FlixChatter Review: NO TIME TO DIE(2021)

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For Bond fans, it has been a long seven year itch since we last saw a new Bond movie on the big screen. Delayed 2.5 years since April 2020, it’s been quite an arduous waiting game… there’s even a rumor at one point that Bond might be coming via a streaming service [gasp!] Well I for one am glad that didn’t happen, and I think this film deserves to be seen on the big screen.

For a franchise famous for its opening sequences–often followed by a music video of its theme song featuring scantily-clad women–this one already sets itself from the pack as it actually does not feature its titular hero. I’m going to keep this review spoiler-free (or clearly mark them as I usually do), so let’s just say the opening features an ‘origin story’ of sort for a female recurring character, which in of itself is quite revolutionary. There is a lot of firsts in Daniel Craig‘s Bond film, starting with the man at the helm, Cary Joji Fukunaga. He’s the first American director to direct a Bond film, which features Lashana Lynch as the first female 007. All of these historic anecdotes are cool, but at the end of the day, did the film deliver?

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One thing for sure, the post-credit opening scene delivers incredible panoramic vistas, as one would expect from a Bond film. Bond is shown living a blissful life with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) as they are on holiday in Matera, a picturesque stone village in Southern Italy. Bond is in love, and for a brief moment seems to live a blissful existence… but of course you know it’s short-lived because suddenly he’s nearly blown to bits and chased in a brutal fashion by relentless goons (well, what else is there?). Fukunaga proves adept in mounting a pretty exciting action sequence early in the film, complete with an insane car chase careening through rocky hills and cobblestone streets that ends with something rather fantastical even for a Bond movie. It reminds me of the Nick Fury’s car attack in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it seems Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is equipped with similar bullet-proof feature!

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Bond fans (me included) loves watching epic action sequences like that, so getting that ‘craving’ satisfied early on is a smart move, as the next hour is relatively quiet as Bond nurses a broken heart and lives quietly in Jamaica. There are plenty of nostalgia here despite its theme of ‘letting go of one’s past.’ From moments recalling integral characters in Craig’s Bond past (as well as those before his era), down to the choice of a melancholic song (one of my top 10 favorites) AND the lines Bond say (which he utters twice in the film). Another theme running through the vein of Craig’s final Bond film is secrets … which as a spy he is obviously well-versed on, but the secrecy isn’t just those of the country he serves, but of the woman (or I should say women) he loves.

As I feel that this is a rather unconventional Bond film, this will be an atypical review. Without getting into too much of the plot, let me just go over the good and not-so-good parts about the film…

THE GOOD:

Firstly, Daniel Craig‘s performance. I haven’t always been super fond of him even though he wowed me in Casino Royale, at times he appears too thug-ish and his sex scenes with the Bond girls can be laughably absurd (the one with Monica Bellucci in Spectre comes to mind)… but over his 15-year span playing the character, he’s able to balance his tough, formidable action prowess with his sensitive, vulnerable side. It’s even more palpable here as he declares his love for Madeleine… Bond is past just showing off his muscular arms as he unabashedly wears his heart on his sleeve.

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Then there’s the oh-so-fabulous Lashana Lynch as Nomi… sassy, smart, sexy, a woman who knows her own power but also has enough confidence in her competency that she doesn’t concern herself with ‘titles,’ or in this case the code name 007. Right from the moment Nomi meets Bond, she’s clear that she’s got no time for the old patriarchy. I love that she is often one step ahead of Bond and unafraid to put him in his place. There are lots of moments where I silently whispers ‘you go girl!’ but at the same time, she’s also empathetic and mindful, which proves that a woman’s strength isn’t about knocking men down as they don’t need to.

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Ana de Armas is fantastic as Paloma, a Cuban CIA agent working with Felix who’s assigned with Bond to track down a scientist at a Spectre party. Having seen her with Craig in Knives Out, their meet-up is actually quite hilarious. She’s shown as a rookie who’s still excited for her first big mission but comes out surprising everyone’s expectations, especially Bond. Wish she had more screen time here though… I want more Paloma! This is perhaps the most playful shoot-em-up in this movie, harkening back to a scene from a Roger Moore Bond flick, but it’s a lot of fun to watch!

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Another returning character is Jeffrey Wright‘s Felix–the actor has a consistently formidable presence in so many franchises … Bond, Marvel, DC (I so look forward to seeing him as Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming The Batman). After five years in retirement, Bond ends up teaming up with the CIA with Felix, along with a Jack Ryan type ‘state department guy’ Logan (Billy Magnussen). Wright is undoubtedly the best and most memorable Felix in the whole 007 franchise.

