Weekend Roundup: Highlights from 2016 Wizard World Minneapolis

Happy Monday all! Well it’s a comic-themed weekend for me. Inspired by the Captain America: Civil War screening earlier last week, my hubby and I ended up doing a Captain America marathon with The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier. Yep, still absolutely loved both of them and that makes the Captain America trilogy one of my all time favorite Hollywood trilogies and my second fave after Nolan’s Dark Knight films in terms of comic-book movies.

CaptainAmerica_trilogy

So this weekend is time for another Wizard World comic-con. I only had time to go for a half day on Saturday, so unlike last year where I went to the Karl Urban and Gillian Anderson panels, this year I mainly stayed on the Exhibition Floor.

MplsWizardWorldComicCon

Favorite Cosplayers

Though we didn’t get to attend any panels, it’s still fun to watch the cosplayers! Instead of just the usual Luke and Leia cosplayers (who are no doubt still around), we’ve got some new Star Wars characters that didn’t exist a year ago… Rey & BB8, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren. The Poe cosplayer looked so much like Oscar Isaac, down to his dark wavy hair! He could practically sub for Isaac himself on set I’d imagine, I think they might be of similar height, too!

Click to see a larger image

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Deadpool is a popular one as well. Just on Saturday alone I saw at least four Deadpool cosplayers. But why dress up as only one iconic character if you can mash ’em up right? I love the Deadpool/Stormtrooper dude!

DeadpoolTrooper

But my faves are the family cosplayers. Look at how cute the Scooby Doo family! The guy dressed as Shaggy holding Scooby has such a hilarious expression. The mother/daughter Jedis are so adorable, as was the two Spidey couple pushing a kid in a stroller! But my personal fave is the Marvel family w/ Winter Soldier mom, Captain America dad and Iron Man kid!


DC’s Suicide Squad are quite popular as well, especially Harley Quinn. We might’ve spotted at least five miss Quinns in various shapes and sizes. Of course Marvel characters are still massively popular, and I love the gender-bending cosplayers of the Aasgardians Thor & Loki.


We kept running into the Batman & Superman duo, both are older cosplayers and this Batman is more Adam West than Batfleck. My hubby actually asked them to do thumb-wars for the camera and they kindly obliged!

Dawn of Justice – thumb wars edition
Dawn of Justice – thumb wars edition

It was a fun moment when Wonder Woman joined Batman & Superman duo to complete the DC trifecta! Of course everyone on the floor nearby got their cameras/iPhones out to snap some pics!

SupesBatmanWonderWoman

So even though I didn’t get to see any panels this year, it was still a super fun day and definitely the highlight of my weekend! Big shout out to Wizard World PR people Jerry M. and Ryan for your hard work organizing this wonderful event.


So that’s my recap folks. What did you do/watch this weekend, anything good?

Everybody’s Chattin’ & SPECTRE Honest Trailer

EverybodysChattin_PPZ

It’s almost Friday everybody!! Woot woot! It’s only a four-day work week for me but it felt like time was ticking so s-l-o-w-l-y I felt like I had worked a 6-day week already!

What’s happening in your world? Well for me, it’s just two words: SAM. RILEY. I’m falling even deeper under his spell after seeing the rock biopic Control.

I’m going to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies again this weekend before it’s yanked from theaters and I can’t freakin’ wait!!!! I’ve been collecting all kinds of stuff for my Sam Riley tribute but now I’ve waaaay too many articles I have no idea where to start!

In any case, let’s get to those fine links now shall we?

Margaret has been making fabulous top 10 lists this week, check out this one on 15 Best shots of 2015 

Wendell just put together The Acting Black Blogathon to coincide w/ Black History Month of February. Check out the latest links from Day 3

Chris is continuing his list of Best 80s songs, all the way to Part 12! Speaking of great music, Andrew continues his Tuesday Tunes Tastings series by reviewing a set of four new albums w/ an awesomely creative rating system!

Steven reviewed Cabaret (1972), Nostra reviewed Season 1 of Jessica Jones, and Top 10 Films UK posted a review of Anton Corbijn’s Life.

Last but not least, my dear friend Paula is hosting 31 Days of Oscars Blogathon again this year. I’m unable to take part but check out the links from a bunch of fine bloggers!

31-days-2016-02

SPECTRE’s Honest Trailer

Boy, the Screen Junkies folks absolutely nailed everything I hated about Spectre. Heh, now that I think about it, my 2.5/5 rating seems far too generous for this poorly-written and lazily-acted movie.


It’s really embarrassing that in a year where there are at least four good spy-themed movies, the granddaddy of this genre is the worst one of the lot. I LOVE that bit about re-watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier instead. I didn’t realize their plots are pretty much identical, but The Winter Soldier actually has genuine character arc AND a compelling story. I for one am ready for a new Bond so I hope this rumor that he’s quitting 007 is true!

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So what are you gonna be watching this weekend, folks?

Music Break: Top 5 Fave Soundtracks from Henry Jackman

I had been listening to X-Men: First Class during my workout lately, one of my favorite scores of the past few years. Henry Jackman was a protégé of one of my favorite composers, Hans Zimmer, and he’s been churning out great works himself.

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Born in Middlesex, UK, Jackman studied classical music at St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir School, Eton College and Oxford University. He had been building a successful career in the recording industry, even releasing 3 solo albums, when he garnered the attention of Zimmer and John Powell, also a favorite of mine. He went on to work on composing additional music on such films as The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda and the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Here are five of my favorites from his work:

X-Men: First Class (2011)

The music is one of the reasons I love this movie so much, and these two are my absolute faves. It actually made for a great workout music, but I also like listening to it when I need inspiration at work.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I’m a huge fan of Alan Silvestri’s music work for the first Captain America movie, especially the end credits sequence. It was appropriately optimistic and patriotic. But Henry Jackman made an equally memorable score for the second one. It’s still got that positive, buoyant vibe, but somehow it feels more contemporary and slightly darker to go with the times and challenges Capt. has to face in modern times.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

One of the things I enjoyed about Kingsman is the fun, almost mischievous score that fits the movie perfectly. It’s got a bit of a James Bond-y vibe to it as well, which made me think he’d be a good fit to score a Bond flick in the future.

