Weekend Viewing Roundup & Warm Bodies Review

It’s a pretty uneventful weekend for me movie-wise, but I got to meet up my old college buddy I haven’t seen in years! So it was a lovely weekend in that regard though she’s as far away from being a cinephile as it gets. The last movie she saw at the theater was Nacho Libre, ahahaha.

TheFamilyPosterWell, I didn’t get to the theater nor any screenings this past week. I’m definitely NOT missing out on The Getaway based on Terrence’s review, ahah, it looks so darn awful from the trailer alone. I am looking forward to screenings in the next two weeks though, I’ve rsvp-ed for Don Jon, Gravity, and Runner, Runner. Oh and also the mafia comedy The Family w/ Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones. Trailer looks meh but I’m hoping it’ll still be good with a cast of THIS caliber.

So this weekend I only watched Warm Bodies and rewatched one of my fave Bond films, The Living Daylights. I guess I was inspired by Zoë’s excellent review recently where she praised Dalton’s take as Bond (atta girl!) So yeah, TLD AND Dalton as 007 is still as awesome as the first time I saw it.

Here’s my review from this weekend:

WarmBodiesPoster

I’ve been curious about this zombie comedy for quite some time as lots of people seem to love it. Now, I’m not a fan of the popular Zombie sub-genre, I think I’ve only like one zombie movie and that is Shaun of the Dead (I love 28 Days Later too, but that one is SO much more than just a zombie movie).

As with most zombie movies, some sort of plague has come over the world which render most humans to become walking corpses. This movie still pretty much subscribe to what we typically assume about zombies: they walk slowly, they eat brains and of course they look like decayed corpses, though the zombies in this movie seem to look far less gory, and sometimes they’re pretty agile too. One twist in this story, which was based on a novel by Isaac Marion, there are certain levels of being undead. There are Zombies and there are Boneys, which are zombies who’ve lost all traces of their humanity and flesh, so basically they’re skeletal zombies, preying on anything with a heartbeat.

Being that it’s a zombie romance, of course it’s entirely predictable that the protagonist R (as he no longer remembers his real name), falls for a human girl and saves her from a horde of fellow zombies. The first meeting of R & Julie amidst a zombie attack isn’t exactly a meet-cute, but it’s certainly amusing. After having eaten up her boyfriend, R ends up saving Julie (Palmer) and takes her to his house, which was a discarded plane. Because zombies talk like lobotomized Tarzan, the VO narration helps us get into R’s head. He a pretty astute thinker for being a zombie, ahah. Of course this being a fantasy horror flick, absurdity is to be expected, but even so I feel that Julie is way too soon to be so comfortable with R. I guess I could see it with vampires as they have this cool, sexy vibe about ’em, but flesh-eating zombies are just gross. In any case, R & Julie got on pretty quickly. The scenes of them playing together, listening to records, etc. reminds me of 80s/90s rom-coms. The soundtrack is a hoot, I grew up listening to songs by John Waite (Missing You), Guns N’ Roses (Patience), Bruce Springsteen (Hungry Heart), etc. which gives this movie a retro feel of sort.

WarmBodiesStills

So what happens next is also predictable. The warm relationship he has with Julie somehow revives his humanity and there’s a scene where his heart actually starts beating once more. It’s an interesting twist on how our heart ‘skip a beat’ when we’re in love, ahah. Not only is this change affects R, but this odd transformation ends up spreading to the undead population like a virus. None of this is explained very well in the movie, just like we never really know how they got infected in the first place. Now, some critics call this a Romeo & Juliet story with zombie. Heh, apart from the balcony scene, and that ‘R’ might stand for Romeo with his Julie(t), it’s not exactly an apt comparison.

Thankfully, some of the inconsistencies and clunky dialog didn’t derail the movie. Both Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer (a Brit & Aussie sporting believable American accent) are more than serviceable. In fact, Hoult is a bit better — and ironically more soulful — here than in the abominable Jack & The Giant Slayer. Palmer’s face & lithe figure at times reminds me of Kristen Stewart, but she’s a hundred times more expressive! John Malkovich is entirely wasted here though, he probably could do this role in his sleep, ahah.

I enjoyed this enough but I’m quite puzzled by the high rating (81% Rotten Tomato score?) as overall it’s just ok, but not great. It’s not in the same league as Jonathan Levine‘s previous film 50/50, which I’d think is far more challenging project given the difficult subject matter. I do appreciate the fact that this one is reinvention of a popular horror genre, but I don’t think it’s all that groundbreaking. In terms of a novelty twist in a classic genre, I actually like the vampire thriller Daybreakers a lot more than this one. This one does have some fun moments though, that scene where R told Julie to walk like a zombie so she doesn’t get eaten is hilarious! It’s definitely better than Twilight (but what movie isn’t?) and the humorous tone makes it all the more watchable.

