FlixChatter Review: The 15:17 To Paris (2018)

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Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Dorothy Blyskal
Running Time: 1h 34min

Review by: Vitali Gueron

Clint Eastwood‘s latest movie The 15:17 to Paris takes us back to August 21, 2015, what was a warm late afternoon/evening ride aboard a high speed train to Paris, France. Three young American friends decided to meet each other in Europe and visit some of the marvelous cities in Italy, Holland and France. While on the train to Paris, they encountered a real life emergency situation when a gun-carrying terrorist starts walking the aisles of the train with the intent to indiscriminately start shooting the unsuspecting train passengers, in an attempt to create a mass casualty event.

One of the three Americans, U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, who plays himself in the film, jumps to his feet and springs into action in an attempt to subdue the terrorist. His friends Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler (who also play themselves here) are there to assist Spencer before other passengers jump to aide the three Americans. I think the real life heroes were great at portraying their real life story and hope they have successful careers, in acting or otherwise. It was a unique thing for them to play themselves in the movie and I think it added to the experience.

For their efforts to subdue the terrorist and save the lives of the passengers on board the train, Spencer, Alek and Anthony were recognized as heroes of the French Republic for their gallantry and bravery. They were awarded the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his act of courage, by French president Francois Holland and the award ceremony is the final scene in the movie.

About two thirds of the movie focuses on Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler growing up in in the same town, attending the same school and how they’re often sent to the principal’s office for disciplinary action. They are shown to bond over their interest in guns, and make plans to serve in the military when they grow up. Later, they are shown to work part-time at a local smoothie shop, playing video games and making plans to lose weight. Unfortunately these scenes are not very interesting and I believe that director Clint Eastwood does a disservice to his viewers by showing them to us, as they are mostly-irrelevant portion of the American heroes’ lives.

By the time the events of what is now known as the ‘2015 Thalys train attack’ roll around, the viewers have been subjected to around an hour’s worth of pointless and dare-I-say-boring parts of the three protagonists’ lives. For me, this was precious waste of time that could have been used to shed light on what was happening on a larger scale in the world, and how this one event played into an overall image of bravery, resilience and heart. For this reason, I cannot recommend this movie and think its a big stumble for the usually reliable director.


Have you seen ‘The 15:17 To Paris’? Well, what did you think? 

Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) + SULLY (2016)

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How was your weekend everyone? It’s been a busy one for me, but a productive one. I actually did go to the movies, which is rare actually for me as I usually go to press screenings on week nights. But after dinner my hubby and I felt like checking out the new AMC theaters with the new reclining seats, which are indeed awesome! SULLY was the only one we’re interested in that is less than 2 hrs long, though it felt a bit eerie watching a plane crash scene in NYC on the weekend of 9/11.

In any case, on Friday night, we also rented a movie we’ve been curious about for some time…

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

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The story of the life and academic career of the pioneer Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his friendship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy.

I have to say that being terrible at math, I’m not that familiar w/ the subject of this biopic. But Of course, just checking on Wikipedia, he’s an extraordinary man whose math theories are still being used today.

Stories about geniuses are popular biopic subjects in Hollywood, i.e. A Beautiful Mind, The Imitation Game, etc. The film traced his humble beginning in Madras, India and how he ended up at Trinity College, Cambridge in the 1910s. Dev Patel bears no resemblance to the real Ramanujan, but he seems to be the only actor of Indian descent working the British film industry could think of to cast. He’s a likable actor, and I think he’s quite believable in the role.

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Jeremy Irons plays G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan’s mentor who invited him to Cambridge to the first place. The film began with Hardy’s voice over saying how much he owed Ramanujan, which suggests there’s a deep friendship between the two. The rapport between the two characters is a bit of a slow built. The main friction between the two is that Hardy refuses to publish Ramanujan’s theories without proofs, whilst Ramanujan’s convinced all his theories add up. There’s also the fact that Hardy didn’t seem sensitive enough to the challenges Ramanujan faces at Cambridge, including his sense of alienation the fact that he’s an Indian studying amongst British intellectual elites.

