Question of the Week: Which films with great ensemble cast that fail to deliver?

It really pains me that the movie that *inspired* me for this edition of Question of the Week is one I’ve actually been looking forward to for some time. When I first blogged about it in January 2013, I was super duper excited about the cast. The movie is called The Deadly Game in the UK, complete with an even cheesier poster. I much prefer the Paul Shipper version on below right, if only the film itself is even half as intriguing.

AllThingsToAllMen_TheDeadlyGame

I never thought a British thriller starring Gabriel Byrne, Rufus Sewell AND Toby Stephens be so insufferably dreary. Even the actors look bored here, only Rufus seems to be having a bit more fun than the rest. My hubby actually fell asleep halfway through and I didn’t bother waking him up. If it weren’t for these three of my favorite Brits, well four if you count London which is practically a character in itself, I would’ve turned it off within 10 minutes. I don’t really feel like reviewing it, but I agree with these reviewers:

All Things to All Men is the latest attempt to make a British Michael Mann-style crime epic based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what Michael Mann actually does as a filmmaker. – The Scotsman

“Despite Sewell’s laconic ruthlessness, Stephens’s steely taciturnity and Byrne’s world-weary arrogance, there’s an all-round lack of conviction.”Radio Times

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Now this one sums my feelings exactly:

“[George Isaac’s] dizzying array of double-dealing gangsters, cops, hoodlums and hit men seem to be weirdly obsessed with taking in the sights. Issac describes his film as “a love letter to London”. Seriously, they should just get a room.”

So the only *character* that’s not wasted is London, but even so, the setting seems has no purpose. There’s a great shot of Stephens inside the London Eye but all he does is take a phone call! There is really no reason to have that scene shot there other than for pure visual spectacle. It’s a shame really, this could’ve been so much better and more gripping when you’ve got THIS kind of talents involved. It made me think of other movies that didn’t deliver despite the great cast, in fact you could say the cast is completely wasted. And I’m talking terrible films here, not just middling. Just from the past couple of years alone, we’ve got Gangster Squad, Now You See Me, The Monuments Men. Fortunately I skipped some of those Love, Actually copycats like Valentine’s Day or New York, I Love You (which I turned off after about 5 minutes). Oh and I avoided Movie 43 like the plague, I mean I don’t think ANY actor could’ve possibly saved such a movie.


So now your turn… what’s the worst movie(s) you saw with a great ensemble cast?

Weekend Roundup & MSPIFF14 double reviews starring Juliette Binoche

Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend.

I took a bit of a break from blogging this weekend, but this week has been pretty busy in terms of movie watching. It’s the last week of the MSPIFF 2014 and I saw three more films, one short of what I intended to see but fortunately there’ll be a press screening of Locke next Monday. As the film fest continues with Best of Fest screenings all week, there’ll be more reviews coming from both me and Josh 😉

Here are the three new movies I saw over the weekend:

WeekendViewingApril20

I’ve blogged about All Things To All Men quite a while ago and finally it’s available on Netflix streaming. Remember how I always say some movies are well worth seeing just for the cast. Well, in this case, the ONLY thing worth seeing is the three actors: Toby Stephens, Rufus Sewell and Gabriel Byrne in that order [I’m having a serious crush on Toby, didn’t you notice?] Alas, the film itself left so much to be desired, and leaves me scratching my head why these actors signed on to do such a project. Did they lose a bet or something? I’m not sure I could even review it, but let me just say that unless you’re absolutely in love with any of the cast, I can’t exactly recommend it.

These two from MSPIFF, on the other hand, is well worth a look.

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A Thousand Times Good Night

Rebecca is one of the world’s top war photographers. She must weather a major emotional storm when her husband refuses to put up with her dangerous life any longer. 

This is one of those dramas that at times play out like a thriller. Even from the first moments when the protagonist is witnessing a ceremonial custom of an Afghan suicide bomber being prepped for self sacrifice, it’s quite an emotional roller coaster all the way to the very last scene.