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All the returning cast in the MI-6 camp, Naomie Harris‘s MoneyPenny, Rory Kinnear‘s Tanner, Ralph Fiennes‘s M and Ben Whishaw‘s Q are all wonderful. Bond is so fortunate to have such phenomenal friends, esp. Q who’s willing to give up his date in order to help his friend out. So good to see MoneyPenny and Q collaborating again. I also enjoyed the rather talky scene between Bond and M in London, mulling over the dire consequences of Safin’s grand plans.

Now, I didn’t care for Christoph Waltz‘s Blofeld in Spectre who I described as nothing more than a clichéd, petulant psychopath. Well somehow he actually fares better here even and manages to rile Bond up even while he’s contained in a box within an extremely high-security prison. Somehow Blofeld still have control over his organization who’s now got a lethal DNA weapon using nanobots… which connects him with the main Bond baddie-du-jour Safin, that brings me to the…

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THE NOT-SO-GOOD:

Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer (is this just another lame way to say Lucifer??!) Safin just falls short in comparison to former Bond villains of the past. He seems dangerous on paper but kind of underwhelming on screen. Malek comes across more creepy than menacing, I actually think of him as a tragic character given what happened to his family, leaving him as the only survivor. His eerie connection with Madeleine from when she was a young girl just isn’t fully realized. At first I thought it might have involved a Stockholm Syndrome or akin to Phantom of the Opera’s obsession with Christine , but in the end I’m not exactly sure just what they’ve got going on here.

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Speaking of Madeleine, I generally like Léa Seydoux as an actress in other films but I just didn’t care for her as Bond’s love interest. For one, she always looks like she’s about to cry every two seconds, even when she’s on holiday in a sensational location! Looking at Madeleine just makes me miss Eva Green’s Vesper so much, and I feel like Bond has a genuine chemistry with Vesper and they look like they’re having fun together as a couple. Now, even though she’s given an origin story, a privilege very few Bond girl is afforded to, it’s hard for me to be invested in her narratives.

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SPOILER ALERT! [highlight to read] Then there’s Madeleine’s daughter that got Bond transfixed upon meeting her. ‘She’s got my eyes… Am I the father?’ Now, Bond didn’t right out say it, but he’s so obvious about it that Madeleine kept saying ‘she’s not yours’ a couple of times. I don’t know why the writers think the scene is supposed to be romantic, but it’s so cringe-worthy!

As for using nanobots to infect certain people based on their DNA, essentially making certain people to be killer weapons is quite eerie during pandemic as certain people can be ‘silent killer’ if they’re carrying the virus and spreading them unknowingly. The fact that a psychopath like Safin having access to this and harvesting them in an island somewhere does sound scary. At the same time, the whole villain hellbent on taking over the world just gets tiresome, I mean you’d think after 50+ movies they’d find a more creative reason for compelling villainy. Also, what’s up with the scientist Obruchev (David Dencik) who’s portrayed in such a silly, cartoonish manner. Let’s just say I wasn’t sad when he meets his inevitable end.

FINAL VERDICT

No Time to Die is the first Bond film to come out in the #MeToo era and Time’s Up movements, so the producers enlist Phoebe Waller-Bridge as one of the screenwriters to steer the franchise to be more progressive. Now, I have no problem with that, and having someone like Nomi is a great addition to the franchise as her character arc still feels organic to the story. I’m not sure everything about the more ‘radical’ storyline works for me though, SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] honestly I’m not sure about the whole ‘Bond being a father’ narrative. I mean, given the plethora of women he’s bedded, you’d think this shouldn’t come out as too much of a surprise, but still it feels a tad forced, especially since the big reveal comes as Bond is about to be killed off.

As for Fukunaga’s direction, I feel like it’s going to be a divisive one as despite some dynamic action sequences and Bond himself being put through the wringer, it’s a largely melancholic and somber affair. The Japanese-American filmmaker has said in interviews that being an ‘outsider’ gives him an advantage that British filmmakers might not have in making this film. The bombastic car chase in the beginning and the shoot-em-up in Safin’s nanobot factory in the third act feel familiar but with an edge. I appreciate the way he shows Bond’s weariness and defiance with style (like when he didn’t care if he live or die when his DB5 was riddled with bullets), but yet manages to make the super-spy human. For a super long 2 hour 43 minutes running time, it actually didn’t feel overly tedious, which in and of itself is quite a feat.

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Visually speaking, the film is gorgeous to look at, shot by DP Linus Sandgren. It’s got all the globe-trotting vistas to tick off the escapism box. Hans Zimmer‘s score has some decidedly familiar sounds, blending Monty Norman’s iconic Bond theme, one of John Barry’s famous motif and Billie Eilish’s theme song, fusing a rousing, suspenseful score with tender, sentimental elements.

