Valentine Special – Who’s your favorite romantic on-screen couples?

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Hope it’s been a lovely day for you, wherever you are and whatever your love life is like. I actually don’t make a big fuss about V-day generally, especially the older I get. I actually told my hubby not to get me flowers this year, I mean, I still have a huge bouquet of roses from my dear brother for my birthday a few days ago, I wouldn’t know where to put another one.

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In any case, since I think in terms of movies, V-day always makes me think of favorite romantic pairings on screen. I’ve listed my top 10 three years ago, and the pairing of Nicole Kidman & Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge! is still my fave to this day!

Well, today I’m going to highlight ten of my recent favorite on-screen romantic couples, both on film and TV. Pictures do speak louder than words, and so here we go…

Click on each image to read my review of each film

Brooklyn
Eilis & Tony – ‘Brooklyn’
IATIHK
Ruby & Josh – ‘It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong’
AgeofAdaline
Adaline & Ellis – ‘The Age of Adaline’
Belle
Belle & John – ‘Belle’
FarFromTheMaddingCrowd
Gabriel & Bathsheba – ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’
BeyondtheLights
Noni & Kaz – ‘Beyond the Lights’
Daredevil
Matt & Claire – ‘Daredevil’
Cinderella
Ella & Prince Kit – ‘Cinderella’
Creed
Adonis & Bianca – ‘Creed’
PPZ
Darcy & Lizzie – ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’


Now I turn it over to you…
Who are YOUR favorite recent cinematic romantic couples?

Movies coming to Netflix in June – here are the ones I recommend & look forward to

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Hi folks, I’ve been meaning to post this for sometime as every weekend my hubby and I always spend way too long browsing Netflix on what to watch. Yes I know, that’s what the queue [or My List] is for but for some reason we still browse the new releases and decide which one appeals to us at that given moment. Well, at the start of the month, some sites are listing which movies get added to Netflix so I thought it might be mutually beneficial for us movie fans if we could give each other recommendations 😀

Ok, so this site breaks it down by genre and list the exact date of the month it’s going to be released, including TV shows. Well, I barely watch any TV so I’m only focusing on film recommendations. So here are

Newly Added in June

The Aviator (June 1)
I’d think most people have seen this Howard Hughes’ biopic from Scorsese by now, but if not, well what are you waiting for? To be honest though, I’m much more enamored by Cate Blanchett’s performance as Katharine Hepburn than Leo’s.

Words and Pictures (June 7)
Saw this last year at MSPIFF – stars Juliette Binoche & Clive Owen. Worth seeing just for those two alone. [full review]

Beyond the Lights (June 24)
I can’t recommend this film enough simply for the sublime performance of miss Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I’ve raved about her several times on my blog, and for good reason. The music is terrific as well, which I have also featured on my music break post. [full review]

Nightcrawler (June 10)
I saw this rather late but now that it’s on VOD, Bluray AND Netflix, really you have no reason to put this off any longer if you haven’t seen this yet. Trust me, it’s worth your time. SO good that I’ll be rooting for Jake Gyllenhaal come award season for Southpaw, it’s criminal that he was overlooked for his performance here. [full review]

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (June 27) 
Very cool that TWO of Riz Ahmed’s films are released on Netflix in the same month. He’s a darn good British actor who’s really quite versatile. His role here couldn’t be more different from the one in Nightcrawler and he’s quite mesmerizing. I wish he’d get more leading roles in the future! [full review]

Newly Added in May

I figure I’d include a few from last month that just got released, especially since it includes one of my favorite dramas of the year I’ve seen so far [Girlhood].

The ones I most look forward to seeing

I wasn’t just on the lookout for female-centric stories, but hey, no matter how [seemingly] numerous there are, it’s still not enough.

NetflixMoviesJune15

Two Days, One Night (June 16)

Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

For some reason I missed this film last year but the premise sounds intriguing and surely would show Marion Cotillard’s acting chops!

