Bye bye 2016! End of year recap & musings on favorite things we saw this year

2016recap

Whaddayaknow… it’s the last day of 2016. It’s been a tumultuous year to say the least… definitely a hectic one for obituary writers. I know many people have said that 2016 is cursed because so many famous people died. Well I certainly don’t believe that. Yes, many of those celebs passed away too soon, and some might think it’s the most death we’ve had in the year, but no, I don’t think any particular year is ever cursed. Still, I am saddened by the death of those who’ve made an impact on me… the likes of Alan Rickman, Prince, Charmian Carr, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, and George Michael 😦

I guess I’m an optimist as I’d rather not dwell on the negatives and try to see the good side of things. There are things I’m thankful for, some I’ve mentioned here… I don’t know how much longer I’d keep on blogging but as of right now, I’m still thankful for being a part of the film blogging community and the fun & privileges it’s afforded me.

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Speaking of which, it’s as good a time as any to thank my fellow bloggers who’ve commented on my blog for their support…

Jordan, Cindy, Margaret, MarkMichael, Steven, CourtneyKeith, Brittani, Getter, Allie, Nostra, Tom, Chris E., Esther, Eddie, Dan, WendellVinnie, Jay/Sean and Katy.

I usually post my top 10 list of the year later in January, but I did make a top 10 list of favorites from the first half of 2016… out of that list, Love & Friendship and Captain Fantastic will likely be on my final top 10 BEST list. As for worst, well, I’ve been fortunate to avoid a bunch of stinkers this year, so right now I can only think of two abominables that deserve to be on my WORST list… London Has Fallen and Passengers.

Just for fun, I thought I’d do a top 10 random favorites from the past year, like I did for my 2014 Farewell post:

Favorite leading female performance: Amy Adams (Arrival)


Favorite supporting female performance:
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Favorite leading male performance: tied – Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) & Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash)

Favorite supporting male performance: Mahersala Ali (Moonlight)

Favorite 2016 TV series: Westworld

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Favorite performance by kid actors (under 15): tied – the kids in Stranger Things & Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople)

Favorite film posters: La La Land


Favorite filmmaker discovery:
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Favorite talent(s) discovery: Ruth Negga (Loving) & Dominic Rains (Burn Country, Funeral Day)


Favorite director/writer duo
: Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin for Blood Stripe

Favorite film setting: New Zealand in Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Favorite film/tv soundtrack: Sing Street and Westworld

Favorite cinematic crush: Sam Riley (natch!)

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Can’t wait to see BBC’s SS-GB and Free Fire next year!!


Now, I thought it’d be fun if this year I ask my blog contributors to do a brief recap of some of their favorites. I can’t thank them enough for being a part of my wee blog, so check out what they have to say…

Laura’s recap

I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to write for this blog. It’s been fun having an excuse to write (outside of my mostly-neglected personal blog), I’ve gotten to see movies I might not have chosen to go to otherwise, and it’s provided multiple cheap date nights. It’s also given me a few of my favorite movies for the year, from major blockbusters to indie films from up-and-coming talent.

  • Ouija 2: Origin of Evil. As a lot of my readers know, I love horror, and while I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one at all (because the first one was super boring), I was so pleasantly surprised when it turned out to actually be really good. It was legitimately scary, which hasn’t been the case with a lot of horror movies released over the past few years, and it was well-done overall, from the acting to the cinematography. Its score on Rotten Tomatoes was incredible, especially for a horror movie sequel, and it was well-earned.
  • The Eyes of My Mother. Keeping with the horror theme, this Twin Cities Film Fest submission was excellent. It was stylistic and unnerving and I could not believe that this was writer/director Nicolas Pesce’s first film, especially at the ridiculously young age of twenty-six. After such a strong beginning, I can’t wait to see more in what will hopefully be a long, illustrious career.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Yes, I had issues with this movie. The writing could have been much better, especially from such a normally talented individual. But as a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I was still so happy to hear the first few notes of Hedwig’s Theme played over the WB logo, and getting to see all of these incredible creatures I’d been imagining since childhood so beautifully rendered on the big screen was so satisfying.

As for my favorite discovery, it’s definitely Nicolas Pesce, the writer/director of Eyes of my Mother. I was amazed that this was his debut as a filmmaker and especially blown away by how young he was to have such an incredible first movie. Considering how much I loved Eyes of My Mother, I can only imagine what else he’ll come up with as his (hopefully illustrious) career progresses.

