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?

Thursday Movie Picks – Television Edition: TV Score and/or Theme Song

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… TMP Television Edition: TV Score and/or Theme Song.

Ok since I just posted about my favorite TV opening credits in 2016 and also in this TMP post from March, this time I’m going to pick iconic Theme SONGS instead of TV Scores. Somehow most of the memorable theme songs are from the 80s and 90s, so once again, let’s walk down memory lane!

CHEERS – Where Everybody Knows Your Name

It’s been ages since I watched Cheers but I can still remember this iconic theme song. Where Everybody Knows Your Name is such a perfect theme song for this series. Per Wiki, it written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, and performed by Portnoy in 1982. It was nominated for an Emmy and In 2013, the editors of TV Guide magazine named it the greatest TV theme of all time.

FRASIER – Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs

Ok so I didn’t plan on picking Frasier because it was a spin-off of Cheers, but there you have it. I actually watch Frasier far more regularly than Cheers and it was perhaps my favorite sitcom at the time, yes it even beat Seinfeld for me! It’s rare too that the lead actor actually sang the song and Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs is such an odd title! Per this article, composer Bruce Miller also created the Seattle graphics at the beginning of the show. The general request for the song was something with a jazzy feel, but also eclectic, to reflect the show’s character…so the tossed salads and scrambled eggs was actually metaphor for Frasier’s patients, as in a little “mixed up.” How absolutely perfect and iconic is that!

The Greatest American Hero – Believe it or Not

I actually only watched a few episodes of this 80s superhero comedy series, but it’s my hubby’s favorite! Somehow the theme song still stuck with me and I often still hum it to this day. It’s written by Mike Post, the composer behind other great theme songs such as Law & Order, The A-Team, Magnum P.I., etc and sung by Joey Scarbury.

This song title is perfect for the show about an ordinary school teacher who got a superhero costume from aliens that gives him super powers when he wears it, ahah. But then he lost the instruction manual that comes with it, so hilarity ensues!

Working Girl (TV Series) – Let The River Run

Ok, so I think I only watched a couple of episodes of this series that’s loosely based on the 1988 of the same name. Instead of Melanie Griffith, the series stars Sandra Bullock as Tess McGill. Well, it only ran for one season, well barely as the ratings were so low that it got canceled before all 12 episodes aired in 1990.

Well, the only memorable part for me was the theme song Let The River Run written and sung by Carly Simon, which was also featured in the movie and won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1989. Well, despite the defunct series, Bullock went on to be a major movie star so perhaps the cancelation proved to be a blessing in disguise for her?


So which are YOUR favorite TV theme song?

Thursday Movie Picks: Psychological Thrillers

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… Psychological Thrillers.

This is a very popular sub-genre and I’m actually surprised how many I’ve seen. This time I’m going with a theme-within-a-theme so I’m picking mostly those with a strong female lead, and three out of four leads are nominated for Oscars. Here they are in the order of release:

Sleeping With The Enemy (1991)

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A young woman fakes her own death in an attempt to escape her nightmarish marriage, but discovers it is impossible to elude her controlling husband.

I saw this the year it was released with my older brother, my cinema buddy at the time as I was still in high school in Jakarta. Given Indonesia didn’t have regulations like MPAA, kids of any age could pretty much see any R-rated movies. I even saw risqué stuff like Basic Instinct, 9-1/2 Weeks, Wild Orchid, etc. in the theater, with my brother, no less!

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In any case, I remember this movie being quite suspenseful. I still remember when Julia Roberts‘ character pretended to drown so she could change her identity from her possessive husband. Just a year after Pretty Woman was released, she’s definitely flexing her dramatic muscle and I think she’s pretty good here. Patrick Bergin made for a pretty scary villain who’d stop at nothing to get his wife back.


Primal Fear (1996)

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An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.

I’m breaking my theme-within-a-theme of movies with a female lead, as I really wanted to include this film!

This might have been the first time I saw Edward Norton on screen, which happens to be his feature film debut. The main draw for me was Richard Gere as the Chicago defense attorney who takes on the case pro bono. It’s a role that fits Gere nicely and I think he’s a more versatile actor than people give him credit for. But the star here is definitely Ed Norton who apparently beat out over 2000+ actors who auditioned for the role of Aaron Stampler, including Matt Damon.

