Ranking ADAM DRIVER’s 10-best roles in honor of his birthday!

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Ahhhh… I almost missed Adam Driver‘s 38th birthday on Friday, November 19 if it weren’t for my photography-enthusiast husband pointing it out to me on Instagram. Apparently one of the photographers he follows on IG, Jason Belle, had wished him a happy birthday.

I’ve been crushing on this Indiana-native for some time now… it’s been a steady buildup for a few years but it kind of went into overdrive [no pun intended] after seeing Annette, specifically THIS shot…

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… which is quickly followed by rewatches of the Star Wars movies … I have a thing for dark, wavy, thick hair so when I first saw Kylo took his helmet off for the first time, I remember my heart skipping a beat 😍

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Adam DriverHow do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Actually no… it’ll be super long blog post if I go into that, ahah… but let me share just a few… I do love that he is a Midwestern boy… from Mishawaka, Indiana specifically (about 8 hours drive from where I live in Minneapolis suburbs… ehm) and clearly he’s still got that small-town charm given his upbringing.

I love how massive his stature is (he describe himself as a Sasquatch in the Peter Travers interview)… he’s easily around 6’3″ with strong postures and perfectly lean muscles… whoever has this idea for this striking Burberry commercial, God bless you!!

I love how he’s equally sexy and adorable in Mister Rogers sweater and in a dapper suit…

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I love his benevolence and philanthropic spirit … creating AITAF (Arts in the Armed Forces) after he had gotten out of the military (yet another reason I love him as very few actors served in the military)… and how passionate he is whenever he gets a chance to talk about it…

I love his deep, masculine voice and the way he can articulate his thoughts carefully… I was watching a bazillion interviews of him on YouTube and it shows so much of his character as a thoughtful and deep thinker, there’s no nonsense about him, not one iota of pretentiousness that you find in so many actors… it’s as if he doesn’t care about impressing anyone and THAT is sexy to me.

I love his incredibly luscious mane… I think even Ridley Scott realizes that, I love his long, beautiful tresses he’s sporting on the two movies he directed, The Last Duel and House of Gucci (review coming next week!)

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But what I love most about him is his phenomenal acting skills… I mean he truly is the most exciting actor working today, someone I would rush to see in whatever movies he’s done. Heck, I took a half day off from work for a morning screening of House of Gucci last Tuesday… and it was so worth it!

So in honor of this ridiculously-talented, Julliard-trained thespian… I’m going to rank 10 of his roles I’ve seen so far, and let me preface that by saying I haven’t seen Silence, This Is Where I Leave You and The Meyerowitz Stories. This ranking is going from my least to top favorite … and to clarify, I’m NOT ranking the movie, but his performance in it, as his performance is often the BEST thing about a movie and makes watching even so-so movie worthwhile. So here goes…

10. JUDE – Hungry Hearts

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The only reason I wanted to see this film is Adam and honestly, I don’t think I could have finished watching it the whole way through if it weren’t for him. The only lighthearted and humorous moment is the meet-cute in a Chinese restaurant bathroom, but the rest of the film was so insufferable and sorry, I simply cannot stand his co-star (Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher). Adam’s performance makes it worthwhile however, which is a testament that a charismatic actor can make people endure even a dreadful film.

9. CLYDE – Logan Lucky

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I saw this ages ago when he wasn’t really on my radar, but I still remember his adorkable performance. I wish he’d do more comedic roles as his deadpan humor is to die for! As Channing Tatum’s brother who’s an Iraq war veteran and an amputee, the role likely resonated with him given his military background. I don’t really like the sound of Southern accents but I could listen to Adam’s West Virginian twang for hours!

8. TOBY – The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

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What a crazy roller coaster ride this movie was… but then again, it’s by Terry Gilliam, which has been stuck in development hell for nearly two decades. I love Adam’s no-holds-barred performance that displays his comedic chops as well as his sexy leading man prowess. There are moments where former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko relentlessly seduces him to make love to her and he continues to elude her… it makes me think of Adam’s penchant of playing the reluctant-hero that he portrays so brilliantly throughout his career.

Adam is always magnetic in every role and he’s so fun to watch in all the insane adventures his character goes through. I love the sumptuous costumes and production design and he looks magnificent in the ornate 17th century fashion… reason enough to watch this movie.

7. KYLO REN – Star Wars Episode VII, VIII, IX

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Ahhh… the wonderfully meme-able Kylo Ren… I didn’t fully appreciate Adam’s performance initially, I actually thought Kylo is hilarious in his inability to control his rage… I remember laughing out loud watching him bash his helmet to shred that even the storm troopers shudder just even hearing him in another room.

But by the second SW movie, I was in awe of what Adam’s done with the role, a tragic character born out of two heroes who’s lured by the dark side… Watching him portray Kylo’s internal struggles is mesmerizing as unlike his grandpa, the mysterious Darth Vader, Kylo’s human side is palpable and while he’s powerful, he doesn’t quite have it all together. But of course he also looks fantastic in those long black coat showcasing his tall, slender frame… plus, there’s the luscious wavy hair [fan self]

6. JACQUES – The Last Duel

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I nearly gasped when I saw his character’s name as Jacques is the name of the male lead in my script Hearts Want, and at some point I had written him as a Frenchman. Jacques is described as a handsome nobleman and there are moments where women of nobility look upon him as if he were some 14th century French heartthrob… well he certainly looks the part.

