Top 10 Favorite Scottish Actors

Today’s Gerry Butler’s birthday. For the past three years I’ve been making all kinds of tribute posts to my former crush. But y’know what, I don’t think any of you would be surprised that I won’t be doing a tribute for him this year, instead, I figure I’d finish the list that’s been sitting dormant in my draft folder for some time. I was originally going to post this shortly after I posted my picks of Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors which was three years ago!

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As you know, I have a penchant for the Scots. But really, can you blame me? There’s got to be something in the water in Scotland that churn out an endless supply of talented, AND handsome blokes. To top it off, they seem to have a charming personality to go with ’em too, and of course, there’s the irresistible Scottish burr. I’d say there aren’t enough Scots working in Hollywood right now, especially since Connery’s been out of the game for some time. In any case, here are my current faves right now in alphabetical order [Yes Gerry, you’re still on the list… for now] 😀

Billy Connoly

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I’ve only seen him in a few movies but some have become my favorites. Love him in Mrs. Brown alongside Judi Dench, in Dustin Hoffman’s debut Quartet, as well as his voice work in the recent Pixar feature film BRAVE. He’s got such a charming but mischievous personality that I often associate with Scottish men.

Brian Cox

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Brian Cox is easily of the most underrated actors working today. It’s one of those actors you wonder why he hasn’t gotten an Oscar yet given his consistently excellent performance. Even in small roles, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Dundee-born actor, i.e. The Bourne Supremacy, Rob Roy, X-Men 2Red, etc. I even like his performance as Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter more than Anthony Hopkins’ in The Silence of the Lambs.

Craig Ferguson

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Ok so now he’s switched to be a talk show host on CBS, but Ferguson is quite a great comic and voice actor. He was a hoot in Saving Grace with Brenda Blethyn, a hilarious British crime comedy. I also enjoy his voice work in How To Train Your Dragon as well as Brave, and once in a while I’d tune in to The Late, Late Show and watch his gregarious monologue and hysterical interviews!

Dougray Scott

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I think a lot of moviegoers probably only know him from Mission Impossible II or as the actor who missed out on the role of Wolverine in the X-Men franchise. But he’s actually a pretty good actor. I like him as the Handsome Prince in Ever After, as well as in smaller movies like Enigma and Ripley’s Game. Who knows, his breakthrough role could be just around the corner.

Ewan McGregor

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Perhaps the most prolific Scottish actor in Hollywood today, McGregor is as hard working as he is talented. He’s quite versatile as well, playing different types of roles and moving from one genre to the next. Just this year alone he was in The Impossible, Jack The Giant Slayer and August: Osage County, which couldn’t be more different from each other. He’s also got a beautiful singing voice too, as displayed in Moulin Rouge! I’d totally buy his album if he ever decide to be a recording artist!

Gerard Butler

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Ok Gerry, I guess I still have a smidgen of hope that you’d star in something I REALLY want to see again. The ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movie sequel London Has Fallen and that video game movie based on Kane & Lynch aren’t likely to top my must-see list 😦 He did impress me in Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher, both of which are grossly overlooked, so he’s still got it in him if the role calls for it. I think he ought to take a page from Matthew McConaughey’s book of career re-invention. I wrote this role for him in an espionage drama with Timothy Dalton as his dad and James McAvoy as his half brother. I’d SO love to see him in an ensemble cast like that by a stellar director, even if he’s only doing a supporting part.

James McAvoy

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I always think that he looks so much like Gerry Butler’s younger brother, but the one with the better acting chops. The first time I saw this Glaswegian native was in The Chronicles of Narnia as Mr. Tumnus, but since then he’s had been on a roll in Hollywood, balancing small/medium indies (The Last Station, Atonement, The Last King of Scotland) to big blockbuster movies like Wanted and X-Men: First Class. He’s also not afraid to take on unsympathetic anti-hero roles, Trance, Welcome to The Punch and Filth, all of which are released this year alone.

Robert Carlyle

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Yet another great but underrated Scot. Mr. Carlyle has had an illustrious career since the early 90s. His breakthrough role in Trainspotting got him noticed, and since he’s juggling a TV and film career, some of which don’t seem to deserve his talent [*cough World is Not Enough *cough]. He’s also the best thing in the ABC show Once Upon a Time as Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin. Let’s hope he gets more meaty film roles in the near future!

