way, whilst at the same time not forgetting that this is after all a fantastical comic-book movie that ought to be escapist fun.

PeterDinklageXMenDOFPThe ensemble cast are simply awesome! The five actors that make up the major players, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart + Ian McKellen are excellent as always, and Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine is definitely much more fun to watch in an ensemble. Peter Dinklage is memorable here as well as the new cast member, but I’d have to say Evan Peters as Quicksilver was quite the scene stealer. His scenes of him in action are the most fun in the movie!

As far as superhero movies go, this one has everything that makes going to the movies so gratifying. Emotional drama and complex relationship are mixed together well with witty humor and thrilling, dynamic action. Similar to Nolan’s Batman films in some ways, it’s character & plot-driven. The dramatic tension gives a context and reason for all the action spectacle. In other words, it’s much more than just popcorn cinema that’s roaringly-loud but doesn’t really have anything to say.

I posted 40 reasons why I loved X-Men: First Class, I might do the same with this one at some point. I mentioned the soundtrack on that list and I love the score here too by John Ottman (Singer’s longtime collaborator). Can’t wait to see this one again, though I probably skip the 3D as it didn’t really add much to the experience. I think fans of the franchise might get more out of this film than those who’ve never seen any X-Men movie before. The nostalgia factor and the fact that I’m already invested in those characters adds so much to my enjoyment. That said, I think newbies might be intrigued enough by this one to check out the previous movies (well, you can just skip the Wolverine movies).

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So did you enjoy X-Men: Days of Future Past? 


Adieu

See you in a couple of weeks, folks! 

BLOCKBUSTED B-Movie Blogathon: Action Jackson (1988) & Dark Angel (1990)

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Katy from Girl Meets Cinema spearheaded this Blogathon, inspired by the recent Godzilla movie.

Choose a super cheesy blockbuster B-rated movie(s). Genres include: disaster flicks (examples: Twister, Poseidon), alien invasions (i.e. Independence Day, Mars Attacks), creature attacks (Eight Legged Freaks, Tremors), retro horror (i.e. The Crawling Eye, The Blob), and 80s and 90s action (i.e. Total Recall, Armageddon), supernatural (The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Van Helsing), etc. In your post, include a picture(s) of your selection (etc) and reasons why you love that particular movie. Characteristics to consider may be the sense of adventure, the cast, the script, the one-liners, an nostalgic memory, the cult following. Share all the reasons why you are shamelessly in love with this particular movie; the sky’s the limit!

It’s time to spread the shameless love for B-movie awesomeness.

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As a big fan of summer blockbuster films, I have an endless list of B-movies that I can name but I don’t know if big summer movies should be consider B-movies? I mean most of them stars A-list actors, have gigantic budgets and support from studios. To me B-movies are the lesser known ones that don’t have a big budget and most of them weren’t hits at the box office. With that in mind, I’d like to write about two movies that absolutely fits the B-movie category and both were directed by the same person: Craig R. Baxley.

Here are two B-movies that I shamelessly love:

Action Jackson (1988)

ActionJackson1988Producer Joel Silver was on the top of his game back in the 80s, he’d produced many of the box office hits in that decade (48 Hrs., Lethal Weapon, Predator) and he wanted to create a character similar to Shaft for the 80s audiences and Jericho “Action” Jackson was born. Silver recruited second unit director Craig R. Baxley to helm this smaller budgeted action film and he signed Carl Weathers AKA Apollo Creed to play the title role. The film also stars Craig T. Nelson as the villain, the young Sharon Stone and the then popular singer and actress Vanity. The film was box office dud but sort of gained a small cult following and I shamelessly love it!

Why do I think it’s a great B-movie?

Well it’s a fun action flick that’s full of 80s cheesy one liners and Carl Weathers was pretty great as Action Jackson. Just like many action heroes of that era, he’s an honest cop who always figured things out before anyone else, his superior and co-workers don’t like him and of course the bad guys want him dead. Weathers was perfectly cast as the man of action, he played the role pretty straight and didn’t do anything over the top or took it too seriously. The antagonist in the film was the always great Craig T. Nelson, he’s your typical 80s villain. He’s powerful and always have endless henchmen who can’t seem to kill our hero. Sharon Stone had a brief screen time and her role didn’t really add much to the movie. The weakest link here is Vanity, yes she’s pretty but she can’t act and to have her be a love interest was kind of weird. She’s basically a junkie and didn’t care about herself yet somehow Action Jackson fell for her? That’s the only thing annoyed me about the movie.

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Craig R. Baxley was a second unit director on Predator and I assume that’s how he got to direct this film, he shot most of the action sequences in that film and here he didn’t disappoint. He staged a pretty cool foot/car chase and the hand to hand combat finally between Jackson and the villain was pretty great. What I found a little surprising was the film didn’t include any big shootouts, in fact there weren’t any a shoot out at all, pretty rare for an action film of the 80s. Maybe that’s the reason why it didn’t perform well at the box office, people were expecting to see big shootouts and the film didn’t have any.

