Happy 41st Birthday Christian Bale! Pictorial birthday tribute to the Welsh thespian

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Happy weekend everyone! Well, today marks the 41st Birthday of one of my favorite actors: Christian Bale. I’ve done a few posts on the Welsh thespian, including a commentary on his roller-coaster career and a Birthday Tribute post when he turned 37. I couldn’t resist doing a post on him today and I thought I’d just do a pictorial tribute that highlights his amazing versatility and incredible chameleon-like quality.

Thanks Nostra for the inspiration for my top banner from his ‘Many Faces Of…’ posts. From the time he was a child actor when he was only 12 in Empire of the Sun up until today, Bale remains one of the hardest working actors who constantly challenges himself both physically and mentally to play a variety of roles. I’ve seen about 22 of his 40+ completed TV/Film work, which is perhaps the most from any living actor, yet there are still holes in my Bale viewings that I still need to check out, esp. The Machinist. It’s incredible that in his illustrious career, he’s only been nominated for Oscar twice (The Fighter, American Hustle) and finally won in the latter.

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1987 – Empire of the Sun

So this is a tribute to the performances I have seen over the years, broken down by decades:

1990s

Only Bale would follow up a Glamrock drama (Velvet Goldmine), where he donned heavy eye shadows & glitter AND have gay sex with Ewan McGregor, with playing Jesus Christ in a TV movie just a year later. [ It’s nuts to think it’s Obi-Wan & Batman together, and wouldn’t you know it, Ewan is also playing Jesus in Last Days in the Desert which premiered at Sundance].

2000

This is Bale’s most prolific year and also the decade when he became a household name when he’s cast as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. His breakthrough role is definitely Patrick Bateman in cult classic American Psycho, a role he nearly lost out to Leo DiCaprio [is that why the two movie stars never worked together to this day?] I think that movie became more widely seen after his Batman movies, but it shows what a committed actor he is and that he’s fearless in taking on um, batty roles like Bateman.

Not every movie he does is good however, I mean hell-o Captain Corelli’s Mandolin 😛 Whatever possessed him to take on that movie, I mean he’s completely wasted in that flick. Reign of Fire was blasted by critics but I actually think it’s an underrated sci-fi extravaganza set in post-apocalyptic England where people had to battle um, fire-eating dragons. It’s amusing that his BFF and dragon-battling partner was King Leonidas himself (Gerard Butler), well before he gained those 12-pack abs that’d eclipse Bale’s buff physique here. Bale’s also pretty much wasted in Laurel Canyon, though he’s so gorgeous in that movie that I didn’t mind 😉 And of course Terminator Salvation is more famous for his rant to a DP who interfered him during a take of a supposedly emotional scene. I barely remembered him in Public Enemies, but the following year he emerged in top form (by losing a massive amount of weight) to play real-life boxer Dick Ecklund in The Fighter, which deservedly earned him his first Oscar.

2011 and beyond!

Bale completed his third Batman role in The Dark Knight Rises, looking appropriately world-weary.

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2012 The Dark Knight Rises

The shape-shifting continued as he gained 40+ pounds for the 70s crime drama American Hustle. Not only that, he also sported the most hilarious comb-over ever put on screen!

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2013 American Hustle

Not satisfied with having already played THE main hero from the Bible in Mary, Mother of Jesus, Bale took on the role of Moses in Exodus: Gods & Kings. But even his performance couldn’t save Ridley Scott’s latest effort to reclaim Gladiator’s epic glory.

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2014 Exodus: Gods and Kings

I said on this post that I’d love for him to do an unabashedly romantic movie. It’d be great to see him in a sweeping drama with a deep love story at its core, but perhaps we might see a glimpse of that in Knight of Cups?

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2015 [hopefully] – Knight of Cups
I look forward to what Bale has in store next as he enters a new decade in his life. Which film would earn him his second Oscar? Whatever it is, I know I’ll continue to follow his cinematic career and may it be as fascinating (if not more) as it’s been in the past two decades.

Here’s to you, Mr. Bale. Happy Birthday!!

 


Hope you enjoyed Christian Bale’s pictorial tribute. What’s YOUR favorite roles from this fine actor?

Thursday Movie Picks #29: All in the Family Edition – Married Couple Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I’ve been seeing posts on the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog, but I haven’t been able to participate. Well until now that is.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today is the the first theme for the edition… 

Married Couples

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Well, for this edition, I decided to pick three movies that feature married couples in three very different marital circumstances. Having been married for 11 years, I consider marriage a blessing I don’t take for granted, but it’s also not a walk in the park. For this blogathon, I deliberately picked three different genres just to mix things up, so here goes:

Julie & Julia

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Movies depicting a positive marriage is rare in Hollywood, perhaps they think it just doesn’t make for an interesting story. Well, I always go back to this movie as a good example of a healthy marriage as it actually features TWO loving married couples. People may only remember this movie for all the food/cooking scenes, and they certainly are scrumptious. But for me I always remember the relationship between Julie & Paul Child (Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci), as well as Julie & Eric Powell (Amy Adams & Chris Messina). Both husbands are so supportive of their wives, and they’re depicted in such a real and sincere ways by all the actors. In fact, Paul Child made my list of Best Movie Husbands that I did for my 9th wedding anniversary.

