Music Break: Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)

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I’m in the romantic period drama mood this week as I’ve been listening to the beautiful scores for Pride & Prejudice, Belle (one of my top 10 scores of 2014)… and this one. Though I wasn’t as enamored as I would have with Far From The Madding Crowd (due to the Tom Sturridge miscasting as Troy), I actually want to see this again. It’s too bad because all the promos of Bathsheba and him kissing in the woods are so breathtakingly gorgeous… I think he works better in a still shot :\

But one of the things I do LOVE about this film is the absolutely gorgeous music by Scottish composer Craig Armstrong. I’m going to have to do a separate tribute for him as I love his work, esp. for Moulin Rouge!, Love Actually and The Great Gatsby. But for now, I just want to highlight his work on this film.

Here’s Hollow in the Ferns track, which reminds me a bit of John Barry’s Somewhere in Time.

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I adore Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba, she is lovely and believable as the strong yet vulnerable heroine. I’ve been a fan of her as an actress but I also love her voice! She sang in Inside Llewyn Davis but I really, really like her singing voice here. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme is featured in the trailer as well and it’s just beautiful! I definitely would include her on my list of actors who are surprisingly good singers.

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Come all you fair and tender girls
That flourish in your prime
Beware, beware

Keep your garden fair
Let no man steal your thyme
Let no man steal your thyme.

For when your thyme it is past and gone
He’ll care no more for you
And every place where your thyme was waste
Will all spread o’er with rue
Will all spread o’er with rue.
The gardener’s son was standing by
Three flowers he gave to me

The pink, the blue, and the violet true
And the red, red rosy tree
And the red, red rosy tree.

But I refused the red rose bush
And gained the willow tree
That all the world may plainly see
How my love slighted me
How my love slighted me

 


Hope you enjoy today’s Music Break. What score(s) have you been listening to lately?

Thursday Movie Picks #53: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

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

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

It’s interesting that the requirement for this sci-fi genre is no space/aliens as a lot of my favorites in this genre aren’t the ones with aliens in them. In fact, I love sci-fis that don’t look or feel science fiction-y, in fact, intriguing sci-fis are those with rich layers of human drama that remind us what it means to be humans.

I immediately thought of including Ex Machina here, but I decided not to include something from this year. Instead, I’m selecting three from the past few years that have a small/modest budget (under $25 mil) that have made a big impression on me:

Predestination (2014)

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

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As I mentioned in my review, the less you know about the plot the better the experience. Since I was just talking about directing duos, I have to mention the Spierig Brothers who also made this vampire sci-fi Daybreakers. The premise is rather bizarre and definitely not an easy one to grasp, but it’s well worth a watch. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey. Snook is quite a revelation here and I kept hoping to see her getting prominent roles.

s I….

HER (2013)

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

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Once in a while, a film you hadn’t heard much about suddenly sneaked in and took your breath away. In 2013, that film for me was HER. That’s what I wrote in my review over a year ago, and there’s still very few films that affected me emotionally the way this one did.

There are many robot/human *love* stories that’s been done time and again but what Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) experienced with Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) is quite unlike any other. For one, there’s no physical presence of Samantha in the film but yet her presence is felt so viscerally. I’m going to borrow my from my own review… This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction story that I wish Hollywood would make more of. Sci-fi is not always about aliens or cool-looking futuristic equipments or cars or what have you, but a good sci-fi should actually makes us ponder about our own humanity. I realize this film isn’t for everyone as there are a few people I recommended this to that aren’t wowed by it. That said, I think you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a shot.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

A love triangle develops between three friends who came of age at a mysterious, secluded boarding school and are destined to lead brief lives.

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This is another film where the less you know about the plot the better. If you just look at still photos or even the poster (which you can see on my review post), you’d never thought this is a sci-fi. It looks more like a mystery drama, and I think that’s the vibe director Mark Romanek was going for. Working from Alex Garland’s script, who later made his directorial debut in Ex Machina, the pace is decidedly slow and graceful in the way things unfold. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story. I really need to watch this again, but I remember being really absorbed by this film. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are excellent here, it’s still one of my favorite performance from both of them even after seeing more of their work. It’s also exquisitely-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film.

