Thursday Movie Picks #62: Journalist/Reporters for Print/TV

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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

Movies featuring journalists/reporters for print/TV

I LOVE this month’s theme as I actually wanted to be a journalist growing up. I was thisclose to enrolling in Journalism major in college before I switched to Advertising. I like a lot of film that involve journalism, especially investigative journalism that continues to be an intriguing subject today. In fact one of the films I’m anticipating later this year that screened at TIFF is SPOTLIGHT, about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child molestation scandal within the local Catholic Archdiocese. These three films also involve scandalous events that’s notable in their time.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

All The President’s Men (1976)

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Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation.

This was one of my Blindspot picks of last year and I’m glad I finally saw it. It’s as much a detective tale as it is about journalism. I like how the story stays focused on the investigative aspect of the scandal and how the Post finally got to publish it, there’s no unnecessary subplots about the personal lives of the leads or anything of the sort. What an intriguing slice of American history, and as someone who’s not born in the US, it’s especially fascinating to see. To this day, every political scandal is tagged with the “-gate” suffix because of this, which adds to the timeless aspect of this film. Thanks to Robert Redford for acquiring the rights to Bernstein’s and Woodward’s memoir and for Mr. Pakula for bringing this engrossing political history to life. The two leads Redford and Dustin Hoffman are in top form here, but it also feature fantastic supporting performances from Hal Holbrook who played Woodward’s extremely secretive source, “Deep Throat.”

The Insider (1999)

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A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a “60 Minutes” expose on Big Tobacco

This film (as well as HEAT) is why I will always admire Michael Mann. I was disappointed by Blackhat but I think he’s still a phenomenal filmmaker that can infuse such a compelling drama to an otherwise ho-hum story. Russell Crowe gave one of his best performances in his illustrious career, which I think deserved a Best Actor Oscar more than his role in Gladiator. I dedicated this post to highlight some of the scenes I love from this film. The relationship between Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe), the whistle blower of the mammoth tobacco company Brown & Williamson’s and Lowell Bergman, a senior producer on 60 Minutes (Al Pacino) is compelling to watch. It’s amazing how even just two people talking on the phone can be so riveting, but that’s the genius of Mann’s style. Lots of great supporting cast here too, most notably Christopher Plummer as the legendary CBS News reporter Mike Wallace, Bruce McGill as trial lawyer Ron Motley, and Michael Gambon as the top tobacco company exec.

Veronica Guerin (2003)

VeronicaGuerin

Based on a true story, this is about the Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, a reporter for The Sunday Independent, who exposed some of Dublin’s most powerful crime barons and drug lords in 1996.

One of my all time favorite Cate Blanchett performances, where she totally disappeared into   her role. Cate not only portrays the feisty reporter, she embodies the journalist’s incredible valor in investigating Dublin’s drug trafficking. You immediately believe her as the character and the Aussie thespian even nailed Guerin’s Irish accent convincingly. I know some of you might be put off by Joel Shumacher as director, but it’s a good film, so give it a shot if you haven’t already. It’s one of the great examples of the danger of investigative journalism and how some of them are truly unsung heroes for their bravery to expose things that are harmful to society.

 

BONUS PICK

Philomena (2013)

Philomena

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

I already had the three above locked down but I still want to include this film as I haven’t reviewed it yet. I LOVE Dame Judi Dench and she’s simply phenomenal as Philomena (hey that rhymes :D) Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the script) played the disgraced former journalist Martin Sixsmith who ended up coming alongside Philomena Lee in her journey to find her long lost son. A lot of his acting consist of bewildered reaction to Philomena, especially the part where she basically divulges the entire plot of a trashy book she’s reading that he couldn’t possibly be more disinterested in. It’s a bittersweet story that made me laugh and cry. Dame Judi is mesmerizing here and she’s as effortlessly adept in comedy as she is in dramatic roles. I find the story to be poignant, thought-provoking, and profoundly moving.

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What do you think of my picks? Which movies involving journalism/reporting are your favorites?

Thursday Movie Picks #61: TRAIN Scenes

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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… 

TRAIN Movies

For this month’s theme, instead of going with a film that’s set entirely or even mostly inside trains, I’m going to post three memorable train scenes in movies. The train is also a key part in the film so I think that would count.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

It’s Harry’s third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new “Defense Against the Dark Arts” teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards’ Prison and is coming after Harry.

This is possibly my favorite Harry Potter film and if you’ve seen any of the films, obviously the Hogwarts Express plays a key role in the story. So there are many great train scenes, but this one is perhaps one of the most memorable ones. The Dementors are just so creepy!

