Christmas in New York – pics from my NYC trip

Hello everyone! Greetings from New England! Hope y’all had a lovely Christmas w/ your family and friends. I had been in NYC for most of last week, we stayed at a loft on 34th street, but no there’s no Miracle on 34th Street 😉 , though we felt very blessed to have spent a festive and safe Christmas in the Big Apple with no major incidents.

We’re now in New Hampshire where my in-laws resides, but I thought I’d share some pics from our Christmas in New York. Most of these are my Instagram pics, with a couple shots taken by my hubby.

Click to view a larger image w/ full caption

As for movies, well I haven’t seen anything since The Force Awakens before we left, not sure if we’ll fit in movie viewing before the year’s done. In any case, I’ve got my Top 10 of the Year post ready to go for Dec 31, so stay tuned! 😀


So did you see anything on Christmas Day folks? Well, hopefully it was a good one!

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Musings on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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I wasn’t going to blog about Star Wars as I didn’t think I’d have time before my East Coast trip on Tuesday. But you know what, I can’t help it. Hubby and I actually watched the original trilogy a few weeks ago, just to refresh my memory as I barely remember any of the story. We even watched the last half hour of episode III around the time the final duel between Anakin Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin becoming Darth Vader.

Well, naturally there’s a feverish anticipation to The Force Awakens, a decade after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in 2005. I’m glad the film is finally here so I can actually talk about it and not worry about spoilers. Given the behemoth box office take of $238+mil, surely most of you have seen it by now? I pretty much avoided reading a lot of reviews and articles before this weekend and I’m glad I did. Well, this post is not a review per se, more of my random thoughts about the film and the franchise as a whole, so SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen it yet.

A balance of homage & re-imagining

After refreshing the sci-fi classic Star Trek, it’s incredible that JJ Abrams ended up getting the torch to refresh yet another beloved franchise. In a way he’s the right man for the job, and he’s dealt with audience’s passion AND wrath for some of his own creation, i.e. LOST. It’s crazy to think that this is only his fifth feature film as he mostly serve as producers in a plethora of film and TV series.
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Abram’s revealed that it’s nerve-wracking to be helming such a massively popular franchise with such ardent fans who are quite tough to please. So I can see why he sort of played it safe with Episode VII and the plot was a nice continuation from where Return of the Jedi left off three decades earlier. The trio of writers, Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, were respectful to the original story whilst making it current in terms of tone and narrative for the new generation of fans.

The one major update seems to deal with the Force itself. In The Phantom Menace, the Force was measured by Midi-chlorian counts found in the cells of a human being. Anakin had a high amount of that and that’s why Qui-Gon Jinn deemed him to be the Chosen One. But he had to be trained to be able to use the force optimally, but now it seems that the Force-sensitivity is more of a mythical thing that isn’t quantifiable, as the case with Rey who doesn’t require much training to use it (more of that later).

After the Galactic Empire was defeated, a new threat emerged in the galaxy, this time it’s called the First Order. Its similarities to the Third Reich is palpable once again, down to the army formation, uniform, etc., led by the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). It’s clear from the start who the good and evil parties are, which kind of takes away the suspense.

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What I like about it

There’s plenty of familiar faces that’s thankfully more than just for nostalgia sake, as the major players Luke & Leia Skywalker and Han Solo’s are integral to the plot. But the fresh faces add a dose of new energy to the story, and the female-driven plot is a welcome but not-surprising move coming from Abrams.

The adventure pretty much began the moment we meet Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger in the desert planet Jakku and Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper who found his conscience and escaped from the First Order headquarter. I love both Ridley and Boyega as the two young fresh faces, that’s inspired casting there to cast two unknowns who have a nice chemistry together. Ridley’s given the most to do here as the Chosen One character, both in terms of physicality and emotionally. I think overall she pulled it off. Boyega is an effortlessly likable lead who’s got a pretty strong screen presence, too. They’ve signed on to multiple Star Wars movies and I certainly welcome seeing more of them.

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Both of them have some funny and even sweet moments with the original cast, especially Harrison Ford who have the most screen time compared to Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, the latter had no speaking part at all. Like an old shoe, Ford filled his role of Han Solo effortlessly, complete with his curmudgeon attitude and dry wit. His loyal companion Chewie was right there beside him up until the end and perhaps the only moment I choked up a bit was when Chewie witnessed his BFF being murdered right in front of him.

Lupita Nyong’O, whose face was never seen, added gravitas as the wise Maz Kanata, a petite pirate of some kind who’s lived a thousand years. It’s a memorable motion-capture performance and her character is a pretty important one as she seems to know the whereabouts of Luke and also has his lightsaber.

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Like in Abram’s Star Trek films, there’s an underlying humor throughout. The banter between Rey, Finn and Solo are a hoot when they’re trying to operate (and fix) the archaic Millennium Falcon. I also find Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) hilarious when he’s angry. The dude has major anger management issues as he’d blast an entire control panel with his lightsaber upon hearing some bad news, ahah. He does have great hair though and what’s the secret to him NOT having helmet hair? Now that‘s a secret worth knowing about 😉 I think between him and resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), they can practically do a Pantene commercial!