Captain Philips (2013)

This is such a beautiful, almost zen-like score but at the same time, it has a reflective, vigilant tone which is perfect given the ordeal the protagonist’s been through. It shows how versatile

Wreck-It-Ralph (2012)

I love that there’s a video game-y sound to this vibrant score. It sounds a bit similar to Big Hero 6 which Jackman also worked on that I quite like. It also sounds a bit retro which works for the story.

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I can’t wait to hear Jackman’s score for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War and Amazon’s original story based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man in the High Castle. Interestingly both projects deal with a common enemy, the Third Reich.


Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break. What’s your favorite score from Henry Jackman?

2014 Recap: Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of the Year

Top10Movies2014

Well, well, well, it’s that time of the year again where us film bloggers agonize in making these Top 10 list. Yes, agonize is not a hyperbole as it’s REALLY quite an arduous task not only selecting which 10 films would make the list, but also ranking them. But once I decided on my top three, ranking the other seven was a bit easier to do. I did make a Top 10 list from the first half of 2014, and it’s interesting to see which ones stay on the list and which ones are now relegated to my Honorable Mentions.

The same with the previous years, when I say ‘top movies’ it’s sort of a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is also a factor here and I’d readily re-watch most of the films listed here, in fact, I have seen a few of them at least twice already. The [dis]honor of the WORST films of the year is at the end of the BEST list.

Ok well, without further ado… I present you …

10 BEST FILMS OF 2014

10. The LEGO Movie

LEGOMovie_10

Everything is awesome! And still is. This is actually one of three animated features I absolutely LOVE from last year, but I decided I only wanted to include just ONE. The LEGO Movie wins by a narrow margin, beating out How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6 to make it to my main list. It really comes down to Emmet being such an adorably goofy protagonist, surrounded by spin-off-worthy supporting cast like Lego Batman and Good Cop/Bad Cop, it’s really a fantabulous geekstravaganza that would likely hold up with repeated viewings. Plus, that music is simply, well, awesome! That unabashedly vivacious song makes my Top 5 Songs of the year as well. (full review)

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel

GrandBudapest_9

This is the first Wes Anderson movie that ever made it to my Top 10 of the year list, so I guess you could say it’s now my favorite of his collection. It captivated me from the opening scene all the way until the end and it’s more fast-paced than his previous films. But of course it has all the things you expect from Wes: the quirky characters, the perfect symmetry of every single scene, playful music, etc. The ensemble cast is wonderful once again, led by Ralph Fiennes in a rare comedic role who’s an absolute blast to watch. I also enjoy F. Murray Abraham and newcomer Tony Revolori as Zero Mustafa, the ever-so-resourceful & loyal lobby boy. Mischievously whimsy, but with heart. Like a charming hotel, it’s one I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again. (full review)

8. The Imitation Game

ImitationGame_8

This is no doubt one of my favorite films at last year’s Twin Cities Film Fest. It won a TCFF 2014 Awards for Best Feature Film and both Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley also won acting honors. It’s a biopic on Alan Turing, a mathematician whose pivotal role in cracking the enigma code during WWII helped the Allies won the war against the Nazis. It’s an important film to be sure, boasted by a fantastic all-British cast led by a terrific Cumberbatch as the unsung hero. Though it may be a bit formulaic and by-the-numbers (pardon the puns), it’s still a highly entertaining, as well as emotionally-poignant film that stays with me after the closing credit. In a year of great ensemble-cast films, this is no doubt one of my favorites. I especially love Mark Strong & Matthew Goode here, two underrated performers who ought to get more leading roles of their own.

7. Citizenfour

Citizenfour_7

I only saw a few documentaries last year but this is the one that stuck with me the most. It seems like ages ago when we’re introduced to the name Edward Snowden, and since then some see him as either a traitor or a hero. Filmmaker Laura Poitras got an unprecedented access to one of the first of many meetings between reporter Glenn Greenwald (who at the time worked for The Guardian) and Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room. It’s more of an eyewitness type documentary, allowing us the viewer to be a fly-on-the-wall so to speak as Snowden revealed the mechanics of those NSA intelligence leak. I remember vividly when his first photo was broadcasted all over the media and here we saw him wearing the exact same brown-ish shirt he wore for that shot. The doc may contain what’s seemingly mundane series of events of people talking in a hotel room, but it was utterly engrossing to me. It’s the implication of those conversations, and what it means to the central character and all of us who’s watching it that makes the scenes all the more captivating.

6. Selma

Selma_6

“Selma is at once a peek into the past and a snapshot of the present.” I like the title of this AVClub review because it sums up the film perfectly. I’m glad there’s finally a big-screen adaptation of Martin Luther King’s story, but I’m glad this film isn’t a conventional biopic. Instead, director Ava DuVernay and writer Paul Webb effectively focused on the pivotal event of his life and made this more about the collective struggle for voting rights. Much has been said about the historical inaccuracies about Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrayal, which isn’t the first time liberties are taken on films based on real-life events. But I think apart from that, this is a powerful and gripping film, uncomfortably tense at times, especially during the Bloody Sunday sequence. The issue of police brutality couldn’t be more timely considering the events in Ferguson and NYC, which makes it all the more poignant and heart-wrenching. David Oyelowo embodied the role of King, convincing in both the fiery moments of his speeches, as well as the quieter moments with his wife (portrayed brilliantly by Carmen Ejogo).