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As far as biopics go, this one is pretty straight forward. Though the subject matter deals with theorems and formulas, I wish the film is less um, formulaic. The film could’ve been really engrossing under a skilled/experienced filmmaker, but this is director Matt Brown‘s sophomore work, so overall it’s pretty dry. It’s an intriguing journey about a brilliant person, but yet I just wasn’t as involved or moved by his story as I expected. The performances are pretty good, though I’ve seen more impressive work from everyone involved, including Toby Jones as J.E. Littlewood, one of Ramanujan’s advisers. Stephen Fry barely made a dent though as he only appeared briefly in the film.

I do appreciate the spirituality aspect of the protagonist who’s a devout Hindu. Contrast that with Hardy who’s a professed atheist, there’s a few interesting banters between them. Ramanujan said at one point that “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” He still prayed regularly when he’s at Cambridge, so faith certainly played a big part in his life. The film also showed his selfless nature that he hid his illness from his friend. The fact that the university was being used as a hospital during World War I, he also felt that his condition just wasn’t bad enough as the soldiers that he deserved care.

I suppose the film is still worth a look if you’re curious about Ramanujan’s story. Though it wasn’t a great film, I’m still glad I saw it and the protagonist no doubt has a story worth telling.

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SULLY (2016)

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The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.

The last Clint Eastwood-directed film I saw was Invictus which was back in 2009. It also happens to be the shortest film he has directed at 96 minutes, which is the reason we picked this one when my hubby and I was deciding on which new release movie to see on Saturday night.

It really is quite a feat that a film where the ending is well-known, given that it happened only seven years ago, still manages to be quite riveting. Of course Eastwood got the best man for the job, there’s practically no other actor of his stature who’s as skilled AND as likable as Tom Hanks. He’s the perfect actor to play the quiet hero whose selfless and humble traits are something to aspire to. I also think Aaron Eckhart is pretty good here, though I wish Eastwood had given someone as talented as Anna Gunn more to do.

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I didn’t see this movie in IMAX but it was filmed with IMAX cameras so I bet it looked even more spectacular on screen. The plane landing scene on the Hudson river is as suspenseful as it is stunning to watch. Kudos to Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki for keeping SULLY afloat when it could’ve easily been a tedious based-on-a-true-event types of movie. Just remember this is a film, not a documentary. There’s likely a great deal of creative license taken in the way the NTSB investigations played out.

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So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

FlixChatter Review: American Sniper (2014)

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The last time Clint Eastwood tackled a war story he made Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima back to back. The former I thought was a good film but contained too many clichés, while the latter I thought was one of the best war films ever made. I think his latest picture sort of fall in between his last two war films.

Based on the book and life of the late Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US history. The story begins with a flashback of Kyle and young brother being raised by a tough and religious father. He was raised as the typical all American boy – tough, a patriot and never give up. Years later he’s now a grown man and played by the buffed-up Bradley Cooper. He and his brother are still close but his life is not what you call a success. After seeing an American embassy building got blown up on the news in Africa, he decided to wants to fight and protect his country from terrorists. He went down to the local army recruiting office and told the recruiter he wanted to enlist. Since he’s already 30 years old and in pretty good shape, the recruiter suggested he should enlist in the Navy Seals unit. We then got to see a montage of him training with the other Seals recruits.

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Later he meets his future wife Taya (the unrecognizable Sienna Miller) at a bar. They hit it off and later got married. On their wedding day, Kyle’s Seals unit got a call to head over to Middle East. The whole movie was about Kyle’s life on the battlefield and how it affects his personal life once he’s back to the States with his wife and children. The story was told in two tiers, one you see Kyle and his men battled the enemies in the Middle East and the other shows his normal life in the States when he’s back from one of his tours.

I’m not the biggest fan of Bradley Cooper, ever since I saw him in The Hangover movies, I could never see him as anything but a frat boy type. However, he gave quite a strong performance here and displayed so many emotions that I didn’t know he could do. Kyle’s a man who wants to be strong for his family and comrades, but deep down you know he’s a troubled person. He keeps all of his emotions inside and refuses to talk about what he saw and done while in the battlefields. He’s a patriot and won’t question his superiors for the orders they gave him, but when some of his comrades were killed, he may have some doubts about the war itself. Since Kyle is the main character, Cooper appeared in pretty much 99% of the film.

