Remembering Alan Rickman – Seven favorite roles of the iconic British thespian

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It’s with a heavy heart that I write this post… I had planned on highlighting his career on his birthday later next month, as I had written this piece six years ago as a tribute. I have always loved British actors and Alan Rickman is certainly at the top of the list of those iconic Brits whose voice alone makes him so unforgettable. Few actors have such sheer screen presence as the London-born thespian, and his versatility makes him perfect for both villainous and heroic roles. Most people perhaps only know him for his bad guy roles. I don’t blame them as I first saw Rickman on screen as the bad guy. The first one was as the ruthless-but-elegant German terrorist Hans Gruber in the first (which remains the best of the franchise) Die Hard, followed by his role as the unhinged Sheriff of Nottingham. But after I watched more of his work, he shall always be Colonel Brandon, the role that made me fall in love with him and one I shall always treasure in my heart.

It’s also interesting that one of my first movies I saw when I came here to the US was Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990). In the same year Patrick Swayze became a ghost that haunted his loved one, Rickman also played one in the British indie drama with such sensitivity that proves he’s just as adept at playing a romantic hero. Over the years I read quotes from people who’ve worked with him saying that Mr. Rickman is a warm and gentle soul, known for his loyalty and kindness as much as his phenomenal talent in front and behind the camera.

As I say goodbye to one of my favorite actors, let me reminisce in the wonderful roles he’s played over the years…

Col Brandon – Sense & Sensibility (1995)

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I have made a tribute dedicated to his indelible performance. He easily tops my list of favorite period drama heroes, and has become one of my favorite film characters ever. Col. Brandon is perhaps one of the kindest, most selfless Austen character and Rickman brought that sensibilities to life. The moment he beheld Marianne and fell instantly in love with her, I too was besotted with him.

I’ve seen Sense & Sensibility over a dozen times and I melted every time I saw this scene. As Brandon’s heart was broken when Marianne picked a much younger and decidedly more charming suitor, he didn’t become bitter. As Marianne fell ill, nobody was more tormented than Brandon and that agony was so palpable in Rickman’s eyes. Such a beautiful role tailor-made for such a beautiful soul.

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Hans Gruber – Die Hard (1988)

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One of the most quotable action villains in cinematic history, Hans Gruber is one of the most exhilaratingly entertaining bad guys. If he had been played by someone other than Rickman, I doubt that he’d be as hugely popular. The movie has some bad-ass dialog, but it’s not so much just the lines, it’s the delivery. Rickman’s decidedly slow, imperturbable diction has become legendary that he’s a popular subject for fellow actors to impersonate.

He can make the most mundane dialog so utterly fascinating. He definitely gave Bruce Willis a run for his money here, it proves that once again it’s so good to be bad.

 

Severus Snape – Harry Potter series

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Apparently Rickman was hand-picked by author J.K. Rowling to play Snape. He was hesitant to accept the role until Rowling revealed the backstory of his character that wasn’t even revealed until the final novel. Those who’ve seen the film surely know that Snape was a multidimensional character who’s more than meets the eye.

In a franchise filled with British acting royalty, Rickman managed to be the most interesting and memorable of them all, as he keeps you guessing which side he’s on. Later on we find out that he’s actually one of the true heroes of the franchise. As with many roles he’s perfected though, I think the reason Snape was such an awesome character is because Alan Rickman played him.

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Harry – Love, Actually

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Now, even though Rickman’s played far more despicable characters in the past, somehow Harry, the unfaithful husband infuriates me the most. Here Rickman played husband and wife with his real-life friend Emma Thompson. This segment is definitely my favorite as it is the most poignant and heart-wrenching. The Harry/Karen proves to be one that fans of the movie are intrigued by, as revealed by the film’s script editor Emma Freud’s (who’s married to director Richard Curtis) big plot revelation last December.

Harry might be a flawed character, a scoundrel even, but Rickman made his character so human that I can’t absolutely abhor him. Of course being that it’s a rom-com, there’s that hilarious scene of him at the department store with Rowan Atkinson. His exasperated face never fails to crack me up!

Alexander Dane – Galaxy Quest

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Rickman is one of those rare actors who can make a curmudgeon attitude so endearing (the only other actor I can think of is Harrison Ford). It’s yet another example of spot-on casting here. Rickman’s character is a Shakespearean-trained Alexander Dane who plays alien Dr. Lazarus in the space opera Galaxy Quest. It’s a hilarious spoof on Star Trek and I absolutely adore his character and his apparent disdain of being a part of the show is absolutely hysterical.

There were five curtain calls. I was an actor once, damn it. Now look at me. Look at me! I won’t go out there and say that stupid line one more time.