For Rebecca (Juliette Binoche), covering the war is not just a job, it’s her way of life. When she comes home injured from Afghanistan, it’s apparent that it’s just as tough for her family to deal with her dangerous job. It’s apparent that her husband Marcus is constantly worried sick for Rebecca and this incident puts him over the edge which compels him to give her an ultimatum. It’s her family or her job. At first I felt that it’s not fair of him to do so, but as the film progresses, we’re shown how her two young daughters are dealing with her absence whilst she’s away in a war zone. It’s a tricky dilemma that I find myself grappling with as I watched this film. I read that this film is semi-autobiographical as Norwegian director Erik Poppe was a war photographer himself. No doubt this story is quite a personal one for him.

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The main quibble I have with the film is the slow pace. I don’t mind quiet moments on film, but at times it felt a bit too indulgent that it threatens to grind the film to a halt. The metaphor of Rebecca drowning/suffocating by her life dilemma also grows repetitive. But the cinematography is simply stunning, nearly every shot is like a work of art. It’s also very atmospheric and the conflict felt genuine. The sense of authenticity comes from a committed performance from the always-reliable Binoche, as well as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays her sensitive & caring husband. I’ve always been a big fan of Nikolaj from his short TV stint in New Amsterdam, long before he played Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, and he proves himself once again to be a capable and versatile actor. Lauryn Canny as Rebecca’s eldest daughter Steph is also quite good. When they’re in Africa, something happened that was quite traumatic for Steph. Some of the most emotional scenes in the film feature the two of them.

The heart of the film is no doubt Binoche. She conveys so much even in scenes where no words are spoken. This is the first of two films I saw her in and she’s absolutely excellent in both of these. There’s a certain aura of mystique about her that seems unreachable, and she’s very convincing as an fiercely idealistic woman. There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness and I think this film often blurs that line. There is a hint at the finale where Rebecca is back in Afghanistan that perhaps she’s a changed person after what happened between her and Steph, but the film lets us interpret that for ourselves.

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Words and Pictures

An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important.

Romance that’s sparked out of rivalry has been done many times before, but with the right cast, it can still feel fresh. The pairing of Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche is what intrigues me about this film and they’re still the reason to watch to movie.

Owen is Jack ‘Mr Mark’ Marcus, a gifted English teacher at an upscale prep school. His best days as a published author seems to be behind him and he’s got a drinking problem. Perhaps that’s a result of his disillusionment with his life, as he seems to have lost his mojo, as well as in danger of losing his job. Meanwhile, a renowned painter Dina Delsanto (Binoche) has just been hired at the school. Her nickname is icicle for obvious reasons, but her coldness seems to also stem from her disappointment that she can no longer paint as much as she did due to her server Rheumatoid arthritis.

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The two couldn’t be more different from each other, but as they say, opposites attracts. It’s fun to watch Owen in a softer role like this where he’s not firing a gun every two seconds, but his intensity is still there as he bud heads with the school principal and board members. He’s a deeply flawed character and in the most vulnerable moments, especially between him and his estranged son, is where I enjoyed his performance most. I wish the film would focus more on these two characters, as all the drama with the students are not as intriguing to me, and they don’t really add much to the story. The whole school competition of Words vs Pictures is more of a personal *war* for Marcus and Delsanto, and though it’s predictable that they’d end up together, it’s still fun to watch their banters. I personally like the pairing of Owen and Binoche more than him and Julia Roberts in Duplicity, which I find rather contrived. The only other actor I like in this movie is Bruce Davison as one of the more sympathetic faculty members.

Binoche is lovely here and it’s a testament to her versatility that she is also very convincing as a painter. I didn’t know that she’s an artist herself but in the credits I noticed that the Delsanto’s work is by Binoche, wow! I think out of the two films I saw last week, her dramatic chops perhaps suits something like A Thousand Times Good Night better. I like the idea of two broken people finding each other and to see a romantic film between people over the age of 40. Alas, I think the ending is almost as rough as Owen’s unkempt stubbles. Even the finale of the competition just didn’t have the oomph needed to make the story soar. Overall it’s an enjoyable dramedy though, eons better than a lot of the rom-coms are churning out these days. If you’re a fan of these two actors, this one is definitely worth a look.