5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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I haven’t re-watched this film since I saw it back in July, yet I still remember much about how I felt about the main character, Caesar. The fact that he’s not even a human being says a lot about how good the character development of the last two ‘Apes’ films and this sequel took us a step further into Caesar’s journey. The ‘king of mo-cap acting’ Andy Serkis once again delivered a phenomenal portrayal of the apes leader. His eyes convey so much that they’re practically hypnotic. Director Matt Reeves created a suspenseful & atmospheric piece here that’s immediately engrossing. At times it’s so sinister and eerie that I felt like I was watching a horror film, as well as genuinely poignant moments that tug my heartstrings. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best offerings of the Summer, but of the entire year. It succeeds because the special effects punctuates and supports the story/character instead of the other way around. (full review)

4. Belle

Belle_4

I feel like a broken record when it comes to miss Gugu Mbatha-Raw, but she’s truly one of the best talent discoveries in a good long while. She’s the heart and soul of this film, displaying a nuanced and charismatic performance in nearly every scene. I’m also glad to have discovered director Amma Assante, who shows such dexterity in her sophomore feature, crafting a beautifully layered and affecting historical drama. There are so many things to love here, and after having seen this four times already, I’m still mesmerized. Visually it’s just a stunning film, the gorgeous lighting brings out the best of the costumes, set pieces, etc. But it’s the rich, engrossing story and brilliant performances by the all-British cast that make this such a rewarding film to see over and over. (full review)

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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I knew this film would make my final Top 10 from the first time I watched it. This is another movie on this list I’ve seen more than twice and I still absolutely loved it! It’s one of the rare sequel that easily surpasses the the first one. Billed as a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a superhero movie’, The Winter Soldier delivers on that promise and gives us something that’s genuinely intriguing and massively entertaining. It’s filled with adrenaline-pumping geek-gasm scenes without being banal or vapid. Chris Evans‘ much more confident in the role which makes him even more watchable, and Robert Redford + Anthony Mackie are great additions to an already-fantastic cast. This one has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero! (full review)

2. Gone Girl

GoneGirl_2

It’s a testament of a great film when it clocks in at 2.5 hours and it went by like a breeze. Dark, twisted, stylish, and even mesmerizing, Gone Girl is one of those movies that play like a thrilling roller coaster ride. Instead of a straight who-dun-it type of thriller, David Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn made this more of a psychological character study of a couple in a crumbling marriage that turns more sinister by the minute. Rosamund Pike was nothing short of amazing as the year’s certifiable female anti-hero you love to hate. She gave an intense and haunting performance that’s absolutely Oscar-worthy. Props to Fincher and Flynn for making a story that might not translate well to film into something cinematic, gripping and wildly entertaining. (full review)

1. Birdman

Birdman_1

This is an easy pick for number 1. It’s one of the most unique and unusual films I’ve seen in a while, and the level of artistry that goes into it is off the charts. Technically it’s simply astounding, especially in terms of cinematography. The use of the continuous long takes helps tell the story in such a unique and immersive way that completely absorbs you. But the story itself is rich and full of thought-provoking allegory, brought to life by Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s adept direction. It’s one of those rare films where style actually meets substance, as the story brilliantly blends fantasy & reality, drama & comedy in a way that can be both deep as well as entertaining. It has its darker and even vulgar moments I don’t typically embrace, but it never overpowers the protagonist’s journey, which is the heart of the story. On top of all that is the phenomenal performances across the board, led by Michael Keaton in the lead role, one that I’ll been rooting for the entire award season. (full review)

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Some of these movies were actually in my Top 10 list of the first half of 2014. I marked those with an * (asterisk), this time I’m NOT ranking these, so they’re listed in alphabetical order:

  1. Begin Again
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Chef
  4. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
  5. Edge of Tomorrow*
  6. Foxcatcher
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy
  8. The Grand Seduction*
  9. How To Train Your Dragon 2*
  10. The Hundred Foot Journey
  11. John Wick
  12. Locke*
  13. The Machine*
  14. Time Lapse
  15. X-Men: Days of Future Past*

What I missed from 2014:

Boyhood, Calvary, Ida, Mr. Turner, Nightcrawler, Only Lovers Left Alive, Theory of Everything, Still Alice, Under the Skin, and Whiplash.


Top5WorstMovies2014

Now, I wish I could get my 2+ hours back from each of these awful movies! Ok I saw most of these at press screening, so thankfully I didn’t have to pay for them, but still they’re such a waste of my time. Avoid these if you can help it, consider yourself warned.

Bullets Dodged:

Glad I missed some terrible ones like  I Frankenstein, Pompeii, Blended, Transcendence, The Best of Me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.


So that’s my Best/Worst list of 2014. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d love to hear it!

Music Break: Top 10 Favorite Film Scores of 2014

Top10FaveFilmScores2014I’m so behind on my year-end top ten lists, but hey, I think January is still a great time for those lists right? 😉 I was listening to NPR two nights ago and caught host Robert Siegel interviewing composer Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, The Road To Perdition, Wall•E, etc.) and naturally I started thinking about some of my favorite scores from 2014.

Well, there are a few that I know would make my list, but it was pretty challenging to settle on the last three or four of them. If you’ve been keeping up with my Music Break posts, you might not be surprised by some of my picks here. Now, for this list, I’m focusing on instrumental film scores instead of songs. Thus you won’t see soundtracks of The Guardians of The Galaxy for example, though I think that’s awesome! I will cover the Top 10 Songs in a separate post.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

1. Belle – Rachel Portman

For some reason I had never paid attention to Rachel Portman‘s work before, though she had quite a stellar resume scoring for Emma (that won her an Oscar), Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, Never Let Me Go, etc. I absolutely adore her lush and elegant score she did for Belle and it just suits the tone of the film so well. I’ve listened to the entire soundtrack and loved every second! If you read my review, you know how much I adore this film and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s portrayal of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Portman’s music somehow captures Belle’s emotional journey as well as the romantic side of her relationship with John Davinier.