My new fave characters are definitely Rey, Finn AND the spherical droid BB 8. It’s the most adorable droid yet and he’s an absolute blast to watch! Just like Baymax in Big Hero 6, I had a big smile in my face every time the droid appeared on screen and it even knew how to give a thumbs up!! So yeah, thanks Abrams for introducing such a fun new character that made me forget about that super annoying amphibious whose name rhymes with jinx.

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When I learned that the film is 2 hrs and 15 minutes long, I was worried I’d be bored stiff but I’m glad that’s not the case at all. In fact, the film felt like a breeze thanks to the dynamic pacing and fun action scenes, especially the flying sequences. That said, I didn’t think the special effects were THAT spectacular as some people have been saying. I mean, it’s to be expected from a modern movie with a humongous budget of $200 mil. It wasn’t as jaw-dropping as Mad Max: Fury Road which was made with $50 mil less and it didn’t feel so CGI-heavy as this one.

Lastly, I have to mention about John Williams‘ score which was still as awesome as the first time I heard it. The new score is wonderful and rousing as well, which mixes the old and the new, just like the film itself.

What I’m not crazy about

I mentioned the lack of suspense, well that’s how I feel throughout the movie. I can’t tell you a moment where I was genuinely surprised, let alone shocked by it. It’s also very predictable, which takes away the impact of some of the big moments of the film. I could see the death of a major character from a mile away, and I didn’t shed a single tear when it happened (and I’m a cryer!). So you could say that the film wasn’t as emotionally gratifying as I had expected.

Now, my main *quibble* that I discussed on my way home with my hubby was the fact that there are more questions than answers after seeing it. I read this article on Tech Insider on 11 biggest questions after seeing the movie and I agree with all of them. The main one is about the protagonist Rey, who we knew nothing about when the film started and she remained a mystery up until the end. Why is she force sensitive? How does the force work within her without ANY kind of training? Yes of course given that Disney is going to milk this franchise for all its worth, I said to my hubby that we probably won’t know much about her until Episode XII! Heh.

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The other main issue I had was that it was never explained why Kylo Ren had such a major beef with his parents? I’d think they’d mention a bit of that when Han and Leia talked about him, but no, we only learned that he had been trained by Luke but then got seduced by the dark side like his granddad. I kept thinking how this seems akin to those parents who learned that their sons had secretly joined ISIS. Ren himself is far from the great villain Vader was (which is obviously the point I guess, hence his constant self doubts), and he’s far too emo and prone to tantrum-throwing to be effective as an evil leader. It made me wonder how he got to be in such a high position to begin with, is it because Snode saw a potential in him given that he’s Vader’s grandson? As much as I enjoy seeing his gorgeous hair though, I think Ren should’ve worn his mask more often as he’s not at all menacing when he takes it off.

“A soap opera about family, not spaceships”

That’s a quote from George Lucas himself I read in this article. “People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems — it’s not about spaceships.” Well, that is fine and dandy because even stories that take place in space have to be somewhat relatable for it to resonate with audiences. But do they need to have familial link for every single character though?? I think if Kylo had been someone NOT blood-related to any of Star Wars’ major character, but that he somehow received training from a Jedi (Luke), I doubt that it’d make that much of a difference in the story. Yes obviously having Han being killed off by his own son, instead of some stranger baddie who happens to be a Vader groupie, has a bigger shock value (though I wasn’t all that shocked, to be honest).

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In any case, I do think the Star Wars saga is NOT just about spaceships. It’s got some Biblical values of good and evil, generational sins, and a good message about self-control, self-sacrifice and what it means to be a hero. It’s also a story about loyalty and friendship, as with Han and Chewie, as well as those droids being so loyal to their masters. The Force Awakens introduce new best friends too, Rey and Finn, Finn and Poe, and even Rey and Chewie?

So is it a perfect film?

Well, the short answer to that is NO. As I mentioned above, Abrams took a pretty safe path and made it more of an homage with a few new things added and so I feel that it’s a bit derivative and even predictable. Just as the original trilogy were best appreciated as a whole, as a stand-alone film, The Force Awakens is good but not spectacular, but it works as a continuation of a larger story. The finale hints that Luke would have a larger role in Episode VIII alongside Rey, so it’ll be interesting where the story goes from here.

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Yes it is indeed better than the prequels, and the dialog has more zing and not cringe-inducing, thank goodness. I’m glad I saw it and I think having just seen the original trilogy helped with my enthusiasm for this new film. Having said that, my hubby and I didn’t absolutely LOVE this enough to see it again on the big screen though. We might rent it again later once it’s on Blu-ray. Thus, as entertaining as The Force Awakens was, I’m actually looking forward to talking about other movies other than Star Wars in the new year.


Well, what did YOU think? Did you share my thoughts about Episode VII?