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So what did you see this Easter weekend? Anything good?

Trailer Spotlight: British Crime Thriller ‘All Things To All Men’

Wahoo!!! Thanks to my friend Stella over at Byrneholics for the tip. This is THE trailer I’ve been waiting for, even though there’s not a confirmed US release date yet for this movie. Though for my lucky UK friends, this movie opens on April 5.

For those who missed my spotlight post for this crime thriller, I’m super excited for this mostly for the high caliber cast: Rufus Sewell, Gabriel Byrne and Toby Stephens. Oh man, talk about massive eye candy all around, and I haven’t even mentioned the gorgeous London scenery 😉

Now check out the trailer:

I have seen this trailer half a dozen times since this morning, so can’t you tell I’m excited for this? 😀 I love crime dramas and the London setting is especially intriguing for an Anglophile like me.

AllThingsToAllMenStills

Here’s the official synopsis:

When Riley (Stephens), a professional thief, is hired to pull off the ultimate sting, he is unwittingly drawn into a deadly cat and mouse game between maverick police detective Parker (Sewell) and renowned London crime lord Joseph Corso (Byrne). Parker is determined to bring down Corso and do whatever it takes to end his reign, but when the sting backfires and stakes get higher, Riley finds himself at the centre of a battle where the line between the law and crime are blurred beyond recognition.

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Leo Gregory

I really like the look of this, as my friend Stella said to me, it’ll be a testosterone-filled ride… and I’m more than game to tag along. This is George Isaac‘s directorial debut (he produced British dramas Kidulthood and Adulthood) so I don’t really know how well he’ll do behind the camera. But due to the premise and cast, I have high hopes for this.

I’m so thrilled to see Rufus getting top billing here, and nice to see Leo Gregory getting a bigger part in this as well. I’m going to try again via Twitter if I could get an interview with him. Oh btw, the girl in the trailer with no speaking parts is Spanish actress Elsa Pataky (Fast Five), who happens to be Chris Hemsworth’s wife. Boy, looks like she’s surrounded by hunks, on AND off the set, lucky gal!

I hope this film will find a US distributor, even for a limited release. Come on Hollywood, I REALLY want to see this on the big screen!


So what do you think of the trailer folks? Any fan of the cast?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: British Crime Drama ‘All Things To All Men’

A new contractor at my office who just started last week made an observation the other day when he stopped by my cube. “Are you a bit of an Anglophile?” I asked him why he thought so, then he pointed out to my Skyfall poster, London desktop pics, and other British-related memorabilia all over my desk. Well, considering my penchant for British cinema and actors, I guess I’ve been suffering from a seemingly-incurable case of Anglophilia 😉

The point of that story is that I LOVE movies set in Britain, and I’ve been waiting patiently for All Things To All Men for quite some time. I mentioned it nearly a year ago on this ensemble cast post, and for a while all I’ve got to go on is this photo:

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Gabriel Byrne & Toby Stephens

Well, finally we’ve got some great news about its release date… well for my friends across the pond that is. It’s set to open nationwide across the UK on March 8, no news on the US release yet, though 😦

Special thanks to Stella from Byrneholics for the tip, we’re both thrilled that Irish thespian Gabriel Byrne has the lead role, with two equally hunky Brits Rufus Sewell and Toby Stephens. Before we get to the synopsis, lets look at some official first pics first, shall we?

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Here’s the synopsis:

When Riley (Stephens), a professional thief, is hired to pull off the ultimate sting, he is unwittingly drawn into a deadly cat and mouse game between maverick police detective Parker (Sewell) and renowned London crime lord Joseph Corso (Byrne). Parker is determined to bring down Corso and do whatever it takes to end his reign, but when the sting backfires and stakes get higher, Riley finds himself at the centre of a battle where the line between the law and crime are blurred beyond recognition.

