Rest in Peace, Patrick Swayze

I just heard about Patrick Swayze’s death as I was having dinner with my hubby. When he said, did Patrick Swayze died? I immediately said, no, it was a bunch of hoax, as false reports were circulating last May of his demise. But this time, it was real, he did pass away after battling pancreatic cancer for nearly two years. He was 57.

I first saw Patrick when he was in The Outsiders, along with the brat pack Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, and Matt Dillon. I don’t remember much of that flick though. But it’s his turn as the charming dancer Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing that’s the most memorable to me. The movie was super cheesy for sure, but in the 80s, what wasn’t? He didn’t exactly ‘danced’ into my heart, but I truly enjoyed the performances and all his dance moves were undoubtedly sensuous.

A few years later, I also rooted for him in Ghost, playing the sympathetic banker Sam who was murdered and came back to say good bye to his fiancee. Who didn’t cry when he and Demi Moore slow-danced to Unchained Melody? Well you’d have to be pretty heartless if you didn’t. It was the ultimate tear-jerker flick and his sympathetic performance made him a star and he became known more than the ‘snake-hipped’ actor who can dance like there’s no tomorrow.

The last movie I saw Patrick in was the dark British comedy Keeping Mum with Rowan Atkinson and Kristin Scott Thomas, as the perverted golf instructor having an affair with Kristin’s character. He was hilarious as he was clearly poking fun at his own sexy persona, complete with the teeny-tiny g-string!

From what I learned, Patrick is a down-to-earth family man who’s been married to his wife of 34 years, Lisa Niemi, a fellow dancer. My heart goes out to her and her family, may the Lord give them comfort and strength in this difficult time. God have mercy on his soul.

What A-list Actors Can Learn from Sharlto Copley

Copley at Comic Con

District 9 is one of those powerful movies that stays with me long after I saw it (check out my review of the movie). For the most part, it’s Copley’s performance that makes the film work for me. Sure, the documentary style technique and all that technical stuff blew me away at first, but once I started watching, it’s the actor’s performance that get me immersed in the film. When I relate to the character or get affected by it—whether you love it or hate it—that’s when a movie becomes an ‘experience’ instead of a mere spectacle.

Which brings me to newbie Sharlto Copley, the South African actor who’s never acted in a movie before other than the blink-and-you-miss-it involvement in Neill Blomkamp’s Alive in Jo’burg’s short film. I just watched several interviews with this guy where he’s still pretty much coming to grasp with his new-found fame. The fascinating part is that he never intended to be famous, he just happen to be thrust in front of the camera because the his friend Blomkamp thought he could do the part of Wikus Van De Merwe. Blomkamp might as well be a casting agent ’cause he was right on the money. I couldn’t imagine anybody else playing that role, from the dweeb-ish bureaucrat to the desperate hunted man trying to survive, Sharlto was downright convincing. Put someone like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt or Will Smith and this movie just won’t work as well, as it frequently becomes more about them the ‘celebrity’ instead of the story they’re telling. In fact, these A-listers can learn a thing or two from this novice actor.

Here are three random things that came to my mind:

1. He acted from the heart
The fact that this project is a labor of love between him and his director friend Blomkamp, Sharlto’s involvement in the whole film making process is from the heart. He wants the film to succeed not for his reputation’s sake but because he cares about the project. His immersion goes beyond what the script requires him to do, but he breathed all the nitty-gritty of the movie in and out that he becomes that character. In fact, instead of simply delivering lines, most of his acting was ‘improv,’ as he intuitively followed what he said ‘the beat that Neill wanted to capture for a particular scene,’ which makes for a real and authentic performance unlike anything I’ve seen in a long while.

