FlixChatter Review – THOR: Ragnarok (2017)

It’s been almost two weeks since I saw Thor: Ragnarok and I’m still giddy thinking about it. In fact, I had just seen Justice League two nights ago and honestly I’d rather write about the latest Thor movie, and this is one I’d readily watch again.

Let me preface this review with the fact that I’m a huge fan of its director, New Zealander Taika Waititi, ever since I saw What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople a year later. Those two rank as one of my favorite films of all time. In fact, even with an all star cast that includes my personal cinematic heroine Cate Blanchett, I’m most excited about Thor: Ragnarok because of Waititi. And boy did he deliver!!

It opens with our Asgardian hero, sans his Mjölnir hammer, being chained by a creature named Surtur who plans to destroy Thor’s planet by fulfilling the propechy of Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth is definitely much more comfortable in the role, having played Thor half a dozen times by now. But here he gets to show off his comic chops as well. He manages to escape, gets his Mjölnir and fighting mojo back and he returns to Asgard. It’s always a hoot seeing Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (I actually like him more than Thor from the previous films). I’m not going to spoil it for you but what he discovers there is one of the most comical bits of the movie. Let’s just say Taika made a great use of a famous A-lister that could’ve played like an SNL skit if it wasn’t handled properly. Love seeing Sam Neill making a quick appearance too.

The following scenes takes Thor and his half brother Loki to earth, trying to figure out the wherebouts of his father. The scenes involving them and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is funny stuff as well, peppered with Taika’s brand of quirky humor. As it turns out, it itsn’t just Loki who wants to take over the rule of Asgard, and this time she wouldn’t stop at that. With a name like Hela, of course she wants to rule the entire universe and unleash hell! Miss Blanchett relish on the opportunity to be a sexy, leather-clad, rockstar-ish goddess from hell, with another easy-on-the-eyes actor from Down Under Karl Urban as her lackey. Yes she seems to be purposely chewing the scenery but it works, and it’s fun to watch.

It’s clear the two brothers are no match for Hela and so Thor gets banished to a planet of scraps where his next crazy adventure begins! The new characters Taika introduced here, Valkyrie (bad-ass Tessa Thompson), the Grandmaster (the eternally amusing Jeff Goldblum), a rock creature Korg (voiced in a hilarious high-pitched voice by Taika himself) are all memorable! Even Rachel House (who was hilarious in Hunt for the Wilderpeople) got some hilarious one liners in the movie. I LOVE Valkyrie and Korg I wouldn’t mind seeing more of both of those characters in future Thor movies or even a spin-off! I also love seeing Idris Elba back as Heimdall, who became the loyal guardians for Asgardians. This is perhaps my favorite ensemble cast of all superhero movies.

I read that Taika has always wanted to make the latest Thor movie more comedic, whilst making some creative updates the character and its universe. Well he certainly’s done the job smashingly well! Yep, the term ‘Hulk Smash’ would apply to this movie and all the scenes with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), both as Bruce Banner and the big green creature, are massively entertaining. Everyone seems to be having a blast making this and it shows. But just because it’s chock full of hilarious bits, it doesn’t mean there’s no plot here. The story actually holds up and there’s even some nice moments between Thor and Valkyrie that points to her past as Asgard’s defender. There’s a hint there might be something less-than-platonic between these two and you know what, I’d welcome it! It’s certainly more interesting than Thor and Natalie Portman’s Jane.

I’m glad that Marvel once again took a chance on an indie director (following the success of the Russo brothers with the Captain America movies) and Taika Waititi is one of recent filmmakers I discovered who I REALLY want to see making it big. I love that he pushed for more Indigenous representation in his films. Apparently he hired many Aboriginal crew members and the film was shot in Australia. There are quite a few in-jokes for Kiwis and Australians, like the Aboriginal flag colors and the spaceships named after types of Holden, Australian-made cars. My relative actually owned one of those when I was growing up in Indonesia!

SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read) I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but the plot has a bit of social commentary about how the White people conquered a lot of the Indigenous land. When they’re inside the Asgardian palace, Hela said something about the dark history of Asgard… how Odin used to conquer different planets and wanting to rule the universe, with her by her side. But then Odin gained a conscience and became a benevolent ruler, thus banishing Hela because she didn’t share his vision. She said ‘where do you think we got all of this gold from?’ When I heard that, it sounded like a commentary about colonial privilege, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being the ‘stolen generation’ and white Australians living on someone else’s land. Even the Grandmaster’s line ‘slaves is such a harsh word, I prefer “prisoners with benefits”’ sounds like a sarcastic jab against people calling an awful thing differently as if that would actually lessen its awfulness.