Per Empire, the film’s written and directed by George Isaac, who’s already a successful producer with Kidulthood and Adulthood and a BAFTA nominee for short film Nits, and also stars Elsa Pataky (Chris Hemsworth’s wife), James Frain, Julian Sands and Leo Gregory.

Byrneholics site has the full press release, which states that the film is shot entirely in London. I found some pics of Rufus on the set last year:

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Sorry, no larger pics available without watermark, photos are from CapitalPictures.

Man, I absolutely can’t wait for this movie! I love crime dramas and the premise sounds intriguing. The fact that this is a smaller production and set on location makes me want to see it all the more. Of course the cast is just splendid! I’ve always thought Byrne is perfect in a noir crime drama, and this role is similar to the one I cast him in this Moran’s Epilogue movie pitch as a former gangster. Sewell is a massively underrated actor, but I hope he gets a role he could really sink his teeth into. I’m not as familiar with Stephens’ work as a whole, though I adore his mum, Dame Maggie Smith. Unfortunately I’m not fond of the only two roles he did that I saw, Bond villain in Die Another Day and Rochester in 2006 BBC’s Jane Eyre, but I give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll be good here.

Man, I hope the trailer’s going to be released soon… and more importantly, this will get a cinema release here in the US, even if it’s a limited one.


Well, thoughts on this movie and/or cast? Would you go and see this?

The year of ensemble-cast movies – which one is your favorite?

With The Avengers kick-starting the Summer movie season, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of blockbusters. The year of ensemble cast blockbusters to be exact, as The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit are all vying to be amongst the ‘billion dollar club’ of the decade.

Avengers’ cast in the London premiere

An ensemble cast: a cast in which the principal performers are assigned roughly equal amounts of importance and screen time in a dramatic production.

A couple of years ago I listed my top five ensemble cast films from the past decade. Now, it’s not as simple as just hiring a bunch of actors in one movie, as some dismal movies like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve did. A good ensemble formula is when the assembled players actually work well together and elevate the story, instead of just getting ‘butts in seats’ for their name’s sake.

The ensemble cast films aren’t limited to just the mega blockbusters, however, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love also boast a large troupe of actors for their films. There’s also the 80s action heroes ensemble that is Expendables 2, and comedy ensembles What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Movie 43 from the Farrelly Brothers which I talked about last March [it’s apparently has been pushed out ’til next January]. On a smaller scale, there are these two independent projects I’m highly enthusiastic about:

  • At Swim Two Birds with the Irish ‘dream team’ of Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Michael Fassbender, and Jonathan Rhys Meyersthat’s hopefully out this year as well.
  • All Things to All Men with Gabriel Byrne, Rufus Sewell, Toby Stephens, Elsa Pataky (Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth’s wife), Leo Gregory, Julian Sands and James Frain. I will blog about this as soon as I have more info about the project, but in the meantime, check out this comprehensive post on Byrneholics site.

Ok, these three films represent three of my favorite ensemble cast from this year’s release (apart from The Avengers that is):

Moonrise Kingdom

  • Edward Norton
  • Bruce Willis
  • Bill Murray
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Harvey Keitel
  • Jason Schwartzman
  • Frances McDormand

Norton, Willis and Murray… what a trio! The trailer looks like a hoot as well. This might be another Wes Anderson movie I like since The Royal Tennenbaums!

The Dark Knight Rises

  • Tom Hardy
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Christian Bale
  • Liam Neeson
  • Anne Hathaway
  • Gary Oldman
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Michael Caine

The Dark Knight‘s cast is already ace, but the additional cast (especially Hardy and Gordon-Levitt) just makes it even better!! I’ve never even heard of Josh Pence before (last photo on the 2nd row) but curious how he’d fare as young Ra’s Al Ghul.

