[Eclectic] Weekend Roundup: Private Lives play, Starz OUTLANDER, Into The Storm & Zodiac

How’s your weekend everyone? Did any of you see any new releases this weekend? I skipped the cinema again this weekend, but looks like Michael Bay wins again as his Ninja Turtles movie made $65 mil, ah geez! Well I guess it didn’t have much competition this weekend other than a couple of smaller budget films like Into The Storm  [mini review below].

On Friday I had a fabulous Movie Nite w/ two of my friends and FC contributors Becky & Ashley! We saw Toby Stephens‘ in Noël Coward’s Private Lives via Digital Theatre, which was as wonderful as I had thought it would be.

Check out the Digital Theatre trailer:

OMG, just when I thought I couldn’t love Toby more, his incredible performance here just prove how versatile and chameleon-like he is as an actor. He does this play the same time he’s filming his role as Captain Flint in Black Sails! I mean Noël Coward and pirates couldn’t be more different from each other, yet Toby inhabited both roles so perfectly that it was like watching two completely different actors!


I love Anna Chancellor in this as well, both of them are fantastic in delivering the witty lines as well as performing the physical comedy required for the roles. They have an amazing chemistry as well, definitely one of the most fun plays I’ve seen so far, so bravo director Jonathan Kent! If only I had been able to see this LIVE on stage!


After the play, we caught one episode of Starz’s new show OUTLANDER. Ashley’s already a big fan of the show and I’d be keen on watching more of this if I had cable! I mean the lush Scotland scenery is gorgeous, not to mention the hot men in kilts, he-llo Sam Heughan! 😉


You already know I have a penchant for the Scots, and this kind of historical fantasy is so right up my alley. I’m also intrigued by the fact that Battlestar Galactica‘s producer Ron Moore is behind this. I LOVE BSG but instead of a space opera, we’ve got adventure + romance with time travel thrown in. The voice over narration is a bit excessive tho, but I’m still keen on watching the rest of the season when it becomes available.

3.5 reels

As for Into The Storm, aka Twister 2.0. I have to admit that initially I was intrigued to see this because of Richard Armitage in the lead role. Though you can’t really call it a lead role as all the human characters are dwarfed by [pardon the pun Thorin!] by the humongous monster tornado, or I should say tornadoes as there are a bunch of them popping up at a given time, and some of them are on fire [yikes!]


Seeing this with Dolby Atmos sound [but sans 3D thank goodness!], it really felt like you’re in the eye of the storm and there’s this one scene where one character inside this Batman Tumblr-like vehicle called Titus is swept up into the biggest tornado ever. The brief floating moment felt as if he were flying inside that Titus, which actually looked pretty cool, but of course you know what happens next. What goes up, must come down, ouch! Aside from some exhilarating special effects though, there’s little to recommend it. Cliched script laden with clunky dialog, one-dimensional characters and cheesy human drama fit more for a Lifetime TV movie all play second fiddle to the storm scenes. Apparently screenwriter John Swetnam also wrote Step Up All In which also opened this weekend.

Sorry Armitage fans, I wish I could say that his presence saved this movie. Alas, I doubt ANY actor could elevate a role so poorly written. I’d say if you want to see his acting prowess, I’d rather watch his BBC shows like Spooks, North & South, Strike Back, etc. or if you’re lucky enough to see him live on the London stage in The Crucible, surely you’d see what he’s truly capable of.

Director Steven Quayle was the second unit director for Titanic and Avatar and clearly the visual effects stuff is his forte. For those who are curious about the SFX, it might be worth renting, or you could just rewatch Twister again. That 1996 movie might not be perfect either but at least the human drama was a little more engaging AND it had a sense of humor. Instead of flying cows, here we’ve got flying… airplanes?? Hmmm, it just didn’t have the same impact for some reason, no matter how realistic they made those storms to be.


Now, I finally caught this David Fincher’s ZODIAC. I’ve heard great things about it but I just never got around to it for some reason. Well I’m glad I finally did. It’s billed as a crime thriller but it’s more of a slo-burn drama that focus on the lives of the detectives and newspaper folks who cover the serial killings instead of a straight whodunnit type film. It’s even more sinister the fact that this film was based on real events in the San Francisco Bay area, as the script was adapted from Robert Graysmith’s non-fiction book of the same name. Graysmith is played by Jake Gyllenhaal in the film.


