The London List Part II: Sixteen favorite actors born in the UK capital

The Happy and Glorious 2012 Olympics have come to a rocking end earlier today with a celebration of British pop-culture. Just because the Olympics is over though, doesn’t mean the London appreciation has to. The UK capital is one of my favorite city I have been blessed to visit.

Now for Part II, I decided to go with a top 16 instead of 10 for each day of the London 2012 Olympics, and also partly because there are too many London-born actors I love that it’s agonizing to keep it just 10. By the way, I’m including some of the nearby Suburbs of London as well.

Though I may not have seen ALL of their work, I am fond of these actors from seeing their performances in a number of projects [at least three in order to be eligible for this list]. So here they are in ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

Emily Blunt

Born on February 23, 1983, in Roehampton, South West London. I first saw her in The Devil’s Wear Prada when she practically stole every scene. I’ve since seen her in half a dozen films and I think my favorite role of hers are in Jane Austen Book Club [I love her outfits in this movie too!], The Young Victoria, and Salmon Fishing in Yemen. There’s something about her demeanor that makes me connect with her right away. Did you know that she had a stammer when she was a kid? Apparently a teacher asked her to play a character with a different voice and it did the trick and her stammer disappeared.

Michael Caine

Born 14 March 1933, Rotherhithe, London. Who doesn’t love Michael Caine with his cockney accent? It’s practically iconic! I don’t know which is the first film I saw him in, it might’ve been Deathtrap with Christopher Reeve. But it’s his roles in Christopher Nolan’s movies [the Batman trilogy and The Prestige] that perhaps make him become a mainstream star. He’s one of those actors that is always watchable even in not-so-good movies [Miss Congeniality anyone?] My fave roles of him are Alfred, Jasper in Children of Men and Dr. Larch in The Cider House Rules. Did you know his real name is Maurice Micklewhite?

Dominic Cooper

June 2, 1978 in Greenwich, London. In the Liebster post, I asked which actor whom you initially don’t care for but somehow slowly warmed up to. I answered Matt Damon, but I could say the same about Dominic as I did not like his performance as Willoughby in the recent BBC adaptation of Sense & Sensibility, but then he started to pop up in all kinds of movies like An Education, Captain America, My Week with Marilyn, and most recently Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. You know what, I started enjoying seeing him on screen and I have to admit that he’s quite talented.
,,,

Benedict Cumberbatch

Born July 19, 1976 in London. I first noticed the unconventionally-handsome bloke with a peculiar name as a cad in Atonement. But no doubt it’s his role in BBC’s Sherlock that impressed me and it no doubt opens a lot of doors for him as well. He was excellent in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Amazing Grace and even in his brief scenes in War Horse. With his upcoming roles in The Hobbit and Star Trek, it’s safe to say Benedict’s moment has definitely arrived.

Idris Elba

Born 6 September 1972, Hackney, London. It’s hard not to notice this tall, hunky East-Londoner when he comes into the screen. Though when I first saw him in some clips of The Wire, I thought he was American (his parents are from Sierra Leone and Ghana). His first role I saw was Rocknrolla, where he just lights up the screen as Gerry Butler’s partner in crime, Mumbles. He’s got such screen charisma and his Cockney accent is to-die-for, though I often just gaze at the way he speak that I don’t pay attention to what he had to say, ahah. I’ve since enjoyed seeing him in Thor and Prometheus, and even in an under-written role in The Losers, he’s still fun to watch. Glad to see him thriving in Hollywood and getting more roles, I think his leading role in Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi adventure Pacific Rim would likely make him an A-lister, if he isn’t already by now.

Tom Hardy

Born September 15, 1977 in Hammersmith, London. As they say, no matter how small a role is, it’s up to the actor to make it memorable. That’s what Hardy did in his scene-stealing performance in Inception with that awesome quote about ‘dreaming a little bigger.’ He has done a few exceptional performances before that though, his role in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson shows his dedication to his craft and his range. Just like Cumberbatch, he impressed me in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy despite his limited screen time, and his heartfelt performance in Warrior should’ve been recognized in last year’s award season.

Tom Hiddleston

Born February 9, 1981 in Westminster, London. I’ve mentioned it several times before that his breakthrough role in THOR is what made me notice him. His Loki is perhaps one of my favorite superhero villains, but this RADA-trained actor’s certainly capable for more. I’ve since seen him in bit parts in War Horse and Midnight in Paris and I just love his gorgeous voice and charming screen presence. His impersonations are awesome, which are all over YouTube if you’re curious. I’d love to see more of him in Hollywood, he’ll be starring as a love-struck vampire in Jim Jarmusch’ Only Lovers Left Alive.

Jude Law

Born December 29, 1972 in Lewisham, London. One of the most gorgeous Brits with to-die-for green eyes are actually more versatile than I thought. I think The Talented Mr. Ripley was one of the earliest roles I saw him in, but he’s since starred in a whole bunch of films playing a variety of characters. I think I’ve seen him in about a dozen films now, but I don’t know what my favorite role of his would be. Surely one of his memorable is his villainous turn in Road to Perdition.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Born April 29, 1957 in Greenwich, London. I heard that he’s often referred to as the English Robert De Niro. I don’t know about you, but I think he’s far more consistent than his acting hero. The celebrated actor isn’t the most prolific due to his exhaustive preparations for his roles. His intense performance in The Last of the Mohicans and heart-wrenching one The Age of Innocence blew me away, though a few of his key roles such as My Left Foot and The Crucible still eluded me. Did you know that Day-Lewis actually pursued the role of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction after Michael Madsen wasn’t available?