Well, I’m curious if people notice those things or not. One thing for sure, this has become one of my all time favorite movie, not just my favorite Marvel movie. The actions scenes are definitely fun to watch. There are bombastic fight scenes but they don’t feel overlong or overdone like in some other superhero movies. There’s even an entertaining spaceship chase and of course the Thor vs Hulk battle promised in the trailer is still epic and fun! That ‘friend from work’ line is one of the many quotable quips from Taika Waititi’s movies I’d use again and again.

You would think it’d be tough to live up to the super fun trailer w/the rousing Led Zepellin’s Immigrant Song, but the movie manages to do just that… and then some! So yeah, Thor doesn’t just get a spunky new haircut but Taika gives him a whole new attitude and refreshing new take on his franchise. The funniest bits in the trailer is still hilarious in the movie, there’s so much joy and laughter in the whole theater. Like a joyful, thrilling amusement park ride, you can’t wait to get on it again as soon as it’s over!


Well, what did you think of ‘THOR: RAGNAROK’? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

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Five for the Fifth: JUNE 2016 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. Summer blockbuster is officially here folks! Some of the June screenings I’m going to be seeing are Finding Dory, Legend of Tarzan, Now You See Me 2, etc.

To be honest with you, I’m not super excited about any of the June releases. So I’m setting my sights on a movie that won’t even be here until March 2017, that is the live-action version of Beauty & The Beast!

Apparently the teaser trailer broke the viewing record, and beats even the latest Star Wars (91.8 million times in its first 24 hours compared to 88 million times for The Force Awakens). I have to admit I was rather meh when it was first announced, but since I’m quite looking forward to it. But man, the main cast was spot on! Emma Watson looks perfect as Belle, as well as Dan Stevens with his baby blues as the Beast/Prince and Luke Evans as Gaston. Heck, Evans looked like the splitting image the animated version of Gaston it’s uncanny! I wish Jean Dujardin had been cast as the French Casanova candelabra Lumière instead of Ewan McGregor though.

Are you excited about this live-action remake of ‘Beauty & The Beast’? 

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2. Last week the rumor mill went into overdrive with this report that Daniel Craig reportedly turned down nearly $100mil to play Bond in two more films. No, I’m not going to ask who you’d want to replace Craig as until there is an actual formal announcement from Barbara Broccoli herself that he’s no longer playing Bond, every actor mentioned is just speculation and wishful thinking. I posted on Twitter who I’d love to see as Bond as I think the Yorkshireman all the requirements for a definitive cinema super spy in my book 😉

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One thing for sure, Craig will follow up his Bond role with a TV series called Purity, a dramatic thriller based on Jonathan Franzen’s novel of the same name. Per THRthe story centers on a young woman named Purity (who is known by the name of Pip) who, in search of answers about herself and her family, winds up interning in South America at the Sunlight Project, a group which deals with all the secrets of the world. It’s described as a story about youthful idealism, fidelity and murder. Like Bond movies, the story is also set in multiple locations, Berlin, Bolivia, New York, California, etc. Craig is to play Andreas, a German provocateur who crosses paths with Pip who sounds a lot like Julian Assange.

Premium Cable TV Showtime has ordered 20 episodes of it and production will begin next year. This project sounds pretty intriguing actually. I’m curious to see who else will join the cast, especially in the role of Pip.

What do you think of the premise of ‘Purity’ series?

3. For some reason I missed this news from a while ago that Sandra Bullock will be leading an all female cast of Ocean’s Eleven movie. According to The Playlist, director Gary Ross (The Hunger GamesSeabiscuit) came up with the idea and brought the idea to the original ‘Ocean’s’ franchise director Steven Soderbergh. I certainly welcome the idea, and it certainly could be fun. We’ll see if this might spurn all kinds of controversy the way the all-female Ghostbuster movie had been (frankly I think all those haters have no life nor an iota of imagination), but heck, I’ll so watch it! Well, there’s now reports that another Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett, might join the cast. Wahoo!!!!

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Who else would you like to see join the cast of this movie?
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4. Speaking of on-screen pairings, this question is inspired by the latest buddy cop action comedy The Nice Guys in which we see the unlikely pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. I haven’t seen it yet but lots of people praise the two actors’ on-screen chemistry. I guess it shouldn’t surprise us the fact that director Shane Black’s classic Lethal Weapon had one of the best on-screen pairings ever with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. I also like the pairing of Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Val Kilmer & Robert Downey Jr.

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There have been other great buddy cop duos, comedic or otherwise. Robert Downey Jr & Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes, Colin Farrell & Brendan Gleeson in In Bruges, and even the small screen pairing of Matthew McConnaughey & Woody Harrelson in True Detectives season 1 was an audience favorite.