No stranger to playing baddies, Jacques is the quintessential villain in that he doesn’t even think of his terrible deeds as something bad… and Jacques remains defiant right up to his final violent death. I mentioned that his despicable character threatens to ‘cure’ me out of my infatuation of him… it kind of did briefly which again is a testament to his astute performance, but of course it doesn’t last long.

5. FLIP – BlacKkKlansman

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It’s the role that nabbed him his first Oscars nomination in a supporting role, along with a Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and Independent Spirit noms. It’s definitely a juicy role for any actor and Adam didn’t squander that opportunity. As a Jewish undercover cop named Flip Zimmerman who infiltrates a Colorado chapter of the KKK, it’s a role that requires a delicate balance of comedic and drama that he pulls off with aplomb. There’s an earnest-ness about Flip and a stealthy quality about him that makes him a good spy.

4. MAURIZIO – House of Gucci

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I saw this earlier this week so it’s still fresh in my mind. From a French knight to a member of Italian fashion royalty… Adam is convincing in ANY role. Even the House of Gucci‘s costume designer Janty Yates said he’s a shoe-in as Maurizio Gucci as he’s ‘tall and elegant.’ But it takes more than the physicality for an actor to fully embody the role. The way Adam carries himself as the heir of the Gucci fortune exudes money and power, and a hint of ruthless ambition seething underneath that transforms him from a mild-mannered, passive guy to a callous douchebag.

The movie isn’t perfect but his performance is still a highlight for me…he commands your attention right from the first moment he appears on screen… with the camera panning slowly as he’s sitting in a cafe near his office in Rome with his perfectly tailored suits and oversized Aviators. If people hadn’t been convinced of his sex symbol status by now, I think this role surely cements it.

3. CHARLIE – Marriage Story

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I saw this at the Twin Cities Film Fest and though I haven’t had a chance to fully review it, I included it in my top 10 films of 2019. I was rooting for Noah Baumbach to win Best Screenplay at the Oscars as his shrewdly-written script feels so natural and incredibly immersive. Adam’s Charlie is far from being the perfect husband and he’s got rage issues that he displays in some of the explosive scenes in the movie… some of the fight scenes with Scarlett Johansson are visceral and tough to watch, which is a testament to both of their acting prowess. I’m glad both were nominated for acting Oscars that year.

Of course one of the highlights is him singing Sondheim’s Being Alive... an utterly mesmerizing scene that resonates so emotionally. Having seen some interviews where Adam displays such aversion to singing (you could even see him panicking when he’s asked to sing), it’s incredible that he often sings in his films… further proof that he often lost himself in a role.

2. PATERSON – Paterson

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I love that Adam seeks out roles based on how he feels about the director and he clearly loves and understands Jim Jarmusch. Paterson is not a flashy role but a beautiful, soulful one that showcases Adam’s ability to act with just his facial expressions. The scenes where his poetry are written across the screen as he is doing a mundane job like driving a bus day in and day out have such a hypnotic quality. It’s not a film that concerns itself with endless action to keep people engaged and it’s such a wonderful antidote to mainstream Hollywood movies filled with random chaos. In my brief review in my Hidden Gem post, this film is a sweet celebration of life’s small joys and its oddity… I can’t wait to see this again soon.

1. HENRY – Annette

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An absolute tour de force performance that had me transfixed from start to finish. Even from the moment he appears singing with the Sparks brothers and the cast in the opening sequence, Adam was so committed in this surreal, bizarre musical. As a provocative stand-up comedian Henry McHenry, this is perhaps the most feral performance out of him. It’s also a very physical role where he uses his entire body to portray Henry’s simian characteristic… aptly known on stage as “the Ape of God.” I have to admit I was both entranced and appalled by his character, which is obviously by design.

Annette is not for everyone but if one can get past the weirdness of this sung-through musical, I love how it highlights the force of nature that is Adam Driver and I’m forever grateful. His fearless performance is truly one for the ages.


This appreciation post comes a day late… but hey, instead of having an #AdamDriverDay …. might as well make it an #AdamDriverWeekend as we can enjoy his spectacular work all weekend long!

Let me leave you with this sublime, heartbreaking performance in Marriage Story… easily my favorite scene in the film where all his emotions comes through as he’s singing it… it speaks volumes more than all his monologues and incessant yelling. Simply masterful.


So in celebration of the one and only ADAM DRIVER … what’s YOUR favorite role(s) you’ve seen so far?

Ranking Daniel Craig’s Bond Movies

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I saw No Time To Die two days ago so pardon me, I still have Bond on my mind. I know embargo has passed for this film, but I need to mull this over a bit so I’ll review it this weekend. Per customary with new Bond movie released, the internet is filled with new Bond film ranking. I probably should do that at some point, but ranking 26 films takes a bit of time, so for now I’m just going to rank five of Daniel Craig’s movies.

Before I do that, I thought I’d share this trailer of Being James Bond, a brief 46-min retrospective doc where Craig candidly reflects on his 15-year tenure as James Bond. It includes never-before-seen archival footage spanning from Casino Royale (2006) to No Time To Die (2021). It’s available to watch for free on Apple TV+ and a must-see for Bond fans!