Alfred Molina

Born May 24, 1953 in London. Believe it or not, I first noticed Mr. Molina years ago in a very unsympathetic role. He played a brutish Iranian husband in Not Without My Father with Sally Field. His Spanish/Italian heritage makes him so versatile that he could play almost any ethnicity, but it’s also his screen presence that makes him so compelling to watch. I like him in Chocolat, An Education and as a sympathetic villain in Spider-man 2.

Carey Mulligan

Born May 28, 1985 in Westminster, London. I’ve only just seen her less than 2 years ago in her breaking role in An Education. But immediately I like seeing her, she has this sympathetic vibe about her and she’s less pouty than her co-star in Pride and Prejudice and Never Let Me Go. In fact, it’s Carey’s role in that heartbreaking film that made me a fan, she has this very soothing voice as well. Looking forward to seeing her in The Great Gatsby, too bad that movie got delayed until next year.

Gary Oldman

Born March 21, 1958 in New Cross, London. He’s friggin’ Gary Oldman. Need I say more? Well, I will say a bit more. His villainous role in The Professional certainly is not easy to forget, he’s one of those memorable bad guys you love to hate. Then he blew me away as Beethoven in Immortal Beloved, but like Michael Caine, his roles in the Batman trilogy and Harry Potter The Prisoner of Azkaban also shows he’s just as compelling in blockbuster films. I’m not as enamored with the film but his role as a seasoned spy in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was definitely Oscar-worthy. [related post: Chat-worthy Thespian Gary Oldman]

Alan Rickman

Born February 21, 1946 in Hammersmith, London. Wouldn’t you believe it that the first time I saw him in Truly, Madly, Deeply I was not smitten with him? I was only 18 then so what did I know, right? But then his deliciously evil performance as Hans Gruber makes him a favorite amongst action fans, including yours truly. Yet Rickman is perhaps the few actors whose bad guy roles such as in Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves are equally as memorable as his good ones. After all, he is one of my favorite period drama heroes. I also love his comedic chops in Galaxy Quest and the enigmatic Severus Snape is definitely my top favorite Harry Potter characters.

Rufus Sewell

Born October 29, 1967 in Twickenham, suburban London. This is an obvious one as I’ve mentioned the gorgeous Brit often in this blog. Why he’s not more famous and often relegated to supporting roles is beyond me. Sewell is not only VERY easy on the eye but he’s immensely talented and versatile. Whether it’s sci-fi (Dark City), period dramas (Dangerous Beauty, Tristan + Isolde), a Shakespeare adaptation [Shakespeare-Told’s The Taming of the Shrew] or a James Bond-like detective (BBC’s ZEN), we can expect a top notch performance from this raspy-voiced actor. Oh, he makes for a juicy vampire too! Can’t believe he had not played one before Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter as he sure is one sexy prince of darkness! [related post: 44 Reasons We Love Rufus Sewell, Spotlight on BBC Zen]

Mark Strong

Born August 30, 1963 in London. The Italian/Austrian actor (whose real name is Marco Giuseppe Salussolia) first came to my attention as the creepy, limping bloke who beat up my Gerry Butler in BBC’s miniseries The Jury. Yep, that was before he co-starred with GB again in Rocknrolla. Like Molina, Strong also had that ‘ethnic’ look that allow him to play characters of various ethnicity, including a Jordanian Prince in Body of Lies. I feel that he’s got the chops and charisma to play leading roles, but for some reason he’s typecast as villains or unsympathetic supporting roles. I read that he doesn’t mind it though and if you’re looking at his IMDb resume, he’s busier than ever with about five films coming out in 2013, and that’s not counting his TV projects. Good for him! [related role: Actor Spotlight: Mark Strong]

Emma Thompson

Born April 15, 1959 in Paddington, London. I think the fact that she wrote the script for one of my all time favorite film Sense & Sensibility will automatically places her in my good graces forever, but she is also a wonderful actress. Interesting that she used to be married to one of my top 10 Irish thespians Kenneth Branagh. It’s in one of his films, Much Ado About Nothing, that I first noticed her in. Her subsequent roles in The Remains of the Day, Love Actually, Stranger Than Fiction and Last Chance Harvey, Brave (voicing Merida’s mother Elinor)are all wonderful, but S&S‘ Elinor Dashwood shall always be my personal favorite.

Honorable Mentions:

Special Honorable Mention: Sophia Myles
*She was originally on the main list but I had to swap her with Idris Elba who I inadvertently left off the list as I thought he was not born in London.

Born May 18, 1980 in London. Sophia is the only actor here where I noticed from a TV show. I LOVE Sophia as Beth in Moonlight, one of my guilty pleasure show about vampires that’s prematurely canceled. She really is one of the best things on that show. She reminds me a lot of Kate Winslet, especially in the Jane Austen adaptation Mansfield Park in a small role. For some reason, her career didn’t take off after her leading role in Tristan + Isolde. It’s too bad as I think she’s quite talented. I hope she’ll get another big break one of these days.

Other awesome Londoners who’ve made it in Hollywood:

  • Hayley Atwell
  • Helena Bonham-Carter
  • Rebecca Hall
  • Emily Mortimer
  • Thandie Newton
  • Andy Serkis
  • Rachel Weisz


Check out Part I of Favorite London Scenes if you haven’t already



So what’s YOUR favorite London-born actor(s). Do fill me in if they’re not on this list and share your favorite role of him/her.