I mentioned that there was no compelling human drama in Spectre and that it was a largely soulless affair. Glad to report that it’s quite the opposite here as it’s one of the most emotional Bond movies where things comes full circle for Craig. So to answer my question if the film delivered, the short answer is YES. Unlike his predecessors, Craig’s Bond films shares a plot thread that connect them all, which is quite unprecedented for the franchise. Thus, while Craig’s tenure does not end in an all-time-high fashion, I can say that it’s a bold and memorable finale for a game-changing Bond era.

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Have you seen NO TIME TO DIE? Let me know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020)


I had been wanting to see this since this film came out last Fall in the UK. Its US release was supposed to be in May this year, but of course it was delayed due to Covid-19. Well, it was well worth the wait! Confession: I’m actually not that familiar with this Charles Dickens’ classic (the only two I’m familiar with are A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations), and I really wish I were. Dicken’s eighth novel is apparently considered to be his masterpiece… in his own words, he described it as “a very complicated weaving of truth and invention” and some elements of the novel follow events in Dickens’s own life.

One thing you notice right away, even from its marketing, is the color-blind casting, which I will get to that later. It takes a certain skill to create a fresh take on a classic, especially one that’s been adapted many times. Director Armando Iannucci certainly has it. The Scottish-born of Italian descent filmmaker is creator of In The Loop and Veep series, and his previous feature was the rather bizarre The Death of Stalin. Most of his work are political satire, but this time he tackled a literary classic with his longtime collaborator Simon Blackwell who penned the script.

Set in the 1840s, it began with young David (Jairaj Varsani) growing up with his mother (Morfydd Clark). Life was relatively happy with his mom and kind housekeeper miss Peggotty (Daisy May Cooper), until she remarried an abusive man and young David ends up being sent to a boarding school and later put to work with other poor kids at a wine factory in London that partly owned by his stepfather. I have to admit I find it a bit amusing at first seeing Varjani, then later Dev Patel as David Copperfield, but after a while I truly see Patel embody the character with his certain playfulness and charisma.

Following his mother’s passing, David ran away from the factory and upon the advise of his debt-ridden landlord Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi), went to Dover to find his only remaining relative, great aunt Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton), who lives with her equally eccentric relative, Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). His circumstances seem to be improving as aunt Betsey treats him well, despite insisting on calling him “Trotwood Copperfield” or “Trot”, and Mr. Dick is grateful to him for helping him of being consumed by Charles I, the British monarch who lost his head (literally) in mid 1600. The scene of them playing a kite to help clear Mr. Dick’s head is quite a jolly affair.

His aunt sent David to another school and during that time, and his next adventure puts him in contact with a set of new people in his life. It’s rather hard at times to keep everyone straight since I’m not familiar with the story. There is James Steerforth (Aneurin Barnard), an older schoolboy who befriends David, Mr Wickfield (Benedict Wong), a lawyer who loves to drink, and his daughter Agnes (Rosalind Eleazar), and Wickfield’s clerk Uriah Heep (Ben Whishaw).

Just like in real life, certain people that comes in David’s life don’t always have the best intentions, and David finds out the hard way. Steerforth is an antagonist of sort–someone David regarded as noble, despite his snobbish, condescending nature. But Heep is definitely the villain of the story, all creepy and even downright spooky at times when he practically forces David to join him for tea. As I haven’t seen other adaptations of David Copperfield, I don’t have anything to compare this too, but the pacing is quite dynamic which makes up for the sometimes chaotic, discombobulating ups and downs of the characters.

Patel is definitely the star of the show and he’s the perfect actor to portray the equal comedic and dramatic side of David. There’s such a gleeful adventurous spirit in this film, which I imagine is what is intended by Dickens in his novel. I love how David’s gift as a storyteller and writer is illustrated wonderfully here, full of colorful adventure as well as heartbreaking poignancy. But it doesn’t mean the film makes light of the calamity that David encounters, when his heart breaks upon hearing about his mother’s death and he goes on wreaking havoc at the wine factory, I could feel the pain in his eyes.

Now, in regards to the color casting I mentioned above, I think it paid off wonderfully. Iannucci is quoted on The Independent as saying “It wasn’t a conscious reaction to Brexit, but the conversation has gone very insular in terms of what Britain is and what it doesn’t want to be. I wanted to celebrate what Britain actually is, and it’s much more of a carefree, enjoyable, humorous kind of zesty, energetic place.” In the same article Patel said this about the film’s diverse casting “I totally missed this literary classic growing up. It didn’t appeal to me. And what Armando has done with the casting and the world, he has given it a buoyancy and an accessibility to kids like myself. It really is representative of a modern Britain – the one that I grew up in.” 

