Thursday Movie Picks: 2020 Releases – Worst Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! 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… 2020 Releases.

This week’s topic kind of leaves it pretty wide open to do whatever we want with our list. Well, I had just posted my Top 10 Best List of 2020, so in order not to be repetitive, I thought about posting about those the opposite of such a list. I already had a draft post of WORST MOVIES, so I might as well post it here instead. I usually pick just 3, but for this occasion, I decided to go with 4.

In any case, here are my four picks of WORST 2020 releases

The Last Thing He Wanted

(full review)

I read about the terrible reviews prior to watching this but I still didn’t think this was going to be this bad. The Last Thing He Wanted seems to have all the ingredients of an intriguing political thriller. Helmed by acclaimed writer/director Dee Rees (Mudbound), the film is based on Joan Didion‘s Orange Prize-winning novel, the UK’s ‘s most prestigious literary prizes.

I have a penchant for movies about journalists and here Anne Hathaway plays a veteran D.C. journalist who Reagan’s re-election campaign suddenly got a call from her absentee father to be his sub to complete a ‘deal of a lifetime,’ which involves flying to a mysterious location with a huge amount of mysterious cargo. Of course things started go awry, and so did the movie. Despite the star-studded cast that includes Ben Affleck and Willem Dafoe, this one turned out to be a disjointed mess that moved at an aggravating pace.

Fun Trivia:
Ben Affleck replaced Nicolas Cage in the role of Treat Morrison.


Kissing Booth 2

Now, I feel like I only have myself to blame for even thinking that watching this movie is a good idea. I never watched the first movie, but the only reason I saw this was to Maisie Richardson-Sellers (for a film project I’m developing), who despite only seeing her briefly here, I think deserves a better movie.

Oh man, this movie is absolutely awful that I could barely finish it. This Roger Ebert review summed up my dread perfectly, it’s “…a movie about cookie cutter characters in contrived situations set in a make-believe world…viewers may find its artificial sweetness and simplicity off-putting.” I can’t stand anyone in this movie, including the lead, Joey King with her bee-stung lips. There’s only so much suspension-of-disbelief one can muster. I mean, even superhero movies made way more sense than this, even baby Groot has more personality than any of these characters put together! I fast-forwarded so much of it and STILL it felt too long… as the running time is 2h 14min (I kid you not!) I’m surprised at the 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it should’ve been waaaay lower than that!! Oh and I saw in the recent Netflix promo video announcing 71 new movies coming this year, one of them is a third installment to complete this garbage trilogy! [face palm]

Fun Trivia:
Joey King shaved her head for her role in The Act, so she had to wear a wig when filming this movie.


The Secret: Dare to Dream

(full review)

I’ve never heard, let alone read the self-help book series called The Secret where this movie is based on prior to watching it. I guess I don’t pay attention to Oprah’s book club as apparently this massively-popular book was endorsed by her. I really tried my darnedest to suppress my cynicism and just enjoy the film for what it is. It’s really tough to do as I’m not into Lifetime or Hallmark-inspired dramas which tends to be filled with cloying plot and even more cringe-worthy acting. Katie Holmes is actually did her best here and her kids are pretty adorable, but Josh Lucas‘ smarmy acting was really tough to stomach. In the time of uncertainties amidst a pandemic, I generally welcome a film with a hopeful and uplifting message, sadly this one is pretty much drowned out by its own schmaltz.

Fun Trivia:
Andy Tennant directed from a screenplay he wrote alongside Bekah Brunstetter and Rick Parks, based on the 2006 self-help book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The book has been translated into 50 languages and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for 190 weeks.

Wonder Woman 1984

(full review)

So my fourth pick is a controversial one as I know many people love this one. I wish I could say I even like this one, but given all the release delays and huge anticipation surrounding it, this turns out to be a huge disappointment for me. I think I’m quite generous in my ratings generally, so to give a movie 2/5 rating means it’s got to be pretty bad. Not only bad, this one is problematic, esp. in regards to how Patty Jenkins resurrected Steve Trevor. We all love Chris Pine and he’s still fun to watch despite some of the idiotic stuff he and Diana were involved in WW84 (somehow the fighter jets at the Smithsonian are fueled + ready to fly?!)… but I was cringing the entire time I was watching it given Diana was using another man’s body as an Uber as all she sees in him is Steve. There have been many articles discussing this, but this one by the Mary Sue sums things up nicely. It’s not even the worst of it, the talented Kristen Wiig has to prowl around as the poorly-written CGI and horrendous CGI effects. Let’s hope the 3rd movie would be at least on par with the original!

