Thursday Movie Picks: SECRET DOORWAYS/WORLD

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… SECRET DOORWAYS/WORLD.

When I saw the topic for this week, I immediately thought of ‘Narnia!’ so naturally I had to include that in this list. There is something so wonderfully escapist about films that take their characters into a different world. As we’re all in stay-at-home mode during this endless pandemic, the movies have become our not-so-secret ‘passageway’ to another world.

In any case, here are three of films I like containing a secret passageway:

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

A young soprano becomes the obsession of a disfigured and murderous musical genius who lives beneath the Paris Opéra House.

One of my all time favorite tragic disfigured characters is Gaston Leroux’s Phantom. Though the 2004 movie version’s not perfect, there are tons of things I love about it, and I think Joel Schumacher’s artistic rendition is appropriately seductive and eerie, which goes perfectly with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s haunting music. I especially love this scene where Christine (Emmy Rossum) first met her disfigured ‘angel of music’ (still remains Gerard Butler’s most seductive scenes of his career) who lured her to his secret underground lair through the mirror.

Yes, in real life it’d be creepy to have some guy behind the mirror who can spy on everything you do in your dressing room, but in a fantastical opera, it sure has a mesmerizing effect.


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Four kids travel through a wardrobe to the land of Narnia and learn of their destiny to free it with the guidance of a mystical lion.

Who hasn’t said the word ‘Narnia!’ whenever one sees a giant wooden closet/wardrobe? I know I do. Though I hadn’t read the Narnia books when I saw the film, the scene when Lucy discovered this secret world while playing hide and seek with her siblings are so indelible. I wish I’d discover a hidden magical land somewhere that I could escape to without fear of some virus or some violent act… I find that my dreams during this pandemic has become so vividly strange and bizarre at times, perhaps that’s my brain trying to find ways to ‘escape’ this physical confinement, ha!


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

An orphaned boy enrolls in a school of wizardry, where he learns the truth about himself, his family and the terrible evil that haunts the magical world.

It’s been ages since I saw this movie, but this scene still puts a smile in my face. Crazy how the kids have grown now, ahah. I spent some time in a boarding school as a kid, but man I wish we had a magically-concealed platform to take me to school like these Hogwarts students! There’s something about train stations that I always find magical, as it conjures up the idea of travel and adventure.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Thursday Movie Picks: TELEVISION EDITION – BOOK TO TV ADAPTATIONS

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… TELEVISION EDITION: BOOK TO TV ADAPTATIONS.

It’s been a month or so since I participated in TMP, but when I saw this week’s topic I decided to do a post since I’ve actually been reading books about the MEDICI family, as I’ve just finished season 2 and 3 of Medici The Magnificent on Netflix.

I’m not including it here as I don’t think the show is based on a certain books/novels, most of it is based/inspired by historical events. I LOVE the last two season and will be sure to blog about them at some point.

In any case, here are three of my fave books-to-tv adaptations in the past few years:

WESTWORLD

Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, explore a world in which every human appetite can be indulged without consequence.

This HBO science-fiction series is based on a novel by Michael Crichton. Per IMDb Trivia, apparently Warner Brothers had been trying to remake the 1973 Westworld movie since the 90s, Crichton even wen to J.J. Abrams who later in 2013 pitched the idea of a TV series to creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Well, I think the show runners did a terrific job and making it a series certainly is a wise move given how complex the story is and the number of opportunities to explore the world-within-world and various characters, from the robots (er, hosts) to humans.


A Discovery Of Witches

Diana Bishop, historian and witch, accesses Ashmole 782 and knows she must solve its mysteries. She is offered help by the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, but he’s a vampire and witches should never trust vampires.

This series is based on All Souls Trilogy, a three-book series written by Deborah Harkness. I was immediately hooked because of the lead cast Matthew Goode and Theresa Palmer. I know the forbidden romance storyline’s been done to death (no pun intended), but the setting in England and Venice are pure escapism stuff. The series’ pacing can be much improved and some parts can be quite cheesy. The two leads were still able to keep me engaged however, and having Lindsay Duncan as mother vampire (Goode’s mother) is inspired casting! I do enjoy vampire movies/shows so long as they’re not too gory. I’m glad there’s season 2 that’s reportedly going to be set in Elizabethan times!