But the acting side of the work—because it’s improv, I’m not sitting there the night before going, “Okay, so should I say this scene like this? Should I say the line this way?” and trying to work at it. I’d just show up and go. So that’s very stress-free, in a sense.— A.V. Club Interview

“I just am that character, to be honest, in that situation. And with a film like this that was done so realistically, it often felt like we were shooting a documentary. It felt so ridiculously realistic that it was easy. I just found it a very natural thing. I don’t have any technique or thing I’m thinking about. It’s like, ‘Well, either that is the character, or no, it’s not.” — A.V. Club Interview

2. He wasn’t in it for fame
Unlike most actors, Sharlto’s been a successful producer and businessman before getting this gig. His performance is almost devoid of ego or self-consciousness because he has nothing to prove, he was simply serving the vision that Blomkamp has for the film. He’s not worried if he’d ever get another job again after this, which makes for a refreshingly unaffected, almost uninhibited performance that’s captivating to behold.

I do have the advantage in that I don’t really mind what happens. If I don’t act again, then it’s okay, fine. — A.V. Club Interview

That side of the business doesn’t really interest me, like getting attention or stroking my ego or whatever, like I’m a real filmmaker-at-heart kind of a person. I normally am behind the camera actually, so I didn’t have aspirations of “I want to be a famous,” but I’ve always done characters my whole life just for fun. — Ain’t It Cool Interview

3. He is no primadonna
It’s nice to hear when an actor isn’t complaining about doing his job. A lot of movie stars got (over)paid millions of dollars and then whine in interviews about the grueling shoot, how stressful it was, blah blah blah. Isn’t that why you got paid the big bucks for? The crew members’ jobs are most likely just as strenuous, but they make a fraction of their salary. I haven’t seen this much dedication from an actor. Even among seasoned thespians, I could only think of a couple of people with equal passion: Christian Bale for the Machinist and Daniel Day-Lewis in just about everything. It’s as if he applied JFK’s famous line with his ‘it’s not what the movie can do for me, but what I can do for the movie‘ attitude. He plays a huge part in the movie’s success, yet nary of self-importance in sight in all of his interviews I’ve read/watched. It’s cool to hear that an actor acknowledge that his craft also depends on the people he works with on set, and how some way they help him nail a great scene.

“…when as an actor, everybody is just doing everything for you to make that space for you to bring that moment…” — interview on YouTube

Here’s wishing for a lasting acting career for Mr. Copley. I’m sure he’ll be around for more District 9 follow-ups, but I hope he’d try other things, too. IMO, he’d be great in a drama or comedy, just so long as he keeps it real and not be buoyed by doing pedestrian blockbusters (whatever you do, just stay away from Michael Bay!). If he continues to turn out even half of what he brought in his debut, I’d surely keep watching.

Copley and Blomkamp are teaming up again in another sci-fi movie Elysium, also starring Jodie Foster and Matt Damon, scheduled for release in 2013. This time he’s playing the villain.

So what are your thoughts on District 9 or Sharlto Copley? Let’s hear it!

Hollywood Casting News: Flixchatter highlights

When I was little, every time the inevitable “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question came up, I always answered with all the tenacity a teeny girl I could muster: a screenwriter. A rather unusual reply for a wee kid barely able to scribble a decent sentence, let alone a paragraph. But come to think of it, you know what would be a fantastic job to have? Casting director! I mean, imagine how fun it’d be going to work every day looking at scripts and study the characters, and figure out who’s best fit this role or that role. Of course it’s not as easy and glamorous as it seems, and I presume it can be as stressful as any job, but how gratifying it would be when the person you hire — and fight for with all your might to get him/her cast in a certain project — ends up winning an award or become an unlikely movie star! (I always wonder how Robert Pattinson’s casting director feels with all the frenzy surrounding that previously obscure kid actor).

In any case, as such dream job is definitely out of the realm of possibility, I settle for just reading about casting updates. Here’s some of the highlights this past week:

  • Jackman the AVON MAN?
    If he's selling it, I'd definitely be an AVON customer =)

    Variety: Hugh Jackman has joined the cast of Avon Man. Now, don’t worry, it’s not exactly another super hero flick. It’s billed as a Monty Phyton-ish comedy about a group of men laid off from an auto dealership (how timely!). One of them, presumably Jackman’s character, is reluctantly recruited into becoming an Avon salesman. Although the experience is initially emasculating, he uses his charm and good looks to become a top seller and even manage to compell his buddies to join him in the makeup business in order to win a regional sales contest. I laughed so hard just reading the premise, with Jackman’s charm and showmanship, this sounds like a winner!