Honestly, I don’t know if I’d be as enthused about this film if it weren’t for the color blind casting. Now, I’m not saying now all I want to see is every literary classic being portrayed with the same color blind casting, but it certainly adds a certain level of interest. Now, simply having ethnic actors play traditionally-white characters doesn’t automatically make a film great. It takes a certain directorial vision and also a set of vibrant actors to make it work.

In the end, I forget that ethnic actors are portraying Victorian-era characters written as Caucasians. The vibrant direction, dynamic performances, gorgeous cinematography, costumes, production design and general atmosphere of the film creates an immersive quality.  It all helped me get invested in the characters’ journey throughout. Patel’s charm and versatility (and his gorgeous tousled hair a la the one he’s sporting in LION) is in full display, I’m glad he got the chance to play this role and I hope more filmmakers are inspired by this bold casting decision. I can’t wait to see him tackle yet another classic character that’s typically played by a Caucasian actor… The Green Knight.

Aside from Patel, the rest of the supporting cast are also a joy to watch. Tilda Swinton is always wonderful to watch and her Doctor Strange‘ co-star Benedict Wong is quite hilarious as the alcoholic lawyer. Morfydd Clark has the good fortune of playing two characters, David’s mother and love interest, the utterly silly Dora Spenlow with her fluffy puppy. But it’s the tentative but soulful kinship between David and Agnes is what I find most emotionally resonant, perhaps also because we see David has grown wiser and more mature by this point.

David Copperfield is a complex novel with so much going on, filled with a plethora of themes such as class structure, societal expectations and inequality, etc. but yet feels personal as it’s written from one man’s point of view as he treads on one life adventure to the next. I’m glad I finally get to experience this classic story and definitely garner new appreciation and interest for Dicken’s work.


Have you seen The Personal History of David Copperfield? If so, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Lobster (2016)

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When I first heard of the premise of this film, I was already sold. Then I saw the trailer and I knew it’d be a bizarre film, but nothing could prepare me for how bizarre it turned out to be. The film is set in a dystopian near future where it’s unlawful to be single according to the laws of The City. So they’re taken to The Hotel where they have to find a romantic partner in 45 days or they’d be transformed into a beast of their choice and sent off into The Woods. You’d think that’d be easy but they have to find partners who share their unique characteristics.

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We first see David (Colin Farrell), a recently divorced architect and his dog who’s actually his brother who didn’t make the strict 45-day rule. Even the conversation with the hotel clerk is so off the wall you can’t help but laugh. Later on I realize that David is the only one who has a name in this film, the other characters are only credited with their unique traits, or you could also say affliction. Ben Whishaw is the Limping Man, John C. Reilly is the Lisping Man and so on. The fact that the film is played straight with the actors delivering the weirdest dialog in a deadpan way makes it so hilarious. I find myself chuckling at the sheer peculiarity of it all, but yet I know there’s more to this than just a series of outlandish scenarios.

The film is inherently a comedy but it’s not just frivolous silly movie, but it’s a clever and unique way to make you think of relationships. The first half of the film shows the strict rules and customs of The Hotel, managed by the always-entertaining Olivia Coleman. Then the second half takes place in The Woods where single-dom is celebrated and romantic/sexual activity is severely punished. I have to admit that the film seems to lose its footing a bit in the second half as it’s not as engrossing. It also grows more sinister and there’s a pretty violent scene that made me wince. In the Woods is where we meet its leader (Léa Seydoux) and the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) with whom David forms an attachment.

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Now, to say more would be a disservice to those who haven’t seen this. I think it’s best going into this not knowing much about it other than the basic premise. The way things unfold is so amusing and it’s open to your own interpretation. Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos who co-wrote the script with Efthymis Filippou doesn’t spoon-feed you what he thinks about relationships. He doesn’t take sides on couple-dom vs single-ness, but he presents things in such a way that make you ponder about it for days. I really don’t know how I could survive in either scenario as there are dire consequences for your actions in both places. I appreciate Lanthimos’ style and this is certainly one of the most original concept I’ve seen. I’ve loved sci-fi concepts that’s more grounded in its presentation and the world the characters inhabit in this movie certainly looks plausible. The cinematography is beautiful with natural light and has a rather somber ambiance that stops just short of being morose. 

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The acting is brilliant all around. I’m most impressed with Farrell who’s perhaps at his most understated here. He looked so pudgy with a huge belly, a physical look I haven’t seen before as he’s not quite the shape-shifter like say, Christian Bale. His character is mostly passive and reflective, as he internalizes everything as he observes everything that’s going on around him. It’s quite interesting to watch his journey through the film, going from compliance to defiance to rebellion, right down to its ambiguous conclusion. Rachel Weisz is wonderful as always, she’s got many intriguing projects recently and she’s an actress I’ve grown to respect even more.

