Music Break: Hunky Dory (2011) featuring Minnie Driver & Aneurin Barnard

HunkyDoryMovieI have to admit I stumbled upon this movie as I’m currently besotted with this freakishly talented Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard. Yep, same guy who got me all obsessed with Richard III  😉

Having enjoyed Sing Street recently and the fact that this is from the creator of Billy Elliot, I knew I’d enjoy it. To be honest though, I actually never seen a single episode of Glee (never had much interest on it to be honest), and I haven’t seen School of Rock, two things which this movie has been compared to. But the fact that this is a British (Welsh to be exact) indie is always a major plus for me. I do love Minnie Driver and I love the idea of her as a sympathetic teacher.

Set in a small town in Wales in the summer of 1976, drama teacher Vivienne fights sweltering heat and general teenage apathy to put on an end-of-term version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

This movie didn’t quite have the exuberant, vivacious energy as Sing Street, but it does have a ton of awesome retro songs. This time it’s from the 70s, so we’ve got music from David Bowie, The Beach Boys, Jeff Lynne, 10CC, etc. The title is obviously named after Bowie’s album, but it’s also a British expression that means everything is just fine.

Check out some of my favorite musical scenes from the movie:

Based on the interview from SXSW, Aneurin said that all the musical segments were filmed live, so the kids really did play those instruments and the actors actually sang the songs. I love that authenticity, so the sound and performances feel organic and natural.

I’m glad Minnie also got to sing in the film. She’s a recording artist as well as an actor, and her voice is just lovely. She also sang the song in the end credits, Goin’ Back by Carole King.

This clip below has the song from pop-rock group The Turtles, sung by actor Tom Rhys Harries in the movie. There’s also a rendition of the late English singer Nick Drake’s Cello Song that Tom sang beautifully, but I can’t find the clip for it.


The 70s songs are just awesome, here are a couple more songs from the soundtrack that Aneurin sang:

Aneurin’s an Olivier-award-winning actor (for his performance in the West End’s Spring Awakening in 2010). It’s only a matter of time that Hollywood will discover him like Hiddles, Hardy, etc., but he’ll be seen in Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk so that’s a good start!

I wish I could see him perform live one day, he looks AND sounds like an angel!! The finale is awesome and it made me want to get up and cheer! I mean you can’t go wrong with Bowie, and the kids pretty much channeling the glam rock era with the boys wearing glitter and guyliners.

Check out the trailer of the movie, which you can rent on iTunes or HULU:


Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break! What do you think of the songs, which ones are your favorite?

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FlixChatter Review: Midnight Special (2016)

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I’m a big fan of science fiction films, and the ones that are more *grounded* in our reality, meaning it’s not all sleek and drowned in special effects are usually the most compelling. Midnight Special is certainly one of those films, which in essence is a father/son story.

Right from its opening scene, this film instantly grabbed me and never let up. Two men are on the run with a small boy Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) and the people in a cult organization are hot on their trail. Who the boy is and why he’s so important to the devout followers of this group is not known right away. The only thing we know from the marketing promos is that perhaps he’s from another world as we don’t shoot laser beams from our eyes, nor could we make a satellite fall from the sky. Soon the FBI arrives in the small town in Louisiana and from the interrogations with the cult members, we’re given glimpses of why Alton is so special. As if being on the run is not hard enough, there’s a certain date looming that the runaway group absolutely can’t miss.

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I feel that it’s best to experience this film knowing as little as possible. I love discovering more and more about the characters as one layer after another is peeled away. Alton has a very close relationship with his father Roy (Michael Shannon), who we knew in the beginning is his adopted dad. But who is Lucas (Joel Edgerton), the guy helping them get away? I’ll let you figure that out, as that’s part of the fun of discovering the story.

Jeff Nichols wrote and directed this movie and I’m so impressed by his talent as a storyteller. The story is intriguing albeit not completely original and treads some familiar grounds. It reminds me a bit of Spielberg’s E.T. but with its own twist as well as look and feel. Though the story deals with a kid’s special powers, it’s not really the main focus. Instead, it’s more about the relationship of Alton and Roy and why Roy would risk everything, even his own life, to get Alton to where he needs to go. It’s a bond that transcend understanding.

