Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2015 viewings

I saw this list on Variety on 10 Actors To Watch in 2015 and I realized I dropped the ball on this Actor Discoveries post last year. I mentioned in the first post back in 2012 that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. I planned on making this post an annual thing but alas, the last time I did this post was in 2013.

On that list, I included Lake Bell, Daniel Brühl, Riz Ahmed, Andrea Riseborough and David Oyelowo. Since then, most of them have been getting more prominent roles, with the exception of Riseborough which I think is so criminally under-utilized. Since I didn’t make a list last year, certainly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid would’ve made my 2014 shortlist.

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So, based on this year’s viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Carmen Ejogo

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The Oscars not only dropped the ball on several counts when it comes to SELMA last year. Much was made about the omission of Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo from the nomination list, but I think Carmen Ejogo was equally deserving to be amongst the Best Supporting Actress nominees.

Like his co-star, she’s from the UK but she effortlessly portrayed an American. She’s been working in a variety of TV and film, so I feel kinda bad that I hadn’t seen her until this year. There’s a certain elegance and tortured soul about her that makes her so intriguing to watch. I’m hoping her career would benefit from the Oscar buzz and that she’d be getting more and more prominent roles.

What’s Next: Jazz biopic Born to Be Blue with Ethan Hawke

Jack Huston

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I noticed Jack Huston when I saw American Hustle, but it wasn’t until Night Train in Lisbon that I became a fan. Huston has quite a Hollywood pedigree, being the grandson of famed filmmaker John Huston and nephew of Anjelica Huston. But the 32-year-old Londoner is a talented actor in his own right.

I like that he has one of those *ethnically hard to pin down* look about him that makes him suitable to play different kinds of ethnicity. In Night Train to Lisbon he played a Portuguese doctor and an American mobster in American Hustle. As many actors who grew up in the UK, he’s got a knack for accents which makes him even more versatile. I wasn’t thrilled at all when they announced they’re remaking Ben-Hur, but since they cast Huston in the titular role, I’m actually intrigued! I’d love to see more of him in a variety of roles, as he’s far more interesting to watch than a lot of Hollywood A-listers working today.

What’s Next: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (as Mr. Wickham) and the Ben-Hur remake

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Rebecca Ferguson

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My friend Ashley had told me about the Starz’s miniseries The White Queen a while back, but I haven’t got around to seeing it. Well, it’s on the top of my Amazon Prime queue now after I saw Rebecca in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. I really couldn’t shut up about how impressed I was with her in that role. It was surely a kick-ass performance but she didn’t just pull off the physicality of the role, but she elevates the role into so much more. She’s equally as intriguing as Tom Cruise if not more so, and no doubt she’s the most memorable part about that film.

As I’ve blogged about here, I’m thrilled to see her cast in The Girl on the Train and I’m glad she didn’t end up becoming Channing Tatum’s love interest in Gambit. She’s so much more interesting to be pigeonholed into action roles, and so I hope Hollywood realizes that.

What’s Next: She’ll be in the upcoming espionage drama Despite The Falling SnowShe’ll be starring with Sam Reid, wahoo!!
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Sarah Snook

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Sometimes it only takes a single film for you to become an instant fan of a performer. That’s the case with Sarah Snook, who single-handedly stole the time travel sci-fi film Predestination with her outstanding performance.

As I mentioned in my review, it was a revelatory performance from the Aussie actress whose educated at National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. It’s quite a complex role with multiple layers but it’s so rewarding to see how she tackles each one convincingly and with so much heart.

What’s Next: She has a small role in the Aussie-set drama starring Kate Winslet, The Dressmaker. She’s also in the Steve Jobs film with Michael Fassbender. I hope she lands a leading role soon, she deserves it!
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Stanley Weber

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Well I think this one doesn’t need much introduction if you’ve been reading my blog this year. I have mentioned him practically every week since I discovered him on April 5 in the Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending (yes I even remembered the date!). It’s one of those spellbound moments that doesn’t happen very often, but once it did, well, it’s REALLY hard to snap out of it 😛

I’ve posted a full tribute for him here that list five of my favorite roles of his so far. It takes more than a pretty face for me to be obsessed with someone, and Stanley certainly is a dedicated actor who can handle stage, TV AND film roles, in fact that’s what he’s juggling this year alone. I LOVE actors who loves to mix things up and not afraid to look unglamorous for a role. It’d be tough to make this Frenchman look ugly though, I mean he’s still so beautiful even with THIS haircut for his upcoming role as a Jesuit priest in Pilgrimage.

What’s Next: I can’t freakin’ wait to see Stanley in STARZ’s Outlander season 2, the adventure drama Pilgrimage, and the French WWII drama L’origine de la violence. Hopefully all of them will be out next year!!
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Honorable Mentions:

I hadn’t heard of any of these five impressive performers prior to 2015, but I’m glad I saw them and I hope they continue to find prominent roles in Hollywood.