Fun Trivia:
In a brief shot outside Max Lord’s HQ, as police and crowds are running in the background, a motorcycle cop in beige passes right behind Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as he walks toward the HQ with Diana. The cop is wearing the California Highway Patrol uniform, a homage to the 80s police show CHiPs (1977), which starred Pine’s father Robert Pine as Sergeant Getraer.


Thoughts on my picks of WORST 2020 movies? Which one(s) have you seen?

Top 10 Films of 2020 + 15 Honorable Mentions

Hello everyone!! My picks of favorite movies of the year is here! Per FlixChatter tradition, I usually wait until mid January to post the obligatory Top 10 Best list.

I always have to preface this kind of post that there are still plenty of 2020 movies I have not seen yet: Minari, Da 5 Bloods, The Assistant, Miss Juneteenth, The Forty-Year-Old Version, Sound of Metal, Promising Young Woman, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, etc. which might alter my current Top 10. All the films were released in 2020, though I might have watched a couple of them in 2021. I got more screeners this year than ever before, but somehow I still don’t do a good job of logging just how many films I’ve watched. So for sure my goal in 2021 would be to better log my movie-watching on Letterboxd.

It goes without saying of course, that everyone’s list is personal… my criteria is that a film makes a lasting impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply-moving, thought-provoking and indelible. Replay-ability is a factor I take into consideration as well, though I don’t necessarily want to rewatch every single film on my list. Well without further ado, here we go… 

Top 10 Films of 2020

(in random order – I don’t usually rank my top 10)

1. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

It took me a long time to finally watch this movie. Somehow I wasn’t wowed by the trailer and took me a while to overcome my silly prejudice about it. Of course, by the time I’m done watching it, I was like, ‘what took me so long?! That was awesome!!’ Margot Robbie is phenomenal as Harley Quinn, though to be honest I wasn’t too keen on her in Suicide Squad, but that movie was utterly rubbish. Props to Robbie, director Cathy Yan and writer Christina Hodson for creating Harley as a crazy, unhinged character but yet still vulnerable that you can’t help but empathize for. Per my friend Vitali’s review, she spent three years developing the project under her own production company and the result is one of the best DCEU movies to date. The ensemble cast is fantastic – Ewan McGregor is quite fun as the villain, but I’m really impressed by Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Ella Jay Basco.

2.Pixar’s Soul (full review)

This one is still fresh in my mind as I just reviewed it. I didn’t even realize that Onward was released the same year. Though I enjoyed that one, it was far more frivolous compared to this one. I love so many things about this movie… the delightful characters, the beautiful visuals, the music, but most of all, the way Pixar gives an imaginative insight into humanity in the most delightful way. Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey provide great voice work here, but I really love hearing Angela Bassett‘s smooth voice as the sassy Dorothea Williams, one of those great Pixar characters I’d love to see a spinoff on.

3. The Dissident

I’m glad I always waited to make my top 10 until mid January, as there’s always a film or two from the year prior that I didn’t get to see until recently. Well, this year, that film is this documentary about the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi when he entered the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. Well we have since know that he was brutally murdered, while his fiancée was waiting for him outside the embassy. Gripping, chilling, heartbreaking… it’s especially sad that no streaming giant made a bid for this film, most notably Amazon, given Jeff Bezos was actually featured in the film, shown as lending his support to Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz at his memorial. But obviously money talks as Netflix + Amazon are both doing business with the Saudis. Well, I hope you’d give this outstanding film by Bryan Fogel, who risked his life making this film, exposing a global cover-up perpetrated by the very country Khashoggi loved. The film played like a dark thriller, except more terrifying as it actually happened.

4. The Personal History of David Copperfield (full review)

Dev Patel has become one of my favorite actors. He’s truly come a long way since starring in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. I know people were all enamored with his mane in LION, which shows how Patel has grown to be a dishy hunk. But he’s also proven to be a versatile and talented actor. I’m glad he got a chance to play a titular literary character in this delightful adaptation. Director Armando Iannucci created a fresh take on a classic with a gleeful adventurous spirit, full of colorful adventure as well as heartbreaking poignancy. I really can’t wait to see Patel tackle another iconic literary character who’s typically played by a Caucasian actor, The Green Knight. Hope that one gets released soon!

5. Wolfwalkers

I’ve been a fan of Tom Moore‘s work for a while. The first Cartoon Saloon’s movie I saw was The Secret of Kells, then The Song of the Sea. This one is the third movie of Moore’s Irish Folklore Trilogy and it could very well be my favorite! It focuses on a young apprentice hunter Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) and her father (Sean Bean) journey to Ireland to help wipe out the last wolf pack. But everything is turned upside down when she befriends a free-spirited girl Mebh (Eva Whittaker) who can talk to wolves. Mebh is so adorable with her huge eyes and even bigger mane, you just can’t take your eyes off her! This movie is simply magical… there’s a mesmerizing quality in its stunning, ethereal animation style, where each frame is rendered in such impeccable details. But it’s not just hollow beauty, but it’s also a deep, touching story celebrating unity and friendship. I think this movie also feels timeless, one that both kids and adults can enjoy for years to come.

