Five for the Fifth: September 2013 Edition

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Hello folks, welcome to the first FALL edition of Five for the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item, observation, trailer, actor/director spotlight, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. I always like to spotlight a filmmaker/actor who’s having a birthday on Five for the Fifth and today happens to be Werner Herzog’s 71st Birthday today.

WernerHerzogI have to admit that I actually have not seen a single film by the German director, though I have seen one that he produced, that is The Act of Killing and saw his acting for the first time in Jack Reacher. My friend Vince and I was just talking about him not too long ago, in which we talked about his interesting love-hate relationship with Klaus Kinski. In fact, he’s going to lend me the documentary My Best Fiend – Klaus Kinski.

Even if you’re not familiar with Mr. Herzog, just reading his IMDb bio would give you a glimpse into his um, enigmatic character. Apparently he saved Joaquin Phoenix once when he was on a car crash, but then vanished after calling an ambulance. Speaking of car accidents, have you seen his PSA on Texting While Driving which was sponsored by AT & T and other phone carrier companies. It’s interesting as according to CNN, Herzog doesn’t even own a cellphone! But the article says, “… he looks at the statistics for texting-while-driving incidents — as well as our smartphone obsession and its cost in simple human contact — and recognizes the necessity of saying something.” Here’s one of the PSA video:

I’m curious what you think of Mr. Herzog and what’s your favorite film that he’s done?

2. Seems that in the movie world at least, the geek shall inherit the earth… with J.J. Abrams as the geek god. Having completed two Star Trek films, now he’s busy working on the Star Wars sequels. I’ve got to admit I didn’t really pay attention to the whole Star Wars VII development… well that is until Benedict Cumberbatch is [rumored] to be cast. Boy, this has been quite a year for crazy casting rumors isn’t it, as I was quite convinced that Bryan Cranston has indeed been cast as Lex Luthor in the Man of Steel sequel and I was rejoicing in that fact! So now Cumberbatch is apparently the latest, shall we say, victim of casting rumor ran amok. Clearly some of his fans had fun making GIFs of Benedict with a lightsaber 😀

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Alas, it’s all apparently is JUST a rumor. But I like the first line of the NY Daily News article that debunked it:

Reports that Benedict Cumberbatch was cast in “Star Wars: Episode VII” seem to be full of Sith.

Full of Sith, ahah. Ah well, that’s too bad really, as I quite like the idea of him as a Sith Lord. And I think the actor would surely take that on, as he told Total Film early this year that he’s a Star Wars fan: “I was much more connected to [Star Wars] as a kid, in the way that a lot of kids are because it’s immediate storytelling, very simple – a beautifully, outrageously simple narrative in a way – and a wonderful three-act melodrama, opera. And I loved them. I really, really loved those films and I always wanted to be Han Solo…”
 

Well, what’s your thoughts about this casting idea folks? Would you be happy with Benedict Cumberbatch joining the next Star Wars movies?


3. This question is inspired by my recent viewing of MUD, in which two boys end up befriending a drifter with a shady past. I’ve always loved films about unlikely friendships. There are quite a few films with this kind of topic, and it spans multiple genres. A lot of buddy comedies often made up of people who didn’t initially get along but ended up becoming well, buddies. That’s certainly a popular variation of that theme, but I’m focusing mainly on dramatic or thriller genres.

Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman
Richard Jenkins + Haaz Sleiman in The Visitor

Some of my favorites of such films are The Intouchables, The Visitor, The Professionals, Finding Neverland, Mrs. Brown, just to name a few. I also just read Steph’s recent review of My Afternoon with Margueritte, which I might check out.

In the spirit of recommendations, please share YOUR favorite film(s) about unlikely friendships.


GravityPoster_Bullock4. One of the Fall films that’s been generating all kinds of buzz this week is Alfonso Cuarón‘s GRAVITY. The first trailer doesn’t really give us anything other than Sandra Bullock spinning out of control in space whilst her shuttle suddenly breaks apart around her, and George Clooney‘s voice speaking to her.