If there’s a film that deserves a remake, Action Jackson should be on the list. If they do it right, it can a potential franchise for the studio. I think Idris Elba would be the perfect choice to play Jackson.

Here’s the film’s original theatrical trailer:

Dark Angel: I Come In Peace (1990)

DarkAngel1990After Action Jackson, Craig R. Baxley got to make another B-grade action picture. This one starred Dolph Lundgren as a cop trying to take down an alien who kills humans because our brain have some sort of drug that he can sell on his planet. Sounds silly right? Well it wouldn’t be a B-movie if the story isn’t as silly as this one.

I would describe the movie as Predator meets Lethal Weapon, it’s sort of an alien invasion but also a buddy cop action/adventure. As mentioned, Lundgren played the rogue cop and again he’s your typical 80s/90s action hero. He knows everything but can’t seem to convince people to believe him, his boss constantly yells at him and he can take down an army of bad guys.

Brian Benben co-starred as the sidekick/buddy and I thought he’s quite hilarious in the role. It’s too bad his career never took off. The main villain is played by the always frightening actor Matthias Hues, he’s a perfect antagonist to the tall Dolph Lundgren. Their mano-a-mano showdown was fun to watch.

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Being that the movie doesn’t have much of a plot, Baxley was able to keep pace moving smoothly by incorporating some good shootouts and a very cool climatic car chase. I don’t know what else to say about this movie except that if you haven’t seen it, I would recommend you check it out because it’s so silly that you might laugh along with it or at it. No, it’s not a great movie but it sure was entertaining.

Here’s the original theatrical trailer:


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Those are my two absolute favorite B-movies and I would highly recommend you check them out just for pure entertainment cheesy fun. 

FlixChatter Review: Million Dollar Arm (2014)

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We all know Disney is capable of creating compelling stories, and Million Dollar Arm is no exception. While some may prematurely write this off as just another sports flick, they’d be missing the opportunity to see a fun, light-hearted film. Million Dollar Arm is based on a true story about two young Indian teenagers who were plucked from obscurity and thrown in to the sports spotlight.

JB (Jon Hamm) is a sports agent who once was mingling in the upper echelons of athletic society but now is struggling to sign clients and make ends meet. After losing out on a deal that would save his lifestyle and business, JB is offered a Hail Mary. Flipping between the channels, “Britain’s Got Talent” and a game of cricket catches JB’s eye. (Fun fact, the footage of BGT is of Susan Boyle’s iconic rendition of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables.) JB, initially prejudiced against the game, is flabbergasted by the bowler’s speed, even if the form is a little nontraditional. After a creative stroke of genius and with the help of an investor, Hamm strikes a deal to run a talent contest in India. The two most promising candidates will not only have the chance to win $1,000,000 but also come to America, in order to be groomed for a professional baseball tryout. Hence the name: Million Dollar Arm.

As I said, the film is primarily light-hearted, but it also touches on the poverty in India. It doesn’t do a deep dive by any means, but goes from one sweep of the Taj Mahal and wider shots to show the disparaging shacks and murky communal waters. With that said, I was thrilled the film didn’t go in the opposite direction by showing uber cheesy Bollywood stereotypes. The brief glimpses we do see of India, gives a good sense of what the culture and people are actually like. Some parts are quite humorous (“we never bribe in India, we just pay money to bypass the system”) and others are very emotionally charged. The village, where the two boys are from, has what appears to be a religious dedication/blessing ceremony. We see traditional dancing, Hindu marking and the fact that it literally takes the entire village to properly see them on their way. These themes are carried throughout the entire film.

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The two young boys, Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) captured my heart. On one hand they were typical teenage boys interested in the goings on of the girl next door, but on the other hand showed maturity well beyond their years. These boys were thrown into something so far beyond their comfort level and experience, but they handled the pressure with grace. Another fun fact, we learn neither one of them like cricket and had never thrown a baseball in their entire lives!

I absolutely loved Brenda (Lake Bell), and thought she offered the perfect mix of comedic relief and concerned mother. She actually befriends the boys and learns about their struggles with not only learning American customs but also trying to perfect the techniques of baseball in only a few months’ time. We see her participating in yoga sessions and offering late night/early morning advice (she’s a night-time RN). Brenda is the moral compass of the film, while the boys are the heart and soul.

Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Jon Hamm; however, I do enjoy Mad Men. I felt like his portrayal was too similar to Don Draper, and found his performance a bit distracting to watch on screen. I think someone like Aaron Eckhart may have been better suited for the role. Eckhart has proven he can play the suave jackal and redeeming father figure (think Thank You For Smoking). With that said, it was fun to watch Hamm’s character arc from selfish ladies’ man to surrogate father.

Overall, this movie does not disappoint, and offers a little something for everyone. And, as a bonus, the score and/or soundtrack was super fun. The sound was a hip hop/Bollywood fusion. Million Dollar Arm is humorous, serious and, even though it’s a true story, will have you on the edge of your seat!

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What do you think of Million Dollar Arm? 

Question of the Week: What’s Your Favorite Movie Set In Paris?