I had asked this question six years ago and posted my dream picks of MALE on-screen duos. My absolute dream would be to see Timothy Dalton & Alan Rickman pairing, alas that’s never gonna happen now. In any case, right at the top of my head, I’d love to see the pairing of:

  • Sam Riley & Daniel Brühl (he’s actually played opposite Sam’s wife Alexandra Maria Lara in Rush)
  • Idris Elba & Christian Bale
  • Viggo Mortensen & Daniel Day Lewis

I could go on and on… boy it must be REALLY fun being a casting director!

So just for fun, which male on-screen duo would you like to see on either films or tv? 

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Eddie from Sidekick Reviews Blog & Jaccendo.com!

Movie reshoots are a standard practice. Recent examples are Star Wars: Rogue One and Suicide Squad which haven’t been released yet.

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Some reshoots mostly add extra footage like Lord of the Rings, some make significant changes to endings or even characters like turning Shredder in TMNT back into an Asian character. A lot of classic films like Blade Runner, Jaws, Back To The Future, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Apocalypse Now, etc. have undergone reshoots.

So which movie(s) do you think was made better or worse by major reshoots?


Well, that’s it for the JUNE edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

February Viewing Recap + What I’m looking forward to in March

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Well, one thing for sure, I’m REALLY glad award season is over. I’ve posted my thoughts on the Oscars and all, but to be honest with you, it kinda felt like a chore. I don’t even know if I want to do it next year, I might skip blogging about award season next year, that’ll surely be quite liberating.

What I REALLY want to do is to finally write about Sam Riley… I want to talk about just what a tremendous actor he is and review all his movies! He’s a huge part of my February viewing and that’s a VERY good thing! 😀

So here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

(in order of viewing)

Unfortunately I missed the press screening of Demolition w/ Jake Gyllenhaal but hopefully there’ll be another one later this month. But I skipped Gods of Egypt because there’s no way I’m watching that rubbish, seriously how in the world did that even get made?? Its director’s born in Egypt but he cast a Scot AND a Dane as Egyptian gods??! SMH. It’s a new low even for Gerry Butler!

TV series

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I only have two more episodes to go. I’ll do a review of season 1 when I’m done. We wanted to finish it before Daredevil season 2 is out on March 18!!

Rewatches

Yes, I can’t get enough of Sam Riley, can’t you tell? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the first 2016 movie I saw twice on the big screen and I’d easily go for a third if they’re still running in the cinemas! #sorrynotsorry

MOVIE OF THE MONTH

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There’s simply no other film that affected me more than this rock biopic on Joy Division’s frontman Ian Curtis. Sam Riley‘s performance is beyond mesmerizing… to say it’s a soulful performance is putting it mildly. It’s like he became the character and I felt like I was watching a documentary.

No blindspot for this month, but since I’ve had a huge blindspot on this amazingly talented actor, it more than made up for it. In fact, Control should’ve been on my Blindspot list to begin with!


Two screenings I look forward to in March

Batman vs Superman

The press screening’s been scheduled for 3/22 in IMAX. At this point, I just want want to be proven wrong about what my gut’s been about this movie. I just hope it won’t be a load of crap the way the trailers made it look. But hey, if anything, there’s Batfleck, who just might be the saving grace of the movie. Him and maybe Wonder Woman. I have to say though, this Jimmy Kimmel’s skit made me LOL. Hot dayum Henry Cavill is one beautiful man, too bad about his utter lack of charisma.

 

Knight of Cups

I’ll be seeing this on Wednesday and I can’t wait!! I know the reviews haven’t been stellar, and Terrence Malick’s films are definitely an acquired taste, with a cast featuring Christian Bale AND Cate Blanchett, I simply cannot resist!


Stay tuned for my spotlight post on Whiskey Tango Foxtrot & my interview w/ the author whose book is the inspiration for the Tina Fey movie.


Well that’s my recap of February. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Five for the Fifth: SEPTEMBER 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. Since this is Back to School week for many of you, or will be after Labor Day weekend, I figure I’ll borrow the question of this week’s Thursday Movie Picks topic. Since I didn’t participate, I figure I’d name three movie teachers who made an impression on me:

  • Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) – Dead Poets Society
  • Jean Brodie (Maggie Smith) – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris/Michael Gambon) – Harry Potter series

So what’s your favorite teacher(s) in movies?

2. September is a boon for film lovers as there are a plethora of film festivals going on. The big ones like TIFF, Venice, Telluride, etc. are going on this month, but this one you might not have heard of: The Deauville American Film Festival (Festival du cinéma américain de Deauville). It started on the day I was born, 1975, and took place in Deauville, the closest seaside resort to Paris in Northwestern France.