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Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

The Swedish actress seems to have had quite an astronomical rise to stardom in Hollywood. She had been working in her native country until about 2012 when she was cast with Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair. I didn’t see Anna Karenina until earlier this year on the plane, in which she had a small role, but it wasn’t until Ex Machina that I really took notice of her. She has this delicate physique but a formidable screen charisma that makes her so lovely to watch. It’s no surprise she is one busy girl, with three more films scheduled to open later this year, as well as the untitled Bourne film with Matt Damon next year.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man)

As I was watching the John le Carré spy drama, one of the performances that intrigued me was by the actor who portrayed the mysterious Issa Karpov. I found out later that Dobrygin is a Russian actor who’s a classically-trained ballet dancer. He apparently won a Silver Bear award for Best Actor at Berlin Film Festival for Russian film How I Ended This Summer.

I definitely would love to see more of him in Hollywood, hopefully he will continue acting and not go back to go back to ballet. Per The Guardian, he has just finished on Susanna White’s Our Kind of Traitor, with Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris.

Karidja Touré (Girlhood)

Another French actor who caught my eye and this was her feature film debut! The 21-year-old has that undeniable charm and screen presence on top of her acting talent. Her parents are from the Ivory Coast but she was born in France and grew up in Paris. I hope she’d get the same opportunities as fellow French actor from north African origin, Omar Sy, who had a breakout role in The Intouchables. He’s gone to big budget route such as Jurassic World, but I’d like to see Touré in smaller films that would offer her a chance to show what she’s capable of.

Maika Monroe (The Guest)

The Guest feature two awesome performances from relative newcomers. I’m already familiar with Dan Stevens from his period drama days in the UK, though most Americans probably saw him here for the first time. I hadn’t seen Monroe before however, and right away I thought she has an uncanny resemblance to Gwen Stefani. She also has that cool factor, that effortless swagger of a rock star that makes her fun to watch. She’s also in the buzzed-about horror flick It Follows, so I think the 22-year-old Californian has a long career ahead of her.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman)

Speaking of swagger, there’s plenty of that to be found on the 25-year-old Welsh native. There’s a devil-may-care attitude in him that I find endearing, which reminds me a bit of Tom Hardy when I first saw him on screen. I haven’t seen him in a serious drama yet so I’m curious to see how he fares in that. Hollywood’s certainly taken notice of him, as he’s been cast as the Robin Hood reboot. We’ll also see him along with Hardy in LEGEND later this year.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd)

The Belgian actor has been working pretty steadily since the early 2000s but for some reason I just never got around to seeing any of his films until earlier this year. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting him in the role of Gabriel Oak, a classic romantic hero in Victorian England, but he won me over with his sensitive portrayal. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him. I said in my review that he reminds me a bit of Viggo Mortensen, and that’s a good thing. Curious to see what role he’d tackle next, but I probably should go back and check out his older films.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

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Weekend Roundup + Casting news I’m excited about

Hello everyone! I’ve been away for most of the weekend and away from my laptop so not much to report here in terms of movie watching. My mother in-law and brother in-law are visiting in town so we’ve been playing tourist around MN since Friday. I was able to finish my Jurassic World review before they arrived though, but I did not see a single thing since Thursday night when I saw Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

I don’t know when I’ll have time to reviewMeEarlDyingGirl_Pic it, but I urge you to check it out if it’s playing in a theater near you. It was a Sundance hit, winning the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, and rightly so. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll definitely appreciate life as you have it and the friendship you have in your life. Plus, if you love foreign movies, you’ll absolutely adore this movie!

Well, even though I didn’t have much time to watch movies nor blog this past few days, I did make a bit of progress on my next novel or more appropriately, my narrative endeavor. I’m not revealing any details just yet as it’s still in its infancy, but I’m happy just to be working on something new as it’s been over three years since I came up with this movie pitch! Let’s just say my crushing on Stanley Weber hasn’t been in vain as it’s mostly inspired by him, as well as my girl crush Gugu Mbatha-Raw 😉

Instagram_logoOh and I also joined the Instagram party just for the heck of it. So if you have an IG account, let’s connect there!

Ok, so here’s the casting news I’m super excited about!

Per TheWrap, Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac will star in The Promise, an epic love story that Oscar-winning filmmaker Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) will direct from a script he co-wrote with Robin Swicord (Memoirs of a Geisha).

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Heh, they should do something about that name eh? It’s so darn generic and wasn’t there a period piece with a similar name just released a couple of years ago with Alan Rickman & Rebecca Hall? I blogged about it here but doesn’t look like anyone (including me) saw it.

In any case, I do love the gist of this upcoming project:

Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, “The Promise” follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris — a renowned American journalist based in Paris. Bale will play Chris, an AP reporter in love with both a woman and the danger of being in a combat zone amidst a world that is falling apart. Isaac will play Michael, a medical student in love with the same woman but conflicted by old-world traditions and his heart.