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The performances are excellent all around. I haven’t seen Lieberher in anything but despite his young age, this isn’t his first film. He’s able to convey a lot without saying anything, which is tricky even for adult actors. Shannon is truly one of the best actors working today as he’s excellent in everything I’ve seen him in so far, including this one. There’s something enigmatic about him but here he shows a tender, vulnerable side as well. He shares a convincing emotional bond with Lieberher which makes you so invested in their journey. Edgerton is another actor whose work I admire, so it’s cool to see both him and Shannon’s continued collaboration with Nichols (both are featured in his latest film, the Sundance darling Loving). Adam Driver has a supporting role as the NSA officer, sporting geeky chic glasses a la Snowden. He’s quite memorable here and at times provides some comic relief. I have to mention Kirsten Dunst and Sam Shepard as well in small but key supporting roles.

Though mostly serious, the film isn’t devoid of humor and some amusing scenes thanks to some of the roles some of the actor have portrayed. I’m not going to say what that reference is, but let’s just say it has something to do with a superhero from another world who’s also adopted by an earthly father. I appreciate that the film has plenty of quiet moments but by no means slow or tedious. The fact that there’s not much action happening, but when it does, it’s quite effective.


I wouldn’t say the film is perfect however, there are some predictable moments that somewhat lessen the impact. The fact that there are still a lot of unanswered questions about Alton by the end is a bit frustrating. Why did he end up on earth in the first place, why is the daylight harmful to him, why the cult thinks Alton is who they think they are, and so on. That said, there’s enough going for it that Midnight Special was a satisfying ride. Oh and that finale is quite a heart-pounding one. Given all the suspenseful build up, nice to see a pretty powerful pay-off.

Overall it’s an impressive film that offers a unique twist to an often-told sci-fi tale. This one is actually Nichols’ first studio film (with Warner Bros), but given that it’s budget is only $18 mil, the studio still agreed to let him have the final cut. I sure hope that he’ll continue to get as much creative control over his work even as he inevitably transition into bigger-budget films.

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So have you seen ‘Midnight Special’? Let me know what you think!

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Eddie the Eagle, Midnight Special + BBC’s War & Peace miniseries

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How was your weekend everyone? Hope it was a nice one. Well this past week ended up being a pretty busy one in terms of movie watching. I finished The White Queen on Tuesday and was so obsessed with the whole War of the Roses history, especially Richard III that I’ve re-watched some of the episodes again! I’ve also ordered three books on the much-maligned monarch and am currently reading Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time.

BFGOn Thursday I went to a screening of Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, which I thought was just ok. I never read the children’s book by Roald Dahl so I wasn’t all that enthused about it. It’s kind of slow going and I find the story to be more simplistic than some of Disney’s animated features, such as the recent Zootopia, that has a pretty compelling story.

On Friday and Saturday night, my hubby and I watched two recent releases we missed on the big screen: Eddie the Eagle and Midnight Special, respectively. Both are enjoyable, but the latter is especially impressive and I’d rate that as one of the best 2016 films so far. I really wish I had seen that on the big screen, but it was well worth the wait. Jeff Nichols is on a roll right now and I’m glad we have a talented filmmaker like him working in Hollywood right now. I was so impressed with his third film Mud, but I still need to see his first two films Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter (both starring his muse Michael Shannon). I shall have my review of Midnight Special later this week.

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My hubby and I’ve also decided to restart our HULU subscription so we could watch BBC’s 8-part miniseries War & Peace. We’ve only managed to see one episode so far but we like it enough we’ll keep on watching. The mostly-British cast is excellent. I’ve always liked Lily James but it’s Paul Dano & James Norton in the first episode who’ve made an impression so far. Nice bonus to see my new crush Aneurin Barnard in a small role here too. No no, I haven’t abandoned Sam Riley completely, this young Welshman is just a nice distraction 😉

Speaking of which, I also started watching this British indie comedy Hunky Dory that reminds me a bit of Sing Street. I’m a big fan of Minnie Driver and she plays a drama teacher in the mid 70s, putting on an end-of-term version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Like Sam, Aneurin can also sing!! #BeStillMyHeart

Suffice to say I’ll try to catch up on more of Aneurin’s work. I’d probably spontaneously combust when I see him AND Sam together on screen in BBC’s SS-GB!! Having read the book, I knew they both will share a scene together, wahoo!


So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

Musings on Brexit … thoughts from a cinephile

Brexit

We’re living in such volatile times. I checked Twitter just before I went to bed last night as the votes were pouring in for the EU referendum, not certain whether Britain will remain with European Union or leave. I woke up to this…

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per BBCnews


So the United Kingdom isn’t all that united after all, and clearly there’s not much unity in European Union. I’m not a UK citizen, but I am a citizen of the world who love European cinema including British cinema, and before today I don’t really separate the two. I find it impossible not to care about the result of Brexit vote. Obviously there’s significant economic impact to the world as a result, but given this a film blog and I’m not well-versed in economic nor politics, this is just my two cents as a cinephile.