2. Breathe In – Dustin O’Halloran

After I saw this film, I was inspired to do a list of memorable piano moments on film, but I haven’t posted the score from the film. I’m not familiar with composer/pianist Dustin O’Halloran at all, but after this one, I definitely will keep an eye (and ear) out for him. There’s a bit of Philip Glass’ influence in his work here, and sure enough, when I checked on his Wiki page, he’s influenced by Glass as well as another favorite composer of mine, Ennio Morricone. I grew up listening to piano music as my mother’s a huge fan of French pianist Richard Clayderman. There’s something so ethereal about this score that makes me swoon. The film is atmospheric and intimate, and this music complements that tone beautifully.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Henry Jackman

One of my favorite Marvel superhero movies also have one of my fave soundtracks ever. Henry Jackman should just score every Marvel movie as I LOVE LOVE his X-Men: First Class soundtrack. I thought that Alan Silvestri’s fantastic job for the first Captain America film was hard to top, yet I think Jackman managed to do an equally phenomenal work here. The first one had a strong retro vibe with unabashed patriotism that’s fun and infectious. This one the nationalistic sensibilities is toned down a bit, but the score is still dynamic but a little darker and more ominous. It’s as if the music reflects Captain’s more conflicted moral sense as he navigates the more complex and intricate world he’s suddenly thrown into.

4. Gone Girl – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

I’m not always fond of electronic music but there’s something so hypnotic about the somber sound of Gone Girl’s score. It’s as beautiful as Amy Dunne, but just as unsettling. This Technically, Missing track is perhaps my favorite of the entire album. It’s spine-tingling yet lush, melodious yet haunting, exactly how you’d feel about this story. Every time the repetitive three notes are played, it always takes me back to that big sprawling house where the doomed couple descend into madness. This is Reznor/Ross’ third collaboration with David Fincher and they seem to be even more adept at capturing the psychology of his work.

5. Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat

I first heard of the Desplat when he worked on The King’s Speech back in 2011, and ever since then I’ve become a big fan of this prolific and brilliant composer. I LOVE the more classical-tinged style of his work like The Painted Veil or Tree of Life, but I can’t help being entertained by the playfulness of this score. Just like the film, it’s just so quirky and whimsical and it definitely has a strong eastern-European sound. Desplat incorporates Russian folk songs and pieces and some were performed by the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra.

6. How To Train Your Dragon 2 – John Powell

I LOVE John Powell‘s work for this animated feature. I actually love the score for the first film more, but the score of the sequel is equally excellent. I have featured the soaring Beyond the Clouds track before in a Music Break post back in June. Now this one is just simply a lush track including the sweet choir sound that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. It’s truly an amazing and inspiring work that I love listening to time and time again.

7. The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

It’s incredible how different this score is from The Grand Budapest Hotel, and this one sounds more like something I’d expect from Desplat. I love classical music and there’s definitely a lot of classical influence in his work. This particular score somehow captures that enigmatic and mysterious quality of the subject matter that is Alan Turing. It also has a tinge of sadness that really hits you in the gut as you listen to it. The repetitive quality somehow makes me think of the Turing Machine and its mechanical process. It’s amazing that according to IMDb, Desplat only had three weeks to score this film, and that’s that’s three weeks from signing on to finishing the last recording session! He said he had the same amount of time to score The Queen, too. Wow, they certainly got a genius to score a film about a genius.

8. Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Speaking of a genius, is there anything Mr. Zimmer can’t do? Seems that no matter what genre, Zimmer somehow could create a music that complement the subject matter. Now, I’ve mentioned in my Interstellar review that I didn’t like how overpowering the music was when it’s played over scenes with dialog. But when I listened to it afterwards, I fell in love with it. Now that I think about it, I think I love the soundtrack much more than the film. It’s like a love letter to space exploration in musical term. It somehow captures the more grounded familial love theme of the story, as well as the grandiose cosmological journey that the characters – and us the viewers – experience. The entire soundtrack is phenomenal, but I like the slower, more introspective music than the more intense versions like the one used in the docking scene.

9. John Wick – Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard

Yet another electronic style music I’m loving from this year. This soundtrack, and this track in particular, has become a staple during my workout routine. It always adds a dose of adrenaline rush whenever I’m not feeling that motivated to get on the elliptical machine. There’s a retro vibe to this soundtrack that adds to the cool factor. It’s one of those pulsating soundtracks that a DJ could spin in a dance club, as John Wick himself performed lots of his dance of death in nightclubs or discotheques.

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10. Maleficent – James Newton Howard

In keeping with the darker, more mature story of Sleeping Beauty’s villain, gone are the chirpy and dreamy-like music of the original. Once Upon A Dream is one of my all time favorite Disney songs, and Lana Del Rey’s rendition will surely end up in my favorite 2014 songs list. Now, the score itself still retains that magical/fairy-tale quality with the composer commanding a large orchestra with a full choir. It’s lush and playful at times but not too Disney-fied the way say, Frozen was. This Maleficent Flies score, complete with the fairy dust sound effects, is just so ethereal and gorgeous. It’s easily my favorite and the one I remember most from the film.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Michael Giacchino

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Howard Shore

Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I – James Newton Howard

 …


So what do you think of my picks of favorite 2014 scores? Feel free to share your own favorites!

The 10 Best Superhero Movies of All Time Blog Relay

superhero-movie-relay

Yet another Blog Relay is circulating on the blogosphere! When I first saw this awesome relay idea on Bubbawheat’s Flights, Tights and Movie Nights Blog, I thought boy that’s something I’d love to participate. Well, waddayaknow, the fantabulous Andrew from A Fistful of Films passed the baton to me, hurray! 😀

The rule here is slightly different than a typical blog relay you might’ve seen in the past, so I’ll let Bubbawheat explain it in his own words:

Now the first thing you might be asking is “why are there 12 movies in this top 10 list?” Well there are a couple changes that I’m making to the typical blog relay. Here are the rules for my relay.