 

Indecent Proposal

indecentproposalI saw this film ages ago with my brother, I think I might’ve been in high school at the time. I thought that the pairing of Demi Moore & Woody Harrelson worked well here and there’s a real chemistry between the two. The film shows how temptation and desire can quickly tear apart even the strongest bond between two people, and their marriage crumbles as a result. But the film doesn’t just show the fragility of marriage, but also the power of love that can piece things back together again, no matter how shattered the bond may have been. The story made such a big impression on me and to this day, the beautiful finale scene by the beach never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The heart-wrenching theme song by John Barry is one of my all time favorite.

Mr & Mrs Smith

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This is the infamous film that serves as the origin story of Hollywood’s golden couple. Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie fell in love during filming and their scorching chemistry is palpable on screen. Playing two skilled assassins who kept their secret identity from each other, it’s perhaps the most preposterous portrayal of marriage, but it sure was fun to watch. The real-life couple could barely fake their disdain for each other in the opening scene at a marriage counseling session:

 


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen these films?

Music Break: 5 Great Themes from 5 Favorite Action Flicks

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As an action movies fanatic, I also love the music that accompanies them. Here’s a list of some great themes from action movies throughout the years.

Black Rain
Chase to the Steel Plant by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer has been the go to guy for composing big Hollywood tent pole pictures within the last 15 years or so. But he started out composing small movies and this was his first gig at composing a budget Hollywood film. It’s also his first collaboration with Ridley Scott. In this underrated buddy cop action thriller, his style really shows and I love this film’s soundtrack. Especially this particular track, it’s from a scene where two of the main characters chasing a suspect that leads to a shootout. The music works perfectly with the scene and I always get goose bumps when I watch this scene and hear the theme.

Heat
Unused Ending score by Elliot Goldenthal

I thought Michael Mann’s Heat is a nearly flawless masterpiece and the music by Elliot Goldenthal is just as good. To me the music in the film is timeless, you can still watch the film today and never thought it’s from the 90s. This track was supposed to be used at the film’s ending scene but apparently Mann wasn’t too thrilled about it and decided to use Moby’s God Moving Over the face of the Waters track instead. This of course angered Goldenthal and he and Mann didn’t work together again until Public Enemies. I love Moby’s theme but I prefer this one over the one that was used in the final fim.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Song for Jesse by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Technically this film isn’t an “action” picture because there’s only one shootout scene but I thought it’s one of the best westerns ever made and quite underrated. The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis was just stunning. There are many great tracks from the soundtrack but this one is my absolute favorite. The whole film felt like a dream and this theme enhances the mood.

Sunshine
Surface of the Sun by John Murphy

I wish more Hollywood directors would hire John Murphy to compose their films, he’s one of my favorites, I thought his work in Mann’s Miami Vice was excellent. He and Danny Boyle has collaborated in many films together. This track from Sunshine has been used in many movie trailers and it’s a great one.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
We Have All the Time In World by John Barry

I can’t leave a James Bond flick out of a list about action pictures. John Barry’s excellent and timeless theme for one of my favorite Bond flicks. I can listen to this theme and the song by Louis Armstrong over and over again. I know for years many so called Bond fans hated this flick, but ever since Christopher Nolan said it’s his favorite Bond film, they have changed their tune about the film now. I’ve always been a fan and had Connery returned as 007 or Timothy Dalton accepted the role, it would have a been perfect Bond film to me. George Lazenby wasn’t bad as Bond but I couldn’t really accept him playing a super spy. But Diana Riggs was an awesome Bond girl.

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These are some of my favorite action themes, feel free to share yours in the comments section.

January 2015 Blind Spot: REAR WINDOW (1954)

RearWindow1954I’ve been wanting to check this Alfred Hitchcock classic for ages. It seems to be unanimously loved by critics and audiences alike, which always adds a dose of curiosity to see if it would live up to its classic status.

The story centers on a wheelchair bound photographer, Jeff (James Stewart) who spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. It’s interesting that the protagonist is basically a peeping tom, which would’ve been really creepy and disturbing, but because it’s played by such a likable actor like Stewart, you can’t help but like the guy. At first he’s complaining how it’d be a chore to be confined to his apartment and not being able to go out, but after a few hours [or maybe just minutes?], he doesn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, it’s clear Jeff’s become obsessed that he doesn’t even sleep anymore, aside from the occasional dosing off in his chair.