Vince’s recap

Vince shared his top 5 films he saw in 2016:

  • Cleo from 5-7 (1962): I’m still mourning the absence of the Criterion Collection from HULU. This was one of the last I saw from Criterion that made me ask myself, “Why hadn’t I seen this before?” More engaging than the usual French new wave and a lot less pretentious in my opinion. A great intro to the work of Agnes Varda.
  • Arrival (2016): I was very impressed with this low-key gem. As a devout fan of Amy Adams (minus her forgettable Lois Lane roles) this did not disappoint. Already looking forward to Villeneuve’s Bladerunner sequel.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings (2016): I wrote a review of this earlier this year for Flixchatter and it gave me some hope for the state of animation for the coming year. Good story, some creative risk-taking and beautiful design are standards to live up to.

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  • Storm in a Teacup (1937): One of the few classics remaining in HULU, this one stars Vivien Leigh (who is gorgeous as usual) and a young Rex Harrison in an everyman role as an idealistic journalist meddling in small town politics. No Henry Higgins here but this light comedy has some things to offer in film world full of melodrama and skepticism.
  • Sing (2016): I screened this with my two young boys (courtesy of Flixchatter) and even though it is full of the usual song and dance populating most average animated films these days, they managed to do it right this time without the annoying shadow of American Idol or the Voice. Not too heavy but quite entertaining. My boys loved it. (Full review to follow)

Ted’s recap

2016 was kind of a disappointing year for me when it comes to entertainment. I love seeing big summer blockbuster films at the cinemas but for the first time in many years, I’ve skipped quite a few of them this past summer. With the exceptions of Captain America: Civil War, Jason Bourne and Star Trek: Beyond, I didn’t bother with other big summer releases. Thankfully those three big summer films were very entertaining to me. I hope next summer; Hollywood will release quality summer blockbusters instead of just lame sequels. I’m glad I saw a couple of smaller films at the theater that were quite good, Hell or High Water and Don’t Breathe came out of nowhere and were very successful with both critics and audiences.

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While the summer season was forgettable to me, the fall/winter movies were much better. I really enjoyed Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Sully and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I have yet to see my most anticipated movie of the year, Martin Scorsese’s Silence, I hope it won’t be a disappointment like this year has been so far.

Television shows have been quite good the last few years and with the popularity of Netflix original shows, I thought both DareDevil and Luke Cage were some of the best shows on TV this year. Another show on Netflix that I can’t get enough of is House of Cards, season 4 was an improvement because I was very disappointed with how season 3 turned out.

Blog Plans for 2017:

52FilmsByWomenWell, I made a pledge to watch 52 FILMS By Women, part of WomenInFilm.org but I’m about 10 films short, and that includes rewatches of films by women, i.e. Belle, Bride & Prejudice and You’ve Got Mail. So I definitely plan to watch more films written and/or directed by women in the new year and beyond!

I don’t know if I’ll participate in Blind Spot series again this year, but I might take part in Wandering Through The Shelves’ Thursday Movie Picks more often to give me a break from reviewing films. I also want to do more Music Break posts next year.


Well that’s FlixChatter’s year-end recap folks! Here’s to a more joyful, blessed & prosperous NEW YEAR… cinematically and otherwise.

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Christmas Weekend Recap: Scrooged + binging on Westworld

Happy last Tuesday of the year folks! Hope you had a lovely Christmas break. Mine is relatively mellow on Christmas day, though we did go up North to Duluth Friday and spent the night there to see the Bentleyville Tour of Lights (I’ve shared the pics here).

We came back in time for Christmas Eve church service, which was wonderful. For the next couple of days, we pretty much hibernated indoors as the weather is quite frightful outside. But hey, it gave us a chance to finally watch a Christmas classic we’ve missed all these years…

SCROOGED

scrooged

Thanks to Courtney’s post on her favorite things about Scrooged, I thought it’s about time I checked it out. My hubby and I loved Bill Murray and the movie is directed by Richard Donner, who I’ll love forever for giving us Superman: The Movie. Well, the updated Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas staple and it’s easy to see why. Murray is perfect as a selfish, heartless TV exec, he’s just effortlessly funny and the slapstick stuff was hysterical. Nice to see Karen Allen here too though she’s barely given anything to do. The movie itself isn’t exactly perfect but still it was a lot of fun and has that rousing ending with great music. Glad I finally saw this movie, a Christmas must-see movie I can now cross off my list.

WESTWORLD

westworld

If you were to ask me to sum up what I did on Christmas weekend… it’d be bingeing on Westworld! My hubby and I couldn’t wait to finally have time to devote to this series, and I much prefer to binge on tv shows these days, and having a free subscription to HBO on the first month certainly helps! It took us two days to get through halfway of the first season, with just five more episodes to go.