Peter Mullan

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I think I’ve noticed Mr. Mullan in his supporting role in Braveheart, but it was his role in Boy A as a surrogate father to Andrew Garfield that really made me a fan. He’s also memorable in War Horse though his performance is easily overlooked by the younger supporting cast the likes of Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. I still need to see On a Clear Day and Sunshine on Leith that my Scottish friend Mark Walker highly recommends.

Sean Connery

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Ok so technically he’s retired, but really you can’t have a Favorite Scot list and not mention THE most iconic of them all. Yes the Edinburgh-born actor is the first and to most people, he’s still the best James Bond, but I also like his roles post 007. The Hunt for Red October, Finding Forrester, Rising Sun, Just Cause, The Rock, to name a few, as well as two of my personal favorites: The Untouchables and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. He’s not only a distinguished actor, but he’s also got one of the most recognizable accent in all Hollywood.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Billy Boyd
  • David Tennant
  • Iain Glen
  • John Hannah
  • Robbie Coltrane

Now, these five men are talented Scots as well, I just haven’t seen enough of their work to put them on my list. I’d love to see all these actors get more work in Hollywood, especially David Tennant who obviously has got quite a career in British TV. Perhaps that Broadchurch remake would be his American breakthrough. As for Iain Glen, I first saw him in the first Tomb Raider movie and I thought he made a charming villain. He’s also very memorable in BBC’s Spooks, love all his episodes with my Brit crush Richard Armitage! I’ve been slow going catching up with Downton Abbey, but I’m looking forward to seeing Glen’s performance in it, too!


Hope you enjoy my list of great Scots! Who’s YOUR favorite Scottish actor?

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Weekend Roundup: Holy Motors and Mrs Brown

Happy Monday everyone! Hope y’all had a nice weekend. Still can’t believe two months have come and gone in 2013. Well, because of the press screenings that usually take place on weekends, I don’t go to the cinema on weekends. Here are my mini reviews of the two movies I saw:

Holy Motors (2012)

HolyMotorsPosterI have to admit I have not heard of this French film at all until a few months ago when I read some really rave reviews of this. It sounds so batty and bizarre, and though I don’t really have a huge taste for surreal cinema but I was intrigued enough to check this out.

From dusk ’til dawn, we follow a man by the name of Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) traveling by a white limousine around Paris to a series of nine “appointments.” His chauffeur Celine makes sure he gets to each of those appointments in time, and at each stop, Mr. Oscar transform into new character, one more bizarre than others, but we’re never told just why he does this. From a gypsy beggar, to a motion capture artist like Andy Serkis, he does his own make up and disguise in his well-equiped limo.

The two most bizarre ones to me is when he’s dressed like a leprechaun-looking thing and kidnaps a fashion model (Eva Mendez, channeling Cindy Crawford here) during a photo shoot at a Parisian cemetery and takes her into a cave. It gets even more bizarre after that, trust me. And the other one is the motion capture stuff where he’s doing all kinds of Ninja moves, and then a woman dressed in the mo-cap suit with all the dot markers and the two start to perform a sex act inside a digital production facility and being projected as some reptilian beings on the monitor screen.

The film’s narrative is quite challenging to follow, not to mention the fact that we have no clue just who Mr. Oscar is and why he does what he does. I was willing to go along for the ride and oh, what a trip this is. Director Leos Carax mixes all kinds of genres, as iTunes described it, it’s a monster movie, film noir, romantic drama, musical, crime thriller, futuristic sex fantasia rolled into one, yet it also defies each and everyone of that genre at the same time. It reminds me of Paris, je t’aime a bit but with just one actor in its multiple ‘storyline.’ It’s tough for me to even explain just what’s going on throughout the 2-hour running time, I think if you’re curious about it, just go see it.

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My favorite segment is of Mr. Oscar and Jean (Kylie Minogue) where she sang the movie’s theme song Who Were We. I’m still humming that lovely song, it has kind of a haunting quality about it. The music is actually quite memorable here, there’s also an accordion interlude called ‘Let my Baby Ride’ that’s quite awesome. My late mother played the accordion so that instrument holds a special place in my heart.