6. Nomadland

I’m waiting to post my full review of this until close to its release in mid February. If you get a chance to see this on the big screen, do so as the visuals is really quite stunning. A beautiful piece of Americana as a woman embark on a journey through the American West… seen through the eyes of an immigrant. Like Chloe Zhao‘s previous film The Rider, it’s a deeply immersive and mesmerizing film. Frances McDormand is wonderful in a quiet, reflective role and she’s really believable as a modern-day nomad. Zhao mixes award-winning actors (David Strathairn plays a supporting role) with non-actors in a pretty seamless way. In an era where there’s so much constant noise online, it’s so refreshing to watch a  quiet film that allows you to ruminate on the themes presented on screen.

8. Sylvie’s Love

Confession: After I saw this film, I honestly didn’t think it’d end up on my best-of-the-year list. Even though I find it beautiful and swoon-worthy, but there’s something wanting, which I’ll go into more details in my review (currently still in my draft folder). At the same time, as a fan of romance dramas, there’s a lot to like and even admire in this film… Tessa Thompson is simply luminous as a romantic lead and newcomer Nnamdi Asomugha is wonderful in the title role. I wish Hollywood makes more romance films like this one–not a rom-com or tragic romance, but an escapist love story that’s still grounded in the reality of its time.

8. News Of The World

There are few actors working today as reliable as Tom Hanks. I hadn’t heard of this film before I was provided with a screener. It turns out to be Hanks’ first Western, which is surprising to me as he seems to be a fan of the genre (I remember hearing him tell a story of Clint Eastwood treating his actors like horses on many talk shows, thanks to his experience doing a Western). This is another winning collaboration between him and Paul Greengrass since Captain Phillips, who’s also never done a Western before. I was also incredibly impressed by young German actress Helena Zengel who was able to match Hanks’ intensity here, which is quite a feat considering the film consist mostly just the two of them.

9. The Life Ahead

One of the most notable comeback in recent memory… though it’s actually only my second time watching a Sophia Loren‘s movie. This movie was directed by Loren’s own son, Edoardo Ponti, a remake of a French film Madame Rosa (1977). Loren plays an woman running a daycare service living in a seaside town of Bari in Southern Italy. She strikes an unlikely friendship with a Senegalese boy Momo (Ibrahima Gueye) who she reluctantly took in. I have my review in the draft folder, so I won’t say much more, but it’s easily one of my favorite films I saw in 2020.

10. Mr. Jones (full review)

It’s too bad so few people talked about this movie, as it’s one of the most memorable historical drama in recent memory. Superbly directed by Agnieszka Holland from a script by Andrea Chalupa, whose own grandfather suffered the Holodomor, the man-made famine-genocide in Ukraine ordered by Stalin in early 1930s that killed many Ukranians. I’ve loved James Norton‘s work in many British period dramas, so I was thrilled to see him in a lead role and he’s more than capable portraying real life Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. It’s eerie that Jones suffered similar fate as Jamal Khashoggi for bravely exposed the truth, which put him in direct opposition with a powerful government leader.


15 Honorable Mentions

There’s no ‘science’ in picking a top 10 list… mostly just gut instinct and personal preference. Some of the movies here I like very, very much and I have actually enjoyed more than the ones on my main top 10. Some I appreciate but I don’t really feel like watching it again.

(in alphabetical order)

  1. Bad Education
  2. The Banker
  3. Emma (full review)
  4. Enola Holmes (full review)
  5. The Gentlemen
  6. The High Note 
  7. Just Mercy (full review)
  8. The Nest (full review)
  9. The Old Guard (full review)
  10. Onward
  11. Radioactive (full review)
  12. The Social Dilemma (full review)
  13. TENET (full review)
  14. Uncle Frank (full review)
  15. Wander Darkly (full review)

Well, what do you think of my Top 10 list? Any of your favorites on the list?

Thursday Movie Picks 2021: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Picture

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy first full week of 2021! It’s also the first TMP of the week. 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… Oscar Winners Edition – Best Picture.

Well, Oscar nominations isn’t coming out until March 15 this year, but naturally Oscar talks have already begun and film fans are likely making their predictions already. For this Best Picture edition however, I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane and pick from three different genres released in three different decades. I’m also picking those that I actually enjoy watching more than once.

In any case, here are my three picks:

The Sound of Music – 1965

Directed by Robert Wise

I’ve mentioned this a few times on this blog that this is one of the three VHS my late mother brought home from a European trip when I was in my early teens, which also marks my introduction to big Hollywood movies. The other two are also Oscar Best Picture winners: Gone with the Wind and My Fair Lady. 

