Question of the week – Which movie/tv genre(s) have you decided to stop watching?

Image courtesy of forum.kodi.tv

Happy weekend all! I haven’t done this question-of-the-week post in a looong time. Well, my pal Ted sent me an email about this topic and I thought it’d be a good one to pose to all you fine movie lovers out there. I’m hoping this would be an interesting discussion point as we’d all have different answers to this question.

So let’s start w/ Ted’s thoughts on the matter…

I constantly hear or read people complaining about certain movie genre that they’re tired of seeing and promise they would stop watching that certain genre from now on. Of course the genre I’m referring is superhero and there are some people who said they’re sick of seeing these larger than life characters hitting the big screens every other months or so. Personally I love this genre and will keep watching it until it dies out, but I hope/wish studios would churn out more quality products in the upcoming months/years.

The genre that I actually quit watching is horror. I used to love this genre, when I was younger I would watch all of the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and tons of other horror films during Halloween month and would always go see any new horror film opening each weekend. But as I got older and the introduction of torture porn in the late 90s and 2000s, I was turned off by the countless gore and torture scenes. I don’t see any entertaining value in watching someone gets their hands or legs cut off or just torture in the most painful way possible. Now I do love The Walking Dead TV show but the show is more about human dramas dealing with post apocalyptic world than just zombies tearing into people’s fresh.

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Another genre I quit watching, well it’s not really a genre but I hardly pay attention to independent films anymore. When I was a young inspiring filmmaker, I would attend indie film festivals all over the country, been to Sundance a couple of times. But as the years gone by, I found that many of these so-called “indie” films to be more pretentious and just plain bad. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great indie films that were made within the last several years but I don’t want to waste my time sitting through crappy low budget films just to find one or two good ones.

And here’s two cents…

Well, in response to Ted’s comments, I’ve never been a fan of horror films. Of course there are exceptions, in fact I’m still curious about The Babadook as I heard it’s more of a psycho horror than a violent, bloody genre film. I completely agree w/ Ted that I have no stomach for gore and torture and I really think that far more often than not, it is absolutely gratuitous.

But in terms of indie films, given that I’ve been on an indie kick this past month thanks to MSPIFF and other press screenings, that’s one genre I’ll never get tired of. In fact, just this week alone I saw a couple of indie gems on the big screen!

I think just like big budget films, there are as many bad apples as there are good ones. But with indie films, even if it wasn’t successful, they seem to be more character and story driven than big-budget ones. Even if they’re not perfect, I’d still get something out of most indie films I watch, whilst that’s not the case on bad big-budget movies.

I’d say that the genre I’m not as keen on watching anymore is the one a lot of people might share… and that is comic-book movies! Now, I used to LOVE comic-book movies, I mean one of the first Hollywood movies I saw as a kid was Superman: The Movie, and there have been countless of them since that I enjoyed. But lately I’m just tired of ’em that I can’t even watch the trailers anymore. As with anything, an excessive amount of anything is never a good thing. Alas, this is one genre that seems to be impervious to critics and box office numbers. Yes, I’m still excited for Captain America: Civil War next week because I LOVE the first two films. But I’m not really that excited to see X-Men: Apocalypse or Suicide Squad later this year.

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I don’t even know if I’ll see those on the big screen to be honest, the press screening for Apocalypse has been scheduled but I’ve passed on it. I don’t even pay attention to Marvel Phase 3 movies and whatever schedule DC’s got cooking to counter that (apart from Wonder Woman that is, for obvious reasons). I’m also sick of those endless cash-grabs that gargantuan studios *cough* Disney *cough* keep churning out, i.e. Maleficent 2 (???!??!) I sincerely hope my darling Sam Riley would say no to playing Diaval again in this pointless sequel, as much as I enjoy watching him in all the hilarious promo interviews!


So what about you folks? Is there a movie genre(s) that you’ve decided to quit watching?

MSPIFF review: L’Attesa (The Wait) starring Juliette Binoche

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It seems tradition that during every film festival in town that I have at least one Juliette Binoche movie on my schedule. Well, she’s still the main reason to see this one.

The film centers on two women who’s somehow thrown together just before Easter, set in a picturesque Sicilian town. The actors speak in both Italian and French which is just incredible as sometimes I can’t even tell which language they’re speaking. The film opens with a close-up of a statue of Christ, and later it’s revealed we’re at a church during a funeral. We’re not told who the deceased person is, but it’s pretty much hinted throughout who it is. We meet Anna (Binoche) in mourning, just as a young girl Jeanne (Lou de Laâge) arrives at the airport to spend time with her and her son Guiseppe.

The title of the film refers to the time the two of them waits for the arrival of Guiseppe for Easter. It wouldn’t really be a spoiler to say that Guiseppe isn’t coming because it’s pretty obvious that Anna is struggling to mention to Jeanne what has happened to her boyfriend. There are some heart-wrenching moments between the two, especially when Anna makes up a lie about why Guiseppe isn’t coming home.The Catholic references in Piero Messina‘s feature film debut is apparent. It might’ve been partly inspired by Michelangelo’s Pietà sculpture where Mary cradled his dead son Jesus’ lifeless body. It’s heart-wrenching to see a mother mourning the loss of his son, something Anna still can’t quite come to grips with. If somehow she could still keeps his son alive even if it’s just in his girlfriend’s mind, perhaps he’s not really truly gone.

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The film itself requires a lot of patience as it’s deliberately s-l-o-w and reflective. At times it feels overly indulgent and tedious, but thankfully we have two excellent performers that help keep my interest. Binoche is superb as always, believably conveying genuine sense of dread and grief. Laâge, whom I’ve never seen before, is equally compelling as the young and enchanting Jeanne and she has quite a natural intensity that is well-matched for Binoche. The stunning backdrop of Sicily is another plus, which also adds an atmospheric and mystical tone to the movie.