3 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend roundup folks. What did YOU watch this weekend?

Happy Birthday Cillian Murphy! 35 reasons I’m a fan of the Irish actor

A few weeks ago, my friend Novia from the awesome blog Polychrome Interest asked me and a few other bloggers to write a tribute to her all-time favorite actor. Of course I agree to do it. I like Cillian, he’s one of my top ten favorite Irish actors whom I first noticed in Batman Begins as the creepy Jonathan Crane, a.k.a Scarecrow. I have seen about a half dozen of his movies since and he continues to impress me. So for his 35th birthday, here are a list of 35 reasons why I’m a big fan:

(Facts obtained from IMDb and Wikipedia)

  1. I love that his name is unique… there’s no other actor w/ his name in Hollywood. Btw, his first name pronounced “Kill-ian” not “Sil-ian”
  2. He’s got a nice, deep voice… always a plus in any man
  3. Cillian’s got the world’s most gorgeous piercing blue eyes ever…
  4. … not to mention the enviable chiseled cheek bones
  5. On top of being so easy on the eyes, he’s an intelligent and talented actor…
  6. … if I were to use three words to describe his acting ability, it’d be versatile, charismatic & daring
  7. He’s a family man… he’s been married since 2004 and lives in London with his wife and two sons
  8. I love that he puts his family first… it’s said that he does not want to move to Los Angeles because of the cultural differences and distance from his family
  9. Always watchable even in a small cameo in Tron: Legacy, if only he had more screen time in that movie
  10. Seems like a sweet and romantic guy… I read that he proposed to his then longtime-girlfriend while hill-walking in Ireland
  11. He starred in three really good sci-fi movies I like: 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Inception
  12. His great iconic shots in 28 Days Later… such as this one:
  13. He strikes me as a down-to-earth guy who goes into acting for the craft, not for the fame and money…
  14. He’s not a primadona. He doesn’t have a stylist or a personal publicist, travels without an entourage, and has said that he has no interest in the celebrity scene
  15. “I’d probably have been wealthier if I had stayed with law, but pretty miserable doing it,” he’s been quoted as saying. I respect people who take a leap of faith to pursue their dreams
  16. There’s an air of mystery about him that I find intriguing
  17. Just like my favorite actor Gerry Butler, he was planning a career in law until he discovered the world of acting
  18. He’s quite the chameleon, even able to pull off a role as a cross-dresser in Breakfast on Pluto
  19. Love his intense but soulful performance in The Edge of Love with Keira Knightley
  20. He’s quite the linguist, fluent in French and Irish, as well as English of course
  21. He has a knack for accent. His American and British accent comes out natural and convincing…
  22. … yet his native Irish lilt is darling!
  23. He’s obviously got a strong work ethic on top of his massive talent, as big directors like Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle cast him repeatedly in their movies
  24. He’s got stage-cred on top of his Hollywood career, he’s done more than a dozen theater work and has worked with Tony-winning directors, such as Garry Hynes and Neil LaBute
  25. He looks good with glasses… especially as Jonathan Crane in Batman Begins… I like cute guys in glasses 🙂
  26. Men who are musicals appeal to me… and Cillian played in a rock band The Sons of Mr. Greengenes, named after a Frank Zappa’s song
  27. Equally convincing as a sociopath (in Red Eye) and as a hapless guy on the run from zombies (28 Days Later)
  28. Though he’s starred in highly successful Hollywood blockbusters, he still balances his resumes with indie fares, such as Perrier’s Bounty with Brendan Gleeson (his co-star in 28 Days Later)
  29. Awesome in Inception, his scenes with Pete Postlethwaite as his father was heart-wrenching
  30. He may be known mostly for his villainous roles, but still he’s not typecast in those roles…
  31. He’s intelligent enough to pull off a character of a brilliant physicist in Sunshine
  32. His role Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow is one of the most memorable in Chris Nolan’s Batman films
  33. Despite all the kudos and awards he’s received, he remains humble and always have a positive thing to say about his co-stars
  34. He doesn’t forget his Irish heritage and where he came from … he recently gave an interview in his hometown of Cork, Ireland.
    And last but not least,
  35. I made new friends because of him… Novia found my blog through my top 10 Irish actor post and we’ve become friends ever since. Oh, did you know she’s from my hometown Jakarta? 😀

    So thanks Cillian and I wish you a wonderful and blessed birthday!

So what are your thoughts on Mr. Murphy? Please join me in wishing him a happy birthday or share your favorite Cillian Murphy role(s).

Random Thoughts: London Tube & the Movies

On Monday, IMDb has an interesting poll that asked ‘what is your favorite movie set on a train?’ Well, part of what’s so fun about my recent London trip was taking the underground tube every day, which not only provides a fast and convenient transportation but it’s a fun place for people watching as well.