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The London List Part I: Ten favorite scenes set in London

The 16-day 2012 London Olympics is coming to an end today. For some of you, it’s certainly been quite an exhilarating two weeks of watching and championing for the athletes you’re rooting for in various sports. I haven’t been following the event at all other than watching the opening & closing ceremony, but since I LOVE the city of London and they have done a splendid job hosting the biggest sports event in the world, I thought I’d create a list in their honor. [I’ve now added a Britastic tag for all my UK-related posts]

So for this particular posts, I want to highlight ten of my favorite scenes set in London. Stay tuned for the favorite actors posts up tomorrow!

Notting Hill Changing Seasons

Well, since Fall is just around the corner, I particularly LOVE this melancholy scene from Notting Hill set to Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers. It’s a perfect song to highlight William’s broken heart since Anna left him. This is perhaps one of my favorite Hugh Grant moments on film, he certainly got the British rom-coms cornered for a while there. I’ve highlighted this scene in this post before, but it remains one of my favorites.

The World is Not Enough The Thames Boat Scene

The film as a whole is crap but this rousing opening sequence on the Thames is awesome! Pierce Brosnan’s Bond once again is outrun by one of his hot female villains, but I think the gorgeous London scenery here just might outshine both of them. Here’s an interesting trivia per IMDb:

The boat chase took 7 weeks to shoot, as the Thames’ 9-MPH boat speed limit had to be factored in. Two “Clamper” policemen were disturbed in their line of duty during filming, being soaked so much that one of them ended up nearly going over the front of the car they were supposed to be clamping. Needless to say, their reactions in the film are very much real. This 14-to-15-minute opener is still the longest pre-credits sequence ever in a James Bond movie.

28 Days Later – London deserted

This scene is beautiful as it is eerie. Cillian Murphy’s Jim wakes up from a coma in the hospital and finds that his city has been deserted. Still in his scrubs, he’s walking along the Westminster Bridge at sunrise that’s completely empty. There music is so very subtle, and at first there’s no music at all, which enhance the sense of abandonment and creepy feeling of this brilliant scene.

Last Chance Harvey – Wedding invitation

There are a lot of lovely scenes around London in this heartwarming film. This is one of them overlooking the Thames on a sunny day. Kate, the woman Harvey’s path crosses with during his London trip, encourages Harvey to actually attend the wedding reception of his daughter. There’s a lot of poignant dialog in this film and the tentative romance between Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson’s characters just felt so authentic.

Rocknrolla – Art Museum dealings

Guy Ritchie’s version of London, the criminal underworld setting that his films are often set in. I’m not sure the name of the Art Museum in this setting, perhaps one of you Londoners might be able to tell me? Gerry Butler and Thandie Newton make for a stunning couple and Thandie is especially seductive here, wearing a spiky pair of heels that even macho guys like One Two would notice.

The King’s Speech – A stroll on a foggy day

I can’t find the exact scene when Bertie [that is Albert the Duke of York] takes a stroll with his speech therapist Lionel in the misty gardens. It’s one of the key scenes between the two of them that ends with the duke being angry at Lionel for wanting to treat him as equal as part of his therapy, and the parting words to Lionel is a pretty harsh one, ‘You’re a Nobody.’ The foggy setting somehow makes this scene even more affecting.

Now, since I can’t find that scene, I also love this whimsical ‘speech exercise’ scene at Lionel’s beautiful home:

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – Death Eater’s Attack

There are perhaps a bunch of other London-set scenes that I’m forgetting about as there are so many of them in the Harry Potter movies. But this one that mixes contemporary London with the Hogwarts universe is particularly memorable and beautifully-filmed. Voldemort’s evil henchmen launched an air attack on Trafalgar Square and the Millennium Bridge, the special effects of the fiery attack is fantastic. Certainly one of the most bombastic London scenes ever filmed.

My Fair Lady – Wouldn’t it be loverly?

Ok, I’ve got to have at least one classic films on here, right. Well, I picked one of the three earliest Hollywood films I’ve ever watched which is set entirely in London. The opening sequence outside of the Opera House in Covent Garden is one of my favorites. There’s a plethora of other wonderful songs here, but this one before Eliza becomes a ‘lady’ is just well, lovely. The one where Freddy sang On The Street Where You Live as also quite memorable, I could listen to that song over and over again.

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix – Flying over Thames

I didn’t want to have TWO scenes from Harry Potter but I just couldn’t live this one out as it shows London at night when Harry and his co-horts are flying over the Thames. The Parliament looks absolutely magical with all those lights. I love night aerial scenes, just like in Superman films whenever Supes takes Lois up around Manhattan.

Love Actually – Heathrow scene

Since I made an entire posts on the London Tubes a couple of years ago, I think Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest airports in the whole world. This sweet scene in Love, Actually is fun and quite touching. I think puppy love is always so endearing and Liam Neeson’s stepson Sam who falls for his American classmate Joanna is just so darn adorable. This chase through the airport always makes me tear up 🙂


Stay tuned for Part II with favorite actors born in London.


Well, what are YOUR own favorite movie scene(s) in London?

007 Chatter: Seven Things I’m Excited about Skyfall

This was originally written back in June inn anticipation for Bond 23, a.k.a. Skyfall coming on November 9th, 2012, Ted. Well, today is the day so I think it’s fitting to resurrect this post as I’ll be seeing SKYFALL tonight!