That said, I appreciate this movie more than I love it. I’d say it’s worth a watch if you’re a huge fan of Binoche as it could be wearisome in the way the story played out. But for me, I’m still glad I watched it and was quite moved by the lead performances. The story has a haunting quality that lingers long after the end credits, but it also requires an extensive amount of patience to fully appreciate it.

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Have you seen ‘L’Attesa’? I’d love to hear what you think.

April 2016 Blindspot: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

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It’s been ages since I wanted to see A Streetcar Named Desire, not sure why I’ve put it off. I feel like I have watched it as one day I actually watched a bunch of clips from this film on youtube. There’s of course the famous scene where Brando yelled ‘Stellaaaaaaa…!’ that’s been parodied many times over, but I definitely need to see it to understand the significance of this steamy Southern classic.

Based on a hit play by Tennessee Williams, it’s one of those rare films that happen to be directed by the same person who did the original Broadway production, Elia Kazan. It’s interesting to see Vivien Leigh as yet another Southern belle, as I’ve only seen her in Gone With The Wind (1939), but really, the appeal of this film for me is Marlon Brando, whose brutish performance is the quintessential sexy bad boy.

As with any of my blindspot reviews, there are definitely spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film yet, proceed with caution.

First Impressions

Well, what can I say… my first impression had more to do with Marlon Brando. Can you blame me? I mean look. at. him.

tumblr_o2qnvyjTWj1qd6639o1_500tumblr_o2qnvyjTWj1qd6639o3_500 From the first moment he came on to the screen when he saw his sister in-law Blanche at his house, Brando’s definitely got a magnetic presence like nobody’s business.


The trivia section of this movie on IMDb is filled with interesting tidbits. So apparently fitted t-shirts could not be bought at the time, so Brando’s apparel had to be washed several times and then the back stitched up, to appear tightly over the actor’s chest.

Err, what was I talking about again?

Ok so obviously there’s SO much more to the movie than Brando’s immense sex appeal, though obviously this role cemented his sex-symbol status.

A classic story adapted beautifully on the big screen

I could see why there are still countless stage adaptations of Williams’ classic story all over the world. Even though time has changed and to a certain degree, gender roles and social norms have evolved, the very core of the human condition still remains. Stories that deals with obsession, distorted reality, fears of aging, etc. are still relevant today and will always remain so. The film version underwent a major change in terms of the homosexuality of Blanche’s late husband, due to the Production Code demands that the film toned it down. The same with the depiction of rape, though it’s implied that Stanley did rape Blanche with the scene of smashed mirror and a firehose spurting onto the street.

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It was a clever way Kazan dealt with the strict Code, and also when Stella was in bed the morning after Stanley hit her. She had a big, gleeful grin on her face that indicated they had um, a very satisfying make-up sex.

Kazan’s big screen adaptation not only look beautiful in black and white, but it has an atmospheric and moody feel to it. I read that he worked closely with the production designer to create the authentically sordid look and literally had the walls around Brando and Leigh closed in on them during filming to create a claustrophobic tension within the space. Well that worked because that constricted feeling practically ricochets off the screen and into my living room!

Blanche and Stanley are such an interesting pair to watch on screen because there’s all this nervous energy around them. They’re attracted as well as repulsed by each other at the same time, at times they couldn’t even reconcile the two, which creates such interesting dynamic.


Kazan doesn’t immediately expose that Blanche’s dark past and the fact that she’s got mental issues, but it’s more of a steady buildup that escalates to the boiling point. The more her brutish brother in-law relentlessly torments her, the more she goes off the rails.

I’m constantly torn in how I feel for the characters as well, which is what a good movie should. A good character is not simple, one-dimensional and how we feel about a character could (and perhaps should) change as the movie progresses. Well, I initially feels sorry for Blanche but also exasperated by her, even if she couldn’t control it. As with Stanley, what starts out as a carnal attraction to this brooding, hunky man (as any full-blooded woman would) quickly changes to disgust and repulsion. I literally want to strangle him many times as I watch the movie, especially his treatment of his pregnant wife!

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Performance wise, the film definitely belonged to Leigh and Brando. The British actress played yet another American Southern belle but in a completely different role. Leigh definitely got to display her vulnerability even more, especially towards the end when Blanche’s gone completely mental. It’s interesting that she had played the character in the London production under her husband Laurence Olivier’s direction. Per IMDb, she later said that Olivier’s direction of that production influenced her performance in the film more than Elia Kazan’s in this film.

Brando has had many memorable roles in his illustrious career, but no doubt this is one of the earlier ones he’s most remembered for. His intensity is second to none, there’s few actors who are as explosive on screen in terms of presence and charisma as Brando.

Kim Hunter was pretty memorable as Stella, but I think every cast member was practically outshone by the two leads. So was Karl Malden as Blanche’s potential suitor. I think both were believable in the roles, it just didn’t leave a lasting impression to me. I guess it has less to do with their performances, but more about the strength of the two leads. I wish Brando had won Best Actor as well, but then again I hadn’t seen the other male performers of that year.

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Does it live up to the hype?

The film won four Oscars out of twelve nominations and also rank #47 in AFI Top 100 Films. Elia Kazan was certainly one of those stellar directors who have won acclaimed in film AND on broadway, winning multiple Oscars as well as Tony awards. I’m always astonished when a story could work as well on stage as on screen.

I have never seen the stage adaptation, but my impression of the film was that it was sexy, gritty, but deeply unsettling to the point that by the end I was just quite revolted by the whole thing. None of the characters are likable except for Stella, Blanche DuBois’ devoted younger sister. I think that was the point though. This wasn’t going to be a cheerful movie with a happy ending and there’s also very little humor to give you relief from all that tension.