……


What do you think of my sci-fi picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

 

FlixChatter Review: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

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I have to admit the first time I heard about this novel was a few years ago when Richard Armitage’s character in the Christmas edition of Vicars of Dibley mentioned this Thomas Hardy’s novel as his favorite. Well, I remember reaching about what that novel was about and was immediately hooked. So a headstrong woman in Victorian England attracts three very different suitors, I definitely like the sound of that.

In stories like this, casting is crucial and that’s why I approach this review more from that angle. Let me start with the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene.

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I love the fact that Bathsheba is played by Carey Mulligan who’s appropriately free spirited and convincing as an independent young woman. A woman living in 19th-century England would not straddle her horse like she does when she rides, and she works the farm just as hard as any man.

When she first encountered Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer, he’s immediately smitten and it’s easy to see why. Matthias Schoenaerts, who somehow reminds me of Viggo Mortensen in this role, portrays Gabriel with deep vulnerability. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him.

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Their two lives somehow turned out drastically different — Bathsheba became wealthy when she suddenly inherited her uncle’s estate, whilst Gabriel came to a misfortune in one tragic night. The interesting dynamic of their circumstances only adds to the intrigue of their relationship, especially given how a female boss was quite a rare occurrence back in the day. I like how the film shows how Bathsheba tried to defy convention the best way she could, to make in a man’s world and be taken seriously as a farm owner.

The next suitor is more of Bathsheba’s equal in terms of economic status though he’s considerably older in age. Michael Sheen gives a dignified presence to William Boldwood, but also the appropriate sensitivity of someone who’s financially successful but one who’s been unlucky in love. The relationships between Bathsheba and these two men are especially engaging, it’s made a bit trickier by the fact that Boldwood likes Gabriel and appreciate his fervent loyalty.

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I’ve mentioned in this post that the casting of the third suitor is disappointing. Sergeant Frank Troy is described as a handsome, irresponsible and impulsive young man… so I imagine an actor with devilish charisma and undeniable sex appeal for the role. Well, no offense Tom Sturridge but you ain’t that person and you certainly did NOT convince me as someone Bathsheba would risk everything for. Thus, her abrupt decision seems so out of character and doesn’t feel true.

Yes, the much-talked-about swordsmanship scene in the woods was beautifully-filmed but that’s more of a testament of Thomas Vinterberg‘s directing and his ability to create such an ethereal ambiance. I wanted to THAT scene to take my breath away, to be rendered speechless and all tingly from the sheer passion of the two characters, but it just wasn’t to be. The love scene that follows also lacks any kind of eroticism, which made the entire relationship lackluster. It also didn’t help that Sturridge just doesn’t look like a soldier or someone with a hint of danger that could tame or intimidate a woman like Bathsheba. I believe that charisma, especially of a sexual nature, is not something an actor can train for.

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The way the story unfolds is rather predictable. Yes it’s based on a novel so people who’ve read it would’ve known how things turns out, but for those who haven’t, Vinterberg didn’t create any suspense that’d make us guess who Bathsheba will end up with. But Vinterberg’s strength behind the camera is creating a lush and atmospheric look that serves the story well, thanks largely to his frequent collaborator Charlotte Bruus Christensen who also did the cinematography for The Hunt.

There’s a certain melancholy in the film to be expected but it doesn’t feel corny or contrived. Mulligan and Schoenaerts who share the most screen time have a lovely chemistry… the way they steal glances every chance they get is the kind of stuff romantic dramas are made of. Apart from that, I was kind of expecting something a bit more unconventional from Vinterberg. I was so impressed by The Hunt and this one seems like a lesser film by comparison, though it’s not exactly an apples and oranges kind of comparison, but in general sense. This feels more Hollywood, safer and less edgy, but thankfully there are still things I like about it.

I have to say that the fact that sound went out for about 3-4 minutes during the final scene between Bathsheba and Gabriel! It was excruciating because it’s supposed to be a key emotional scene. The sound came back 2 minutes before the ending but still, that was awful that it happened. I’m not going to fault this film for that snafu of course, but the miscasting of Sgt. Troy is a big one for me. It did not derail the film but it prevents the film from being a truly compelling and fiery romantic drama that I had expected.

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Have you seen this film? Well, what did YOU think?