Star Wars Fever: Movie posters that Lightsabers would definitely have improved

Hello everyone! Had enough of the force yet? Star Wars fever hit fever-pitch this week with its premiere in L.A. and its wide opening tonight. The press screening was last Tuesday but it was at 11am and I had to be at work, plus I was going to see The Big Short that night anyway.

Surely all of you either have seen the movie or you’ve got your tickets for The Force Awakens. Apparently I didn’t order mine fast enough as the Friday tickets in our fave theater is mostly gone (I refuse to sit in the front row) and so hubby and I are gonna see it Saturday night, woot woot!

Well, we’ve got a cool guest post from Izzy just to mark this special occassion…

The Lightsaber – THE weapon of choice for both Jedi’s and The Sith and in the words of The Urban Dictionary, ‘A weapon from a more civilized time’. I personally couldn’t think of a more appropriate word than ‘civilized’ for this type genre of fighting (if fighting can ever be deemed civilized?). A Lighsaber duel is elegant, takes skill, and it doesn’t involve hiding and firing from a distance (yet it can deflect bolts being fired from afar). I challenge you to come up with a more polite way to battle!

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My adoration of duels in true Star Wars style had me thinking about which movies would have been improved if the mighty Lighsaber had featured. Thinking turned to wishing, and wishing turned into poster editing…Eventually I landed here, showing you guys which movies my buddy Luke and I thought would have been significantly improved with the occasional Lightsaber battle….

Click on each image to view a larger version

Posters courtesy of Izzy and were originally posted on GBposters.com.
IzzyS
Izzy S. is a drama graduate with an interest
in literature and screenwriting

Check out Izzy’s blog
Follow her on Twitter

 


Ok, I’ve been wanting to include this video for some time. It’s an oldie but goodie, but it never fails to crack me up. Eddie Izzard is a comedic genius!


May the force be with you, folks! 

FlixChatter Double Review: CREED (2015)

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I had trepidation about seeing this film as I’ve only seen one Rocky film and I’m not really a boxing movie fan. But my hubby really wanted to see it, and so we went and am I glad I did. Here’s our review:

Ted’s Review

Doing a spinoff of a franchise that hasn’t been a box office hit for long time could be risky but somehow director/writer Ryan Coogler was able to convince not only the studio executives but its star Sly Stallone to revive this once box office gold of a franchise. What’s even more surprising was how good the film turn out to be and it’s one of favorite films of the year.

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Adonis Johnson/Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is a young man who wants to be professional boxer; he found out early in the story that his late father was a fame-boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Creed’s widow Mary (Phylicia Rashad) took in the young Adonis and raised him as her own son. Unlike other boxers who needed to box in order to make a living, Andonis grew up in a privilege lifestyle but he yearns to be a boxer. Even a promotion at his corporate job won’t keep him from pursuing his dreams. So he quit his job, moved to Philly and tried his hands at a professional level boxing. But after he got beat badly in a “friendly” bout, he realized he’s not ready and asked Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him. Rocky has walked away from the ring after his last victory match and never wants to be back. He’s now happily running his Italian restaurant.

But the young Creed is persistent and wants to create his own image, he doesn’t want to be known as the son of the great Apollo Creed. He even found time to romance a local musician named Bianca (Tessa Thompson). The story of this film is similar to that of the original Rocky, it’s about an underdog who’s determined to be the best. The film features the usual training montage, great fight sequences and fans of the franchise will happy to know that we do get to hear that famous Rocky’s theme. But Creed does have his own theme though.

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The performances by the leads were quite excellent. Jordan excels in his first leading role; his fierce demeanor is very similar to that of Weathers’ Creed from earlier films. Thompson’s Bianca is not just another pretty face love interest, she has her own ambitions and chemistry between her and Jordan were quite believable. The person who steals the show for me though is Rocky himself. Here I think Sly gave maybe his best performance of his career. Rocky is now an old man and he realized he doesn’t have much in life; all of the people he cared about are all gone. By training the young Creed, he can have a family again and maybe have one last glory as a trainer to a champ. I won’t be surprised if Stallone gets an Oscar nomination.

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I’ve never seen any of Coogler’s previous films but after this one, I’ll have to check out his work. I was surprised how well he put this picture together; I was involved in the story from beginning to end. He even shot a single take for one of the boxing matches in the film; it’s an incredible sequence. What really impresses me was the way he’s able to blend in the nostalgic feel of the earlier films and then injects some 21st century style into this film. He’s a real talent and I’m looking forward to his next film.

Creed is a great spinoff/reboot of a once popular franchise. It contains great performances, tight direction and reminds you to never give up your dreams. I can’t wait to see the next chapter in Creed’s pursue of becoming the best boxer in the world.

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Ruth’s Review

There has been far too many reboots and spin-offs and more often than not, it’s just a money-making scheme. But once in a while, emerged a gem that actually earns its merit and Creed is no doubt one of them.