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I’m glad I’ve finally watched this film from start to finish. It’s one that won’t easily escape from one’s memory. I have to say though, compared to other classics like say, Casablanca or Gone With the Wind or Roman Holiday, I’m not sure this is something I’m keen on watching again. It’s just not a pleasant film overall, and I don’t find it to be an emotionally-gratifying film either as it’s hard to care for any of the characters. That said, it’s definitely essential viewing for cinephiles. The story is such an intriguing character study that is chock full of riveting-but-inherently-imperfect relationships.

Final Thoughts:

The film ending is apparently different from the stage version. In the film, Stella no longer trusts her husband and she took her baby and leaves. We hear Stanley yelling ‘Stellaaaa….’ again as he did in the most famous scene in the film. I read that in the stage version, Stella chooses to be with Stanley as her sister is escorted to a mental institution. I’m not sure which version I prefer, I think it’s riskier to have an ending that isn’t tied neatly with a big red bow, though not necessarily better.

Regardless of the different ending, there are certainly plenty of thought provoking themes to grapple with. Delusion, denial, forbidden passion, and tragic irony… Williams’ timeless play has all the ingredients for an engrossing story, and Elia Kazan certainly had what it takes to do it justice… both on stage AND on screen.

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Check out my full 2016 lineup by clicking the graphic below

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Have you seen A Streetcar Named Desire? I’d love to hear what you think!

Weekend Roundup: Final weekend of MSPIFF 2016 + Review of Indonesian drama ‘A Copy of My Mind’

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Time really does fly when you’re having fun! The three-week MSPIFF festivities has concluded yesterday. I didn’t see any movie on its last day, but I did attend a film panel titled Cinematic Voices with two documentary filmmakers…

Nandita Ahmed, Producer A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers
Jack Pettibone Riccobono, Director The Seventh Fire

They discussed their work from a global perspective, talk about the filmmaking process, and share their thoughts on the future of the film industry.

What I love about MSPIFF is that even though the film fest has ended, there are still opportunities to watch some of them you may have missed!


The last film I saw on the big screen at MSPIFF was an absolute delight! I’ll review it next week but let’s just say it’s three-for-three for John Carney! [hey that rhymes] His third music-themed film of his I saw, after Begin Again and Once respectively, is yet another hit and one I certainly don’t mind watching Sing Street again.

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Well, here’s my mini review of one of the films I saw at MSPIFF this past week:

A Copy of My Mind

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I have to admit I’m not well-versed in Indonesian cinema. Even when I was still living in Jakarta up until I left for college here in the States, I only watched some Indo comedy films. But when I saw that MSPIFF is playing one Indo film set in my hometown, I just had to check it out. So yes, it’s the first Indonesian drama film I saw on the big screen in the US!

The film takes place in the gritty streets of Jakarta and explores the unglamorous side of the overpopulated (and over-polluted) Indonesian capital. We first meet Sari (Tara Braso), a girl who works at a lower-class salon and spends her nights watching pirated movies. It’s uncommon to buy pirated dvds in Indo, in fact I think most people get their movies this way even if people could afford buying the original. The movie she bought turns out to be poorly-subtitled, and so when she returns to the dvd market hoping for an exchange, she ends up serendipitously meeting Alek (Chicco Jerikho), the man who actually provides subtitles for illegal dvds for a living.

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You could say it’s a meet cute, and both are smitten almost immediately. I applaud director Joko Anwar for creating a genuine sense of intimacy. The way Sari and Alek meets and falls in love feels natural – it’s always refreshing when romance is done right and you truly feels for the couple you are watching. I guess Indo films now are much more progressive than I thought, which is surprising in a good way. The sex scene was done well and again, there’s genuine intimacy between the two actors that doesn’t feel rushed or contrived. I must say that there is a very sexually graphic scene I never even seen in American/European movie that appeared briefly in this movie that I wish I could un-see. I’m not going to say what it is but let’s just say it has something to do with Alek’s subtitles job. I have no idea how that scene alone would pass through the strict Indonesian censorship!

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The romance takes place in the backdrop of an always-unpredictable Indonesian election. So the film is also a social commentary of the political corruption and all the instability that takes place during that time. When Sari lands a job at an elite spa catering to wealthy clients, one bad decision ends up costing them dearly. There are some torture scenes as well that’s pretty tough to watch, but glad that Anwar didn’t dwell on it too much. The ending of the movie is a frustrating one because the film wasn’t tied up neatly with a big red bow. I always wonder that when filmmakers end their movie in an open-ended way, is it because they want us to interpret things however we want or that they simply don’t know how to end it. I don’t know the answer to that, but I still think this movie is intriguing and thought-provoking enough for me to recommend it. It’s a treat to see my hometown [and the realistic depiction of the crazy Jakarta traffic] on the big screen and Joko Anwar is certainly a bold and talented filmmaker whose work I intend to see more of.

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Apart from MSPIFF stuff, I also watched Look Who’s Back, a German comedy/ mockumentary about the return of Adolf Hitler that’s recently added on Netflix. It’s hilarious but deeply unsettling for obvious reasons, but definitely worth a watch. I’ll blog about it in a separate post sometime in the future.

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So that’s my weekend recap folks. What did you see this weekend, anything good?

Everybody’s Chattin + A tribute to Prince… a towering music icon gone too soon

Oh what a day it’s been… It’s another sorrowful day for music lovers as another music icon just passed away. I had prepared this post for community links & highlight some new trailers, but in light of Prince’s death, there’s obviously a change of plans. But before we get to that…

Let’s get to those awesome blog posts…

My friend Cindy posted her monthly series sharing music, books, and films that absorbed her

The Minneapolis Wizard World is coming next weekend. Well, Mikey posted some fun cosplay pics from the recent Edinburgh Comic-con!

My pal Mark is hosting another Decades Blogathon, I urge y’all to take part!