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Quick thoughts on ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ + Bloggin’ Break

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Happy Thursday everyone! What a week it’s been. I went to the Christopher Nolan lecture at the Walker Art Museum on Tuesday and last night was the Far for the Madding Crowd screening. My post on both of those would have to wait until I’m back from vacation. But I have to share my first reaction about the latest Thomas Hardy’s cinematic adaptation:

In the novel, Troy is described as “handsome, vain, young, and irresponsible,” he is to be Bathsheba’s sexual awakening, but from the second Troy’s introduced on screen (played by Tom Sturridge), he just did NOT fit my idea of such a character. SPOILER ALERT [if you don’t want to know the plot, don’t read below the photo]

He looks more like someone from some boy band like One Direction with his full head of hair and effeminate-looking face and body. The swordsmanship scene is well-directed but Troy himself didn’t leave me breathless… and naturally the sex scene lacks passion. My girlfriend asked me as we walked out the theater if Troy is supposed to be some soldier wanna-be or something as he just doesn’t have that strapping look of a military man. Heh, I haven’t seen the 1967 version but Terence Stamp looked far more convincing as Troy. It’s a pity because I have no problem with other two male actors (Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen), and I adore Carey Mulligan as the heroine Bathsheba.

Bathsheba_Troy_MaddingCrowdYou may accuse me of being biased given how I feel about Stanley Weber these days, but seriously, if only I had been a casting agent for the film, I’d cast him as Troy in a heartbeat. He’s played a charming, sexy bad boy with aplomb as Juan Borgia, someone SO devilishly bad but oh-so-irresistible. I’m sure he can work on perfecting a British accent, but charisma, especially of a sexual nature, is not something an actor can train for.

Now that I got that out of the way… let’s get to those great links, shall we?

Josh did his May Oscar predictions whilst Andrew posted his 4 Ways a Best Picture roundtable. Never too early to talk about awards I guess.

Tom and Mark are hosting the Decades Blogathon. Spots are filling up fast!

Andina just posted her top 10 fave movies of 2014, glad we agree on the #1 pick!

Speaking of top 10, Chris got me all nostalgic in this post of top 10 Janet Jackson songs

To celebrate her 5th blogaversarry, Mettel Ray have been posting a bunch of top 5 lists, the latest one being Top 5 Trios

Over at Dan’s Top 10 Films blog, Rodney posted his top 10 Films of cinematographer Andrew Lesnie who just passed away

On to reviews…

Margaret, Sidekick Reviews and Melissa did a recap of the latest Game of Thrones episodes

Lots of foreign movie reviews that have been popping up this week, which is interesting as I’ve been watching a ton of French movies and videos 😉

Jordan reviewed this Spanish/Danish film Jauja

Steven reviewed Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye Children)

Keith reviewed L’avventura

And last but not least, Jay posted some mini reviews including some terrible movies you should avoid!


Time for a Blog Break!

Well my hubby and I be going on a week-long vacation to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We’re going to Tampa for a few days and then Orlando to visit…

WizardingWorldHPWizardingWorldHP2I’ve been wanting to check out the Harry Potter theme park for some time. I always enjoy going to these type of stuff, makes me feel young again 😉 But I’m also looking forward for some r&r at some of the best beaches in the area, like Clearwater Beach, visit Greek town Tarpon Springs and maybe head south to Sanibel Island!


So see you in about a week, folks! If you have any travel tips for the Orlando/Tampa area, please do let me know.

Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2015 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary 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. First things first… well, Twitter erupted with geekgasm yesterday when the third Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer dropped. I have to admit I dug it enough I watched it three times in a row during my lunch break. I’m lucky to have the 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display at the office 😉

I wasn’t super excited about the first two trailers but now I’m slowly getting more enthusiastic about this sequel. Though I’m much more excited about Captain America 3 that opens May 2016.

For those who’re averse to comic-book stuff, no fret. Far from the Madding Crowd also opens on the same weekend (May 1).

In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.


I never read Thomas Hardy’s famous novel that the movie’s based on but I like the look of this one, sounds like something I’d enjoy. Carey Mulligan is lovely & talented, and this is from the director of The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg, which was one of my top 10 films of 2013.

So are you excited for either one of these?

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2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Oliver Stone’s thriller SNOWDEN. The film is currently shooting in Munich, before moving to locations around the world.​ Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden before he became the NSA whistle-blower – Edward was an ordinary man who unquestioningly served his country.