Cake (June 20)

Claire becomes fascinated by the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group while grappling with her own, very raw personal tragedy.

I’m mostly curious to see Jennifer Aniston’s performance. Somehow I just realized Sam Worthington’s in this movie also, wonder what role he’s playing.

Grace of Monaco (June 8)

The story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly’s crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle, and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s.

This one also piqued my curiosity because supposedly it’s such a train wreck. One thing for sure, not matter how much makeup they put on Nicole Kidman, she still wouldn’t hold a candle to the luminous Grace Kelly in real life.

On the Road (June 6)

Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.

Well, now that I’ve finally warmed up to Kristen Stewart thanks to Clouds of Sils Maria, I just might rent this one.

Definitely going to avoid …

The Best of Me – it’s one of those Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation, ’nuff said.

 …


So which of these movies have you seen? Recommendations are always welcome too!

Thursday Movie Picks #37: All in the Family Edition – Mother-Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

ThursdayMoviePicks

Happy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Mother/Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

This week’s TMP topic is a bittersweet one for me. I had a loving, albeit brief relationship with my late mother. In fact, we were very close up until she died on my 16th birthday. I have to admit at times I feel a pang of sadness whenever I see a mother and daughter depicted on screen, I often still wonder how life would be life if she were still around. In any case, for my three picks, I try to have a variety of mother/daughter relationship, so here are my three picks:

BRAVE (2011)

Brave_Queen_Merida

Pixar’s first *Princess* movie centers on a headstrong n spirited girl who like many of today’s girls her age tend to rebel against what’s expected of her. I love that the movie is centered on her relationship with her equally headstrong mother, Queen Elinor, instead of the typical romantic pursuit. I LOVE Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson who provide the voice work for Merida and Elinor. In case some of you still has seen this movie, let’s just say there’s a magical physical transformation that happens that drastically changes how they have to relate to one another. Through it all, the two end up forging a bond that’s even stronger than ever before. It’s quite an adventure that’s full of humorous & even peculiar moments, but also poignant ones that made me laugh and cry. It’s definitely one of my fave cinematic mother/daughter relationship that truly moved me.

1000 Times Good Night (2013)

1000TimesGoodNight_MomDaughter

Juliette Binoche plays a war photographer who often risks her life on the job, but even after a nearly fatal accident, she still can’t give up her career. Her eldest daughter Steph looks up at her and is obviously drawn to her mom’s globetrotting career that certainly looks cool and glamorous on the outside. The daughter in this film is a young teen and so immediately picture myself in her shoes, as my late mother was an amateur photographer. She kind of had the same free spirit personality and I always thought my mom was fearless. One key scene is when she ended up tagging along with her mom to Africa, much to the chagrin of her marine biologist dad. A traumatic incident made Steph realize just how dangerous her profession really is. The mother/daughter moments in the scene that followed really connected with me, and there’s a wonderful chemistry Binoche and Lauryn Canny who plays Steph. Here’s my full review of the film, which is now on Netflix.

August Osage County (2013)

AugustOsageCounty_Family

Now this is an example of the kind of mom I’m glad I didn’t have. Meryl Streep‘s Violet Wetson is a venom-spewing, pill-popping mother of three daughters who seem hellbent on driving a stake between her and everyone around her. That also includes her own husband, and the film takes place during his funeral. Violet has mouth cancer, partly due to her years of chain smoking, but even so it’s really hard to sympathize with her. Out of the three, Julia Roberts’ Barbara is the one who has the biggest conflict with her mother. The fact she herself is dealing with her own issues with her estranged husband and angsty teenage daughter adds to her exasperation. The Wetson family is as dysfunctional as they come  – they constantly bicker with each other, and the more things are said, the more secrets are revealed that made things worse. The screaming match are quite overwhelming, and it made me appreciate my own family. The craziest scene is when Barbara literally hurls at her mother trying to prevent her from taking any more pills, it was pretty bizarre and quite hilarious. I think it’s an especially interesting film to watch for mother and daughter, if anything, it’d make each of them think of what NOT to do to one another.