Rodney just reviewed the Aussie-set drama The Dressmaker, which I’ll rent for Kate Winslet!

One of my fave films that premiered at TCFF last year, It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong finally got a wider release. Check out what Nostra thought about the film.

Alex talked about music covers that are better than the originals

Steven reviewed his April Blindspot pick, Killer (1989)

Zoë reviewed a 90s classic, Good Will Hunting 

Allie of the lovely duo Flick Chicks blog just posted a trio of reviews

Last but not least, Margaret posted another great ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ entry on her boy du jour Harrison Ford’s earlier work, Witness.


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It’s a sad day for music lovers… well sad year really given that we just lost David Bowie in January. But given that I’m practically a Minnesotan, this is an especially tough day and I haven’t quite processed it yet. In fact, it’s just before lunch that my colleague shouted that Prince had died and then he retracted saying, ‘no, someone died on the premise of his Chanhassen studio.’ But of course minutes later it was confirmed that it was Prince himself had died and my heart sank.

My hubby drove to Paisley Park after work today to take some photos. Even the gloomy sky seemed to have mourned the icon. There had been traffic jam in the area since the news broke early afternoon and it apparently hadn’t let on. First Avenue, the club appeared in his film Purple Rain, is currently hosting an outdoor concert tribute for him as I’m typing this.


Though Paisley Park is less than 20 miles away from my home and I used to drive by his studio every week as my church was within 5 minutes from it, I’ve never actually met Prince in person. I haven’t had the privilege of seeing him live in concert either [yes I know, bummer!] but I’ve heard many stories of my friends/colleagues’ encounter with him, whether at First Avenue or at Caribou Coffee house (which is as numerous as Starbucks in my neck of the woods). One of my good friend Tom actually bumped into Prince, literally, and said how he only came up to his chest. Tom wasn’t even 6 feet tall so Prince must not have been wearing his high heels then.

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Despite his small stature, Prince was a giant in terms of his contribution to the music industry. On my way home today, MPR was covering the death of an icon by interviewing journalists, as well as First Avenue’s general manager Nate Kranz, and even they had a hard time defining the Minneapolis Sound is that Prince pioneered. Apparently it’s a hybrid mixture of funk, rock, pop, synthpop and new wave…well whatever it was, it certainly sounds cool to me.

I feel so inadequate posting a tribute for him… there are far more qualified people who has followed his career faithfully from the late 70s and has been influenced deeply by whether directly or indirectly. But at the same time I still want to honor his amazing legacy as an artist and what better way than to feature even just a tiny sampling of my favorite Prince’s music.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate Prince’s music… 

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And of course, this being primarily a film blog, I had to include this clip from Tim Burton’s 1989 BATMAN, as the music is certainly one of the best parts about that movie.


Rest in peace, Prince Rogers Nelson.
Thank you for your gift of your timeless music
that shall forever live on.


Do you have a certain story about Prince you’d like to share? What’s your favorite Prince’s song(s)?

Indie Actor Spotlight: Tim Jacobs – star of the upcoming indie sci-fi ‘District C-11’

I’m always intrigued by indie sci-fi films and today I have the privilege to highlight an up-and-coming indie actor, who happens to be the boyfriend of my good friend/colleague Ashley. If you remember in 2013 I posted an interview with Tim Jacobs when he was working as an extra on RIPD.

Tim has been one of my consultants for my script, as the two main characters are stage actors and so a large part of it involves scenes in a theatrical play. So I’m more than happy to feature him on my blog in the hope that this role will get him more film and/or tv work in the future. This time around Tim is the co-lead in an indie sci-fi thriller District C-11.

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District C-11 is a action-packed, plot twisting sci-fi. The story is of two cops in the not too distant future is who are tasked to patrol the streets of Boston at night in a city being broken by corruption and a villain named Stanton Creed. As they get closer to the source of the city’s woes, they find themselves closer to death asking themselves two questions. Do they fight for whats right and risk their lives? Or do they join the bad guys and become part of the problem?

Starring: Corey Spencer, Tim Jacobs, Richard C. Bailey, Lance Williams, Alaina Gianci, Jordan Lloyd & Mark Resnik
Directed By Wes Williams II
Written By Ralph Celestin
Produced by Camp 9 Films

Check out the trailer:


The film is set in Boston and it will have its premiere at
Boston Common Lowes Movie Theater on Thursday 4/21.

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Here’s my Q&A with Tim about the film, as well as his background as an actor and the challenges & experience working in theater vs feature films.

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How did you get involved with this project?

That is quite an interesting story. I saw the audition notice on multiple social media channels and thought it sounded like a good story. I went to the open auditions and read for the part of Grey Gideon. At the end of the first round of auditions, I was told that they loved me, but I was too tall. Later that month I received a call asking me to come back for another round of auditions. Again, they gave me great feedback, but again were unsure about my height. At the third and final callback, it was down to me and another incredible actor (Nicholas DiMaio) and after some great readings with different scenes partners, we were left without a verdict. Wes Williams II (the director) called me 3 weeks later as I was on the phone with another director and offered me the part after again telling me how my height was restrictive. I accepted and could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

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On set with Corey Spencer
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Close up shot hitting the ground

Tell us about your character and how it fits into the story?

Grey is a hell of a character. He is a good cop, a good partner, and good friend… mostly. He upholds the law, but is ultimately driven by revenge for the death of his parents. He has a substance abuse problem and doesn’t like to let people get too close to him. His partner Trenton (Corey Spencer) is the one real exception to that rule. In the movie, things don’t always go Grey’s way and it tends to get a little… messy.