The Ottoman Empire was dissolved in 1922 following the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which resulted in an estimated death toll of between 800,000 and 1.5 million people. The subject has been near and dear to George, who in March 2013, was a guest of the Armenian State Pedagogical University, where the Irish filmmaker compared the Armenian genocide to the Rwanda genocide that he chronicled in Hotel Rwanda.

Boy, who’s going to be the lucky lady who will be *trapped* in THIS juicy love triangle? Whoever it’ll be, I’m already sold on the two male leads who are both gorgeous AND talented. I’m glad Isaac’s career is on fire right now and he’ll get his own Oscar to go with his name very soon too I hope.

JackHustonOn the flip side, I just learned on TheWrap as well that Jack Huston is no longer attached to play The Crow in the remake. Now, I think Brandon Lee had huge shoes to fill in the role and it’s going to be tough to top that film, but I like Huston and I think he could do a fine job. Plus I’d love to see him on screen with Andrea Riseborough who’s cast to play Sgt. Albrecht.

I’ve only seen him in American Hustle and Night Train to Lisbon, but most of you who watch Boardwalk Empire would notice him as Richard Harrow. I’m not too sad about it though, Jack is a talented young actor whom I hope would go on to star in better things. I’m looking forward to seeing him as Ben-Hur as well as Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies next year!

 


So that’s my weekend & casting roundup. How about you, seen anything good?

FlixChatter Review: Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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It’s been nearly a month since I saw this film, but I’m still thinking about it. In fact, I was just telling a friend over coffee this weekend how the more I think about this film, the more I like it.

The story revolves around Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton in an art-imitating-life sort of a role as he’s famous for playing Batman in the late 80s/early 90s. Riggan is a has-been actor, most famous for playing a successful comic-book franchise, Birdman. But instead of opting to take an easy paycheck out of the fourth installment of the franchise, Riggan attempts to reinvent himself and reclaim his past glory by directing/starring an off-Broadway play. Not a light undertaking, especially when one problem after another starts popping up, threatening to grind his play to a halt. It also doesn’t help that Riggan is still haunted by his Birdman character, literally, who constantly berates him in his dressing room.

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The way Alejandro González Iñárritu frames his story is captivating and unequivocally surreal. The camera is told from Riggan’s point of view and the camera often follows him in one long, continuous take. From the cramped dressing room through the narrow corridor all the way to the stage, the film takes place mostly in the confines of the theater’s backstage. The neon sign of Phantom of the Opera is often visible in NYC’s Theater District across Riggan’s theater, one of the things that grounds the film in reality amidst all the surreal elements. Slipping back and forth between reality and fantasy, and often blurs the line between the two, the film manages to keep me entertained and engaged throughout.

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It certainly helps that all his actors perform with equal dexterity. Nice to see Edward Norton get a role worthy of his talent. He’s a method actor who’s a bit of a diva and his on-and-off screen antics are fun to watch. There’s an amusing brawl backstage between him and Keaton that’s worth the price of admission. Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan and Emma Stone all provide memorable supporting role, with Stone perhaps having the flashiest part as Riggan’s daughter. Her performance, especially memorable for her heated monologue, has already earned her a Golden Globe and SAG nomination. Even Zach Galifinakis, an actor I never quite warmed up to, was quite good here as his often-hysterical theater producer. British actress Lindsay Duncan has a small but important role as the critic who could potentially make or break Riggan’s career.

Birdman_SupportingCast

The real star here is Michael Keaton in a welcomed come-back role as a leading man. I’ve always been a fan of the underrated actor as he can deliver both serious, menacing and comical performance convincingly. He gets to do both here in equal measure as he truly embodies his character. He’s a natural in the more um, batty scenarios, but also genuinely sympathetic in the quieter moments that display Riggan’s vulnerability. Perhaps the fact that he has a similar personal experience helps him in the role, so it’s definitely inspired casting here that works wonderfully for the film.

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This is Iñárritu’s third film that I have seen so far. It could very well be my favorite and one I don’t mind seeing again. He strikes a perfect balance between drama and humor, at times hilarious and off the wall, and others heart-rending and poignant. The film’s a not-so-subtle mockery of Hollywood’s preoccupation with superhero franchises – and some of the real-life actors who’ve been in them– but yet it’s not done with disdain nor contempt as it’s all part of Riggan’s personal story. The movie also provides an interesting commentary on social media and how that affects celebrity culture in this day and age.

On a technical level, Birdman is simply phenomenal. The stunning and unique camera work make you think ‘how did they do that?’ without being too distracting. The percussion music isn’t really my style but it works in the context of the film. Emmanuel Lubezki, who won an Oscar for his astounding cinematography work for Gravity, will likely get another nom for this. I read somewhere that he shot this without artificial light due to space constraints of the cramped theater.