Of course Rickman’s got the best lines in the movie and rightly so. His alien makeup alone is a hoot, but again it’s Rickman’s indelible and inimitable delivery that made his character so fun to watch. I owned this movie on Blu-ray and it’s largely because Rickman’s in it.

Sheriff of Nottingham – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

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I saw this movie with my brother years ago when it came out in the theaters. I remember how I thought Rickman absolutely stole every scene he’s in. At the time I had no idea who his name was, but he certainly was hard to forget. The Sheriff of Nottingham, with his lush, black mane, is such an unhinged and ridiculous character but oh so fun to watch!

Seriously, when Rickman plays the bad guy, he’s often more interesting than the hero and it’s the case here, especially against the vanilla Kevin Costner as Robin Hood! According to IMDb Trivia, Rickman turned down the role of the Sheriff twice before he was told he could more or less have carte blanche with his interpretation of the character. Glad that he did and he surely made the character iconic by doing so.

Steven Spurrier – Bottle Shock

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I have to admit that Rickman was the reason I even rented this movie. Here he plays an English wine stewart from Paris who comes to Napa Valley to take the best he can find to Paris for a blind taste test against French wine. I LOVE that he also narrates the movie with that silky voice of his. It may not be a perfect movie, but Rickman is still worth a watch and in a way he manages to make British’s hoitytoity attitude without making him such a stupid caricature. Just the scene of him eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in his car alone is a hoot! Nice to see Rickman display his comedic chops once again, definitely a must-see for Rickman’s fans.

Honorable Mention:

King Louis XIV – A Little Chaos

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This is the last film I saw Mr. Rickman in, a movie he also directed. I have to admit I never thought of him as someone suitable to play King Louis XIV but I thought he acquit himself well in the role. He might be a little too gentle and kind as the historically perfectionist and demanding Sun King, but Rickman certainly has that elegant and regal quality.

Of course I love the fact that this movie reunited him with his Sense & Sensibility‘s co-star Kate Winslet. My favorite scene is the one where Kate’s character, a landscape artist working on one of the gardens at Versailles, first met the King who was in disguise.


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I miss you dearly Mr. Rickman, but your astounding work shall live on.


What’s YOUR favorite role of Alan Rickman’s?

A Thanksgiving Post: 24 cinematic things I’m thankful for this year

To my American friends all over the States, I want to wish you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope that you’re all enjoying some time together with family/friends and cherish those moments dearly. To those in other parts of the world, I bid you happy-almost-weekend day 😀

Well, it’s not as if you need a special day to give thanks, right? But just for the sake of being timely, here are 24 random movie miscellanea I’m thankful for this past year:

1. Well I think it’s quite obvious isn’t it, yours truly has fallen under the spell of the beautiful creature that is Gregory Peck. It’s been such a delight to discover his classic films all the way from the early 40s. He’s just so compelling to watch in any genre! The more films of his I watched, the more I appreciate just what a wonderful actor he truly was.

Playing against type as a gritty, dusty outlaw in 'Yellow Sky'

2. Though he’s passed on last February, John Barry’s music lives on… there are so many wonderful movie music he’s left us with, but my favorites shall always be Somewhere in Time and Out of Africa.

3. The casting of Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

4. Andy Serkis‘ performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

5. The gorgeous Paris scenery… and Marion Cotillard‘s radiant beauty in Midnight in Paris

6. Tarsem’s visual panache in Immortals

7. Gerry Butler‘s heart-wrenching and fearless performance as Sam Childers in Machine Gun Preacher

8. This wonderful black & white trailer of The Artist, can’t wait to see the actual film!


9. Discovering Tom Hiddleston from THOR.

10. The fantastic rapport between James McAvoy & Michael Fassbender as Xavier & Magneto in X-Men: First Classjust one of the 40 reasons I LOVE this film!

11. Pixar’s BRAVE’s beautiful poster and a very promising trailer!

12. Working on my third pitch this past Summer for Castor‘s Fantasy Draft Pitch blog-a-thon… tentatively titled RESTAURO — starring Viggo Mortensen, Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving, directed by Duncan Jones.

13. Finally getting around to seeing Kenneth Branagh’s HAMLET and loving it!

14. Gentleman’s Agreement, one of the most compelling Oscar-winning film with a bold message about a then-controversial and risky topic about antisemitism… more people should see this even today.

15. Having the privilege to interview Anton Yelchin and Drake Doremus in person for Like Crazy during Twin Cities Film Fest… my first ‘official’ press junket 😀

16. Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain’s compelling performance playing the same character in The Debt

17. Going to Comic-Con this past Summer … and meeting Captain America himself, Chris Evans!

18. The exquisite cinematography of The Big Country by William Wyler… and the joy of seeing Moses and David (Charlton Heston & Gregory Peck) beat each other up in an epic fight scene

19. Harry Potter franchise ends with a bang… and seeing the back story of Severus Snape, played brilliantly by Alan Rickman

20. Terrence Malick‘s suddenly prolific streak, reportedly attached to direct two new films Lawless and Knight of Cups, which means we may see up to five Malick films within a few years!