1. The list of movies will be passed to another blogger who will post their list within a week.
2. The blogger will take their list, remove 3 movies – with explanations, and replace with 3 new movies – with explanations.
3. If a movie lasts five rounds without being removed, it is locked into place.
4. If a movie is removed three different times, it is locked out and can no longer be chosen by someone else.
5. Once four movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 2 movies.
6. Once eight movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 1 movie.
7. Once all ten movies are locked into place, the relay will be complete.

I will keep the current status of the relay here and you can also follow the steps of the relay as it goes along.

Check out the original relay post to see which initial 12 films made the list.
Andrew removed Hellboy 2, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and X-Men.
He then added Chronicle, Mystery Men and The Rocketeer.

So here’s the list as it currently stands:

The Avengers
SuperheroesRelay_Avengers

The Dark Knight
SuperheroesRelay_TDK

Superman
SuperheroesRelay_Superman1

Spider-Man 2
SuperheroesRelay_Spidey2

The Incredibles
SuperheroesRelay_Incredibles

Iron Man
SuperheroesRelay_IronMan

Blade 2
SuperheroesRelay_Blade2

Batman Returns
SuperheroesRelay_BatmanReturns

Unbreakable
SuperheroesRelay_Unbreakable

Chronicle
SuperheroesRelay_Chronicle

Mystery Men
SuperheroesRelay_MysteryMen

The Rocketeer
SuperheroesRelay_Rocketeer

The three I’m removing:Chronicle_Blade2_MysteryMen Chronicle | Blade 2 | Mystery Men

Sorry Drew for removing two of the ones you added, no hard feelings? 😉 As I often say in other blog relays, I’m not so much removing them as I’m just moving them down the list if this were a top 2.

Now, I like Chronicle a lot (I gave it a 4/5 in my review) and if I only need to take out two instead of three movies, I might’ve let that in. I do think that even though it’s inventive, there are plot holes abound and the finale might’ve been a bit too bombastic that it felt like an abrupt shift in tone. As for Blade 2, I LOVE Wesley Snipes in the role but I just don’t know if any of the Blade movies deserve to make the top 10. I hardly remember much about them, so they didn’t leave a lasting impression to me other than Snipes look cool as a bad ass ninja vampire. Lastly, I took out Mystery Men because I haven’t seen it yet. Sorry again Drew, but I really tried to see if there’s another movie on the list I could take out but  in the end I had to let this one go. But since you included it, I might give it a rent 😀

The three I’m adding:

BatmanBeginsWinterSoldierX2Batman BeginsCaptain America: The Winter SoldierX-Men 2

I’m a huge fan of Nolan’s first entry to the Batman trilogy. In fact, I dare say that Batman Begins is as good as The Dark Knight and sets the bar high for a superhero film. I like that it focuses on the hero instead of the villain, and Christian Bale makes for a caped crusader who’s truly worth rooting for. I love it so much I’d even be willing to forgive the Katie Holmes casting! Now The Winter Soldier is still quite fresh in my mind and I do believe it deserves to be in the final top 10 because it has everything you’d want in an entertaining superhero flick and then some. It’s a successful genre-mashup, mixing the traditional superhero genre with a Cold-War espionage story, that expands the characters’ arc and takes the story forward in a thrilling way. As for X-2, well I think at least ONE X-Men film deserved to be on the list and I agree with Drew’s rationale that X-Men 2: X-Men United is a better film than the first film. The opening scene at the White House is fantastic and Brian Cox is one of my fave superhero movie villains as covert government operative Stryker. The multi-layered story combined with great performances gave the film a dramatic weight that transcend beyond fun entertainment. Not to mention the most indelible and emotional finale involving one of my favorite X-Men characters Jean Grey, as mutant vs. human struggle continues… ever closer to the brink of war. Powerful stuff!


Well I hope that at least one of my three pics would stay to the end 😉

I’m passing the baton to my pal & fellow superhero movie fan Terrence of The Focus Filmographer! I’m pretty sure he’s seen all or most of these movies so I’m VERY curious to see how he’d shake up the list.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on my picks. Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!

Top 10 Movies from the first half of 2014

top10_2014_firsthalf

It’s been about three weeks since we passed the halfway mark of 2014, so I figure I should get this list up before the end of July. As I did the previous years, I’m including some films that might’ve opened internationally prior to 2014, but I’m including them here as I’m using the USA release dates (either wide or limited releases). These are movies that I consider a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is a big factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types (for me anyway), but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. The Grand Seduction (full review)

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I almost missed seeing this one at the MSPIFF earlier this year but I’m glad I was able to catch the second screening. I had a lot of fun with this one and I’d be happy to watch this again at some point. You can always count on Brendan Gleeson to entertain, and here he delivers once again along with Newfoundland’s most famous celebrity Gordon Pinsent and surprisingly enough, Taylor Kitsch is fun to watch here as well. This comedy is delightfully funny, heartwarming and beautiful to look at, it could practically doubles as a tourism video for the Canadian province!

9. Edge of Tomorrow (full review)

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I’ve been seeing this movie in fellow bloggers’ favorite-of-the-year list and I can see why. I bet it was as much a pleasant surprise for them as it did for me, as I was ready to dismiss this one as yet another Tom Cruise’s meh sci-fi. Well, it ended up being massively entertaining and has a worthy female heroine in the form of Emily Blunt. The movie is not as profound as some people made it out to be, but props to director Doug Liman for pulling off the ‘repetitive’ aspect of the story that is far from boring. I certainly don’t mind a repeat experience of seeing this one again on rental.