Birdman_NortonKeaton

I have to admit I still don’t know what to make of that WTF finale that seems deliberately left open for interpretation. It certainly makes for a fun discussion afterwards and it’s been fun reading all kinds of theories about it. I won’t say another word on it as it’s best that you discover that for yourself. Despite all the bizarre scenes and all its dream-like eccentricities, the film somehow still feels personal and human, even relatable in a strange way. No surprise that Birdman‘s become the critical darling of the year and has been raking a bunch of nominations left and right. I for one think the accolade is well-deserved as Iñárritu pushes the creative boundaries of story-telling to a new level.

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Have you seen Birdman? Well, what did YOU think?

Special Collaborative Post: Recasting Jane Austen’s Screen Adaptation of Sense & Sensibility

Happy Sunday, everyone! Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend.

Today I bring you another collaborative post with a fellow blogger, and fellow British actor aficionado, Anna from Defiant Success blog. This will be a mini blog series of RECASTING Jane Austen screen adaptations. Anna wanted to do this in order of the book’s release, the first one happens to be my own personal favorite: Sense & Sensibility.

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Anna’s Picks

Romola Garai as Elinor Dashwood

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“Elinor, the eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength in understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; — her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn. and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.”

If you’ve seen Garai’s work in the brilliant (but unfortunately short-lived) TV series The Hour, you’ll know that her role of Bel Rowley has a few shared traits with that of Elinor. Reserved, levelheaded, (un)willingly keeps her feelings to herself…she just seemed right for the part. (It also doesn’t hurt that Garai has previously played another Austen leading lady, albeit a less sensible one.)

Carey Mulligan as Marianne Dashwood

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“She was sensible and clever; but eager in every thing; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was every thing but prudent.”


I was reminded of Mulligan’s work in An Education as I was sketching out this list. Her role of Jenny Mellor is that of a young woman with a deep admiration for the arts and is experiencing love for the first time in her life before the harsh truths about her lover come to light. That description could easily be applied to Marianne as well. (Again, Mulligan has previously been in an Austen adaptation, though her character is less appreciated.)

James McAvoy as Edward Ferrars

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“He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open affectionate heart. His understanding was good, and his education had given it solid improvement. But he was neither fitted by abilities nor disposition to answer the wishes of his mother and sister, who longer to see him distinguished—as—they hardly knew what. They wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other. His mother wished to interest him in political concerns, to get him into parliament, or to see him connected with some of the great men of the day. Mrs. John Dashwood wished it likewise; but in the mean while, till one of these superior blessings could be attained, it would have quieted her ambition to see him driving a barouche. But Edward had no turn for great men or barouches. All his wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life.”

Yes, Austen specified that Edward is “not handsome” but considering the role has also been played by 90s-era Hugh Grant and a pre-Downton Abbey Dan Stevens, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think anyone will object to whom I’ve chosen. Anyway, McAvoy’s work in Atonement is what inspired me to choose him. Reserved and shy but passionate. (And yes, I see the irony of having him and Garai play love interests. It would certainly shine Atonement in a new light.)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Colonel Brandon

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“He was silent and grave. His appearance however was not unpleasing, in spite of his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty; but though his face was not handsome his countenance was sensible, and his address was particularly gentlemanlike.”


Okay, I’ll admit the 1995 Sense & Sensibility film might have had some influence in this decision. (Another influence was Parade’s End.) There was just something about that description that made me think of Cumberbatch. (My money’s on the “not unpleasing” appearance.) And I bet that the scene of Colonel Brandon recalling his lost love to Elinor would be done beautifully in his hands (and voice).

Henry Cavill as John Willoughby

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“Elinor and her mother rose up in amazement at their entrance, and while the eyes of both were fixed on him with an evident wonder and a secret admiration which equally sprung from his appearance, he apologized for his intrusion by relating its cause, in a manner so frank and so graceful, that his person, which was uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice and expression. Had he been old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would have been secured by any act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings.”

Basically that description there is Austen describing Willoughby as the most ridiculously handsome man you’ve ever laid eyes on. (Don’t quote me on that.) And I’ll admit I was slightly stuck on whom to cast in the role. Thankfully I’m on the internet enough to get a good idea or two, and Cavill certainly came to mind. I mean, look at him. It practically makes Willoughby’s philandering all the more stunning (though not exactly unexpected), doesn’t it?

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Ruth’s Picks

Andrea Riseborough as Elinor Dashwood

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I first saw Andrea in three films last year and was so impressed by her chameleonic ability to disappear into her characters. She’s in her mid 30s but looks youthful enough to pull off a 19 year old. I think she’d do Elinor justice as I think she can play ANY role convincingly. She has a quiet grace about her as well as a wise-beyond-her-years countenance that’d work nicely for this role.