Though I’ve only seen one Rocky film, I read a little bit about the friendship of Rocky and Apollo Creed, the father of the film’s protagonist, and it certainly helped me understand the story better. The film began with a brief but meaningful introduction of Adonis, who clearly has his father’s talent, as well as ambition as a boxer. Determined to make his mark in the sport, Adonis moved to Philadelphia. He ended up finding an aging Rocky Balboa at his restaurant, naturally named after his beloved wife Adrian. It’s a memorable scene that promises great things to come from this eventual mentorship.

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The relationship between these two is the heart of the film and filmmaker Ryan Coogler is wise to keep that be the focus of the film. He didn’t squander it by over-complicating things or adding unnecessary subplots, and that’s largely why the film worked so well. There’s an effortless chemistry between Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan almost straight away. There’s an interesting banter between the two that’s funny and heartfelt, and it gets even better as the film goes on.

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One of Adonis’ journey involves a love story with a beautiful up-and-coming singer Bianca (Tessa Thomson), but I’m glad she’s given an intriguing character arc and not simply just a ‘pretty girlfriend’ role. Yet the film paid more attention to Adonis’ relationship with Rocky, which ultimately is what the film is all about. Most of conversation takes place during training and it certainly will please people who love boxing and boxing films. But even for someone like me, I find those scenes extremely dynamic and entertaining.

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Much had been made about Stallone’s excellent performance and you know what, it lived up to the hype. It’d be interesting if he did end up being nominated for an Oscar, as he did in 1976 for the first Rocky film. I’d think would mark some kind of record that the same actor is nominated twice playing the exact same role. He’s definitely my pick to win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. He obviously had lived and breathed this role for many years, and if this were to be his swan song to the franchise, well he couldn’t have left on a higher note. His performance is convincingly heartfelt, showing a gentler, wiser and more vulnerable Rocky who thinks he’s got nothing much to live for anymore. What started out as a mentorship slowly builds into a genuine friendship between him and Adonis, and they both end up helping each other when they need it most.

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For a boxing film, the film isn’t graphically violent. There are basically only two major fight sequences but both are done VERY well. There’s one that was done in a single take and it was quite a scene to behold. Real-life professional boxers Andre Ward and Tony Bellew play two of Adonis’ oponents which adds a touch of authenticity to the scenes. The script by Coogler and Aaron Covington have a wonderful balance of humor and emotional touches, which honors the original Rocky story that breathes life into the new hero. But nostalgia could only work so much and so it’s wise that Coogler didn’t drown the film with it and lets it stand on its own merit. Even its use of the Rocky theme is perfect, it’s brief but it came just at the right moment.

Ultimately this is Jordan’s film and he’s certainly perfect in the role. He’s reunited with Coogler who directed him in Fruitvale Station. I haven’t seen that one yet but clearly this has been quite an erm, fruitful collaboration between the two and I look forward to seeing more from both of them, together or separately. This movie is such a pleasant surprise of the year, an entertaining as well as inspiring film that should please loyal fans and win new ones.

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So have you seen CREED? Well, what did you think?

Awards Season Chat – Musings on 2016 Golden Globes & SAG nominations

Well it’s been less than 48 hours since the SAG and Golden Globes nominations were announced so hopefully we can still chat about them, right? We’ve got about a month until the Oscars is announced on January 14th, so the awards season has officially commenced!

Golden Globes Awards

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I grabbed these list of noms from IMDb. They have a handy tab navigation on their site for each major awards, so you can check out the full list for both Golden Globes and SAG. In addition to my thoughts about the nominees—and of course the snubs—I thought I’d include my winner pick for each category, too.

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YAY for Mad Max: Fury Road, Spotlight AND The Martian, three of my favorite films that will surely end up in my top 10 of the year. I was hoping Brooklyn and 99 Homes would be among the nominees, but at least there are acting nominations for both.

My winner pick [DRAMA]: Mad Max: Fury Road

I really think it’s a modern masterpiece, a perfect balance of action and drama, and not only did it look spectacular on the big screen, it’s also immensely rewatchable! George Miller FTW!!

My winner pick [MUSICAL/COMEDY]: The Martian

It’s immensely entertaining but also has a heart-wrenching story. It’s no doubt one of the best films from Ridley Scott, with a terrific ensemble

By the time I got to Twitter in the afternoon, people were already chiming in on their thoughts on the noms and many were baffled by the inclusion of The Martian in a comedy category. But hey, considering its lighthearted tone despite the dire survival tale, not to mention those hilarious Disco music, I’m not surprised it’s categorized as a comedy. But then again, the categories made by the Hollywood Foreign Press is inherently odd anyway. I mean, I bet Christian Bale never thought he’d get TWO nominations in the musical/comedy category (the first one was for American Hustle in 2014). I haven’t seen The Big Short yet (screening is scheduled for next Tuesday!) but it certainly looks pretty funny and its director Adam McKay directed Anchorman and other Will Ferrell comedies.