21. Well-designed and iconic movie posters… such as this one:

22. Spellbound‘s surreal dream montage designed by Salvador Dali… and how dreamy Gregory Peck is in this [sigh]

23. The Hobbit‘s video journals (thanks to Claire Packer for posting the updates). Bless Peter Jackson for constantly updating fans with the progress of one of the most anticipated film of next year.


24. And last but not least… I’m ever so grateful for the joy of blogging and ‘meeting’ fellow movie lovers via the blog and Twitter… thank you everyone who have supported this blog for the past couple of years. Hope you’ll stick around for more 😀


So what are you thankful for this holiday season?

Musings on the final Harry Potter movie

Well, the 8+ months wait was finally over. Yep, that’s how far apart the two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are and it was a bit frustrating after I saw Part I that I had to wait that long to see the conclusion.

I did my write-up about Part I in lieu of a straight-on review, so I’m going to do the same here. At the end of that post, I said that the best thing HP 7.1 did was make fans like me anticipate the FINAL movie all the more. On top of that, my friend Ted who’ve read all the books told me, “…nothing really happened much in the first half from the book and then on the second half, all hell broke loose.” So suffice to say, my expectation for HP 7.2 is quite up there… as in ‘It’s gonna be epic!!!’

Well, did it live up to my expectation?

Initially, I’d have said, ‘Not really.’ But I guess that’s because with an expectation THAT high, I’m bound to be disappointed. Now that it’s been a few days since I’ve seen it, here’s what I thought of the movie:

**SPOILER ALERT (some plot points might be discussed in this post)**

  • As in Part I, this movie opened with Severus Snape who is a crucial figure in the finale. Going in, I expected to see more of his compelling back story and in a way, the filmmaker delivered. As someone who didn’t read the books, I think it answered a lot of the questions about his complicated relationship with Harry.

    Alan Rickman is phenomenal as always, no wonder he is my favorite character in the whole HP supporting cast up until the very end. His inimitable voice and delivery is what I find fascinating about Rickman, though there was a part in this movie where it actually sounded a bit too over-the-top that I couldn’t help but chuckle as I watched it. My gripe is with his short screen time, I suppose if I had read the books I’d know about it, but I really was bummed to see the character’s demise in the first half hour. Yes he still appeared in flashback but it just wasn’t the same.
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  • The hunt for Voldemort‘s horcruxes continues for Harry, Hermione and Ron (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint). The first part was quite action-packed as the three broke into Gringott’s vault in disguise. Helena Bonham Carter did an excellent job showing a more nervous side of Bellatrix Lestrange (as it’s actually Hermione disguised as her), her character is obviously more fun to watch when she’s deranged but it’s still a funny scene nonetheless. I forgot that Ciaran Hinds is in this as Dumbledore’s brother, but his character is pretty forgettable. Not exactly his fault but that’s just the way it was written.
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  • Back in Hogwarts, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad thinking what’s about to take place here. This poster and pretty much all the promo of the final movie promises that Hogwarts will burn! The events leading up to it are comprised of a few key scenes. The confrontation between Harry and Snape was an emotional one… “How dare you stand where he stood. Tell them how it happened that night. How you looked him in the eye, a man who trusted you, and killed him.” Harry told Snape, which led to a fight between him and Minerva (Maggie Smith). We all remembered that scene of Dumbledore falling to his death and that got me teared up a bit.
  • One of the highlights of the movie was when Minerva commanded the Stone Army to come to life to guard Hogwarts. “I’ve always wanted to use that spell,” She said giddily to Molly Weasly (Ron’s mom), and it was pretty darn cool to see her use it, too.

    Props for David Yates and the SFX folks for the cool effects in creating the shield around Hogwarts, overall the special effects is first rate (I saw it in 2D as I just don’t think most 3D movies are worthwhile).
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  • The enemy gets stronger and inches closer and closer… Voldemort’s army moved in on Hogwarts from all sides, which is supposed to be all intense and scary but I was largely unmoved by it for some reason.