Sophia Myles as Marianne Dashwood

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Myles has actually done an Austen adaptation before in 1999 film version of Mansfield Park, but it was a small role as Fanny’s sister. I actually thought she resembles Kate Winslet so much but that’s not the reason I cast her here. I had been impressed by her in Tristan n Isolde and the Moonlight TV show. She’s so grossly underrated but she is beautiful and has that innocent yet impetuous sensibility that would make her an excellent Marianne.

Tom Hiddleston as Edward Ferrars

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I always thought that Hiddleston is not classically handsome but yet he’s immensely attractive and charming. Now Edward is more on the shy side (unlike the more gregarious Hiddles) but I think the talented Brit can pull off reserve. Though he’s most well-known for playing the villainous Loki in the Marvel Universe, Tom has kind eyes which makes me think he’d suit this character. I also love that Tom has a soothing n gentle voice, more Dan Stevens than the stuttering Hugh Grant. Plus I think he and Andrea would make a lovely, albeit a bit unexpected, pair.
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Toby Stephens as Colonel Brandon

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Yes I know it’s no surprise you’d see Toby on here but really I can’t imagine anyone else I’d want in the role. He’s done two Brontë adaptations, Charlotte’s (BBC Jane Eyre 2006) and Anne’s (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), but never Austen’s. I could just picture his melancholic expression as he beheld Marianne for the first time playing the piano. He’s perfected that pining look as Rochester pining for Jane. Now obviously the impossibly fine-boned actor can’t be described as ‘not handsome’ (how Brandon’s described in the book) but the important thing is that he captured the essence of the character the way he did with Rochester. Plus, like Rickman, Toby has voice to die for, so I’d want an extended scene of his Brandon reading to Marianne [sigh]
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Aaron Taylor-Johnson as John Willoughby

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Initially I was thinking of Ben Barnes, who’s played Dorian Gray before, but I feel that he’s not seductive enough as Willoughby. Aaron on the other hand, is what I’d consider not simply handsome, but a truly beautiful young man. On top of that, he oozes so much sex appeal with just the way he stares at you with those gorgeous blue eyes. At 23, also pretty close to the character’s age in the book (25). Willoughby is supposed to be an instant charmer, all swagger and undeniable passion, but not in a malicious kind of way as he earnestly does love Marianne. Interestingly, his hair here reminds me of Greg Wise’s wavy locks in the 1995 version as Willoughby.


Well, those are our picks for the main characters Sense & Sensibility. Let us know your thoughts and feel free to offer your own picks in the comments!

Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2013 viewings

Since I started last year, I’m going to make this post an annual thing (well, for as long as I have this blog that is). I mentioned in the first post that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. Again, I may not necessarily love the film they appear in, but the actor(s) in question could still make an impression to me to make the list. The obvious case for me this year is last year’s Honorable Mention Oscar Isaac (who in hindsight should’ve been on my MAIN list) in Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m not terribly fond of the film but I LOVE his performance and I’d love to see more of him in Hollywood.

So like last year, I’d like to focus on those I either wasn’t aware of prior to 2013, or that for some reason I just didn’t notice them until last year. Some of these actors have been working steadily and relatively well-known to some, but they were ‘obscure’ to me until recently. It’s perfect timing that I had just read the BAFTA Rising Star nominees earlier this week, and a couple of their nominees make my Honorable Mentions.

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In any case, based on my 2013 viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Riz Ahmed

FiveNewFaves_AhmedI had never heard of Riz Ahmed before but apparently the British Pakistani from Wembley London is a pretty well-known actor and rapper. Well he didn’t rap in the movie I saw him in, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, but he gave a pretty soulful and affecting performance as a Pakistani man pursuing the American dream. I was pretty mesmerized by the 31-year-old, though apparently he also had a bit part in Michael Fassbender’s swashbuckling actioner Centurion in 2010.

What’s Next: Well according to IMDb, he’s got supporting roles in Nightcrawler and Violent Talent, not sure yet about the release dates. I hope he’d get a leading role again in the future as he definitely has the talent AND gravitas to pull it off.

Lake Bell

FiveNewFaves_BellApparently miss Bell has been acting in various movies and TV shows like The Practice and Boston Legal, but I haven’t seen a single film of hers until her directing debut where she also starred. The film was this comedic gem In A World … which I saw at the MSP Film Festival in a sold-out showing.

The leggy and beautiful actress could’ve been a fashion model (and she probably was at some point), but she made herself to be a disheveled mess in her own movie, but yet she’s so fun to watch! I hope she does more comedies as she’s so naturally goofy and has quite a knack for physical comedy. As a voice over talent trying to break into a male-dominated industry, she proves her mettle both in front and behind the camera. I love that she explored a plot that hasn’t been explored much but definitely ripe for a hilarious comedy!