This second trailer gives more background to her character, Dr. Ryan Stone, described as a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission (per Wikipedia). Clooney plays a veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky, the only one Stone is able to communicate to in her desperate hour. Pretty gut-wrenching stuff.

“Is there somebody down there looking up, thinking about you?” Kowalsky asks.

“I had a daughter,” Stone whispers, “A little girl with brown hair. Tell her that I’m not quitting.”

Check out the latest trailer below:

I’m even more intrigued now, even before James Cameron calling it “the best space film ever done,” which was all over Twitter yesterday. I’ve always liked Sandra Bullock and this is a role I don’t usually associate her with but I know she’s a capable actress. Cuarón‘s a formidable director, whose Children of Men is one of my favorite sci-fi films. Sounds like he might give us another sci-fi classic with this one.

What say you folks? What’s your level of interest on GRAVITY?


5. Last but not least, now here are two films based on TV shows that definitely piqued my interest. Both of them star sexy, crush-worthy Brits of course 😉

IdrisElbaLutherThe first one is the BBC crime drama series LUTHER starring Idris Elba. According to the series creator, Neil Cross, the movie adaptation’s script is already written. Per Total Film, speaking at the Edinburgh TV festival, Cross confirmed that a feature film is going ahead, and announced that the plot will take the form of a prequel story following Luther’s early career. Mr. Elba is reportedly set to return as the protagonist. Well I sure hope so, who’s actually going to watch if he’s NOT in it??

Now, the other one is The Man from U.N.C.L.E, which is based on the  movies based on the mid 60s TV series of the same name. I love the cast so far: Two impossibly gorgeous guys, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, are playing CIA and KGB agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, respectively. The movie could’ve been called Superman Twins or something like that as I could totally see the 6’5″ Hammer as Superman as well.

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So far Hugh Grant (who’ll be playing the head of British Naval Intelligence) and Jared Harris have joined the cast as well. I’m sooo glad Henry got the role, I remember months ago that Tom Cruise was originally cast in his role. I think Henry is a better choice as he’s much closer to Armie’s age (not to mention height).

Set in the early 60s at the height of the Cold War, the film is set to begin production next week in England, with location filming in Rome and Naples (nice!). Scott Z. Burns (a Minnesota native!) who wrote The Bourne Ultimatum, Contagion, Side Effects, etc. is penning the script. I think if Guy Ritchie is making this more like a action-adventure comedy like his Sherlock Holmes films, this could be a lot of fun. 

What are your thoughts on either one of these projects? Or you can also tell me what other TV series you’d like to see being made into a feature film.


That’s it for the September 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now pick one or do them all!

5 Films That Are Better Than the Books They Are Based On

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Every time Hollywood studios turn popular books into films, most fans of the books will always coin the term “The book is better”. I’m quite sure fans of The Hobbit and Jack Reacher books are already saying that. Most of the time they’re right, as an avid reader myself, I used that term many times after I saw a film based on a book that I read and liked. I believe some books just aren’t meant for the big screen, for example Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was an excellent novel but the film version was average at best. I think the story just fit better in the written form and just didn’t transfer well onto the big screen. Then there are Stephen King’s epic The Dark Tower books which Ron Howard is still trying to get off the ground. I’m a huge fan of the books but I just don’t know if it will translate well into films.

Once in a while though, Hollywood actually made films that ended up being better than its original source. Below are the films I thought were better than the book version.

 

5. The Hunt For Red October

HuntforRedOctober

This film was based on Tom Clancy’s popular book was one of the biggest hits of 1990. I have to confess that I saw the film version first before reading the novel, but usually I ended up loving the book more. But for this one I firmly believe the film version is superior. To me the book has too much going on with introduction to so many characters while the film only focuses on the hunt for the submarine, Red October. Also, with the excellent performances by Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Scott Glenn, Sam Neil and James Earl Jones and a tight direction by John McTiernan, it’s a great thriller.