I think this Deleted Scene from 500 Days of Summer kind of sums up how those who favor Britain (including a ton of British celebrities) to remain feels today…

Some of you might’ve read about the open letter from some British celebrities to urge voters to remain. An excerpt from the letter says “From the Bard to Bowie, British creativity inspires and influences the rest of the world…We believe that being part of the EU bolsters Britain’s leading role on the world stage.” (per Guardian)

I’ve been reading a ton about what Brexit means to the film and tv industry, and so far they confirm my dread:

Brexit: Seven Likely Consequences for the British Film and TV Industry

Why Brexit is bad news for ‘Game of Thrones’ 

Brexit is ‘likely to be devastating’ for UK film and TV industry

Brexit: 5 Ways It Could Impact Hollywood

Reactions from industry insiders about Brexit:

“Uncertainty is the biggest problem… Getting an independent film financed is risky enough at the best of times, this will mean spending even more on lawyers and accountants to get deals done…In 5-6 years, I’m sure we’ll be alright, until then, we’re screwed.” – Michael Ryan, chairman, Independent Film & Television Alliance and partner at GFM Films

“I think there will be discrimination now against some of the product and what it means to be European product. A lot of TV stations in Europe are under quotas. When you do War And Peace, that was accepted as European. It could be very costly in the movie and TV industry in terms of content branding. European branding is very important. It’s a big deal for these young British filmmakers.” – Harvey Weinstein

This Guardian article lists some of the potential negative impacts to British film industry specifically:

Less cash, fewer movies, meltdown: how Brexit may affect British film

I didn’t know that the EU contributes a giant wad of cash directly to British film-makers, though co-productions amongst European countries are pretty common. As a fan of British cinema, point #5 that ‘we could witness a 70s-style British film meltdown’ is quite worrisome.

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Penny Dreadful

Per LA Times, the London-based producer of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Pippa Harris said this:

“Our show was shot in Ireland; our first director, David Bayona, is a Spaniard; our actress, Eva Green, is French; the costume designer, Gabriella Pesucci, is Italian… It was a brilliant collaboration across all those European nationalities. It was the very best of working in the EU.”

Does Brexit mean there’s a likely demise of multinational collaborations of European series?

What will Brexit mean for the UK TV industry?

Based on the above article from Radio Times, most TV producers found the majority of them wanting to remain with the EU because it would mean a significant drop of the export of British shows. It’d also make immigration rules more difficult for European filmmakers and talents to collaborate with British productions. There’s also the issue of funding, filming locations, etc. which will likely be impacted by this Leave vote. The Radio Times article said that much of HBO’s Game of Thrones is filmed in Northern Ireland, partly supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

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Battle of Bastards – Game of Thrones

How ‘Game of Thrones’ will be affected by Brexit

This is what Peter Chase, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US’ Brussels office, said:

“It might be up in the air for US studios who want to film in the UK… There are EU programs to help fund all of this. If the UK is no longer part of the EU, that has the potential to go away.”

Now, I have to say John Oliver made a compelling argument why the Leave vote is worrisome. Following a rant from a lady in favor of Brexit, he quipped “It’s now official, not everything sounds smarter in a British accent.” Ha!

This shocking vote is no laughing matter of course.

Stocks plunges more than 500 pts and who knows what the market will behave in the coming days. There are so many questions following this major breakup… does this mean more countries will leave the EU? Will Scotland (whose majority voted to remain) leave the UK soon as well? Will the United States also in for a huge voting upset come November? [yikes!!]

Whichever side you’re on, I think this revelation following the Brexit announcement could be the scariest of all…


Oh dear. Whilst some of us are worried about the implications of this historic vote, some are completely oblivious!

In any case, you know that old saying ‘May we live in interesting times,’ Well that phrase doesn’t seem more apt than right now isn’t it? Well, I suppose time will tell what this all really means, I certainly will keep watch and hope that the recession in British filmmaking the media’s been saying doesn’t actually happen.


So, what are YOUR thoughts about Brexit?

Everybody’s Chattin + Musings on The White Queen’s Richard III

EverybodysChattinTWQ

Hello folks, happy almost Friday! I’m going to see Steven Spielberg’s BFG later this evening, though I have to admit I wasn’t really all that excited about it. I sure hope it’s entertaining and not as melodramatic as War Horse.