Happy midweek, everyone! Pardon me for being extra chirpy today as it’s only two days away before my hubby & I are off to Europe. As I’ve mentioned here, we’re going to Amsterdam – Bruges – Paris to be exact, but we’re spending the most time in Paris. We’re renting an apartment in the 15th arrondissement area for 6 nights via airbnb.com, something we’ve never done before but that’s part of the adventure as we’ll be staying away from the tourist-y area.

We wanted to visit Bruges because we saw how gorgeous it is in the 2008 movie In Bruges with Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. That’s perhaps the most famous movie featuring the Belgian city, but Paris has been quite a staple in various films, Hollywood or otherwise. Just look at this super long list in Wikipedia. In fact, this weekend we saw 2 Days In Paris, which was written & directed by Julie Delphy who also starred in it with Adam Goldberg as her American boyfriend.

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It’s a pretty cute movie, a bit vulgar in parts but also hilarious and has a wonderful scenery of Paris through the lens of a real Parisian, so it doesn’t look too glamorized. Well, it made me think of other movies I’ve enjoyed that’s set in the City of Light, whether in parts or in its entirety.

Midnight In Paris

Moulin Rouge

An Education

Inception

Paris Je T'aime – Père Lachaise Cemetery

Sabrina 1995

Phantom Of the Opera 2004

I know for sure I’d want to visit some of the main landmarks featured in some of my favorite movies. I’ve booked my tour to Palais Garnier where the Phantom of the Opera is set in, which is pretty close to the Père Lachaise Cemetery where Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer’s sequence is set in Paris Je T’aime. Of course Midnight in Paris has a bunch of great Parisian locations, and I have this site to use as a guide. But what I look forward to the most is just enjoying the ambiance and simply being in Paris, strolling through the streets and along the Seine river, people watching whilst sitting in a café, etc.


So my question to you today is, what’s YOUR favorite movie set in Paris?

May 2014 Blind Spot Film: The Apartment (1960)

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The Apartment was supposed to be my April Blindspot movie, but I mistakenly thought I had Some Like It Hot on my list instead. Surely it wasn’t at all a waste that I got to watch another Billy Wilder movie, but I have to admit I was not as enamored with that one as most do. The Apartment however, lives up to all the praises and then some. It’s definitely my favorite out of the three Wilder movies I’ve seen so far (Sabrina 1954 was the first one).

I’ve always wondered why the movie was called The Apartment, but within a few minutes I found out why. I like the opening sequence with Jack Lemmon’s narration. He played the protagonist, C.C. Baxter, who works as an insurance agent for Consolidated Life, one of the top five companies in the country with 31,259 employees. He works on the 19th floor in this giant office with rows upon rows of desks. By the end of the day, Baxter is the only one left. No, not because he’s a workaholic or anything, but he can’t come home to his apartment whenever he likes because he lets the executives of the company use his apartment for trysts. I seriously don’t know how he gets ANY work done as every day he’s so busy booking up his executives’ dates at his apartment and make sure they dates don’t get mixed up. At first I feel bad for him, especially when he gets a call in the middle of the night and have to clear out for one of the execs’ booty call. But you know what, Baxter brought this upon himself, he’s doing this favors to the execs to move up quickly to the top.

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Though it’s obviously a major inconvenience for Baxter, he tolerates this whole charade because of his ambition. That is until he met this cute elevator girl Fran Kubelik. Shirley MacClaine is so cute here with her pixie haircut, this is the first time I saw her in her earlier films as the first movie I saw her in was Guarding Tess (1994) with Nic Cage. This is also the first time I saw Fred McMurray. He’s quite memorable here as the top exec who makes life complicated for Baxter. I’m not going to spoil it for you in case you have not seen the film, though the plot is not entirely unpredictable. What did surprise me was how dark the film got, especially in regards to MacClaine’s character. I think those who’ve seen this know what I’m talking about. Even the whole cheating execs thing is not exactly a wholesome subject matter. But of course, given this is set in the 60s, it’s still a very demure film nary of any risque scene.

At times the storyline reminds me a bit of Roman Holiday in that the protagonist was initially an ambitious go-getter, someone ruthless enough to get ahead in their career. But when they fall in love, their perspective completely changes. I love how Baxter becomes the sweetest, most caring man even after he realizes his chances to be with the girl he loves is slim to none. Jack Lemmon is absolutely endearing in the way he dotes on Fran, taking care of her when she needs it most.

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This film won five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing. Both Lemmon and MacClaine were nominated in the acting categories, too. I’d have been ok if Lemmon had won Best Actor but then again I don’t know who else was nominated that year. Baxter is the heart and soul of this film, and the transformation of his character as the film progresses is very believable.

I love so many things about this movie. The sharp script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, lovely music by Adolph Deutsch, and the perfect balance of drama and comedy. I love the hilarious way Baxter made spaghetti, straining the pasta through the grid of a tennis racket. It’s quite an iconic scene that’s cute and heartwarming.

Fran Kubelik: What’s a tennis racket doing in the kitchen?
C.C. Baxter: Tennis racket? Oh, I remember, I was cooking myself an Italian dinner.
[Fran looks confused]
C.C. Baxter: I use it to strain the spaghetti.