Being that you’ve done small supporting work in big-budget films (RIPD), how’s your experience been like in an independent film but in a more prominent role?I’ve now worked on multiple big budget films and TV shows (Spotlight, The Girl on the Train, Allegiant part 1) and it is always a toss up whether the set is going to be friendly and organized, or harsh and chaotic. Without mentioning specific productions, I have seen some of the worst set management in the bigger budget films. Thankfully, the crew of District C-11 and the most of the smaller movies i’ve worked on have been really professional. I know that i’m lucky because I have heard horror stories from many of my actor friends.

A shot of most of the crew after the last shot of the day
A shot of most of the crew after the last shot of the day

Having a more prominent role is a rush. You are always getting called for something (hair, make-up, rehearsals, etc) so you really take advantage of the down time you have. I loved being in the thick of it and being able to collaborate with the director and Director of Photography (Rajah Samaroo) regarding different takes on shots and scenes. It really is a labor of love because there are times when you are waiting for lights to be set up or lenses to be changed and all the extras have been let go for the night and it’s just you, your scene partner, and the freezing temperatures.You question why you are doing this at all, but if you really love what you are doing, and believe in the project, those thoughts don’t last too long.

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Q: What’s one of the most memorable experiences making this film for you?

So many. The first time action was called. I wasn’t even really in the scene, but it was an incredible high. Working with our fight choreographer (Sisouk Vongbandith) and getting to know all the incredible film people in Boston. I did have a favorite scene to shoot though. It was my partner Trenton, Franchesca (Alaina GIanchi) and myself in a car driving around. The cameras were on rigs so there was no crew around at all with the exception of the poor sound tech (Jack Garrett) ducking in the back seat. It was real, honest work between just the actors with nobody interrupting us. We drove back and forth on an abandoned road for about 30 minutes just doing a bunch of takes. It was so different from what we had been used to and was a great experience.

Q: You mentioned you worked as an extra in ‘The Girl on the Train’ (which trailer has just dropped). What was the experience like working on that?

I was a passenger on the train 😛 I sat a few rows behind Emily Blunt. Unfortunately it was the last days of shooting so i didn’t really get a chance to network much. It was a really fun set though. The director [Tate Taylor] was wonderful and the entire crew seemed great to work with… that could also have been because it was the last couple days… I didn’t know a whole lot about the story going in so it was fun to pick up what was going on by listening to the director talk to Emily between takes. All in all it was a very professional and courteous set.

Q: You have a pretty extensive experience in theater, which do you prefer between making feature films & theater work?

They are so different! The first answer that came to my head was theatre. There is nothing like live theatre. If you mess up, you have to find a way to fix it right then and there. There are no second takes, no redos. What you give is what the audience gets. The adrenaline is incredible. It’s also nice to do the script in chronological order. You always know where you are and what you’re supposed to be doing/dressed like/ what scars are where. Not so in film. In District C-11 we shot the second to last scene on our second day of filming. It took a little getting used to. However, I also love the ever changing always moving nature of film. It keeps you on your toes and the chance at second takes allows you to explore many different ideas and options. I guess i don’t have a clear answer for you there.

Getting a touch-up between takes
Getting a touch-up between takes

Q: What’s next for you after this film? 

I moved to NYC last year and am pursuing work here. I’ve done a few smaller projects and been on some big budget TV shows. I haven’t been on Law and Order SVU yet, so according to my actor friends, I’m haven’t been inducted into NYC television acting yet. I’m hoping this movie showcases me and can help propel me higher up. I’m working with a few people I know and getting in with the right people. It won’t be long before I get another great part!

Photos courtesy of PERSONIFYD MEDIA


For more info, check out District C-11‘s official website and on Facebook


Hope you enjoy the interview. Thoughts about Tim and/or ‘District C-11’? 
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FlixChatter Review: Disney’s The Jungle Book (2016)

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It’s been ages since I saw the cartoon version of The Jungle Book. I have to admit I wasn’t too keen on this remake idea when it was first announced, despite the amazing voice cast. But I love when films I wasn’t even anticipating end up being such a pleasant surprise, and The Jungle Book did exactly that.

There’s always something intriguing about unlikely friendships, especially amongst humans and animals, so there’s definitely a big market for such genre movies. But seeing them in an animated format and live action automatically gives the story a different feel. A fellow blogger asked me if she could bring her 4-year-old niece to it and my first instinct is that some of the darker scenes might be too scary for her. So yes, it’s still family entertainment, but it certainly has a big appeal to adults as well.

The fact that I don’t much remember the original story perhaps made me enjoy the movie more. Yet for the most part I think this remake stays true to Rudyard Kipling‘s written text. We’re first introduced to the man-cub Mowgli in an exhilarating chase through the jungle that immediately showcased the movie’s spectacular 3D visual prowess. I was immediately transported to the jungle as Mowgli is on the run. It turns out to be a training sequence as he’s being mentored by Bagheera the panther to be more like his wolf brothers he’s raised with. It also didn’t take long for the movie to introduce the villain, the tiger Shere Khan, who looks and sounds menacing, thanks to the deep & mesmerizing voice of Idris Elba.


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, a 12-year-old kid of Indian descent who lives in NYC is perfectly cast as Mowgli. He may not have the acting experience for some of the dramatic scenes, but still convincing in the role and made me feel for his character. Besides, he’s surrounded by top-notch voice cast, some are acting legends like Ben Kingsley who provided the voice of Bagheera. But the scene stealer is Baloo, voiced by the inimitable Bill Murray. As soon as Baloo enters the picture, the movie’s entertainment quotient goes up a few notches. I love how he cajoled Mowgli to get his supply of honey and convinces him to stay in the jungle (instead of going to the man village) after discovering the kid’s resourceful-ness. It’s certainly one of the most fun pairing of human/animal since Hiccup and Toothless in the animated feature How To Train Your Dragon.