  • Digital Spy reported that Colin Farrell has been tipped to replace Johnny Depp as Toby Grisoni in Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited Don Quixote movie. The film, initially titled The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, originally started filming in October 2000, but it was abandoned after a series of on-set mishaps. I wonder if the fact that both Depp and Farrell are in Gilliam’s upcoming film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus might have something to do with the casting switch.
  • I didn’t even know they’re making this film, but apparently it was to star Penn, Benicio del Toro and Jim Carrey. What a strange threesome indeed. But Chron Entertainment reported that Jim Carrey has walked away from the Farrelly brothers’ upcoming remake of The Three Stooges. He was expected to take on the role of Curly, but according to The Boston Globe, Peter Farrelly has confirmed he is no longer involved in the project. Allegedly, Giamatti has now been confirmed to fill the role vacated by Sean Penn (???!!), who quit the film earlier this year citing personal reasons. Well, who’d have thought Penn would ever be interested in a Three Stooges movie!
  • Variety: Frank Langella will join the cast of Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, that’ll be directed by Oliver Stone. Michael Douglas will reprise his Oscar-winning Gordon Gekko role. Langella is in talks to play Lewis Zabel, an old-time broker who mentors Shia LaBeouf’s character, a young Wall Street broker. Ok, that’s my cue that I’ve got to watch the original movie soon.
  • Variety: Sam Worthington is in talks to join Charlize Theron in The Tourist, a remake of the 2005 French thriller Anthony Zimmer that will be directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day). Theron is set to play a female Interpol agent who uses an American tourist in an attempt to flush out an elusive criminal who was once her lover. Worthington is replacing Tom Cruise who dropped out of the project (yay!). Wow, whoever this Aussie actor’s agent is, he/she’s one busy bee!

Tired of boys ruling Hollywood? Get these real men to the rescue.

British and US press alike have been saying this over and over. Real men are but bygones in today’s Hollywood movies, as more and more boys dominate the box office. The biggest money makers of late are mostly under the age of 25! Shia La Beouf, Zac Efron, Robert Pattinson and Daniel Radcliffe have all beaten seasoned veterans like Russell Crowe or Tom Hanks in the box office lately. But are adult movie goers to blame? That’s what an MSNBC writer suggested, “[adult drama’s] disappointing returns are endemic of a larger cultural trend wherein youth is valued above all else and maturity is, well, boring.” That’s just a shame if that were the case. I for one think the reverse is true. The Daily Mail astutely observed that Hollywood leading men nowadays all look eerily similar: “androgynous, interchangeable, identikit men-boys.”

In the article “Where have all the movie men gone?,” one  female writer of MSNBC even went so far as calling older leading men such as Matt Damon and Ashton Kutcher as ‘too soft.’ They’re no match for movies’ leading lady such as Angelina Jolie, she went on. She used movie Wanted as an example, where “Jolie looked as if she could toss him [the very boyish-looking James McAvoy] across the room.” Ouch! Poor McAvoy, all that training to buff up his physique clearly wasn’t enough, as masculinity isn’t exactly something a man can train for, y’know? You either got it or you don’t.

In any case, my real issue is with the actual boys-actor, as boyish-looking is a rather subjective term. Now, I’m not against all of them per se, some young actors do have talent (case in point: BAFTA winner Jamie Bell, who has more talent than all of the Twilight boys combined), but more often than not, it’s the case of fangurls run amok! Regardless of their acting chops or sheer believability in the roles they’re given, girls worship them, to the point of spurring hatred towards their female co-stars. In any case, enough is enough. I long for the time my mother introduced me to Hollywood classics, where red-blooded men, not boys, dominate the silver screen. Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, they all have what movie stars are made of. These men could eat boys like Pattinson/Efron/Radcliffe for breakfast!