I’ve since watched The Sound of Music at least a dozen times. I know a few of the songs by heart to this day, and there’s such a timeless quality to the story and obviously the music. Irwin Kostal also won an Oscar for Best Music in this movie, his second one after scoring West Side Story a few years prior. Well, both of the lead actors are still working today. In fact, it’s quite amusing to hear Dame Julie Andrews’ voice in Bridgerton series as Lady Whistledown.

Fun Trivia:

Christopher Plummer accidentally said the word “Captain” to Julie Andrews during the argument scene. Despite the error, producer and director Robert Wise thought it was that amusing, and liked it so much, he kept it in the movie.


Forrest Gump (1994)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

I actually haven’t seen this one in a while but I’ve definitely seen it at least 2-3 times. It’s crazy that this movie is 26 years old already and Tom Hanks is still one of the best and most prolific actors working today. This is easily one of Hanks’ most memorable performance even in his illustrious career filled with indelible characters. It’s also one of the most quotable movies, some hilarious and some profound. It’s nice to see a character like Forrest Gump being such a popular icon… an earnest, good-to-the-bone human being that’s lacking any kind of malice, you could say he’s the modern day George Bailey.

Fun Trivia:
Tom Hanks signed onto this film after an hour and a half of reading the script, but agreed to take the role only on the condition that the film was historically accurate. He initially wanted to ease Forrest’s pronounced Southern accent, but was eventually persuaded by Robert Zemeckis to portray the heavy accent stressed in the novel, and he patterned his accent after Michael Conner Humphreys (young Forrest), who actually spoke that way.


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Directed by Peter Jackson

It’s quite rare for a big franchise film to get an Oscar nomination and this one won 11 Oscars, rivaling Titanic and Ben-Hur, the latter is one of my all time favorites. I actually think The Two Towers is as good if not better, which was also nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture. The Battle of Helm’s Deep is perhaps one of the most amazing battle scenes ever filmed. But of course, The Return of the King is a spectacular end to the trilogy, with Aragorn leading the forces of good against Sauron’s evil army. This was the first fantasy film to ever win Best Picture. It’s still a rarity for fantasy films to nab the award, though The Shape of Water did win Best Picture in 2017.

Fun Trivia:

The last shot of principal photography was when the newly-crowned Aragorn bows to the four Hobbits. Although Viggo Mortensen did not need to be on-set for that day, he nevertheless insisted on attending. He didn’t have a crown (it wasn’t necessary, he wasn’t being filmed), so he fashioned one out of paper. With each successive take, the crown was becoming more ornate and sillier as crew members kept decorating it, so the four actors playing the Hobbits often had difficulty suppressing their giggles.


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

DECEMBER 2020 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

Hello everyone!! Happy New Year! Wow, I’m still not used to saying that, ahah. Well, do you feel different now that 2020 is behind us? No? Well, me neither. But hey, I am hopeful for 2021, I mean there is only one way but up after the year we’ve had right? It has to!!

Ok well, I watched quite a few movies/series in December, partly because I had a few days off and as the weather turns colder, we stay in more often.

So here’s what I watched in November:

New-to-me Movies

Mulan (2020)

I had been anticipating this for sometime but I wasn’t going to pay 30 bucks to watch it, so I finally watched it when it became available for free on Disney+. Well, I’m glad I didn’t pay for it… I mean, it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but I just wasn’t moved by it. So overall it’s not a terribly memorable film, I’m not sure I’d even review it.

Much Ado About Nothing – ShakespeaReTold (2005)


I saw this at my friend’s house, mostly because Tom Ellis is in it. It’s alright, it’s an amusing take on Shakespeare with famous Brits.

Last Christmas (2019)

I was a big fan of George Michael growing up so naturally a movie based on his Christmas hits intrigued me, esp. when it’s written by Emma Thompson. It’s a charming rom-com, a bit on the frothy site but it has a big heart. Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding have a sweet chemistry and the scenery definitely gets me in the Christmas mood.

Effie Gray (2014)

Ok, I was curious to see this one as it’s also written by Emma Thompson, but I’ve never even heard of it before. Well, this one turns out to be really, really slow and dull, there’s barely any spark in this movie to make you want to be invested in the story. Despite the beautiful scenery, it’s almost unwatchable. I wouldn’t even recommend this to fans of period dramas.

Wander Darkly (2020)

This romantic drama is well-worth a look for the two leads. Read my full review

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Check out my Music Break with songs from this jubilant Christmas movie.