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Of course the performances are great all around, I quite like the chemistry between Lemmon and MacClaine, and it’s the kind of romance that’s rarely seen today as their love develops with barely any physical contact! There’s not even a single kissing scene between the two actors, but you definitely felt the connection between the them.

The ending is one of those that made me go up and cheer… especially when Baxter finally stands up for himself and decides to become a *human being* (or a mensch as his doctor neighbor told him to be it just the night before). It turns out having the career he’s always wanted is not all that’s cracked up to be, meanwhile Fran too has an epiphany moment of her own. The finale is definitely one of the most memorable New Year’s Eve moments in movies. I feel that this ending is pretty typical for rom-coms, complete with the girl running to catch the guy she *finally* realizes to be the love of her life + a bit of panic happening that she could be too late. Yet, it doesn’t feel clichéd or hackneyed here, and that’s the beauty of this movie.

I’m glad I finally caught The Apartment, it’s one I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Now that I’ve seen two Billy Wilder movies, I definitely see why people love his work so much. I look forward to catching up on more of his films in the future, especially Sunset Blvd. that’s been recommended to me ages ago.

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4.5 out of 5 reels


This is the fourth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .

As I missed April’s BlindSpot, there’ll be a Double Entry next month.


What do you think of  The Apartment? I’d love to hear what you think!

Special Collaborative Post: Recasting Jane Austen’s Screen Adaptation of Sense & Sensibility

Happy Sunday, everyone! Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend.

Today I bring you another collaborative post with a fellow blogger, and fellow British actor aficionado, Anna from Defiant Success blog. This will be a mini blog series of RECASTING Jane Austen screen adaptations. Anna wanted to do this in order of the book’s release, the first one happens to be my own personal favorite: Sense & Sensibility.

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Anna’s Picks

Romola Garai as Elinor Dashwood

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“Elinor, the eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength in understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; — her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn. and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.”

If you’ve seen Garai’s work in the brilliant (but unfortunately short-lived) TV series The Hour, you’ll know that her role of Bel Rowley has a few shared traits with that of Elinor. Reserved, levelheaded, (un)willingly keeps her feelings to herself…she just seemed right for the part. (It also doesn’t hurt that Garai has previously played another Austen leading lady, albeit a less sensible one.)

Carey Mulligan as Marianne Dashwood

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“She was sensible and clever; but eager in every thing; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was every thing but prudent.”


I was reminded of Mulligan’s work in An Education as I was sketching out this list. Her role of Jenny Mellor is that of a young woman with a deep admiration for the arts and is experiencing love for the first time in her life before the harsh truths about her lover come to light. That description could easily be applied to Marianne as well. (Again, Mulligan has previously been in an Austen adaptation, though her character is less appreciated.)

James McAvoy as Edward Ferrars

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“He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open affectionate heart. His understanding was good, and his education had given it solid improvement. But he was neither fitted by abilities nor disposition to answer the wishes of his mother and sister, who longer to see him distinguished—as—they hardly knew what. They wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other. His mother wished to interest him in political concerns, to get him into parliament, or to see him connected with some of the great men of the day. Mrs. John Dashwood wished it likewise; but in the mean while, till one of these superior blessings could be attained, it would have quieted her ambition to see him driving a barouche. But Edward had no turn for great men or barouches. All his wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life.”

Yes, Austen specified that Edward is “not handsome” but considering the role has also been played by 90s-era Hugh Grant and a pre-Downton Abbey Dan Stevens, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think anyone will object to whom I’ve chosen. Anyway, McAvoy’s work in Atonement is what inspired me to choose him. Reserved and shy but passionate. (And yes, I see the irony of having him and Garai play love interests. It would certainly shine Atonement in a new light.)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Colonel Brandon

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“He was silent and grave. His appearance however was not unpleasing, in spite of his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty; but though his face was not handsome his countenance was sensible, and his address was particularly gentlemanlike.”


Okay, I’ll admit the 1995 Sense & Sensibility film might have had some influence in this decision. (Another influence was Parade’s End.) There was just something about that description that made me think of Cumberbatch. (My money’s on the “not unpleasing” appearance.) And I bet that the scene of Colonel Brandon recalling his lost love to Elinor would be done beautifully in his hands (and voice).

Henry Cavill as John Willoughby

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“Elinor and her mother rose up in amazement at their entrance, and while the eyes of both were fixed on him with an evident wonder and a secret admiration which equally sprung from his appearance, he apologized for his intrusion by relating its cause, in a manner so frank and so graceful, that his person, which was uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice and expression. Had he been old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would have been secured by any act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings.”

Basically that description there is Austen describing Willoughby as the most ridiculously handsome man you’ve ever laid eyes on. (Don’t quote me on that.) And I’ll admit I was slightly stuck on whom to cast in the role. Thankfully I’m on the internet enough to get a good idea or two, and Cavill certainly came to mind. I mean, look at him. It practically makes Willoughby’s philandering all the more stunning (though not exactly unexpected), doesn’t it?