Levitt_SnowdenThe movie also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant … and Nicolas Cage! Hmmm, I wonder which role he’d play, and most importantly which hairdo he’ll be sporting 😉

In any case, I’m not convinced yet about Levitt as Snowden, here’s what my casting wish for the role:

I knew the chance of Richard being cast is slim to none, he’s just a big enough name yet for such a role. Now, I’m not exactly a big Oliver Stone fan as director, we’ll see how much creative liberties will be taken for this movie. I think if you want to see the real Snowden, just watch the excellent doc Citizenfour instead.

What’s your initial thoughts of SNOWDEN?

3. Well, Cinderella hasn’t even opened yet and the interweb has been abuzz with the casting of yet another live action Disney adaptation, Beauty & The Beast. Apparently it’ll be a musical, with Emma Watson as Belle, who was cast months ago. Well, this week we’ve got casting news of the Beast himself AND its villain, Gaston: Dan Stevens and Luke Evans respectively. Behold the gorgeous all-Brits main cast:

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I actually just rewatched some clips of the animated feature not that long ago and looking at the drawings below, I’d say the casting is pretty spot-on physically. Though Stevens would likely have to undergo long hours in the makeup chair to get all big and furry as Beast, which is too bad that they have to cover up that handsome face!

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I personally like this casting. These are impossibly beautiful actors but fortunately they can act and have charismatic screen presence. It’d have been horrid if they cast say, Alex Pettyfer and Liam Hemsworth for example. Not convinced with Bill Condon as director though, but I haven’t seen Dreamgirls yet, so I suppose he has experience directing a musical.

What do you think of this casting bit?

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4. Oh for the times they are a-changin. Nothing could be truer for media distribution landscape, as companies like Amazon and Netflix are entering the foray. Well, this is creating some interesting *shake-up* as four major theater chains are refusing to show Beasts of No Nation, the Cary Fukunaga drama starring Idris Elba that Netflix bought this week for $12 million, because the company is debuting the film simultaneously on its streaming service (per Variety).

Apparently the reason is that “… they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.”

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A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.

NetflixLogoWell, since I have Netflix, it doesn’t bother me much, but this news certainly made me pause a bit. What if it’s the kind of movie I’d LOVE to see on the big screen? There’s only a handful of indie theaters near me, so there’s a likelihood none would even show such films. How big of a game changer this will become remains to be seen, but we might know sooner rather than later. Netflix also announced similar plans to the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that’s supposed to be out in August. It’s also partnering with a bunch of celebs on various projects, the latest is a partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio on documentaries that will premiere exclusively on Netflix.

What are your thoughts on this development?

5. The first 2015 Five for the Fifth’s guest is Natalie from Writer Loves Movies blog!

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We’re seeing some interesting Artificial Intelligence films lately (Her, Ex Machina). Chappie is out soon too. As a kid I loved Johnny 5 from Short Circuit! But as a grown up I’d have to pick Her‘s Samantha, such a clever film.

So, what’s your favorite cinematic AI?


Well, that’s it for the March 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

10 Actresses I would watch in just about anything

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As part of a continuation to the Top 10 Actors I’d See in Anything post, I figure I’d do the same list for the fairer sex. If anything, my love for actresses seem to be more constant than for actors, not sure why but aside from some new discoveries, I’ve been a fan of most of these actresses for a decade or longer. Again this idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are Blog. The same as the actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in literally anything because there are some movies with them in it I haven’t seen and probably never will. But having their name in a certain film would certainly make me more inclined in watching them.

Here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite:

10. Kristin Scott-Thomas

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Ever since I saw her as Fiona in Four Weddings & A Funeral years ago, I’ve always been fond of the English actress. There is an air of mystery about her, as well as a certain sadness, which made her perfect for her Oscar-nominated role in The English Patient. She’s always wonderful to watch in anything, even in bit parts in lesser-known films like The Heir Apparent, Mission: Impossible, Easy Virtue, Nowhere Boy, etc. Her dramatic talent is irrefutable, but I think she’s got comedic chops too, as she displayed in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I’d love to see this lighter side of her in other movies. Wish she’d gotten more leading roles, instead of being cast in awful movies like Bel Ami against sub-par leading man Robert Pattinson.