I love the Hogwarts Express, they made it one of the main feature in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Florida. It’s one of my fave rides when I was over there last Spring.

SNOWPIERCER

Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges.

The entire film is set inside the train and it’s definitely one of the most memorable films set inside a train, as well as one of the best futuristic sci-fis. There are many scenes here to choose from, and I like a lot of the scenes with Tilda Swinton, but if I have to choose only one memorable scene, I have to go with this axe battle. I mean how many axe battles actually happen inside a train? So the small space definitely makes the brutality even more potent!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.

I don’t love this movie, I think the first film is better but still it’s enjoyable thanks to the great bromance between Sherlock and Watson. The train sequence is particularly fun and action-packed. Robert Downey Jr. definitely relish on this over-the-top role and the constant bantering between him and Jude Law is what makes this movie watchable.

 

BONUS PICK

Mission Impossible (1996)

An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.

Well technically this scene isn’t inside a train but on top of one. Well, every Mission Impossible film has to have one ridiculously preposterous action stunt and THIS is definitely the highlight. Even compared to the crazy plane scene of the latest movie, this one still gets my blood going.

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What do you think of these train scenes? Which train movie scene(s) are your favorites?

Throwback Thursday: A Funny Thing Happened On My Way Through The ’60s!

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Greetings all and sundry!

Having enjoyed a few recent get-togethers with family and friends before the murderous traffic of the Fourth of July weekend around the nation’s capitol. Topics of discussion have been many and varied. Given the age of the those included range around sixty, plus or minus five. Family wise, politics and religion are moot. Since we have been solidly ensconced from birth. And are of the same cloths. Though much louder and boisterous amongst friends.

Fashion and culture?… Really? Not many takers. Though the trends in films over the past ten years did take some Flak damage for its lack of original thought and dependence on comic books, CGI and the overall ease and enhanced elegance of falling into the “Sequel Trap”.

Music seemed to create the most varied and heart felt discussions. As name, lineages and styles were traced back to the early to late 1960s. To a time when four kids from Liverpool landed on US shores and changed music. If not “forever”, then for a few generations.

Creating some worthwhile grist for a good sized chunk of personal history. And the revelation of how…

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way Through The '60s!

Being born in late June of 1954 has its advantages. A Child of The Cold War. Wonderfully appealing American excess in engineering and technology. Huge, chrome laden cars and “Entertainment Systems that ranged from portable transistor radios. To enormous polish woof encased, furniture sized AM and just starting out FM radios, TV and “Cocktail bars”. Time saving appliances sleeks and futuristic looking… So Much Tech! All props perfectly meshed for the first steps into “The Decade That Changed America!”

Which is exactly where my head was in mid August, 1963. When a local Washington, DC Disk Jockey, Carroll James, of WWDC 1260 unleashed the first volley of ‘The British Invasion’. With the very first 45 RPM cut of The Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ in the US.


Now. For a precocious eight year old whose head was filled with Saturday adventures of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. George Pal big rocket ship and Space Station Science Fiction films. And who could, and still can do pretty decent freehand drawings of P-51 Mustang fighters and B-24 Liberator bombers. Courtesy of DC comic books.. I didn’t get it!

My sister, older by eighteen months did, As dis her female contemporary friends and cousins, Listening to them gasp and gush over George, John, Paul and Ringo was something strange. Yet oddly informative in later years. While I preferred an early and long standing contender from another British group, The Tornados. And their often covered, attempted, though never matched offering, ‘Telstar’.


With two guitars, drum and what may well have been either a Theremin. Or the very first steps into sound synthesis with a first generation of prototype of the Moog Synthesizer. Which left me wide open for the ballsier, grittier, raw and far less polished trappings of The Rolling Stones. Preparing the later, Second Wave with their cover of Bobby Troupe’s iconic, orchestral or Lounge Lizard, ‘Route 66’.


And young upstarts, Jeff Beck and future Guitar God, Eric Clapton‘s first baby steps with The Yardbirds. And their now very rare, but radiating future greatness to come with an early and unpolished shot across the bow. ‘I Ain’t Got You’.


The complete and noticeable lack of elegance, style and big budgeted studios reached out and grabbed another curious preteen male. Enhanced by the equally familiar “pop”s and “sizzle” that was part and parcel of vinyl. And lyrics which were roughly polar opposites of sweeter, cuter and lighter competition. Definitely aimed at guys.