KILLING EVE

Eve is a bored, whip-smart security services operative whose desk-bound job doesn’t fulfill her fantasies of being a spy. Villanelle is a talented killer, who clings to the luxuries her violent job affords her. These two fierce women, equally obsessed with each other, will go head to head in an epic game of cat and mouse, toppling the typical spy-action thriller.

The BBC America/AMC show was adapted from Luke Jennings’ Codename Villanelle novellas. I got to this series a bit late, but hey better late than never! I love the London setting, perfect for any spy thrillers, and the two lead actresses are amazing! Sandra Oh is such inspired casting and she immediately hooked me. The chemistry between Eve and Jodie Comer as Villanelle is truly what makes the show works so well. I also love Fiona Shaw as Eve’s mysterious boss. It’s definitely the best cat-and-mouse thriller out there, with a healthy dose of humor thanks to show-creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s witty writing!


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Thursday Movie Picks #305: Girls’ Trip

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… GIRLS’ TRIP.

For this topic, the ones I pick isn’t necessarily about girls taking a trip together, but more about female friendships. Honestly I actually haven’t seen too many of movies about women taking a trip together, though I know there are a bunch of them. So I picked three that really resonated with me even from decades ago.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Five years after the events of Mamma Mia!, Sophie prepares for the grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna as she learns more about her mother’s past.

I have to admit I have a soft spot for these Mamma Mia! movies. I almost didn’t even want to see it, but when I visited my best friend in San Diego, she had this DVD and we decided to watch it together. Well, I ended up really enjoying it! I like the second movie even more as it traced back Donna’s past and how the relationships she forged in the past affects her, as well as her daughter Sophie’s, present. The three of them went on a trip to the Greek island and of course Donna ended up staying and built a hotel there. I love how in the sequel you see their friendship is still as strong as ever, and passed through generations.

I adore Lily James as young Donna (and this girl could sing!) and the other two actresses who played her two besties Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn). It helps a ton if you enjoy ABBA’s songs (which I do), and it also shows the friendships of Donna’s men (aka Sophie’s three dads) which is quite amusing also. Of course the island scenery (filmed in Croatia) is to die for!


Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Based on Terry McMillan’s novel, this film follows four very different African-American women and their relationships with the male gender.

I can’t remember when exactly I saw this movie but I still remember it fondly to this day. Even specific scenes still feels fresh in my mind, I mean who can forget Angela Bassett burning her husband’s car?

Based on Terry McMillan’s best-selling novel, it has such an amazing cast, Loretta Devine, Lela Rochon, Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston, that work amazingly together. I’m actually a fan of Whitney as an actress, and she seems more comfortable here than in The Bodyguard.

As these women go through struggles in men, careers, and families that took them to different directions, it’s the bond and friendship that sustain them. Even the song Count On Me became an anthem for strong friendships… “When you are weak, I will be strong…Helping you to carry on.” 


Thelma & Louise (1991)

Two best friends set out on an adventure, but it soon turns around to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police, as these two girls escape for the crimes they committed.

This movie has become an icon and perhaps still one of the most famous roles Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, and likely the most celebrated. I often forget it’s directed by Ridley Scott, where he’s nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

The story of two friends who initially embarked on an adventure and ended up being on the run from police after an unexpected incident is certainly juicy. But it also features authentic and loyal friendship, as tragic and misguided they may be. I thought the ‘morning after’ scene when they both realized Thelma had been swindled by the seductive JD (still one of Brad Pitt‘s most memorable roles) was priceless! Many men think this movie is anti-men, well obviously that speaks more about themselves than about the filmmakers.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Thursday Movie Picks #300: Movies About Animals

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… MOVIES ABOUT ANIMALS.

There are SO many to choose from in this category… covering multiple genres, so I’m choosing one that’s live-action, classic hand-drawn animation and stop-motion/claymation, all from 3 different studios.

BABE (1995)

Gentle farmer Arthur Hoggett wins a piglet named Babe at a county fair. Narrowly escaping his fate as Christmas dinner when Farmer Hoggett decides to show him at the next fair, Babe bonds with motherly border collie Fly and discovers that he can herd sheep too.

This movie was released in theaters in 1995, which was the year of the pig. Did you know that Mad Max director George Miller wrote and produced this? It took him ten years to bring the story to the screen was because he was waiting for the special effects technology to catch up with his vision for the film. It ended up winning Best Visual Effects at the Oscars in 1996.

I remember loving it when I first watched it and even to this day I sometimes still quote its most famous line…

That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Who doesn’t love an underdog story, farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) believed in the little piglet (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) against all odds. Such a heartwarming story that still gets me teared up, especially this scene!