Well, here’s wishing this trend wouldn’t last. If I had my way in the industry, I’d definitely keep my these real men plenty busy:

My leading men wish list
My leading men wish list

  1. Clive Owen – This Brit tough guy is as manly as they come, he’s also got the tender side to balance that no-nonsense exterior. He was my first pick as Bond before Daniel Craig was cast, but I guess I’d rather see him do other roles anyway.
  2. Rufus Sewell – With Rufus, it’s all in the eyes, they’re soulful and magnetic. Not sure why he’s always relegated to second or even third banana status as his looks and talent are definitely leading-man quality.
  3. Richard Armitage – A powerful yet mesmerizing John Thornton in the BBC miniseries North & South (not to be confused with the US civil war version w/ Patrick Swayze), Richard hasn’t made his foray in films yet. It’s too bad because we could use more of his intense leading-men quality. His turn as the brooding Guy of Gisbourne in the recently cancelled BBC series Robin Hood made me root for his character more than the title role.
  4. Daniel Craig – I was quick to judge him when he was first announced as the first blond Bond, but Craig totally won me over in Casino Royale. Sure he’s not as classically good looking as Connery or Dalton, but he exudes masculinity and no-nonsense ruggedness that Brosnan never quite emulate.
  5. Gerard Butler – I know, I know, after he did The Ugly Truth, you probably didn’t think he deserved to be on this list. But hey, I have a soft spot for the Scot, not only because of his rugged good looks but because I know he can act. I’m keeping my fingers-crossed that his upcoming Law Abiding Citizen will prove my theory. So I’m willing to give him another chance and hope he won’t continue to derail his career with any more obtuse rom-coms!
  6. Nathan Fillion – Fillion is currently gracing TV viewers in ABC’s Castle. But his looks & charming personality would be suited for a rom-com or dramedy. Isn’t it about time Matthew McConaughey retire already?
  7. Eric Bana – My fave Aussie actor of all time is the tall, dark & handsome fella with a sense of humor to boot! He was a former stand-up comic in his native Australia. Not only is he a great actor who can pull off  a comedy, rom-com and thriller without a hitch, he also has a very manly hobby of car racing. Check out his Love the Beast documentary trailer.
  8. Sam Worthington — Watch out, Crowe + Jackman, Worthington could be the next big Aussie import, especially with AVATAR out this year. I’ve mentioned him a lot on my blog and for good reason. I have only seen bits and pieces of him from a couple of films, but from what I’ve seen, I definitely would like to see more of him!
  9. Lee Pace – Most people knew him as the lead of ABC’s now-cancelled Pushing Daisies, but since I hardly watch any TV, Pace first came to my attention in the visually stimulating flick The Fall. The Oklahoma native (yes, the only American on this list!) impressed me once again in the sweet dramedy Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, pulling off a decent British accent as Amy Adam’s tender lover.
  10. James Purefoy – If you’ve seen HBO’s Rome, then you’ll know why he’s on this list. Now starring in NBC’s The Philanthropist, Purefoy’s got that twinkle in his eye and laid-back charm that makes him so darn watchable. If the show doesn’t last, I hope he’ll do more movies.

Agree with my list? No? Then let’s hear it.

Ledger had wanted out as Joker?

Vanity Fair Tribute to Heath Ledger
Vanity Fair Tribute to Heath Ledger

Well according to the Vanity Fair tribute to the late actor, that’s exactly what he wanted. That comes as a surprise to me as his performance was so masterful that you’d think an actor of his caliber would’ve welcomed the opportunity to play such an outrageous character. But his friend/agent Steven Alexander told Vanity Fair’s contributing editor that Ledger had a pay-or-play deal for his role as the Joker that he could pretty much bail and still get paid. So he purposely delivered such an over-the-top performance hoping he’d get fired so he could go on a lengthy vacation instead! Ironically, director Chris Nolan liked his performance and so did critics and film goers.