The Hobbit

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  • Luke Evans
  • Hugo Weaving
  • Elijah Wood
  • Martin Freeman
  • Cate Blanchett
  • Evangeline Lilly
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Christopher Lee
  • Ian McKellen
  • Andy Serkis
  • Richard Armitage
  • Ian Holm
  • Lee Pace
  • Billy Connolly

Now, is it any wonder I actually dreamed about being on the set of this movie??! Again, I already LOVE the cast of the Lord of the Rings trilogy but Peter Jackson seems to have upped the ante even more as The Hobbit is chock full of my favorite UK/Aussie actors!! A lot of them are from UK TV shows so I wonder if PJ are a big fan of BBC? 😀 You already know this but I’m looking forward to seeing Richard Armitage as Thorin the most, but also Lee Pace as Thranduil the Elven King!

Added 12/3

HONORABLE MENTION:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – I LOVE the all-British cast, especially the two Dames: Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. But it’s also nice to see the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy amongst the cast as well.


Inspired by my pal Terrence’s Time to Vote Tuesday, I figure it’d be fun to have an interactive post for today 🙂

So which of these ensemble cast is your favorite? Please cast your vote below (you can pick 2) and do share why in the comments 🙂

… 

A Birthday Tribute – 44 Reasons We Love Rufus Sewell

On Saturday, 10/29, one of my favorite actors Rufus Sewell is turning 44! So in honor of his b’day, my pal Becky (a.k.a. Prairiegirl, Roof’s number 1 fan) and I thought it’d be fun to list 44 reasons why we love the guy, starting with Becky’s list…

  1. Believe it … he’s just as hot as a cross-dresser in a skirt and knee-high, high-heeled boots (Taming of the Shrew, TV, 2005) as he is in a sharp Italian suit and Persol sunglasses (Zen, TV, 2011)
  2. He is very generous with his time and attention to his fans.
  3. He has no problem baring his lovely bum (Gone to Seed, (TV 1996), Dark City (1998), Helen of Troy (1999)
  4. Because he had a leading role in one of my favorite films ever – A Knight’s Tale (2001) which also includes a hunky bonus in the form of James Purefoy.
  5. He will compel me to watch a genre I rarely, if ever watch: vampires! (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, coming in 2012).
  6. He has one of the most distinct, easy-to-listen-to voices ever (narration of 12 of Ian Fleming’s James Bonds books, among many of his voice-over projects).
  7. He has one of the best fan sites, with the best fans, with the best name: The Rooftop
  8. There’s no way you can’t fall in love with him as the benevolent Lord Marke during the Bridge scene in Tristan and Isolde (2006). And that scene is more than halfway through the film… whatever took me so long? ;-D
    ,,,

  9. He really mixes up the type characters he plays, and does them effortlessly, even though most don’t know this… everyone thinks he is only a period player or the bad guy.
  10. He’s had three films set in one of my favorite places, Italy. Dangerous Beauty (1998, Venice), The Tourist (2010, Venice)  and, of course, Zen(TV, 2011, Rome). It’s hard to think of a better combination than Rufus AND Italy.