Which created time explore domestic urban fare. Specifically, a young man from Duluth, Minnesota. Robert Zimmerman. A hard core acolyte of Woody Guthrie. Who was wise enough to change his last name to Dylan. Superb song writer and lyricist, Creating bodies of work infinitely adaptable to interpretation. And other imports from across the pond. To size up their takes on this youngster’s original works. Premiere amongst the imports. A five man group named Manfred Mann. Who got off the blocks early with ‘The Mighty Quinn’


For its fife introduction and lighthearted approach opposite Dylan’s near Calypso dirge. A trait that would return a few years later. With a left handed. freshly released from the 101st Airborne, African American acolyte of Dylan named Jimi Hendrix. And his guitar burning finale of The Trogs’ ‘Wild Thing’. His immortal, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. And ‘All Along The Watch Tower’. That blew audiences in Germany and the UK away before reestablishing his Bona Fides and reputation in the US. At the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.


Allowing for some “Less Is More” time with a quartet from Australia known as The Seekers. Lead by Judith Dunham. Who still has the best pipes in the business, And backed up by a guitars, banjo and a stand up bass. Their ‘World Of Our Own’ and ‘Another You’ are fine examples of clean harmonies and rhythms. Followed closely by Cyrkle and their ‘Red Rubber Ball’. And The Left Banke‘s ‘Walk Away Renee’ for its melancholy vocals and flute interludes. While, closer to home, Simon and Garfunkel were back from coffee houses. A venue they never should have left. Since their voices and harmonies were made for close, intimate surroundings. My taste was in March, 1969. At The Birchmere in North West Washington, DC. And “busking” (Street playing for loose change) the streets of London. Making themselves knows with albums ‘Wednesday Morning: 3 AM’ and ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’. With The Vogues’ Philly Street Corner Acapella influenced, ‘5 o’clock World’ close by to lighten the load.

To The Beach Boys for superb harmonies. With and without instruments. Having seemed to matured with their pre-MTV B&W video and promo for their ‘Sloop John B’.


A sterling example of “with and without’. Long before moving on to their marvelous, no frills Acapella multi album, ‘Pet Sounds’!

Keeping me well occupied until Woodstock rolled around. More out of happenstance and spontaneity than planning and scheduling. An event that will never happen again. Mostly due to those two factors than anything else. Though, for “A-List Talent”, former alums of Monterey and some new talent peeking out from under the stage. It’s very hard to beat!

JanisJoplinEspecially Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Canned Heat (Still think their ‘Going Up The Country’ is an unexpected masterpiece!), The Band, Blood, Sweat and Tears for their superior brass. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. And more than enough grist to keep me occupied from those who declined or couldn’t make the gig.

Specifically Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. For Frank’s minor Guitar God mastery, off the wall lyrics, Hendrix like innovation at sound creation and strange tales. Chicago, The Byrds, The Jeff Beck Group, or Cream. Take your pick. Because… Eric Clapton. And The Moody Blues.

Almost too much variety to pursue and fill time. Until i happened across Capitol Records’ press of The Beatles‘ ‘Rubber Soul’. Listened to and purchased earlier. Allowed to “age”. As I am apt to do with mail, paperback and hard cover book purchases, sauces, marinades, vegetables or specific cuts of meat for an experimental or specifically planned therapeutic time in the kitchen and meal.

The group that my sister and myriad others had gone “Ga Ga” over years before than grown up and were showing off their lineage and what they’d learned in years previous. Specifically, their pre-Quarrymen, “Skiffle” (Guitar, Washboard, Washtub or Tea Chest Bass) inspired ”I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “I’m Looking Through You’.


Along with ‘Michelle’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’. Diverse cuts and puzzle pieces that mesh to create what music aficionados long for… An album with no bad cuts! Primed and ready to join the ranks of Janis Joplin’s ‘Cheap Thrills’. Any of the early Simon & Garfunkel albums. ‘Monterey Pop’. ‘Woostock’ Frank Zappa and the Mother’s ‘Overnight Sensation’ and ‘Apostrophe’. The Band’s ‘Rock of Ages’. The Grateful Dead’s ‘American Beauty’. Eva Cassidy’s ‘Live At Blues Alley’, Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’, The Beach Boys ‘Pets Sounds’, And Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’.


Author’s Note: A Hat Tip and Shout out to Cindy Bruchman and her exquisite post on Janis Joplin and ‘Cheap Thrills’. Which diverted my thoughts away from Classic Films and supplying the impetus for this belated piece of personal history.

Additional: Nearly all of the artists and their works mentioned can be found on You Tube.

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Check out Kevin’s other posts and reviews


Wish to offer your own 60s music memories? The Floor Is Open For Discussion!

Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2015 viewings

I saw this list on Variety on 10 Actors To Watch in 2015 and I realized I dropped the ball on this Actor Discoveries post last year. I mentioned in the first post back in 2012 that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. I planned on making this post an annual thing but alas, the last time I did this post was in 2013.