Well, first impression is… we LOVE it!! It’s definitely the kind of sci-fi shows we like… bold, visually-stunning, thought-provoking, well-written and well-acted… it pretty much ticks all the boxes of what a binge-worthy show should be. It reminds us a bit of another sci-fi we used to binge-watch, Battlestar Galactica, an ensemble-cast series which also deals with the interactions of humans and robots but I think Westworld is even bolder and sharper in scope. I love that the show is not melodramatic or bogged down by unnecessary romantic plots, but man does it give you a ton of stuff to think about. It’s what people call a mindf*ck in the best possible way! The cast are simply astounding and most of them bring their A-game to the series. If I had to list my four favorite characters, it’d have to be these:


Anthony Hopkins effortlessly adds gravitas as the park creator, whilst Ed Harris is wonderfully menacing and cool as hell as Man in Black. He’s such a terrific actor, and he adds SO much to his role. I can see why Margaret goes ga ga over him now 😉 I haven’t seen Evan Rachel Wood in hardly anything, but she’s no doubt the heart of the show and her acting is phenomenal!! I sure hope this show will give a boost to her career as she’s clearly very talented. As for Thandie Newton, this is perhaps the strongest performance I’ve seen her in, though she was memorable in Crash and Rocknrolla.


I’m also impressed with James Marsden who I think is an underrated actor who people might not take seriously because of his good looks. Well he’s still a sight to behold here as the cowboy Teddy, but at least he gets to show his acting chops too. I’m most intrigued by Jeffrey Wright‘s Bernard, as he seems to have a hidden agenda that’s been hinted out since episode 1. But please guys, NO SPOILERS in the comment as I’ve only got to episode 5. My hubby and I couldn’t help watching fan theories on youtube after each episode, there’s really SO MUCH to ponder and analyze, that’s why we’re limiting ourselves to a couple of episodes a day even though we can’t get enough!

The Nolans sure have the brains for storytelling. Jonathan Nolan‘s written a ton of my fave films with his brother Christopher (esp. The Dark Knight). Here he teamed up with his wife Lisa Joy who’s a talented TV writer in her own right. Executive producer JJ Abrams sure has a midas touch too, is there anything that guy can’t do?? I might also check out Michael Crichton‘s 1973 film Westworld in which the series’s concept is based on. I had no idea Crichton was also a film director on top of being a best-selling author.

Well, I’ll do another summary post again once I’m done w/ the season. So far I think Westworld does live up to the hype!


So what did you watch this Christmas weekend? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Westworld too!

NOVEMBER 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

nov16recap

Well I guess we better get used to saying ‘see ya next year’ now that we’ve only got a month left in 2016! Of course now that award season is officially in full swing, there’s a slew of new film screenings coming in December! I sure hope next month isn’t going to be too snowy. I don’t mind cold temps so long as it won’t cause traffic havoc, which always happen whenever there’s a snowstorm.

After a hectic October, I only watched a third of what I did last month. But I had been busy planning a script reading in January and I also did a phone pitch to a producer in the UK for the first time. I bought a pitch session via Stage 32 site just to see if I could do it, it was nerve-wracking!

In any case, stay tuned for some of the interviews from TCFF I haven’t posted yet, i.e. my chat w/ indie comedy Funeral Day‘s director Jon Weinberg and star Dominic Rains.

Here are movies I saw in October:

New-to-me Movies

(Click on the underlined titles for a full review)

drstrange

Doctor Strange (2016)

xmenapocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

arrival

Arrival (2016)

welltakemanhattan

We’ll Take Manhattan (2012)

allied

Allied (2016)

wilderpeople

Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)

littleprince

The Little Prince (2015)

loving

Loving (2016)

fantasticbeasts

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016)

theshallows

The Shallows (2016)

cairotime

Cairo Time (2009)

talesbylight

Tales By Light documentary (2016)

We also got to see season 1 of this amazing Netflix Original documentary. It follows five photographers around the world documenting their approach to photography and story telling. A must for photography lovers, or those who appreciate beautiful imagery (and who doesn’t?)
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Movies I look forward to in December

So far I’ve RSVP-ed to see Miss Sloane, Jackie, Passengers, and Rogue One in the next couple of weeks. My blog contributor Laura S. will be watching/reviewing Office Christmas Party, Why Him?, and Collateral Beauty. There are even screenings scheduled for January and I can’t wait to see Hidden Figures!