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Unfortunately I wish Eastwood had cast a better actress for female lead, Sienna Miller changed her appearance make herself look more like a normal person but she’s still can’t act. Some of the dramatic scenes with her and Cooper were kind of cringe-worthy. The rest of the cast didn’t really make much of an impression on me because many of them only appeared briefly in the film.

Eastwood has always been a generic director to me but in a good way. What I mean by that was that he never tried to include any trick shots or weir filters in his films and best of all never go for the popular trends in movies. I was afraid he’s going to shoot the battle scenes in those annoying shaky cam and fast editing shots but thankfully he held the cameras steady and we can what’s going on during the action scenes. In fact, he staged some quite intense and exciting battle sequences. He and his editors, Gary Roach and Joel Cox, kept the pace moving quite smoothly. They never linger on scenes that could’ve dragged on. Also, for a war picture I thought it’s going to be quite gory but they didn’t show that much of the gore.

I’ve never read the book that the film was based on and knew only a little bit about the real Chris Kyle so I don’t know how accurate this film was to his life. Jason Hall wrote the screenplay and I thought it’s weird that he actually included some “villains” in the story. In fact, for most of the movie I thought I was watching a movie based on one of Tom Clancy’s novels instead of a real person and events. Since I’ve never read the book, I don’t know if the antagonists were real or were just made up for dramatic purposes.

With a good performance by Cooper and solid direction by Eastwood, I thought this was a good action thriller, but not a great war picture. Again, the inclusion of the villains took me right out of the reality of the story and I thought I was watching something Tom Clancy would write. But the movie did have some great battle sequences and some very intense dramas, I won’t mention it here but it’s definitely not a movie to bring your young children along.

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Have you seen this movie? What did you think?

Guest Post – Jersey Boys: The musical or the movie?

This review is courtesy of guest blogger Sarah Johnson who mainly contributes reviews for the Twin Cities Film Fest.

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I love it when books or musicals I like become movies because it allows me to enjoy the same story again and pick up subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences in different mediums. “Jersey Boys,” the new movie directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It is based on the phenomenally successful Broadway musical which won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical. I have seen and enjoyed both the musical and movie for the same reason – everyone has heard the famous songs (“Big Girls Don’t Cry, “Oh What a Night,” “Sherry”) but the story behind the music is so well-told by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who did both the book for the musical and the screenplay for the movie, that it was just a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.

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The main difference between the musical and the movie is the beginning – about the first 20 minutes of the movie are devoted to Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) dragging Frankie Castelluccio (later Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young) along to get into trouble in their blue collar Jersey neighborhood. In this way I felt like the musical was stronger because it introduces Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) earlier and that’s when their story really begins. For people who have seen the musical, the rest of the movie is the same as the musical and includes all of the famous lines that I found myself looking forward to in the movie. I don’t want to give too many of them away if you haven’t seen either version but there is one when a young Bob Gaudio meets flamboyant producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) and he says, “I remember thinking there was something a little off about this guy. But this was 1959, back when people thought Liberace was just…theatrical.” Both iterations also feature actors breaking the “fourth wall” to talk to the audience.

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John Lloyd Young (second from left) in the Broadway version of ‘Jersey Boys’

The cast is led by the superb John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in the Broadway version. After seeing the movie, I know why. I don’t know if I can objectively assess Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio since I am still infatuated with Andrew Rannells’ portrayal of Bob Gaudio when I saw the musical at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in 2008. I thought Michael Lomenda gave an unexpectedly strong performance as Nick Massi, the group’s bass and self-proclaimed “Ringo” of the quartet. When he is stopped by local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (played by Christopher Walken being…Christopher Walken) while trying to leave the group amid money issues and personal tensions, he proclaims, “With all due respect Mr. DeCarlo, I’d like to see you sell 100 million records by the time you’re 30 and see how you handle it.” Neither the movie nor the musical gloss over the price these guys paid for fame. Frankie Valli was an absentee father whose golden voice couldn’t stop the fact that his daughter died of a drug overdose in 1980. And neither version is a show for kids – there is a large amount of foul language throughout the show.