At 157 min, I was a bit worried it would drag a bit but fortunately, under Fincher’s deft hands, even the slower moments are brimming with suspense. I like the psychological aspect of how the newspaper cartoonist became so obsessed with the case that affect his relationship with his family and co-workers. There are some gruesome violence in the first act but it’s thankfully not as terrifying as SE7EN, in fact, most of the film is more of a character study filled with a lot of dialog. I like this type of thrillers so it definitely kept my attention. Great acting from the tremendous cast too, particularly Gyllenhaal, Anthony Edwards and Mark Ruffalo as the cartoonist and two detectives, respectively. Gyllenhaal is one of those actors who’s growing on me as he seems to pick more interesting roles now after taking daft roles like Prince of Persia.

It’s too bad that this film apparently tanked at the box office. Heh, clearly people are more inclined to watch thrillers with a lot more action than an intelligent and immersive version like this one. Zodiac was thoroughly gripping — a superb direction from Fincher and aided by intriguing camera work and an eerie score.

four reels

Well, that was my weekend folks! So what did you see, anything good?

61 thoughts on “[Eclectic] Weekend Roundup: Private Lives play, Starz OUTLANDER, Into The Storm & Zodiac

  1. This weekend, I re-watched Deliverance and American Hustle and saw The Invisible Woman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and right now, finishing up a documentary on one of my all-time favorite wrestlers. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. 16-time world champion. The Man! WHOO!!!!

    1. I read your review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, glad you enjoyed that as much as I did! Ha..ha.. I’m clueless about wrestling, sounds like that doc is so right up your alley Steven!

      1. Well, I am a major wrestling fan though I abruptly stopped my WrestleMania marathon just out of lack of interest. It’s not fun as it used to be. The old days were better where things weren’t as PC. Plus, you had longer championship reigns.

  2. Ted S.

    Didn’t see anything new over the weekend, decided to pick up a book and read it. I bought Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining, so far it’s very good. I’ve stopped reading King’s books for about 10 years, I hated how he ended The Dark Tower and refuse to read his books after that. But so far I’m impress with this sequel, there’s been talk of Warner Bros. doing a prequel to The Shining, they should adapt this sequel instead.

    I think I’ll pass on seeing Into the Storm no matter how cool it sounded in Atmos, ha ha. I remember I was so excited to see Twister when it came out in theater, I had a fascination with tornadoes back then and also it’s one of the first films around that time to rely heavily on CGI effects. I enjoyed it then but recently I bought the Bluray and watched it again and thought it’s awful, lol.

    Zodiac on the other hand was a great suspense drama, I remember Fincher wasn’t happy that the studio moved the release date from the prime holiday season to spring. I think the studio didn’t think it would’ve received Oscar nominations or earn any money, guess they were right. But it’s such a shame so many people have ignored that movie.

    1. Hey Ted! I don’t know if I could get into King’s books to be honest, might be too dark for me. I haven’t seen The Shining either.

      Ha..ha.. yeah, not worth seeing unless you’re a storm seeker who loves seeing realistic storms/tornadoes. I’ve only seen Twister once but I remember it being much more entertaining than this one.

      Heh, why didn’t the studio think Zodiac wouldn’t receive any Oscar nomination? I thought the direction and acting were both very good!

      1. Ted S.

        I wouldn’t recommend his books to you since most of his work are pretty dark and scary.

        It’s been a long time but i think the studio thought Fincher’s making another Se7en but when they saw it and realized it’s more of a drama, they push it to the spring release. Their excuse was that Fincher needed more time to edit the movie, like most excuses when they move the release date of any film. But Fincher came out and said the movie’s already done.

        1. I tell you that’s just one of the worst thing about studio meddling. Heh, I think the film is as good as Se7en, I mean just because it’s more of a drama doesn’t mean it’s a lesser film. Some thrillers are just concerned about shocking the audience but I like that Zodiac focuses on the psyche of the people involved in the case, not just the murders themselves.

  3. I am all about Outlander right now. Finished the first book in like 4-5 days and at the start of the second one. Wanted to see where the story was headed.

    As for other weekend viewing, finally got around to seeing Thor: Dark World. May do a little write up on that and stayed tuned to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) for their annual Summer Under the Stars fest. This weekend it was William Powell and Carole Lombard – great actors and stars of the 1930s.

    1. Hi Iba! So have you seen the show yet? My friend Ashley read the book before she saw the show and she loved it, curious to hear what you think!

      Thor 2 was hilarious, though I still prefer the first film. Glad you’re still keeping up w/ TCM stuff!

  4. I love Zodiac, glad you finally saw it! 🙂 This weekend I didn’t watch any new films, but re-watched Superbad, The Devil Wears Prada, Closer and Friends With Money. Ooh, I do remember now that earlier in the week I saw Lars Von Trier’s “Idiots”.