Rewatches


Casablanca
| Sing Street | Love and Friendship

After watching the sputtering Allied (thanks for that description Cindy!) which has many scenes in Morroco, I’ve convinced my hubby to finally watch the masterful classic WWII romance Casablanca! Well let’s just say it was still amazing and though it looked beautiful, it wasn’t style over substance. The other two films were in my top 10 fave movies of the year. I’m glad Sing Street is on Netflix now, and I watched Love & Friendship on the plane back from Vegas.


MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

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We have a tie again this month! I have written a review of Hunt For the Wilderpeople and Arrival that I’ll be posting next week. They’re two very different films in terms of tone and plot, but both are excellent in their own right. You can rent ‘Wilderpeople’ now and Arrival is in theaters, so I highly recommend both of these if you haven’t seen them already. Both will surely make it to my top 10 BEST of the year!


Well that’s my viewing recap of NOVEMBER. What’s YOUR favorite film(s) of the month?

Week In Review: Hunt For the Wilderpeople + Loving + The Little Prince

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How’s your weekend everyone? It’s been a while since I did a roundup post, but I figure it’s a good way for me to ease my way into blogging again. It’s been a particularly gratifying week as I saw two of my highly-anticipated films, Loving and Hunt For the Wilderpeople. As Winter has officially arrived, we pretty much hibernated this weekend so my hubby and I saw The Little Prince on Netflix Saturday night.

Below is my mini reviews of two of the films I saw this past week, plus quick thoughts on the New Zealander adventure comedy…

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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I became a huge fan of Taika Waititi‘s work since the hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows. Well, he’s come up with yet another riotously-funny movie that could practically double as a travel video for New Zealand!

I will do a full review of this later in December, but right now all I can say is… RUN, don’t walk to rent this movie!! I’m gutted that I missed this on the big screen, not sure that it even had a theatrical release here in MN. In any case, I enjoyed the heck out of this one. LOVE the unlikely duo of veteran actor Sam Neill with newcomer Julian Dennison, a riotous 14-year-old NZ child actor with an amazing comic timing and screen presence. He’s inspired me to do a top 10 list of great 2016 performances by kid actors, so stay tuned for that!


Loving

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Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.

This film couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is surely in tumultuous times right now. It seems appalling that interracial marriage was still illegal in some states fifty some years ago, but have we really come that far since? The latest film from Jeff Nichols is beautifully-told, graceful and affecting as the filmmaker focused on the couple themselves instead of making a political statement. Yes of course the film has a major political and social implication, as the Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia put an end to all miscegenation laws in 1967. But at the end of the day, the story is about two human beings who loved each other and wanted to raise a family together.

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Both Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton portrayed Mildred and Richard with such quiet grace and sincerity. It’s an understated performance that speaks volumes and conveys the tension as well as poignancy of what they went through. For someone withe the name Loving, Richard surely lives up to that and it’s truly a beautiful marriage built on not just love, but mutual respect. Michael Shannon has a small–but–memorable cameo as a LIFE magazine photographer who took the iconic shots of the couple as they simply hang out in their home, watching tv, playing with their kids, etc. There’s also Marton Csokas as the ‘villain’ of the story, the Virginia sheriff who arrested them.

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The script, direction and performance all work beautifully to bring the Lovings’ story to life. The cinematography and music are beautiful and evocative, it works in transporting us to a certain period of Americana. But it’s the journey of the Lovings that I shall never forget. By making the film about the couple, forgoing court drama theatrics, Nichols made a deeply moving film that connected with me in a refreshingly real way.

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The Little Prince (2015)

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A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

Truth be told, I’m not that familiar with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, despite it being the fourth most translated book in the world. This is the first animated feature film adaptation of the book, directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), boasting a terrific cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Ricky Gervais, etc.

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I have a penchant for these kinds of imaginative stories, one that blends in reality and fantasy set in striking visuals. The little girl’s relationship with her overly-ambitious mother is an interesting commentary about the overly-structured life of an adult vs the wide-eyed openness of a child exploring the world. I have to admit it took me a while to get into this one at first, even after the girl (Mackenzie Foy, who was in Interstellar) meets the narrator, an elderly man (Jeff Bridges) who told her the tale about the aviator and the little prince. I’m often lost in the beauty of the visuals, especially the stop-motion scenes in the desert created using paper. It’s absolutely gorgeous with a dreamy quality, but yet for some reason I couldn’t connect to the story nor the characters as much as I wanted to. I wonder if at times there’s a case of ‘lost in translation’ here from the original story.

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There are philosophical quotes that resonated with me however, such as “One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.” I also enjoyed the music by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey, which nicely complements the ethereal, watercolor look of the film. It certainly is worth a watch, for sure it’s a technical/visual marvel, even if the film overall isn’t as breathtaking as I had hoped.