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I actually heard of this film fest thanks to my dahling Stanley Weber who’s a member of the The Révélation Jury this year. There are tons of my most-anticipated films premiering there as well: Knight of Cups, 99 Homes, Sicario, Everest, etc. I had to laugh at their picks of this year’s honorees though. I mean Michael Bay?? Orlando Bloom?? Seriously?? Though I have no problem that they’re honoring Keanu Reeves though.

What’s your most memorable film and/or moment at a film festival? Local or otherwise.

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3. FIRST LOOK of a couple of films I can’t wait to see that I’ve talked about off and on on this blog. First, we’ve got the trailer of the sci-fi romance comedy The Lobster starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw.

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

The trailer made me laugh so hard! The idea is absolutely bonkers which would make for an amusing comedy, so hopefully the funniest bits aren’t all in the trailer. I’m especially curious to see Weisz, Seydoux and Whishaw who I normally associate with serious films.

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Now, the Terrence Malick drama Knight of Cups that I’ve been waiting for over four years now is getting closer to be released. Well by close I mean within a year, we are talking about Malick after all. A new featurette is just released, including interviews with some of the cast, but no Christian Bale who’s the lead.

Rick (Bale) is a screenwriter living in LA tries to make sense of the strange events occurring around him.

In typical Malick fashion, the movie looks exquisitely-shot, again working with his regular DP, Emmanuel Lubezki. Per IMDb trivia, there was apparently no script and all of the scenes were improvised. Only Malick could get three Oscar winners to do his movie with no script, wow! So does that mean the film would not be eligible for a Best Screenplay award then? Not that I’m suggesting there’s ever a chance it would be nominated. I just think it must be quite an adventure working for this eccentric filmmaker, but hey, it’s got Bale AND Cate Blanchett so I’m still highly anticipating this one. Plus Bale looks so damn hot in this film, ehm 😛

So what are your thoughts on either one of these films?

Lucy_Desi4. Gotta have a casting news update on FFTF, especially when it concerns the incomparable miss Blanchett! Per Variety, she’s set to play the comedic icon Lucille Ball in a biopic that’s being produced by her two children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. Aaron Sorkin is in talks to pen the script, which will center on Ball’s 20-year marriage to Desi Arnaz. She eloped with the Cuban bandleader in 1940, and the two created the massively successful sitcom “I Love Lucy” — in which she won four Emmys — in 1951 through their Desilu Productions.

I think this is great casting as Blanchett can pretty much tackle any role. They haven’t cast the actor to play Desi yet but I’d LOVE to see Guatemalan-born Oscar Isaac in the role. I think the role should be filled by a Latin actor and I’d love to see Isaac do a comedic role. Plus I think he’d be smokin’ paired up with Blanchett. Both are massively talented actors, so please Hollywood, make it happen!

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Thoughts on Blanchett’s casting and who should play Desi?

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5. 
This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Margaret from Cinematic Corner!

Margaret was inspired by the fact that Mad Max: Fury Road finally won something and soon it’s gonna be Oscar season.

Are people going to forget all about the great movies we had in the first 9-10 months of the year? So before the Oscar season starts, I thought it would be fun if everyone shared their line up for Picture and Actor/Actress/Supporting Actor & Actress categories before the big Oscar baits start premiering.

So if the Oscars were to be handed out this month, which film and the four major acting awards would you pick to win?


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

Five for the Fifth: AUGUST 2015 Edition

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. Thank you thank you Netflix for adding more Stanley Weber‘s movies available to stream [happy dance] So this first question is inspired by my recent watch of  Sword of Vengeance over the weekend, which is a sword-and-sandals movie is set in 11th century England.
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Here’s the trailer:

Though it’s not really my genre, I actually enjoyed it more than I thought. Yes of course having the charismatic French actor in the lead naturally adds the enjoyment factor for me, but the cinematography is quite beautiful to look at despite the small budget. I’m also diggin’ the music, I liken it to John Wick if it were set in the Middle Ages. It’s a no-frill plot and not much dialog but for a violent vengeance flick, it’s pretty effective. This THR review states that the filmmaker’s influenced by Japanese samurai epics and the Italian spaghetti westerns, hence the protagonist is suitably taciturn.

So what’s your favorite vengeance movie?
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2. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Relativity Media, which up until recently was the third largest mini-major film studio in the world (per Wiki). It was founded in 2004 by Ryan Kanavaugh and was quite prolific for the past decade or so, co-financing movies like Pinneaple Express, Fast & Furious, The Social Network, The Bourne Legacy, Les Misérables, Oblivion, etc. Well, reportedly it’s filed chapter 11 bankruptcy, which THR said as one of the biggest bankruptcies in Hollywood history.