A Bug’s Life (1998)

A misfit ant, looking for “warriors” to save his colony from greedy grasshoppers, recruits a group of bugs that turn out to be an inept circus troupe.

There are a few really good animal-themed Pixar movies but I chose this one as it’s the first one in that category, right after their smash hit Toy Story. I loooove this movie about ants, filled with so many wonderful characters and the animation itself is just gorgeous! I LOVE Dave Foley‘s voice as Flik, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Princess Atta, and a bunch of rag tag group of adorable bugs (my personal fave is David Hyde Pierce as Slim).

It’s such a brilliant, clever and hilarious movie that I think is still one of Pixar’s all time best. An epic in miniature proportion indeed!


Chicken Run (2000)

When a cockerel apparently flies into a chicken farm, the chickens see him as an opportunity to escape their evil owners.

From the genius minds of Peter Lord & Nick Park of Aardman Studios, this is one of my all time favorite animated movies. It’s just so hysterical, even the shapes of the chicken claymation always makes me giggle!

I absolutely adore the characters, especially Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha, who’s hilarious in Absolutely Fabulous series) and Mel Gibson is inspired choice as the voice of Rocky, the rebellious rooster. There’s even a fun reverence to Braveheart when he yelled FREEEEEEEEEEEEDOM! when he escaped out of the circus, ha!

This movie is just SO much fun and a brilliant homage of The Great Escape (1963), even the music by Harry Gregson-Williams & John Powell sounds similar to the Steve McQueen movie.

To this day I’m still quoting the ‘I don’t want to be a pie’ line! 🥧


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Thursday Movie Picks #296: Spoofs /Satires/ Mockumentaries

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Spoofs / Satires / Mockumentaries.

For this particular post, I’m going to select one movie each from each category:

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

A spoof of Robin Hood in general, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) in particular.

It’s been ages since I saw this movie but I remember laughing SO hard in the theater watching this with my brother that my tummy hurt! Mel Brooks is obviously a comedic genius, he must saw the unintentionally-hilarious Prince of Thieves and knew he had to spoof it! Cary Elwes is absolutely perfect for the role of Robin, plus a fabulous ensemble including Patrick Stewart, Tracey Ullman, and Richard Lewis. Apparently Elwes based his performance in Princes Bride after Errol Flynn, and here he’s channeling him as Robin as well.

The musical numbers are a lot of fun as well, though some of the actors didn’t actually do their own singing. Relentlessly irreverent and consistently hysterical, it’s definitely a comedic classic that can be watched over and over. To this day, it’s still hard not to laugh watching the oh-so-serious and grim Robin Hood (*cough* Ridley Scott *cough*) after watching this one.


Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a War Room full of politicians and generals frantically tries to stop.

I actually saw this movie in a film class in college and at the time I didn’t really get the significance of this movie. Upon rewatch, I realized just the brilliance of this cold war satire, and I read how Stanley Kubrick originally set out to make a serous drama before he realized the misguided patriotism of the characters. Filled with many quotable lines, especially “this is the War Room” line delivered with deadpan by the great Peter Sellers. Satire, when done well, can deliver the most potent social commentary, and this is definitely one of the best. No wonder it was shown in a film class as it’s a text-book example of how to do this genre brilliantly. It certainly takes guts, skill and enormous amount of wit to be able to do one, as Taika Waititi recently did with JoJo Rabbit.


What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

Viago, Deacon and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has them struggling with the mundane – like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs and overcoming flatmate conflicts.

The tagline of this movie is ‘some interviews with some vampires’ I LOVE that!! It’s the quintessential mockumentary that takes a brilliant concept and executed it smashingly (check out my full review). Written by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, this movie is SO freaking witty, hilarious and fun! It’s the first time I discovered Taika (as I knew Jemaine already from Flight of the Conchords) and he’s such a gifted writer/filmmaker so I’m glad he’s found success in Hollywood now.

Every single one of the cast is hilarious, even Stu who had never acted before and thought he was hired to help with computer work as he’s actually a business analyst, but he ended up playing himself in the movie which was simply genius!! This is perhaps one of the most quotable movies I’ve ever seen, I still quote a bunch of the lines like ‘Wakey, wakey,’ ‘We’re Werewolves, not Swear-Wolves’ and my personal favorite ‘I go for a look which I call dead but delicious’ 😀 I own the Bluray and I cannot wait for the sequel (with the original cast). I watched season one of the series, which was funny, but still can’t hold a candle to this movie!