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More reviews coming your way…

I’ve written up my full review of Doctor Strange coming later this week. My hubby and I saw Arrival last weekend, right after we’re back from our Zion/Vegas trip, which was truly one of the best, most affecting sci-fi film I’ve seen in a good while.  I plan on writing my review of Arrival and Moonlight (one of the two October Movies of the Month!) later this week. I’ll be seeing the new Brad Pitt/Marion Cotillard spy drama Allied tonight, and if the snow storm doesn’t wreck havoc on traffic, hopefully I’ll be seeing Hidden Figures tomorrow night! Oh and my new blog contributor Laura S. also gave me a review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so stay tuned for a slew of new reviews in the next few weeks!

#SlowlyGettingMyBloggingMojoBack 😉


So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these movies, I’m curious to hear what YOU think. 

OCTOBER 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

Am I the only one still in disbelief it’s November already?? But I’m glad the temp hasn’t dipped that much yet, this week’s still gonna be in the mid 50s to 60 degrees, which is much warmer than usual, yay!

Well, it’s no surprise October is the busiest month for me, thanks to TCFF! I also managed to squeeze in a few new releases before the film fest started. Suffice to say I saw the most films in October than any other month!

Here are movies I saw in October:

New-to-me Movies

The Girl On A Train

accountant_imgThe Accountant

certainwomen_imgCertain Women

jackreacher2_imgJack Reacher: Never Go Back

TCFF Movies

bloodstripe_imgBlood Stripe

architect_imgThe Architect

funeralday_imgFuneral Day

pursuitsilence_imgIn Pursuit Of Silence

junefallingdown_imgJune Falling Down

milesbetweenus_imgMiles Between Us

scientologymovie_imgMy Scientology Movie

prisondogs_imgPrison Dogs

wordofhonour_imgWord of Honour: Reclaiming Mandela’s Promise


I haven’t reviewed these films below I saw at TCFF. Some because of a studio embargo until their local release date, and some because I simply haven’t got around to writing them. I shall try to do so in the coming weeks, but honestly, I need a bit of a blogging break.

Sweet LandThe Eagle HuntressIron Will
Burn Country | 
No Light and No Land AnywhereTrespass Against Us
Claire in Motion11:55Actors of Sound
Free CeceLion | Moonlight


The Last King (2003 TV miniseries)

Earlier this month I also got to see this miniseries, directed by Joe Wright and starring the immensely watchable Rufus Sewell. It’s the chronicle of Charles II’s time on the throne, his 10 year exile from Oliver Cromwell’s England, and his triumphant return. I haven’t finished it yet but hopefully later this month, as you know I have a penchant for period dramas starring gorgeous Brits 😉

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MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

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We’ve got a tie this month! It’s tough enough to pick just TWO favorites of the month, let alone one. But these two moved me more than others and the ones I keep thinking about days after. Not only do these two feature excellent storytelling and performances, they’re also groundbreaking in many ways. It’s so rare to see female soldiers being depicted on screen, it’s even more scarce to see a good depiction of them the way Blood Stripe did.

As for Moonlight, I honestly have never seen Black sexuality/masculinity depicted in this way and it struck me just how beautiful and nuanced the story was. I’m also impressed by the casting of the protagonist, utilizing three different actors in three main stages of his life. Lets just say this film is worth the hype.


Well that’s my viewing recap of OCTOBER. What’s YOUR favorite film(s) of the month?

SEPTEMBER 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

sep16recap

Autumn is in the air! It’s been a rather cool September, especially the past week, but I LOVE the crisp Fall air as the leaves are turning. In fact we’re going to drive up north this weekend to see some gorgeous Fall foliage.

Well September have been quite eventful, thanks to Twin Cities Film Fest special screening of the indie drama The Trouble With the Truth. It was so fun to get to meet (and interview) Lea Thompson and director Jim Hemphill. The film is available on Amazon Prime and it’s got a stellar reviews, so check it out!

Here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

queenofkatwe

Queen of Katwe

bridgetjonesbaby

Bridget Jones Baby

troublewithtruth

The Trouble With The Truth

manknewinfinity

The Man Who Knew Infinity

sully

Sully

The Nice Guys

elvisnixon

Elvis & Nixon

dressmaker

The Dressmaker

birthofnation

The Birth Of A Nation

magnificentseven

The Magnificent Seven


October press screenings include The Girl On The Train, The Accountant, The Space Between Us, and Certain Women. Oh and of course a slew of films screening at TCFF! So excited about the lineup this year, so I’ll definitely be watching a ton of great films in October!