Both the movie and the musical end on a high note with a montage of the group’s famous songs. Although Frankie Valli is now in his 80’s, he was at the State Theatre in Minneapolis as recently as 2012. (At the end of the movie in his turn to address the audience, he says “I’m like the Energizer bunny, I just keep going and going and going…”) One thing to note about this show is that while Broadway musicals generally aren’t known for being a “guy thing,” this is a notable exception. Both my dad and uncle have seen the stage version and still talk about how enjoyable it was. There are several live versions on the road now (including one coming to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in April 2015) to compliment the movie, allowing anyone to enjoy this nostalgic, tune-filled story.

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What do you think of Jersey Boys? Have you seen both the film and/or the Broadway play?

Musings on actors-turned-directors… who are your favorites?

Seems like every other week there’s news that another actor is trying their hand at directing. Just this past month alone, I read that James Franco is supposedly directing a Lindsay Lohan biopic (??) and Philip Seymour Hoffman seems ready to be back in the director’s chair (after Jack Goes Boating) with a Depression-era ghost story Ezekiel Moss. Dustin Hoffman—unrelated to Philip by the way, in case you’re wondering—just completed his first film Quartet, as I talked about in the TCFF lineup post.

This trend is hardly new though, after all as far back as Charlie Chaplin and Laurence Olivier, many thespians have done work behind the camera, and some have become quite successful at it. I haven’t done my top ten list yet, I might do another collaborative effort with my pal Ted at some point, but I think Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Mel Gibson, Woody Allen and Ben Affleck would probably make my list. Affleck seems to flourish under his own direction, as he seems better in front of the camera when he’s also behind the camera, case in point: The Town and the upcoming ARGO which is getting rave reviews. In the case of Allen though, I much prefer that he stays behind the camera as I don’t like his neurotic style as an actor.

Why Do So Many Actors Want to Become Directors?

Do they just like the idea of being a multi-hyphenated artist?? I’m sure there’s a certain degree of pride that comes with being a double or triple threat (if they also write their own script) in the industry. But I’d think that for most, it’s about extending one’s creativity in the film-making business. Generally speaking, directors usually have the most creative control in making a film, though of course the studio often has a lot of input that often change the direction of the final piece. Some top actors might have a close connection with the director they’re working with, offering a lot of creative input to the film, but perhaps for some, that’s not enough.

Not every actor-turned-director is created equal obviously, but I’d think that seasoned actors have the filming experience behind them to help get a compelling performance out of fellow actors. They know what it’s like being in front of the lens, what the actors might be feeling, the challenges of getting a certain emotion across, etc. better than those who have never acted before. Perhaps it’s the ’empathy’ factor is what makes them become successful directors, and some actor have become more well-known as directors than actors (Allen, Howard, Reiner), though people like Eastwood have the talents to juggle both worlds equally.

Well, now I’d like to turn things over to you and ask you to vote your favorite actors-turned-directors. Cast your vote below!


Remember, you can pick up to three. Feel free to share your top five or top 10 in the comments, and tell me which movie(s) of theirs are your favorites.

The Flix List: Top Ten Favorite Seasoned Actors

In an industry seemingly obsessed with youth, the world of cinema is actually quite forgiving to those suffering from the inevitable phenomenon called aging. I mean, compared to another lucrative career such as sports, where athletes are forced to retire well before they reach ‘middle aged’ period, there are plenty of opportunities for actors not only to survive in the business but continue to thrive despite their age. In fact, a select few are akin to fine wine… they just get even better with age. Not just in their looks mind you (though indeed some still look smashing in their 60s), but professionally, they’re still relevant and consistently churn out compelling performances. These thespians have the dignity to always do their best, never appear as if they’re ‘phoning it in’ just because they can.