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Boy, it’s been ages since Ridley Scott was nominated for Best Director isn’t it? The last time was in 2008 for American Gangster. Well, I was indeed a return to form for him. Speaking of a comeback, it doesn’t get more spectacular than George Miller returning to his beloved franchise Mad Max after taking a detour with family-friendly movies Babe: Pig in the City and the Happy Feet movies. Well it’s a welcome return indeed and I’m rooting for him all the way this year. I LOVE Mad Max: Fury Road and my wish is that it’d flabbergast everybody and sweep every single award! 😀

My winner pick: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Ok now on to the acting nominees!

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Well, first thing first, where in the heck is Charlize Theron??! Furiosa is perhaps the most bad ass female role of the year and it’s not just in terms of action but the emotional journey the character’s gone through. Her omission here is a travesty!!

Ok now that I’ve got that out of the way… I’ve only seen Larson and Ronan in Room and Brooklyn, respectively and I think both of them deserve to be nominated. But Saoirse has been such a consistently excellent performer who’s been snubbed several times before so I’m rooting for her.

My winner pick: Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

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There seems to be a ton of snubs in the actors category. I’d have loved to see Oscar Isaac here for his performance in Ex Machina, as well as Tom Hardy in Legend. It’s a crowded category to be sure but really, no performer from Spotlight at all?? In any case, I’ve only seen two on this list, Cranston and Fassbender. Both were excellent but I’m gonna go out of a limb and pick Leo just based on what I’ve read so far about his performance.

My winner pick: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

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I have only seen one performance here (McCarthy, who’s so fun to watch in Spy) but the same as above, based on what I’ve read, seems that Tomlin was excellent in Grandma, so I’m gonna go with her.

My winner pick: Lily Tomlin (Grandma)

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Heh, I’ve also only seen one performance here as the press screening for The Big Short isn’t until next week. It still cracks me up that Bale is getting another nomination in the comedy category, who’s to say he doesn’t have comedic chops? Bale is my favorite actor of the bunch but I REALLY love Matt Damon’s performance in The Martian, which was hilarious as well as emotional. I never thought I’d love him playing an astronaut yet again, but this is such a perfect role for him and I can’t wait to see that movie again.

My winner pick: Matt Damon (The Martian)

BestSupportingActor

YAY Mark Rylance!!  I LOVE all of these picks, even though I’ve only seen 3 out of 5 performances (Rylance, Shannon & Stallone) but I’ve heard so many great things about both Elba’s and Dano’s turn in the two films so I’m sure the noms are well-deserved. I’m sooo torn between Shannon and Stallone, I think this is the toughest category for me to pick a winner, but in the end I go with the most emotionally-gratifying role.

My winner pick: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

BestSupportingActress

The supporting actress category is a bit more clear cut for me. Now, I adore Helen Mirren but I actually don’t think she was THAT great in Trumbo. She is far more compelling in The Woman in Gold so SAG got it right (more on that later). I had a hunch Jane Fonda would be nominated when I saw her performance in YOUTH, it’s a brief performance (akin to Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love) but it’s a flashy and memorable one. But this has been quite a year for Vikander, WOW, two nominations for lead in Ex Machina AND supporting role in The Danish Girl. She was largely unknown just a couple of years ago and suddenly she’s everywhere!

My winner pick: Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)


Now, I barely watch any TV but I’m thrilled to see Outlander garnered three nominations!! I love Caitriona Balfe as Claire and Tobias Menzies who played two characters in the show, Menzies has been turning up in quite a few memorable TV series (i.e. HBO’s Rome) so glad to see him getting a nom this time. I feel bad for Sam Heughan not getting a Best Actor nod, but I guess not having seen the other nominees I can’t comment on whether he’s snubbed. I just think it’s great the series is getting noticed and it makes the wait for season 2 even more agonizing!
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Screen Actors Guild Awards

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I haven’t been paying attention to SAG awards in the past few years but in many ways it’s a crucial one for actors given it’s their peers who voted for them. I’m only focusing on the FILM nominees as again, I barely watch any TV.

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Nice to see Straight Outta Compton on this list which sounds like a terrific ensemble cast. I think the cast for both Spotlight and Trumbo are terrific, but the former lingers in my mind more as they do work as a close-knit team in the film. Plus I REALLY like Liev Schreiber and given that it’s a long shot for him to get a nom (though I think he deserved it), it’d be nice to see him go up to the stage if Spotlight wins!

My winner pick: Spotlight

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I guess Redmayne’s role seems like a shoo-in for awards even from the start. I haven’t seen it yet but I don’t think it surprises anyone that he got a nom. Interesting that Fassbender is getting noms more for Steve Jobs than Macbeth, I think he’s great in both, but perhaps Jobs is stronger given the phenomenal script from Aaron Sorkin. But just like in the same category in the Golden Globes, I pick Leo given how incredibly difficult the role seems to be and he’s able to deliver such a convincing performance whilst filming under such harsh conditions.