Favorite Role: Fiona in Four Weddings and A Funeral
Least Favorite Role: Virginie in Bel Ami

9. Carey Mulligan

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The first thing I noticed about miss Mulligan is her soothing speaking voice in Never Let Me Go. I already liked her even before she showed up on screen. There is a pleasant countenance about her that I like, as well as a certain childlike innocence that she displayed in An Education. Even when she plays unsympathetic characters like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and the acidic-tongued Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis, you can’t totally despise her. When I saw her in Never Let Me Go, I somehow didn’t realize she was Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice! She’s quite a chameleon. Can’t wait to see her in Far from the Madding Crowd next year.

Favorite Role: Kathy in Never Let Me Go
Least Favorite Role: Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Jessica Chastain

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I mentioned in this post a couple of years ago that miss Chastain sort of came into my cinematic view pretty suddenly. I hadn’t heard of her even six months prior to that, and seems that in an instant she churned out four very distinct performance within the span of a couple of years: The Debt, Tree of Life, Coriolanus and The Help. Then she impressed me once again in Zero Dark Thirty, displaying strong dramatic chops that’s entirely different from the other roles I’ve seen previously. Seeing her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby sealed it for me that she has to be on this list. I think she’s absolutely beautiful, but in an unconventional way. She’s the kind of actress who I think gets even more interesting the longer you look at her. Can’t wait to see her in crime drama A Most Violent Year opposite Oscar Isaac!

Favorite Role: Eleanor Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Least Favorite Role: N/A

7. Marion Cotillard

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What is it with French women that made them so beguiling? Miss Cotillard certainly has screen charisma that appeals to both sexes, and though she’s impossibly beautiful she’s not Bimbo-like at all. Like Kristin Scott Thomas, I also find her a bit mysterious which adds to her appeal. I guess I find people with *sad* eyes more intriguing, perhaps it’s that tortured-soul quality I find very appealing in men as well. She gave such a heartfelt performance in Inception, and she’s my favorite performer even in the all-star cast musical NINE. In fact, her two musical renditions are superb as she shows not only her dramatic prowess, but also her amazing vocals & dancing ability.

Favorite Role: Adriana in Midnight in Paris/Luisa in NINE
Least Favorite Role: Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises

6. Sandra Bullock

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Like a lot of people, I first noticed Sandra in Speed and I’m instantly a fan. Whether it’s action stuff like The Net, Demolition Man, or rom-coms like While You Were Sleeping, Forces of Nature, Two Weeks Notice, The Proposal, etc. Sandra is so watchable. Though she also excels in serious dramas like The Blind Side and Gravity, I think I like Sandra most in comedies as she’s just so darn lovable in them. I don’t think Miss Congeniality would’ve been as watchable without her in the lead. She’s also hugely entertaining in interviews and her fun, down-to-earth personality absolutely shines in candid conversations. She’s one of those rare movie stars who seem so approachable that you could imagine her as your best friend!

Favorite Role: Annie in Speed/ Lucy in While You Were Sleeping
Least Favorite Role: Kate in The Lake House

5. Emma Thompson

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I think I’ll always be a fan of Emma given my undying love for 1995’s Sense & Sensibility. I’ll always be grateful for her amazing screenplay and her lovely performance as Elinor Dashwood. Before that, I’ve already liked her in Much Ado About Nothing and The Remains of the Day. Her segment in Love, Actually with Alan Rickman is my fave of the entire film, and she’s wonderful in Stranger than Fiction and in the romantic drama Last Chance Harvey. Her comic-relief performance in Harry Potter is a lot of fun to watch, too. Her latest role in Saving Mr Banks shows she definitely should’ve gotten more leading roles. Playing someone so uptight and controlling seems so far away from her laid-back and goofy, but then again, Emma has a knack for playing eccentric characters.

Favorite Roles: Elinor in Sense & Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Sarafine in Beautiful Creatures

4. Dame Helen Mirren

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Though I had seen Dame Mirren in Gosford Park, it’s not until The Queen that she REALLY came to my attention. She truly won me over with that performance and so every time I saw her name attached in something, I’d want to check it out. Since then she’s impressed me in State of Play, The Debt, The Last Station, and even the goofy action comedy RED & RED 2 where she displayed her bad-assery as a femme fatale. She’s the best thing about the Hitchcock film adaptation as Alma Reville, even her animated character Dean Hardscrabble in Monsters University is fun to watch! Can’t wait to see her in a thriller opposite one of my fave British thespians Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky!