I’ve also added a new category for this, so click on 007 Chatter on the category drop-down menu for all Bond-related posts.

Well folks, in lieu to a Bond list or review, this month’s 007 chatter is a quick update on the upcoming Bond 23, Skyfall. I’m obviously excited for this movie, hence my 007 Chatter [which will continue post the movie release btw] and I’ve also bought the latest EMPIRE magazine with Daniel Craig on the cover. He looks dashing and cut with that Tom Ford suit, floppy ears notwithstanding 🙂

EMPIRE got to visit director Sam Mendes and crew to the Pinewood Studios where they were filming. Mendes revealed that “Casino Royale woke me up again to the possibilities of Bond. It seemed for the first time to be a real person in a real situation.” I definitely agree that Martin Campbell did a smashing job rejuvenating that franchise and Craig’s gritty, no-nonsense performance was right for the time. I’ve always been a believer that Timothy Dalton was ahead of his time as he would’ve garnered the same kudos had his Bond films were released a decade later.

Anyway, here are just 7 (+1) Things I’m excited about Skyfall based on that article, on top of all the awesome things one can expect from a Bond movie, such as exotic locations and all the action stuff of course.

• Not only has Mendes assembled an awesome Oscar-caliber cast, he’s also got an amazing crew for his film. Most notably cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose work in Road to Perdition, The Village, etc. are absolutely beautiful, so we can count on Skyfall being a gorgeous looking film. In fact, EMPIRE itself admitted that the scene of Bond’s arrival scene in Shanghai below as one of the most beautiful Bond scene they’ve ever seen.

Chris Corbould, the SFX expert who did Chris Nolan’s Batman films and Inception, will be doing the special effects work on Skyfall. Mendes praised his work in those movies and he realized how important it is to get the action right in a Bond film. At the same time, being a director known for his dramatic work, Mendes also knows that all the actions means nothing without a compelling story, “Thrills and action are what’s necessary here, and that’s what I intend to supply, as well as a kind of emotional engagement that maybe you haven’t seen before in Bond. You’ve got to give him an arc, not just a mission.”

Javier Bardem as Bond villain Silva. Most people know Bardem can do menacing, but he told MTV that his character is more than just Bond’s enemy, “I think the character — it’s complex — he’s not an easy guy. He’s not only a villain, it’s more than that, hopefully, that’s what we tried to achieve.

I really think Bardem will be a formidable foe for Bond and the Oscar winner will likely bring something fresh to the table than what we’ve seen in any Bond villains of the past. I think if he has some history with Bond it’ll make it more complex and threatening rivalry than simply a deranged maniac trying to rule or destroy the world.

• We will see Craig’s more playful side as Mendes suggests that the film is ‘more playful than the last two’ as in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, with more nods to classic Bonds like Goldfinger. Considering how dark and dull ‘Quantum‘ was, a lighter tone in Skyfall is definitely welcome, I mean Bond has got to have brawns AND wit!

• Two of Bond’s trademark elements are back: The Aston MartinDB5 will return, after being replaced by BMWs and FORD Mondeo (??) in previous films. Of course this new one Craig will be driving will be more fully-equipped than ever now that Q is also back!

Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Yep, the gadget guru is back in the form of a younger but certainly just as talented Ben Whishaw. The actor’s got indie cred with films like I’m Not There and Bright Star, but he’s also been in Knight & Day and Layer Cake, the latter perhaps is the connection to the Bond film as it starred Daniel Craig?

• The saying ‘clothes make the man’ seems like words that James Bond lives by. So the producers naturally hired the perfect man for the job,TOM FORD as the designer of choice. Skyfall’s costume designer Jany Temime is working with the American fashion icon in coming up with the dapper but fluid look of Bond, “They wanted that the suits moved with him and he does have a great body so it would be a pity not to show it. Check out the video journal below on their style inspiration:


Gorgeous, but kick-ass Bond girls! You know I can’t stand lame, whiny or ridiculously implausible Bond girls like Tanya Roberts and Denise Richards [sheesh, even typing her name makes me cringe!] So I definitely welcome the casting of relatively unknown beauties like Naomie Harris and French/Cambodian Bérénice Marlohe. I’ve never heard of the latter, but Harris was good in 28 Days Later and she projects intelligence and strength on top of being drop dead gorgeous.

Location. Location. Location. It’s not just a real estate mantra. I think Bond producers realize that the exotic location are part of the Bond films’ charm. Check out the production videoblog below that takes us behind the scenes of some of the film’s major shooting locations, including China and Turkey.


I’m also glad to see Bond’s home city being featured prominently in Skyfall. As quoted by MTV blog, Craig said, “Sam and I wanted to make it British… And it’s not some flag-waving thing that either one of us is interested in. It’s just about basing Bond in Britain…It was very exciting just to get out on the streets and show London for what it is. We made it look very beautiful and very dark and sinister at times, but it’s Bond’s home.” 

I LOVE London! It’s one of my favorite European cities out of over a dozen I’ve visited all my life! From the trailer I think Mr. Deakins has captured the city beautifully!


Ok, so those are just some of the latest updates on Skyfall. Are you as excited about this movie as I am?

Random Thoughts: London Tube & the Movies

On Monday, IMDb has an interesting poll that asked ‘what is your favorite movie set on a train?’ Well, part of what’s so fun about my recent London trip was taking the underground tube every day, which not only provides a fast and convenient transportation but it’s a fun place for people watching as well.