On that list, I included Lake Bell, Daniel Brühl, Riz Ahmed, Andrea Riseborough and David Oyelowo. Since then, most of them have been getting more prominent roles, with the exception of Riseborough which I think is so criminally under-utilized. Since I didn’t make a list last year, certainly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid would’ve made my 2014 shortlist.

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So, based on this year’s viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Carmen Ejogo

Ejogo

The Oscars not only dropped the ball on several counts when it comes to SELMA last year. Much was made about the omission of Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo from the nomination list, but I think Carmen Ejogo was equally deserving to be amongst the Best Supporting Actress nominees.

Like his co-star, she’s from the UK but she effortlessly portrayed an American. She’s been working in a variety of TV and film, so I feel kinda bad that I hadn’t seen her until this year. There’s a certain elegance and tortured soul about her that makes her so intriguing to watch. I’m hoping her career would benefit from the Oscar buzz and that she’d be getting more and more prominent roles.

What’s Next: Jazz biopic Born to Be Blue with Ethan Hawke

Jack Huston

Huston

I noticed Jack Huston when I saw American Hustle, but it wasn’t until Night Train in Lisbon that I became a fan. Huston has quite a Hollywood pedigree, being the grandson of famed filmmaker John Huston and nephew of Anjelica Huston. But the 32-year-old Londoner is a talented actor in his own right.

I like that he has one of those *ethnically hard to pin down* look about him that makes him suitable to play different kinds of ethnicity. In Night Train to Lisbon he played a Portuguese doctor and an American mobster in American Hustle. As many actors who grew up in the UK, he’s got a knack for accents which makes him even more versatile. I wasn’t thrilled at all when they announced they’re remaking Ben-Hur, but since they cast Huston in the titular role, I’m actually intrigued! I’d love to see more of him in a variety of roles, as he’s far more interesting to watch than a lot of Hollywood A-listers working today.

What’s Next: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (as Mr. Wickham) and the Ben-Hur remake

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Rebecca Ferguson

Ferguson

My friend Ashley had told me about the Starz’s miniseries The White Queen a while back, but I haven’t got around to seeing it. Well, it’s on the top of my Amazon Prime queue now after I saw Rebecca in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. I really couldn’t shut up about how impressed I was with her in that role. It was surely a kick-ass performance but she didn’t just pull off the physicality of the role, but she elevates the role into so much more. She’s equally as intriguing as Tom Cruise if not more so, and no doubt she’s the most memorable part about that film.

As I’ve blogged about here, I’m thrilled to see her cast in The Girl on the Train and I’m glad she didn’t end up becoming Channing Tatum’s love interest in Gambit. She’s so much more interesting to be pigeonholed into action roles, and so I hope Hollywood realizes that.

What’s Next: She’ll be in the upcoming espionage drama Despite The Falling SnowShe’ll be starring with Sam Reid, wahoo!!
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Sarah Snook

Snook

Sometimes it only takes a single film for you to become an instant fan of a performer. That’s the case with Sarah Snook, who single-handedly stole the time travel sci-fi film Predestination with her outstanding performance.

As I mentioned in my review, it was a revelatory performance from the Aussie actress whose educated at National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. It’s quite a complex role with multiple layers but it’s so rewarding to see how she tackles each one convincingly and with so much heart.

What’s Next: She has a small role in the Aussie-set drama starring Kate Winslet, The Dressmaker. She’s also in the Steve Jobs film with Michael Fassbender. I hope she lands a leading role soon, she deserves it!
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Stanley Weber

Weber

Well I think this one doesn’t need much introduction if you’ve been reading my blog this year. I have mentioned him practically every week since I discovered him on April 5 in the Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending (yes I even remembered the date!). It’s one of those spellbound moments that doesn’t happen very often, but once it did, well, it’s REALLY hard to snap out of it😛

I’ve posted a full tribute for him here that list five of my favorite roles of his so far. It takes more than a pretty face for me to be obsessed with someone, and Stanley certainly is a dedicated actor who can handle stage, TV AND film roles, in fact that’s what he’s juggling this year alone. I LOVE actors who loves to mix things up and not afraid to look unglamorous for a role. It’d be tough to make this Frenchman look ugly though, I mean he’s still so beautiful even with THIS haircut for his upcoming role as a Jesuit priest in Pilgrimage.

What’s Next: I can’t freakin’ wait to see Stanley in STARZ’s Outlander season 2, the adventure drama Pilgrimage, and the French WWII drama L’origine de la violence. Hopefully all of them will be out next year!!
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Honorable Mentions:

I hadn’t heard of any of these five impressive performers prior to 2015, but I’m glad I saw them and I hope they continue to find prominent roles in Hollywood.