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Now, whilst two films from its slate are still on schedule to be released, a heist comedy Masterminds starring Zach Galifianakis and Owen Wilson, and the thriller Kidnap starring Halle Berry, there are quite a few movies that are now on limbo. Some of those are …

  • Jane Got a Gun, a Western starring Natalie Portman
  • Collide, the action-thriller starring Felicity Jones, Nicholas Hoult and Anthony Hopkins
  • The Tribes of Palos Verdes, the YA adaptation starring Jennifer Garner and Tye Sheridan

And it seems that The Crow reboot probably isn’t meant to be as it’s also one of films caught in Relativity’s fallout. They should just pull the plug on that once and for all!

I’m curious if any of you’ve been following the news about Relativity, and if so, what are your thoughts?

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3. No new trailer piqued my interest in the past few days. I couldn’t care less about Deadpool‘s trailer, I have no interest in watching that movie anyway.

This FIRST LOOK however, did caught my eye and I hadn’t even heard of it before. TRUTH is a political drama starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett. Well, the casting alone is awesome.
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Per Variety, the film is based on the Mary Mapes book Truth and Duty, and Blanchett plays Mapes, a CBS News journalist and Rather’s producer. It follows Mapes and Rather as they uncover allegations that George W. Bush may have been AWOL from the U.S. National Guard for over a year during the Vietnam War. Four documents were presented as authentic in a “60 Minutes” broadcast aired by CBS on Sept. 8, 2004, less than two months before the 2004 election, but it was later determined that CBS had failed to authenticate the documents. The ensuing scandal ruined Rather’s career — he stepped down six months later — and caused profound changes at CBS News. The network fired Mapes, several senior news executives were asked to resign, and CBS apologized to viewers.

It’s to be writer James Vanderbilt’s directorial debut also stars Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss and Dennis Quaid. Well, the only good film Vanderbilt’s written is Zodiac, so hopefully his directorial debut is a good one.

What’s your initial thoughts of this one?

4. Just saw this yesterday and I have to say I was geeking out so much even though I’m not even a Trekkie. But come on, who wouldn’t want to win this thing!!  Check out this Star Trek Beyond Walk-On Role Contest video…

I’ve watched the video repeatedly just for Idris Elba breaking into a dance (breakdance?) at the end… [swoooon]. Man, I’m drooling over this so much, I mean I don’t really care about the walk-on role, I just want to hang out with THIS cast on set all day!

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So did you/would you enter this contest? 

5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Adam from Consumed by Film:

I’ve recently been reading Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film as well as Mark Kermode’s Hatchet Job, the former about the history of cinema and the latter Kermode’s take on the future of film criticism.

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Do you have any favourite non-fiction movie-related books that you’ve spent countless hours peering over?


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

FlixChatter Review: Cinderella (2015)

CinderellaPosterGrowing up watching Disney fairy tale movies, I have to admit Cinderella wasn’t my favorite heroine. Over the years though, as there are more and more adaptations of this quintessential underdog story (more so than any other Disney “princesses” it seems), the more I appreciate the animated classic. Lately the cinematic trend is reinvention, giving a classic tale a new twist or perspective, such as Snow White & the Huntsman and Maleficent, and so naturally I thought we’d see the same thing with Cinderella. Well, it turns out that this film stayed true to its classic story, you could even say it paid tribute to the animated film, with some surprises thrown in. But by going the conventional route doesn’t mean it’s dull and boring, in fact the opposite is true. There’s something so lively and refreshing about Kenneth Branagh‘s vision that even some of its most sentimental moments aren’t without charm.

Being that it’s the origin story of Cinderella, the movie begins with young Ella whose blissful existence is cut short when her dotting mother suddenly fell ill. Before she passed away, she instilled in her daughter to ‘have courage and be kind,’ a life motto young Ella takes to heart. And so, as life kept coming at her with one terrible blow after another, especially after the arrival of her stepmother and two step-sisters, Ella never gives up hope. I was skeptical at first about Lily James‘ casting in the titular role, but I quickly warmed up to her. There’s a pleasant countenance about her that makes her believable as a benevolent and sweet-tempered girl equipped with inner strength to face the cruelty inflicted upon her by her new *family.* Instead of running away from her problems, she choose to endure.

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Ella’s no damsel in distress either. I love how the sweet and swoon-worthy meet-up with the dashing Prince, who refers to himself as Kit to hide his true identity, reveals her independent spirit. “Just because it’s done doesn’t mean it’s what should be done,” she tells Kit in protest of him hunting deer for sport. The prince was immediately smitten by her, perhaps he’s also impressed that she rides her horse without a saddle! Richard Madden effortlessly steals Ella’s heart, and every maiden in the audience, with his impossible good looks and almost indecent sex appeal. As if the filmmakers weren’t sure of that, they had to outfit him in those distractingly tight white pants! I don’t know why they need to digitally enhanced his blue eyes though, I mean he’s already hunky enough with his eyes the way God made ’em!