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Ruth’s Picks

Andrea Riseborough as Elinor Dashwood

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I first saw Andrea in three films last year and was so impressed by her chameleonic ability to disappear into her characters. She’s in her mid 30s but looks youthful enough to pull off a 19 year old. I think she’d do Elinor justice as I think she can play ANY role convincingly. She has a quiet grace about her as well as a wise-beyond-her-years countenance that’d work nicely for this role.

Sophia Myles as Marianne Dashwood

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Myles has actually done an Austen adaptation before in 1999 film version of Mansfield Park, but it was a small role as Fanny’s sister. I actually thought she resembles Kate Winslet so much but that’s not the reason I cast her here. I had been impressed by her in Tristan n Isolde and the Moonlight TV show. She’s so grossly underrated but she is beautiful and has that innocent yet impetuous sensibility that would make her an excellent Marianne.

Tom Hiddleston as Edward Ferrars

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I always thought that Hiddleston is not classically handsome but yet he’s immensely attractive and charming. Now Edward is more on the shy side (unlike the more gregarious Hiddles) but I think the talented Brit can pull off reserve. Though he’s most well-known for playing the villainous Loki in the Marvel Universe, Tom has kind eyes which makes me think he’d suit this character. I also love that Tom has a soothing n gentle voice, more Dan Stevens than the stuttering Hugh Grant. Plus I think he and Andrea would make a lovely, albeit a bit unexpected, pair.
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Toby Stephens as Colonel Brandon

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Yes I know it’s no surprise you’d see Toby on here but really I can’t imagine anyone else I’d want in the role. He’s done two Brontë adaptations, Charlotte’s (BBC Jane Eyre 2006) and Anne’s (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), but never Austen’s. I could just picture his melancholic expression as he beheld Marianne for the first time playing the piano. He’s perfected that pining look as Rochester pining for Jane. Now obviously the impossibly fine-boned actor can’t be described as ‘not handsome’ (how Brandon’s described in the book) but the important thing is that he captured the essence of the character the way he did with Rochester. Plus, like Rickman, Toby has voice to die for, so I’d want an extended scene of his Brandon reading to Marianne [sigh]
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Aaron Taylor-Johnson as John Willoughby

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Initially I was thinking of Ben Barnes, who’s played Dorian Gray before, but I feel that he’s not seductive enough as Willoughby. Aaron on the other hand, is what I’d consider not simply handsome, but a truly beautiful young man. On top of that, he oozes so much sex appeal with just the way he stares at you with those gorgeous blue eyes. At 23, also pretty close to the character’s age in the book (25). Willoughby is supposed to be an instant charmer, all swagger and undeniable passion, but not in a malicious kind of way as he earnestly does love Marianne. Interestingly, his hair here reminds me of Greg Wise’s wavy locks in the 1995 version as Willoughby.


Well, those are our picks for the main characters Sense & Sensibility. Let us know your thoughts and feel free to offer your own picks in the comments!

FlixChatter Review: BELLE (2013)

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As a big fan of period dramas, I’ve been looking forward to this film since last November when I first heard about it. Well, seven months later I finally got to see it and it’s certainly worth the wait.

The film opens with a Royal Navy Admiral (Matthew Goode) picking up a young mixed-race girl from a ship and brought her to live with his aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), where she’s raised alongside her cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon). Unlike the Austen/Brontës adaptations, Belle is based on a true story. In fact, filmmaker Amma Assante was inspired by an 18th century painting of the real life miss Belle. It’s also the first time I saw a period drama starring a mixed race woman, an illegitimate child no less, which no doubt made for a tricky predicament growing up in Georgian era. Lord Mansfield tried to shelter her from the horror of slavery, but not from the dismal reality of racism.

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How may I be too high in rank to dine with the servants and too low in rank to dine with my family?

The question above that Belle posed to Lord Mansfield (whom she called ‘papa’) sums up her situation perfectly. Though Belle is brought up in such a privileged home, she’s constantly reminded of her place in the world, which is really no place for anyone to belong to. The color of her skin also prevents her from fully participating in society traditions and especially the issue of finding a suitable husband. The fact that Belle later becomes a woman of means after she inherited her father’s considerable fortune only made it trickier. It’s as if she’s a ‘free slave who begs for a master,’ Belle said to her confidante, a dashing and idealistic son of a vicar, John Davinier (Sam Reid).

Many people are likely comparing this film to 12 Years of Slave, but I think this this film is more akin to the excellent-yet-underrated Amazing Grace, which focused on British politician William Wilberforce who endeavored to end the British transatlantic slave trade in the late 1700s. As in Amazing Grace, there’s no gory brutality of slavery being shown, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t feel the barbaric reality of such practice. Yet unlike those two films (and most films of its kind), it’s intriguing to see the story of racial inequality from a woman’s point of view. The fact that we’ve got a British female director (Amma Assante) at the helm and a female screenwriter penning the script (Misan Sagay) certainly gave the film a unique perspective.