Favorite Roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen
Least Favorite Role: N/A

3. Dame Judi Dench

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Like Helen Mirren, I became familiar with Dame Judi in her latter works. In fact, it’s her most mainstream role as M in Goldeneye that got my attention. She outshone practically every male actor in that role previously, and she delivered such a scene-stealing performance she upstaged even Mr Bond himself! I have to say part of me wish she had been M in earlier Bond films as I’d love to see him going toe to toe with another theater thespian Timothy Dalton as 007!

Since then, I’ve seen Dame Judi in a variety of roles: biopics like Mrs. Brown, My Week with Marilyn and Philomena; and a fair share of literary adaptations like Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and her 8-minute Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love. I LOVE her in the lovely drama Chocolat, as well as in the ensemble comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Recently I saw her in Ladies in Lavender, teaming up again with her real-life BFFs Maggie Smith after nearly 20 years (in A Room with a View). I always enjoyed seeing them together, so I can’t wait to see the ‘Marigold hotel’ sequel!

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, M in Bond movies
Least Favorite Role: N/A

2. Emily Blunt

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Though she didn’t get the lead role, it’s safe to say that miss Blunt was the breakout star of The Devil Wears Prada. She’s so deliciously devious in her comic turn that was so fun to watch. But I think it’s her performance in the lesser-known Jane Austen Book Club as a French teacher that made me a fan. She’s my favorite character in the film and I really sympathize with her despite her flaws.

Finally I saw her in a leading role in The Young Victoria and once again I absolutely adore her. Interesting that she plays the same character that Judi Dench played in her later years in Mrs. Brown, which is also my fave role she’s done. Emily stuns even in bit parts, i.e. playing Tom Hanks’ young lover in Charlie Wilson’s War. Since then I’ve seen Emily in a variety of roles: The Adjustment Bureau, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Looper, and most recently Edge of Tomorrow. She had a more action-packed roles in the last two films, perhaps in an attempt to shed her English-rose image. I think she fits well in drama, comedy or action, which shows her versatility and on-screen appeal.

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria
Least Favorite Role: N/A

1. Cate Blanchett

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Ahhhh… the Great Cate. I absolutely love this woman. Similar my first intro to Carey Mulligan, I too fell for Cate’s soothing narration in The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I LOVE her as Galadriel, perhaps one of the most famous characters she plays in her illustrious career.

What I LOVE about the Melbourne-born thespian is her chameleon ability to play virtually ANY role from all walks of life. Whether it’s a fearless Irish journalist (Veronica Guerin), working class ex-heroin addict (Little Fish), troubled NY socialite (Blue Jasmine), a wounded wife shot on an overseas trip (Babel), an English monarch (Elizabeth) or Hollywood royalty (as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), there’s NOT a role Cate couldn’t pull off. She can do any accent flawlessly, and her voice is just so pleasant to listen to. Ok so I still haven’t seen her in her Oscar-nominated role as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, but no doubt she’s also convincing in portraying the opposite sex.

Borrowing from my Birthday Tribute post, Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

Can’t wait to see her in Kenneth Branagh’s life-action adaptation of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother next year!

Favorite Roles: Galadriel in LOTR, Veronica Guerin
Least Favorite Role: Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skulls

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! I’ve been a fan of most of these for a while, but there are some newbies added based on their performances this past year (Mbatha Raw & Pike). A lot of the actresses here hugely underrated, but just like a lot of my male crushes, I guess I have a penchant for the under-used and under-appreciated ones. Anyway, here they are in my fave role each of them has done so far:

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  1. Helena Bonham Carter
  2. Angela Bassett
  3. Eva Green
  4. Rebecca Hall
  5. Gugu Mbatha-Raw
  6. Julia Ormond
  7. Rosamund Pike
  8. Saoirse Ronan
  9. Maggie Smith
  10. Kate Winslet

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So that’s my list folks! Feel free to name your own picks of actresses you’d watch in practically anything 🙂

TEN Notable Foreign Actors to Watch – Where Are They Now?