Photo courtesy of Pixelcrave.net

I didn’t realize how popular London tube system is in the movies until I read this. According to that page, the London Underground Film Office handles over 200 requests a month. Wow! The list of movies filmed in various tube stations are quite long, and it also includes scenes in music videos.

Here are a few scenes I remember that takes place in the London tube, as well as those I haven’t seen that people consider memorable (thanks for NickCooper.org for the great resources on the subject) – beware, list may contain spoilers:

  • V for Vendetta
    Takes place in the final climactic scene where Natalie Portman tearfully says goodbye to the masked-man V. Of course I couldn’t help wincing as I watch the beautiful Parliament building and Big Ben getting blown up to pieces! According to weburbanist.com, the Aldwych Tube Station in London is relatively well preserved, despite not being operational since 1994. making it an ideal location for film shoots. Built on the site of the Royal Stand Theatre, it opened in 1907 and was used as a public air-raid shelter during World War II.
  • Atonement

    This is such a memorable and heartbreaking scene. I kind of predicted it would happen, but when the water just burst out from the wall flooding the people taking shelter underground, I too was flooded with tears. The shot showing Keira’s lifeless body floating in the water is one I won’t soon forget.
  • Love, Actually
    It’s a really brief scene of Colin Firth’s character with hands full of shopping bags coming down the stairs of apparently the Canary Wharf Jubilee line station.
  • Bend It Like Beckham

    Another Keira movie, trust me I wasn’t planning on it. But this was an early one of hers before she became a star. I actually quite like this fun, sports-themed chick-flick with ER’s Parminder Nagra as well as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as her soccer coach turned love interest. Boy it’s hard to imagine Rhys-Meyers looking all wholesome 🙂
    ….
  • Sliding Doors
    With that kind of name, it’s got to involve the bus or the tube, doesn’t it? This one I’ve actually just seen bits and pieces of, but I do remember the scene of Gwyneth Paltrow at the faux Embankment station trying to catch up with John Hannah.
  • 28 Days Later
    This terrific zombie flick gets a nod from even a non-horror fan like me. The main protagonist Jim who was stranded in a hospital ends up meeting fellow survivors who were hiding in a tube station. Lucky for Jim, he meets up with fellow survivors Selena and Mark. They kill the zombies chasing him with a very effective explosion and take him to their hideout in a tube station.
  • The Wings of the Dove
    There are a few scenes in this period film based on the 1902 Henry James novel that are set in the tube station. Apparently there’s even a sexy love scene according to this London Underground facts page. After seeing the trailer, I put it on my Netflix queue pronto. It kind of reminds me a bit of the beautifully-filmed The Age of Innocence I saw recently. Helena Bonham Carter can do period dramas like no other and Linus Roache is a great character actor!


Well folks, do you recall a memorable scene set in a tube or subway station? If so, feel free to chime in the comments section.

Movie Title Sequence Spotlight: Rocknrolla

TGIF and Happy last-day-of-the-month, everyone!

Instead of the usual scene spotlight, I thought I’d highlight a movie-related art form that often goes unnoticed: the title sequence. For me, watching a movie title sequence is almost as fun as seeing a movie trailer. Many of them simply list the credit, but the great ones not only help set the mood, but they also entertain and delight us with the their distinctive visual style, powerful music, or a clever combination of both.

Strong + Butler in Rocknrolla

I’ll have my top ten favorite list in a later post, but here’s one that really stuck out to me: Rocknrolla. I happen to enjoy the movie, it’s got a terrific ensemble cast: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, young Brit rising stars Toby Kebbell and Tom Hardy, and the luminous Thandie Newton. But the one that really shone in this is the give-this-guy-a-leading-role-soon Mark Strong, as Wilkinson’s right hand man. The film might be too fast and too frantic for its own good, but there are funny moments and great dialog here, and looks like everyone had tons of fun making it. Guy Ritchie’s quintessentially British gangster flick won the Jameson Awards Best British Film 2009 given out by Empire Magazine. Now, many might argue it merits such an award, but I bet few would disagree that the opening title is downright awesome!

Designed Danny Yount, a self-taught graphic designer whose work include Iron Man, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the latest Ritchie flick Sherlock Holmes (which is definitely on my top ten). The eye-grabbing visual and the music are frenetic, hip and fun! Love the use of vintage-y colors and the creative mix of comic-book drawing with real photos. The entire marketing campaign for the movie is awesomely creative, too, the quad posters (here and here) and official movie site all have the same gritty, gangster look. Say what you will about Guy Ritchie, but I think that guy is pretty artistic. Not to mention great ears for cool music, the soundtrack is full of catchy rockin’ tunes that complement the movie perfectly.

Pondering the ultra-prolific Ridley Scott’s possible next projects

Man, is this guy trying to work himself to death? Seems like Mr. Ridley Scott never met a project he doesn’t like, even just looking the list of stuff he’s got In Development is exhausting! Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of respect for the man, I mean after all he made one of my all time favorite movies Gladiator, but it’s possible the guy is a tad too prolific? In any case, IMDb lists no less than 18 projects where he might be involved in some capacity, whether directing or producing under his ScottFree production company (with his brother Tony). So, with Robin Hood‘s release in two weeks (May 14), I wonder what he’ll tackle next.