The finale proved to be rather frustrating and I think that’s what the filmmaker intended. It seems as if David was set out to do something really drastic, but the film ended before we know if went through with it. [SPOILER ALERT – highlight text to read the following sentence] As David brought a fork and knife, it seems to suggest he was going to blind himself so he’d share the same characteristic as the now blind Rachel Weisz, though I wonder why as he’s already escaped the strict confines of both The Hotel and The Woods.

Despite my frustration with some aspects of the film, I still have to give it top marks for originality and thought-provoking ideas. This is the first film from Lanthimos I’ve seen so far, but his previous films (Alps, Dogtooth) also have a peculiar concept. This is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I’m glad we have a filmmaker like him that pushes the envelope. I’d say if you don’t have an aversion to strange films, I highly recommend this one and you’d be glad you did.

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Have you seen ‘The Lobster’? I’m curious to hear what you think!

Top Ten Favorite Actor Voices… that I can listen to for hours

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Well, on Tuesday night I saw the press screening of The Jungle Book, which is a remake of the 1967 animated film. It was such a pleasant surprise, a visually-mesmerizing film with a simple-yet-moving story. That film is certainly an eye AND ear candy, with phenomenal voice actors like Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, etc/ providing the speaking voice for all the animals.

So in honor of that film, I thought I’d um, remake my old post that still remains quite popular to this day, top 10 favorite actors with the smoothest voice. It’s funny but more often than not, actors I have a crush on usually have an addictive speaking voice, and I’d even listen to their interviews over and over just to hear their voice! It’s obviously a very subjective list, and I’m not going to include the same people I’ve already included in my original list (i.e. Gregory Peck, Alan Rickman, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, etc.) Also excluding the obvious ones like James Earl Jones & Morgan Freeman, because well, they’re a league of their own.

Yes I realize I could’ve renamed this list Favorite BRITISH voice actors, ahah. But hey, I didn’t pick based on nationalities, but just like looks & talent, the Brits seem to have ’em all 🙂 In any case, here they are in no particular order:

1. Idris Elba
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I’ve been a huge fan of Idris’ voice since Rocknrolla. The voice timbre, the accent, it’s simply mesmerizing. Even without seeing his physical presence, his voice alone has that irresistible swagger.

2. Sam Riley

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Ok so Sam’s voice is a bit of an unconventional choice. People say he sounds like John Hurt, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But there’s something so irresistible about his raspy voice, likely due to his years of chain smoking. I’ve been saying on Tumblr that Sam’s voice is my drug of choice of late 😉 I literally would listen to a bunch of his interviews, which is just as fun to listen to as his singing voice in Control (and his former band 10,000 Things)

Whether he’s speaking in American accent as Sal Paradise (aka Jack Kerouac)…

… or British as dashing Colonel Darcy in Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

… Sam’s voice is music to my ears that I can’t get enough of.

3. Jeremy Irons

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I don’t know why I didn’t include this in my original list as I’ve always loved Mr. Irons’ voice! It’s so distinctive, with a timbre all his own and he’s got impeccable delivery the way Alan Rickman did. Hearing him even in his brief appearance in Batman V Superman reminded me just how much I loved his voice. Speaking of Disney voice actor, his voice work as Scar in The Lion King is just superb. I mean how does one go against James Earl Jones in the voice department, but he certainly held his own in that regard.

4. Tom Hiddleston

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The one actor I was crushing on in the first Thor movie wasn’t the hero, it’s the villain. Hiddleston’s voice sounds so melodious even when he’s in distress. His extensive theatrical training came through in his delivery, it’s so clear, dramatic and simply mesmerizing. He totally came away with the movie on account of his voice alone IMHO. I went to see his performance as Coriolanus as part of a National Theatre Live broadcast just because I LOVE listening to him do those long monologues and indeed he delivered.

Here’s a scene with Anthony Hopkins (who’s on my original list)

Oh and of course he’s absolutely divine in reading Shakespeare…

5. Will Arnett

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Ok this is crazy but I never actually paid attention to Will’s voice as I barely watch any of his movies. But when he did Batman in the LEGO Movie I thought my goodness he’s got a gorgeous voice! It’s so deep that it’s hilarious but it certainly sounds lovely, heck better than Christian Bale’s ridiculous’ Batman voice in Nolan’s movies. I can’t wait for the standalone LEGO Batman movie!

6. Mark Strong

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Come to think of it, Rocknrolla is chock-filled with Brits with gorgeous voices (there are three of them on this list alone). Strong is so criminally underrated as an actor, but I think fewer people know he’s also a fantastic voice actor. But really, he’s got the perfect voice pitch and lovely accent that he probably could make a successful career solely on his voice alone.