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Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

The Swedish actress seems to have had quite an astronomical rise to stardom in Hollywood. She had been working in her native country until about 2012 when she was cast with Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair. I didn’t see Anna Karenina until earlier this year on the plane, in which she had a small role, but it wasn’t until Ex Machina that I really took notice of her. She has this delicate physique but a formidable screen charisma that makes her so lovely to watch. It’s no surprise she is one busy girl, with three more films scheduled to open later this year, as well as the untitled Bourne film with Matt Damon next year.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man)

As I was watching the John le Carré spy drama, one of the performances that intrigued me was by the actor who portrayed the mysterious Issa Karpov. I found out later that Dobrygin is a Russian actor who’s a classically-trained ballet dancer. He apparently won a Silver Bear award for Best Actor at Berlin Film Festival for Russian film How I Ended This Summer.

I definitely would love to see more of him in Hollywood, hopefully he will continue acting and not go back to go back to ballet. Per The Guardian, he has just finished on Susanna White’s Our Kind of Traitor, with Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris.

Karidja Touré (Girlhood)

Another French actor who caught my eye and this was her feature film debut! The 21-year-old has that undeniable charm and screen presence on top of her acting talent. Her parents are from the Ivory Coast but she was born in France and grew up in Paris. I hope she’d get the same opportunities as fellow French actor from north African origin, Omar Sy, who had a breakout role in The Intouchables. He’s gone to big budget route such as Jurassic World, but I’d like to see Touré in smaller films that would offer her a chance to show what she’s capable of.

Maika Monroe (The Guest)

The Guest feature two awesome performances from relative newcomers. I’m already familiar with Dan Stevens from his period drama days in the UK, though most Americans probably saw him here for the first time. I hadn’t seen Monroe before however, and right away I thought she has an uncanny resemblance to Gwen Stefani. She also has that cool factor, that effortless swagger of a rock star that makes her fun to watch. She’s also in the buzzed-about horror flick It Follows, so I think the 22-year-old Californian has a long career ahead of her.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman)

Speaking of swagger, there’s plenty of that to be found on the 25-year-old Welsh native. There’s a devil-may-care attitude in him that I find endearing, which reminds me a bit of Tom Hardy when I first saw him on screen. I haven’t seen him in a serious drama yet so I’m curious to see how he fares in that. Hollywood’s certainly taken notice of him, as he’s been cast as the Robin Hood reboot. We’ll also see him along with Hardy in LEGEND later this year.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd)

The Belgian actor has been working pretty steadily since the early 2000s but for some reason I just never got around to seeing any of his films until earlier this year. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting him in the role of Gabriel Oak, a classic romantic hero in Victorian England, but he won me over with his sensitive portrayal. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him. I said in my review that he reminds me a bit of Viggo Mortensen, and that’s a good thing. Curious to see what role he’d tackle next, but I probably should go back and check out his older films.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

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Thursday Movie Picks #56: Alien Invasion of Earth

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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… 

Alien Invasion of Earth

This month’s theme turns out to be pretty easy as there are actually not that many to pick from for me. A lot of the scifis I like are more about humans & robots, not aliens.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.

When someone says ‘alien invasion movies,’ the first thing that came to mind is this. In fact, I asked my hubby and that’s the first thing that came to his mind as well. It’d also my pick for apocalyptic blockbuster as it’s just so much fun! I remember when I saw it on the big screen for the first time, there’s a sense of awe and intrigue when those big spaceships first appeared hovering above the sky.

ID4

I mean, all the action set pieces like the White House blowing up, Will Smith punching the ugly, slimy alien in the face, and that bombastic aerial battle at the end are still memorably epic to this day! It’s an awesome ensemble cast too, Jeff Goldblum has the snark and swagger to make any role memorable. And of course there’s that rousing, albeit corny, presidential speech from Bill Pullman… “We won’t go quietly into the night!” There’s nothing quiet about this flick and I love it all the better for it!

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SIGNS (2002)

A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.

Let me preface this pick with the fact that despite the atrocity of The Happening, I actually still have hope for M. Night’s career. He’s made two excellent films you could consider a classic (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) and the other two in his resume, The Village and Signs, left a lasting impression that I thought about them for days after seeing them. I know his films have their share of ardent fans and equally passionate detractors.