Below is a quick summary of ten of those projects (in alphabetical order), whether or not they’ll see the light of day remains to be seen:

1. Alien Prequel
MTV recently sat down with the 73-year-old director about the prequel to his sci-fi blockbuster, and this is what he has to say:

  • The prequel script is on a fourth draft
  • Set in 2085, about 30 years before Ellen Ripley [Sigourney Weaver‘s character], but not sure if Weaver will be involved in this one, even as a voice-only role
  • The plot is about finding out who the guy who was sitting in the chair in the alien vehicle, the “space jockey.”
  • It will involve the discussion of terraforming — taking planets and planetoids and balls of earth and trying to terraform, seed them with the possibilities of future life
  • It’ll be a stand-alone piece, so seeing other Alien films is not a pre-requisite to understand the new one
  • Hoping to hit theaters late 2011 or 2012.

 


2. Pompeii four-hour miniseries
Based on Robert Harris’ best-seller of the same name, it’s billed as “… a thriller about the race to survive the looming disaster of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy.” (The Wrap). According to CinemaBlend, this project was previously developed by none other than Roman Polanski 3 years ago, but it fell apart even before the director’s legal troubles. Reportedly Scarlett Johansson and Orlando Bloom were cast as the doomed residents trying to escape the wrath of Mt. Vesuvius.
Pompeii is a strong and compelling character drama set against a backdrop of a flourishing but ultimately doomed civilization – exactly what makes great event television.” Scott says. Well, if anything it’s kinda timely now given the Ejjgkaljakull’s eruption that’s still going on in Iceland.

3. Brave New World
According to Reuters, Leonardo DiCaprio is set to star, who interestingly enough owned the film rights under his production company, Appian Way. It’s based on Aldous Huxley’s dystopian-themed novel Brave New World, which takes place in a seemingly perfect 26th century world that has achieved harmony by tightly controlling birth, which takes place mainly in laboratories, and outlawing family. The world is populated by a series of five castes, each with its own defined roles. Universal studios has brought Apocalypto writer Farhad Safinia to pen the script.


4. Child 44
Set in Stalinist Russia, Child 44 is a political thriller about the inner workings and defects of Communism as seen through the eyes of a KGB officer who gets involved in the case of a serial killer who murders children. This European film news site reported back in 2008 that Scott has paid a visit to Hungary for location scouting and found locations to stand in for 1950’s Soviet Union. No cast or other info have been released yet.

5. Forever War
Yet another sci-fi epic that’s also based on a novel by Joe Haldeman released in 1974. Book revolves around a soldier who battles an enemy in deep space for only a few months, only to return home to a planet he doesn’t recognize some 20 years later. (Variety)
This is what he says about the plot: “It’s a science-fiction epic, a bit of The Odyssey by way of Blade Runner, built upon a brilliant, disorienting premise.” Guardian reports back in Oct 08 that it might be Scott’s new project right after Robin Hood (then called Nottingham), though obviously Scott’s been distracted by a whole bunch of other stuff in the last couple of years 🙂

6. Gucci Biopic

Not satisfied with sci-fi and swords & sandals epic, Scott is reportedly looking to tackle a biopic centering on the founder of the Gucci fashion empire (Screencrave). The film will focus on Italian businessman Maurizio  Gucci and his turnaround of the Gucci empire during the 1980s before he was murdered in a plot executed by ex-wife, Patrizia. And the cast Scott had in mind? Leonardo DiCaprio (again) as Maurizio, with Angelina Jolie as Patrizia. Well, I can certainly see Jolie playing such a character, and they both look Italian enough to pull this off.

7. Monopoly
Now, I’m not going to go as far as SlashFilm in calling it the worst idea ever, but I got to admit it is rather bizarre. But just yesterday, NY Mag posted an article whereScott attempts to convince people he hasn’t gone insane and explain that what he’s got in mind is that he “… decided to make a comedy about a Donald Trump–type character and his dealings with equally vicious real-estate tycoons: “It’s about greed … Greed becomes, hopefully, hysterically funny.” O-kay. Oh, and get this: “I always liked films like ‘Trading Places’ with Eddie Murphy. I’m not saying it’s like that, but it’s somewhere around that route.” Wow, I’d never guess that about him, but this idea just sounds nutty enough it might actually work, no?

8. The Passage
Ok, so now Mr. Scott is after yet another genre: vampire. Well I suppose with Twilight, True Blood being so popular, who blames him for wanting to join the bandwagon? Variety said he might be bringing screenwriter John Logan, his collaborator on Gladiator who also wrote The Aviator & Last Samurai.  The Justin Cronin vampire novel is terminally ill patients become healthy after they are bitten by bats in South America, and the government conducts secret tests on human subjects to see if the virus can cure illness. The result is an apocalyptic unleashing of bloodthirsty vampire test subjects that include death row inmates. Scott’s never done a vampire flick before, but with Logan on board, who knows it might actually be decent.

9. Red Riding
I talked about this one back in January when I featured the Red Riding trailer. So it’s going to be a remake of the UK Channel 4’s crime trilogy. This time he’s reportedly going to be working with Oscar-winning writer Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List, American Gangster) to “… to relocate the story from Yorkshire to a run-down industrial state such as Pennsylvania” (Guardian). The TV show (or miniseries I should say), was well received here in the US. The Guardian article says, “…film historian David Thomson caused a stir at the recent Telluride Film Festival by writing in the festival program that Red Riding was “better than The Godfather.” WOW.