EU-referendum-vote-to-stay-says-Greencore-boss_medium_vgaToday marks an important day for the UK as voting is under way in a historic referendum on whether the UK should leave or remain a member of the EU. I’ve been reading a ton about it and I’m really curious to see the outcome as the result of this Brexit ballot will certainly reach beyond Europe. It’s kind of a coincidence (or not?) that I’ve been obsessed lately with a British monarch, more on that at the end of the post.

Ok, let’s get to those links!

Jay talks about child actors, which ones make it and which don’t

Make sure you make a mental note for Cindy‘s July’s Film Club on movies based on books. Glad to see Michael as the special guest next month!

Brittani reviewed Locke, that one-man-show starring the awesome Tom Hardy

One of the Flick Chicks duo Allie reviewed The Hateful Eight which she really, really liked

Father’s Day was just last Sunday, and Alex did a great Movie Fathers Quiz to commemorate it

Paul, the loyal admirer of Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan wrote a post about One Fine Day & Addicted to Love

Zöe did a fine character tribute on Walter Bishop from Fringe series

Nostra confirmed my dread about Independence Day: Resurgence. I was supposed to go to an AM screening on Friday but decided not to bother.

Last but not least, check out Mickey‘s interview with the DOP of Finding Dory, Ian Megibben



Here we go again… I have such an obsessive streak in me and I never know when something struck me. I finally finished The White Queen last Sunday, and for the past three days I’ve been consumed by much-maligned king Richard III. The last time I was obsessing over a deceased real-life character was Ian Curtis after seeing Sam Riley‘s portrayal in Control.

Like most of you, the image I have of the last Plantagenet King is that he’s an evil hunchback, thanks to the villainous Shakespeare portrayal which is more of the Tudors’ propaganda. He’s also often been portrayed as an old man when he actually died at the age of 32. Philippa Gregory‘s The White Queen paints a far more sympathetic portrayal of him, which seems to line up more with the recent discovery of the monarch’s remains back in 2012 at a parking lot of all places. Out of the three York brothers, Richard’s story certainly is the most compelling and he’s become my fave male character in the series.

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It doesn’t hurt that in the series, Richard’s played by this terrific Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard with his dramatic eyes and tortured-soul temperament. For once he’s actually closer to the age of the real king when he reigned, give or take a couple of years as Aneurin was about 26 when he filmed TWQ. It’s funny but the first time he appeared on screen I gasped a little as he resembles my dahling Sam a bit with his intense, penetrating gaze. So yeah, I’m crushing a bit on him, but I’ve also become seriously obsessed with the historical character Richard III.

I think I’ve watched pretty much every video I could find on the long-dead monarch on youtube and Netflix, both the historical biographies on him and all the videos about the recent discovery in Leicester, led by another woman named Philippa. Suffice to say, like Philippa Langley, I’ve become a Ricardian now and I’m dying to see a proper Richard III film that is more historically-accurate, though I’d imagine his death scene in the Battle of Bosworth Field would likely be extremely gory to film!


In any case, here’s a preview of the brutal final episode of season 1 that ended the War of the Roses:

And here’s a clip of Richard talking to Elizabeth Woodville (the wonderful Rebecca Ferguson) about the Princes in the Tower, the ultimate cold case that remains unsolved to this day. It made me wish there’s a spin-off series of Richard III with the same cast!

I’m pretty sure Ricardians everywhere are very pleased with Aneurin’s portrayal of Richard III. He’s definitely NOT the physically and mentally crooked monster we’ve been subjected for decades. Apparently back in 2013, Langley wanted actor Richard Armitage (who’s apparently named after the king himself) to portray Richard III (per Scotland’s Herald). I’ve talked about it extensively here three years ago. Now at 44 he’s become too old (and at 6’2″ too tall as well) to play him, but I think it might still work. Heck he’d still look far younger than Lawrence Olivier or Ian McKellen who’s played the character in the past.

I for one would prefer Aneurin reprising the role in the film version. I mean if you look at the facial reconstruction created from the skull remains, he even resembles king Richard a bit.

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Source: tumblr

As the series progressed, I also found myself more drawn to his relationship with the kingmaker’s daughter Anne Neville (Faye Marsay). To say it’s a complicated marriage is putting it mildly. I mean the lines between enemies and friends are often blurred during the War of the Roses, but there’s something so romantic yet tragic in how this particular union is depicted.

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It’s funny how a movie/series can get you all excited about learning history, but I’ve always been a fan of the underdogs and there’s not a monarch out there more unfairly portrayed/judged like Richard III. So I’m ordering a few Richard III books and I can’t wait to devour them!


Have you seen ‘The White Queen’? I’m also curious if there’s any screen character(s) you’re currently obsessing over.