    1. Hi Fernando! Yeah it took us forever to finally saw it, glad it was still available on Netflix!

      Oooh lots of fun rewatches, well Closer is a bit dark isn’t it? What do you think of Friends with Money? Would you recommend it? Ahah well, I know I wouldn’t be into anything by Von Triers.

      1. Yes, VERY dark. I love the writing in that one, and the performances still give me chills!

        I would totally recommend Friends With Money. It doesn’t follow a plot per se. It’s more of a series of vignettes, but the performances are great, especially Frances McDormand.

        And Idiots is the least provocative I’ve seen from Lars. Not very disturbing, thankfully.

        1. Thankfully the gruesome scenes are only in the beginning. I think Se7en is even scarier!

          Ah ok, I might give Friends With Money a shot then. Oh it’s got Frances McDormand? I like her and she certainly wouldn’t be involved in silly rom-coms. If you like her, I’d suggest Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

          1. Yes, the cast of Friends with Money is great! McDormand, Joan Cusack, Jason Isaacs, Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Keener, Scott Caan, Ty Burrell…

            And I’ve seen Ms. Pettigrew! I mean, how could I resist a film with McDormand, Amy Adams and Lee Pace?!

            1. I think I saw the cover and it’s got Aniston on it so I automatically presumes it’s one of her banal rom-coms. But boy I LOVE some of those actors, aside from McDormand I also like Jason Isaacs and Catherine Keener!

              Yes, I’m glad you’ve seen it! Indeed I love that cast of Miss Pettigrew! Lee Pace is divine 😉

              1. It’s a pretty good film. Aniston is the main character andd I’d say it’s her best film role. It’s directed by one of my favorites, Nicole Holofcener, who also did Please Give and Enough Said.

  5. Sounds like a good weekend Ruth. Not sure what to make of Into The Storm based on the trailer but it sounds pretty terrible. I’ve been catching up on some Woody Allen oldies this weekend which was good fun!

    1. Hello Natalie! Oh which Woody Allen movies did you see? I quite like Purple Rose of Cairo but I haven’t seen some of his older stuff like Annie Hall, Manhattan, etc.

      1. It was Annie Hall, Manhattan and Whatever Works. All were brilliant but you should definitely check out Annie Hall – looking back you can really see how it redefined the modern rom-com and it’s very funny too! Haven’t seen Purple Rose Of Cairo but I’ll definitely check it out now.

        1. Oh ok, I definitely should! Though I’ve actually enjoyed more of Woody’s films when he’s NOT in the movie, ahah. Purple Rose is very similar to Midnight in Paris which I adore!

          1. I didn’t see Annie Hall until recently and then felt compelled to watch it a second time. I’d love to know what you think of it! Woody is pretty great in it too. Can’t wait to check out Purple Rose now! 🙂

            1. Ok I’ll check it out at some point, seems that lots of people love Annie Hall. So you like Midnight in Paris right? I have a feeling you’d dig Purple Rose too, that was my intro to Woody’s work, I like the fantasy aspect of it.

  6. I saw Zodiac recently as well, I agree the film doesn’t have a dull moment thanks to Fincher’s direction. Took me two viewings to really get to grips with the story, I also watched it in cinema in 07.

    1. Hello Chris! Glad you just saw Zodiac too, I thought I was the last person who had just seen it, ahah. I don’t know if I’ll watch it again anytime soon but yeah, the story is quite gripping but I like that it’s more of a slo-burn thriller instead of all action. It’s also more palatable than Se7en which was just grisly!

  7. Some great movies then…need to rewatch Zodiac as it has been a couple of years. Had a pretty good weekend myself although the movie I saw wasn’t (Sex Tape (not my choice to watch it btw ;)))

    1. Oh I wouldn’t say Into The Storm is good, let alone great, ahah. But I guess better than Sex Tape, I can’t imagine enjoying that at all to be honest.

  8. I am a big time Armitage fan and Richard in a wet shirt and tight dad slacks was worth the price of the ticket. Biggest screen possible and Dolby Atmos for best effects. They really do look like real you tube / news footage tornadoes. The actors probably improved third tails off to get this script to work. Practical and CGI effects are outstanding. Max Deacon made me cry twice. I keep missing the cow. I’ve heard others have seen it. They should have loaded more easter eggs. Great representations of women and people of color. Could have been more but still, they tried. There’s a little something to appeal to everyone. Is that success or failure?