Cinderella_PrinceCharming cinderella_prince_firstmeetIn any case, I like that he fell for her whilst Ella’s still dressed as a maid, though I actually think she’s the most attractive this way, so fresh-faced and full of life. Unlike the animated version, the Prince also gets a back-story here, and the father/son relationship depiction is quite moving. The Ella-Kit meet-up is my favorite scene of the entire movie! Yes, more so than the entire ball scene or even the transformation scene. In fact, I’m not too fond of Cinderella’s look for the ball — her hair is huge, the ball gown is huge, it’s just overwhelming. Overall there’s more chemistry between her and the Prince in that brief meet-up.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be Cinderella without the wicked stepmother and Cate Blanchett is an absolute delight to watch in the role. Looking as stunning and regal as ever, the great Cate was scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness. The Aussie thespian is obviously having fun with the role, there’s a twinkle in her eye and sense of mischief as she relish in being bad.

Holliday Granger and Sophie McShera are ok as the two vile stepsisters, they’re a bit over the top at times, yet not nearly as memorable as Cate was even when she was standing still. It’s fun seeing Helena Bonham Carter being the comic relief as the fairy godmother and the film’s narrator. Derek Jacobi adds Shakespearean gravitas as the Prince’s ailing father, whilst Ben Chaplin is affecting as Cinderella’s doting father. In attempt to making the cast a little more diverse, Branagh cast Nonso Anozie as Captain (who’s in his previous movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and the guests at the ball are racially-diverse.

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The production design is really something to behold. This is easily one of the best looking movie I’ve seen in a while, and I’m not just talking about the beautiful cast. The costume design by Sandy Powell is simply amazing, especially Cate’s jewel-toned, richly-embroidered dresses, blending 1940s with 19th century style. Everyone’s talking about Cinderella’s gorgeous ball dress – and Lily James’ teeny-tiny waist – but I think Cate’s outfits are equally breathtaking to look at. Oh and those glass slippers… well, that’s fairy tale for ya, the funniest bit was when the fairy godmother say they’d be comfortable, ha! Apparently they’re made of real Swarovski crystals fit only for mannequins. So the scene of Cinderella having those on is made possible by the magic of CGI.

Chris Weitz‘s script might seem simple and conventional, but it’s quite challenging to somehow make the story fresh without making it unnecessarily dark or edgy just for the sake of it. I’ve been a longtime fan of Patrick Doyle‘s gorgeous music and Branagh’s longtime collaborator once again delivered! The music fits the genre perfectly, it has that elegant, sweepingly lush feel to it, but also with a bit of whimsy.

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But the biggest kudos has to be given to Kenneth Branagh and his impeccable directing style. He somehow made something *old* feels new again. I think it starts with his vision for the main characters, with an empowered Cinderella who, despite being mistreated, remains true to her moral principles. In this article, “[Branagh] likened it to the nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi.” Ok so that might’ve been a bit of a stretch, but I get the point. The love story feels richer and more emotionally involving because you believe there’s more than just the obvious physical attraction. Branagh’s quoted in the article as saying, “When you watch this film, you see Cinderella is such an amazing woman. My biggest thing was how do I create a man that is worthy of her?” I came away from the movie thinking that Cinderella rescues the Prince just as much as he rescues her.

I enjoyed this movie so much I just might see it again on the big screen as it’s such a visual treat. But I wouldn’t say it’s style over substance, there’s a nice balance of drama, humor, and even action to please the young and the young-at-heart. Though the movie is infused with such an infectious sense of optimism with its bright, lush colors and lavish set pieces, there are genuine poignant moments to keep it grounded. The scene when Ella receives news of her father’s sudden passing is one of those scenes that made me tear up.

If you’re on the fence about this one, I’d say give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised. I think I’d get the Blu-ray as I could see myself enjoying this for years to come.

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Have you seen Cinderella? Well, did you like it more or less than I did?

St Patrick’s Day Special: Five memorable scenes set in beautiful Ireland

HappyStPatricksDayAre you wearing green today? Today we’re all Irish, right? 😉 I celebrated last year’s St Paddy’s Day by paying tribute to some of the best Irish actors working in Hollywood today. Today I thought I’d set my eyes on some gorgeous Irish sceneries in movies, which is always one of the best things about the film itself. Ireland is one of those places I haven’t got the good fortune to visit, hopefully one day in the near future I could spend hours walking in those wonderfully lush hills. For now I guess I’d just admire the scenery on screen.