RearWindow_JimmyStewartStewart is perfectly cast here, and his growing fixation with what he think is a murder case is quite amusing to watch. You know a guy is uncontrollably obsessed when he’d rather look out the window than make out with his stunning girlfriend, Lisa, in the shape of Grace Kelly no less. Even in a sea of ridiculously beautiful people that is Hollywood, the late actress still stands out amongst them. I’ve said in my review of To Catch A Thief that she is too beautiful it’s distracting. Well that is still true but fortunately in this movie she was given more to do than simply prance around like a model.

Here she plays a high-society fashion consultant, which is a perfect role for her and once again I’m marveling at every single thing she wears. It’s not just the clothes, though they certainly are amazing, it’s the graceful way miss Kelly wore them [pardon the pun] that made them memorable.

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I’m shocked that the legendary costume designer Edith Head was NOT nominated for her work here. Say what?? The 1950s costumes are not only gorgeous, they’re practically iconic. I’m curious now who were the costume design nominees that year if they’re considered more worthy what Head did here.

At one of the most amusing and most action-packed scenes, whilst wearing her dainty 1950s floral dress, Lisa managed to climb a ladder up to the second floor of an apartment AND got into the unit through the window! As unbelievable as that scene was, it sure was fun to watch.

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My favorite character in this movie is Jeff’s physical therapy nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter). I love how she’s always berating Jeff for sitting around snooping on people instead of marrying his girlfriend.

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She got the best lines and she delivered them with such dry wit:

Stella: Intelligence. Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence.

Stella: You heard of that market crash in ’29? I predicted that.
Jeff: Oh, just how did you do that, Stella?
Stella: Oh, simple. I was nursing a director of General Motors. Kidney ailment, they said. Nerves, I said. And I asked myself, “What’s General Motors got to be nervous about?” Overproduction, I says; collapse. When General Motors has to go to the bathroom ten times a day, the whole country’s ready to let go.

My favorite scenes are when the three of them – Jeff, Lisa and Stella – are all speculating and bantering about the neighbor in question. Not surprised that John Michael Hayes was nominated for an Oscar for his screenwriting work.

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Jeff: Those two yellow zinnias at the end, they’re shorter now. Now since when do flowers grow shorter over the course of two weeks? Something’s buried there.
Lisa: Mrs. Thorwald!
Stella: You haven’t spent much time around cemeteries, have you? Mr. Thorwald could hardly bury his wife in plot of ground about one foot square. Unless he put her in standing on end, in which case he wouldn’t need the knives and saw.

There’s also the conversation between Jeff and his detective friend Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey) who’s vehemently skeptical about Jeff’s suspicion and his murder theory.

Lt. Doyle: Jeff, you’ve got a lot to learn about homicide. Why, morons have committed murders so shrewdly that it’s taken a hundred trained police minds to catch them.

The romance isn’t all that convincing, though in this case it’s meant to be as Jeff is unsure about how he really feels about Lisa. I feel that the romance in Hitchcock films is a hit and miss. I didn’t really buy the romance between Grace Kelly & Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief either, nor between Grant & Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest. I did love the chemistry between Gregory Peck & Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound though.

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Now, the studio set where the movie was shot is practically a character in and of itself. According to IMDb trivia, the entire film was shot on one set, which required months of planning and construction. One thousand arc lights were used to simulate sunlight and all the apartments in the building across from Jeff’s apartment had electricity could be lived in. That’s just incredible! Right from the opening sequence, the set look like it’s custom-made for the film, but the artificial look of it is part of the charm. Both Robert Burks and Loren L. Ryder were both nominated for Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Sound, respectively.

So what’s the verdict?

RearWindow_VoyeurismWell I’m glad to say that this was definitely an enjoyable film that’s perhaps also rewarding on repeat viewings. I love all the interesting details even in the tertiary characters and the various personalities of Jeff’s neighbors here that adds another layer of intrigue. Of course the film also packs a lot of interesting themes and commentaries about psychology, human nature and such that’s intrinsic in most of Hitchcock’s films.

What surprises me was how playful it is and overall the tone is much lighter than I expected. Considering this was billed as a mystery thriller, I was expecting a much more suspenseful and perhaps something more threatening. The only real tension was in the finale, which was also quite hilarious at the same time as [spoiler alert!] Jeff tried to blind the intruder by taking a series of photographs of him with his camera. Given that he had to change the light bulb every time he took a photo, you’d think the intruder would’ve had ample time to attack him! Raymond Burr cut an intimidating figure as Mr. Thorwald, though he barely had any lines in this movie.

Now, those aren’t quibbles so much as my observation. Naturally some things are quite dated but given the time it was made, it was perfect for that time. I think it’s more of a dark comedy with elements of mystery than a thriller, but it’s still a well-crafted and entertaining film nonetheless. This one certainly lives up to the hype and what one would consider an enduring classic.

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2015BlindSpotCheck out my list of 2015 Blind Spot Films


Have you seen Rear Window? Well, what did YOU think?