    1. Ahah, I was expecting some of Richard’s fans would refute my negative review of Into The Storm 😉 Sorry but I don’t feel ANY emotional connection w/ any of the characters. I do enjoy the Dolby Atmos but I expect so much more from a film for me to say it’s GOOD. I think this Rope of Silicon (http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/into-storm-2014-movie-review/) reviewer said it best: “I can’t fault the actors too much for their performances as the words they’re reading are hollow and empty, just as are the characters themselves. Asking an actor to establish any kind of sense of character or emotional connection with an audience when the focus of scenes is just as much about what’s being said as it is the Nikon camera on the dashboard is asking too much.” Hope Richard picks a better role next time.

  9. I’m seeing Into the Storm tomorrow and i kind of know what to expect so it might be OK. I’m also doing Edinburgh Book Festival stuff at the minute. Going to see George R.R. Martin give a talk tonight and I might be getting an Interview with the woman who writes the Outlander books.

    Also, I agree, Zodiac is a fantastic movie, the last great film Fincher ever did.

    1. As long as you go in expecting the special effects to um, blow you away then you might enjoy it more than I did Mikey. I kept thinking maybe if Toby Stephens were in the lead I might like it more, but come to think of it, better that he’s NOT involved in it, ha!

      Very cool Mikey! Look at you interviewing more famous people, woo hoo!

      I really hope Gone Girl will be as good as Zodiac, I like the psychological aspect of a thriller, sounds like he’s the right man for the job!

  10. Wow, sounds like you watched a lot this past weekend, Ruth! We should plan a weekend in the future to watch some movies together – sounds like great fun! 🙂

    From the trailer, I thought Into the Storm looked a lot like a poor remake of Twister. It’s too bad that it wasn’t that good, but unfortunately I can’t say I’m surprised. I was a fan of Twister as it’s a movie I grew up seeing when I was just a kid.

    As for Zodiac, it’s one of my favorite David Fincher movies. I remember seeing it in theaters and being concerned it was going to take a while given its long run-time, but I remember really enjoying it. Gyllenhaal’s role in it made me think of his role in the much more recent Prisoners. He plays a good detective, I think, although I much more enjoyed Zodiac than Prisoners. Nice post, Ruth!

    1. Hi there Kris! Yeah you are welcome for a movie nite at my place anytime 🙂

      Into The Storm is a poor imitation of Twister. Yes the special effects are better but really the characters & dialog are so awful. Perhaps if I were still a huge fan of Armitage I might enjoy it more but then again, I doubt it, ahah.

      I haven’t seen Prisoners yet but for some reason I’m not all that interested. Plus someone sort of already spoiled the plot for me on one of the blog posts I read, so now I’m even less interested in seeing it.

      1. Ooo . . . sounds great! We should try to meet up again this year if we can both work it into our schedules. It helps that I live in the Milwaukee area now – makes me a little closer. Would you be interested in meeting up in Madison in the fall?

        I actually hated Prisoners, but I know a lot of people liked it. I just found the plot to be very frustrating, and the movie seemed to drag for me. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it, but then again, it depends who you’re talking to, haha.

  11. The Toby play looks great, I would love to see that live. I like how you can watch that play and get that theater aspect from it, that you normally don’t get from a movie. Nice to see him in a funny type of a role. Did your gfs enjoy it as well? He looks very sexy in those pajamas! I would say those are Ruth approved for sure.

    Watched Outlander yesterday too, I liked it as well. When I was watching it, I thought of you and thought this seemed like a show that you would enjoy. It has that nice period piece feel to it, mixed with history and sexy Scottish men. I would say that also deserves the Ruth stamp of approval.

    I haven’t seen or am interested in that storm movie, I don’t really like movies about tornadoes and storms and all that stuff. I did watch Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, loved it! And I caught Man of Steel on TV which I thought was okay. Only thing good about that movie is my, yes my, sexy, sexy Henry Cavill. Superman please save me! lol

    1. Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed plays and this one is so well-written and well-acted. His real-life wife was on the play as well, playing his young wife that he ended up leaving. Yeah I think my gfs enjoyed it, we’re all laughing a lot during the play. He looks GOOD in his PJs but it’s his amazing performance that blew me away!

      Ha..ha.. yeah Outlander certainly has a lot of the things I’d like in a show, esp. men in kilts. But as gorgeous as Sam Heughan is, I still won’t call myself a fan yet. I still prefer Toby who’s perhaps not as young & pretty but he’s far more attractive even with all the lines on his face 😉

      Ha..ha.. yes Henry is gorgeous as Superman! I was super excited for Man of Steel and loved it on first & second viewing on the big screen, but when I rewatched it again the third time I’m not as crazy about it, plus the third act w/ all that mind-numbing action is just too much!