FlixChatter Review: Zootopia (2016)

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Ever since Pixar’s been making movies, I always thought that their stories are superior compared to Disney in that they appeal to adults as well as children. Well, Disney’s clearly been improving year after year. Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, Frozen, they all have pretty mature, thought-provoking themes with teachable moments for people of all ages. This time with Zootopia, its themes of overcoming prejudices feels as timely as ever, whilst still being an enjoyable ride from start to finish.

It starts out typical enough for a Disney movie. A smart and ambitious rabbit named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) dreams of becoming a police officer despite the fact that no bunnies ever did. Even her own parents didn’t initially believe she’s got what it takes and encourage her to follow her family tradition and be a carrot farmer in rural Bunnyburrow. Thankfully, Judy’s resolute enough to defy them and against all odds she does become a police officer. She’s an instantly likable character and right away I was invested in her journey.

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The story pretty much begins on the first day Judy’s as an officer in Zootopia, a city filled with anthropomorphic animals. Though she’s relegated to parking duty by Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), somehow she ends up solving a crime. That leads to yet another mission to rescue a missing the husband of a female otter who’s been pleading with the police force to help her. Judy’s not only defied the odds that a rabbit can be a competent officer, but she’s proven to be a valuable asset to the force with her resourcefulness.

I love that Zootopia is NOT an animated musical that occasionally burst into songs. It even takes a little zing at Disney itself when Chief Bogo said to Judy ‘Life isn’t some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and all your insipid dreams magically come true. So let it go.’ Ha! The plot is more of an action mystery thriller that is as clever and quick-witted as the movie’s protagonist. The team of writers (at least seven of them credited on IMDb!) keep playing with my expectations throughout, cleverly weaving the themes of widely-held stereotypes and discrimination without taking away the fun of an animated adventure. Just when I thought the story is going one way, it turns out to be another. I love being surprised when watching movies, and this movie does that time and again, and I was left in awe every time.

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The strength of Zootopia also lies in the chemistry of the two leads, Judy and the sly fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). Disney’s no stranger to putting together unlikely pairings and this latest one is as delightful as ever. They end up finding similarities in regards to defying stereotypes of their kind, and the developing bond between them is fun to watch. Some of the funny scenes in the trailer, i.e. the one with the Sloth, is still hilarious in the movie, but I think there are even more memorable scenes than that one.

There are interesting characters we meet throughout their journey, I especially love the scene with Mr. Big (Maurice LaMarche) and his introduction is a hoot! Elba’s voice is always a highlight in any movie and he’s memorable here too as Chief Bogo. Jenny Slate‘s Bellwether and Alan Tudyk‘s Duke Weaselton round up the excellent voice cast. Despite not having a big musical number, it does have a fun song Try Everything featuring Shakira, who also has a cameo as popstar Gazelle.

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Just what I expect from Disney with its $150mil budget, the cinematography is absolutely spectacular. The five boroughs of Zootopia are beautifully rendered, and each has a fitting name that describes its own unique characteristics: Savanna Central, Sahara Square, Tundratown, Little Rodentia and Rainforest District. The chase through all the different boroughs are a ton of fun that made me wish I had seen it on the big screen!

Kudos to the trio of directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush for creating such a fun, enjoyable ride of a movie that’s also smart AND has a big heart. This is another winner from Disney that I don’t mind watching again and again.

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Have you seen ‘Zootopia’? Well, what did you think?
… 

Weekend Viewing Roundup + RIP Anton Yelchin (1989 – 2016)

It ends up being quite a somber Sunday. My hubby and I went to brunch and when I came home and checked Twitter, I was shocked to see tweets that actor Anton Yelchin had died! I couldn’t believe it. He was [was!! I’m not even prepared to refer to him in past tense] only 27 years old and learning about the freak accident that cause of his death is even more heartbreaking. Yet another reminder just how fragile life truly is.

Back in September 2011, Anton and filmmaker Drake Doremus were in town to screen their Sundance darling, the romantic drama Like Crazy. I went up to meet them at their hotel (Graves 501 which is now Loews) and they both were very friendly. I had seen Anton as Chekov in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot two years prior, which was a completely different role for Anton.

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I could tell Anton was more reserved and shy, compared to the more vivacious and talkative Drake. It’s such a privilege to chat with such talented artists, and I still regard it as one of my favorite celebrity interviews.

Like Crazy was certainly one of the best films I saw that year, thanks to Anton’s and Felicity Jones’ performances. It’s an intimate & sincere look at long distance love story. It’s the anti rom-com as it strips all the romantic clichés and the chemistry of the two leads feels genuinely authentic. I should watch more of his work, but as of right now, that is the role I’ll always remember him for.