BONUS PICK:

Beyond the Lights

BeyondTheLightsMotherDaughter

This is one of my fave films I saw last year, and the casting of Minnie Driver and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as mother/daughter is one of the reasons I love it. Glad Paskalis included this movie on his list, I couldn’t believe I almost didn’t include that here. An ambitious and driven single mother who wouldn’t take failure as an option, Macy succeeds in turning her daughter into a star. But at what cost? Macy’s controlling behavior ultimately drives Noni away and there’s a heart-wrenching moment when Noni finally said enough is enough. It’s not that Macy didn’t love her daughter, but sometimes, some people just don’t know how to love. Apparently, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s search for her own birth mother was the catalyst of the mother/daughter story in the film (per this indiewire article).


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

2014 Recap: Top Five Favorite Movie Songs

Top5MovieSongs2014

Ok so I started making my Top 10 Films list, in fact I have my top 9 ready to go with just one more left to include. But y’know what, I realize I should wait until later this week as I have one press screening of a 2014 film on Tuesday.

Now this one is a much easier list to include, and four of the five have pretty much been decided long ago. The fifth one I’m including here is from an earlier 2014 movie I’ve just seen recently, Begin Again. In case you missed it, I’ve posted the Top 10 Favorite Film Scores list back in December, which surprisingly doesn’t have any overlap. What’s indeed surprising to me is that two of the songs here are sung by the lead actresses of their respective films, which means I should really update my five-year-old list of actors who are surprisingly good singers. As for I’m Not In Love, I’ve actually been a fan of that song (which was released in 1975) for some time, but I had to include it here as it’s my fave song from the awesome Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. It might not be as catchy as Hooked on a Feeling but it doesn’t get old as quickly as that one.

So anyhoo, here’s my top 5:

Blackbird – Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights)

Everything’s Awesome –Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island (The Lego Movie)

Once Upon A Dream – Lana Del Rey (Maleficent)

I’m Not In Love – 10cc (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Like A Fool – Keira Knightley (Begin Again)

 

Honorable Mention: 

Agony – Chris Pine & Billy Magnussen (Into The Woods)

I have to include this one as this scene is easily my favorite of the entire film! You can take a look at the hilarious clip here (it’s fuzzy as it’s recorded on the big screen) but I’m including the official song below because the quality is much better.


Thoughts on my picks here? So what’s YOUR favorite songs from the past year?

November Recap + Top Movie of the Month

November2014Recap

WOW, would you believe it, we’re already in the last month of 2014! I’ve been sort of blissfully disconnected from the blogosphere the past few days, so I was quite flabbergasted that tomorrow is December already. Seems that the year have flown by much quicker than I could keep up with.

Anyway, it ends up being a rather slow month for movie-watching for me, but I think December will be another busy one with a bunch of press screenings already scheduled in the next few weeks, starting with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into The Woods and Night at the Museum 2.

Posts you might’ve missed:


New-to-me Movies:

RebelWithoutACauseGraphic

Rewatches:

  • Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  • Superman Returns (2006)
  • Licence To Kill (1989)

Favorite Movie of November 2014:

BirdmanBanner

I had been anticipating Birdman for some time because I’m a fan of Michael Keaton and it’s great seeing him in a lead role again. Well he certainly did NOT disappoint! It’s truly as bizarre & surreal as I expected it to be, but it’s also poignant, emotional and unlike anything I’ve seen all year. Review coming sometime next week.


So, what movies did you get to see in November and which one is your favorite?

….

FlixChatter Double Reviews: Beyond the Lights & Begin Again

Neither one of these two indie films were even on my radar but I’m sure glad I got to see them!  Beyond the Lights is currently out in select theaters and Begin Again are now available on VOD.

Beyond the Lights 

BeyondTheLightsBnr

The first time I learned about this movie was when I saw a photo of Gugu Mbatha-Raw in full S&M getup with purple hair and I thought, is that the actress from Belle? I absolutely loved her in that movie so she’s definitely the main draw for me to see this.