      1. Glad you gals enjoyed it. Looks great! Seems like he is very comfortable almost at home on stage, just what I gathered in my head from the previews. Is that his background? ( I know you know these things). 🙂

        Agree I am not totally convinced on Outlander. Starz shows are really hit or miss. There have only been a handful that I have liked from that channel.

        Yes the action sequences were a little much for me, with all the product placements in between them. Oh look Superman just flew over 711 and Sears. haha But Henry is gorgeous. I’ve liked him since the Tudors. Do you think he is a good actor? Part of me says no and my husband thinks he’s not that great, curious on what you think?

        1. Oh I know who you’re referring to, I just want to make sure you’re not referring to him in a negative way or you’d have to answer to me, ahah! Well this Sam guy is nowhere near as talented as Toby, at least not yet. But Toby is what you would call a thespian… with a capital T! 😀

  12. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    Is it just me. Or does ‘Into The Storm’ look and feel like an eerie amalgam of the most suspenseful and scary parts of ‘Twister’ mixed with the schlockiest parts of Sy~Fy’s ‘Sharknado’ and ‘Sharknado: The Next One’?

    Excellent catch, though on ‘Zodiac’. An excellent procedural flavored with creepy, sometimes skin crawling tension and fright.

    It’s also heartening to see that you now have two new contenders to vie with Grerad Butler.

    1. Hello Kevin! I might actually give Sharknado a shot, at least they’re in on the joke and knows full well how silly it is 🙂

      I’m glad to finally see Zodiac, amen to what you said about it!

      Ha..ha.. well, Gerard’s been out of contender for some time now. Come to think of it, his chops is just no match for Toby Stephens, esp his poor role choices of late.

  13. Glad you liked Zodiac, Ruth. I need to rewatch it, but I really liked it on the first watch.

    I watched several 1981 films, including Pennies from Heaven (LOVED it), Diva, Possession, and An American Werewolf in London, over the weekend.

    1. I haven’t seen any of the films you mentioned. Oh wait, is Possession the one w/ Gwyneth Paltrow & Aaron Eckhart? Because if so, my darling Toby is in it, completely underused in supporting role but he’s always wonderful to watch!

  14. Sounds like you had a good weekend, Ruth! I had a similar reaction to Zodiac. A bit lengthy, but still gripping with some awesome performances.

    I played catch-up with my movie project over the weekend. I finally watched Sideways, Rudy and Top Gun. Oh, and the first Pirates of the Caribbean last night. Gotta say Sideways was the best of the group, but all were entertaining.

    1. Hi Eric! Glad you’re keeping up w/ your Movie Project. Oooh, I hope you’ll review Rudy and Top Gun, both were fun guilty pleasures when I first saw them. I still haven’t seen Sideways yet.

  15. I saw Zodiac for the second time last week and still don’t see why it’s held up as some kind of classic. It’s a bit too long and unfocused for me in the way it switches between the different perspectives of those investigating the killer. Having said that, there’s still loads to like about it – the scene with Gyllenhaal near the end when he visits the guy at his home is particularly unnerving and the stabbing of the couple is horrific. I would have liked to have seen more of Downey Jr., but the rest of the cast shine.

    1. Hi Dan! Interesting that we both just saw Zodiac for the first time. I don’t know if it qualifies as a classic but I still think it’s a VERY good thriller and like you said, lots to like. Yeah that scene you mentioned is soooo suspenseful! I thought Downey was just ok tho, a lot of his mannerism are pretty much the same in all his movies, even Iron Man.

  16. Anna Chancellor also got to sit on Stephen Dilane in The Cazalets. She is a lucky lady 🙂

    Richard is in the Crucible? Good God that’s gotta be so hot.

    Glad you liked Zodiac, Ruffalo and RDJ were terrific in the movie. I hate the audiences these days. They will go see crap but Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tank. I hope Gone Girl will do well, after all it has Batman (still laughing about that) and it’s based on hugely popular book. But then again so was Dragon Tattoo and it had James Bond….

    1. Oh wow, Anna is one lucky lady indeed! But she is gorgeous and talented so I guess those guys are lucky, too 🙂

      Ahah yeah, I’ve been seeing Richard’s pics in The Crucible all over Tumblr, he does look quite hot there but I’m all about Toby right now so I don’t notice him as much.

      I know, right? I mean why should Michael Bay stop making crappy movies when everything he does, no matter how horrid, always tops box office! I didn’t realize Dragon Tattoo didn’t do well at the box office, I mean considering how popular the books were. Well maybe the fact that Ben is playing Batman too will get the comic fanboys curious enough to see Gone Girl.

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