8. The LEGO Movie (full review)

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Everything is awesome! Now that’s a bold tagline to live up to, but guess what, this movie did just that and then some! Apparently February is NOT just for duds and I’m pretty sure this one will get a nomination come award season. The LEGO Movie is easily one of the most fun experience I had in the movies in a long time, it’s every bit as cute and hilarious as the trailers and featurettes promised us. It’s the perfect geekstravaganza for everyone of all ages, an awesome escapist from the Winter Dump Months for the young and the young-at-heart.

7. The Machine (full review)

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Ok so some of you might think because Toby Stephens is in this that this movie ends up in my top 10… and well, you won’t be entirely wrong 😉 But I really do think this is a worthy sci-fi that’s well-made, well-acted AND thought-provoking. Made with a shoestring budget (less than $2 mil), The Machine has more heart than its big budget sci-fi counterparts (think Elysium) which proves that it takes way more than big budget and big stars to make a memorable movie. The two leads, Stephens and Caity Lotz are impressive here, and their performances are able to overcome the flaws of the movie, and their scenes are what make this movie watchable over and over.

6. Locke (full review)

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It’s a testament of Tom Hardy‘s strong screen presence and Steven Knight‘s taut script and direction that this one-man show is gripping even when practically nothing happens on screen. The entire film takes place inside a car with Hardy’s Ivan Locke behind the wheel. It’s certainly one of the most unique cinematic experience that immerses you into the world of its protagonist. Visually it’s striking too, somehow Knight’s able to make highway driving look so dramatic and even artistic. If you ever had any doubt about Hardy’s acting prowess, well then I suggest you check this one out and prepare to be blown away.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel (full review)

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I don’t love everything Wes Anderson put out there, but this one works for me. It captivated me from the opening scene all the way until the end. It’s more fast-paced than his other films but has all the things you expect from Wes: the quirky characters, the perfect symmetry of every single scene, playful music, etc.  I was quite invested in the two lead characters, particularly Zero Mustafa (played by F. Murray Abraham and Tony Revolori), more than I’ve ever felt about previous Wes Anderson’s characters. Mischievously whimsy, but with heart. Like a charming hotel, it’s one I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again.

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (full review)

HTTYD2_HiccupToothless

I adore the first film so I was a bit nervous this sequel would not live up to it. Well clearly I LOVE this one too as it made my top 5 so far. Despite the more complicated storyline, writer/director Dean DeBlois still made the adorable duo Toothless and Hiccup the central focus of the story. The additional character played by Cate Blanchett delves more into Hiccup’s family background, which makes you appreciate him and his father Stoick (Gerard Butler). With John Powell’s rousing score once again, this ranks high in my favorite animated features and would probably be among the nominees come award season!

3. Belle (full review)

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For a fan of period dramas, Amma Assante‘s sophomore feature has everything I could possibly want from this genre, and then some. Some critics call it ‘Jane Austen with a conscience’ as the protagonist’s story is set in the backdrop of slavery and racial injustice. Gugu Mbatha-Raw gracefully carries the film with her heartfelt performance, surrounded by a stellar cast that includes Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson. Sam Reid also impressed me with his performance as Belle’s unlikely confidante/love interest, I definitely would love to see both Mbatha-Raw and Reid get more prominent roles in the future. I can’t wait to own the Blu-ray that’s out next month, this one will definitely get a lot of play in my house!

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (full review)

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I happen to LOVE the first movie which my hubby and I have watched repeatedly. It’s rare to see a sequel that not only lives up to the original but manages to be even better! Billed as a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a superhero movie’, The Winter Soldier delivers on that front and gives us something that’s genuinely intriguing and massively entertaining. I LOVE espionage movies so the story definitely appeals  to me, but of course it also has the exciting action sequences that’s the bread-n-butter of any superhero blockbuster. It’s filled with adrenaline-pumping geek-gasm scenes without being banal or vapid. Chris Evans‘ much more confident in the role which makes him even more watchable, and Robert Redford + Anthony Mackie are great additions to an already-fantastic cast. This one has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero!

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (full review

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It took me a while to decide between The Winter Soldier and X-Men: DOFP as my #1 pick, but after much deliberations, this one wins by a slim margin. I give this one an edge because the time travel aspect and the back-and-forth across multiple dimensions are tough to pull off, but Bryan Singer did a tremendous job making it all work beautifully. I have a soft spot for the X-Men franchise and despite the disappointing The Wolverine, this is one of my most-anticipated films of 2014! It certainly did NOT disappoint. Glad to see Singer back at the helm for this one, after relinquishing his directorial efforts to other directors for X-Men 3 and X-Men: First Class. Now, I’m a big fan of the latter and a lot of the emotional high notes of that first prequel are carried over here as well. Emotional drama and complex relationship are mixed together well with witty humor and thrilling action. Similar to Nolan’s Batman films in some ways, it’s character & plot-driven punctuated by exhilarating action sequences. As far as superhero movies go, this one has everything that makes going to the movies so gratifying.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

These aren’t stellar by any means, but it was pretty entertaining and worth-seeing. So yeah, I’d recommend these for a rental!

 


WORST of the year so far:

I’m glad I’ve been able to avoid what’s poised to be stinkers like I Frankenstein, Blended, Pompeii, Tammy,etc. but I wish I hadn’t wasted my precious 2+ hours on these two!


So that’s my Best/Worst list of 2014 so far. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Films of April 2014

April2014Recap

Happy May Day everyone!

Well April’s certainly been a hectic month! We’ve got the Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF 14) and also my hubby and I are planning for our trip to Europe at the end of May. Oh and guess what, I also got a press pass for the first ever Minneapolis Comic-con, yay!