Assante’s astute direction offers a nice balance between the moral drama and the love story, as we become more and more invested in the characters, most especially Belle. I love how Assante re-enacted the making of the painting I mentioned above, it’s one of the many highlights of the film for me. There are also a few humorous moments to break the tension of the heavy subject matter. The cinematography and art direction are beautiful, the costumes are as gorgeous as the cast, but most importantly, it’s not style over substance. The dialog feels natural and the script is laden with lots of quotable remarks that really drive the sentiments home.

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As for the performances, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Belle is the heart and soul of this film. I was quite taken by the English actress’ nuanced and emotional performance right from the start. This is hopefully her first of many leading roles as she is not only beautiful, but has the screen charisma to match. She’s able to convey a deep sense of hurt, but is just as convincing when she’s fiercely-defiant. The ensemble cast is chock full of the best of British thespians, starting with Wilkinson and Watson, as well as Penelope Wilson and Miranda Richardson delivering memorable supporting roles. Aussie-born British actor Sam Reid has everything you’d want in a period drama hero: dashing, gentle, kind, and with strong conviction. His Davinier is almost too good to be true, plus his scorching chemistry with Mbatha-Raw made for some breathless moments. The weak link here to me is Tom Felton who once again plays a villain of sort, all contemptuous sneer as the racist would-be suitor to Belle’s cousin Elizabeth. He’s practically playing a variation of Harry Potter‘s Draco Malfoy here.

Though the finale is quite predictable, it still packs quite an emotional punch. Now, I don’t know how historically Belle had influenced the abolition of slavery in England, but it can be presumed that she had a hand in shaping the decision of Lord Mansfield as Lord Chief Justice in his ruling over the Zong Massacre case. It’s the case where the slaves were deemed more worthy dead than alive, a reality that could very well happened to Dido herself had it not been for the ‘grace of God,’ as Davinier put it. Even with the creative license taken, the essence of Belle’s story seems intact.

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Final Thoughts: I knew this film would be good, but I absolutely loved this film and one I’d definitely add to my Blu-ray collection. I always find the social class intricacies in period dramas deeply intriguing, but Belle adds more layers to that with the race and slavery issue, whilst keeping a love story at the core. I really think that even those who aren’t fond of this genre would find this moving and inspiring. An impressive sophomore effort from miss Assante, I sure hope continues to make more films in the future!

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Have you seen Belle? I’d love to hear what you think.

Everybody’s Chattin’ & Question of the Week: What’s your favorite BIG MONSTER movie(s)?

Happy Wednesday everybody! I’m going to hit two birds with one stone today in combining two post *series* in one. I’m just afraid I’ll miss doing a community-building post this month, but I want to pick your brain on the topic of the week: Big Monster 😀

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Ok, so let’s start with some of my favorite posts from the past couple of weeks:

  • Apparently Chris never cries at movies, but these nine films almost made him tear up.
  • sgdsd
    What is Jack Bauer doing in Pompeii??

    Mark reviewed Pompeii which I had a feeling is NOT worth your while.

  • One of my favorite Blog Series ever is Michael’s TMT (a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time). Check out his latest story on Escape from New York
  • On the TV front, Sidekick Reviews posted some thoughts on the latest Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Finale: Beginning of the End
  • Speaking of TV, Nostra discovered this TV Miniseries A Young Doctor’s Notebook I’ve never heard before, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm
  • Hildebrandt_LOTRI always like learning something new and from this week, Cindy posted about book/poster illustrators the great Hildebrandt Brothers
  • Natalie posted about The Derby Film Festival in Derbyshire, UK coming up later this month. It’s always great to participate in a local film event!
  • Last but not least, Brittani just spearheaded yet another blogathon on Favorite Movie Titles A-Z. I LOVE this idea! I can’t participate next week because of my Europe trip, so mine would be posted later in June when I return.

Now for Question of the Week!

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Well, it’s inspired by my first ever viewing of a Godzilla movie last night. Yep, I’ve NEVER seen any previous Godzilla movie before, not the Japanese nor the US versions. I don’t know, I guess I’m just generally not a fan of monster movies, though of course I made an exception once in a while and in the case of Pacific Rim, I actually LOVED every minute of it! This latest Godzilla movie is not bad, it’s entertaining though it started too slow in the beginning and the human drama is pretty run of the mill, I’d even say corny with cookie-cutter characters that wasted the talents of the great ensemble cast! I don’t know when I’ll get around to do a proper review but I’d say it’s more of a 3/5 movie for me, maybe 3.5 if I’m feeling generous. Certainly the special effects are fantastic though, I saw clips of even the 1998 version and it seems light years behind compared to this! I think the earlier versions are more fun to watch for pure nostalgia value as the effects are hilarious!


So my question to you is two-fold:

Are you a fan of BIG MONSTER movies and which one(s) is YOUR favorite?

Top Ten Films of the 90s – by Ted Saydalavong

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Love90sThe 90s was the dawn of heavily usage of CGI in films, bloated budgets and digital sound in movie theaters. Batman Returns was the first film to include Dolby Digital in its soundtrack and Jurassic Park was the first film to have used DTS soundtrack. I saw those two films in theater and that’s when I fell in love with digital sound, I thought I was going to go deaf when the T-Rex roared in Jurassic Park, it was that loud and I love every second of it.