There’s really no ‘science’ in these ranking of course, it’s based on instinct and well, personal taste.

So here they are in the order of WORST to BEST:

QUANTUM OF SOLACE

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This is perhaps the only Bond movie in the last 20 years that I’ve seen only once and I haven’t had the desire to rewatch it. Even the worst of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, namely Die Another Day, I’ve watched 2-3 times as there are still some fun, albeit idiotic, moments. When I first saw Quantum I just thought it’s such a dull movie, with a truly lame villain (totally miscast Mathieu Almaric) and a rather meh Bond girl (Olga Kurylenko). It’s even more of a letdown considering it was a continuation of an excellent Bond movie, so the buildup was much more intriguing than the actual movie.

SPECTRE

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Speaking of having a lame villain, the fourth Craig Bond film somehow the same fate as Quantum despite having Oscar-winning Christoph Waltz, whose huge Hollywood breakthrough was playing a phenomenal Nazi officer in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. I had just mentioned about that in this post where the henchman (Dave Bautista) is actually more memorable. It’s a bad sign when the best spectacle is the opening action sequence, as the entire film just never quite match up its intensity and entertainment value.

It doesn’t help that another big-budget spy thriller franchise Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is released the same year and it features plenty of phenomenal, highly memorable action sequences… the exhilarating Vienna Opera House scene alone definitely gives the Bond action set pieces a run for their money!

NO TIME TO DIE

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Well, this is definitely one of the most somber Bond film I’ve seen to date… which marks the end of the era, so to speak. Is it a proper send-off for Craig? In short, yes. It certainly also marks a progressive step for the 50+ year old franchise build on the male patriarchy. I do think Cary Fukunaga‘s direction is quite impressive and he made some intriguing, bold choices… I’ll have more on that in my full review, so for now I’ll leave it at that.

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I had just rewatched this a couple of days before I saw No Time To Die, so it’s still fresh in my mind. Bond returns home in this one… though not exactly under a happy circumstance. There are plenty to like about this one and centering the story on M (Judi Dench) as one of the major plot makes it stand out from the pack. For once Bond isn’t the primary target, heck Silva would probably let Bond go as his wrath is for ‘mommy’ who he thinks betrayed him (certainly an interesting moniker for a former MI-6 boss). Javier Bardem is a memorable villain and the relationship between Bond and M reaches penultimate point in a dramatic and emotional way, I actually still teared up watching that scene at the church.

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What a phenomenal Bond debut for Craig! I absolutely LOVED this film, it ranks in my top 5 amongst all 26 films. When I first saw it though, I didn’t think it would stand as my favorite out of all of Craig’s Bond films… but it definitely stands as the one I’ve seen the most out of his 5 films. I know that the poster shouldn’t determine the quality of the film itself, but even judging from that, Casino Royale‘s poster with Craig at the card table with a smoldering look is absolutely fetching.

It’s got everything you want in a Bond movie – great villain, captivating love interest who’s more than a damsel in distress (Eva Green), dynamic action, gorgeous locations… plus the score by David Arnold is so lush and beautiful, evoking John Barry who’s my fave Bond composer. 


What do you think of my ranking? How would YOU rank Craig’s Bond films?

Top 15 Daniel Craig’s JAMES BOND Moments

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I’m a longtime Bond fan and it feels like ages ago since I saw a new Bond movie. Can you believe it that SPECTRE was released in 2015? That’s SEVEN years ago! Thanks to this ongoing pandemic, this film just kept getting delayed. Well, Bond has been on my mind the past week as NO TIME TO DIE is finally coming to theaters! It marks Daniel Craig‘s fifth and final appearance as James Bond, and even he seems quite emotional saying goodbye to the role and regretted his rather blasé response about returning to the franchise after Spectre wrapped. 

I personally think Craig has done a phenomenal job as Bond and proved me wrong in my early assessment of his casting, as I mentioned in my review of Casino Royale. So in honor of his last outing as Bond, my pal Ted and I are listing our favorite Craig’s Bond moments. Nice to finally have a new post for FC’s 007 Chatter category 🙂

Let me start with Ted’s top 5 list:

1. Casino Royale – Bond broke into M’s apartment

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Fans of Bond films knows that the relationship between M and Bond has always been professional, but I really appreciate the filmmakers decided to come up with this scene and showed us the real relationship between the young 007 and his mentor. I love the back-and-forth performances by Craig and Judi Dench in this one. Too bad we never find out with M stands for.

2. Quantum of Solace – Opening car chase and climatic shootout/fight scenes

In rare case in the Bond franchise, this film was a direct follow up to the previous one. Unfortunately, the film was not well received by fans of the franchise, but I still thought it’s a good sequel. The film came out around the time another spy franchise was dominating the box office, Jason Bourne. Most of the action scenes in the film were pretty much carbon copy of action scenes from The Bourne films. I thought this opening car chase was great way to start the film:

The shootout and fight scene for the climax was quite intense, just wish Bond was fighting a formidable foe here. Mathieu Amalric was a total miscast as the main villain and in this scene, it looked like Bond was fighting a little kid. I still thought it was well shot and edited: 

3. Skyfall – Kincade introduction

Some Bond fans probably know that Kincade was originally written for the late Sean Connery, it’s supposed to be a surprise cameo. But Connery turned down the part and we can only imagine what would’ve been like to have seen Connery came out of the dark and utter the famous lines “Bond, James Bond.” I thought Albert Finney was great in the role but man it would’ve been great to have seen Connery back in the Bond franchise one last time. 