Photo courtesy of Pixelcrave.net

I didn’t realize how popular London tube system is in the movies until I read this. According to that page, the London Underground Film Office handles over 200 requests a month. Wow! The list of movies filmed in various tube stations are quite long, and it also includes scenes in music videos.

Here are a few scenes I remember that takes place in the London tube, as well as those I haven’t seen that people consider memorable (thanks for NickCooper.org for the great resources on the subject) – beware, list may contain spoilers:

  • V for Vendetta
    Takes place in the final climactic scene where Natalie Portman tearfully says goodbye to the masked-man V. Of course I couldn’t help wincing as I watch the beautiful Parliament building and Big Ben getting blown up to pieces! According to weburbanist.com, the Aldwych Tube Station in London is relatively well preserved, despite not being operational since 1994. making it an ideal location for film shoots. Built on the site of the Royal Stand Theatre, it opened in 1907 and was used as a public air-raid shelter during World War II.
  • Atonement

    This is such a memorable and heartbreaking scene. I kind of predicted it would happen, but when the water just burst out from the wall flooding the people taking shelter underground, I too was flooded with tears. The shot showing Keira’s lifeless body floating in the water is one I won’t soon forget.
  • Love, Actually
    It’s a really brief scene of Colin Firth’s character with hands full of shopping bags coming down the stairs of apparently the Canary Wharf Jubilee line station.
  • Bend It Like Beckham

    Another Keira movie, trust me I wasn’t planning on it. But this was an early one of hers before she became a star. I actually quite like this fun, sports-themed chick-flick with ER’s Parminder Nagra as well as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as her soccer coach turned love interest. Boy it’s hard to imagine Rhys-Meyers looking all wholesome 🙂
    ….
  • Sliding Doors
    With that kind of name, it’s got to involve the bus or the tube, doesn’t it? This one I’ve actually just seen bits and pieces of, but I do remember the scene of Gwyneth Paltrow at the faux Embankment station trying to catch up with John Hannah.
  • 28 Days Later
    This terrific zombie flick gets a nod from even a non-horror fan like me. The main protagonist Jim who was stranded in a hospital ends up meeting fellow survivors who were hiding in a tube station. Lucky for Jim, he meets up with fellow survivors Selena and Mark. They kill the zombies chasing him with a very effective explosion and take him to their hideout in a tube station.
  • The Wings of the Dove
    There are a few scenes in this period film based on the 1902 Henry James novel that are set in the tube station. Apparently there’s even a sexy love scene according to this London Underground facts page. After seeing the trailer, I put it on my Netflix queue pronto. It kind of reminds me a bit of the beautifully-filmed The Age of Innocence I saw recently. Helena Bonham Carter can do period dramas like no other and Linus Roache is a great character actor!


Well folks, do you recall a memorable scene set in a tube or subway station? If so, feel free to chime in the comments section.

Weekend Roundup: Amélie & 28 Days Later

Happy Monday, readers, and welcome to March!

Hope you had a nice weekend, wherever you are. It was a nice, mellow weekend for me, can’t complain really when the sun shone for the entire weekend with temp ‘soaring’ to the mid 30s (yes, that’s a ‘warm’ front for us Minnesotans after a long, cold Winter!). On top of our girls’ monthly movie nite on Friday, I managed to squeeze in another movie this weekend, as well as a trip to a local arts museum on Saturday. Below is my Amélie and 28 Days Later reviews:

Amélie

Finally watched this French movie with my girlfriends – as it’s been well-recommended by fellow bloggers (thanks guys!) and something my friends have also been curious about. Now I finally get why everyone just loves this movie.

Immediately we’re introduced to the film’s charming heroine Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), whose unusual childhood shapes her imaginative propensity as a way to cope with her loneliness. Ever since she was a little girl, Amelie has a certain way to deal with what life throws at her, including one particularly traumatizing event, and we’re in for a treat as we’re pulled in to see the world through her curious eye.

As a young woman, she lives a quiet life as she glides about through the streets of Paris. She lives alone in a tiny apartment, works at a local cafe, and occasionally pay her also-lonely father a visit. But one day, she discovers a tin box containing a boy’s childhood memento, which sets off an adventure as she strives to find the rightful owner. It is then that Amélie comes out of her ‘shell’ – and her imaginary world – to bond with people around her, and inadvertently finds love in the process. When I wrote my post about unconventionally romantic flicks, several people mention this movie as one of their top picks, and it’s easy to see why. From the time Amelie first bumps into Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), they both embark on an endearing and whimsical journey that finally leads to a joyfully rewarding climax as the two finally meets. Unlike Hollywood movies are overloaded with cliched and hackneyed circumstances of couples who ‘meet cute’ or ‘initial hostility that grows into love’, etc., the love story here is utterly charming and sweet but not sickeningly saccharine.