The 90s also gave us some great films so it was very difficult to just pick 10 from the decade. I won’t go into plot details of each film because I think people have seen most if not all of them.

Here are my top ten best films of the 90s, in no particular order:

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Tarantino’s second film after Reservoir Dogs and it was a masterpiece. To be honest, I first saw this film in theater and didn’t care for it. A year later when it came out on VHS, I rented it and was blown by it. I think I’ve watched this film at least 50 times and still waiting for it to come out on Blu-Ray.

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2. Goodfellas (1990)

I saw this film a couple of years after it came out in theater and afterwards I was scared shitless of the mobsters. The first 40 minutes of this film was probably one of the best camera techniques I’ve ever witnessed on film, guess that’s what makes Scorsese so great. And oh yeah the rest of the film was pretty good too. This film didn’t win the best picture of the year was a travesty, I don’t know what the Oscar voters were thinking when they gave the best picture nod to Dances with Wolves. I wonder if the box office number has something to do with it, Goodfellas barely made $50mil while Dances with Wolves made close to $200 mil.

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It didn’t win best picture was bad enough but when the Oscar voters gave the best directing effort to Kevin Costner instead of Scorsese, that was even more of a travesty. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Dances with Wolves was a good film but I don’t know how Costner won over Scorsese for directing. Yes some of you will probably remember that Costner was the golden boy back at that time, everything he touches back then turned to gold.

3. The Thin Red Line (1998)

I love everything about this film, from the amazing cinematography to the haunting music by Hans Zimmer. But nothing will top the way Malick directed this war epic as told from the point of view of the soldiers. Now I know that most people prefer Saving Private Ryan over this film and I won’t disagree with them because I thought both films were great but I just like this one better. I remember when Malick announced that he’s coming back to Hollywood and make a new film, seemed like every big name actors wanted to be in it. This was Malick’s first film since he directed Days of Heaven (one of my all-time favorite films), back in 1978.

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Check out this clip of Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese revealing their favorite films from the 90s. Why? Because the master Scorsese named The Thin Red Line as one of his favorite films from the decade too:


4. Heat (1995)

Michael Mann made three great films in the 90s, The Last of the Mohican, Heat and The Insider. I love all three but I have to go with Heat as the best one. To me Heat is timeless, I have it on Blu-ray and every time I watch it, it doesn’t feel like it’s from the mid-90s. One minor complaint I have with the film it’s a bit too long, a few scenes could’ve been cut out and it still would’ve been a great film. The theme music my Elliot Goldenthal is one of the best I’ve ever heard, can’t believe he’s the same person who composed Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, probably two of the worst comic book based films ever and the soundtrack by Goldenthal was equally awful. He came back and worked with Mann again in 2009’s Public Enemies.

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A little known fact about the cast, Keanu Reeves was cast in the Val Kilmer’s role but dropped out the last minute to do Speed and Kilmer stepped in.

The trailer still gives me goose bumps:


5. Unforgiven (1992)

Clint Eastwood’s last western film and arguably was his best one, I know some will say that The Outlaw Josey Wales was better but I prefer this one. I feel that this film was in some ways a closure to the man with no name trilogy, not the awful Pale Rider. Gene Hackman won an Oscar for his role for the bad ass Little Bill and he truly deserved it. It also has great supporting roles by Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris.

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6. Se7en (1995)

After the disastrous Alien 3, David Fincher was black listed by the Hollywood folks (read more about it here). He got all the blames for that film’s failure and it wasn’t even his fault. So when Arnold Koppleson was looking for a director for Se7en, most of the well known directors at the time all turned him down, they thought that Se7en will ruin their career. So Koppleson offered the job to Fincher and as they say the rest is history.

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The film got rave reviews and was a box office hit and of course it catapulted Fincher into an A-list director. To those who’ve never seen the movie, I won’t say anything about it. Just see it and be amaze by it. Warning though, the film starts out dark and ends even darker.

Check out the trailer:


7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

T2 was the first film I saw in 70mm screen, for those who don’t know what a 70mm screen is and wanted to know more about it, please read here. Basically it’s similar to IMAX today; films shot in 35mm were up-converted so it can be projected on the 70mm screen. I was blown away by the huge wide screen and the six channels surround sound. The film was the first to actually cost over $100mil to produce, seems like every film Cameron makes the budget gets higher and higher.

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I can’t say enough how much I love this movie, I bought a VHS copy when it came out on home video, then when DVD took over, I bought the DVD . Then when Blu-ray came out, I bought the Blu-ray version. Unfortunately none of the home video releases captured what I saw in that big 70mm screen back in the summer of 1991.

8. Fargo (1996)

I didn’t see Fargo until probably 2004 or 2005, why? Well back in 1996 I was working at Video Update, remember them? They’re no longer in business anymore. Anyhoo, when Fargo came out on home video, our store only has four copies and people were mad that we didn’t have more in stock.  Customers would yell at me and asked why the hell do we have 80 copies of Mission: Impossible but only 4 of Fargo? Well I told them, Mission Impossible made over $180 mil at box office and Fargo barely made $20 mil and they still yelled at me. Anyways, after dealing with angry customers daily back at the video store, I decided to not see Fargo because it reminded me of people yelling at me.