What’s Next: I just saw her in the trailer for sports drama Million Dollar Arm with Jon Hamm, and she’s also up for a thriller with Owen Wilson (??) and Pierce Brosnan called The Coup. But what I’m looking forward to is Bell teaming up with Simon Pegg in British comedy Man Up, now I don’t know what the premise is yet, but it sounds like fun!

Daniel Brühl

FiveNewFaves_BruhlNow, I’ve already been aware of Brühl from his memorable supporting role as a Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. But everyone’s performance in that movie was practically eclipsed by that Austrian Christoph Waltz. But this year, I was impressed by the 35-year-old German actor in not one but THREE films: RUSH, The Fifth Estate, and Joyeux Noël. I’m thrilled that he’s nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Niki Lauda in RUSH, but hopefully Oscar won’t overlook him.

There is a quiet charisma about him that I like, not to mention his versatility. Apparently he’s part Spanish as his full name is Daniel César Martín Brühl González Domingo (wow!) and he’s fluent in German, Spanish and French on top of English, of course. No wonder he’s able to pull off different accent, which is key to being offered roles of various nationalities.

What’s Next: I saw him in the John le Carré’s spy thriller A Most Wanted Man with Philip Seymour Hoffman, but looks like he’d have a more prominent role in the drama The Face of An Angel with Kate Beckinsale.

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David Oyelowo

FiveNewFaves_OyelowoHe’s one of the trio of British-African actors I’m really loving lately, along with Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor. I first noticed him in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and then The Help, but last year I saw him in Jack Reacher and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Now, it’s the latter that REALLY made me take notice as the 37-year-old actor somehow can pull off playing a teenager and college freshman believably. Not only that, the Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) graduate also has the on-screen charisma to match his natural acting talent.

Like many British talents, Oleyowo are often mistaken for being an American as he effortlessly pulls off various accent. In fact, most of the roles I saw him in was him playing an American. Many Brits might recognize him from earlier season of Spooks (MI-5) as well, so he’s perhaps one of the most successful Spooks-alum as Hollywood’s taken notice of him.

What’s Next: He’s got no less than seven projects listed on his IMDb page, yay! One of them is Interstellar. But what I’d love to see is him in leading roles as he surely deserves it. Sounds like he’s the protagonist in Nightingale and Five Nights in Maine, and a supporting role (rumored) in Jurassic World.
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Andrea Riseborough

FiveNewFaves_RiseboroughWhen I first saw Riseborough in Disconnect, I was blown away by her performance… only to be floored later on when I realized she’s British!! I’d say her role as an ambitious journalist was one of the most grossly-overlooked performances of 2012! Later in the year I saw her in OBLIVION where she uses her natural accent and she was truly the best performer in that entire movie!

The third film I saw her in, Shadow Dancer with Clive Owen, she plays an IRA member-turned-informant and pulls off an Irish accent beautifully. She reminds me of my favorite actress of all time Cate Blanchett, who has the same chameleon-like ability with not only her looks but her accent, demeanor, etc. The 32-year-old English actress was trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), so I guess we can expect quality work from this future thespian.

What’s Next: She’s part of an ensemble cast of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming film Birdman (also starring Emma Stone, Ed Norton and Naomi Watts), as well as The Silent Storm with Damian Lewis. Hopefully she’s got a bigger role in the latter.


Honorable Mentions:

These five names did an impressive performance last year, though two of them (Robinson and Nyong’o had not acted before). Poulter and Nyong’o are one of this year’s BAFTA Rising Star nominees year’s nominees, too.

Tye Sheridan (Mud)

Somehow I didn’t notice him much as Brad Pitt’s son in The Tree of Life, but here he’s definitely memorable. As one of the two young boys in MUD who befriended a man with a shady past (Matthew McConnaughey), Sheridan’s character was the heart of the film. I’d love to see what else he’s got going on next.

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

It’s definitely one of the most talked-about performance of the year but her sensational performance hopefully won’t be a one-hit wonder. The Mexican-born Kenyan actress was a graduate of the Yale University School of Drama’s Acting program and she has a pretty extensive stage credits. She’s starring with Liam Neeson next in the actioner Non-Stop [sigh], let’s hope Hollywood finds a project worthy of her talent soon enough.

Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer)

Soulful. That’s how I’d describe this newcomer. Though it’s his feature-film debut, the 18-year-old has a certain confidence and charisma to carry off a leading role. He also seems wise beyond his years which made him so perfect in this coming-of-age tale.

Will Poulter (We’re The Millers)

Here’s another young Brit who manage to fool me as an American. I totally forgot he was in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader but the tall, lanky 20-year-old was absolutely convincing as an geeky American teenager who somehow got entangled with a small-time pot dealer pretending to be a family vacationing in Mexico. His rendition of TLC’s Waterfall alone proves that this kid has amazing comic timing, it’s worth seeing just for that part (I’m sure it’s on Youtube).