7. Mike Colter

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One of the reasons I ended up loving Jessica Jones is the casting of Mike Colter as Luke Cage. Ok so the first time we saw him I was already transfixed by him before he even opened his mouth (I mean look. at. him.) Then he did open his mouth and I was like, seriously? Not only did he look like THAT, he has to sound THAT good as well? Well let’s just say I hope they give him extensive monologues in the Luke Cage series!!

8. Iain Glen

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Another underrated British actor with an absolutely divine voice is Iain Glen. I remember first seeing him in the first Tomb Raider movie. In fact, he’s one of the best things about the movie as the charismatic villain. Fans of Game of Thrones surely are familiar with his character Jorah’s voice. I think people with a great voice is memorable even in a small role, as was Iain in Eye in the Sky, which was already filled with people with distinctive voices like Alan Rickman AND Helen Mirren. The movie is like voice porn!

9. Ben Whishaw

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Whether citing John Keats in Bright Star, or bringing a bear to life in Paddington, Whishaw’s use of his phenomenal voice is simply incredible. I also enjoyed his voice as Q in the Daniel Craig’s Bond movies. There’s such a pleasant lilt to his voice that will make anyone swoon.

I love this fan video of him reading Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Merci set to Thor‘s soundtrack. An odd choice of music but it works!

10. Tom Hardy

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Ok some people say they love Tom Hardy but they’d need subtitles in order to understand him. Ahah, I agree with that, for some reason he’s been in movies where he mumbles so much. But obviously if he speaks in his natural voice he’s got a clear accent and the loveliest voice. Check out his seductive voice in Rocknrolla, I have played this clip dozens of times just to listen to him. Speaking of voice porn, this movie is another one of those featuring a trio of great voices courtesy of Idris and Gerry Butler!


Well, what do you think of my picks? Whose actor voice(s) that you consider music to your ears?

FlixChatter Review: SPECTRE (2015)

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I wonder if the way I feel about the Bond song somehow impacts how I feel about the film itself. Some of my least favorite Bond songs are The Man with the Golden Gun, Die Another Day, and Quantum of Solace, and those are also my least favorite Bond films. I already mentioned in this post how much I abhorred Sam Smith’s latest, Writing’s on the Wall which sounds more like fingernails on a chalk board. Unfortunately for me, during the press screening, I had to endure that song not once but twice as they played Sam Smith’s music video before the movie, so I had to suffer through THAT song once again during the opening title [sigh]

Of course it’s ludicrous to judge a Bond movie from the song, so I was prepared for an awesome Bond film. To be fair, the melody of the song itself is actually not bad, with Thomas Newman back scoring this again after Skyfall. Well, the first 15 minutes is certainly promising. It’s tradition that Bond films open with a bang and this one is no different, starting with a foot chase through a throng of huge crowd during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City. It’s followed by a spectacular fight scene aboard a helicopter flying above the main square. If we’re to judge a movie by cinematography alone, Spectre is excellent, thanks to Hoyte van Hoytema whose done amazing work in Her and Interstellar recently.

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Plot-wise, Spectre has a lot going for it, at least on paper. The parallel conflicts that Bond and M are facing in the film also promises an extra layer of intrigue, in addition to the personal vendetta that runs through the vein of Daniel Craig‘s Bond films. A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization and somehow he ends up going rogue. Meanwhile, his boss M (Ralph Fiennes) is dealing with a crisis of his own as the head of Joint Intelligence Service (which merged MI5 and MI6) threatened to shut down the double-O section. It’s an intriguing set up and as a massive Bond fan, I expect once again to be bowled over.

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Alas, after that spectacular opening, the film seems to lose momentum and never quite claim it back. All the high-octane action didn’t have quite the adrenaline rush I expected from a Bond movie. Even the car chase through the streets of Rome feels rather stale, it’s like I’ve seen a far more exciting car chase scene in previous Bond movies and recently in its rival franchise, Mission Impossible 5. Then there’s the unintentional humor that makes it hard to take the film seriously. The two times Bond wooed two of the beautiful Bond girls, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux, the scenes elicit laughter from the audience. It feels so obligatory and cringe-worthy, a far cry from the intriguing AND sexy love affair between Bond and Vesper in Casino Royale. Vesper was a complex character with a compelling story arc, but here the two Bond girls aren’t given the same courtesy. It’s sad to see an actress of Bellucci’s stature be utterly wasted here.
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The film also promises a massive super villain, the mother lode of all villains Bond has encountered in his past, “I’m the source of all your pain,” Oberhauser tells him once Bond gets to his lair. So it’s quite a let down that this supposedly fearsome, ultra-powerful mastermind turns out to be not so menacing at all. Remember how sinister Christoph Waltz was in Inglourious Basterds? Well, here he’s nothing more than a clichéd psychopath throwing tantrums at Bond because of… a childhood feud. Huh? No less than FOUR screenwriters credited here, three of whom also worked on Skyfall, and all they could come up with is THIS half-baked story? [spoiler alert] I find it hard to believe that Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chifre, who was effortlessly menacing AND intriguing in Casino Royale, actually worked for this lame, petulant nutjob.