From what I’ve read, Ledger was a private person who shun publicity and the fame that came with the job as an actor. The article confirmed that unlike most actors, he definitely had an apathy for stardom. This was a quote from Alexander:

“[Ledger] was always hesitant to be in a summer blockbuster, with the dolls and action figures and everything else that comes with one of those movies. He was afraid it would define him and limit his choices.

Hmmm, strange that he thought so as I’d think the success would mean he could pick ANY role he wanted. Ledger had been quite well-known before he took on the Joker role so I doubt he’d be typecast into playing comic-book villains. Besides, he’s so unrecognizable anyway with all those goop on his face, most people probably won’t recognize him if they passed him on the street. Nobody will ever know how much of an impact the role had on him, whether it intensified his chronic insomnia to such a lethal degree. Reportedly, his breakup with Michelle Williams and fighting for custody of his daughter also hit him hard.

Just like Michael Jackson, Ledger seemed to have had everything but yet were devoid of hope and inner peace. No matter how HUGE our problems seem to be, I think they’re rather trivial compared to the larger scheme of things. As a Christian, I’m blessed to know where my hope and strength comes from (Philipians 4:13 – I can do everything through him who gives me strength). I know I’m never alone in facing my troubles. As the world paid tribute to the King of Pop, I pray that we all would reflect on what really matters in life, and that we’d turn to the real King of heaven and earth, the only one who can help carry us through anything and everything.

Just what exactly is the Academy??

In response to my earlier post about new members added to the Academy (that is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), I thought I ought to give a bit of a history about the organization that give out the Oscars each year. Thanks Becky for asking me just who are the other members and how do they get to be one, as truthfully, I have NO IDEA. At the beginning of a new year, after the water-cooler talk about new year resolution dwindle, we can always count on the ‘Oscar talk.’ ‘Who’s getting nominated this year? Who gets robbed?’ But just like most people, I usually never paid much attention to who gets to decide all that.

I haven’t been able to find the full list of members, all 6,000 of them, but a sampling of them can be found at the Oscar official site. Here’s the gist of what makes up the elite organization: the members are divided into 15 different categories that contribute to the art form of  film making (actors, directors, cinematographers, songwriters, writers, sound technicians, etc.). Apparently it’s pretty much an elite corporation where the who’s who of Hollywood decides who’s ‘worthy’ to be a part of their über exclusive club. This is right from their site:

Membership in the Academy is by invitation of the Board of Governors and is limited to those who have achieved distinction in the arts and sciences of motion pictures.

A candidate must be sponsored by at least two members of the branch for which the person may qualify. Each proposed member must first receive the endorsement of the branch’s executive committee before his/her name is submitted to the Board.

Ah, now that explains why almost every single time the nominations are announced, we the average moviegoers are left scratching our heads with a big ‘huh?’ written across our faces. Not sure how the additional 134 members are going to change all that, even though at first glance the actors category does seem to represent a pretty diverse mix.

As if the membership process isn’t mind boggling enough, NPR explores the world of how the Oscar voting works here. As the article writer says, it’s all one big mystery and they probably intend to keep it that way.

FlixChatter Review: Wolverine

I realize I should’ve put a spoiler disclaimer on this from the start. Sorry to all of you readers who haven’t seen the movie, this ‘review’ is meant as a post-viewing discussion/observation. I’ll make sure to be clear on that in the future, and enhance my flix reviewing skills!

Marvel and DC ought to thank Bryan Singer for resurrecting the comic-book flix franchise with the highly-rated X-Men: The Movie. If you’ve seen even just one of the series, it’s obvious Wolverine is the one character that sticks out. The then-unknown Aussie Hugh Jackman inherited the role from Dougray Scott who was bound to finish shooting Mission Impossible II. Lucky for Mr. Jackman (and women everywhere) that he did, as he was PERFECT as the brooding mutant with claws of steel.