In any case, the scene I’m referring to starts around 3:05 below:

4. Skyfall – The Shanghai scenes

The entire sequence in Shanghai was beautifully shot by Roger Deakins. This scene starts with Bond following his target and ended with a big fight in a empty office building:

5. Spectre – The opening of action scene

This is my least favorite of Craig’s Bond films and this Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City is probably the best scene in the entire film:


I love the five scenes Ted listed above. In fact, I was going to include the SPECTRE opening scenes too, as I think it’s the best part of the entire movie. I just learned from the Being James Bond documentary that Craig actually did that scene with a broken leg, what a trooper!

So I’m listing mine in order of the film’s release. The Quantum of Solace‘s opening car chase scene is my favorite from Craig’s second outing as Bond, so I’m not listing that again.

In any case, here are my top 10 picks:

6. Casino Royale – Opening Parkour Chase Scene

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Bond movies are known for their bombastic and action-packed intro scenes. In Casino Royale, it’s even more crucial to have a memorable sequence as it’s the first time we see Daniel Craig in full-on action and boy did he deliver! The parkour chase is what’s on-trend at the moment but even re-watching it over a decade later, it doesn’t feel dated and I’m still in awe of Craig’s physical prowess in this scne.

7. Casino Royale – Bond Meets Vesper Train Scene

I’ve included this clip so many times on this blog, I think it’s a record, ahah. Those who have been loyally following my blog knows how much I LOVE Vesper, my favorite Bond girl, and her intro here is my absolutely fave Bond moments. Craig’s got a sexy but playful chemistry with Eva Green, which makes this scene so delightful to watch over and over. 

8. Casino Royale – Shower Scene

I’ve already been on board with Craig as Bond at this point but THIS scene makes me LOVE his portrayal. He manages to be tough, almost thug-ish in his action scenes, but he’s also got a sensitive, emphatic side that’s displayed beautifully here. It’s Bond like you’ve never seen him before, and THAT’s sexy.

9. Casino Royale – Card Game, Bond meets Felix

Given the title, obviously the card game has to be one of the main highlights. I enjoy the banter and dynamic between Bond and Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), but what I think is underrated is the interaction between Bond and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), his on the staircase. I LOVE Wright’s casting as Felix and definitely the strongest actor to portray Bond’s ‘brother from Langley.’

Bonus: We also got Craig uttering the brilliant ‘do I look like I give a damn’ line when asked if he wants his drink ‘shaken or stirred.’

10. Casino Royale – Ending scene

Craig’s Bond debut is just filled with so many wonderful moments from start to finish. Oh what a triumphant ending it is! Of course fans expect all Bond actors to utter this famous line, but here it doesn’t feel like fan service at all. In fact, it’s a perfect cap to a phenomenal Bond movie and perhaps even Craig’s way to say ‘screw you’ to naysayers.

11. Skyfall – Bond meets Q scene

I’m really fond of Ben Whishaw‘s casting a Q and this whimsical intro of them practically insulting each other is wildly amusing.

12. Skyfall – Bond takes M on Aston Martin DB5 ride ‘back in time’

Director Sam Mendes did a wonderful job in Skyfall, and I love that the plot of Judi Dench’s final Bond film appropriately centers on her character. After ‘kidnapping’ M after Silva’s attack at the court house, Bond took M to a garage where he’s been hiding his precious Aston Martin DB5… I LOVE M’s comment when he saw the car! 😛

13. Skyfall – Bond & Silva interaction

Javier Bardem is definitely one of the most memorable Bond villains ever, and perhaps the best in Craig’s tenure to date. This interaction may come across homo-erotic at first glance but the way Silva tantalize/manipulate Bond to see if he would crack is simply brilliant.

 

14. Spectre – Rome car chase

I’m with Ted in that I find Spectre underwhelming overall. I think Christoph Waltz is such a weak villain here (such a contrast to his work in Inglourious Basterds) but his henchman Hinx (Dave Bautista) does have some memorable moments with Bond. I love this beautifully-shot car chase scene (by DP Hoyte Van Hoytema) through Rome, and the ending with Bond parachuting down with a smirk on his face is a classic!

15. Spectre – Train fight scene

I actually rewatched this clip right after I watched Craig’s documentary Being James Bond that he broke his leg doing this stunts. Bautista is such a big guy, I cringe watching this now, Craig could’ve been seriously hurt! Interesting to learn from another interview that Craig actually broke Bautista’s nose doing this scene, so I guess they’re even! 😀


Hope you enjoyed our Daniel Craig tribute. I know he’ll be missed!

So what are YOUR favorite Craig’s BOND moments?