Amelie & Nino in the cafe

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet paints a visually-dazzling film with its stylized cinematography. The skewed camera angles and clever direction makes the surreal, even bawdy scenes downright amusing, and they help enrich the simple story. But amidst the aesthetics, Tautou is hands down the star of the film. She dominates nearly every frame with her adorable wide eyes and mischievous grin, and all of us girls couldn’t stop admiring her gorgeous haircut that only such a pretty face as Tatou’s can pull off. But her quirkiness is matched by her kind heart as well, which is probably what I love most about this character. Even when she pulls on some pranks on people, it was motivated by benevolence and a sense of injustice that came to her attention.

I’m so glad I finally saw this movie. Amélie is a delightful film that charms you from the start with its unabashed kookiness. It’s also a joie de vivre … a hearty celebration of life and humanity.

4 out of 5 reels


28 Days Later

After watching a quintessential ‘feel-good’ flick, this is obviously as far-flung as it can possibly be in more ways than one. Yet they share something in common in that both are critically-acclaimed, and I’m glad to say that both of them exceeds my high expectation. Promoted as a gory zombie horror flick, I’ve avoided this flick for a while. As it turns out, it’s so much more than a ‘scary’ movie and it’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill flesh-eating corpse story.

Directed by British director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire), the movie opens at a Primate Research Center facility where a group of animal activists attempt to free the test-subjected chimps from their cages. Ignoring the scientist’s desperate warning that the primates are infected with rage, the group’s action sets off a devastating calamity. The rest of the movie takes place 28 days after that incurable virus has spread throughout the UK, and only a tiny handful survivors are left in the city. One of them is Jim (Cillian Murphy) who wakes up completely naked from a coma after a traffic accident. He exits the hospital and keeps walking into the city, baffled as to why the entire city is deserted.

Jim surveys the deserted city of London atop Wenstminster Bridge

The part of Jim in his hospital gown wandering on top of Westminster Bridge with the Big Ben looming in the distance is such an iconic scene, and it’s got such a realistic feel to it as the movie is shot almost entirely on digital video. According to its Wikipedia page, in order to depict these locations as desolate, the film crew closed off sections of street for minutes at a time, usually in early morning to minimize disruption. The quietness of the scene makes the ensuing fracas as Jim discovers the zombies – in a church of all places – all the more terrifying. The incident brings him to the first non-contaminated people, Mark (Noah Huntley) and Selena (Naomie Harris), and they enlighten Jim about the incident that leaves the world in utter chaos and immensely deprived of what we take for granted every day: order (government, police/army), basic necessities (electricity, running water) and any form of communication (TV, radio).

Gleeson, Murphy and Harris were perfectly cast

In their quest for survival, those left standing are united with two additional ‘healthy’ people, a father-daughter duo who occupies an abandoned condominium. The dad, Frank (played brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson), urges the team to go to Manchester to find a band of soldiers he heard over a pre-recorded radio broadcast, that not only promises shelter but also “the answer to infection.” Aboard Frank’s black cab, their journey provides for comic relief – but not entirely devoid of suspense – and gives a nice opportunity to get to know the characters. But as soon as they find the abandoned military blockade, a tragic incident robs another survivor’s life, and the rest of the team are led to a bolstered mansion where seemingly ‘good’ people will offer them protection from the savagery of the ‘infected.’ Yet, we quickly learn that there’s more than meets the eye, and that these seemingly good’ people end up being as harmful and terrifying – if not more so – in their perversion disguised as a ‘survival tactic.’

The movie is not without violent/gory scenes, but they’re served in context of the realities the survivors now face, not for pure shock value. In fact, it isn’t so much a movie about zombies, but more about how the survivors cope with dire circumstances. It also makes a commentary of what people are capable in desperate measures, which can be both horrific and admirable, sometimes even both. The zombie attack scene at Jim’s parents’ house is harrowing not exactly for the actual attack, but when it shows the extent of survival instinct that compels us to do the unthinkable. It’s just one of the many scenes that make your skin crawl and stick to your gut because of what they represent, which is a reflection of human nature that are sadly just as scary as the crime-laden headlines we read every day.

Overall, it’s an impressive film for its witty, no-nonsense script and clever direction, boosted by great performances throughout, particularly Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who’s also excellent in sci-fi flick Sunshine, his second collaboration with Boyle. Both Gleeson and Harris were notable as well, this is the first time I’ve seen the latter, but I hope to see more of the London-based actress in the future.

I’m glad I step out of my comfort zone and give this ‘horror’ flick a chance. It proves that you don’t need a big budget or hi-tech gizmos to create a great film. A must-see indeed.

4 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on either one of these films?