SIGNSmovie

I’m not saying SIGNS is a perfect film, there are some preposterous, even laughable moments. But I like that it’s really not so much about alien invasion, but he took some of the classic elements of that genre and turn it on its head. In the same way that Sixth Sense isn’t your typical ghost story and Unbreakable offers a compelling twist in the crowded superhero genre, Signs deals with a broader theme. It’s an intimate film about a close-knit family, led by a former pastor dealing with a crisis of faith. The mystery and suspense surrounding the aliens themselves was pretty fun to watch the first time around, but it isn’t the heart of the film and it’s not what stuck with me afterwards. I like the emotional and spiritual aspect, and how a dire predicament actually helps restore a man’s soul and brings his family together. It’s been ages since I saw this but I definitely want to see this again. Excellent acting all around too by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Pacific Rim (2013)

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

I love LOVE this movie! I never thought I’d love a big monster movie THIS much but what can I say, it’s awesome. Or as one character in the movie said, “That’s two-thousand five-hundred tons of awesome!’😀 I don’t think it’d be a major spoiler to say that it’s as much an alien invasion movie as it’s a big monster flick. The Kaijus are obviously not from this world, they’re mammoth biological weapons sent by an alien colony through a portal for a specific mission: wipeout humankind. Guillermo del Toro did an amazing job making these creatures look organic like a dinosaur, but with thick, gunky blue blood that actually looks cool the bloodier the darn thing is.

PacRim

All the fight scenes between the Kaijus and the massive human-powered robots called Jaegers are wonderfully staged. But I love that we constantly see the humans powering these machines and some of the scenes are actually quite emotional. I like the father-daughter dynamic between Idris Elba‘s and Rinku Kikuchi‘s, and a flirty banter between Rinku and hunky Charlie Hunnam, as well as a slew of fun supporting characters that enrich the movie. Just like ID4, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s something so giddily-amusing about the fight scenes, like when a Jaeger named Gypsy Danger swung a huge, Titanic-sized ship and hurl it at the Kaiju. You just want to get up and cheer when those moments came on!

I saw this movie twice on the big screen and loved every minute of it. I’ve since bought the Bluray and it’s gotten a lot of play in my house.

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What do you think of my alien-invasion movie picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #54: Sequels

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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… 

Sequels!

Since I have to pick only three out of a possible 10-20 sequels that have become my favorites, I have to set some sort of parameter to narrow things down. So for this particular list, I’m focusing on live-action movie sequels of the last decade. So that means I’ll be excluding some great animated movie sequels like Toy Story 2 and How To Train Your Dragon 2, as well as some of my all time favorites like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, X-Men 2, Terminator 2, The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, or even Spider-man II as that was released eleven years ago. Interestingly, I ended up picking three that are part of a trilogy (the final film of the rebooted ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie, War of the Planet of the Apes, is in the works for 2017).

So without further ado, here are my picks of three favorite sequels of the last 10 years:

Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
TMP_Sequels_Bourne3

Jason Bourne dodges a ruthless CIA official and his agents from a new assassination program while searching for the origins of his life as a trained killer.

For some reason I had not reviewed any of the original Bourne trilogy but they certainly are superior than Bourne Legacy. For one thing, Jeremy Renner just isn’t charismatic or intriguing enough as a super spy. Matt Damon on the other hand, somehow fits the role of Jason Bourne perfectly. I actually wasn’t a big fan of the actor until I saw Bourne Identity, but Damon absolutely killed it as a trained killer. The final third chapter of Bourne’s journey is one relentless thrill ride, featuring some of the craziest car chases ever filmed thanks to Paul Greengrass’ phenomenal camera work. The film also benefited David Strathairn and Joan Allen’s performances in the supporting role. Plus the music by Moby is awesome, I’ve done a Music Break on that a couple of years ago.

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The Dark Knight (2008)TMP_Sequels_TheDarkKnight

When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the caped crusader must come to terms with one of the greatest psychological tests of his ability to fight injustice.

When you’re talking about best sequels of the last decade, you can’t possibly overlook this masterpiece by Christopher Nolan. I have seen it half a dozen times and I’m always in awe every single time. It’s SO much more than just popcorn entertainment, though there are fun action scenes abound like the awesome truck-flip sequence (one of those scenes I could watch over and over). But what really riled me up and stayed with me for days after is THIS interrogation scene between Batman & The Joker. Two of this generation’s finest actors together in one room, Christian Bale & Heath Ledger were in top form here, each giving an Oscar-caliber performance. Ledger won a Best Actor award posthumously, but even if he hadn’t passed away, he deserved at least a nomination for that riveting performance.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)TMP_Sequels_DawnPlanetApes

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.