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Thursday Movie Picks #293: Love in the Tech Age

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I can’t believe it’s been five years since I participated in this weekly Thursday Movie Picks blogathon that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Love in the Tech Age.

For this particular post, I’m going to keep it brief and share some of my fave scenes from the film:

HER

In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.

This film just breaks my heart!! This is one my top 10 films of 2013 (check out my review) and I still think it’s one of the greatest Joaquin Phoenix’s performances of all time, in fact, I would even say it’s one of Scarlett Johansson‘s best performances despite not appearing physically on screen. Hey, voice acting is still acting, folks. It’s a deeply emotional film that’s exquisitely beautiful and heartbreaking, perhaps much more so than many romantic films between two real humans. These two scenes are my favorites, though the entire movie is filled w/ memorable moments.


WALL*E

In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

Clearly humans aren’t always necessary for memorable cinematic romances. Wall*E and Eve are the cutest non-humanoid couple ever put on screen, complete with its own adorable meet-cute! Rivaling the marriage scene in Up, this could be the most romantic Pixar movie ever, while still delivering a potent environmental-conscious message.


You’ve Got Mail

Two business rivals who despise each other in real life unwittingly fall in love over the Internet.

Oh how I miss Nora Ephron! This rom-com staple is no doubt one of the best films directed by women. Though the technology might be totally dated, the story is still so timeless. I love rewatching this and feeling nostalgic about using modem [ha! just kidding!] I guess Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have mastered building chemistry without actually meeting in person, though I’m glad there are more scenes of them together here than in Sleepless in Seattle. Bonus points for having Jane Austen’s reference here as the characters were discussing Pride & Prejudice in the cafe scene.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Thursday Movie Picks #288: Films Released In 2019

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I can’t believe it’s been five years since I participated in this weekly Thursday Movie Picks blogathon that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 2019 Releases

Well, since I am still working on my Top 10 Best of 2019 that I’m planning to post next week (as I always like to wait at least a week or two after new year before publishing), then consider this post a preview of what you’ll see either on my main list or honorable mentions. I’ll choose three that I haven’t personally reviewed it myself.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Marriage Story

A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.

I saw this film back in October 2019 at Twin Cities Film Fest, and I still remember how much I was taken by it. Somehow I haven’t gotten around to writing a review of it, not sure why because I have SO much praise for it. Perhaps it’ll be too long of a review, ahah. If someone were to ask me my favorite film of 2019, I often say this one right away because it’s on my mind so much. I just LOVE Noah Baumbach‘s script, which I feel depicts a dissolution of a marriage in an unflinching-ly real and emotional way, with the actors performing in such a naturalistic way it’s as if I was watching the characters themselves, not a performance. I kind of have a thing for Adam Driver these days, and he’s absolutely phenomenal here (plus he sang, too!)

I actually have only seen one film he directed, While We’re Young, and while I like parts of it, I didn’t really love it. But I know I’ll be rooting for Baumbach to win Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars!

A Hidden Life

Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II.

I actually just had a discussion about this film with my fellow blogger Keith who also loved this movie (check out his review of this film here). It’s definitely a return to form for Terrence Malick, which tells the true story of a conscientious objector during World War II. It’s a slow, reflective film but not-at-all boring… it’s a typical Malick film with gorgeous cinematography and long silences, but unlike his previous film Knight Of Cups (a film about a screenwriter without a script??!), this time it has such a strong emotional center. I truly felt for Franz and his wife and their struggle is so painstakingly-palpable. Truly an unforgettable film that stays with you long after the end credits roll.

Peanut Butter Falcon

After running away from a residential nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler, a man who has Down syndrome befriends an outlaw who becomes his coach and ally.

One of my awesome blog contributors Holly P. has reviewed this a while back,  but I had finally seen it this past weekend. Oh it’s such a delightful film and Zack Gottsagen will steal your heart. I think it’s wonderful that the film employed an actor with Down syndrome to portray a character with that condition and he did a marvelous job. I love the relationship between him and his co-stars Dakota Johnson and Shia LaBeouf, there are SO many scenes that pack such emotional wallop. It’s such a funny, uplifting film, definitely one of the best 2019 offerings. In fact, I think it should’ve gotten more awards love than some movies that got nominated recently.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?