Scarlett Johansson‘s perfectly cast as the seductive snake Kaa. It’s a brief scene but a pretty memorable one. Christopher Walken, whose distinct speaking voice is endlessly entertaining, is fun to watch as the 10-foot-tall Gigantopithecus aptly-named King Louie. So instead of an orangutan, we’ve got this gigantic ape whose face is made to resemble Walken a bit and he got to sing a bit as well. The scenes with King Louie in his *temple* is one of the most action-packed in the film, but there are no shortage of action in this movie. Which takes me to the phenomenal visuals. From the opening sequence down to the fiery finale between Mowgli and Shere Khan, this film surely sets the bar high for live-action CGI movies. I think the last time I was truly in awe by a film’s 3D visuals was Avatar back in 2009. The way the animals look so realistic, and the excruciating details of the forest Mowgli lives in is breathtaking to behold. It’s an immersive experience as it felt as if you could smell and touch the lush trees in the jungle!

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But it’s also nice that the movie isn’t just all style-over-substance. It’s a testament to how wonderful the original story is, but director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks made the classic tale come alive again and feels new. Even the musical numbers were fun and not at all distracting or annoying, which is another pleasant surprise. I find Mowgli’s journey quite moving and I really do love all the characters. Favreau is definitely a force to be reckoned with, which seems relatively under the radar compared to say, Zack Snyder, but he churns in good work far more consistently. The first Iron Man was utterly entertaining and Elf is practically a Christmas classic. But even his smaller fare like Chef (in which he starred in) is an indie gem.

The Jungle Book is another huge hit for Disney. It’s nice that a behemoth movie (with $175 mil budget) is also massively entertaining, so I think its success is well-deserved. I don’t even mind seeing this again in IMAX as I much prefer seeing it in a larger screen with great sound than in 3D. Pure escapism stuff that Disney’s known for and the colossal studio delivered once again.

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MSPIFF Weekend Roundup: Women In Film panels + ‘The Fencer’ mini review

It’s truly one of the best weekends weather-wise in the Twin Cities. It’s 70+ degrees and sunny for three days in a row which is unusual as we do still get snow in April occasionally. It’s also been a fun and insightful weekend for me at MSPIFF!

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FRIDAY

After work I went to see one of Deepa Mehta’s film Bollywood/Hollywood which was a fun Indo-Canadian rom-com. Out of all three of Mehta’s films I’ve seen so far, this is certainly the lightest in terms of tone. But even a frothy Deepa Mehta film is still an intriguing cultural with dramatic poignancy.

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SATURDAY

I’m so glad I had the chance to attend not one but TWO eye-opening Women In Film panels at a loft adjacent to St Anthony Main Theater.

The first one was called Behind the Journey… which featured two female directors who made their debut films in their 50s.

Panelists:
Laura Israel, Director Don’t Blink – Robert Frank
Trisha Ziff, Director The Man Who Saw Too Much

The extraordinary thing about being a director is that “IT” could happen. There is no right or wrong way to get a film made. This conversation with two directors whose work appears in the festival will focus on their stories, career paths, and how they got to where they are today.

It was so inspiring and insightful to simply absorb strong, talented and tenacious women who are currently working in film industry talk about their struggles making film and overcoming them. As an aspiring screenwriter, I felt encouraged to just be around them, talking to them and hear what they had to say. It was wonderful that I got to chat with Rachel Goldberg, a writer/director who’s on the board of Alliance of Women Directors in L.A. prior to the panel, I’d definitely be on the lookout for her narrative feature Transformation Awaits.

The second one is fittingly called An Eye Opener:

Panelists:
Effie Brown, Film and Television Producer
Melissa Butts, Director/Producer
Rachel Goldberg, Director

Rather than speculate on why women are still where they are or contemplate the Sisyphean nature of institutional change–or worse, stop talking all together–this panel will beg us to look directly into the eyes of the beast: ourselves and what we can do better with gender equality in the film industry.

The first panel talked about how it takes more than just talent and skills to succeed, but a strong drive and sheer passion to invest a good chunk of your life in making your film. Trisha Ziff, who was a photography curator prior to making her first film in her 50s, said that one of the key ingredient to surviving the business is solidarity amongst female filmmakers.

That theme kept coming up in the second panel, that it’s essential that women support each other if we want to change the still-grim statistics of the 4% Gender Disparity problem.

Effie Brown (one of the producers of Dear White People) focused on women mentorship, in that women who’ve found success in the industry must take it upon themselves to take newcomers under their wings so to speak, which may include giving them opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t be given a chance.

Thanks MSPIFF for the insightful and truly eye-opening women-in-film panels and for being such a strong champion for gender equality in filmmaking. It’s certainly inspired me to keep at it and never giving up on my dreams as a screenwriter!


Then on Saturday night I got to see Deepa Mehta‘s latest, Beeba Boys. Check out my interview with the acclaimed Indo-Canadian filmmaker who’s no stranger to tackling controversial issues in her films, as her Oscar-nominated 2005 film Water was shut down by Indian government as it’s accused of being anti-Hindu.

Beeba Boys received mixed reviews by the Indo-Canadian community in Vancouver, but I think it’s a bold, stylish and fascinating film that definitely be one of my most memorable films I’ll see this year. It’s fitting that Mehta has been chosen to be the first honoree of MSPIFF Annual Tribute. Here she was following the film’s screening holding her well-deserved award!

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SUNDAY

The film I missed last weekend was played again on Sunday afternoon and I’m so glad I was able to make it!

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It’s such a moving drama loosely based on an Estonian Fencer Endel Nelis who fled from the Russian secret police and became a physical education teacher at a small-town school. It’s a mix of mystery war drama and a sports underdog story that blends seamlessly. The scenes between the teacher and the kids reminds me a bit of films like Dead Poets Society and Rudy. Some of the kid actors are very memorable as well despite their lack of acting experience, especially the ones playing Marta and Jaan. The tentative romance is handled well in that it adds another layer to Endel’s journey without distracting it from the heart of the film.