I still think there ought to be far more interesting roles for older actors though, and not just those relegated to supporting categories. There’s a market for it obviously, look at the success for RED and Gran Torino, whose leading cast are all way past AARP eligible age. I for one would love to see more love stories in the vein of Last Chance Harvey than something like oh, I dunno, Something Borrowed.

It’s really tough to whittle it down to just ten as I generally like older actors than the those below 25, my criteria for picking these ten are that they are all over 60 years of age, they’ve done quite a few roles that have become my all-time favorites and they’re still working in the business today (hence my exclusion of Sean Connery, whom I like but unfortunately he’s already retired from acting).

So anyway, here they are in alphabetical order:

1. Michael Caine, 78

It’s Sir Michael to us, folks. The tall, bespectacled English gent is more than just a screen legend, he’s practically an pop culture icon. His distinctive manner of speaking is a popular subject used by impressionists and mimics, but he’s such a good sport about the whole thing which makes me like him more. He’s got over one hundred movies and TV works under his belt, with no signs of slowing down (he’s got four upcoming movies in the next couple of years, five if you’re counting voice work for Cars 2).

Top 3 Fave Michael Caine roles: Alfred in Chris Nolan’s Batman flicks, Cutter in The Prestige, Jasper in Children of Men

2. Timothy Dalton, 65

It would be unthinkable for me to have this kind of list and not include Dalton. Whoever wrote his IMDb page is spot on… “At a consistently lean 6′ 2″, green-eyed Timothy Dalton may very well be one of the last of the dying breed of swashbuckling, classically trained Shakespearean actors…” He’s got the looks, talent, and not to mention that iconic silky, throaty voice.

Sure he may not be the most prolific in his later years, but the dashing Welshman has done so many iconic roles in his career: Bond, Rochester, Julius Caesar, even Rhett Butler in the ill-advised Gone with the Wind follow-up Scarlett. His Bond and Jane Eyre’s Rochester renditions are my absolute favorite from each of the franchise, but his bad boy roles are also memorable: Flash Gordon‘s Prince Barin, Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer and Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz. With his recent stint in NBC’s Chuck and The Tourist, it proves that he’s still got it. I only hope he’d get a leading role in the future worthy of his charisma and talent!

Top 3 Fave Timothy Dalton roles: Rochester in 1983 BBC Jane Eyre miniseries, Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer, Eddie Myers in Framed.
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3. Judi Dench, 77

The grand Dame has sheer screen presence despite her 5’1″ frame that she often plays strong female characters. I first saw her as M in Goldeneye, the first female portraying the 007 character. I love her tough-as-nails performance… who told Bond straight on that he’s a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur.’ Oh and this quote from Tomorrow Never Dies has got to be my favorite from M in all of the Bond movies:
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Admiral Roebuck: With all due respect M, sometimes I don’t think you have the balls for this job.”
M: “Perhaps. But the advantage is that I don’t have to think with them all the time.”

She is of course equally compelling in period dramas, i.e. as Queen Victoria in her Oscar-nominated turn in Mrs. Brown, and who else could nab an Oscar for being on screen for merely 8 minutes!

Top 3 Fave Judi Dench roles: Queen Victoria in Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, M in Bond movies, Eleanor in A Room with a View.
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4. Clint Eastwood, 80

There’s no stopping Mr. Eastwood, who despite hitting the big 8-0, there’s no sign of slowing down! He’s got one of the most varied and rich career of any actor that seem to transcend generations. Having been famous for his bad ass roles like Dirty Harry, he’s become more successful as a director, winning 2 Oscars for directing Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, two completely different genres no less. I actually haven’t seen either one of them as they’re not my cup of tea, but I’ve seen enough of his other great work to consider him on this list. Oh, as if he weren’t a triple threat already, the pianist and composer is also a darn good singer, as displayed in Paint Your Wagon and in the credits of Gran Torino.