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

To be honest, I only watched this one because of Ethan Peck (yep, Gregory’s equally dashing grandson). ‘Twas the season, so I was up for watching more Christmas-themed movies than usual. Unfortunately this one turns out to be one of the meh ones with a corny and predictable story. Kat Graham seems to be popular in this genre, as she’s also in Operation Christmas Drop. Nope, not going to even touch that one.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas (1965)

I live in Minnesota but for some reason I’ve never seen this movie! Yes I know, crazy right? Well, I’m glad I finally did. It’s such a cute movie and it’s actually refreshing to watch a simple, traditional animation style.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

The Movies that Made Us – Elf (2020)

I really enjoy watching this Making-Of series that explored the journey of how some famous/iconic movies got made. As a filmmaker, it’s entertaining as well as insightful… it’s amazing that most of the producers were relative newcomers. David Berenbaum had definitely written a brilliant script, and they were able to get Will Ferrell AND director Jon Favreau, who’s proven to be one of the most talented filmmakers working today.

News Of the World (2020)

Tom Hanks is one of the most reliable actors working today. Apparently this is his first Western and it’s a good one. Full review upcoming.

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)


Check out my full review of WW84

Soul (2020)

Full review upcoming

WolfWalker (2020)

Full review upcoming

Death To 2020 – Mockumentary (2020)

I was intrigued to watch this because it’s by Black Mirror‘s creator Charlie Brooker, and it’s got some big name stars as talking-head ‘experts.’ A parody of a year that’s been beset with, well too many things really, is a provocative premise, but overall this mockumentary isn’t all that funny and pretty lame. Heck, it’s more amusing to just watch real news!


TV Series

The Mandalorian Season 2

Bridgerton

Two very different shows but both are worth watching for different reasons. As a fan of period dramas, obviously I enjoy Bridgerton, which is far juicier than any Jane Austen movies, ha! It’s more in line with Outlander in terms of its juicy sex scenes, but no blood/violence to speak of… yet.

I’m still thinking about the finale of both shows, thankfully they have been renewed for season 3 and season 2, respectively. Too bad we have a long time to wait for this as they probably haven’t even started shooting yet.


Rewatches

Notting Hill

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Return to Me

It’s A Wonderful Life

Wow, I must have been feeling quite sentimental as I watched mostly rom-coms, ahah. Well except for that last one… it’s been ages since I saw the Frank Capra classic and last year was definitely the perfect time to rewatch i.


MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

Soul + Wolfwalker

I saw these two back-to-back, and both are visually spectacular. They’re completely different in terms of narratives and animation styles but I love each of them in its own unique way. I highly recommend both of them if you haven’t already.


Per tradition, I usually wait until mid January until I post my Top 10 Films of the year… so stay tuned for that!


Well, what did you watch in December and what’s YOUR fave movie you saw last month?

NEW YEAR Special: Five memorable scenes set on New Year’s Eve

Well folks, it’s just hours before we’re done with 2020. I think the less said about this year we’re about to leave behind the better. I know I am looking forward to the year ahead… I mean, looking at how we spent most of the year during a pandemic, I sure hope there’s only one way but up!

Now, as most of us likely aren’t gonna be ringing the new year in a festive way, we can always live vicariously through characters in the movies. So here are five memorable New Year’s Eve scenes that have proven to be quite timeless…

Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

Leave it to Nora Ephron to write/direct tons of memorable scenes set during the holiday season. There are even two indelible ones from her most famous rom-coms, one being When Harry Met Sally in 1989, then this one a few years later, also with Meg Ryan as the lead.

I have a soft spot for Sleepless In Seattle so I included this one. There’s just something so sweet and charming in the whole story, no matter how fantastical the premise may be. It’ll melt even the most cynical people as the dialog and performances are just so amazing. I love this ending scene at the top of Empire State Building, inspired by Ryan’s character beloved romance An Affair To Remember … it’s perhaps one of the greatest rom-com scenes ever. From the moment Tom Hanks‘ Sam says to Annie ‘it’s you…’ to when she looked at him and says, ‘Sam, it’s nice to meet you’ which makes Sam’s kid Jonah grinning widely… it’s simply magical.

Snowpiercer (2013)

Well, not every New Year’s Eve can be all romantic, fun and festive… but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be memorable. Given the year we’ve had, I simply had to include this scene from this post-apocalyptic film to counter balance out the jubilant ones. Don’t we all wish we could bludgeon Covid-19 virus to death like these guys?

The movie is set in the year is 2031 (heck that’s just a decade later!) and the world has been destroyed in a climate disaster where survivors had to live on a massive train named Snowpiercer that circles the globe. There’s a celebration of the New Year to mark each time the train make one circumnavigation of the globe. It’s on one of those days that the lower-class passengers on the back of the train force their way to the elites on the front. A fierce, brutal battle ensues… let’s just say we’d all likely coming out unscathed compared to these guys, yes even in 2020!