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Sam Mendes and his team of writers seems to have recycled a lot of what’s been done in previous Bond films with nothing new to add to the franchise. In fact, in terms of the treatment of the Bond girls, it’s a step backward. The film seems to aim for a darker story but the execution feels light and even unintentionally comical. I realize that Bond films aren’t expected to be too deep or poignant, but even the fun, escapism factor seems to be missing in this one as Mendes can’t decide what kind of Bond movie he wants this to be. At times it harkens back to the Roger Moore era, which is a jarring contrast to the more pensive and grittier tone established in Craig’s films.

The returning characters from Skyfall are still good in their roles. I do like Ralph Fiennes as M but yet he still can’t hold a candle to how fantastic Judi Dench was in the role. Moneypenny and Q (Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw) have bit more to do in supporting 007, though not so much that would make any real impact in the movie. Andrew Scott, who’s excellent in the Sherlock series, is just serviceable here, but Dave Bautista certainly lives up to other big, burly but taciturn henchmen of Bond’s past. The fight scene on the train is certainly an homage to From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me with my favorite henchman, Jaws.

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As for the titular hero, I still like Craig as Bond, but more often than not he looks bored in this movie. It’s as if he’s weary of the same old types of shenanigans and hollow sexual escapades in various exotic locations. Yes I know Bond’s supposed to have this devil-may-care attitude but I think there’s a sense of fatigue that the actor can’t quite conceal. Perhaps it’s telling when Craig said in an interview recently how he’d rather slash his wrist than play James Bond again. It’s tacky to bite the hand that feeds you, but I can’t say I blame him for feeling that way.

It’s a pity because this could’ve been a truly great swan song for Craig if he were to retire as Bond (though I think he’d be back for at least one more). I like the fact that four of his films are connected in some way, though the constant throwback to his previous films also invites the inevitable comparison. If I were to rank Craig’s Bond films now, Spectre is just slightly more watchable than Quantum of Solace, but falls far short of the greatness of Casino Royale and Skyfall.

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Spectre might’ve topped the box office, but it’s nowhere near the top of the best Bond films for me. So I guess that awful theme song is sort of a warning about the movie. Bond’s most personal mission barely evoke any emotional response as the protagonist himself didn’t even seem to care. There’s just no compelling human drama here in this largely soulless affair. Overall the payoff just doesn’t live up to all that build-up and frankly, the film is just forgettable. I saw it four days ago yet I barely remember anything about it. It’s such a bummer really, this movie even made this loyal Bond fan think that perhaps I’ve outgrown this franchise a bit.

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Well, what did you think of Spectre? Did you like it more or less than I did?

TV Miniseries Spotlight: The Hollow Crown

I’ve heard of it but somehow it fell off my radar. Not sure how as I’m a sucker for this kind of stories… AND Tom Hiddleston! Well, thanks to my good pal Terrence for sending me the trailer link via Twitter. What a pal he is… oh btw, don’t forget to vote on his weekly Time to Vote Tuesday. Great topic today, as always!

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The Hollow Crown is a new adaptations of Shakespeare’s tetralogy of history plays comprising the ‘Henriad’ for the BBC’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad: King Richard II; King Henry IV, Part 1; King Henry IV, Part 2; King Henry V. The plays chronicle a continuous period in British history from the end of the 14th century to the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Together, the plays comprise a story with recurring themes of power struggles, redemption, family conflict and betrayal. (per IMDb)

I can’t friggin’ wait to see this! It’s no surprise that I LOVE all things British, including films about British monarchy, and man, I definitely would watch this for the cast!!

Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V
Jeremy Irons as Henry IV
Ben Whishaw as Richard II
Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt

There are also notable British actors in the supporting roles: David Morrissey, John Hurt, Julie Walters, oh and James Purefoy as Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk.

Here’s the trailer:

Now, for my UK friends, this is probably old news and perhaps you’ve even seen this on BBC Two. But it’s finally making its way to our shores. It will air on PBS’ Great Performances on Friday, September 20. But if you can’t wait THAT long, it will be released on iTunes, VOD, and DVD on August 27th.

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Telegraph UK has some very nice things so say in its 4.5 stars review. I particularly like what it says about Hiddleston:

Hiddleston’s performance was a clever one. He is a cerebral actor and for that reason failed to convince in his early scenes (in Henry IV Part One) as a roister-doister. It was only when his heart was heavy, meditating on his destiny in a corpse-strewn foreign field, that you realised his quiet power.

The Guardian also says that “…The Hollow Crown feels as good as TV Shakespeare is going to get.”