James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3, Parkland)

Here’s another actor who I’ve never heard of before then suddenly I saw three of his movies in one year (same as Riseborough above). I didn’t really remember him in World War Z but he was definitely memorable in Iron Man 3 and Parkland, two VERY different roles that he pulled off nicely. In the former, he somehow reminds me a bit of Robert Patrick in Terminator 2, though perhaps not quite as iconic. As in Parkland, as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, the 35-year-old displayed his dramatic chops. I hope he won’t get stuck playing supporting roles in the future.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

August Movie Watching Recap & Movie of the Month

AugustRecap

Well, that was that, Summer is unofficially over. Yes I know the weather is still going to be pretty warm for most of us, even those in the Northern hemisphere, but once we enter the ‘ber’ month, you could say that Fall is in the air. To be honest with you, I’m ok with that. I LOVE Autumn. I love the cooler temps, the Fall fashion, the quieter movies, and of course Twin Cities Film Fest is coming soon! Check out the early look of the 2013 lineup if you haven’t already.

Well, since hits and comments are definitely down in the Summer, a lot of people are likely have missed a lot of my blog posts 😉 Here are some of my posts this past month:

New-to-me Films Watched:

DragonsKnightDragon Knight

Arbitrage

Arbitrage

ElysiumElysium

TheButlerThe Butler

JobsJobs

TheWorldsEndThe World’s End

AustenlandAustenland

Mud

MUD

ShadowDancer

Shadow Dancer

I never got around to reviewing Arbitrage, but I might still do that as a Rental Pick post. It’s a pretty good drama with Richard Gere in top form. Great performances from Susan Sarandon & Brit Marling as his wife & daughter. I was very impressed by MUD and Shadow Dancer. Two very different dramas but both featured strong performances and kind of a minimalistic-but-efficient script and direction. Both are quite emotionally-charged where the real special effects are the taut writing and top notch acting. I miss seeing Clive Owen on screen, the last film I saw him in was Gertrude & Gelhorne on the plane last December.

SharkWeek

Oh, I also watched a few episodes of Shark Week from Discovery Channel. I didn’t realize Netflix has them but we were actually looking for some Documentaries to watch but ended up watching a couple episodes of The Great White Invasion episodes. Fascinating stuff but pretty gory as well as they did re-enactments of people who got attacked in various parts of the world.


Rewatches:

Titanic_RoseTitanic

SupermanReturnsSuperman Returns

PridePrejudice2005Pride & Prejudice

I actually only got to about a third of Titanic. I was just bored one night and saw that it was on Netflix streaming, so I thought what the heck. It’s been over a decade since I saw it and boy the CGI looked so obvious on the long shots on top of the boat. Funny how I briefly had a crush on Leo when it came out, but now he just looked like a little boy next to the womanly Kate Winslet.

Not sure why I felt like watching Superman Returns last week but I stopped about 10 minutes before the ending with the ill-advised part with Supes’ kid. I still love the flying sequence and the plane rescue scenes though. Following the screening of Austenland, I felt the urge to watch Pride & Prejudice. I think I love Joe Wright’s version even more than the BBC version, and yes, I boldly say Matthew MacFadyen is my favorite Mr. Darcy as well 😉


Movie of the Month:

MUDposter

I had been wanting to see MUD since last April at MSP Film Fest. I’ve actually got the ticket in hand but I had to bail due to a darn snow storm! In any case, this film was SO worth the wait. Shrewd script & direction from writer/director Jeff Nichols, paired with a fine, career-topping performance from Matthew McConaughey. Definitely lives up to the hype!


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in August?

Weekend Viewing Roundup – OBLIVION Review

snowplowsMN
Photo courtesy of StarTribune.com

The weekend is coming to a close as I’m writing this, hope y’all had a nice one… especially in the weather department. It’s really the kind of “Spring” that does NOT add an extra spring in your step, unless you want to slip on ice and fall over into a puddle 😦

I mean, just look at this photo from a couple of days ago!! THAT’s the reason I couldn’t see Mud last Thursday! And this is the kind of stuff we could expect for this week, courtesy of our local meteorologist at the Star Tribune:

A rain/snow mix tomorrow evening – but temperatures boomerang to near 70F by Saturday afternoon, maybe even a few severe T-storms late Sunday? Something for the entire family.

[sigh]

Anyway, I did see quite a few new films this past week, five to be exact:

Disconnect, Unfinished Song (both reviews are up), Caesar Must Die, I, Anna and Oblivion. Stay tuned for the reviews of the other two, but now, here’s my thoughts on…

OBLIVION

OblivionBanner

Post-apocalyptic science fiction films are a dime a dozen and there seems to be no shortage of it. Even before the start of this film, there are trailers for a couple of them (After Earth, Elysium) and the world we live in is almost always depicted in a state of doom, with humanity facing extinction with the rest of well, what’s left of our universe.