The Flix List: List of Misfires from big-name stars/filmmakers that I enjoyed

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Many film fans get excited when a film with big named stars or director or both are attached to a project. We assume that the film will be great and studio executives thinks it will be a box office gold and/or Oscar contender during the awards season. Unfortunately, most films with an all-starred cast or famed directors tends to disappoint and forgotten once it hits theaters. Below are some of the misfire films that included big named stars and/or directors and I really enjoyed all of them. By no means that I think these are great films, I do think they’re above average that has potential to be great films.

1. The Counselor (2013)

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When this film was announced, it was met with excitement by many film fans (including yours truly) since it’s the first script written by famed author Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott quickly signed on to direct it. The news got even better when the all-star cast was announced. How can a film that stars Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem and a talented director like Ridley Scott fail? The studio thought this was going to be an Oscar contender, so they opened the film in the prime award season in the fall of 2013, but it was met with dismal reviews and failed at the box office.



So, what went wrong with this film? I think the script is the main problem here. McCarthy is a great novel writer but his screenplay for this film needed a lot of revisions. The dialogs were spoken like something from his novels and while it worked in the printed form, it needed some revisions to make it work as a screenplay. I’m quite surprised that Ridley Scott shot the film with this script. I don’t think it’s a bad movie but with a refined script, it could’ve been something special. I still enjoyed the heck out of this film though.

2. ALIEN 3 (1992)

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I was hesitant to include this one since David Fincher was still a young and upcoming director when he made this film. And because of this film’s failure, it almost destroys his career in Hollywood. But he bounced back a few years later with SE7EN and he’s been an A-list director ever since, so I think it’s fair to include it here. This film has a long development history, there were many versions of the scripts that were pitched, and a lot of directors were considered to take on the project.

Fox scheduled the film to open in the summer of 1992 and put a pressure on the film’s producers to get the film made or risk it being cancelled. The producers needed someone to come in and just make the approved script comes to life and decided to hire a young no-name director. Fincher at the time has been directing popular music videos for famous singers such as Madonna and George Michael. You can read more about behind the scenes making of this film here. While this film didn’t come close to the first two films, it’s still a visual feast that would’ve been great had Fincher was able to make it the way he envisioned it.

3. Meet Joe Black (1998)

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Brad Pitt became a super star in the 1990s thanks to hits like Se7en, The Legends of the Falls, Interview with the Vampire and 12 Monkeys. Hoping to cash in on his minted super star status, Universal Studios decided to cast him in a big budget romantic drama (reportedly this film cost around $90mil), alongside another big star at the time, Anthony Hopkins. The studio even believed it’s going to be an Oscar contender by opening it in the prime awards month of November. It was directed by Martin Brest, whose previous films including Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman were box office hits and well received by critics.

Unfortunately, the film was met with terrible reviews, and it became one of the biggest bombs of that year. I took my then girlfriend to see it since she’s a big Brad Pitt fan, she fell asleep halfway through, but I totally dug the film. I still think it’s one of the best romantic dramas that I’ve ever seen. I do think that it’s way too long and the ending was kind of weak. But I enjoyed the performances by the actors, the score by Thomas Newman and the beautiful production design.

4. The Bonfire of Vanities (1990)

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Based on a popular book and starring 3 of the biggest movie stars at the time and a hot director behind the cameras. This film was supposed to be slam dunk hit for the studio. Tom Hanks was on a roll with hits like Big and Turner & Hooch. Bruce Willis just came off of the Die Hard hits and Melanie Griffith struck gold with Working Girl. I was too young to remember much about this film when it came out, but I do remember seeing tons and tons of commercials promoting it. Warner Bros. thought that it was going to be a box office gold and Oscar contender by opening it on Christmas week. Just like every other film on this list, it was met with terrible reviews and became one of the biggest box bombs of the 90s.

Because of its reputation, I didn’t see this film until I was in college and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

The film has some issues of course, mainly Willis. He’s total miscast here, and you can tell he’s way out of his elements in that role. Hanks and Griffith on the hand, I thought they were great in their respective roles. Hanks and Willis were able to recover their career after this film’s failure. Even director Brian De Palma bounced back a few years later with Mission: Impossible. The only career casualty here is Melanie Griffith. While she headlined a lot of films in the 90s, she never regains her box office star status after this film.

5. The Last Action Hero (1993)

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Arnold Schwarzenegger was on top of the world in the late 80s and early 90s. With four box office hits in a row, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop and T2: Judgement Day, everyone predicted that his next film will be a massive hit. It was announced that his next big film will be called Last Action Hero and John McTiernan, director of Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, has signed on to direct the picture. Since T2 was still in everyone’s mind, many of us were excited for this film and with McTiernan behind the cameras, what could go wrong right?

Well sadly, a lot of things went wrong with this film.

It was advertised as a straight up action/adventure but when people saw it, the film turned out to be an action/comedy. Worst was that McTiernan just don’t have the chops to do comedy. The action scenes were great but when it comes comedic tone, everything fell flat. I still enjoyed the film, but I was let down when I saw in theater. Apparently, the screenplay was written for Steven Spielberg, and he was interested in directing it. But then he read a script for another film that came out in same summer of 1993, Jurassic Park and took that job instead. Maybe the film would’ve worked better with Spielberg at the helms. Sadly, we will never know. Along with Waterworld, this film became one of the biggest box office disasters of the 1990s.