I never thought I’d like this *intelligent apes* story when I saw the first film, as I hadn’t even seen the original Charlton Heston movie by then. But I was so taken by Caesar’s story, played brilliantly by mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis. The second film proved to be an even more emotional journey for Caesar, I teared up on that scene when he saw the house he grew up in. The film isn’t perfect, i.e. what’s up with Gary Oldman’s screaming matches, but overall it was a truly immersive experience. Matt Reeves created a wonderfully atmospheric loaded with genuine suspense and terror, as gripping as it is emotionally-gratifying. [my full review]. Glad he’ll be back for the third film.

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What do you think of my SEQUELS picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #53: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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… 

Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

It’s interesting that the requirement for this sci-fi genre is no space/aliens as a lot of my favorites in this genre aren’t the ones with aliens in them. In fact, I love sci-fis that don’t look or feel science fiction-y, in fact, intriguing sci-fis are those with rich layers of human drama that remind us what it means to be humans.

I immediately thought of including Ex Machina here, but I decided not to include something from this year. Instead, I’m selecting three from the past few years that have a small/modest budget (under $25 mil) that have made a big impression on me:

Predestination (2014)

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

TMP_Predestination

As I mentioned in my review, the less you know about the plot the better the experience. Since I was just talking about directing duos, I have to mention the Spierig Brothers who also made this vampire sci-fi Daybreakers. The premise is rather bizarre and definitely not an easy one to grasp, but it’s well worth a watch. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey. Snook is quite a revelation here and I kept hoping to see her getting prominent roles.

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HER (2013)

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

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Once in a while, a film you hadn’t heard much about suddenly sneaked in and took your breath away. In 2013, that film for me was HER. That’s what I wrote in my review over a year ago, and there’s still very few films that affected me emotionally the way this one did.

There are many robot/human *love* stories that’s been done time and again but what Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) experienced with Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) is quite unlike any other. For one, there’s no physical presence of Samantha in the film but yet her presence is felt so viscerally. I’m going to borrow my from my own review… This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction story that I wish Hollywood would make more of. Sci-fi is not always about aliens or cool-looking futuristic equipments or cars or what have you, but a good sci-fi should actually makes us ponder about our own humanity. I realize this film isn’t for everyone as there are a few people I recommended this to that aren’t wowed by it. That said, I think you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a shot.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

A love triangle develops between three friends who came of age at a mysterious, secluded boarding school and are destined to lead brief lives.

TMP_NeverLetMeGo

This is another film where the less you know about the plot the better. If you just look at still photos or even the poster (which you can see on my review post), you’d never thought this is a sci-fi. It looks more like a mystery drama, and I think that’s the vibe director Mark Romanek was going for. Working from Alex Garland’s script, who later made his directorial debut in Ex Machina, the pace is decidedly slow and graceful in the way things unfold. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story. I really need to watch this again, but I remember being really absorbed by this film. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are excellent here, it’s still one of my favorite performance from both of them even after seeing more of their work. It’s also exquisitely-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film.

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What do you think of my sci-fi picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

 

Five Favorite Movie Quotes from Inspiring Female Characters

FiveFaveFemaleQuotes

I’m taking a bit of a blogging break and throughout the Summer I’m actually going to blog a bit less as I’m working on my novel/script [still deciding which format it’ll end up to be], plus I just need a break from review writing.

But as I mull over the topic presented by guest blogger Izzy on this post about Gender & Hollywood Screenwriting, it made me feel compelled to write a reaction post of sort. Izzy’s post made me ponder of some of my favorite movie quotes uttered by female characters. As Izzy pointed out, there are far fewer of memorable movie lines by female characters than the male counterparts, even fewer when it’s not romance related or about wanting something from the male co-star of the film. For example, take these two quotes from one of Hollywood’s biggest leading ladies, Julia Roberts:

“I want the fairy tale.” – Vivian, Pretty Woman

“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” – Anna Scott, Notting Hill

For me, some of the truly memorable quotes are those that represent the strength of the character, those that display their feisty-ness, survival prowess or willful defiant against what society dictate them to be.

Well, after raking my brains, here are five quotes I love from some of my favorite female characters of all time:

BetteDavisQuote

All About Eve – It was based on the 1946 short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr, although screen credit was not given for it (per Wiki)

ScarlettQuote

Gone With the Wind – 1939 American epic historical romance film adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning 1936 novel of the same name.

youfoolLOTR

IamNoManEowyn

Now, this one I had to put the scene before it to put it in context. Eowyn is perhaps one of the most well-rounded supporting female characters in blockbuster films. It’s no doubt one of the highlights of the final Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King:

ElinorQuote

FannyQuote

Both Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park were based on Jane Austen’s famous novels, which always feature strong female protagonists. I LOVE how both Elinor and Fanny are not defined by romance nor the men in their lives. Though they are in love with men who seem to be unattainable due to the societal norm of the day, they stick to their principles even if they have to emotionally suffer from it.