Five Movies. Five Words – Vol. 3

FiveMoviesFiveWordsCan’t believe I completely dropped the ball on this series! I mean I didn’t do a single Five Movies in Five Words the entire year of 2014! [face palm] Yes I know, I know, one of my New Year Resolution is to be more consistent 😛

Thanks to Josh @ The Cinematic Spectacle for reminding me! So basically the idea is to come up with five movies from various genres and capture the essence of the film, or whatever that comes to mind when I think of that film, in one word. As a general *rule* I’m picking films I saw the past year (old or new) that I haven’t had the chance to review yet. So here we go:

The Hundred-Foot Journey

HundredFootJourneyscrumptious

The Imitation Game

ImitationGamemomentous

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

KumikoTreasureHunterkooky

Last Train to Lisbon

NightTrainToLisbon beguiling

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

NightMuseum3riotous


Well, that’s the first 2015 edition of Five Movies in Five Words. Any thoughts on these films?

7 Films Screened at Sundance 2015 I’m most curious about

Sundance2015How’s your weekend everybody? I spent some of my weekend reading [and dreaming] about the Sundance Film Festival. I wish I could go there one day, the venue itself in Park City, Utah is gorgeous and of course, it’s a haven for movie fans, especially indie lovers. Who knows when we’ll actually see these films in a theater near us, but hopefully we will eventually.

So here are just a tiny sampling of movies that piqued my interest [in random order]:

Z For Zachariah

Director: Craig Zobel
Writer: Pall Grimsson, Nissar Modi
Cast: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor

In the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, two men and a young woman find themselves in an emotionally charged love triangle as the last known survivors.

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I’ve been seeing this photo all over the place and the cast alone intrigues me. I had no idea this was about a love triangle set in a post-apocalyptic world. Apparently this is based on a YA novel and according to this review from Variety,  the book has “…allusions to the Genesis narrative, [and] the novel was seen by some critics as a metaphorical clash between science and faith.” I was impressed w/ Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street, and it’d be interesting to see her in a more prominent role against these two equally gorgeous and talented actors.

Here’s a clip from the film

Brooklyn

Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleeson

In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.

Brooklyn_SaoirseRonan

I LOVE Ronan and the 20-year-old’s definitely coming into her own as a grown-up actress now after churning in great performances in her teen years, esp. Atonement and Hanna. I like the sound of this period drama and John Crowley’s the same director who did the excellent Boy A with Andrew Garfield.

99 Homes

Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writer: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi
Cast: Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern

After his family is evicted, proud and desperate construction worker Dennis Nash (GARFIELD) tries to win his home back by striking a deal with the devil and working for Rick Carver (SHANNON), the corrupt real estate broker who evicted him.

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This sounds really intriguing, and it’s already got really good reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s an excerpt from We Got This Covered, “It is a film that could easily have condescended with characters that fall too concretely on the sides of black and white, the 99% vs. the 1%. (it is easy to believe that the 99 from the title refers to the plight of the common individual against the monopoly of the elite). However, Bahrani and co-scribe Amir Naderi are too perceptive and intelligent to depict these two men in simplistic ways.” 

No trailer yet, but here’s a clip featuring both actors:

Last Days in the Desert

Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Writer: Rodrigo Garcia
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Tye Sheridan, Ciarán Hinds

An imagined chapter from Jesus’ forty days of fasting and praying in the desert. On his way out of the wilderness, Jesus struggles with the Devil over the fate of a family in crisis.

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Ok so yes I was initially intrigued to see this mainly to see how McGregor pull off playing both Jesus and the Devil. But reading this interview with the filmmaker and lead actor on Christianity Today made me all the more curious. Described in the article as “…a character-driven meditation on family and mortality, haunting and spare” it seems as far away from something like EXODUS in terms of its *epic* and CGI-laden extravaganza, but hopefully it offers a reflective and thought-provoking look of Jesus’s life in perhaps his pivotal moment in his short but momentous life.

Lila & Eve

Director: Charles Stone III
Writer: Pat Gilfillan
Cast: Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez

Two distraught mothers, whose children were gunned down in a drive-by, team up to avenge their deaths after local authorities fail to take action.

LilaAndEve

Viola Davis and J-Lo?? Now THAT’s quite an unlikely duo. It’s reminiscent of Thelma & Louise but decidedly more serious in tone. Considering the cultural climate of the recent police shootings in this country, the film would likely spark controversies. It’s certainly nice to see two strong women of color, who have a huge following in their own right, starring in a film together. The main draw for me here is Davis who’s charismatic and massively talented. Despite her questionable choice of movies, Lopez is actually not a bad actress and perhaps she gets to show her dramatic chops in this one.

Results

Director: Andrew Bujalsk
Writer: Andrew Bujalsk
Cast: Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce

Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client.