6. The Devil’s Own (1997)

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Brad Pitt has starred in a lot of misfires in his career, and I have three of them on my list here. This project started out as a mid-size budget production, but its budget ballooned up to over $100mil by the time the production wrapped. According to many reports, Pitt loved the script so much that he personally pitched it to the studio, and they agreed to put it into production. Then Harrison Ford got a hold of the script and wants to be in it. Apparently, his role in the script was a secondary character but the studio demanded a rewrite so Ford can be the lead. Of course, this made Brad Pitt very angry, he assumes he’s going to be the only big star in the film. 

Around this time, Ford was still a major box office draw, and his star power outshines the younger Pitt. Pitt apparently was so pissed that he wanted to leave the film during the shoot but was threatened with a lawsuit by the studio, so he stayed.

Originally the film was supposed to open in the awards season of 1996 but got push to spring of 1997. Once it finally opened, it was dead on arrival. The bad press surrounding the production of the film were all over the internet and the film itself wasn’t that great. The main problem with the film is that it couldn’t decide if it’s supposed to be drama or action and they tried to have it both ways. I still think it’s a decent thriller and I’ve enjoyed it even more when I watched it again in later years.

7. The Midnight Sky (2020)

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The most recent film on the list and my personal disappointment of last year. I reviewed the film back in the winter, you can read here. Based on an excellent novel called Good Morning, Midnight. When the film version was announced, I was very excited, although I was skeptical when George Clooney was going to direct it along with being the lead. But he did direct some good movies in the past so I thought it could work. Even Netflix put a lot of trust in Clooney but giving him over $100mil to make the film and scheduled it to come out during the awards season last year.

Unfortunately, they miss an opportunity on making a great space adventure with this one. I’ve said many times, a more well-seasoned and talented director should’ve been hired to helm this picture. There are enough ingredients for this one to be a special picture, but Clooney just couldn’t deliver.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


Those are some of the misfires that I enjoyed; do you have any other films that you would add to this list? 

Memorable Pool/ Swimming Scenes to escape from Summer heatwave

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Happy Monday! Many parts of the US are in the midst of a heat wave, and perhaps other parts of the world as well. I had a bit of a headache from being outside for a few hours on Sunday afternoon, and I went to pool-side party as well on Saturday where the humidity was truly unbearable! I don’t generally deal well with the heat, despite being born and raised in a tropical country, but even there we don’t typically get to 100 degrees. I suppose in Minnesota, 40-50 degree temperature swing is uncommon, but going from 50 degrees to 100 with severe heat advisory is still quite a shock, especially so early in the Summer.

Well this sweltering heat makes me think of cool, refreshing pool/swimming scenes in movies that would help cool things off. I choose scenes that I think are refreshing, instead of those that made you afraid to go swimming, ahah. I also chose a couple simply for its freakin’ amazing pool design! Whether contemplative, romantic, seductive, or simply a way to refresh oneself after a long hard day, these are pretty indelible scenes that serves as great escapism from the Summer heat.

There is actually a memorable scene between Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts in her gorgeous pool villa but I couldn’t find the exact scene so I’m including the photo of them instead at the top of this post.
I’m feeling a bit indulgent today, but when you’re talking about A Bigger Splash, one MUST absolutely include this Ralph Fiennes dancing to Rolling Stones’ Emotional Rescue scene that should brighten anyone’s mood!
Ahhh… young love. One of the most romantic scenes ever and it’s befitting that it’s from an adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest romances, albeit a tragic one.
This scene of a disillusioned graduate student (Dustin Hoffman in an Oscar-nominated role) drifting by the pool is definitely an iconic one, especially set to Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel.
This pool scene showcases the production design of this 2012 Bond movie, led by production designer Dennis Gassner. The top view shot made it look like the pool was located in a Shanghai hotel rooftop, but it’s actually at the Virgin Active Canary Riverside Health Club in Canary Wharf, London. The Shanghai cityscape is CGI but still it’s an impressive scene, shot by the great Roger Deakins.
I’m actually not fond of this movie at all, but I have to admit this sexy scene is pretty memorable. Somehow, the fact that Scarlett Johansson and Bradley Cooper are now part of the MCU, I kept thinking Black Widow is seducing Rocket Raccoon in a pool, mwahahaha!
The best part about this Tom Cruise scifi actioner is the exquisite production design, which make sense given director Joseph Kosinski went to Columbia for architectural engineering. Oblivion is not a stellar movie but I still remember how stunning the Sky Tower is, with the pool at the front. You can read about how the Sky Tower is built in this article.
This movie is such a pleasant surprise to me. If you haven’t seen it though, I wouldn’t watch this scene. The scenes of sunny southern California oasis wasn’t actually filmed in Palm Springs however, it was filmed mainly in Palmdale and Santa Clarita, California.

Feel free to add your own pick of memorable pool/swimming scenes!

Thursday Movie Picks: Period Dramas

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… Period Dramas.

Ahhhh! This is one of my all time favorite genres and those who read my blog regularly knows I have a soft spot for Jane Austen, specifically Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility. But beyond that, I watch a TON of period dramas and so in order to narrow things down to just FOUR, I’m only selecting TV MINISERIES based on books. I actually love the miniseries (or limited series) format as it allows more time for character development and unpack the story in a deeper level. I happen to own ALL of these miniseries, that’s how much I love them!