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It turns out to be a career-making role that earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win. I think he was scary good in this role… his shy mannerism, stammer, etc. feels believable and like Gere’s character, you wanted to believe he’s innocent. This movie’s got one of the most chilling ending a la The Usual Suspect.

Interesting Trivia:

Pedro Pascal stated in a 2014 interview that his first ever audition was for the role of Aaron Stampler.


Black Swan (2010)

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A committed dancer struggles to maintain her sanity after winning the lead role in a production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”.

I’m a huge fan of ballet and even took some ballet lessons as a kid. I even remember going to see a Russian Ballet performance of Swan Lake in high school and met some of the male ballerinas backstage. There’s something so alluring and mystical about this graceful dance that takes such an insane amount of rigorous training and unrelenting dedication.

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It’s a perfect subject matter to exploit for Darren Aronofsky, a filmmaker with a predilection for dark, disturbing films. It’s perhaps one of Natalie Portman’s most memorable roles since Léon: The Professional and V For Vendetta. I think her Oscar win is well-deserved, though I think Vincent Cassel‘s haunting performance is also pretty Oscar-worthy. Barbara Hershey as her dominating mother and Mila Kunis as her rival ballerina are also memorable, I particularly remember Kunis being quite the comic relief in an otherwise somber and unsettling affair.

Interesting Trivia:

Natalie Portman met her future husband, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, on the set of this film. Portman herself pointed out the irony that his character in the film scoffs when asked if he’d have sex with Nina, and joked that obviously he was a good actor.

Gone Girl (2014)

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With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

I was already familiar with Rosamund Pike as she’s one of the Bond girls in the godawful Die Another Day, Jane in 2015’s Pride & Prejudice, as well as supporting turns in An Education, Jack Reacher, etc. She’s always been good but she’s exceptional here in an Oscar-worthy role. David Fincher + Gillian Flynn colab is certainly the perfect ingredient for a solid thriller, and Fincher was on a streak as most of the actors kept getting nominated for Oscars under his direction. I was rooting for Amy the whole time, even after the reveal of what she did, which is a testament to Pike’s amazing performance as an antiheroine.

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The supporting cast is an interesting mix. Ben Affleck‘s casting is perfect here as a handsome, somewhat charming but not-so-bright husband. Then there are Tyler Perry (who I had never seen before on screen at that point) and Neil Patrick Harris. I’m still baffled by Harris’ casting to this day, especially for a scene so sexual and bloody.

Interesting Trivia:

Ben Affleck would constantly sing ’80s songs in between takes. Impressed, Tyler Perry decided to start a game that ended up lasting the entire duration of filming. Perry would start to sing the most random song he could think of to see if Affleck would start singing along. According to Perry, Affleck knew all of the words to every single song Perry threw at him, including Broadway showtunes and songs by Barbra Streisand.


What do you think of my picks? What are YOUR favorite psychological thrillers?

Thursday Movie Picks: Female Cinematographers

ThursdayMoviePicks

Given today’s THURSDAY MOVIE PICK‘s topic is on female cinematographers, I thought I’d reblog this post I did last November.

Check out my appreciation for the fabulous work of Charlotte Bruus Christensen, Rachel Morrison, Maryse Alberti, Mandy Walker, and Ellen Kuras

FlixChatter Film Blog

I’d been wanting to do this post for a while, but somehow haven’t got around to it. Well, thanks to last week’s Thursday Movie Picks on favorite cinematography, which I had actually missed, I thought I should make up for it this week.

The awesome topic came from Brittani who went with films highlighting female cinematographers on her post, so for this list I’m picking five female DPs whose work I admire, and it’s safe to say they’re some of the best DPs working today.

Before I get to that, I must say that perhaps more so than other key players in filmmaking like directors/writers/producers, DPs are still very much a man’s world. Based on WomenAndHollywood.com, of the top 300 films from 2016 to 2018, 97% were male and 3% were female were credited as the director of photography (DP) across the top live action films, which translates…

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