Top 3 Fave Clint Eastwood’s work: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Director) , Frank Horrigan in In The Line of Fire, Robert Kincaid in The Bridges of Madison County

5. Harrison Ford, 69

Ok so Cowboys & Aliens failed to ignite at the box office this past weekend, but I doubt it’ll make a dent in his amazing Hollywood career. Ford is a cinematic icon, having played so many classic roles, including my all time favorite, Indiana Jones (have you voted in his b’day poll yet?) Btw, I had just seen The Conversation where he had a minor role, that movie was released 37 years ago and it struck me how much Ford ages well. I like Ford in both his action as well as dramatic roles, recently I rewatched Regarding Henry as it was on TV and I was so moved by it — it’s perhaps his most underrated roles as he didn’t garner any awards for that nuanced performance.
,,,The Chicago-native reportedly just signed on to do another cowboy role as an aging gunfighter Wyatt Earp in Black Hats, set in 1920s New York (per THR)

Top 3 Fave Harrison Ford roles: Indiana Jones, Henry Turner in Regarding Henry, Linus Larabee in Sabrina (1995)
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6. Morgan Freeman, 74

The first time I saw Mr. Freeman was in Street Smart with Christopher Reeve, this was at the time I was crushing on Superman so I watched everything he’s in. I didn’t like the movie but Freeman gave an Oscar-worthy performance in his first nomination (he went on to garner four more nods in his career). I absolutely adore his role as Lucius in Nolan’s Batman films, a man of gravitas who also provides comic relief effortlessly. His scenes with Bruce Wayne in both Nolan’s Batman movies are always the major highlights as they have such a great rapport. Freeman is perhaps best known for his dramatic performance in Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, but the Memphis-born actor also shows he’s got comic skills in Maiden Heist and RED.

Top 3 Fave Morgan Freeman roles: Lucius Fox in Chris Nolan’s Batman flicks, Red in Shawshank Redemption, Nelson Mandela in Invictus.
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7. Ed Harris, 61

I don’t know what it is about Ed Harris but I always enjoy seeing him on screen, even when he’s playing an unsympathetic character. Perhaps it’s his soulful eyes or his seemingly unruffled demeanor. Ted just posted the box office misfire article where he mentioned about The Abyss. I really like that film largely because of Harris’ performance, and I could say the same thing about a lot of the movies he’s in. I like the fact that he’s also a family man, having been married to the same woman since 1983.

Top 3 Fave Ed Harris roles: Bud Brigman in The Abyss, Christof in The Truman Show, Mr. Smith in The Way Back
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8. Anthony Hopkins, 74

Hopkins first scared the pants out of me when I saw Silence of the Lambs in the theater (what was I thinking?) But the beauty of the Welsh actor is that in the movies that follow, he easily disappeared into his roles that I wasn’t ‘haunted’ by Hannibal Lecter every time he appeared on screen. Apparently Sir Laurence Olivier himself discovered him, who invited him to join The National Theatre in 1965 (per IMDb). I suppose it takes one to know one, as both are über talented Oscar winners who are easily one of the greatest actors in of their respective generation.

Top 3 Fave Anthony Hopkins roles: James Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Ludlow in Legends of the Fall, Don Diego de la Vega in The Mask of Zorro.

9. Helen Mirren, 66

I’ve mentioned her a lot on this blog so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I adore this classy lady. Mirren is one of those rare beauty who doesn’t let age get in the way of her inherent sensuality. My friend Vince recommended Excalibur to me where Mirren played a seductive temptress and seeing her most recently in State of Play, it’s clear she hasn’t lost that twinkle in her eye. She can also play buttoned-up obviously, having won all kinds of awards for playing the title role in The Queen. I haven’t seen Calendar Girls yet but I’ll be sure to get to that soon.

Top 3 Fave Helen Mirren roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen, Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station, Victoria in RED.

10. Alan Rickman, 65

Last but definitely not least. Again, no surprise as I’ve mentioned him a lot… just yesterday I was raving about his performance as Snape in the Harry Potter movies. That accent with that inimitable delivery… like Dalton, one of the best thing about this Londoner is his silky voice. He’s got quite a female following and I’m not at all surprised. His role as Col. Brandon alone earns him a place on this list, but he’s also fantastic in almost everything he’s in. I also think he should do more comedy as he was such a hoot in Galaxy Quest. It’s funny that I actually first saw Rickman in Truly Madly Deeply when my ESL teacher invited her foreign students to her home, and at the time I wasn’t at all interested. Only later on that I realized it was Rickman as the romantic ghost Jamie.