I’ve been working on a list of films by female directors I can’t wait to see, so be on the lookout for that in the next couple of weeks!


 Rewatches

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) | Jane Eyre (2011)
The Saint (1997) | Phantom of the Opera (2004) | Belle (2014)
Beauty & The Beast (1991)| Le Soleil Noir (Louis XV doc, 2009)

Naturally most of my re-watches revolves period dramas 😀

My hubby got me the 25th Anniversary edition of Beauty & The Beast so of course I watched it as soon as it arrived in the mail. It made me look forward to the 2017 live action version even more just to see how they’d pull it off!


MOVIE OF THE MONTH

Queen of Katwe

queenofkatwe

This film is such a pleasant surprise. A based-on-a-true-story that’s uplifting and inspiring and so full of heart, yet it’s not afraid to show the darkness of the protagonist’s story. My full review will be up next week!


Well that’s my viewing recap of September. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Weekend Roundup + Quick thoughts on ‘The Nice Guys’ (2016)

wkndroundupniceguys

Hello all! It’s been quite a whirlwind week for me, what with the TCFF gala on Thursday and also the MN filmmakers interviews on Saturday. But it was a good kind of busy and definitely excited for the 2016 TCFF lineup this year!

me_remyOne of the filmmakers I interviewed was Remy Auberjonois, whose film Blood Stripe, starring his wife Kate Nowlin who also co-wrote the film, will have its regional premiere at TCFF. The film won US Fiction Award at 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival this past June.

I’m excited to see the film, and it’s extra special for me to meet Remy because he’s also playing one of my fave characters of all time, Col. Brandon, in The Guthrie Theater’s 2016 adaptation of Sense & Sensibility! He’s still sporting the 18th century mustache for the role 🙂

Well, I was so busy this past week I completely missed The Magnificent Seven‘s press screening last Monday, which I could’ve gone right after my dental appt. Oh well, my hubby & I will hopefully see it this Friday. I did finally watch this one…

niceguysbnr

Ted has already reviewed it here, and I think I’d agree with the 3/5 rating. I’m not going to review it again so this is just my It’s pretty entertaining but overall it’s not a wholly memorable movie despite the competent two leads. Shane Black is known for writing the Lethal Weapon movies and his directorial debut was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so he’s definitely got a knack for buddy action comedies. I have to admit though, this one isn’t as good as those movies.

Interestingly enough, this project was apparently proposed as a TV series but the pilot was going nowhere. I could see it working w/ the right script and cast, as buddy action comedies seems quite popular on TV at some point. Casting Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a mismatched pair of private investigators is inspired casting, and this is perhaps the first comedic role I’ve seen Gosling do. I’d say he succeeded, though I still don’t see what the fuss is about him. I just don’t think he’s that special of an actor, both in terms of looks and talent. Crowe on the other hand, has always been a supremely talented and versatile actor, and I’d love to see him do more comedic roles!

Overall the movie wasn’t as funny as I had thought, perhaps because the funniest bits (like these below) are already in the trailer!

gosling_niceguys_bathroom niceguys-gun-throwing

The tone of the movie is very light with zippy dialog, though at times the scenarios are overly silly that it was like a spoof or something. There’s also a surreal scene involving a giant bug smoking and talking in the back seat of their car just seems weird and doesn’t work as well as it could. The shootout at the end is quite bombastic, featuring another interesting casting of Matt Bomer, sporting a giant mole and bowl haircut, as the hitman hired by Kim Basinger‘s character. Some of the scenes with him seems deliberately over-the-top. Speaking of Basinger, well it’s a rather thankless role and she barely made any impact in the movie.

That said, I’m glad I finally watched it. If you like this action comedy genre, it’s definitely worth a watch. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night!

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Oh, I also rewatched one of my guilty pleasures, the 1997 action flick The Saint w/ Val Kilmer & Elisabeth Shue. It’s preposterous and corny but I still enjoyed it 😉


So how was YOUR weekend? Seen anything good?

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Weekend Roundup: RIP Charmian Carr – My tribute to her performance as Liesl in ‘The Sound of Music’

Happy Monday all! How’s your weekend? Mine was quite a busy one and given the glorious weather on Saturday, my hubby and I tried to be outside as much as we could. We made a stop at the Guthrie Theater as we love to visit the endless bridge and get a great view St. Anthony Main & the Stone Arch bridge over the Mississippi River. It’s the second week run of Sense & Sensibility there and I actually caught a glimpse of a couple of the actresses during intermission of the 1pm performance! I’ll be seeing the play on Oct 14, can’t wait!

ripcharmiancarr

On a sad note, Charmian Carr, best known as Liesl in The Sound of Music just passed away this weekend at the age of 73 😦

I felt such a pang in my heart when I heard the news Sunday night. I was writing a review of the film I saw this weekend, but when I heard of her passing, I felt compelled to do a tribute for her instead.