I first published this list back in November 2009, and I’ve been wanting to do an update in a while, thanks to the suggestion from Iba @ ILuvCinema.

As I said back then, this kind of list is a matter of opinion/preference, and it’s impossible to please everyone. This one in particular is not meant to be a prediction of ‘the next big thing,’ whatever the heck that means, but more of an indication that these non-American actors have been generating some buzz for current or upcoming flicks, or accolades for their performances as of 2009.

FlixChatter's Top Ten Foreign Actors to Watch
FlixChatter’s Top Ten Foreign Actors to Watch

The criteria was that at the time, these actors were virtually unknown to the average movie-going public (even if they had seen their movies), but are definitely on the radar of cinephiles and movie bloggers alike. To help narrow things down, I kept the age range between 20-40 years old (as of the time I made the list).

Well, so how are they doing now, almost three years later? Take a look below on how each of the talent’s career has taken them:

Tom Hardy, 34

Thanks to Christopher Nolan’s final Batman movie, Tom Hardy’s name has perhaps become a household name by now. Since I made the list, I’ve seen him in three additional films: Inception, Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises. As I said before, I quite like his comic skills in Rocknrolla, but since his roles have showcased his dramatic chops and a penchant for the theatrics for his role of Bane. No, I haven’t seen him in This Means War yet, though I have not ruled that out yet.

What’s Next? He’s currently starring in the prohibition-era thriller Lawless. I look forward to seeing him in the new Mad Max action adventure Fury Road with Charlize Theron.
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Sam Worthington, 36

Now this is quite unfortunate. Though I was initially keen on the Kiwi actor after Terminator Salvation and Avatar, now I’m actually not as fond of him. Blame the awful Clash of the Titans for that, I guess, and also some dismal reviews for Man On Ledge, which didn’t sound too promising from the start. But no doubt Worthington’s career continues to be on the rise. I mean, heck, he’s now got another franchise besides Avatar as the sequel to ‘Clash‘ was released this past Summer.

What’s Next? He’s signed on for several movies out next year, but the one I’m most curious about is Thunder Run that’s reportedly on pre-production. The Iraq-war thriller about the surprise assault on Baghdad also stars Gerry Butler and Matthew McConaughey.
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Carey Mulligan, 27

After seeing her fabulous performance in An Education, she wowed me again in Never Let Me Go. I haven’t seen Drive and Shame, but those two movie caught a lot of buzz with critics and moviegoers alike. Seems like the talented Londoner (one of my faves born in the UK capital) is perfectly suited for both indies and more mainstream fares like Wall Street: Money Never Sleep.

What’s Next? Too bad The Great Gatsby‘s been pushed back to next year from this Christmas. I think she’d make a compelling Daisy Buchanan in the tale of tragic romance amidst the lavish world of Jay Gatsby. On a personal front, Carey has also now been married Marcus Mumford, the lead singer of Mumford & Sons band last April.
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Tobey Kebbell, 30

As I said before, it’s pure coincidence that three actors on this list have been in Rocknrolla! I guess Guy Ritchie’s pretty good at spotting real talents. I’ve since only seen Kebbell in one other film, War Horse, but his scene was easily one of the most memorable. Unlike Hardy though, Kebbell’s career hasn’t really quite taken off. Perhaps because his two films following Rocknrolla (The Conspirator and Prince of Persia) weren’t really well-received nor become box office hits.

What’s Next? His upcoming film The East with Alexander Skarsgård and Brit Marling sounds interesting, but I doubt it’ll be his big break as it’s a low-budget movie. Kebbell is still young though, so there’s still time for his career to hit it off.
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Chiwetel Ejiofor, 39

Since I just saw a movie with him in the lead role in Endgame, I’m so glad I put him on my list! He had a memorable role in Children of Men and also American Gangster. Even in brief screen time as Keira Knightley’s groom in Love, Actually, it’s hard not to notice the handsome London-born actor (born of Nigerian parents). I wish he had been as prolific as fellow British/African Idris Elba, as both are charismatic and talented actors. As displayed in Endgame, I am convinced Ejiofor can carry a movie as a leading man. He’s obviously very easy on the eyes, but also got that intellectual, sophisticated vibe that’d make him suitable for a variety of roles.