The critics aren’t too keen on Wolverine, so I came in with a pretty low expectation. But guess what, I quite enjoyed it. The story pretty much centers on the relationship of half-brothers James and Victor, who’s later known as Wolverine and Sabretooth. The opening credit shows the journey of these two men across time and multiple wars, as their regenerative powers prevent them from being killed. Given Victor’s vicious temper, James had to constantly restrain him. In fact, it was his brutality that got them condemned to die by firing squad in Vietnam, but of course those bullets merely ‘tickled’ them and they’re back in jail again. That is until Stryker visited them and offered them to be part of an elite team of mutants, Team X. It’s pretty obvious Stryker had his own agenda and pretty soon, a group of mutans under his command were in Legos, Nigeria looking for a meteorite. Repulsed by the murders committed by his teammates, James leaves the group.

Wolverine emerged with new, shiny metal claws!
Wolverine emerged with new, shiny metal claws!

Six years later, James–now goes by his last name Logan–was now a lumberjack living peacefully with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox. That peace was soon threatened when Victor started killing his old teammates from Team X. Stryker found Logan and told him that someone’s been hunting down the now disbanded group. He asked for Logan’s help but he refused. Predictably, Victor came after Kayla and killed her. The hurt & furious Logan ran after Victor, but he wasn’t strong enough to defeat him. So when Stryker came to him a second time for help, he agreed. Next thing you know Logan is on the ‘island,’ Stryker got him into a very painful experiment in which a series of metal needles insert adamantium, an indestructible metal compound retrieved by Team X, into his skeleton system. Just watching him go through that makes my whole skin crawl! Apparently, even though Logan has strong regenerative powers, he still feels pain like anybody else. Just before the procedure started, he asked his dog tag to say Wolverine (natch), in reference to a story Kayla once told him. Wolverine nearly died in the procedure, but woke up just as Stryker ordered his memory to be erased. He emerged of the ‘aquarium’ with a ferocious growl (just as you saw in those ubiquitous movie promo pics), displaying his now shiny metal claws.  For a 41 year-old, Hugh’s physique is impressive, albeit too huge for my taste personally (are those humps on his shoulder??). Still, I commend his discipline and dedication to get so buff (and he’s obviously proud to show it off), he looked unbreakable even without the claws!!

Ok, back to the story, Wolvy (sorry, Wolverine is just too long) then fled the scene and Stryker ordered the dexterous marksman, Agent Zero, played by the hot-looking Korean-English actor Daniel Henney, to kill him. A chase ensued, and Wolverine got to show off his now indestructible claws. After some outlandish acrobatic scenes, he’s able to bring down the chopper with Agent Zero in it (darn, the eye candy is dead already?!). With the help of an escapee mutant named Gambit, Wolvy later returned to the island to confront Stryker. There, we learn who Silverfox really was, and what’s Stryker’s been working on in his lab. The final battle was pretty intense when Stryker prematurely released Weapon XI, who possesed several powers from the killed/captured mutants. Wolvy and Victor joined forces briefly to fight the mutant frankenstein monster. Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool character half made up Weapon X’s face, but with his blabbermouth sealed. There’s a funny quip by Wolvy, “Looks like Stryker finally found a way to shut you up.”

The end actually ties well with the first X-Men, with Professor X making an appearance to save the escaping mutants. Wolvy and Victor’s whereabouts are left a mystery, which we later learn in the X-Men trilogy that they end up on opposite sides once again.

Pretty cool movie overall, but the storyline is pretty complex for this type of film that the plot often get convoluted. It seems as if the film tries to do too much (romance, action, sci-fi, drama) that it sometimes lost focus. Despite the great cast led by Jackman and thespian Liev Schreiber, it just isn’t ‘sharp’ enough (pardon the pun) as the original X-Men. But if you’re just looking for fun thrill on a Saturday afternoon, it’s fairly entertaining.