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So in mid 2000s, I burrowed a DVD copy of Fargo from a friend and watched it. I automatically fell in love with the film and couldn’t believe I’ve waited so long to see it. The Coen Bros. captured everything right about MN, well maybe the accent was a bit overdone but every else was pitched perfect. The cold weather and the dark days of winter were there on the screen.

9. Carlito’s Way (1993)

This film came out in the fall of 1993 and somehow it was ignored by the audience and critics alike. Maybe people were sick of Pacino around this time, he’d just won an Oscar a year earlier and people were still mad at him for doing The Godfather Part 3, again I’m assuming here.  Whatever the reasons were, they missed out on a great gangster flick, also starring Sean Penn as the sleazy lawyer who was unrecognizable in the role. In my opinion this is Brian De Palma’s best film, he hasn’t done any good film since.

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The film has one of the best foot chase and shoot out scenes ever, trust me you’ll love that sequence when you see the movie. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and give it a rent, you won’t be disappointed.

10. Enemy of the States (1998)

I love this movie and have seen it countless times, it’s a throwback to the 70s espionage genre mixed in with 90s action style. They even brought in Gene Hackman to reprise his role from The Conversation, yeah I know it’s not official that he’s playing the same character but if you’ve seen the 1974 film then you know he’s playing the same person. To date this is Will Smith’s best film and Tony Scott’s last great action film.

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A little history behind this film, it was supposed to star Tom Cruise, reuniting him with Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott, they did Top Gun and Days of Thunder together. But Cruise was stuck doing Eyes Wide Shut he was committed to shooting M: I-2 right after so he couldn’t be in this movie. Will Smith was cast instead and it did a decent number at the box office.


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Well those are my ten best films from the 90s. Agree or disagree? Let me know and feel free to list your own favorites from that era.

FlixChatter Review: LOCKE

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When I heard the premise of Locke, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a one-man show in a confined environment. I knew it’d take the right actor, a substantially charismatic one, to pull off this role. Obviously the script and direction is just as crucial, and fortunately, those three elements work efficiently for the swift 85-minute running time.

The film is set entirely inside a BMW SUV. Within minutes of Ivan Locke climbing into his car and starts the ignition, we learn that he’s a successful construction manager and a dedicated family man. His wife and kids are waiting for him as an important soccer match is about to go on, one he and his kids have been anticipating for weeks. It also happens to be the eve of an important project, perhaps the biggest in his career, one his boss expects he’d supervise and make sure nothing goes wrong.

Seems that he’s got everything in his life under control… yet a single phone call causes him to drop everything and drive to London. Why? Well, to tell you would rob you of the experience watching this film. With every phone call Locke either make or receives, one by one the reason of his seemingly-rash decision is revealed. Yet there’s nothing impulsive about what Locke does that night, he seems to have a calculated, almost mechanical way of looking at things. It’s as if he sees things in his life, and how he responds to each conflict that arises, the same way he responds to concrete in his daily job.

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It’s quite a fascinating and well-crafted moral drama, one that really puts the audience into the roller-coaster emotional ride that our protagonist goes through. I was completely engrossed in this one man’s endeavor to salvage everything that matters to him, and I mean every single thing, this is a man who doesn’t seem to see the virtue of prioritizing. As I watch this, I kept thinking that something’s got to give, he just simply can’t have it all, try as he might.

Sorry to be so cryptic in this review but I feel that the less you know about the plot the better. So that’s a perfect segue to talk about the performances. Hardy is the only character we see in the film but there are a number of great voice actors such as Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott as the people who interact with Hardy on the phone. I think they all did a splendid job, most of all Hardy himself in a riveting and unforgettable role that just might garner him a slew of kudos come award season.

He’s speaking with a Welsh accent of some kind, channeling Anthony Hopkins at times in his manner of speaking. This is perhaps an actor’s dream to be able to use every bit of his facial expression and communicate emotion simply with their eyes or the smallest gestures, and Hardy definitely has what it takes. There’s a certain warmth about him yet within seconds he can be ruthless and even borderline psychotic. Now, that last part is why I can’t give this film a full score. I won’t say too much about it but let’s just say there are some really weird moments that I feel could’ve been toned down a bit. There’s already a lot going on in such a small time frame that it felt a bit too indulgent.

That said, I applaud Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things) for crafting such a unique cinematic experience. The night cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos (Thor) is striking, he somehow made highway driving look so dramatic and even artistic. Some people might complain that there’s not much action, but that actually what separates this from just another thriller flicks out there. For once it’s nice to see a regular guy at the center of the story, someone relatable that we could imagine ourselves or our friends being in a similar situation. There’s no government conspiracy, terrorist/kidnapping type of crisis he has to deal with. There’s no hero nor villain, just a man grappling with one VERY stressful night of his life. I love films that give me a lot to chew on after I watch it, especially in terms of morality and what is truly the right thing to do in a given situation. Locke definitely gives me that. Highly recommended.

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Have you seen Locke? I’m curious to hear what you think.