4. Misery

Misery

Stephen King was one of my favorite writers growing up, I think I’ve read most of his novels, even the bad ones. So when it was announced that the film version of Misery was coming out, I decided to read the book before seeing the film. I thought it’s an excellent novel but I had second thought about seeing the film version. If you read the book then you know how gruesome it was. To my surprise when I finally saw the film, most of the gruesome stuff was never shown and I think that made the film much better than the book. Kathy Bates was perfectly cast as the crazy Annie and James Caan was excellent as the helpless Paul Sheldon. Rob Reiner decided to turn it into a psychological thriller instead of horror worked perfectly in my opinion. Yes he showed us the infamous leg smashing scene but in the book, Annie chopped off one of Paul’s legs with an axe, so yeah I did not want to see that on the screen.

3. Children of Men

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Based on P.D. James’ 1992 novel The Children of Men, director Alfonso Cuarón did a wonderful job of capturing what James wrote on the pages and also injected his own interpretation to the story. The book start out kind of slow but once the plot kicked in, it’s very similar to the film version. Of course the film cut out a few things from the book, for example in the book, all young people was viewed as celebrities because of their youth and that old people were forced into committing suicide. I was hoping to see that get a mention in the film. But the main reason I thought the film version was better is because it didn’t have a clichéd Hollywood ending, while the book’s ending has this sort of high noon standoff shootout that I didn’t think fit the story whatsoever. I’m glad Cuaron changed it and made it into sort of open to interpretation as to what’s going to happen to that society.

2. No Country for Old Men

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I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy and I’ve never thought that anyone could ever turn one of his books into a great film, let alone made it better than his written words. But that’s what happened here. The Coen Brothers’ film version is to me a near masterpiece, they were able to translate McCarthy’s beautiful written words into an almost flawless motion picture. The casting of Tommy Lee Jones as the old man who can’t seem to grasp the ever-changing violence in modern day society is pitch perfect. Then of course the performance by Javier Bardem as the unstoppable killer Anton Chigurh was pretty incredible. I can watch that scene where he picked on the clerk at a gas station over and over again. I went back and read the book again after seeing the film and I still believe the film’s better.

1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? a.k.a Blade Runner

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I’ve read a lot of Phillip K. Dick’s work and this book may have been his most straightforward story. In the film, Ridley Scott was able to expand some of the concepts in Dick’s book and made them even better in my opinion. I think one of the main reasons why I prefer the film version is because the book has too much religious theme for my liking. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; just that I’m not a religious person. Also, in the book the Replicants or robots that Deckard was hunting for didn’t have a personality, while in the film they acted and talked like humans. But the main reason why I prefer the film is because I believe it has a deeper meaning than the book. What I got out of the film was that we as human takes life for granted while these Replicants would do anything, including murder, to live longer. The tears in rain speech Roy gave to Deckard near the end sums up nicely of why he saved Deckard’s life, a beautiful scene.

[rtm note: Check out my related Blade Runner musings… What Does It Mean to Be Humans?
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– Post by Ted S.
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So those are some films I thought were better than their original source, do you have other films you’d like to add to the list? 

Five for the Fifth: May 2012 Edition

Hello folks, welcome to the May 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?

1.  Happy Cinco de Mayo! Last year I chose to highlight a Mexican actor to celebrate Mexican heritage and pride , but this year why not talk about directors? There are quite a number of Mexican directors working in Hollywood today, and few are highly successful, i.e. Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, and the celebrated Luis Buñuel.

Out of the list, I’m most familiar with Cuarón’s work (Great Expectations, a segment of Paris, je t’aime, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and one of my favorite dystopian sci-fi thriller Children of Men. I saw it on the big screen when it came out in 2006 and was quite affected by it. I think it’s one of Clive Owen’s best performances to date, IMO.

So my first question has two-parts: Who’s your favorite Mexican director and your favorite film from said director?


2. Ok, since I just blogged about being hooked on Spooks, I had been reading a lot about the show and apparently a US remake is in the works [surprise, surprise]. According to Dark Horizon, ABC has acquired the American adaptation rights of the BAFTA-winning show, though no word yet whether it will remain set in the U.K. or shift its location and agency setting to the United States.