What’s Next? He’s starring with Thandie Newton in a film set around Nigeria’s independence, Half of a Yellow Sun. And hopefully starring in the Steve McQueen’s historical drama Twelve Years A Slave would also boost his career even more.
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Michael Fassbender, 35

Well I think this Irish-German actor’s career has been on a meteoric rise in the past three years, wouldn’t you say? He nabbed nominations left and right for his performance in Shame, though he was egregiously snubbed by the Academy Award. Since 300, I’ve loved his performance in Centurion, Inglourious Basterds, X-Men: First Class and Prometheus. I think it’s safe to say Fassbender has ‘arrived’ in Hollywood, and I’m glad to see him getting more prominent roles.

What’s Next? Fassbender will be collaborating with London-born director Steve McQueen for the third time in Twelve Years A Slave that I’ve mentioned above. He’s also co-starring with Brad Pitt in the Ridley Scott’s drug-trafficking thriller The Counselor set for next year.
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Abbie Cornish, 28

I have to admit I haven’t seen Cornish in anything new since Bright Star, apart from watching her in A Good Year with Russell Crowe. She’s obviously VERY talented, and she could perhaps have the career of fellow Aussie actresses like Naomi Watts or Mia Waskikowska, but yet she’s not as well-known. She’s quite in demand though, she’s starring in five new films in the next couple of years.

What’s Next? She’s been cast in the much-beleaguered RoboCop reboot alongside Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) and Gary Oldman. This seems to be the most high profile she’s involved in as the others seem to be small-budget fares.
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Sharlto Copley, 38

I LOVE his performance in District 9, that’s why he’s on this list. But it seems to be a slow-burn rise for the South African actor, as he hasn’t starred in anything since the A-Team reboot a few years ago. Not sure why that is but perhaps he’s busy working on the District 9 follow-up Elysium with Neill Blomkamp, even though it seems that it’s Matt Damon who’s got the starring role in that movie.

What’s Next? He’s listed on IMDb as having five upcoming projects, including the Sleeping Beauty spin-off Maleficent with Angelina Jolie and the Korean cult favorite Oldboy remake with Spike Lee. Not sure how big his role is in those two films. I do hope he gets another starring role in a sci-fi movie, he certainly has the chops to carry a film.

Gemma Arterton, 26

Now, out of the ten actors I put on the list, Gemma is the only one I wish I hadn’t. I guess I’m just too fond of her. I probably would rather put fellow Brit Hayley Atwell in her place. It’s interesting that she was Sam Worthington’s co-star in Clash of the Titans, whom I initially liked but now I’ve grown cold on. Like Worthington, Arterton is also in quite a high demand, she even played a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace and balancing smaller-budget fares (Tamara Drewe) and blockbusters (Prince of Persia).

What’s Next? You might’ve seen her in the recently-released trailer of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (if not, you can see it here), just one of the four projects she’s got in 2013. None of them I’m really interested in however, that Hansel and Gretel one looks like crap.
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Ben Whishaw, 31

The UK actor has since been on my radar since his leading role as John Keats in Bright Star and a small role in The International. I’ve been meaning to rent the ensemble-cast Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There in which he portrayed Arthur Rimbaud, but haven’t got around to it. Needless to say, I haven’t seen him in anything since but I’m hoping to see him in two films before year’s end: Cloud Atlas and Bond 23 Skyfall as the new, young and hip Q!

What’s Next? There’s nothing else listed for him in IMDb after Skyfall, but he’s also starring in a BBC four-part miniseries The Hollow Crown (you can read all about it here on Dezzy’s blog) Hopefully this massively talented actor gets a leading role sometime soon!


Honorable mentions:

  • Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, 21, Fifty Dead Men Walking)
  • Rupert Friend (Cheri, The Young Victoria)
  • Idris Elba (Rocknrolla, The Losers, Prometheus)
  • Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, Dorian Gray)
  • Ben Barnes (Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Dorian Gray)

Again, I made this original list three years ago. Now, with hindsight, I would’ve probably swapped a couple from the main list, such as Idris Elba and Rebecca Hall. Especially for Idris, I’m psyched that his career continues to rise now, he deserved it!!


Well, that’s it for the updates folks. Thoughts on any of these actors and/or their projects?