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It’s beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted all around, esp. Märt Avandi as the protagonist. This is the first film by acclaimed Finnish filmmaker Klaus Härö and I’m curious to check out more of his work now. The Fencer is a little film with a big heart, with genuine emotional resonance that made me tear up. It also manages to surprise you without being overly-sensational, in fact, the film is so understated yet with a tinge of suspense and a haunting atmosphere that keeps me engrossed from start to finish.

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So that’s my weekend recap, folks. What did you see this weekend? Anything good?

Indie Film Spotlight: BEEBA BOYS + Q&A with director Deepa Mehta

I’m thrilled that MSPIFF is launching its Tribute Program on its 35th anniversary this year. The program recognizes the achievements of an international filmmaker whose work is making waves on a global scale. And they certainly made the perfect choice for its first honoree.

Deepa Mehta is a pioneering female Canadian-Indian director, well known as the award-winning writer-director of the Elements trilogy of films (Fire, Earth and Water), exploring social issues in India. Mehta, who resides in New Delhi and Toronto, will make her first-ever visit to MSPIFF to screen three of her films.


Click here to get your tickets.

Two of her films I’ve seen so far are the Water (which was nominated for Oscar Best Foreign Language in 2007) and Bollywood/Hollywood. Both deal with social issues but the genres and tone of the the film are very different. The first is a serious drama set in North India and the latter is more of a rom-com set in Canada, and so I’m excited to see her exploration of  the violent gangster genre mixed in with dark humor.


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A ferocious, adrenaline-charged Indo Canadian gang war, and a violent clash of culture and crime. Gang leader Jeet Johar and his young, loyal, and often-brutal crew dress like peacocks, love attention, and openly compete with an old style Indo crime syndicate to take over the Vancouver drug and arms scene. Blood is spilled, hearts are broken, and family bonds shattered as the Beeba Boys (“Good Boys”) do anything “to be seen and to be feared” in a white world.

This is one of my most-anticipated MSPIFF films this year. Just like The Dark Valley that I saw recently which is an Austrian Western set in the Austrian Alps (or schnitzel Western as the lead actor Sam Riley called it), I’ve never seen an Indo-Canadian gangster movie before. I don’t exactly associate Canadian cinema with violent gangsters, so naturally I’m intrigued by the premise of Sikh gangsters from the Punjabi community feuding in Vancouver.

I’ve always loved movies that intentionally challenge stereotypes and I’m on for the ride deep into Indo-Canadian underworld that virtually no crime movie gone before. Beeba Boys certainly injects the tried-and-true gangster genre with a fresh cultural context, and the fact that this genre is entirely new for Mehta adds an extra dose of intrigue for me.


Right off the bat the trailer gives me the vibe of a Tarantino or Guy Ritchie movies. It’s hyper-violent but done with style and humor. The trailer is set to dynamic, up-tempo music to go with its stylized action sequences and the *good* boys are impeccably dressed in tailored, vibrant suits. I LOVE the soundtrack, which you can take a listen at its official site. This is my favorite track that’s used in the trailer:


I had the privilege to get a bit of insights about this film from Deepa Mehta. Check out the Q&A below:

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1.What’s the inspiration behind Beeba Boys? It seems like stories that’s ripped from the headlines, though people might not associate Canada with Sikh gangsters.

I’ve heard about sikh gangsters operating in the Vancouver area for the last 15 years. One young man in particular caught my attention. As opposed to what is perceived as the ‘ideal immigrant’ he just didn’t give a damn. In fact as I researched this further I realized that these gangs were not very different than the Mafia, the Triads the Yakuza the Irish gangs. Each wave of immigrants starting with the British, the Irish, the Scots, the Italians etc. brought with them a dissident group. The Sikhs were no different.

2. This is a genre usually associated with male directors, in fact, according to IMDb, Beeba Boys is the first gangster film directed by a woman in the last forty years. Did the idea of breaking the stereotype plays a part in you wanting to make the film?

No the idea of breaking a stereotype did not even occur to me. And if it had been the reason to make the film, it would have been a rather dumb one! It’s all about the story and the idea of brown folk (usually associated with doctors, lawyers, corner store owners, cabbies) navigating a shady terrain in a white mans’ world .

3. There are a lot of action in this film just looking at the trailer alone. What’s the most memorable moments for you making those shootouts & car chases?

I really loved doing the action scenes. New toys in a way. Each one of them was challenging and fun to do.

4. I love the style and fashion of the film, especially those beautiful suits. Did you have a certain style in mind that you want for your film? Are there are certain films/ filmmakers of this genre who inspired you?

The style comes from the philosophy of the gang leader Jeet Johar: ‘If you want to be seen you got to commit to being seen’. As brown folks in a dominant white culture one is usually overlooked or typecast. Jeet Johar demanded to be visible. The brilliant Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki was a huge inspiration to me. See his Tokyo Drifter and be blown away.

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5. I read that your mother suggested [Bollywood star] Randeep Hooda for the lead role of Jeet Johar. How did the rest of the casting process come about, esp. Paul Gross who’s definitely playing against type?

I don’t like holding auditions. Usually if I like an actor (seen in a play, movie or recommended by someone ) I spend time with them. Have a cup of coffee and just shoot the breeze. Paul is a dear friend and we have always wanted to work together. And here he is – pretty great I think.

6. Your films usually contain a strong social message in them. If there’s one message you want people to take away from this film, what would it be?

Crime is pretty much universal and doesn’t know any color, class or national boundary .

7. You’ve been making films for over two decades. It seems that gender disparity is still a problem in the film industry, esp. Hollywood. From your perspective and experience as a filmmaker, what has changed in that regard, both positive and negative.

It’s an uphill battle but awareness of this disparity is just reaching the public consciousness. It’s important we don’t stop trekking.