In any case, if you haven’t seen Bong Joon-ho‘s brilliant English-language debut, well it’s never too late to do so.

The Age of Adaline (2015)

I love, love this underrated romance drama. Yes, I realize the ‘science’ behind how Adaline became ‘immune to the ravages of time’ isn’t exactly legit, after all most people would certainly perish if the car they drive plunges into a lake and got hit by lightning. But hey, in an era of superhero movies where people gain superpowers for all kinds of weird reasons, I’d think we can easily suspend our disbelief for this one.

This is the first time I saw Blake Lively and I have to say she’s breathtakingly beautiful here and there’s an air of mystery about her that is bewitching. The costume design is simply stunning, especially the red velvet gown Adaline wears to the NYE party. She catches the eye of hunky Ellis (Michiel Huisman) which leads to one of the swooniest movie meet-cute ever.

Phantom Thread (2017)

I have to admit that the first time I saw this movie I wasn’t immediately won over. As I mentioned in my review, I wasn’t moved by it as it’s definitely not a conventional love story, in fact it’s a twisted one. But still, it’s a film I appreciate and Paul Thomas Anderson and a thought-provoking one as well. I read an article analyzing the psychological aspect of the film, and the relationship expert said that Daniel Day Lewis‘ Reynolds is a perfectionist and is all about precision. But love is not precise and unlike a piece of fabric, a wife isn’t a ‘thing’ a man can mold however one likes.

The film is visually gorgeous, which is astonishing as PTA himself shot this, he did not work with a DP. The New Year’s Eve scene is a moment of defiance for Alma (mesmerizing Vicky Krieps) who leaves her humdrum husband at home and goes to a costume party. He in turns follows her, watching from a distance at first… and the scene of the two of them dance alone in a deserted concert hall with balloons, confetti everywhere is simply exquisite. A spotlight beams down on them as they embrace… and though we don’t know if their marriage would survive, it seems there’s a sliver of hope. Complemented by Jonny Greenwood‘s evocative score, this scene leaves an indelible mark in cinema history.

The Apartment (1960)

It’s been ages since I saw this classic rom-com, still regarded as one of the best classic romance of all time. There’s a similarity to Sleepless In Seattle, where the female protagonist suddenly realizes that the man she is spending NYE with isn’t the one she wants to spend her entire life with.

Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon have such a lovely chemistry in this Billy Wilder‘s classic. Apparently the writer/director was inspired to write this after seeing Brief Encounter (1945), a beautiful romantic drama I still need to review one of these days.

I’m posting two clips here as I love the contrast of a festive NYE party, with the crowds ringing the new year as Auld Lang Syne is playing… and she ponders that there’s somewhere else she’d rather be. Then cut to Fran running to Baxter’s apartment… away from crowds and all the festivities, it’s just a party of two, playing cards. As he finally declares his love for her, the only reply she gives is: “Shut up and deal.” Not exactly a romantic gesture, but it’s absolutely perfect.


THANK YOU to all of you who have visited/commented and supported this blog all these years!

Here’s to a much better 2021!

10 Favorite Movies To Watch at Christmas Time

There are certain movies that become family tradition around Christmas… from classics like White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life to more contemporary fare like Scrooged, Home Alone, Elf, and of course, the ‘honorary’ Christmas action flick of all time, Die Hard. Some people might opt for the plethora of Christmas rom-coms, which if you are one the you are in luck as Netflix has a bazillion of them that rival even the Hallmark channel!

I have to admit, I did watch three Christmas rom-coms in early December – Jingle, Jangle: A Christmas Journey (which I’ve blogged about here), The Holiday Calendar (meh!) and Last Christmas. That last one is not perfect but given it’s written by Emma Thompson and I grew up loving George Michael’s songs, the movie has its charm and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I might even do a Music Break post at some point.

Now, I’ve written about some of the movies on this list, but hey, they’re still my faves so I’m including them again here. Some of them on this list aren’t exactly Christmas movies per se, but there are some memorable scenes that you associate with the season that gets you in the holiday spirit.

LOVE, ACTUALLY

I love many Richard Curtis’ movies and this one is chock full of my favorite British actors so naturally it’s one of my go-tos around the holidays. The sappy cards-on-the-doorstep bit is everyone’s favorites, but I have to say Emma Thompson is the scene stealer here and her storyline as a dutiful wife who suspects her husband (played by the venerable Alan Rickman) is cheating on her with his hot co-worker never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

YOU’VE GOT MAIL

I’ve mentioned this movie oh-so-many-times on this blog for obvious reasons. NYC is particularly festive and lovely during Christmas season with all the sparkling lights. But it’s the quiet moments that always gets me… Katherine misses her mother as she decorates the Christmas tree at the store her late mom had built. We all miss our loved ones during the holidays, and this year is particularly tough as we can’t even spend time with our family/friends because of the lockdown.