Though I haven’t seen a ton of his films, it’s obvious Anton was a brilliant and versatile actor… somehow able to balance big blockbusters and indie films. What a tragic loss for film fans.

RIP Anton, you are already sorely missed.


As for this weekend, I didn’t go to the cinema at all but I did catch up with a couple of recent films I missed: Zootopia and Concussion.

Zootopia was fantastic, definitely one of the best Disney’s animated movies and I’d say one of the best films of the year! As for Concussion, I think it was pretty good though too formulaic to be truly memorable.

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Will Smith’s performance is good but not so spectacular that it deserved a nomination. I might review both at some point, but for now, I’d say I’d recommend both. If you haven’t seen Zootopia yet, that’s one not to be missed!


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

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Happy Father’s Day – Top 10 favorite cinematic father figures

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Now, I’ve done a couple of father’s day list before (here and here), but this year I thought I’d pay homage to non-biological fathers who have made a big impact in the lives of their *adopted* kids. Since I grew up without a father myself, I often wish I had a father figure whom I could look up to as a kid. With that in mind, I’m going to leave out these three wonderful characters I’ve mentioned before, but they remain my all time favorites:


Whether it takes place over the course of a lifetime or just a short period of time, these father figures certainly left a big mark in the kids’ lives… and some change their lives forever. Here they are, in random order because you can’t really rank these things:

Alan Grant – Jurassic Park

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What makes the first (and still the best) Jurassic Park so great isn’t just the special effects. It’s the wonderful characters, such as paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (the always wonderful Sam Neill) who just isn’t a kids person. I can totally relate as I’m not huge with kids either. Heck, Dr. Grant would rather spend time with a Triceratops’ manure all day than even 10 minutes with these kids. Yet the kids just flock to him and he ended up bonding with them through the scary ordeal being chased all over the park by angry dinos. I LOVE the scene at the end when the kids fall asleep on his shoulder. His expression, and that of his wife Ellie, is priceless!

Alfredo – Cinema Paradiso

Fathers_CinemaParadiso

Alfredo and Toto… one of my all time favorite cinematic duo from Giuseppe Tornatore’s Italian drama. From the time he was six years old, projectionist Alfredo’s taken Toto under his wings and became the father he never had. All the way through Toto’s teenage years, Alfredo’s always been his wise confidant. In fact, if it weren’t for Alfredo, Toto might not have been the successful filmmaker he later became. This movie boasts one of the most moving finale ever, it’ll make you cry as well as puts a smile on your face as you recall the significance of that scene. Alec Guinness obviously made the character iconic.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Star Wars

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Well this one is a no brainer. Clearly we know Luke’s real dad has um, issues. Obi-Wan has always looked after the ‘chosen one’ since even before he was born. On top of introducing the ways of the Jedi, Obi-Wan is much more than a wise mentor. Heck, even when he can’t be physically present, Obi-Wan still nurtures and encourages Luke throughout his life. Just like a real dad would do out of love for his child, Obi-Wan shelters Luke from certain truth which in turn proves to be hurtful to him. But you can’t doubt how much Obi-Wan does love Luke as if he were his own.

Joe – Great Expectations (1998)

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This one isn’t the most obvious pick and this Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of Dickens’ classic is problematic. But Joe the fisherman is one that leaves a big impression on me. He’s Finn’s sister’s boyfriend who ends up taking care of the young boy when she runs off. I love Chris Cooper and he’s got such effortless warmth and kindness in this role. The scene when he’s reunited with Finn (Ethan Hawke) at an art gallery is quite heartbreaking.

Will Freeman – About A Boy (2002)

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Having just seen it recently, in fact the same weekend as Great Expectations, it’s still fresh in my mind. The ultimate coming-of-age story as it’s the adult who needs to grow up and 12-year-old Marcus is the one who helped 38-year-old Will do just that. I guess Will is more of a friend than a dad to Marcus, but still I think over time he’s become a positive father figure that’s been absent from the boy’s life.

Stacker Pentecost – Pacific Rim (2013)

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From the first time I saw this, I’ve always loved the Stacker Pentecost-Mako story. When the little Mako looked up at Stacker as he arises from the Jaeger, she was in awe of her savior. It’s an unconventional father/daughter relationship, and Stacker becomes a strict and protective father. As most real fathers with their daughters, they’re afraid she’d get hurt, and that’s why he forbids her from piloting a Jaeger. But that moment when he gave her the red shoe, I always get emotional. Yes it’s a movie about big robots, but one can’t overlook the small touches of humanity in this big-hearted action flick.