The Sound of Music is one of the three major Hollywood classics that my late mom first showed me. She brought home three VHS from her trip to the US: Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady and The Sound Of Music. Those three films hold a special place in my heart (as those are amongst a handful of films that defined me)… so I get sentimental whenever I hear news about the film and/or the cast.

But more than that, since I saw the film when I was in my early teens, I so identified with Liesl and Carr’s performance is so beautiful and indelible. Her Sixteen Going On Seventeen rendition (with Daniel Truhitte’s Rolfe) is such a joyful and sweet celebration of young (and oh-so-innocent) romance that never fails to put a smile on my face.

I also love the reprise of the song later in the film with Julie Andrews‘ Maria. Even though Maria wasn’t Liesl’s real mother, there’s such a formidable bond between them.

It wasn’t just that Carr was beautiful and could sing beautifully, she brought the character of Liesl to live in such a wonderful way. The Sound of Music is as beloved and memorable as it is today because we all root for the Von Trapp family, and as the eldest, Liesl is certainly the most developed character of the seven children. She fell in love, went through a heartbreak, and later had to face the harsh realities of war when the boy she loved joined the Nazi party.

This Edelweiss scene where Liesl sings with her father (Christopher Plummer) always gets me all teary eyed. It’s perhaps one of my favorite on-screen duets of all time.

Though Charmian Carr only had a single film credit in her career, her contribution to film is so tremendous. I think it’s only fitting that I ended with this delightful farewell scene performed by the Von Trapp children…

Farewell Charmian Carr and rest in peace.
Thank you for your beautiful performance as Liesl…
your iconic performance shall live on.


 

Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) + SULLY (2016)

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How was your weekend everyone? It’s been a busy one for me, but a productive one. I actually did go to the movies, which is rare actually for me as I usually go to press screenings on week nights. But after dinner my hubby and I felt like checking out the new AMC theaters with the new reclining seats, which are indeed awesome! SULLY was the only one we’re interested in that is less than 2 hrs long, though it felt a bit eerie watching a plane crash scene in NYC on the weekend of 9/11.

In any case, on Friday night, we also rented a movie we’ve been curious about for some time…

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

maninfinity

The story of the life and academic career of the pioneer Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his friendship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy.

I have to say that being terrible at math, I’m not that familiar w/ the subject of this biopic. But Of course, just checking on Wikipedia, he’s an extraordinary man whose math theories are still being used today.

Stories about geniuses are popular biopic subjects in Hollywood, i.e. A Beautiful Mind, The Imitation Game, etc. The film traced his humble beginning in Madras, India and how he ended up at Trinity College, Cambridge in the 1910s. Dev Patel bears no resemblance to the real Ramanujan, but he seems to be the only actor of Indian descent working the British film industry could think of to cast. He’s a likable actor, and I think he’s quite believable in the role.

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Jeremy Irons plays G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan’s mentor who invited him to Cambridge to the first place. The film began with Hardy’s voice over saying how much he owed Ramanujan, which suggests there’s a deep friendship between the two. The rapport between the two characters is a bit of a slow built. The main friction between the two is that Hardy refuses to publish Ramanujan’s theories without proofs, whilst Ramanujan’s convinced all his theories add up. There’s also the fact that Hardy didn’t seem sensitive enough to the challenges Ramanujan faces at Cambridge, including his sense of alienation the fact that he’s an Indian studying amongst British intellectual elites.

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As far as biopics go, this one is pretty straight forward. Though the subject matter deals with theorems and formulas, I wish the film is less um, formulaic. The film could’ve been really engrossing under a skilled/experienced filmmaker, but this is director Matt Brown‘s sophomore work, so overall it’s pretty dry. It’s an intriguing journey about a brilliant person, but yet I just wasn’t as involved or moved by his story as I expected. The performances are pretty good, though I’ve seen more impressive work from everyone involved, including Toby Jones as J.E. Littlewood, one of Ramanujan’s advisers. Stephen Fry barely made a dent though as he only appeared briefly in the film.