So yeah, I’m so game for this!! I think I can handle 500 minutes of Shakespeare with THIS cast. I hope there’s a bunch of special features in this as well. I wouldn’t mind a whole video journal just on James Purefoy getting into costume and make up 😉

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Well, I’m already sold on this one before I read that director Sam Mendes is one of the executive producer! Even from the trailer, this looks like an epic with lavish locations and astute details on the set pieces and costumes. This miniseries has won several awards, including BAFTAs for Best Leading Actor (Ben Whishaw) and Supporting Actor (Simon Russell Beale). It was also nominated in the music and costume design category.

The Shakespearean English might be a bit hard to follow for someone like me but I’m willing to give it a shot, especially with Hiddleston’s gorgeous voice reciting them, he’s an actor who’s born to play this type of roles! Plus, with the right technique, even this old language could have a contemporary feel.


So what do you think folks, are you up for this? For those who’ve seen this, please let me know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is one of those films that transcends film genres — it’s a drama, sci-fi, comedy, thriller, all wrapped into one. Based on David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, the film follows six nested stories of six characters across time and space, and explores how the characters’ lives are connected and somehow influence each other in past, present and future.

Just how are they connected exactly? Well, that’s for the viewers to find out and watching this film is like trying to put together a giant puzzle, whilst treated to a spectacular, often dizzying array of scenarios spanning hundreds of years, from the 1800s all the way to 2144.

The first character we meet, Adam Ewing, is a lawyer who’s shipwrecked in an island in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand. In the story he ends up discovering the the enslavement of the Moriori tribe and also meeting a doctor named Henry Goose. The next character in the following story, a 1930 composer Robert Frobisher, discovers Ewing’s account as a diary on a bookshelf at the house of an aging composer he’s working for. On and on the story goes, alternating from one to the next every 10-15 minutes or so.

What’s most amusing about this film is that the main actors play multiple characters across various stories and time periods, so in one scene we see Tom Hanks in a period Victorian-era clothing to a scientist in the 1970s, to a tribesman in post-apocalyptic Hawaii. For the most part, they did a good job with the makeup work, transforming the actors across multiple races, even gender! Sometimes I got so caught up in the different look of the actors that take me out of the story, for example, young British actor Jim Sturgess made up to look like a Korean man Hae-Joo Im in the segment involving a genetically-engineered fabricant Somni-451 set in a totalitarian futuristic society, and also Hugo Weaving as a devil leprechaun haunting Hanks’ character and also the scary female Nurse Noakes who hounds Jim Broadbent‘s character a in a nursing home. It’s also odd seeing Korean actress Doona Bae as a freckled, red-headed Caucasian woman, complete with blue contact lenses! The make up of Halle Berry as a blue-eyed Jewish woman is much more seamless though.

The first thing that comes to mind as soon as I leave the theater is that it was quite a ‘discombobulating’ experience. I have to admit that it was quite tough to follow the story as it keeps changing from one to the next before I could even figure out what’s going on. It didn’t help matters that Halle Berry and Tom Hanks in the post-apocalyptic Hawaii segment are utterly incomprehensible. I kept turning to my friend next to me in frustration, just what the heck are those people saying??!

I read that the novel was quite well-received by critics who deemed that Mitchell managed to successfully interweave its six stories. I think it may take me multiple viewings for me to say whether the movie achieves that, though I wouldn’t call it a mess like some critics do. I wish it was more emotionally engaging though. I mean, the message against prejudice, slavery, corporate greed, etc. aren’t exactly subtle, but because the movie jumps from one to the next relatively fast, I wasn’t as invested in the characters as I otherwise would.

Overall, there are a lot to appreciate in this film, most notably the visual spectacle and the performances of most of the actors. The stand-outs for me are Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, and the Wachowskis’ ‘muse’ Hugo Weaving. My favorite segment is the love story set in the futuristic society Neo Seoul. It has a Blade Runner-esque feel to it, and the chase sequences are spectacular! I’m certainly glad I saw it on the big screen and from the visual effects standpoint, it actually seems like it had a bigger budget than $102 million (Just a little trivia: according to Wikipedia, this movie was actually funded by independent sources, making it the most expensive independent film ever).

Final Thoughts: I think this is a valiant effort by the Wachowski Siblings (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). There’s definitely an epic feel to it and given how challenging the material is, I think they did a pretty darn good job. In fact, now that the movie’s sat with me for about a week and I’ve read a bit more about the story, I actually like it a bit better. Oh and do stay for the end credits as they show which actors plays which roles, see if you could recognize every single one of them. I don’t know how this film would fare come award season but it should at least nab Best Makeup nomination!

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Well, that’s my take on Cloud Atlas. What do YOU think of it?