THE HOLIDAY

Ok so this movie has issues and I have to say I have a hard time watching Cameron Diaz’s character at times. But the Kate Winslet’s storyline is much more intriguing of the two. I sure can relate to her falling hopelessly in love with a hot-but-caddish co-worker at a Christmas party… and I love her reaction when she found out just how amazing Diaz’s LA house is.

Speaking of house, Jude Law’s home is one of the dreamiest Christmas homes that actually looked believably lived-in. It’s got that warm + cozy feeling right from the entry hall.

According to this article, apparently this enchanting Mill House is located in Wonersh, Surrey. Another reason I can’t wait to go visit the UK again once this pandemic is all over!

JOYEUX NOËL

Based on a true story of an unofficial Christmas truce in December 1914, this film truly conveys the real meaning of Christmas. Such a wonderful film that shows an uplifting lesson in humanity, though the truce is such a brief one and the troops from three countries had to pay the price for their disobedience.

I highly recommend this one if you haven’t already. Here’s a clip of the singing scene.

Per IMDb, the character of the opera singer is based on that of German tenor Walter Kirchhoff (1879-1951), who travelled to the front in order to perform for the troops. His performance was met by cheers from the French lines, where upon he decided to climb on to no-mans-land to see who was cheering.

BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY

I actually just bought the blu-ray of this one. I figured I’d get a lot of watch out of it that it’s better to buy it instead of renting. Helen Fielding created such a fun, relatable character in Bridget and the movie still made me laugh after all these years. Fielding wrote the screenplay along with two of my fave British writers, Andrew Davies (responsible for a bunch of Jane Austen adaptations) and Richard Curtis (natch!). Texas-born Renée Zellweger is simply marvelous as Bridget, which proves she’s quite a versatile actress who made the iconic British character her own. It’s quite fun seeing Hugh Grant playing a cad, too, which I think is closer to his own persona than the goody-two-shoes roles of his other rom-coms.

KLAUS

This Oscar-nominated animated movie is such a wonder. Per IMDb, director Sergio Pablos had wanted to do a traditionally animated feature film, so the studio used CGI lighting techniques with hand-drawn animation to create a unique animation style for the story. The visuals are simply amazing to behold, but it’s the story that warms your heart. An imaginative take of a classic about a postman who befriends toymaker Klaus, whose friendship ends up changing the lives of the people in two feuding towns. The quintessential feel-good family movie that’ll make you laugh and cry… I know I’ll be watching this for years to come.

THE FAMILY MAN

I saw this quite a while ago and despite it being a mash-up of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, it’s still got its charms. Nic Cage is basically Scrooge, a successful, narcissistic business man who thinks he’s got it all. Then he meets Don Cheadle one fateful night and he’s given a glimpse of an alternate universe of what might’ve been if he hadn’t leave his college girlfriend and married her instead. Funny and heartwarming, it’s the kind of movie that makes you reflect on your own life and figure out just what’s really important to you.

ELF

I just watched Netflix’s The Holiday Movies That Made Us documentary series which shows the real stories behind these iconic Christmas blockbusters, thanks to insider interviews and behind-the-scenes peeks. The ELF episode is especially fascinating for me who’s struggling striving to make a feature film, as it shows just how challenging it is to make a movie. Everything had to align just right and even so, there’s no guarantee the movie would be a hit.

It seems Will Ferrell was born to play the Elf who travels from North Pole to NYC to locate his father after discovering he is a human. Beautifully written by David Berenbaum, who made this as an homage to his own father, this movie has the crucial ingredient for a Christmas classic: a big, huge heart. I forgot that Jon Favreau directed this, which further proves he’s one of the most talented and versatile filmmakers working in Hollywood today.

VICAR OF DIBLEY – CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2006

I actually just watched this a couple of days ago and though it’s not a movie, I simply had to include it on this list. This popular British sit-com is yet another one of Richard Curtis‘ creations and it’s so brilliantly funny and irreverent. Dawn French is hilarious as the boisterous female minister (vicar) Geraldine Granger who serves in an eccentrically-conservative small town’s church.

This Christmas episode is actually the final season, consisting of just two episode where Geraldine gets swept off her feet by a handsome stranger (Richard Armitage) and finally becomes the bride after officiating thousands of weddings. I love that Geraldine also loves Sense and Sensibility, she’s in fact shown to be watching the Ang Lee version on the show! Interestingly, James Fleet, who plays Hugo Horton in the series, played John Dashwood in the Jane Austen movie.

I found some excerpts of this episode in Vimeo, so enjoy!