My winner pick: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

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It’s a bummer to see Charlize Theron being snubbed again by SAG. I’m also surprised not to see Emily Blunt’s name given how critically-praised Sicario was when it opened. I’m glad to see Helen Mirren getting a nod for Woman in Gold as she’s the only reason to see the film. Well her and Tatiana Maslany playing her younger self. Hail miss Blanchett who no doubt is excellent in Carol because she’s such a consistent performer. But I have to go with Ronan, who I think is poised to have a long & fruitful career just like Blanchett.

My winner pick: Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

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Heh, of ALL the terrific cast in Spotlight, the only one nominated is Rachel McAdams?? I mean, I’m all for a strong female role getting recognition but she’s definitely not the best performer of the bunch. If anything, I’d rather see Kristen Stewart being nominated (I can’t believe I said that!) for Clouds of Sils Maria. I wasn’t fond of her before but to be fair she was indeed good in that film.

My winner pick: Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
SAG_BestSupActor

YAY! Glad to see Rylance and Shannon getting a SAG nod in the supporting category. I’m also happy to see 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay being recognized for his role in Room. There has been some young thespians amongst award nominees before, and he’s certainly the most memorable young performer of the year for me.

Again, I’m bummed Tom Hardy is coming up empty in a year where he’s delivered such strong performances in a few movies. I’m also surprised Benicio Del Toro isn’t on the list, I’ve read a bunch of reviews praising his performance in Sicario.

Well, since I picked Stallone in the same category for GG noms, I’m going to go with Shannon who’s just oh-so-great in 99 Homes. If only the film gets more recognition.

My winner pick: Michael Shannon (99 Homes)


Most eggregrious snubs

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Yes I know there are others but in my opinion, this is the ones that riled me up the most. Charlize Theron for Mad Max Fury Road and Tom Hardy in a dual role Legend (or in The Revenant which I read was also excellent) deserve every nominations there is for the year. Both of them are my top pick of 2015 MVPs so it stings to see both of them coming up empty in both Golden Globes AND SAG awards, ugh!


So what are your thoughts on the Golden Globes & SAG nominees? Who do you think are snubbed and who are you rooting for?

Everybody’s Chattin + Music Break: SPECTRE’s Instrumental Theme

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Happy Wednesday everybody! Can you believe it it’s almost mid December? It’s been quite a balmy Winter in Minnesota (thanks El Niño!), with lows in mid 30s which is warmer than the highs in a typical Winter. Hey, I ain’t complaining!

Well, I’m still working daily on my script. As they say, it’s 10% writing and 90% rewrites and so that’s pretty much what I’m working on now. But I’m never too busy to do some community blogging post, so this is my last LINKS post for 2015 😉

Let’s get to those awesome blog posts…

Michael is on the lookout for books and movies parallel post and so take a minute to vote on his poll!

Josh took it upon himself to list 100 top performances of all time, surely you all have an opinion on the topic.

I always enjoy music-related posts, and one can count on Chris for those. He just posted a new Christmas song by Phoenix featuring Bill Murray!

Speaking of Christmas, Vinnie lists what he’ll be watching over the holidays

As some of us might be traveling over the holidays, surely you can relate to Jay‘s post about watching movies on an airplane

Margaret just did an awesome list of top 10 trailers of 2015.

Paula gave us a handy guide to follow the 2015/16 awards season

I have only seen the pilot of Jessica Jones but Eddie talks about how season 1 is off to a strong start.

Now here are some great reviews:

Keith reviewed Beasts of No Nation, Steven reviewed Room, Brittani reviewed Trumbo and last but not least, Zoë reviewed Spectre.


Music Break

Ok so I think most of you know I abhor Sam Smith’s voice and his SPECTRE‘s theme song The Writings on the Wall. But you know what, I listened to the instrumental version of the song lately and I actually LOVE the melody. It’s a rather melancholy tune but it has the mysterious and seductive vibe that one would expect from a Bond flick. The opening sequence is pretty cool, though not exactly my favorite amongst the 24 Bond movies over the years, I think the Casino Royale with the cards one is still one of my faves.


I still find the movie itself disappointing, but I remember liking this theme song as I was watching it. I really think the melody is so much better without Smith’s whiny voice. Thomas Newman is an awesome composer, I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work. I also enjoyed the end title track below:


Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s music break, folks!

Five for the Fifth: DECEMBER 2015 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Can’t believe the end of the year is upon us folks! As we anticipate December movies, I can’t help but setting my sights into movies opening in the Spring. Well, it looks to be a battle of Marvel vs DC, in which the two movies will consist of their own heroes fighting each other, ahah. Batman vs Superman aka Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War are initially going to open on the same day, before Zack Snyder moved the release date of Dawn of Justice to March 25.

So here are the two recently-released trailers:

Heh, they pretty much given up the entire movie in the trailer! And despite all the hoopla of Batman fighting Superman, they practically downplayed the most intriguing aspect of the movie to introduce the huge monster Doomsday as the main villain. That’s just idiotic, why not build up more of the tension between the two behemoth heroes? I thought the 50-second teaser was far more interesting and ominous (see below), but the tone of the trailer is too playful it’s almost comedic which is just so messed up.