    Rufus as Aurelio Zen
  11. Speaking of The Tourist, another classy bonus along with Ruf in the film was Timothy Dalton.
  12. Even though Eleventh Hour (TV, 2009) only lasted one season on CBS, and Ruf’s part of Dr. Jacob Hood could have had been written with more impact and emotion, I have all eighteen episodes to see him in almost every scene on DVD whenever I need another dose of Dr. Ruf.
  13. Because I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him in his very first role in a film, Twenty-One (1991). As Bobby, he’s one, very, very convincing drug addict.
  14. He has the most amazing, expressive, wide green eyes.
  15. One of his most quoted sayings is “my favorite day is a happy accident.” My favorite day was discovering Rufus!
  16. He makes me laugh out loud when he is woken from a sound sleep by the Italian prosecutor, Nadia Pirot in Zen, the Cabal episode. She asks him if she woke him, and he says, not entirely convincingly, “no, no, I just got back from the gym.”
  17. He looks protective and caring holding a newly-acquired puppy.
  18. He’s as comfortable on a theater stage as he is in a film or on TV.
  19. He can play an addict, a working-class bus driver, renaissance royalty, a Dark Ages king, an adventurous entrepreneur, a scheming knight, an inconsiderate ex-boyfriend, an early American statesman, a detached husband, a brilliant scientist, a Medieval stone mason, an honest but slightly flawed detective, and a vampire… whew!
  20. He has a wonderful sense of humor.  When asked the question, “Looking at your own life, what would most like your legacy to be? Answer: I’d like an omelet named after me.” 😀
  21. He’s hot, hot, HOT in an elevator. (Taming of the Shrew, Zen)
  22. He keeps getting better with age. A very happy 44th birthday, Rufus!
  23. All right, those high check bones certainly deserve a mention. His features look as if they’re carved by Michelangelo!
  24. The soulful and emphatic way he narrated the 9/11 poem Out of the Blue
  25. He was swoon-worthy as Kate Winslet’s crush in The Holiday… he’s a cad yes, but a juicy one at that!
  26. His sexy, throaty voice to match that smouldering look.
  27. I read an article describing his character in Zen as possessing an enigmatic charisma, the same can be said about Rufus himself.
  28. I love how self-deprecating and humble he is. In his interview with Telegraph for Zen, he was asked if he fly economy? ‘Absolutely!’ he says with no hint of shame.
  29. Some men can pull off wearing eyeliners, and Rufus is one of them, as displayed in his drag outfit in BBC’s The Taming of the Shrew.
  30. I kind of like the name Rufus. It actually means “red-haired” in Latin.
  31. Speaking of hair, I LOVE his dark, wavy hair and he looks good w/ pretty much any hairstyle.
  32. Even in a brief cameo (i.e. The Tourist), he still manages to steal scenes and made even a banal movie worthwhile.
  33. He was a vile count in A Knight’s Tale but he you really can’t take your eyes off him… whenever he’s on, he made me forget about the leading man Heath Ledger.
  34. As many British actors do, he’s got stage-cred on top of his movie career. He earned rave reviews in his performance in Tom Stoppard’s Rock and Roll, which he played both at the Royal Court Theater in London and on Broadway.
  35. He looked like a Greek god in the miniseries Helen of Troy… he’s perhaps too ridiculously good looking as Agamemnon, but hey, I’m not complaining!
  36. His dark, almost exotic look makes him versatile enough to play people of different ethnic groups believably.
  37. He proves to be a capable romantic leading man in Dangerous Beauty. I’d love to see him in a sweeping period drama like that again in the future.
  38. There’s a regal air about Rufus that I don’t find in other actors of his caliber.
  39. He’s got an exquisite taste in automobile. Check him out looking like James Bond in his vintage red Alfa Romeo Spider convertible!
  40. He can pull off both a clean-cut look and a full beard one, such as the one he’s sporting in The Pillars of the Earth miniseries
  41. He was perfectly cast in one of the most underrated sci-fi, Alex Proyas’ Dark City
  42. He’s got such an expressive, melancholic eyes… perfect for romantic roles, thus I cast him as a British suitor in my fantasy romantic drama Last Voyage of the Valentina.
  43. I love his professional attitude… it’s as if no job is too small for him. No matter how low-budget the movie, he always gives his all.
  44. And lastly, since this job is not on IMDb yet, I’ll take the time to announce Rufus’ latest movie project!

    ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN
    I first heard about this project from Leo Gregory’s tweet, a British actor who has a supporting part in the film. Rufus will co-star with Gabriel Byrne and Toby Stephens in newcomer George Isaac’s directorial debut.

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rufus has agreed to play the maverick law enforcement official. Byrne signed on to play the sadistic crime boss. And Stephens is all set to play Riley, a criminal trying to play both sides of a dangerous situation.

    I LOVE the cast and UK crime thrillers sounds awesome!! Check out the on-set picture of Rufus in London, click on the photo to see more pics. I’ll be sure to blog about this once we hear more about this movie.


So happy, happy birthday, Rufus!! Please join me in wishing this talented actor many happy returns!