Sirius Black – Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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There are plenty of father figures in the Harry Potter films. I was debating whether I should include Dumbledore on here, but the more I think about it, I think I love Sirius Black (played by the venerable Gary Oldman) more despite not being in as many scenes as Dumbledore. This site lists all five father figures in HP movies, and makes an excellent argument as to why Sirius comes at #1. I agree that Sirius loved Harry so much he’s risked his life many times before he finally sacrificed himself for his godson, and he’s certainly instilled words of wisdom that we all take learn from, “…the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

Walt Kowalski – Gran Torino (2008)

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I saw this film quite a while ago and one of the main draw for me besides Clint Eastwood is that it had some Hmong actors from St. Paul Minnesota! This is a father/son pairing that’s as unlikely as they get, given that Clint’s Walt Kowalski is a bitter Korean War veteran and the two met when the Hmong teen Thao tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession, a 1972 Gran Torino. But Walt ends up becoming Thao’s friend and mentor, and Thao in turn helps Walt overcome his own anger and prejudices. The interactions between the two are quite amusing given their background, cultural and age differences. Some critics have issues w/ the ‘white savior’ theme of the film, but I’d say Thao (and his family) have *saved* Walt and help him find redemption.

Uncle Ben – Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002)

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The man whose iconic words of wisdom “Remember, with great power. comes great responsibility.” is a father we all wish we had. I especially love Cliff Robertson’s Uncle Ben in the Raimi’s versions and his demise is surely one of the most emotional moments of all Marvel movies. The character of Peter Parker is pretty much shaped by the upbringing of his uncle and aunt May. It ranks up there with DC’s ultimate father figures Jonathan Kent and Alfred Pennyworth, even if that’s not reflected in the character’s screen time.

Athos – The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

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Ok, this movie is one of my guilty pleasures and it’s immensely watchable thanks to three of supporting actors: Gabriel Byrne‘s D’Artagnan, Jeremy Irons‘ Aramis, and John Malkovich‘s Athos. I especially love the relationship between Athos and Philippe (the oddly-cast Leo DiCaprio). The scene when Athos is teaching Philippe the way of the king is quite moving, as Athos is still haunted by the memory of his lost son. It’s perhaps one of the most gentle role I’ve seen Malkovich does and it makes it all the more memorable.


What do you think of this list? Who’s YOUR favorite cinematic father figures?

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FlixChatter Review: Neil Jordan’s vampire drama Byzantium (2012)

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Before the vampire craze began started by a certain YA novel, Neil Jordan‘s made an epic vampire drama Interview With The Vampire in 1994. Nearly two decades later, the Irish filmmaker returned to the popular genre with another unconventional tale of the fanged one. Except that the vampires in this story don’t have fangs, instead they have sharp thumb nail that extends when they are ready to feed. The story is based on a play by Moira Buffini, who also wrote the screenplay.

The film begins with a schoolgirl, Eleanor, saying in voice over that ‘my story can never be told.’ She constantly writes in her journal, writing her life story she can’t share with anyone. The melancholy scene is contrasted with that of a sexy prostitute, Clara, tantalizing a client at a dingy club. It’s the oldest profession in the world, one she has held on for more than two centuries. The scene then turns into a big foot chase scene that ends in a bloody, grizzly murder. That incident forces Clara and her daughter Eleanor to move to another town once again. By that point I was hooked and I’m on for the ride to find out just who these two creatures are and why they are constantly on the run.

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At the core of Byzantium is a mother and daughter story, albeit a decidedly-unusual one. Gemma Arterton and Saiorse Ronan made for quite an intriguing pair as mother and daughter. Clara represents the ruthless survivor with a personal vendetta against men preying on vulnerable women. So yeah, there’s a not-too-subtle feminism commentary here. Meanwhile, Eleanor represents innocence and benevolence, preying on those she deems ‘ready’ to die. So they certainly have a very different approach to feeding human blood. The title itself initially refers to a hotel that somehow becomes a place of refuge to them, but the purported ties to the Byzantine Empire is rather forced.

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I’ve been wanting to see it for some time, but crushing on Sam Riley compelled me to rent it straight away and I’m glad I did. Sam’s part isn’t a big one but he played a dual character that plays a key role in Clara’s dark past. His scenes as a naval officer, along with a grimy Jonny Lee Miller, are some of the most compelling aspects of the film. The film takes place mostly on modern day, with extended flashback scenes that explain the origin story of Clara’s vampirism. It takes a bit too long to get to that part however, with hints peppered throughout and one secret is peeled after another in a leisurely manner. Rather indulgent perhaps, but I think the movie rewards your patience and for me, there’s enough going for it to keep me engrossed.