MplsComicConBnr

The thing is, this weekend I actually had to fly to Chicago to apply for tourist visa (Schengen visa) as I’m not a US citizen, and the closest Dutch/French embassy is in that city! So I can only attend the Sunday event, which means I’ll miss seeing Nathan Fillion AND William Shatner! Such a bummer eh, those two guys would’ve been a lot of fun to see.

Here are some posts from April you might’ve missed:


Thanks to Josh from JJAMES reviews for partnering w/ me on reviewing MSPIFF movies! His reviews are marked w/ *

MSPIFFreviewsIntruders*
Joe* & Brave Miss World
Hotell & Mystery Road*
Breathe-In & The Grand Seduction
Beyond the Edge
Paulette & The Life of Riley*
A Thousand Times Good Night & Words and Pictures
Proxy & The Animal Projects*
The Double* & The Last of Robin Hood

New Releases:

Rental/Rewatches:

  • Rewatch – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959)
  • The Guard (2011)
  • All Things To All Men (2013)
  • Leap Year (2010)
  • The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2008)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
    I mistakenly thought this was one of my Blindspot movies, the other Billy Wilder movie that’s on my list is The Apartment. So I’ll have a double Blindspot post in May to make up for it.

So overall it’s been a pretty good month of movie viewing with 16 new films watched. It’s actually lower than what I had hoped as I missed a few MSPIFF screenings for one reason or another. But hey, I also watched a bunch of TV, well mostly binge-ing on Toby in a variety of TV stuff he’s done, from The Great Gatsby (2000 TV movie), the British cop comedy Vexed & his latest project Black Sails. Thank goodness for Youtube as I could also get my Toby-as-Rochester fix there until my Jane Eyre dvd arrives! So yeah, the Toby Marathon continues! 😀

Favorite Movie Seen in April 2014:

AprilFaveMovies

I know The Machine isn’t perfect, I wish they’d focus more on the relationship between the scientist Vincent and the intelligent machine Ava, but still I’m very impressed by Caradog James’ work in crafting a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller with a shoe-string budget.

As for The Grand Seduction, out of all the films I saw at MSPIFF, this is one I’d readily watch again. I had so much fun watching it, lots of thigh-slapping hilarity to be had all around.


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

Weekend Viewing Roundup & MSPIFF14 Review: Intruders (2013)

MSPIFF14_April6

After the snow storm on Friday, this weekend turned out to be absolutely gorgeous. Saw four movies this weekend:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier for the second time around (yep, still love it!). It’s currently my favorite Marvel stand-alone movie!
  • Capricorn One – a fantastic 1977 space conspiracy thriller (Thanks Michael for lending it to me!). Review upcoming but I really enjoyed this one, and that ending was awesome!
    CapricornOnePostr
  • For my first day at MSPIFF, I saw two films yesterday:
    BraveMissWorld_JOE

Here’s our reviews of Brave Miss World and David Gordon Green’s JOE. I’m thrilled to not only saw such a great documentary about such an important yet devastating issue of rape, but I got to meet filmmaker Cecilia Peck, yes Gregory Peck daughter! After the Q&A, I went up to her and tell her how huge of a fan I was of her dad, and that I appreciate her making such a great film on an important topic. She clearly cares about social justice issues like her dad did, and she is just as beautiful inside and out as well. Too bad all four of the photos taken were so dark (turns out the flash was off), but you could see a bit of our smiling faces I think 😀

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I’m thrilled to tag team with Josh from JJames Reviews (who’s way more than qualified btw) in covering MSPIFF 2014! He’ll be contributing MSPIFF reviews for the next three weeks. Starting with this one from South Korea:

INTRUDERS

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The Festival staffperson who introduced Intruders pitched it as being “Fargo by way of South Korea.” She wasn’t far off, at least when considering the ways both films generate humor through flawed characters and unexpected plot twists. That each includes sweeping wintry landscapes and impressive cinematography facilitates the comparison, as well.

In Intruders, writer Sang-jin (Jun Suk-ho) takes a bus to the Gangwon province in South Korea’s mountainous north, where he plans to stay at a closed and otherwise unoccupied bed and breakfast that belongs to his boss’s family. While alone at the resort, Sang-jin hopes to finally complete his screenplay, for which his boss is impatiently waiting. Unfortunately, the writer faces significant challenges, including writers’ block, a talkative ex-convict named Hak-su (Oh Tae-kyung), two scary hunters, a group of young skiers who think he manages the resort, and a local police officer (Choi Moo-soung). It only gets worse when he becomes increasingly convinced that the bed and breakfast is unsafe.

Along the way, Intruders reminds us of several mainstream films, including, of course, Fargo (1996), but also Prisoners (2013) and Misery (1990), a project writer/director Noh Young-seok jokingly references in Intruders’ first act. All are favorable comparisons, largely because Noh makes many strong authorial and directorial decisions. Start with his screenplay, which impressively shows not tells the most important characters. We know Sang-jin intimately, despite only passing references to his backstory and limited dialogue explaining his current motivations. Then, we see him change through carefully developed scenes.

Hak-su and the cop are similarly well written, but Noh struggles a bit with his secondary characters. The hunters are enigmas and most of the skiers are stereotypically inconsiderate youngsters, indistinguishable from one another. Only Yu-mi (Han En-sun) is given some treatment, but even she is too thinly defined, what with only two character traits: angry and shrill.

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Yet, Noh Young-seok’s screenplay mostly overcomes flaws in development of secondary characters, partially because it masterfully foreshadows plot twists, so well, in fact, that we are never certain what will happen next, but also never stunned into disbelief by new developments. In his long opening sequence, for instance, Noh shows Sang-jin’s obliviousness, playing it for humor but also staying with it long enough that we know it will be important later. Frequent newscasts foreshadow what is to come, as do many other examples I will not directly cite.