Top 3 Fave Alan Rickman roles: Col. Brandon in Sense & Sensibility, Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, Severus Snape in Harry Potter franchise.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • Jim Broadbent, 62
  • Brian Cox, 65
  • Ian McKellen, 72
  • Vanessa Redgrave, 74
  • Tom Wilkinson, 63

I feel like I could’ve made this into a top 20, but now it’s your turn. Who are your favorite seasoned thespians?

Flixchatter Review: Invictus

On the plane ride back home, I wasn’t able to fall asleep right away. So what’s better than catching up on flicks I’ve missed and Invictus is one I had been wanting to see (I wrote a post on it back in October).

The Clint Eastwood-directed flick tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team Francois Pienaar to help unite their country. It’s what he called a ‘human calculation,’ a risky political gamble on his part, but one he isn’t afraid to lose. “The day I am afraid to do that is the day I am no longer fit to lead,” he says admirably.

Biopic is always a tricky undertaking, but Eastwood wisely chose not to tell Mandela’s whole life story. Instead it’s a slice of his extraordinary life as the newly-elected first black president, four years after he was released from 27-year imprisonment in 1990.

Going in, I confess I didn’t know much about Mandela’s history, but I definitely come to appreciate him more after seeing the movie. There’s a scene where a newspaper headline reads: He can win an election, but can he lead a country? A skeptical sentiment amongst his people that greeted his political triumph. But Mandela calmly responds to his irritated chief of staff Brenda, “It’s a legitimate question.” It’s amazing how after nearly 3 decades behind bars, he didn’t become embittered or vengeful.

Based on a short poem of the same name that means ‘unconquered,’ the story is quite simple and blatantly predictable. I never doubted for a moment that somehow the underdog team would win the championship, the rugby-heavy scenes played out like a tearjerker sports flick like Rudy or Invincible. But yet, it was still a worthwhile journey to take in all the way to its jubilant happy ending. This is truly a movie where performances are the heart of the movie, overcoming the cliches and schmaltzy-ness on numerous occasions.

Morgan Freeman is used to playing larger-than-life characters, after all he’s played God with such finesse – in a brash comedy Bruce Almighty no less – so it’s a no-brainer he’s the right man to portray the Noble Peace Prize-winning humanitarian. Acccording to IMDb trivia, Mandela himself apparently wanted the 73-year-old Tennessee-born actor to portray him, and it’s easy to see why. Freeman depicted Mandela such grace and convincing statesman-like quality that his uneven South African accent never derail his heartfelt performance. He truly made the movie for me, he embodied his character so well and made him admirable and relatable at the same time.

The handshake that made history

Matt Damon isn’t an actor I’ve always been a fan of, but he won me over after the excellent Bourne series and he’s proven time and again that he’s quite a versatile and likable actor. He bulked up considerably to play the role of Springboks captain Pienaar, and took some extensive rugby training by Chester Williams, the only black Afrikaan member of the team. But it’s his warmth and believable respect and admiration towards Mandela that really touched me. Freeman and Damon’s chemistry is crucial to the plot and they had that in spades.

The rugby scenes are ok I suppose, but then again I’m not a sports fan and sports flicks isn’t my genre. But I think it served the story here, and provided for the emotional key scenes. I’m more moved by the inspiring Mandela quotes peppered throughout: Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it’s such a powerful weapon. That’s definitely something to aspire to.

I don’t know if it’s the music, Eastwood’s direction or my hormones simply playing tricks on me, but I find myself tearing up a lot throughout the movie. Even my hubby was chuckling at me as I frantically searched for tissue to wipe off my endless tears.

At the end of my previous post, I asked ‘let’s see if this will indeed rise above a typical feel-good sports movie.’ Happy to say that it absolutely did rise far above that. I’ll remember this movie more for its profound message on humanity than the rugby game.

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What’s your thoughts of INVICTUS?