It’s no surprise that four of the films above are based on narrative stories written by women. And nobody could argue that there’s a shortage of female screenwriters [or female anything for that matter] in Hollywood. It’s a pity because just in the past few years, the movies that made a big impression on me happen to be written and/or directed by women, i.e. In A World, Belle, Beyond the Lights, Brave, Gone Girl, Girlhood (Bande de Filles), not to mention these three French films I saw recently that are women-centric: Thérèse Desqueyroux, Violette and Pour Une Femme (For A Woman). I like them because the protagonists break the female archetypes of women being defined by men, but show women as being the complicated, flawed and conflicted beings that we are.

As my friend Cindy wrote in her comment in Izzy’s Post, women are as complicated as men and their characters should represent that. Let’s hope we’ll see more women being active parts of Hollywood filmmaking process, both in front and behind the camera.

 


So what are some of YOUR favorite movie quotes by female characters?

Five Movies. Five Words – Vol. 4

5Movies5Words

Seems that I dropped the ball [again] on this series! Volume 3 was back in January, ahah.

I got this Five Movies in Five Words from Josh @ The Cinematic Spectacle. So basically the idea is to come up with five movies from various genres and capture the essence of the film, or whatever that comes to mind when I think of that film, in one word. As a general *rule* I’m picking films I saw in the last few months that I haven’t had the chance to review yet.

So here we go:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
MeEarlDyingGirl
endearing

Felony (2013)

Felonyintricate

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

WhatWeDointheShadowsuproarious

Populaire (2012)

Populaire frothy

Paddington (2014)

Paddingtonmirthful


Have you seen any of these? How would YOU describe them in one word?

Thursday Movie Picks #49: Animated Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

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. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Animated Movies

I grew up watching so many Disney animated movies [mostly those Princess movies] and in the 90s, starting with Pixar’s first movie Toy Story, I quickly became a huge fan of their work as well. But Disney and Pixar films are massively popular so for the purpose of this list, I’m selecting three animated films I love that are made outside of those two studios. There are quite a few out there that are worth exploring, and I’m always astonished at the huge amount of work that go into making animated features.

So here are three that left a big impression to me and worth watching over and over:

Chicken Run (2000)

When a bird “flies” into a chicken farm, the fellow chickens see him as an opportunity to escape their evil owners.

ChickenRun

I saw this Aardman animated feature years ago but I still remember it fondly. It’s such a bonkers idea to sort of remake The Great Escape but with chickens, yet it works brilliantly. Peter Lord and Nick Park’s claymation style is so unique and fun to look at, in fact the shape of the chickens alone are hysterical. I giggle just looking at them! I adore the characters, especially Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha) who’s the smartest of the bunch. She and Rocky the circus Rooster (Mel Gibson) didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, but they end up becoming close and believe it or not, their chemistry is so endearing. It’s such a hilarious and action-packed adventure that’s fun to watch over and over. It’s also got some of the funniest lines… “I don’t want to be a pie! I don’t like gravy.” Ha!

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How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.

HTTYD

I have to admit the idea of this Dreamworks Animation didn’t immediately appeal to me, so I was so surprised how much I absolutely LOVED it! Of course by the time I saw it on Blu-ray, I kicked myself for not having seen this on the big screen! The flying sequence alone would make the admission price worthwhile. I did see the sequel on the big screen but I still have a fondness for the first movie when Hiccup and Toothless first met.

It’s one of the most memorable depiction of unlikely friendship that’s funny and heartwarming. Visually it’s breathtaking, as I mentioned the flying sequence is a marvel to behold. The music by John Powell has also become my personal favorite amongst a bazillion soundtracks I hear year after year. I re-watched it just before the sequel came out and I still enjoyed it immensely. Who knew a movie about dragons could have so much heart? [read my full review]

Song of the Sea (2014)

Saoirse, a little girl who can turn into a seal, goes on an adventure with her brother to save the spirit world and other magical beings like her.

SongOftheSea

Having just seen this recently, it’s still fresh in my mind [review coming next week]. Made by Cartoon Saloon, an Irish-based animation studio, this is Tomm Moore’s second directorial effort. I immediately wanted to see it after watching The Secret of Kells. Just from the visual standpoint, it’s an amazing work of art, gorgeous and ethereal, and the movie itself has such a mythical quality. The story based on an Irish mythology certainly has a deeper meaning than the typical kids entertainment. In fact, this one might appeal to adults as much as kids.


What do you think of my picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?