The only cool part of trailer 2 is seeing Wonder Woman in that last still shot, but man Jesse Eisenberg wins Most Annoying Villain ever as Lex Luthor.

On the other hand, I’m even more pumped to see the battle that goes down between Captain America and Iron Man!

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The Captain America franchise has become my favorite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the story arc is definitely the most interesting. I LOVE seeing Bucky in the trailer back on Capt’s side again. The reason why Capt. and Tony Stark are fighting each other make total sense and it’ll be a bad ass and emotional battle for both parties.

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Nice seeing Black Panther here and his ambiguous allegiance makes his character all the more intriguing. May 6th can’t come soon enough!!

So what’s your thoughts on each of these trailers?
….

2. Switching gears to one of the most anticipated TV series returning next year. Both are supposed to be premiering in SPRING!!

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One is Netflix’s DAREDEVIL… the teaser is over a month old but it’s still cool to see it again. Between Elektra and Punisher, Matt Murdoch’s got his work cut out for him! BRING. IT. ON.

As for the other series, well most of you who know me well should know by now how much I’ve been anticipating Outlander season 2, given how huge my crush is on hunky Frenchman Stanley Weber 😉

So yeah, one of the biggest reasons I look forward for season 2 is Comte St Germain. But I mean seriously, can you blame me? He still looks so damn hot in powdered wig, but I sure hope the producers know how to make the most of his talents. He’s largely unknown in the States but based on what I’ve seen him in so far, he’s SO much more than a pretty face and be both charming AND menacing at the same time. Can’t wait to see that staredown scene between Le Comte and Claire.

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What’s YOUR most anticipated returning TV series?

3. In the next few weeks I hope to do a Top 10 MVP of both male and female performers of 2015 (in a separate list). I might wait until January though so I can see as many new releases as possible. But I have a pretty good idea who would surely make my list based on what I’ve seen so far, these two would certainly make my top 10:

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Thank you George Miller for making Mad Max: Fury Road a female-driven film and infused it with the most breathtaking, fun and emotional cinematic ride I’ve seen on the big screen all year. Charlize Theron is so freakin’ bad ass as Furiosa that it’s definitely one of the most memorable female performances of 2015.

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Ahhhh Tom Hardy… the scene stealer in practically everything he’s in gets to show his chops playing TWO characters as the Kray Brothers in LEGEND. He’s really the only reason to see the film. Absolutely mesmerizing despite the so-so script, and practically Bond-like as Reggie Kray. Please Broccolis, you’ve GOT to offer him 007 post Daniel Craig!

So if you could just name one male & female MVP of the year, who would they be?
….

4. Now, this question might be an easy or a tricky one. But I hope this topic will spark some discussions amongst you movie lovers.

Do you think 2015 has been a good year for movies? Please let me know your rationale regardless which is your answer.

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Keith from Keith and Movies Blog!

The question relates perfectly to the one above, as each of us certainly bring different expectations to certain films. I think for me, given how I feel about the recent Bond movies, I’d think Spectre is one of my biggest disappointments of the year.

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With the movie year winding down, what was your biggest movie disappointment of the past year?


Well, that’s it for the year end’s edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Spotlight on indie dramedy Night Owls’ and interview with writer/director Charles Hood

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Night Owls is one of the wonderful indie films screened at Twin Cities Film Fest back in October. Though I didn’t get a chance to see it then, I did meet its writer/director Charles Hood at one of the After Party Mixers. Well, we reconnected via email recently to chat about his film.

I really enjoyed this one, it’s a witty indie comedy/drama that takes place over a single night. The dialog is sometimes raunchy, but there’s a genuine chemistry between the two leads and the script is refreshingly honest and has a natural flow to it. Rosa Salazar won TCFF’s 2015 Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance Award and I think it’s well-deserved.

Now, before I get to the interview, I want to mention that TCFF is showing this at its December Encore Screening at Showplace ICON Theatre today (Wednesday), so if you’re in the area, be sure to grab your tickets! Who says date movies have to be on a Friday night, right?

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You worked on your first feature in 2007 and then you did two short films. Do you prefer making shorts or features?

Charles: I prefer making features. I think it’s more difficult to make a good short. It’s harder to show a character grow or change in that short period of time. I like being able to spend some time with the characters and get to know them.

How did you get into the film industry?

Charles: My aunt and uncle work in the film business and they made a home movie with me and my cousins when I was ten years old. It was a pirate movie we made at my grandparents’ little cottage on a lake in Wisconsin. From that point I was totally hooked. I hijacked my parents’ video camera when I got home and started making movies with my friends. I’ve been working at it non-stop ever since then. I went to film school at USC in Los Angeles and met a lot of my collaborators there, in addition to my friends with whom I grew up.

I’m always intrigued by movies that take place over a single day. How did you and your co-writer Seth Goldsmith come up with this story? Was there something that inspired either of you to write this?