10. Untitled Reagan/Gorbachev Projects
Now, this one definitely sounds intriguing, though he might have to rethink the filming location in light of Eyjafjallajökull’s volcanic eruption. BBC news reported that Scott’s been scouting locations in Reykjavik, Iceland as the movie will focus on the 1986 arms control summit that took place in that city. He did obtained permission to use the historic house where the summit took place. Apparently there’s already a TV movie Breakthrough at Reykjavik in 1987 where actors Robert Beatty and Timothy West played Reagan and Gorbachev respectively. Casting might be tricky for this one.


Of course there’s also reports that Scott is interested in the Robin Hood sequel, as he tole Times Online that he’s a huge fan of the genre. But I’d think it’s premature talk as it remains to be seen if this flick will be a blockbuster the way Gladiator was. Out of all these, I’d like to see him work on the Pompeii series, Brave New World, and Forever War, the last two sounds epic and it’s a genre we know he can handle really well.

So what do you think folks? Which of these possible Ridley Scott projects appeal to you?

London, here we come! The inevitable Britastic blog series begins today

Photo courtesy of clubquarters.com

Counting down to our London trip in less than two weeks, allow me to be a bit indulgent and in celebratory mood for a bit. From now until our departure Friday, May 7, FlixChatter will feature British-themed posts, whether it’ll be a British movie review or scene spotlight, featured posts on British filmmakers/actors, or whatever UK-related random item that comes to mind.

Hope you can stomach 10 days of all things British, there are so many British actors in Hollywood and tons of iconic scenes are set in the UK, specifically London, so the possibilities are endless.

Just for fun, here’s a scene from The World is Not Enough where the River Thames, as well as other London iconic symbols, are on full display. Surely it’s a preposterous scene, heck the entire Bond flick defies common sense (Denise Richards as a Bond girl? ’nuff said). And why in the world is Pierce Brosnan is adjusting his tie as his watercraft dives under water??! Granted it lacks the whimsy of Moonraker‘s gondola chase in Venice, though both are equally ridiculous, but it’s still pretty fun scene to watch.

I can’t wait to get on a boat tour on the Thames!

Scene Spotlight: Changing seasons – Notting Hill

I’ve been having a serious case of Spring fever of late – as practically everybody in my neck of the woods – as we seem to be skipping March and goes directly to May. The Twin Cities have had NO SNOW the entire month, not even any real wind chill to speak off. I mean, the typical temp for this time of year is 47˚F (that’s 8˚C for those outside of USA), but yesterday we hit 73 degrees! Today we may even be flirting with 80˚!! I mean, that’s no doubt tank-top-and-sandals weather, people!! Though on the way to work yesterday morning, I saw a woman pretty much freezing her bums off in her short skirts as the wind still made it feel quite nippy.
NottingHillChangingSeasons

Therefore, I thought it’d be fitting to celebrate this definitely welcome the change of season with this scene from Notting Hill. Despite its blatant scmaltzy and lovey-dovey-ness, it’s perhaps one of the better rom-com out there, if not for the terrific all-British supporting cast and charming sidekicks Rhys Ifans and Emma Chambers — as Hugh Grant’s hilarious roommate and googly-eyed sister, respectively.

Set to Bill Withers’ soulful tune Aint No Sunshine When She’s Gone, it follows Grant’s William Thacker walking through the area of Notting Hill during the four seasons: summer, fall, winter and spring, as he mends his broken heart over Julia Roberts’ movie star Anna Scott.

According to IMDb trivia, the long shot was actually four different shots, all filmed the same day. Computer technology morphed the actor seamlessly from one shot to the next. It’s definitely a lovely and clever way to display the shift from one season to the next, a far cry from this ‘imaginative’ way this popular teen vampire flick did to signify the same thing.

I also chose this scene as my hubby and I are planning celebrate our 7th anniversary with a trip to London, yay! Unfortunately, since we’re not US citizens yet, there’s a vigorous UK Visa process we have to go through, including a biometric appointment (where we have to be finger-printed at an immigration office!). God willing everything will go smoothly and within 45 days we’d be walking where Hugh did in the photo above. So pardon the lack of posts in the next few weeks as I’ll be preoccupied with planning our trip, but there might be quite a few of ‘London-themed’ posts from now until mid May! 🙂


What do you think of Notting Hill and/or this scene?

Weekend Roundup: Amélie & 28 Days Later

Happy Monday, readers, and welcome to March!

Hope you had a nice weekend, wherever you are. It was a nice, mellow weekend for me, can’t complain really when the sun shone for the entire weekend with temp ‘soaring’ to the mid 30s (yes, that’s a ‘warm’ front for us Minnesotans after a long, cold Winter!). On top of our girls’ monthly movie nite on Friday, I managed to squeeze in another movie this weekend, as well as a trip to a local arts museum on Saturday. Below is my Amélie and 28 Days Later reviews:

Amélie

Finally watched this French movie with my girlfriends – as it’s been well-recommended by fellow bloggers (thanks guys!) and something my friends have also been curious about. Now I finally get why everyone just loves this movie.

Immediately we’re introduced to the film’s charming heroine Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), whose unusual childhood shapes her imaginative propensity as a way to cope with her loneliness. Ever since she was a little girl, Amelie has a certain way to deal with what life throws at her, including one particularly traumatizing event, and we’re in for a treat as we’re pulled in to see the world through her curious eye.