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Guy Pearce in a comedy, as a personal trainer no less? Yes please! Interesting to see the pairing of him and Smulders, but both have been in Marvel movies. Variety reported that the film’s been sold to Magnolia and perhaps will open later this Summer. Here’s more info about the plot: The film is set in the fitness world of Austin, Texas, with Corrigan as a recently divorced, miserable slob who makes a stab at self-improvement by signing up for a personal trainer at a local gym, where he meets the self-styled guru/owner (Pearce) and acerbic trainer Kat (Smulders). Sounds good to me!

Slow West

Director: John MacLean
Writer: John MacLean
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendehlson, Kodi Smit-McPhee

‘Slow West’ follows a 16-year-old boy on a journey across 19th Century frontier America in search of the woman he loves, while accompanied by mysterious traveler Silas.

SlowWest

It’s interesting to note that first time director was a musician whose music been featured in films like High Fidelity and Remember Me. He worked on a short called Man on a Motorcycle starring Fassbender and perhaps that’s who the two met. Fassbender is also producing this film, described in MacLean’s own words in this Indiewire interview as “A European perspective of the West and young love…” Westerns isn’t my go-to genre, but the premise and cast definitely grabs my attention.

Hopefully these movies will all get distribution and that I get to see them later this year!


Well, have you been following Sundance this year? Which movies are you most excited to see?

2014 Recap: 10 Favorite MALE Performances of the Year

Top10MALEPerformances2014

Well, now that I’ve posted my Top 10 Movies of the year and picked my Top 10 favorite FEMALE Performances and Top 10 Film Scores of the year, I’m finally down to my last 2014 Recap list. It’s quite a crowded category, more so than the female counterpart, as obviously there are more roles for men as there are for women on any given year. But I’m still picking only 10 on the main list, and another 10 15 on Honorable Mentions (there are just too many to keep it to just 10). Naturally these are performances from films I got a chance to see last year. So in case you’re wondering where’s Jake Gyllenhaal, Eddie Redmayne or J.K. Simmons, well I haven’t seen Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything nor Whiplash.

Same w/ the ladies, this list is in alphabetical order, as it was tough enough to narrow ’em down to 10, let alone ranking them. So here goes:

1. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Carrel_Foxcatcher

It’s one of those transformative roles that all actors are privileged to get but not everyone can pull it off. Well, I always think that Steve Carell is a much more versatile actor than people give him credit for and Foxcatcher‘s director Bennet Miller said during our interview that “…it’s exciting when an actor breaks out of what’s expected of them.” But it takes so much more than just putting on a fake nose to create a convincing character. I’ve seen him in serious roles before in Little Miss Sunshine, but took his dramatic potential up several notches here, displaying disquieting menace and creepy demeanor I’ve never seen before. As I’m writing this, I couldn’t help recalling his earlier role as Evan Baxter in Bruce Almighty, yet I couldn’t fathom that they’re played by the same actor!

2. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Cumberbatch_ImitationGame

Benedict Cumberbatch is no stranger to playing an eccentric genius on screen. But apart from being British and a brainiac, Alan Turing couldn’t be more different than his Sherlock persona. Cumberbatch effortlessly captures that brilliant intellect and that arrogant, dismissive attitude towards the world around him, but he also convincingly conveys Turing’s inner tumult. The final scenes where Turing is treated as a social outcast is the film’s most heart-wrenching moments. All the pain, anguish and utter despair is palpable on Cumberbatch’s face but without a moment of overacting. It’s no doubt the actor’s shining hour, a personal best even amongst his already impressive resume.

3. Chris Evans – Snowpiercer

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In a year when he’s truly coming into his own as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America in its sequel, Chris Evans also emerges as a capable indie leading man. Certain actors often become stuck to play certain roles because of how they look and I think Evans is one them. But Evans is more than just a pretty face & a hot body, even if his role choices are questionable at times. I saw that he has dramatic chops in Puncture but this is an even more complex role – not to mention a better-crafted film overall – and he gets to show what he can do as an actor. As a conflicted rebel leader with a dark past, Evans displays an unusually somber, soulful and heartfelt performance. I’d love to see him tackle more dramatic roles like this in the future, he certainly has it in him.

4. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Fiennes_GBH1

Whilst Carell is comedian playing a dark role, the normally-serious Ralph Fiennes got to do the opposite. It’s such a thrill to see him being so goofy here, and he seems to relish in the character’s inherent zany-ness. Apparently Wes Anderson wrote this role specifically for him, which I think is an inspired choice that absolutely paid off. His deadpan delivery is really fun to watch here, and he has that effortless elegance about him too that fits the role of the legendary concierge M. Gustave.