So here they are in the order of release:

North & South (2004)

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North and South is a four part adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s love story of Margaret Hale, a middle class southerner who is forced to move to the northern town of Milton.

Call me old fashioned but I feel like a lot of romances these days are all about instant gratification. I think the pent-up passion, the waiting, the stolen glances, etc. are what makes period romances so irresistible to me. I’ve seen my North & South DVD countless times and it never gets old. The casting of Daniela Denby-Ashe (Margaret) and Richard Armitage (John) are superb and they have a palpable chemistry, especially towards the end. I’ve even dedicated a post for John Thornton character in this post.

Similar to Pride & Prejudice, Margaret and John didn’t get off on the right foot initially, there’s also a proposal that didn’t go over well, which of course adds to the drama! I love that this story is SO much more than just a love story (though it’s the best part about it), but it also shows the changing economic landscape of the north and south of England during the Industrial Revolution, hence the title.


Jane Eyre (2006)

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A young governess falls in love with her brooding and complex master. However, his dark past may destroy their relationship forever.

There are a whole bunch of Jane Eyre adaptations both on films and TV. Up until 2006, my favorite miniseries is the 1983 version starring Timothy Dalton that I’ve talked about here. Now, there are parts I still prefer the 1983 version, but overall I think this is a more compelling adaptation with a much more superior production quality. I love the fact that it’s a female-driven series both in front and behind the camera–directed by Susanna White from a screenplay written by Sandy Welch, surely a first in a Charlotte Brontë adaptation.

I love Ruth Wilson as Jane and Toby Stephens as the brooding Rochester who wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not as stiff and stoic as previous Rochesters (Dalton excluded) that I’ve seen previously, which makes for a more fun dynamic. The banters between the two are lovely to watch, and I can see how Jane falls for her much older boss despite her better judgment. Stephens often comes across as too playful in the role but somehow it works well here and the emotional scenes between them are really heart-wrenching. Jane says Rochester is the only one who’s ever treated her like an equal and the filmmakers did a good job showing that.


Persuasion (2007)

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Anne was in love with Frederick, who was rejected by her snobby parents 8 years ago. They’ve now hit hard times and rent out their mansion to his brother-in-law. He returns a Royal Navy captain. Will he remember Anne?

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel, which is her last novel she fully completed before her death. The main protagonist, Anne is considered ‘old’ at 27 and has lost her bloom, while the man she rejected eight years ago is now a war hero and a wealthy man. Now, I have to say that the 1995 version is a much superior adaptation, but this one has its charms. I like the way Sally Hawkins portray Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth, while Anthony Head is hilarious as her vain and stuck-up father obsessed with his status in society. The scenery is gorgeous as it was filmed on location in Bath. The direction by Adrian Shergold is a bit baffling in parts, I don’t know why Anne is the only character who breaks the fourth wall, and I wish he didn’t have Anne run all over town to see Wentworth in the end. Overall I enjoyed this adaptation though, and I love this scene when they meet in Bath by chance during a rainy afternoon.


Death Comes Pemberley (2013)

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Elizabeth and Darcy, now six years married, are preparing for their annual ball when festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. An adaptation of PD James’s homage to Pride and Prejudice.

It’s Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie! Somehow Pride and Prejudice is one of those classics that’s quite extendable. Now, unlike Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this one is pretty much a continuation of the story of Lizzie and Darcy, who somehow still can’t escape the shadow of the dastardly Wickham. I LOVE Matthew Rhys as Darcy, this Welshman is masterful in any role and here he portrays the more mature, conflicted Darcy brilliantly. I was a bit skeptical about Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth but I’ve grown to appreciate her portrayal and the fact that she’s actually more plain-looking as Lizzie is supposed to be in the book. As P&P fans, it’s always intriguing to imagine the life of our beloved couple past their blissful wedding. The way the script explores the Darcys relationship during this tumultuous time is quite fascinating.

Now Matthew Goode as Wickham is absolutely perfect casting, esp. in displaying his vulnerable side as he stand accused of murdering his own best friend. He also never looked more ravishing in his red uniform, yowza! Jenna Coleman is quite irritatingly hilarious as the over-the-top Lydia, and I love the pairing of Eleanor Tomlinson (as Darcy’s younger sister) and James Norton who are besotted with each other. The production values are incredible, gorgeous set pieces, costumes, and especially the legendary Chatsworth House as Pemberly estate. I can’t recommend this enough for anyone looking for a good mystery and intrigue in a costume drama.


Have you seen any of these? Which are YOUR favorite period dramas?

Thursday Movie Picks 2021: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Director

ThursdayMoviePicksThe 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 Director.

It’s another Oscars edition! This year’s ceremony is already in a distant memory now, though I’m happy to see Chloe Zhao making history as the first woman of color to win best director (for Nomadland) and only the second woman ever to win the award since Kathryn Bigelow did in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. So for this edition, I’m actually not going to pick this year’s winner, actually I’m walking down memory lane and only pick films released prior to 1980.