I do appreciate the spirituality aspect of the protagonist who’s a devout Hindu. Contrast that with Hardy who’s a professed atheist, there’s a few interesting banters between them. Ramanujan said at one point that “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” He still prayed regularly when he’s at Cambridge, so faith certainly played a big part in his life. The film also showed his selfless nature that he hid his illness from his friend. The fact that the university was being used as a hospital during World War I, he also felt that his condition just wasn’t bad enough as the soldiers that he deserved care.

I suppose the film is still worth a look if you’re curious about Ramanujan’s story. Though it wasn’t a great film, I’m still glad I saw it and the protagonist no doubt has a story worth telling.

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SULLY (2016)

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The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.

The last Clint Eastwood-directed film I saw was Invictus which was back in 2009. It also happens to be the shortest film he has directed at 96 minutes, which is the reason we picked this one when my hubby and I was deciding on which new release movie to see on Saturday night.

It really is quite a feat that a film where the ending is well-known, given that it happened only seven years ago, still manages to be quite riveting. Of course Eastwood got the best man for the job, there’s practically no other actor of his stature who’s as skilled AND as likable as Tom Hanks. He’s the perfect actor to play the quiet hero whose selfless and humble traits are something to aspire to. I also think Aaron Eckhart is pretty good here, though I wish Eastwood had given someone as talented as Anna Gunn more to do.

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I didn’t see this movie in IMAX but it was filmed with IMAX cameras so I bet it looked even more spectacular on screen. The plane landing scene on the Hudson river is as suspenseful as it is stunning to watch. Kudos to Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki for keeping SULLY afloat when it could’ve easily been a tedious based-on-a-true-event types of movie. Just remember this is a film, not a documentary. There’s likely a great deal of creative license taken in the way the NTSB investigations played out.

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So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

AUGUST 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

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Well, that’s it folks… Summer days are definitely numbered now that we’re entering the ‘brrr’ months. Ok so I’m being a tad dramatic. September is actually still quite warm here in the upper Midwest, and in fact Autumn is my all time favorite season, it’s just the season that followed that I’m not looking forward to.

2016 Summer blockbuster season has been seriously lackluster, with mostly duds than gems. I don’t think there’s a single film I absolutely love, except maybe Pete’s Dragon, but it remains to be seen if that would be a classic down the road. Well, I always look forward to smaller Fall films.

September screenings include Queen of Katwe, Sully, Blair Witch, Bridget Jones Baby and The Dressmaker. None of them are on my must-see list, but I’d think they’d be pretty entertaining. Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for Bridget Jones Baby (and she’s in it as well), so that’s the main draw for me in seeing it. Still hoping there’d be a screening for The Magnificent Seven and American Honey!

So anyway, here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

SuicideSquad

Suicide Squad

FlorenceFJ

Florence Foster Jenkins

PetesDragon

Pete’s Dragon

BenHur

Ben-Hur

Anthropoid

Anthropoid

IANASK

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Equity

Equity

HologramForKing

A Hologram For the King

LightBetweenOceans

The Light Between Oceans

CliniqueDrBlanche

La Clinique du Docteur Blanche (2014)


That last one is a French TV movie starring Stanley Weber that’s now available on Amazon Prime!


As you can see, I didn’t really see that many movies this past month. I’m so behind on my reviews, too, but I’m hoping to do my write-up of Florence Foster Jenkins, Ben-Hur, The Light Between Oceans and Equity sometime in the next couple of weeks.


I’ve also posted my top 10 list of the year so far…
are any of your favorites on the list?


 TV Series

WineShow

The Wine Show

MrRobot

Mr. Robot (Season 1)


 Rewatches


Starz’s The White QueenBBC North & South
The Age of Adaline | Not Another Happy Ending

I didn’t rewatch many movies this month. I did watch about an hour worth of the 1959 Ben-Hur, especially some of the key moments that are so indelible to this day. It’s incredible how in the age of pre-CGI, the epic chariot race still got my blood pumping, and the rowing/ship battle scenes are simply incredible. It made me miss Quintus Arius’ presence in the 2016 all the more.


MOVIE OF THE MONTH


EQUITY
 might not be the first Women-on-Wall-Street film, but it certainly is an important one that paints a realistic portrayal of real women on the male-dominated financial industry… strong, driven, ruthless, conflicted… This film isn’t afraid to show powerful women who are flawed. It’s a warts-and-all approach that I find refreshing. A far cry from the rosy, fantasy world of Mike Nichols’ Working Girl.

Produced, written, directed by women featuring a female-driven cast, this is a film I wish Hollywood would make more of! It’s not perfect, but the story’s well-crafted and Anna Gunn is excellent in the lead role.


Well that’s my viewing recap of August. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?