5. Tom Hardy – Locke

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It takes an actor of a certain charisma to hold your attention for 1.5 hour long when all you see is him inside a car the entire time. But charisma can only go so far without the skills, but thankfully, Hardy’s got both. This is the first film with him in the leading role, after seeing him stealing scenes left and right in films like Rocknrolla, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises. He was a co-lead (with Joel Edgerton) in Warrior, an intensely physical role that he offsets with layers of vulnerability. As a man grappling with one VERY stressful night of his life, his body is barely shown the entire movie, so he had to rely on his eyes and facial features to convey every single emotion. Suffice to say, he delivered with aplomb. It’s a mesmerizingly-nuanced performance that confirms my opinion that Hardy as one of the finest actors working today. Seems that he’s only just getting warmed up.

6. Michael Keaton – Birdman

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One of the highlights of 2014 cinema for me is definitely seeing the perpetually-underrated Michael Keaton getting a career resurgence. I’ve been a fan of his for as long as I can remember, as he’s the kind of actor who can tackle hard-hitting drama as well as silly comedic roles effortlessly. In Birdman he gets a chance to tackle both and he relish in that opportunity. He’s been garnering kudos left and right and he’s the one I’m rooting for the entire award season. The fact that there are many similarities between his character Riggan and his professional acting life certainly adds a dose of amusement as well as authenticity to his portrayal. Keaton infused Riggan with such depth and genuine pathos that even during some of the film’s most bizarre scenes as Riggan descend into madness, he’s always emotionally engaging.

7. James McAvoy – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

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If only you more people had seen at least one version of this romantic drama, even just to see how good both lead actors are. McAvoy’s co-star Jessica Chastain is on my Top 10 list of Female Performers from the same film. I’ve been a fan of James McAvoy since Atonement and the Scottish actor has since done an amazing job balancing big blockbusters like X-Men: First Class to small indies like this one. He’s an instantly likable actor who I vehemently believe is more talented than people give him credit for. What I love about McAvoy is that there’s always such a natural way to his acting that you instantly believe he’s that character. Here he wears his character Conor like an old shoe, a man desperately trying to somehow regain his lost love. There is a moment in the film where Conor is alone in an empty apartment and he reminisce on his marriage that is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s a shame that AMPAS doesn’t even notice this film as both Chastain & McAvoy’s marvelous performances are certainly Oscar-worthy.

8. Edward Norton – Birdman

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Another highlights from Birdman and why this is truly one of the best films of the decade is seeing Ed Norton in a role worthy of his talent. It’s definitely a scene-stealing role in a film that’s already jam-packed with fine performances. Just like his co-star Keaton, Norton did a brilliant dramatic and comedic turn as a self-absorbed diva of an actor who’s more comfortable in his own skin when he’s on stage. All the scenes of him and Keaton are truly the film’s highlights as both actors not only baring their skin down to their underwear, but they also bare themselves emotionally. It’s too bad that he probably won’t win an Oscar again this year, but I sure hope the three-time Oscar nominee won’t be wasted playing second/third banana in subpar movies like Bourne Legacy ever again.

9. David Oyelowo – Selma

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I’ve made my quibbles known about one of the egregious snubs of this year’s Oscar. But if there is justice in the world, this wouldn’t be the last we see Oyelowo’s name being mentioned during cinema’s award season. Even in bit parts in a myriad of movies ranging from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help, Jack Reacher, etc., I always notice his performance. He finally got to shine in a prominent supporting role as Forrest Whitaker’s teenage son in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which also deals with the Civil Rights Movement. It’s interesting that a year later he got to play the key figure in that historical movement, a role that I read he’s been dreaming to play for some time. Oyelowo didn’t just get Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mannerism and speaking style right, it’s more than just a brilliant impersonation but he truly embodied the role. What’s more, he portrayed Dr. King as not just a heroic figure but as a man, flawed and plagued with doubts just like any regular person would. He is just as convincing as a powerful and persuasive orator as he is in the quieter scenes that demand subtle nuances. I can’t wait to see what Oyelowo will tackle next.

10. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher 

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Is there anything Mark Ruffalo can’t do? I feel like I’ve been missing out as for whatever reason I didn’t really pay attention to him until recently. I was going to list his performance in Begin Again but technically that’s a 2013 film, but man what an astounding display of versatility. His role as an Olympic pro-wrestler David Schultz in Foxcatcher couldn’t be more different than a distressed & disheveled record producer in Begin Again but he’s utterly believable in both. Ruffalo’s role is actually the least flashy compared to Steve Carell’s and Channing Tatum’s, but his character is no doubt the heart of the film. It’s a role that demands the perfect amount of nuance and subtlety and Ruffalo pulls it off wonderfully. The video interview scene alone when he’s asked to describe Carell’s character is simply masterful, I remember marveling at how good his performance was as I was watching it. I think that might’ve been what earned him his second Oscar nomination.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

I truly didn’t expect to see some names would end up on this list. I honestly have never seen Tyler Perry nor Zach Galifianakis in anything other than clips of their movies, but they definitely left an impression on me in their respective films. There are some big breakthroughs here too, especially Dan Stevens and Chris Pratt, garnering a lot of buzz in their successful starring roles. There are also some perennial favorites of mine who definitely still got it (Keanu Reeves), as well as a brand new actor I’ve never seen before. Manish Dayal‘s like the male counterpart of Gugu Mbatha-Raw for me and I hope to see him more movies! As for Guy Pearce, I sure hope that he will get the recognition he deserves one day as he’s simply a phenomenal actor.