I’m not surprised this film won so many film festival awards, and was nominated at Cannes and César. I’d even think it’s worthy to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Oscar. The cinematography is beautiful and unique, it shows various parts of Paris that’s not always all romantic. Lavant’s performance was noteworthy to be sure, that’s got to be a challenging role for any actor. Holy Motors is perhaps more of a cinematic experiment than a conventional film. I don’t think this fantasy film is for everyone though, but I do think if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, you might actually enjoy it. I know I did, and parts of me are weird-ed out by it, even terrified at times, but also mesmerized at the same time. Yet it’s also strangely moving, it somehow appeals to my heart even when my brain fails to comprehend just what is happening. In a sea of movies that lack imagination and originality, I certainly appreciate it when something offbeat like this comes along.

four reels


Her Majesty Mrs. Brown (1997)

MrsBrownPosterIt’s been ages since I saw this film and I have to admit that my initial interest in this film was because my former crush Gerry Butler had a supporting role here. This is in fact his feature film debut.

This film stayed with me for years and has become one of my favorite films about the British monarchs. This would make a great double feature with The Young Victoria, as that one depict the royal romance between her and Prince Albert. In this one, the Queen is in a depressed state following the death of her husband and the whole Balmoral estate is pretty much in a state of mourning as a result.

John Brown is brought in especially as he was one of Albert’s favorite servants. His rather irreverent, frank behavior doesn’t exactly bode well for the royal staff, but soon he found favor with the Queen and their unlikely friendship proved to be good for her mental health. No doubt their relationship created a stir, as you could imagine how scandalous it is for a queen to be hanging out with the queen. There’s of course jealousy arising amongst the queen’s advisers who saw their own influence diminishing as the Queen favored Brown’s advice. The staff, as well as the Queen’s own son the Prince of Wales (Bertie), think Brown’s influence is bad for the Queen’s reputation.

What I love most about this film is the unlikely friendship between two people from two very different worlds. It’s such a pity that someone in the Queen’s position could not confide in anyone even at a time she needed to most, everyone in her circle seemed only concerned about their own status in connection to her. Brown on the other hand, did not care about status nor power. He might be stubborn and hard to deal with at times, but he genuinely cared for the Queen and protective of her well-being. He even shushed a bunch of ‘paparazzi’ who followed the royal party hunting.

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Dame Judi Dench is superb, her Oscar-nomination here is well-deserved. It’s a brilliantly astute portrayal that displayed her incredible range. Whether it’s conveying inconsolable grief or a subtle hint of glee following a robust dance with Mr. Brown, she’s always so believable. Billy Connolly is perfectly cast here in a dramatic role. I’ve always found his comedic style rather impudent, and there’s a bit of that here, but he’s so natural as John Brown and he has an effortless chemistry with Dench. Butler’s pretty effective in his small role as Brown’s younger brother Archie. Boy his Scottish accent was still sooo thick here, it’s funny that he’s been cast as Americans nowadays as he still can’t lose that brogue completely. Oh, there’s also an amusing scene of the two of them running into a cold lake fully nude 😉

I adore this film and the cinematography of the lush Scottish Highlands are absolutely stunning. I guess John Madden and Dame Judi have a great rapport together. She also won an Oscar under his direction in Shakespeare in Love for only being on screen for a mere eight minutes!!

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I also saw BBC’s 2007 version of Persuasion, mainly to see Rupert Penry-Jones as Capt. Wentworth. I like parts of this movie, but overall it leaves me wanting. This is such a wonderful story of lost love and second chances that deserves a worthy adaptation. Ah well, I’ll leave that for a future post 🙂


Well, that’s my weekend recap. What about you? Seen anything good?

TCFF Day 3: Reviews of QUARTET and We Are Wisconsin Documentary

Man, can’t believe the third day of TCFF has come and gone already, time sure flies by fast when you’re having a good time! The highlight of the day for me is definitely seeing Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s debut on the lives of retired musicians and Opera singers. Seems like people of all ages enjoyed the film, check out Ingrid Moss’ interview with the audience after the film:

And here are the reviews of the day:

QUARTET

I don’t know why but I quite enjoy comedies about old age… especially when it has a stellar seasoned cast! I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel recently, which I haven’t got a chance to review yet, and similarly, Quartet puts a comedic spin on aging and mix it with lush, beautiful music.

Based on a play by Ronald Harwood, Quartet is a dramedy, or specifically, it’s a comedy about the dramas of four retired opera singers as they deal with old grudges, passion, pride, romance… and Rigoletto. The all-British cast are led by Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins, with Michael Gambon as a curmudgeon opera director Cedric.

I tell you, I wish that in my old age I get to retire in a place like Beecham House! It’s the most opulent retirement home I’ve ever seen, people are treated like royalty here and there’s beautiful music every where you turn as the residents are either playing violins, piano, what have you, or singing together. It’s like living in an Opera house! But prima donna Jean Horton (Smith) isn’t keen on having to live here, despite such a tremendous welcome from current residents that harkens back to her old days. Her arrival also disrupts the peace of Reginald Paget (Courtenay) who shared a not-so-rosy past that he’s not prepared to let go.