OBLIVION begins with a voice over exposition courtesy of Jack Harper (starring the virtually ageless mega star Tom Cruise) who now lives in a high tower above the earth, Tower 49, which looks like a very expensive high rise penthouse, complete with built-in swimming pool underneath. Not a bad living quarter for a ‘mop-up crew,’ that’s what Jack refers to himself and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). They’re only two weeks away on completing their mission of drones repair on earth before they could join the entire remaining human population in their new home in Titan. Now, you’d think he’d be excited for that but Jack still can’t let go of earth & his earthly house by the lake, and he’s also still haunted by his memory of a woman from 60 years ago as they walk up to the Empire State Building [is this like the only romantic rendezvous place for New Yorkers in the movies??].

OblivionPics1

Well, what do you know. On a routine mission, Jack ended up meeting that very woman who was in one of the delta-sleep pods that crash landed on earth as Jack was relaxing by the lake. Now, the arrival of ‘Julia’ who claims to be his wife, and then later meeting a group of human survivors hiding underground, led by cigar-smokin’ Morgan Freeman, Jack’s life quickly begins to unravel as he discovers just who his true identity is. He starts to question the things we’ve also been curious about from the start, and the last half of the film follows Jack in that journey of self-discovery… and more.

Now, all of this is intriguing stuff and director Joseph Kosinski builds this film with so many beautiful vistas and cool-looking robots to mesmerize us, but the plot leaves way more questions than the film could even begin to answer. Now, I don’t want to discuss ’em here without revealing a bunch of spoilers, but let’s just say I have similar questions as this guy in Film School Rejects post. Well, I don’t really care about ‘why was Beech [Freeman’s character] is always wearing sunglasses’ but the rest are definitely valid plot holes issues. I feel that my beef with Kosinski’s first film, Tron Legacy, where it’s mostly style over substance, also applies to this one. The one advantage is that this one he has a far more charismatic protagonist than Garrett Hedlund (more on that latter). But similarly, Kosinski seems far more concerned with building cool looking stuff than he is about crafting a real ‘meaty’ story that goes beyond a mere ‘intriguing concept.’

That said, I still find this film entertaining and I’ve got to admit I was wowed by the visuals. Everything from the bluish-hued barren landscape of earth in ruins, to the ultra sleek sky tower and Jack’s collapsible Bubbleship [apparently the design was a hybrid of a jet fighter and a Bell 47 helicopter – per We Are Movie Geeks], there are visual eye candy aplenty for the sci-fi geek in all of us. I saw this in 2D which was perfectly fine, but I bet this film would look pretty stunning on IMAX.

The pace is pretty good and I never find myself bored in the entire two hours. I also think there’s a balance of quiet moments and full-throttle action, which makes it more effective when it does happen. The aircraft chase with the drones in the narrow canyons remind me too much of so many other sci-fis, most notably The Phantom Menace. But then again, this film borrow a lot of sci-fi concepts from other films so I shouldn’t be surprised by that. Despite all the plot holes though, I’ve got to give props to the filmmaker for at least attempting to inject some humanity into the story.

OblivionPics2

As I’ve alluded to earlier, Tom Cruise is still more than capable to carry this film. I don’t think Jack Harper would make my top 10 Tom Cruise roles, but still he’s very watchable. Some of the flying sequences made me think of this movie as Top Gun meets Minority Report, it’s amazing Cruise still looks pretty much the same as he was in Top Gun which was released 27 years ago!! One of Cruise strengths is that he is believable in the action as well as the more emotional scenes. Interestingly enough, the part of him reminiscing on earth—recalling his old days of watching baseball, playing sports in his back yard and listening to old records—are more effective than the ‘romantic’ scenes of him and his female co-stars however. I don’t exactly know why that is, though I give Cruise some credit for not looking creepy romancing actresses nearly half his age!

Speaking of the actresses, I was impressed with Andrea Riseborough once again (she was also in Disconnect), she’s truly a star on the rise [pardon the pun] with a chameleon-like ability. I don’t think Olga Kurylenko is as versatile, but she actually impresses me more here than she did in Quantum of Solace. She has an earthy and mysterious quality about her and though she is stunningly beautiful, she doesn’t come across as flighty. Morgan Freeman of course adds gravitas to his role, Beech is the kind of ‘cool but eternally wise’ character he’s played in so many films that it probably doesn’t require much effort on his part. Hunky Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau also has a small part as Freeman’s cohort, but I think he’s more capable than that.

Final Thoughts: I don’t think Oblivion will be a sci-fi classic. I appreciate it for what it is, which is popcorn entertainment, but not profound enough to be memorable. I don’t mind watching it again down the road though, even if it’s just to gawk at the marvelous visuals. It’s the kind of escapist entertainment that’s tailored to maximize Cruise’s massive star power. The film’s box office prowess will prove that Cruise’s certainly still got it.
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Three and a half stars out of Five

3.5 out of 5 reels


Well, what did you think of this film? Did you enjoy this more than I did?