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The two female protagonists are fantastic in this. It’s perhaps my favorite role I’ve seen Arterton’s done so far, and though Ronan’s done superior work since, I still count this as one of her best work. Arterton’s absolutely ravishing as Clara, she uses her sensuality and seductive allure, combined with a convincing motherly love. Meanwhile Ronan’s forlorn demeanor is quietly eerie and she delivers one long monologue about who she really is that gives me quite the chills. A bit of trivia: Ronan did an intense 12-week crash course in piano lessons to be able to play the complicated Beethoven piano sonata in this film. She certainly is a dedicated performer.

I’ve seen this film twice in the past three months, and I must say I find this strangely mesmerizing. But the flaws keep this from being a truly great movie, as it doesn’t quite live up to its original concept. I still applaud it for that though, as originality is such a rarity these days in a world full of sequels and reboots. I could do without some of the scenes, i.e. the odd and pointless classroom scene with an uncredited Tom Hollander. I’m also not too fond of Caleb Landry Jones‘ casting as Eleanor’s love interest, thus their love story isn’t as appealing as it could’ve been.

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As with a mythology story, certain aspects sometimes don’t get explained very well. In this case it’s in regards to Clara’s relentless pursuers, who’s later revealed as part of the so-called Brotherhood. We don’t know much about it, but what we do know is that the ancient organization forbids women to join, and they’re ruthlessly strict about those who’ve broken that rule. It helps that there’s a Byzantium Wiki to devour after watching the movie, and I think the more I read about it, the more I appreciate the story.

Eternal life will only come to those prepared to die.

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So despite the flaws, I’d say this movie is well worth a watch. I always appreciate an unorthodox vampire story, be it comedic (What We Do in the Shadows) or what Neil Jordan‘s created so far. I’d say this film is more of a drama than a full-on horror film, which is just the way I like it. There are gory and bloody scenes, but it’s few and far between.

Stylistically, the film is wonderful to look at. Set in rundown coastal setting in the UK and Ireland, it’s an appropriately atmospheric and broodingly-mysterious for a vampire tale. Acclaimed cinematographer Sean Bobbitt added an occasional jolts of color, so it’s not all doom and gloom. It has an eerie, ethereal and mysteriously romantic feel to it, but not grotesque. The scene in the spooky island with its blood waterfall is especially striking. I also like the classically-tinged, serene-sounding score by Javier Navarrete that perfectly complements the tone of the film.

I like the ending as well, which actually is surprisingly hopeful. This is the kind of film that lingers long after the end credits. It certainly make me think about the concept and these bloodsuckers *ethics* if you will, that I never thought about before. Any good stories about monsters and mythical creatures ought to have humanistic elements and this one certainly does. Just like Jordan’s previous film Ondine, there’s more than meets the eye and has deeper significance than what the trailer suggests. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s quite mesmerizing and I now count this as one of my favorite vampire films.

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Have you seen ‘Byzanthium’? Either way, I’d love to hear what you think!

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Five Movies, Five Movie Quotes: Bond Edition

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Hello folks! Films are a visual medium, but without a good story, it’d be more of a music video or visual poetry. So to me, one of the things I remember about the movies is the dialog. This list is sort of inspired by the Five Movies Five Words series I haven’t done in a while, which was started by Josh @ Cinematic Spectacle. We’ll see how long I can keep up with this one, ahah.

In any case, inspired by this awesome Bond podcast on the underrated Bond movie Licence To Kill, I thought I’d start out with the Bond theme. I might or might not have a theme for the next one, we shall see. Favorite quotes isn’t just about the line itself, but it’s the delivery. That’s why I have to start with one of my fave Bond movies starring my all time fave Bond actor!

The Living Daylights

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STUFF my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of her rifle from the other. Go ahead. Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.


Licence to Kill

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James Bond: In my business you prepare for the unexpected.
Franz Sanchez: And what business is that?
James Bond: I help people with problems.
Franz Sanchez: Problem solver.
James Bond: More of a problem eliminator.


Casino Royale

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Bartender: Shaken or stirred?
James Bond: Do I look like I give a damn?


Goldfinger

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Pussy Galore: “My name is Pussy Galore.”
Bond: “I must be dreaming.”


Goldeneye

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M: Good, because I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you.


 

Well, that’s it for the first of the series. What are some of YOUR fave Bond quotes?