That Intruders is often laugh out loud funny, even in its darkest moments, helps as well. As do the actors, all of whom are perfectly understated. Special mention to Oh Tae-kyung who plays Hak-su so skillfully that we can never be certain whether or not the character is an innocent bystander, a villain or something in between.

Neither the screenplay nor the actors are Intruders greatest merit, however. Noh’s direction is. Take for example, his camera work. By frequently placing subjects in the center of the screen, and by using lengthy point of view shots, the director increases our sense of intimacy with his characters. Plus, he keeps the camera perfectly still for the majority of the film, only to move it in bursts of lengthy pans, arcs and editing cuts, techniques that heighten or lessen tension fittingly. As just one more example of Noh’s directorial talent, Intruders’ ambiguous symbolism works very well; when, at one point, Noh cuts away to a close up of a spider web, we have to wonder: is Sang-jun the spider or the trapped prey?

The director is so good that we can overlook Intruders’ unsatisfying jump cut to end credits or its inconsistent use of telephones. No matter its few minor flaws, this film is very good.

four and a half stars out of five
4 out of 5 reels

P.S. So far, Intruders lacks US distribution. Hopefully that changes.

Review by Josh

JJamesReviews


Thoughts on the film(s) above? What did YOU see this weekend, folks?

Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2014 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. April Fools was just four days ago, man it seems like it was ages ago for Unbreakable_Postersome reason. Some of you caught the prank I pulled that day, and surely the interweb was full of fake news. One of them I read was this article listing three fake news stories we wish were real. One of those fake headlines says that M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable 2 Confirmed for 2015.

Per the article, ‘the studio indicated that the sequel will be set well after the events of the original film, and will follow Willis’ character as he learns more about his powers and the responsibility that comes with them.’ Oh man, if only that were true!! I’ve long been awaiting to see Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their roles, Unbreakable is my favorite M. Night’s film and one I’d wish to see a follow-up on. It’s been 14 years since its release and I still think it’d be worth revisiting the first truly *dark* superhero film.

Did you read any April Fools fake news you wish were real?
….

2. Switching gear to a superhero follow-up that’s been breaking box office record [pardon the pun]. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is poised to be the biggest movie of 2014 so far. According to Box Office Mojo, the Friday take of $37 mil would likely wind up to about $110 -$120 mil final weekend tally. I’m glad it’s doing well as I’ve said in my review it’s my favorite Marvel stand-alone movie yet, though I still have a special fondness for the first film.

MarvelStudiosFilms

Surely everyone’s going to have a different opinion on this. So, just for the heck of it, how about we rank 10 Marvel Studios movies from 2000, but only those involving character that appear in The Avengers. That means we’re NOT counting the X-Men movies, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, etc. Here they are alphabetically:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Hulk
  4. The Incredible Hulk
  5. Iron Man
  6. Iron Man 2
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Thor
  9. Thor: The Dark World
  10. The Avengers

So how would you rank these 10 Marvel movies?

……
3. Right now I’ll be watching a bunch of indie films at MSPIFF  2014. One of them I sadly have to miss because of a scheduling conflict is Tom Hardy‘s LOCKE.

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A successful construction manager’s life is drastically changed by a series of phone calls while he drives.

Now this film that puts one actor in a confined location, more of a one-man-show for the entire film if we’re to judge from the trailer that I posted here. We’re only seeing Hardy as Ivan Locke as he takes a series of phone calls as he’s driving in a car, but boy is it gripping! I really think that the casting is what make or break this types of films, as that actor would have to be charismatic enough to hold our attention whilst seemingly not much is happening. As I’m a big fan of Hardy, naturally I’m intrigued.

My question is two fold: What do you think of Locke? And which actor would you like to watch in a similar confined setting like this one? 


4. Any casting news involving Chiwetel Ejiofor always makes me smile as I’ve been championing him for some time. Last time he was rumored in Star Wars also made a Five for the Fifth subject, if only that were true! Now as a massive Bond fan, of course this casting news piqued my interest!

ChiwetelEjioforBONDvillain

Seems that lately, or at least since Sam Mendes was on board, the new plan seems to be only to hire Oscar winners/nominees as Bond villain, ahah. In Skyfall we’ve got Oscar winner Javier Bardem, and now, Ejiofor is reportedly the top choice for Bond 24 which is currently in production. I’m definitely stoked if he were cast, though my initial thought was that fellow Black Brit Idris Elba would also make a great choice, given he’s got that devilish charm about him. I’ve never seen Ejiofor’s sinister side on screen before but I’m sure the massively talented actor is more than up for the task! With Ralph Fiennes and Naomi Harris returning, boy this is going to be one heck of a Bond cast. This might be the case where I’d love the villain more than the hero, ahah.

Thoughts on this casting rumor? Who would YOU like to see cast as Bond villain?

5. What a perfect segue to the last topic as we’ve got a former Bond villain in this one. I just backed this Kickstarter project ENEMY OF MAN, starring Sean Bean, Rupert Grint, James D’Arcy, Jason Flemyng and Charles Dance.

EnemyOfManMovie

Enemy of Man is an ambitious feature length retelling of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Macbeth.

This will be the feature directorial debut of actor Vincent Regan. I really like him in TROY and 300, I thought he gave one of the best performances in 300, as well as the most heart-wrenching. Regan is no stranger to Shakespeare, he’s a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare and National theaters. Sean Bean apparently played Macbeth on London West End and this gave him a chance to revisit the character for a larger audience.

All money raised from this campaign will go towards taking the film into pre-production. You can read the details on the Kickstarter link above as well as a preview to the teaser trailer. Below is Sean Bean talking about his involvement in this project:

This looks pretty promising and the talented British actors involved are quite underrated. I hope they’ll meet their goal and get this film made! As of right now, there is only 15 hours left and they still need about $33K to meet their goal.

Whether or not you choose to back it, what do you think of this project and the cast involved?


Well, that’s it for the APRIL 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