CircleOfFriends

I saw this years ago and I’ve always thought of it fondly. Set in 1950s Ireland, Minnie Driver starred in this coming of age story on an Irish university student, Benny Hogan and her circle of friends, Nan and Eve. Chris O’Donnell is quite dreamy as the handsome lad Benny’s in love with. The scene of their first kiss is wonderfully moving and sweet, you can’t help but root for the two to be together. I can’t find the exact scene but it’s in this fan-made vid below. The scenery of Ireland countryside is absolutely gorgeous, the film is set on location in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

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PSILoveYou

When I visit Ireland one day, I just might have to go on a P.S. I Love You tour. Yep it does exist! Wicklow National Park is soooo gorgeous, I LOVE the scene when Gerry & Holly first met as she was trying to get the the park she’s already on, ahah. The scenery is so picturesque it’d distract you from Gerry Butler‘s hilarious Irish accent, ha!


LeapYearI have to admit that the Irish scenery – and the beauty that is Matthew Goode – is what kept me from turning off this mawkish drivel.

Goode_LeapYearThe premise alone should put off anyone, even the most loyal rom-rom fans, I mean a girl who believes it’s tradition to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day?? [facepalm] And of course she’s gonna end up with the gorgeous Irish dreamboat 😉 But ok, let’s focus on the positive, one of which is the scenery really that makes the movie so worth watching, especially the scene at Ballycarbery Castle. 

Ondine

Ok so I’ve actually never finished watching this one, though it’s been on my Netflix queue for ages. It sounds like another one of those films to see just for the scenery and atmospheric, moody harbor in County Cork. Colin Farrell is a convincing romantic hero and here he plays an Irish fisherman who discovers a woman in his fishing net whom his daughter believes to be some mythical creature. The film is like a love letter to his homeland from Irish director Neil Jordan.

VeronicaGuerin

This film takes place mostly in Dublin and we get to see the less glamorous side of the Irish capital. In fact, the gritty cinematography shows the dingy streets and slums of the city as the late Irish reporter Veronica Guerin took on a dangerous cause of exposing Dublin’s powerful crime barons and drug lords in the mid 90s. It’s one of Joel Schumacher‘s better works, featuring the great Cate Blanchett in yet another chameleonic role. Being shot on location definitely adds much realism to the gripping and tragic story.


The Secret of the Kells

Even in animated form, Ireland is absolutely breathtaking to look at. This mythical, ethereal film would be a great one to watch on St. Paddy’s Day, given that the story has such deep Irish roots. Per Wiki, the story is based on the story of the origin of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament located in Dublin, Ireland. It also draws upon Celtic mythology. Apparently the filmmaker Tomm Moore and the artists who drew the film were inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s works, so they decided to do something similar to Studio Ghibli’s films but with Irish art. There are too many great scenes to mention, basically the entire film is absolutely gorgeous.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone! So what’s your favorite film(s) set in Ireland?

Thursday Movie Picks #35: Live Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

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

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. Today the theme is… 

Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

Well, I’ve been sick the past few days and I’ve actually written a much longer post for this but for some reason WordPress did NOT save my draft so I lost it all 😦

Ever After (1998)

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A reimagining of the classic Cinderella story – with Leonardo da Vinci as the fairy god-father

What if Cinderella were real? That’s the main premise here, showing the Brothers Grimm talking to a Grand Dame telling them the story of Danielle de Barbarac and showing them her glass slippers. I’ve always had a fondness for this movie despite Drew Barrymore‘s laughable *British* accent. But hey, she more than makes up for it w/ her charm. She has a lovely chemistry w/ Dougray Scott as the dashing Prince Henry. I like that Danielle is no Damsel in Distress, but when she absolutely needed help, there’s Leonardo da Vinci to the rescue! Anjelica Huston is fun to watch as the wicked stepmother, and

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

As I mentioned above, I’ve already written a much longer stuff here but lost it in the WP snafu. This is definitely NOT a feel-good fairy tale, as it’s mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Part terror, part wonder, Guillermo Del Toro has crafted a spellbinding fable with amazing set pieces and special effects. But the story is as rich and intriguing as the visuals. As the young protagonist, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) has that wide-eyed innocence that serves as a stark contrast to the brutal world she’s trying to escape from. There’s something so wonderfully organic and mystical about this film, though the unflinching brutality warrants its R rating. There are plenty of weird and downright freaky creatures, the faun and pale man (played by Doug Jones) are key characters here, but the scariest character is no doubt Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Perhaps one of the messages is that the real *monster* of real life actually look like you and I.

Cinderella (2015)

Cinderella2015

When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger in the woods.