In any case, here are my four picks in order of film release:

Victor Flemming – Gone With The Wind (1939)

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I realize that many people find this film problematic but certain art form is a product of its time and just because we appreciate this film doesn’t mean we have to condone its racial prejudices. Now, I was barely a teenager when my late mother brought the VHS and we watched it together, and to this day, every time I watched it, I’m still in awe of its sheer scale. I often wonder just how they did certain complex scenes, with SO many extras… and this was in 1939!

Whether people like the film or not, it’s hard to brush off the monumental artistic achievement in filmmaking in terms of production design, cinematography, sound, etc. and of course, the amazing ensemble cast. we like the film, or not, one has to recognize the greatest achievement, perhaps, of the creative talent of the people working in the movie industry. I’ve talked about this film in this tribute post, I dare say it’s a magnum opus for Victor Flemming and everyone involved. It’s a towering directorial achievement to be sure, I mean the fact that he survived working with powerful, boundary-pushing uber-producer David O. Selznick is quite a feat!

Interesting Trivia (courtesy of IMDb + Wikipedia):
Reportedly, one of the reasons stated by David O. Selznick as to why he fired George Cukor as director was that Cukor, who’s gay, would be unable to properly direct the love scenes between Rhett and Scarlett; hence he was replaced by macho director Victor Fleming. Although he was dismissed from the production, Cukor continued to privately coach both Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland at their request on weekends, unbeknownst to both Selznick and Fleming.


Michael Curtiz – Casablanca (1944)

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I talked about seeing Casablanca for the first time in 2012 and was worried that given all the build-up, my expectation for it was so high that I was a bit worried I would be let down. Well, I’ve since seen this movie three times and it’s easily my favorite film about love during wartime. Even as time goes by, Casablanca remains an indelible masterwork. I’m glad I got to see this in the theater during the TCM re-release, it still looks phenomenal on the big screen!

Now, per Wiki, Curtiz was already a well-known director in Europe when Warner Bros. invited him to Hollywood when he was 39 years of age. He had already directed 64 films in Europe, and soon helped Warner Bros. become the fastest-growing movie studio. He directed 102 films during his Hollywood career, where he directed ten actors to Oscar nominations, including Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains.

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Bogart and Ingrid Bergman with Curtiz

Fun Trivia:
Director Michael Curtiz’s Hungarian accent often caused confusion on the set. He asked a prop man for a “poodle” to appear in one scene. The prop man searched high and low for a poodle while the entire crew waited. He found one and presented it to Curtiz, who screamed, “A poodle! A poodle of water!”

Apparently there is a biopic on him aptly titled Curtiz on Netflix, it’s description says ‘Driven and arrogant, film director Michael Curtiz deals with studio politics and family drama during the troubled production of “Casablanca” in 1942.’ Might be worth checking out for fans of this film!


William Wyler- Ben-Hur (1959)

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I’ve often talked about this film on my blog over the years as this is one of the earlier Hollywood films my late mom introduced me to. I’ve seen it countless times and still bowled over by it every single time. Same with GWTW, the scale of it is simply astounding and this was the time long before CGI was possible. Specifically the chariot scene requiring 15,000 extras!! I had done extras casting for a short film with about 25 people, I can’t even fathom managing THAT many people in five whole weeks!!

It’s not just about the epic action sequences though, I LOVE the quieter scenes that pack an emotional punch, such as the Jesus-giving-Judah-water scene that I’ve talked about in this post. There are SO many indelible scenes I still remember vividly from this Biblical epic that I can’t imagine anyone else but William Wyler winning that year.

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Charlton Heston + Stephen Boyd with Wyler on set

Fun Trivia:
William Wyler was so impressed with David Lean‘s work on The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) that he asked Lean to direct the famous chariot race sequence. Lean would have received full screen credit for the job–“Chariot Race directed by David Lean.” He declined the offer, knowing that Wyler was a truly talented director and could certainly pull it off himself.

The chariot race required 15,000 extras on a set constructed on 18 acres of backlot at Cinecitta Studios outside Rome. Tour buses visited the set every hour. Eighteen chariots were built, with half being used for practice. The race took five weeks to film

David Lean – Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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I guess I have a penchant for epic classic Hollywood movies! I wish I had seen this one (as well as GWTW and Ben-Hur) on the big screen. Sir David Lean is known for his legendary long shots, eps. the mesmerizing intro of Omar Sharif‘s character slowing emerging from the mirage. Naturally the film made a star out of Peter O’Toole who’d only been several tv series and smaller films.

As if it wasn’t hard enough to manage filming such a behemoth of a film on location with thousands of extras, the director also have to deal with demanding producers, esp. Sam Spiegel, a notorious perfectionist and micro manager who apparently often complain about Lean wasting money on the project. The two had worked on together on another Best Picture winner, The Bridge on the River Kwai.

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Fun Trivia:
To capture Jordan’s grandeur, Lean decided to shoot the movie in Super Panavision 70mm. He wanted the largest frame possible.

To film Omar Sharif’s entrance through a mirage, Freddie Young used a special 482mm lens from Panavision. Panavision still has this lens, and it is known among cinematographers as the “David Lean lens”. It was created specifically for this shot and has not been used since.


What do you think of my Best Director picks? Have you seen any of these films?