    I think the biggest beef I have with this final act is that the arch nemesis, the biggest, most bad-ass beast of all… the bald, nose-less, squinty-eyed Voldemort, in the end he didn’t seem all that intimidating to me. I mean, he seemed lot scarier throughout all the HP movies, even in the beginning when he was merely a tiny, deformed thing. I can’t explain it really and I’m not really criticizing Ralph Fiennes‘ performance or anything, but I just never felt the ‘shudder effect’ whenever he appeared like it used to… ok, perhaps one time when he said ‘Harry Potter… the boy who lived, come to die,’  as he summoned Harry to come closer. I kind of shuddered a little.
  • Btw, perhaps someone who’ve read the book can explain it to me. In the parts where Harry was supposedly dead in the forest, now why on earth would Voldemort ask someone else to check out if he was dead or not. I mean, if you’ve been trying to kill someone for a long time, searched long and hard for that person with all your might, wouldn’t you rather go over there yourself and make absolutely certain that the subject is actually dead?? Maybe there is a logical explanation to that (other than for plot device for Malfoy’s mom to find out if Draco is dead or not), but as of right now I’m scratching my head.

  • Ok, allow me to digress a bit. The ‘nyeaaaaaaaaaa’ squeals that were ubiquitous in every clip/trailer of HP 7.2 wasn’t that prevalent in the actual movie, thank goodness. Ironically, I actually was mildly disappointed that the V-man didn’t yell that when Harry yanked him to the bottom of the castle in their final battle 🙂
  • Speaking of the final face off between Voldemort and Harry, which is what every HP fan has been waiting for. One can’t help but feel the enormity of the circumstances, I mean, THIS IS IT, Harry finally has to fend for himself against the big evil dude. But at the same time, I wasn’t exactly transfixed by it if you will.

    Perhaps I’m all ‘spelled-out’ as in tired of seeing all those spell effects, I don’t know. There is quite a lot going on at the same time this scene is happening. Ron and Hermione are busy trying to kill, unsuccessfully I might add, the elusive Nagini, Voldemort’s pet snake which is also his horcrux. But Neville gets to show his heroic side, yay! Man look at how he (Matthew Lewis) has grown, no longer is he the dorky kid on the block 🙂

  • Glad to see Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) back, even in the form of a dream sequence in a Heaven-like setting. The scene seems rather long and overly sentimental for my taste however, and so was the scenes of Harry with all his dead family/relatives (though again, it’s nice to see Gary Oldman in it). I’m gonna give that a pass however, as this being the last movie, I guess they’re allowed to get a bit melodramatic.
  • Ok, lastly I just want to comment on Hermione’s character. I feel like she’s not as strong in this as she has been in previous movies. What I mean by that is that, the prettier and less bookish she gets, she seems to lose her assertiveness as well. She hesitated killing a horcrux until Ron encourages her, which I find a bit uncharacteristic of her usually brave self. I realize that she’s obviously anxious about what they are going through, but she appears a whole lot more melancholy with Harry, embracing him every five minutes it seems. That part doesn’t bother me, but I do feel it’s a bit jarring to see the ‘evolution’ of Hermione in this movie, which this Guardian article covered in details.

    “There’s almost a direct correlation with actress Emma Watson‘s growing prettiness through the course of the films and Hermione’s decreased bookishness and pragmatism.”
    The article said, and even went so far as saying that “When it comes to film, something about a smart, fearless woman who doesn’t care about her looks makes Hollywood leery; even if, in this instance, she commands a loyal and loving built-in audience before the film begins.”

    Now, whether that assessment is entirely accurate or not, I do see her point of view and I did miss the spunkier Hermione.

It’s definitely a challenging task of visualizing J.K. Rowling’s vision in the books (as in with most other literary adaptation). Dan from Top 10 Films assessment that splitting the movies into two serves a purely commercial reason than anything else, and perhaps it might’ve been better to keep it as one long film. It’s hard to say if that would’ve made it a better finale, but one thing for sure, it’d perhaps be more engaging and coherent as some people won’t feel ‘disconnected’ if they didn’t have time to see Part I right before seeing the second one. Making one long film would also force the filmmaker to be more efficient/prudent in choosing what scenes to include, which is quite a formidable task.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dan also in regards to the veteran supporting cast easily outshining the main ones. Don’t get me wrong, I think those three did a tremendous job (as do the other young cast like Tom Felton as Draco), but obviously they’re not as experienced as the more mature actors. I’ve dedicated a post a while ago to highlight my Top Ten Favorites HP cast, and having seen ALL of them now, I still stand by that list 😀

In conclusion, despite some quibbles and falling a bit short of the ‘epic’ quality I was hoping for, I still think it’s a worthy effort to close such a beloved franchise. Unlike most fans though, I’m not at all emotional that it’s the end of HP franchise (at least in cinematic form). I’m glad I’ve watched them all and they have been entertaining, but there are other films that I’m anticipating so yeah, I’m ready to move on 😀


Well, those of you who have seen this final Harry Potter movie. What did you think? Was it as epic as you had hoped?