The dynamics between them are fun to watch. Maggie Smith‘s character Jean is the most developed here as she navigates through pride and bruised ego, as well as attempting to atone for her failed relationship with Reginald (Regi for short). I’ve always loved stories of lost love and it’s depicted in such a sweet way. Billy Connolly is especially amusing with his cheeky remarks unabashedly flirts with all the women in Beecham House, including the young, compassionate doctor played by Sheridan Smith (whom I just saw recently in Hysteria). I’ve always liked the Scottish thespian since Mrs. Brown, and he was hilarious as Merida’s father in Pixar’s Brave earlier this year.

It’s no surprise what the major highlight of the movie is the music, and as a huge fan of classical music it’s such a treat for me. The whole thing feels like a love letter to classical music and opera, with also a nod to hip hop and rap. Say what? Yep there is an especially touching scene when Regi teaches a group of students and prompted one of them to perform rap in class.

I applaud Dustin Hoffman in crafting such a charming film. It’s not flawless however, the films feels meandering at times, but despite the lack of focus in parts, it’s still a delight to watch because of the performances. Hoffman is certainly deft in selecting the cast that works well together. I thoroughly enjoy this movie… beautiful music, mirthful dialog, gorgeous scenery and lovely performances. What’s not to love?

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Special thanks to the Minnesota Opera for sponsoring this film for TCFF!


We Are Wisconsin

I’m not sure why, but this screening was not sold out. Out of the three documentaries that I have seen so far, this was the best by a long shot. It communicated a serious issue that is close to home. We are Wisconsin spotlighted the occupation that took place during May in the Wisconsin State Capitol, as a result of the bill that Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans were trying to push through.

There was definitely biased towards the Liberal political views – or rather the people that opposed what was trying to be passed. There were moving testimonies from people leading and participating in the revolt, and the images of inside the Capitol as the issue progressed.

I had not followed this story in the news while it was going on, and before seeing this I still only had a loose grasp on exactly what happened. But after the first images of the people who were actively fighting for their beliefs I was transfixed. Many facts could have been omitted, but I was successfully convinced of the injustice politics can inflict on the government’s citizens.

Laura Glass, the main teacher that gave testimonies in the documentary, was present for this screening. Her presence in the audience helped drive home the feeling of how relevant this is in American culture. Footage of the protests and people occupying created this energy that made me feel like I should be taking a more active role in Minnesota’s politics for this November’s election. Real emotion was evoked, and that is not something every documentary accomplishes.

– review by Emery Thoresen

4 out of 5 reels


Also check out June’s review of Quartet & prankster comedy STAG
with Scrubs‘ Donald Faison

TCFF Schedule and Ticket Info »


Has anyone seen these films? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: BRAVE

Whenever I go see a film at the cinema, there’s a certain expectation to be swept away by the experience. With Pixar, that little slice of cinematic heaven always begins with the short movie attached at the beginning of the film. In this case, La Luna truly is magical. I think the terms ‘over the moon’ is aptly used here to describe how I feel about it. Fortunately, that state of untrammeled delight didn’t stop when the feature film started.

As I said in my Top Ten Pixar characters list, the strength of Pixar films have always been the beguiling characters and in that regard, Pixar delivers again here. Right from the opening sequence, I was captivated by the DunBroch family: Dad Lord Fergus, Mum Lady Elinor, and the adorable young princess with the most glorious red ringlets and big blue eyes, Princess Merida. Her love for archery began at a very young age, the moment her father gave her a set of bow and arrow, despite her mother’s protest.

Merida isn’t your typical princess, and that’s what I LOVE about her. The 16-year-old is very much a tomboy who’d rather ride her horse Angus into the woods whilst shooting arrows expertly as she’s riding, climbing rocks in the Scottish Highlands and drink from a majestic waterfalls. That’s the only time when she feels free, free from all the pressure of being a princess and the responsibilities that come with it. Like a typical teenager, she clashes most with her strict mother who wants her to be a proper princess with perfect decorum. Queen Elinor has high hopes for Merida, and that includes planning her daughter’s marriage with the three neighboring clans, which also serves as a peace offering to keep the clans in harmony.