Here they are in random order:


Thoughts on these male performances? Which one(s) of these stood out to you from the past year?

Everybody’s Chattin’ and Music Break featuring THE GUEST Soundtrack

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It’s already three weeks into January and I just realize I haven’t done a Community Links nor a Music Break post. So why not combine the two again, right? Having just seen The Guest, I knew I had to do a post on the awesome 80s retro soundtrack! I really enjoyed the movie too, review up sometime in the next few days.

So here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

There are still a lot of 2014 recaps circulating on the blogosphere and I actually still have one more year-end recap list on Top 10 MALE Performances that I’m hoping to finalize this week yet.

Best2014RecapWell, speaking of cinematic recaps, Margaret and Keith just posted theirs and it’s an absolute blast reading ’em! LOVE all the creative categories highlighting the best and worst of the year.

Kudos to Eric for finishing his 50 Movies Project! Here’s how he ranked all those films, consider this a list of film recommendations too!

Now switching gears to 2015 Movie Watching plans and glad to see Melissa and Abbi joining the Blindspot series! Check out their film selections on their respective blogs.

I wasn’t going to include any more award-related stuff until Oscar telecast later in late February, but Josh just posted about how his Oscar predictions (which he started 9 months ago!) lined up with the actual nominations.

Now on to reviews!

Dell just posted his review of Selma and Andrew posted his thoughts on the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself. Meanwhile, Natalie and Mark just reviewed the surprise box office smash American Sniper.

Last but not least, Tim just reviewed T3ken which I hope Bryan Mills won’t read, ahah. Seems like it’s as hilariously awful as the trailer!


Now time for some awesome music …

theguest_danstevens2… bad ass & deliciously creepy Dan Stevens!

Here’s another fun action flick from last year besides John Wick that has a hint of 80s/90s retro, not just in terms of the film’s style but also in the soundtrack! Nerdist.com posted an interview with director Adam Wingard about how he crafted the soundtrack,

“…I was thinking more ’80s goth rock stuff like Death In June but as we made the picture, I realized the movie was going in a more poppy direction [becoming] less dark as the movie developed and that kind of evolved more into 80s goth electronica as opposed to straight up ’80s goth rock”

As with a lot of stuff, everything old is new again and the nostalgia factor is what makes it awesome 😀 My favorite track happens to be the same one that Stevens’ character David love! It’s called Anthonio by Norwegian recording artist Annie released back in 2009. I also love the ending score by Steve Moore.



Hope you enjoyed today’s Music Break!

Question of the Week: What new (or new to you) TV series are you really into right now?

Hi everyone! Just to switch things up from all the awards chatter (which is so tiresome already), let’s talk about TV shows.

BroadchurchBBCIn the start of the new year, I thought I should catch up on some great shows that people have been recommending. So last week I finally caught up on Season 1 of BROADCHURCH starring Olivia Colman and David Tennant. Thanks to my friend Dave W. who gave me this top 10 reasons of why you should absolutely check out this amazing British drama if you haven’t already. It’s every bit as gripping and emotionally-engaging as I had expected. It took me about four days to finish all 10 episodes as it’s really quite addictive that I couldn’t stop watching!

Now, just yesterday I finally got around to seeing another British series I’ve been meaning to check out: The Honourable Woman.

TheHonourableWomanI erroneously thought that this 8-part series will leave Netflix at the end of the month but it’s actually not up for renewal so it will REMAIN on its streaming service, yay! In any case, I can’t tell you enough how good this series is and Maggie Gyllenhaal absolutely deserves her Golden Globe win as the show’s protagonist. Here’s the premise:

Nessa Stein, a woman who inherits her father’s arms business and finds herself in a international maelstrom when as she continues to promote the reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Right from the get go, the show created by Hugo Blick is immensely riveting and suspenseful. Plot twists abound as you have no clue who’s good or bad, there’s no clear heroes or villains which makes it all the more intriguing. The writing, acting and cinematography are top notch, and not only does it have a strong female protagonist, it’s nice to see women playing prominent characters in this series. As a fan of British dramas, the show is filled fantastic mostly-British cast: Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, Andrew Buchan (who’s also in Broadchurch), and Tobias Menzies. Maggie is a native New Yorker but her British accent is flawless (well it sounds that way to me anyway) but it’s her acting and elegant way she moves that is truly fun to watch.

Check out the trailer:


So that’s what I’ve been obsessing lately. Which *new* shows did you just discover that you can’t get enough of?