(Thanks to MSPIFF’s Festival Director Eric Wilson for the interview opportunity!)


Beeba Boys’ Featurette:


Thoughts on Deepa Mehta and/or her latest film Beeba Boys? I’d love to hear it!

Top Ten Favorite Actor Voices… that I can listen to for hours

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Well, on Tuesday night I saw the press screening of The Jungle Book, which is a remake of the 1967 animated film. It was such a pleasant surprise, a visually-mesmerizing film with a simple-yet-moving story. That film is certainly an eye AND ear candy, with phenomenal voice actors like Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, etc/ providing the speaking voice for all the animals.

So in honor of that film, I thought I’d um, remake my old post that still remains quite popular to this day, top 10 favorite actors with the smoothest voice. It’s funny but more often than not, actors I have a crush on usually have an addictive speaking voice, and I’d even listen to their interviews over and over just to hear their voice! It’s obviously a very subjective list, and I’m not going to include the same people I’ve already included in my original list (i.e. Gregory Peck, Alan Rickman, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, etc.) Also excluding the obvious ones like James Earl Jones & Morgan Freeman, because well, they’re a league of their own.

Yes I realize I could’ve renamed this list Favorite BRITISH voice actors, ahah. But hey, I didn’t pick based on nationalities, but just like looks & talent, the Brits seem to have ’em all 🙂 In any case, here they are in no particular order:

1. Idris Elba
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I’ve been a huge fan of Idris’ voice since Rocknrolla. The voice timbre, the accent, it’s simply mesmerizing. Even without seeing his physical presence, his voice alone has that irresistible swagger.

2. Sam Riley

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Ok so Sam’s voice is a bit of an unconventional choice. People say he sounds like John Hurt, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But there’s something so irresistible about his raspy voice, likely due to his years of chain smoking. I’ve been saying on Tumblr that Sam’s voice is my drug of choice of late 😉 I literally would listen to a bunch of his interviews, which is just as fun to listen to as his singing voice in Control (and his former band 10,000 Things)

Whether he’s speaking in American accent as Sal Paradise (aka Jack Kerouac)…

… or British as dashing Colonel Darcy in Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

… Sam’s voice is music to my ears that I can’t get enough of.

3. Jeremy Irons

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I don’t know why I didn’t include this in my original list as I’ve always loved Mr. Irons’ voice! It’s so distinctive, with a timbre all his own and he’s got impeccable delivery the way Alan Rickman did. Hearing him even in his brief appearance in Batman V Superman reminded me just how much I loved his voice. Speaking of Disney voice actor, his voice work as Scar in The Lion King is just superb. I mean how does one go against James Earl Jones in the voice department, but he certainly held his own in that regard.

4. Tom Hiddleston

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The one actor I was crushing on in the first Thor movie wasn’t the hero, it’s the villain. Hiddleston’s voice sounds so melodious even when he’s in distress. His extensive theatrical training came through in his delivery, it’s so clear, dramatic and simply mesmerizing. He totally came away with the movie on account of his voice alone IMHO. I went to see his performance as Coriolanus as part of a National Theatre Live broadcast just because I LOVE listening to him do those long monologues and indeed he delivered.

Here’s a scene with Anthony Hopkins (who’s on my original list)

Oh and of course he’s absolutely divine in reading Shakespeare…

5. Will Arnett

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Ok this is crazy but I never actually paid attention to Will’s voice as I barely watch any of his movies. But when he did Batman in the LEGO Movie I thought my goodness he’s got a gorgeous voice! It’s so deep that it’s hilarious but it certainly sounds lovely, heck better than Christian Bale’s ridiculous’ Batman voice in Nolan’s movies. I can’t wait for the standalone LEGO Batman movie!

6. Mark Strong

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Come to think of it, Rocknrolla is chock-filled with Brits with gorgeous voices (there are three of them on this list alone). Strong is so criminally underrated as an actor, but I think fewer people know he’s also a fantastic voice actor. But really, he’s got the perfect voice pitch and lovely accent that he probably could make a successful career solely on his voice alone.

7. Mike Colter

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One of the reasons I ended up loving Jessica Jones is the casting of Mike Colter as Luke Cage. Ok so the first time we saw him I was already transfixed by him before he even opened his mouth (I mean look. at. him.) Then he did open his mouth and I was like, seriously? Not only did he look like THAT, he has to sound THAT good as well? Well let’s just say I hope they give him extensive monologues in the Luke Cage series!!

8. Iain Glen

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Another underrated British actor with an absolutely divine voice is Iain Glen. I remember first seeing him in the first Tomb Raider movie. In fact, he’s one of the best things about the movie as the charismatic villain. Fans of Game of Thrones surely are familiar with his character Jorah’s voice. I think people with a great voice is memorable even in a small role, as was Iain in Eye in the Sky, which was already filled with people with distinctive voices like Alan Rickman AND Helen Mirren. The movie is like voice porn!

9. Ben Whishaw

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Whether citing John Keats in Bright Star, or bringing a bear to life in Paddington, Whishaw’s use of his phenomenal voice is simply incredible. I also enjoyed his voice as Q in the Daniel Craig’s Bond movies. There’s such a pleasant lilt to his voice that will make anyone swoon.

I love this fan video of him reading Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Merci set to Thor‘s soundtrack. An odd choice of music but it works!

10. Tom Hardy

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Ok some people say they love Tom Hardy but they’d need subtitles in order to understand him. Ahah, I agree with that, for some reason he’s been in movies where he mumbles so much. But obviously if he speaks in his natural voice he’s got a clear accent and the loveliest voice. Check out his seductive voice in Rocknrolla, I have played this clip dozens of times just to listen to him. Speaking of voice porn, this movie is another one of those featuring a trio of great voices courtesy of Idris and Gerry Butler!


Well, what do you think of my picks? Whose actor voice(s) that you consider music to your ears?