The film introduces us to the protagonist Noni Jean when she’s in her early teens. Raised by her driven & ruthless single mother Macy (Minnie Driver) who took her to various talent contests, it’s apparent that failure is not an option for her. Fast forward over a decade later, Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) has blossomed into a Rihana-like pop star on the brink of superstardom. She’s just won a Billboard Music award as part of a hip-hop duo with Kid Culprit (played by real life rapper Machine Gun Kelly). Noni is seemingly at the top of her game, being touted as a hot new artist with fans and paparazzi and throng of fans hot on her trail. But the pressure of fame drives Noni to the point of self destruction, as the more famous she becomes, the more she feels invisible. Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), a young cop who’s assigned to be her security that night saves her just in the nick of time. ‘I see you,’ he says, and somehow that gives Noni just enough hope in her to keep going.

BeyondtheLights_Still1

Noni and Kaz are inevitably drawn to each other, and it’s no brainer that the two end up together. Some people compare this film to The Bodyguard but I honestly never thought of that movie the entire time I was watching this. For one, the relationship between the two characters are more on equal footing as Kaz isn’t technically working for Noni here and Noni herself isn’t quite in the same level as Whitney Huston’s character who’s already reached superstar status.

Though at first glance this film may appear as a romantic drama, it’s actually so much more than that. Yes there are romance and romantic scenes, but it’s all part of Noni’s journey of self-discovery and being able to stand on her own two feet. It’s also a commentary on the image-obsessed music industry that exploit female sexuality to sell records. The outfits that Noni wear in the movie would make even Lady Gaga blush [or maybe not], there’s one particular outfit where her upper body is only covered by a string of chains and nothing else. It’s a not-so-subtle hint that Noni is metaphorically and literally in chains, the fact that she’s always in the shadow of her rapper partner and is also controlled by her mother within an inch of her life.

BeyondtheLights_StillsBy the same token, Kaz’s life is in a way also controlled by external influences who push him for a political career. He’s also got an ambitious police captain father (Danny Glover) with his powerful allies and the pressure is getting to him as well. It’s an interesting parallel life story but the movie is more about Noni, which is truly the beating heart of the movie.

Mbatha-Raw is astounding in yet another career-making performance that shows her acting chops and versatility. Noni requires a tremendous physical as well as emotional commitment from the actor, and the British actress totally owned her role. I certainly hope she’ll get some kind of recognition come award season and that Hollywood continue to cast her in prominent roles. I also love the casting of Minnie Driver here, who I think is an underrated actress. Though I don’t agree with Macy’s actions, I don’t see her as a *villain* and the film does give us a glimpse into her character’s motivations.

The film itself is not perfect, there are moments that feel awkward or too schmaltzy. Pacing also feels a bit off as some scenes feel more drawn-out than they should be. The scene of Noni & Kaz on the plane makes me cringe, and Nate Parker‘s constant shirtless scenes also feel gratuitous that it made me laugh. That said, I’m impressed by Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s direction and the story kept me engaged and fully-invested in the main character. Last but not least, the music is definitely the highlight here, thanks to Mark Isham‘s emotive score. The song Blackbird holds a special meaning to Noni and by the time she sung a rendition of it towards the end, I wanted to get up and cheer for her!

This film seems to be under most people’s radar but I really hope that people would give it a look. I know I’d readily watch this again and the soundtrack is definitely worth buying!

3halfReels


Begin Again

BeginAgainBnrThis movie wasn’t even on my radar until fairly recently, and I haven’t seen Once yet which was Director John Carnet‘s critically-acclaimed debut. Well, I like Carney’s storytelling style and he’s assembled a great cast to tell the story.