As a young woman, she lives a quiet life as she glides about through the streets of Paris. She lives alone in a tiny apartment, works at a local cafe, and occasionally pay her also-lonely father a visit. But one day, she discovers a tin box containing a boy’s childhood memento, which sets off an adventure as she strives to find the rightful owner. It is then that Amélie comes out of her ‘shell’ – and her imaginary world – to bond with people around her, and inadvertently finds love in the process. When I wrote my post about unconventionally romantic flicks, several people mention this movie as one of their top picks, and it’s easy to see why. From the time Amelie first bumps into Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), they both embark on an endearing and whimsical journey that finally leads to a joyfully rewarding climax as the two finally meets. Unlike Hollywood movies are overloaded with cliched and hackneyed circumstances of couples who ‘meet cute’ or ‘initial hostility that grows into love’, etc., the love story here is utterly charming and sweet but not sickeningly saccharine.

Amelie & Nino in the cafe

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet paints a visually-dazzling film with its stylized cinematography. The skewed camera angles and clever direction makes the surreal, even bawdy scenes downright amusing, and they help enrich the simple story. But amidst the aesthetics, Tautou is hands down the star of the film. She dominates nearly every frame with her adorable wide eyes and mischievous grin, and all of us girls couldn’t stop admiring her gorgeous haircut that only such a pretty face as Tatou’s can pull off. But her quirkiness is matched by her kind heart as well, which is probably what I love most about this character. Even when she pulls on some pranks on people, it was motivated by benevolence and a sense of injustice that came to her attention.

I’m so glad I finally saw this movie. Amélie is a delightful film that charms you from the start with its unabashed kookiness. It’s also a joie de vivre … a hearty celebration of life and humanity.

4 out of 5 reels


28 Days Later

After watching a quintessential ‘feel-good’ flick, this is obviously as far-flung as it can possibly be in more ways than one. Yet they share something in common in that both are critically-acclaimed, and I’m glad to say that both of them exceeds my high expectation. Promoted as a gory zombie horror flick, I’ve avoided this flick for a while. As it turns out, it’s so much more than a ‘scary’ movie and it’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill flesh-eating corpse story.

Directed by British director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire), the movie opens at a Primate Research Center facility where a group of animal activists attempt to free the test-subjected chimps from their cages. Ignoring the scientist’s desperate warning that the primates are infected with rage, the group’s action sets off a devastating calamity. The rest of the movie takes place 28 days after that incurable virus has spread throughout the UK, and only a tiny handful survivors are left in the city. One of them is Jim (Cillian Murphy) who wakes up completely naked from a coma after a traffic accident. He exits the hospital and keeps walking into the city, baffled as to why the entire city is deserted.

Jim surveys the deserted city of London atop Wenstminster Bridge

The part of Jim in his hospital gown wandering on top of Westminster Bridge with the Big Ben looming in the distance is such an iconic scene, and it’s got such a realistic feel to it as the movie is shot almost entirely on digital video. According to its Wikipedia page, in order to depict these locations as desolate, the film crew closed off sections of street for minutes at a time, usually in early morning to minimize disruption. The quietness of the scene makes the ensuing fracas as Jim discovers the zombies – in a church of all places – all the more terrifying. The incident brings him to the first non-contaminated people, Mark (Noah Huntley) and Selena (Naomie Harris), and they enlighten Jim about the incident that leaves the world in utter chaos and immensely deprived of what we take for granted every day: order (government, police/army), basic necessities (electricity, running water) and any form of communication (TV, radio).

Gleeson, Murphy and Harris were perfectly cast

In their quest for survival, those left standing are united with two additional ‘healthy’ people, a father-daughter duo who occupies an abandoned condominium. The dad, Frank (played brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson), urges the team to go to Manchester to find a band of soldiers he heard over a pre-recorded radio broadcast, that not only promises shelter but also “the answer to infection.” Aboard Frank’s black cab, their journey provides for comic relief – but not entirely devoid of suspense – and gives a nice opportunity to get to know the characters. But as soon as they find the abandoned military blockade, a tragic incident robs another survivor’s life, and the rest of the team are led to a bolstered mansion where seemingly ‘good’ people will offer them protection from the savagery of the ‘infected.’ Yet, we quickly learn that there’s more than meets the eye, and that these seemingly good’ people end up being as harmful and terrifying – if not more so – in their perversion disguised as a ‘survival tactic.’

The movie is not without violent/gory scenes, but they’re served in context of the realities the survivors now face, not for pure shock value. In fact, it isn’t so much a movie about zombies, but more about how the survivors cope with dire circumstances. It also makes a commentary of what people are capable in desperate measures, which can be both horrific and admirable, sometimes even both. The zombie attack scene at Jim’s parents’ house is harrowing not exactly for the actual attack, but when it shows the extent of survival instinct that compels us to do the unthinkable. It’s just one of the many scenes that make your skin crawl and stick to your gut because of what they represent, which is a reflection of human nature that are sadly just as scary as the crime-laden headlines we read every day.

Overall, it’s an impressive film for its witty, no-nonsense script and clever direction, boosted by great performances throughout, particularly Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who’s also excellent in sci-fi flick Sunshine, his second collaboration with Boyle. Both Gleeson and Harris were notable as well, this is the first time I’ve seen the latter, but I hope to see more of the London-based actress in the future.

I’m glad I step out of my comfort zone and give this ‘horror’ flick a chance. It proves that you don’t need a big budget or hi-tech gizmos to create a great film. A must-see indeed.

4 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on either one of these films?