Heh, naturally I’m skeptical about such projects, most likely it just won’t be as good as the original. I read this soon after I heard news that The Help director Tate Taylor wants to make a movie version of 2002 BBC miniseries The Jury (starring a young Gerry Butler in one of my top five roles). It’s such a fantastic miniseries that explored how each juror’s life is affected by the case, not sure how that’d translate into a 2-hour feature film.

Now, I do welcome the idea of a Spooks movie however, after all there are dozens of TV series that have been made into films, I mean look at Serenity, Charlie’s Angels and of course the highly successful Mission: Impossible. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Spooks being made into a film franchise and with the right people that could be an awesome one.

Richard Armitage who played Lucas North is very keen on the idea, in this interview he said, “Every time I see the producers I’m saying, ‘Come on, Olympics 2012. Come on, do it. Make a film’ I think it would be fantastic. And it would be great to see — I mean one of the things Spooks has done brilliantly is put London visually on the screen and shoot London beautifully…” Hear, hear, Richard! Of course they should make it with Richard in the lead 😉

So those who’ve watched Spooks, what do you think of the idea? If you haven’t seen it, what’s your favorite TV series-turned-film?
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3. Ok, I wasn’t going to feature this trailer anywhere on my blog as I thought the first movie is such an abominable! If you’ve read my short review of it, you’ll know why. But I think the second movie promises even more ridiculously bombastic and preposterous high-octane action in massive proportion!

Not only do we have the original 80s action heroes like Sly, Ah-nuld, Bruce Willis, and Dolph Lundgren, we’ve also got Jason Statham and Jet Li returning, along with even MORE action heroes in the form of Jean-Claude Van Damme AND Chuck Norris!!  I have to admit I laughed out loud watching the trailer, and everyone practically cheered when good ‘ol Chuck strutting into the screen taking off his sunglasses, ahah. Hey like the trailer said… When the threat is this great… only a cast this verbose could do it!!


So is Expendables 2 on your must-see list this Summer?
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4. Ok, since I just saw The Avengers last night, I have to have one Avengers-related question. I read on Friday on Deadline that apparently Samuel L. Jackson was furious that A.O. Scott gave The Avengers a negative review. Here’s what he tweeted:

This is what the NY Times reviewer wrote: “…while ‘The Avengers’ is hardly worth raging about, its failures are significant and dispiriting. The light, amusing bits cannot overcome the grinding, hectic emptiness, the bloated cynicism that is less a shortcoming of this particular film than a feature of the genre.”  

Now I disagree w/ Scott as I thought The Avengers was fun and definitely entertaining, but really is it really necessary for Jackson to be so bitter about just one bad review, especially when overall the critical reception has been positive? Proof that these superheroes certainly have super ego, ahah.

What do you think of Sam Jackson’s reaction? And if you have seen The Avengers, what did you think of his role as Nick Fury?


5. Ok last question. Today is Henry Cavill‘s 29th Birthday. As you already know, I’m highly anticipating Man of Steel with him in the role.

Apart from some behind-the-scene footage of him and this photo, we haven’t seen ANY teaser trailer yet. I’m hoping that maybe we’ll see at least a teaser with The Dark Knight Rises? Now, you’ve probably read that this Zack Snyder adaptation might focus a bit more on Clark Kent as ‘young twenty-something journalist who feels alienated by powers beyond anyone’s imagination’ [per ComicBookMovie]

There have been some on-set pics that show Cavill as Kent without his trademark glasses. Now, we should expect that under Christopher Nolan/Zack Snyder collaboration, we may see a Superman reboot unlike anything we’ve seen before. I mean look at what Nolan did with the Batman franchise, he’s not afraid to give the classic hero a whole new level of realism and darker tone with the story. So does that mean perhaps that would include Clark Kent having a different set of disguise in Man of Steel?

What say you, folks? Where are you in the ‘glasses or no glasses for Clark Kent’ debate?



Well, that’s it for the May edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all!