 

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

I saw this a decade ago for the first time and I haven’t re-watched it since, so some details were quite hazy to me. Well, I’m glad I rewatched this two days before I wrote this list, as I’ve come to appreciate this Christmas classic even more!

I love James Stewart‘s moving performance as George Bailey, despite the character being originally developed at another studio with Cary Grant in mind. Apparently this was Donna Reed’s first starring role as she’s wonderful as Bailey’s love interest Mary, who I think is as much a savior in Bailey’s life as Clarence the angel. Frank Capra cited this as one of his favorite films and it’s certainly has stood the test of time. Yes it’s melodramatic at times and some of the scenes are a product of its time, but the uplifting and inspiring message is one that generations to come would still enjoy and relate to. Given the pandemic and many of us feeling down and perhaps even desolate, this story resonates even more.

This is the most iconic scenes in the film and perhaps ranks as the most indelible one in all classic films. Even though I had seen this before and it’s one of the most shared clips/gifs, I still can’t help feeling really emotional watching this. Bailey’s problems of being $8,000 short still remains, but his outlook on life has drastically changed. The part when he wished the evil Mr. Potter a Merry Christmas through his office window is both funny and touching.

Per IMDb, the set for Bedford Falls was constructed in two months and was one of the longest sets that had ever been made for an American movie.

Despite being set around Christmas, the film was filmed during a heat wave, in fact this exact scene was actually filmed on a scorching July day. It got to be so hot that director Frank Capra gave everyone a day off to recuperate.


In the spirit of Christmas AND his love for Star Wars, my hubby made this mash-up arrangement. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂


Here’s wishing all of you

a BLESSED & JOYFUL CHRISTMAS…

Stay safe + healthy!


Thursday Movie Picks: Films Directed by a Female Director

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… Films Directed by a Female Director.

I have to admit I hadn’t seen as many films by female directors as much as I should. There are still a few movies I’m hoping to see later this month that are directed by women: Promising Young Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, One Night in Miami, to name a few.

Well, for this week’s TMP, I thought I’d pick two movies I saw in 2020 and one underrated movie by a female director that I haven’t talked about on this blog but I really think people should check out.

In any case, here are my three picks:

On The Rocks (2020)

Directed by Sofia Coppola

A young mother reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father on an adventure through New York.

I mentioned this on my November recap that I decided to watch this after listening to a review of it on NPR. The idea of seeing a movie set in NYC where the characters roamed around Manhattan and having drinks at a swanky speakeasy bar like the 21 Club just sounds so enchanting during lockdown. I was living vicariously through Bill Murray and Rashida Jones, who play father and daughter in this Sofia Coppola dramedy.

I mentioned that there’s a bit of a Woody Allen-ish vibe to this movie. Now what I mean by that is Coppola seems to only make movies about affluent people and their problems just seem so trivial, perhaps even more so during a pandemic where people are dealing with live and death situations. In any case, I think the movie has its charm, but not exactly the director’s best work.


Nomadland (2020)

Directed by Chloé Zhao

After losing everything in the Great Recession, a widow embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

This was my pick of Movie of the Month in October. I was going to do a review of it this month but since its wide release is delayed until February 2021, I’ll delay my review until next year. I first saw Chloé Zhao‘s work in The Rider which was such a pleasant surprise. I love that she immerses herself in the subject matter and tackle her films with a curious mind that makes her films so thought-provoking. Mixing veteran actors (David Strathairn has a supporting role here) with non-actors, it’s an intriguing character study with a serene, quiet grace.

Confession: I still haven’t seen Frances McDormand‘s Oscar-winning turn in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but judging from its trailer, this is quite a different role for her. Her character Fern is taciturn and reflective, requiring McDormand to act with her eyes and mannerism alone. If you don’t mind a slow-paced film, and there is not much going on here, your patience will be rewarded. Plus, the visuals of Zhao’s films are always astounding.

 


Their Finest (2016)

Directed by Lone Scherfig

A former secretary, newly appointed as a scriptwriter for propaganda films, joins the cast and crew of a major production while the Blitz rages around them.

This movie has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yet it flew so much under the radar. It’s too bad as it’s such a terrific film set during the London Blitz of WWII, starring the lovely Gemma Arterton who I also think is an underrated actress.

I like films about filmmaking and this one centers on the making of propaganda films. Arterton’s character Catrin Cole ends up investigating the story of two young women who supposedly piloted a boat in the Dunkirk Evacuation. The always-watchable Bill Nighy is fun to watch here as an actor named Ambrose Hilliard who’s hired as the leading man. There’s a tentative romance between Catrin and screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) but I wouldn’t categorize this as a rom-com, more of a dramedy.

I highly recommend this one which is available on streaming and free on HBO Max. In fact, I just might have to watch this again soon!


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