Mark Ruffalo plays Dan, a distressed record producer of an indie label who’s been having a very bad day. Clashing with his business partner that leads to him losing his job and feeling estranged from his ex-wife and teenage daughter, he ends his day at a bar to drink his woes away. Meanwhile, Keira Knightley‘s Greta is nursing a broken heart having just split from his musician boyfriend and was dragged to perform a song by his BFF in attempt to cheer her up. Well it’s not exactly a meet cute, but you know that their encounter somehow would change their lives profoundly.

BeginAgainStillsThe film is told partly in parallel between the two characters, giving us a glimpse into their lives and how they intersect. The acting felt so natural and right away I connected with the two leads and their journey. This might be one of my fave Keira Knightley‘s performances and nice to see her portraying a plain and relatable girl, a role she seems to relish and have fun playing. Ruffalo is a reliable and charming actor and he’s just so likable and endearing here even at the moment of a life crisis. He embodies an artistic and idealistic guy who can *see* and feel music so deeply and he’s so convincing at it. The film took us on a ride with Dan & Greta sharing music on their iPods and hanging out together around NYC (which could double as the city’s tourism video). Music is infused throughout the film and so there are lovely musical moments here. Two of my fave scenes are featured in this week’s music break, but there’s also a fun one when the group play on a rooftop.

I LOVE the spontaneity and adventurous spirit as Dan assemble a group of amateur talents to make up a band for Greta and the recording process in various places – in an alley, rooftop and even a subway station – is fun to watch. This movie is so enjoyable and engaging that I even tolerate seeing Adam Levine playing a douche bag (convincingly, natch) but I have to admit he’s pretty decent here and I could see why they cast him. James Corden and Hailee Steinfeld also lend memorable supporting roles as Keira’s BFF and Mark’s daughter respectively, though Catherine Keener is a bit underutilized. Overall though, this is Dan and Greta’s story and both Ruffalo and Knightley shine in their roles.

The finale isn’t tied up in a neat little bow which I think gives the story even more poignancy, the way Roman Holiday was to me. Of course parts of me want a happy ending, but the more I think about it, I like it the way it is and there’s a genuine element of surprise when things don’t go as you expect it. I can’t recommend this movie enough, and trust me folks, you won’t be disappointed!

4 Reels


Have you seen these films? Well, what did you think?

Music Break: Beyond the Lights & Begin Again

This past week I saw two wonderful music-themed films and the soundtracks have been playing in my head since. So I figure why not feature both of them in one post since I’m planning to post a double review of them later in the week.

Both films feature a female protagonist and both stories offer interesting commentaries on the music industries from two VERY different spectrum. So take a listen at my favorite tracks from both films …

BeyondtheLightsPosterThis one is my absolute favorite… it’s emotive and stirring, especially when it’s sung by Gugu Mbatha-Raw‘s Noni towards the end of the film. It’s a defiant song that becomes the unofficial anthem for her at a pivotal point in her life. I love love the melody of the song and the beautiful arrangement by Mark Isham, it’s perhaps one of my favorite songs of the year so far. I was already so impressed by Gugu in Belle, but she totally blew me away here. Her transformation into a pop-star persona is incredible, and she clearly has the vocal chops to actually be a recording artist for real!

This second one is pleasant but more familiar, perhaps because it’s written by Diane Warren, who’s responsible for so many movies’ romantic ballads. It’s performed by Rita Ora.

BeginAgainBanner

I knew there’ll be some awesome music featured in this one, as Margaret already featured them in her Soundtrack Wednesday post. I still want to feature ’em again here, especially the two soulful ones sung by Keira Knightley. I had no idea she could sing so well and with such raw emotion. I LOVE this scene when Mark Ruffalo‘s character first saw her singing in a bar and his reaction to her singing is so endearing.

I had to include this awesome video posted by Interscope Records. It’s a cute & poignant scene featuring Keira and James Corden as they record a song together as a voice mail message. The melody is wonderful but the lyrics are so moving and really, who can’t relate to a broken heart? We’ve all been there, if only I knew how to turn my feelings into such beautiful music!


Hope you enjoyed the music break! Have you seen either one of these films?