Weekend Roundup + Review of Michael Mann’s Blackhat (2015)

Happy Monday everyone! It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my office is closed in remembrance of Dr. King’s birthday. I was reading up about Dr. King’s history earlier today and I’m always astonished by how many inspiring comments he had made in his relatively short life. These are just some of my favorites we can all live by no matter what day it is.

Did anybody see SELMA this weekend? Well, it’s a good a time as any to see that film but I figure it’d resonate even more on MLK Day. I only went to the cinema on Friday night for Blackhat, and only got around to seeing The Guest last night. Tonight my hubby and I are going to start watching The Honourable Woman before Netflix yanked it off its streaming service at the end of the month. We’ve been wanting to check that out for ages, and Maggie Gyllenhaal winning a Golden Globe for her performance served as a perfect reminder!

Now here’s my review of Michael Mann’s latest cyber thriller:

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Well, looks like I have to eat my words on this one, considering I’ve done this enthusiastic post on this movie. I was prepared for a smart cyber-thriller that would speak to our cultural anxieties sparked by the repetitive security breaches and surveillance concerns, but the movie is just a typical crime thriller in which the plot revolves around a malicious hacker (hence the title). The opening sequence depicts a CGI tracking shot going into a maze-like chase from inside one computer and out of another on the other side of the globe and resulted in a nuclear reactor explosion in China. Both US and China are desperate to find a computer whiz to help find the cyber criminal and so we’re introduced to Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) who’s currently serving time for computer fraud. Conveniently, his MIT roommate Chen (Wang Leehom) is now a high-ranking Chinese official and he suggests that the FBI grants him a furlough to help them out.

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It all sounds oh-so-exciting but the film itself comes off as dull and un-suspenseful. The hacking jargon and those cyber intrusion CGI may look and sound cool at first, but it gets repetitive as the film progresses, but that’s not even the film’s biggest flaws. The aerial shots are frame-worthy, as one would expect from visual stylist like Mann, but it can’t cover for the clunky dialog (both in English and sometimes broken Indonesian) nor all the plot contrivances that don’t pay off at the end. I haven’t even mentioned the lame villains that’s more irritating than menacing.

I mentioned my doubts about our current ‘sexiest man alive’ Hemsworth as a hacker. Not just any hacker mind you, a computer genius who can hack into anything, including tricking NSA to get him access to their “Black Widow” super computer. (Thor & Black Widow, yes those Avengers reference did put a smile on my face). Well, no matter how authentic the hacking sequences and UNIX command line accuracies are (apparently the film got ’em right according to Wired), it’s still REALLY tough to buy Hemsworth as any sort of computer whiz. He’s not a terrible actor in the right role but he’s so out of his elements here. He also isn’t a movie star, not yet anyway. I read a comment on IMDb that says, ‘Tom Cruise is a star, Hemsworth is a mere flash light.’ Ouch! But y’know what, it made me think that if it were Cruise or someone with his charisma in the starring role, the movie could’ve been a bit more watchable.

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It doesn’t help matters that we’ve got the cheesiest, most cringe-worthy tacked-on romance between him and Chen’s sister (Tang Wei) who conveniently happens to be a software expert. I remember the scorching chemistry between Colin Farrell and Gong Li in Miami Vice, but none of that is to be found here between Hemsworth and Wei. All longing glances and even a sex scene two days after they met, but absolutely zero chemistry. Zilch. I wish Mann would give more time to Leehom and Viola Davis instead, both are perhaps the only saving grace here in terms of casting. Even delivering lines like ‘You can call me Chica anytime you want,’ Davis is always entertaining to watch, if only Hollywood would give her more to do in a movie.

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It’s really a shame that this film never rise above mediocrity. There are even some seriously preposterous moments, I mean, magazines used as bullet proof vest?? Ok so maybe if Thor has ribs made of steel [shrug] My hubby and I turned to each other as the credit rolls that it doesn’t feel like a Michael Mann movie. It looks as if a lesser filmmaker was imitating him as Blackhat has the look/sound/feel to it. I do appreciate the global feel of the film, being shot on location in several countries from US to China to Indonesia. But even the finale set during a Hindus’ Nyepi “Day of Silence” Celebration in Jakarta serves nothing more than an extremely elaborate set decoration, employing 3000 extras no less, that doesn’t add much to the movie.

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You know I REALLY want to love Blackhat so imagine my disappointment. It’s yet another exercise of style-over-substance. Yet visually, despite some arresting ones here and there, overall it’s not as impressive as his previous work in an urban setting, i.e. Collateral. Everything else fares even worse, from casting, dialog and plot, there’s very little to recommend this even coming from a big fan of this director. Six years after the disappointing Public Enemies, this is another misfire from Michael Mann. Well, I hope we won’t have to wait as long to see him back in top form for his next film.

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So what did you watch this weekend? What do you think of Blackhat?