Yes, another Cinderella story, but as far as live-action adaptation is concerned, this could be a new favorite. I’m borrowing from Rotten Tomatoes‘ critics consensus here: “Refreshingly traditional in a revisionist era, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella proves Disney hasn’t lost any of its old-fashioned magic.” Precisely. I think Disney made the right call in NOT making this another reimagining of a classic story, thought there are some subtle *twists* about the main characters that still fit nicely into the story. It’s a gorgeous and lush production, on that front alone makes this a wonderful movie to see on the big screen. Lily James and Richard Madden fit their roles as Cinderella & Prince Charming as perfectly as those Swarovski glass slippers fit our heroine’s nimble feet. But the inspired casting is Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother, scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness.


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

Music Break: Disney’s Animated Classic CINDERELLA (1950)

CinderellaPrince_posterOne of the screenings I’ll be going to later this week is the live-action adaptation of Cinderella. Now, I mentioned in this post that having grown up watching all those Disney Princess movies, naturally I’m curious to check it out.

I know what you’re thinking. Do we have to have a live action version of this? Probably not, but whether we like it or not, that’s the trend we have here. We’ve seen a live-action reimagining of Snow White, so you know other Princesses would soon follow. I have a feeling I’d enjoy this one, especially with Kenneth Branagh directing, Helena Bonham Carter as fairy godmother and Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother, not to mention the eye candy factor with the dashing Glaswegian Richard Madden as Prince Charming. You know I have a thing for the Scots 😉

I doubt that it’d ever replace the animated classic as my favorite though, so in light of the new movie, I thought I’d highlight the wonderful music by Paul J. Smith and Oliver Wallace. Even sixty five years after its release, this quintessential classic fairy tale still retains its magical charm. To this day I still fondly remember the songs and would often find myself humming to them, even though it’s been years since I saw the movie.

CinderellaDancing

Now I’m not exactly fond of this silly mice voice singing, but this scene is just so darn cute and heartwarming. It’s so quintessentially Disney but I can’t help being swept away by Cinderelly’s adorable creature friends 😉

Now here’s the new Cinderella‘s trailer music by Nick Murray which is quite pleasing to the ear, but I can’t wait to hear the official soundtrack by Branagh’s longtime collaborator Patrick Doyle. I LOVE Doyle’s work as he made one of my favorite soundtrack ever, Sense & Sensibility.

https://soundcloud.com/switchtrailermusic/cinderella-trailer-music-aeon-nick-murray-ft-juliet-lyons


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. Have you seen this Disney classic?

Trailer Spotlight: Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight of Cups’ starring Christian Bale

I don’t usually post a trailer spotlight so early in the week, but I’ve been waiting for this movie since back in 2011! Knight of Cups was also on my most-anticipated films of 2013, alas it’s Terrence Malick we’re talking about here. But looks like we WILL see this one in 2015 as apparently the film will now open at Berlinale, Berlin Film Festival, next February.

I was already sold on this film when they cast Christian Bale and the incomparable Cate Blanchett. There’s something about Bale’s look in this film that really appeals to me. At the time, all that’s known about the premise is that it’s the story of a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess. Check out the trailer:


Well, per Deadline we’ve not got the full synopsis:

“Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl and fell into a deep sleep. Rick’s father used to read this story to him as a boy. The road to the East stretches out before him. Will he set forth?”

I must say I’m quite mesmerized by the trailer. But then again, Malick’s films are always chock full of gorgeous, poetic and evocative imagery. He’s working with his longtime cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki again so we can expect another visual spectacle.

Somehow though, this one doesn’t seem as cryptic as his previous films. The story seems to be a cautionary tale or even just a commentary about the repercussion of hedonistic lifestyle.

“You don’t want love… you want to love… experience.”

“You have love in you… I know it.” 

Of course with Malick, he tends to communicate via metaphors and such, so who really knows how accessible and comprehensible this film is.

With the bass-heavy paired with all kinds of debauchery and decadence in the first half, and later with a more soul-stirring classical style, it’s such a beautifully-cut trailer that I hope the film itself will live up to. As I’m watching it, it made me think that Malick should perhaps do a short film. I think if you take out all the reflective long shots, this story could potentially be told under 20 min. Heck, given his penchant for leaving so much stuff in the cutting room floor, you’d think short films would be his forte.

The cast is pretty eclectic, though some of them are barely featured in the trailer. For sure we’ve got Natalie PortmanJason Clarke and I hear Antonio Banderas‘ voice on there. The rest: Brian Dennehy, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Imogen Poots, Armin Mueller-Stahl and apparently, the voice of Ben Kingsley.

I’ve seen four of Malick’s films so far and I actually like all of them to varying degrees. Even though I didn’t quite comprehend Tree of Life, there are still a lot to like about it and I appreciate Malick’s poetic style. That reminds me, I should rent To The Wonder at some point. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m anticipating this now, even more so than before.


What do you think of this trailer?