Charles: I LOVE movies that take place over a single day. Die Hard, The Ref, The Breakfast Club, the Before Sunrise trilogy, Clue, Rope, The Poseidon Adventure, and the list goes on and on. Those are some of my favorite movies. Seth and I were trying to come up with something that could be done in a single location. We were just trying to be practical for what we knew would be a small budget. We wanted a story that could be done in a contained way like this.

The idea of a character overdosing on sleeping pills and the other character keeping him or her awake all night came up. Then we recalled that scene in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment where Jack Lemmon has to keep Shirley MacLaine awake all night. We figured why can’t that be an entire movie? And from there we had to figure out the reasons why he couldn’t take her to a hospital and that’s where the other side of the story came about. I always like to keep that a surprise for viewers because we did our best to let the mystery unravel as people watch it.

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This is the kind of movie that rest on the chemistry of the two actors. Could you share a bit about the casting process for both Adam Pally & Rosa Salazar, and also Peter Krause?

Charles: When we finished the script, our agent asked us to make a list of ten actors we’d want for this. My co-writer Seth had the idea to put Adam Pally on the list. Adam read it and liked it so I met with him and we were on our way. Once Adam got on board, it felt like we had a movie. In addition to being hilarious, he’s a really dedicated actor and just an overall great guy. It was such a pleasure to work with him.

As for Rosa Salazar, Adam was the one who recommended her. They had done a couple of scenes together in another movie and he thought she was fantastic. I was not familiar with her work, but I met with her and immediately was struck by how amazing she is. She’s going to be a star very, very soon. The two of them together have such great chemistry. We were so fortunate to have these two in our movie. They’re just perfect.

Peter Krause is amazing! Seth and I wanted him very badly for the role. We wrote him a letter and sent him the script. It helped that Rosa had a recurring role on his show Parenthood. He is a big fan of Rosa’s so he was excited for her. Plus he liked the script enough that he came on board.

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What’s been some of the biggest challenges in making this movie? Please share one of the most memorable moments on the set.

Charles: I think the biggest challenge was finding a way to keep the audience entertained in a movie where it’s mostly just two people in a house talking. On the script level, my co-writer and I made sure to move the plot along and keep revealing new things about the characters throughout the film. We also did our best to explore every inch of the house from scene to scene. When it came time to shoot the movie, my cinematographer Adrian Correia and I worked really hard to move the camera as much as possible. We wanted a more elegant look than handheld so we pushed ourselves to do a lot of dolly moves and I think it really paid off. We also tried to do a bunch of interesting long takes, which I think is fun for the actors and it’s a great way to showcase their chemistry. We have one shot in the middle of the movie that’s over 3 minutes long. The camera slowly pushes in on the two of them and it’s really just their performances holding your attention.

The whole movie basically takes place in this one house and we actually found the place on Air BnB. It was in Topanga Canyon, which is just outside of LA. Most of the crew would commute to set but there were seven of us that actually lived in the house throughout production. It was me, Adam, Rosa, and few of our department heads. It was kind of insane. Our production designer Ayse called it Real World Topanga. It was kind of a logistical nightmare with us living on our set, but it was so much fun. We were shooting mostly nights so at dawn we’d all drink a glass of whiskey, talk about the next day’s shoot, and then go to bed. Those are some very memorable moments for me.

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Adam and Rosa on the set of Night Owls

What’s next for you? You’ve done mostly comedies, is there another genre you’re interested in doing?

Charles: I think I’ll mostly stick in the comedy realm. It’s usually somewhere in the comedy-drama spectrum for me. That being said, Seth and I just finished writing a comedy-drama that leans pretty hard on a science fiction premise so that’s pretty fun. But I’d also like to try other genres. At some point it’d be fun to do an action movie or a kung fu movie or a horror movie. It’s just about finding the right story and characters.

 


Check out the trailer:

Here’s a list of theaters Night Owls is playing at…

  • NYC — Cinema Village
  • Los Angeles — Los Feliz 3
  • Chicago — Facets Cinematheque
  • Detroit — Cinema Detroit
  • Atlanta — Plaza Theatre
  • Denver — Kress Cinema
  • Cleveland — Tower City Cinemas
  • Dallas — Texas Theatre
  • Tampa — The Cinema 6
  • Seattle — Far Away Entertainment

…and VOD outlets:

  • iTunes
  • Amazon Instant Video
  • Google Play
  • Xbox
  • PlayStation
  • Vudu
  • DIRECTV
  • Time Warner Cable Movies on Demand
  • Comcast Xfinity Movies on Demand
  • Shaw (CA)
  • Rogers (CA)
  • Bell (CA)
  • …and many other MVPDs

THANKS for taking the time to chat, Charles!

Hanging out w/ filmmaker Charles Hood who made "Night Owl' and my pal Kirsten Gregerson
Me and my pal Kirsten Gregerson hanging out w/ Charles at TCFF After Party