Despite her mother’s insistence about the importance of this betrothal, it’s no surprise that the free-spirited Merida protests such a plan. On the day of the event where each of the clan’s first-born is to fight for her hand, Merida defies her mother by claiming that she too would ‘fight for her own hand.’ That does it, the war between Merida and her mother is full-on.

The first act of Brave feels familiar, I guess some of the scenes have been shown on the trailer, so there’s not much of a surprise there up until she runs away into the forest and encounters those will-o’-the-wisp, the blue ghostly lights seen flickering over marshes and fens, which her mother once told Merida that they can lead a person to her destiny. Those lights lead Merida to the mysterious circle of standing stones which then reveals a witch’s house. I’m glad I hadn’t read any spoilers of the movie as I was completely surprised by what becomes of that spell Merida requests from the witch. But let’s just say that the result causes quite a bit of chaos… and the very second the transformation happens, hilarity ensues.

What surprises me most about this movie is how funny it is. I guess I know that Pixar’s movies are usually whimsical and playful, but Brave is downright hilarious and seems to get funnier as the movie progresses. Merida’s own carrot-topped triplet brothers are the ultimate scene stealers as you can’t help but laugh every time they appear. These rambunctious trio are always up to mayhem, making mischief on their dad’s wooden leg or tirelessly chasing after pastries, much to the chagrin of those poor kitchen maids. The betrothal archery race itself is a hoot, full of wonderfully quirky characters and all kinds of side-splitting hysterics. But the funniest bit involves Merida and a big black bear in the castle. I have never laughed so hard from start to finish watching a movie, my stomach was literally sore after the film but oh, so much joy!


But beneath all that rip-roaring humor, there’s a poignant and heartfelt story about the celebration of family. The underlying theme in Brave is a love story, but not between a Prince and a Princess, but between a mother and a daughter. That alone makes the story unique, but another thing that sets this movie apart from other classic fairy tales is the absence of a *villain.* Nothing against classic good vs evil plots, but it’s so refreshing to see a fairy tale without a stereotypical villain hellbent on destroying a kingdom or jealous of the princess’ beauty. No love interest either, thank you very much, no Prince necessary to *complete* the Princess’ life. In relation to that mind-numbingly generic title, Merida is brave not because she’s able to kill some dragon or what have you, but she’s brave because she’s got the courage to fight for what she believes in, and she’s also not afraid to own up to her mistake.

There’s not a boring moment whilst watching Brave. If I wasn’t laughing at the shenanigans around the DunBroch Kingdom or getting caught up in Merida’s action adventure, I was marveling at the amazing visuals. This movie practically doubles as a Scotland tourism video as the Scottish Highlands looks absolutely breathtaking. The wonderful Celtic-themed score by Patrick Doyle enhances the mood even more, they certainly made a great choice in hiring the Scottish-born composer whose work I admire. The soundtrack would certainly make my top five.

The lush nature cinematography gives us an earthy yet mystical forest but keeping the human characters more comical-looking (facial features are rounder with exaggerated eyes) adds to the charm. What’s perhaps more beautiful than the Scottish landscape is Merida’s hair, especially when it’s blowing in the wind. I could devote an entire blog just on her untamed, bright red locks. Apparently Pixar had to upgrade to a new software to create that perfect special effect for her hair, and that certainly paid off as it’s as iconic as Steve Jobs’ black turtlenecks. Btw, speaking of Jobs, Brave was dedicated to the company’s founder, who died during the production of the movie.

I have to mention the wonderful voice cast in this movie, especially Kelly MacDonald who did a great job bringing the princess to life. Billy Connolly is perfectly cast as Lord Fergus and his comedic talents is put to good use in this role. Emma Thompson also did a great job doing a Scottish brogue as Elinor.

Final Thoughts: A lot of the critics say that this falls short from being a Pixar classic. Now, I don’t know what the definition of a *classic* is, but if that means something I wouldn’t mind watching this over and over again for years to come then I think it fits into that category. Ok so the plot perhaps isn’t as tight as other Pixar’s masterpieces like Finding Nemo and the Toy Story franchise, perhaps because of the many directors involved (Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell are all credited in the movie) But still, it’s a solid movie that offers a great deal of entertainment and fun adventure. Funny, heartwarming, with beautiful sound and stunning visuals to marvel at, really, what’s not to love? I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish, in fact, I like this more overall than the more celebrated UP.

Brave reminds me of all the wonderful things about those Disney fairy tales I saw growing up, but with something more… much, much more.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Did you see BRAVE? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the movie.