Guest Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)

guestpost

collateralbeautyposter

Directed By: David Frankel
Written By: Allan Loeb
Runtime: 94 minutes

After reviewing a couple unimpressive comedies last week (Office Christmas Party and Why Him?), I was ready for seeing something a little weightier, so I was excited to get the opportunity to see Collateral Beauty. I was a little nervous it would be overly-sentimental, and while I did find some problems with it, I still thought it was very well-done.

collateralbeauty_willsmith

In Collateral Beauty, advertising mogul Howard (Will Smith) writes letters to Love (Aimee, played by Keira Knightley), Time (Raffi, played by Jacob Latimore), and Death (Brigitte, played by Helen Mirren) following a family tragedy. At the same time, three of his friends and work colleagues- Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) – worry that Howard’s mental state may cost them their jobs and devise a desperate plan to prevent it from happening, all while simultaneously fighting their own personal battles. I realize this is a vague synopsis, but saying more would spoil a lot of the plot.

collateralbeauty_cast collateralbeauty_smith_mirren

While I don’t think this movie will go down as a classic, it was a solid film. It was creative and handled the subjects of loss and grief well, without being too heavy-handed. The acting was, of course, phenomenal; how could it not be with such a strong cast? The stand-outs for me were Helen Mirren, who gave a both humorous and poignant performance, and, naturally, Will Smith; he barely has any dialogue in the first half of the movie, but his facial expressions and body language alone is striking, and if he doesn’t make you cry (or get a little choked up, at the very least), you are made of stronger stuff than I am. Naomie Harris as Madeline, the leader of a support group for parents who have lost their children, was excellent as well; she was able to bring both strength to the character as well as an underlying sense of grief without being too obvious.

collateralbeauty_smith_knightley

I did have a couple issues with this movie. One of the twists seemed way too obvious-there were too many pregnant pauses and significant glances hinting toward it- so when it was finally revealed, it felt a little underwhelming. I also thought the plan Howard’s friends come up with to prevent them from losing their jobs was really convoluted; admittedly, it was needed to get the plot moving, but suspension of disbelief can be stretched only so far.

Overall, though, Collateral Beauty was an enjoyable movie, thanks mainly to the fantastic acting. If you’re looking for a light, heartwarming film with some tearjerker moments, check it out.

4Reels

laura_review


Have you seen ‘Collateral Beauty’? Well, what did you think? 

2014 Recap: 10 Favorite MALE Performances of the Year

Top10MALEPerformances2014

Well, now that I’ve posted my Top 10 Movies of the year and picked my Top 10 favorite FEMALE Performances and Top 10 Film Scores of the year, I’m finally down to my last 2014 Recap list. It’s quite a crowded category, more so than the female counterpart, as obviously there are more roles for men as there are for women on any given year. But I’m still picking only 10 on the main list, and another 10 15 on Honorable Mentions (there are just too many to keep it to just 10). Naturally these are performances from films I got a chance to see last year. So in case you’re wondering where’s Jake Gyllenhaal, Eddie Redmayne or J.K. Simmons, well I haven’t seen Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything nor Whiplash.

Same w/ the ladies, this list is in alphabetical order, as it was tough enough to narrow ’em down to 10, let alone ranking them. So here goes:

1. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Carrel_Foxcatcher

It’s one of those transformative roles that all actors are privileged to get but not everyone can pull it off. Well, I always think that Steve Carell is a much more versatile actor than people give him credit for and Foxcatcher‘s director Bennet Miller said during our interview that “…it’s exciting when an actor breaks out of what’s expected of them.” But it takes so much more than just putting on a fake nose to create a convincing character. I’ve seen him in serious roles before in Little Miss Sunshine, but took his dramatic potential up several notches here, displaying disquieting menace and creepy demeanor I’ve never seen before. As I’m writing this, I couldn’t help recalling his earlier role as Evan Baxter in Bruce Almighty, yet I couldn’t fathom that they’re played by the same actor!

2. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Cumberbatch_ImitationGame

Benedict Cumberbatch is no stranger to playing an eccentric genius on screen. But apart from being British and a brainiac, Alan Turing couldn’t be more different than his Sherlock persona. Cumberbatch effortlessly captures that brilliant intellect and that arrogant, dismissive attitude towards the world around him, but he also convincingly conveys Turing’s inner tumult. The final scenes where Turing is treated as a social outcast is the film’s most heart-wrenching moments. All the pain, anguish and utter despair is palpable on Cumberbatch’s face but without a moment of overacting. It’s no doubt the actor’s shining hour, a personal best even amongst his already impressive resume.

3. Chris Evans – Snowpiercer

tumblr_n68wdbrLQV1qbor6ao4_500

tumblr_n8px4aY1md1r8j1j3o2_500

In a year when he’s truly coming into his own as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America in its sequel, Chris Evans also emerges as a capable indie leading man. Certain actors often become stuck to play certain roles because of how they look and I think Evans is one them. But Evans is more than just a pretty face & a hot body, even if his role choices are questionable at times. I saw that he has dramatic chops in Puncture but this is an even more complex role – not to mention a better-crafted film overall – and he gets to show what he can do as an actor. As a conflicted rebel leader with a dark past, Evans displays an unusually somber, soulful and heartfelt performance. I’d love to see him tackle more dramatic roles like this in the future, he certainly has it in him.

4. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Fiennes_GBH2

Fiennes_GBH1

Whilst Carell is comedian playing a dark role, the normally-serious Ralph Fiennes got to do the opposite. It’s such a thrill to see him being so goofy here, and he seems to relish in the character’s inherent zany-ness. Apparently Wes Anderson wrote this role specifically for him, which I think is an inspired choice that absolutely paid off. His deadpan delivery is really fun to watch here, and he has that effortless elegance about him too that fits the role of the legendary concierge M. Gustave.

5. Tom Hardy – Locke

TomHardyLocke1

tom-hardy-locke3

It takes an actor of a certain charisma to hold your attention for 1.5 hour long when all you see is him inside a car the entire time. But charisma can only go so far without the skills, but thankfully, Hardy’s got both. This is the first film with him in the leading role, after seeing him stealing scenes left and right in films like Rocknrolla, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises. He was a co-lead (with Joel Edgerton) in Warrior, an intensely physical role that he offsets with layers of vulnerability. As a man grappling with one VERY stressful night of his life, his body is barely shown the entire movie, so he had to rely on his eyes and facial features to convey every single emotion. Suffice to say, he delivered with aplomb. It’s a mesmerizingly-nuanced performance that confirms my opinion that Hardy as one of the finest actors working today. Seems that he’s only just getting warmed up.

6. Michael Keaton – Birdman

keaton_gripe1

keaton_gripe2

One of the highlights of 2014 cinema for me is definitely seeing the perpetually-underrated Michael Keaton getting a career resurgence. I’ve been a fan of his for as long as I can remember, as he’s the kind of actor who can tackle hard-hitting drama as well as silly comedic roles effortlessly. In Birdman he gets a chance to tackle both and he relish in that opportunity. He’s been garnering kudos left and right and he’s the one I’m rooting for the entire award season. The fact that there are many similarities between his character Riggan and his professional acting life certainly adds a dose of amusement as well as authenticity to his portrayal. Keaton infused Riggan with such depth and genuine pathos that even during some of the film’s most bizarre scenes as Riggan descend into madness, he’s always emotionally engaging.

7. James McAvoy – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

McAvoy_EleanorRigby

If only you more people had seen at least one version of this romantic drama, even just to see how good both lead actors are. McAvoy’s co-star Jessica Chastain is on my Top 10 list of Female Performers from the same film. I’ve been a fan of James McAvoy since Atonement and the Scottish actor has since done an amazing job balancing big blockbusters like X-Men: First Class to small indies like this one. He’s an instantly likable actor who I vehemently believe is more talented than people give him credit for. What I love about McAvoy is that there’s always such a natural way to his acting that you instantly believe he’s that character. Here he wears his character Conor like an old shoe, a man desperately trying to somehow regain his lost love. There is a moment in the film where Conor is alone in an empty apartment and he reminisce on his marriage that is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s a shame that AMPAS doesn’t even notice this film as both Chastain & McAvoy’s marvelous performances are certainly Oscar-worthy.

8. Edward Norton – Birdman

NortonBirdman3

NortonBirdman2

Another highlights from Birdman and why this is truly one of the best films of the decade is seeing Ed Norton in a role worthy of his talent. It’s definitely a scene-stealing role in a film that’s already jam-packed with fine performances. Just like his co-star Keaton, Norton did a brilliant dramatic and comedic turn as a self-absorbed diva of an actor who’s more comfortable in his own skin when he’s on stage. All the scenes of him and Keaton are truly the film’s highlights as both actors not only baring their skin down to their underwear, but they also bare themselves emotionally. It’s too bad that he probably won’t win an Oscar again this year, but I sure hope the three-time Oscar nominee won’t be wasted playing second/third banana in subpar movies like Bourne Legacy ever again.

9. David Oyelowo – Selma

DavidOyelowoSELMA

I’ve made my quibbles known about one of the egregious snubs of this year’s Oscar. But if there is justice in the world, this wouldn’t be the last we see Oyelowo’s name being mentioned during cinema’s award season. Even in bit parts in a myriad of movies ranging from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help, Jack Reacher, etc., I always notice his performance. He finally got to shine in a prominent supporting role as Forrest Whitaker’s teenage son in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which also deals with the Civil Rights Movement. It’s interesting that a year later he got to play the key figure in that historical movement, a role that I read he’s been dreaming to play for some time. Oyelowo didn’t just get Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mannerism and speaking style right, it’s more than just a brilliant impersonation but he truly embodied the role. What’s more, he portrayed Dr. King as not just a heroic figure but as a man, flawed and plagued with doubts just like any regular person would. He is just as convincing as a powerful and persuasive orator as he is in the quieter scenes that demand subtle nuances. I can’t wait to see what Oyelowo will tackle next.

10. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher 

RuffaloFoxcatcher

Is there anything Mark Ruffalo can’t do? I feel like I’ve been missing out as for whatever reason I didn’t really pay attention to him until recently. I was going to list his performance in Begin Again but technically that’s a 2013 film, but man what an astounding display of versatility. His role as an Olympic pro-wrestler David Schultz in Foxcatcher couldn’t be more different than a distressed & disheveled record producer in Begin Again but he’s utterly believable in both. Ruffalo’s role is actually the least flashy compared to Steve Carell’s and Channing Tatum’s, but his character is no doubt the heart of the film. It’s a role that demands the perfect amount of nuance and subtlety and Ruffalo pulls it off wonderfully. The video interview scene alone when he’s asked to describe Carell’s character is simply masterful, I remember marveling at how good his performance was as I was watching it. I think that might’ve been what earned him his second Oscar nomination.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

I truly didn’t expect to see some names would end up on this list. I honestly have never seen Tyler Perry nor Zach Galifianakis in anything other than clips of their movies, but they definitely left an impression on me in their respective films. There are some big breakthroughs here too, especially Dan Stevens and Chris Pratt, garnering a lot of buzz in their successful starring roles. There are also some perennial favorites of mine who definitely still got it (Keanu Reeves), as well as a brand new actor I’ve never seen before. Manish Dayal‘s like the male counterpart of Gugu Mbatha-Raw for me and I hope to see him more movies! As for Guy Pearce, I sure hope that he will get the recognition he deserves one day as he’s simply a phenomenal actor.

Here they are in random order:


Thoughts on these male performances? Which one(s) of these stood out to you from the past year?

FlixChatter Review: Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

BirdmanPoster

It’s been nearly a month since I saw this film, but I’m still thinking about it. In fact, I was just telling a friend over coffee this weekend how the more I think about this film, the more I like it.

The story revolves around Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton in an art-imitating-life sort of a role as he’s famous for playing Batman in the late 80s/early 90s. Riggan is a has-been actor, most famous for playing a successful comic-book franchise, Birdman. But instead of opting to take an easy paycheck out of the fourth installment of the franchise, Riggan attempts to reinvent himself and reclaim his past glory by directing/starring an off-Broadway play. Not a light undertaking, especially when one problem after another starts popping up, threatening to grind his play to a halt. It also doesn’t help that Riggan is still haunted by his Birdman character, literally, who constantly berates him in his dressing room.

Birdman_Still

The way Alejandro González Iñárritu frames his story is captivating and unequivocally surreal. The camera is told from Riggan’s point of view and the camera often follows him in one long, continuous take. From the cramped dressing room through the narrow corridor all the way to the stage, the film takes place mostly in the confines of the theater’s backstage. The neon sign of Phantom of the Opera is often visible in NYC’s Theater District across Riggan’s theater, one of the things that grounds the film in reality amidst all the surreal elements. Slipping back and forth between reality and fantasy, and often blurs the line between the two, the film manages to keep me entertained and engaged throughout.

Birdman_KeatonNorton

It certainly helps that all his actors perform with equal dexterity. Nice to see Edward Norton get a role worthy of his talent. He’s a method actor who’s a bit of a diva and his on-and-off screen antics are fun to watch. There’s an amusing brawl backstage between him and Keaton that’s worth the price of admission. Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan and Emma Stone all provide memorable supporting role, with Stone perhaps having the flashiest part as Riggan’s daughter. Her performance, especially memorable for her heated monologue, has already earned her a Golden Globe and SAG nomination. Even Zach Galifinakis, an actor I never quite warmed up to, was quite good here as his often-hysterical theater producer. British actress Lindsay Duncan has a small but important role as the critic who could potentially make or break Riggan’s career.

Birdman_SupportingCast

The real star here is Michael Keaton in a welcomed come-back role as a leading man. I’ve always been a fan of the underrated actor as he can deliver both serious, menacing and comical performance convincingly. He gets to do both here in equal measure as he truly embodies his character. He’s a natural in the more um, batty scenarios, but also genuinely sympathetic in the quieter moments that display Riggan’s vulnerability. Perhaps the fact that he has a similar personal experience helps him in the role, so it’s definitely inspired casting here that works wonderfully for the film.

Birdman_Keaton1

This is Iñárritu’s third film that I have seen so far. It could very well be my favorite and one I don’t mind seeing again. He strikes a perfect balance between drama and humor, at times hilarious and off the wall, and others heart-rending and poignant. The film’s a not-so-subtle mockery of Hollywood’s preoccupation with superhero franchises – and some of the real-life actors who’ve been in them– but yet it’s not done with disdain nor contempt as it’s all part of Riggan’s personal story. The movie also provides an interesting commentary on social media and how that affects celebrity culture in this day and age.

On a technical level, Birdman is simply phenomenal. The stunning and unique camera work make you think ‘how did they do that?’ without being too distracting. The percussion music isn’t really my style but it works in the context of the film. Emmanuel Lubezki, who won an Oscar for his astounding cinematography work for Gravity, will likely get another nom for this. I read somewhere that he shot this without artificial light due to space constraints of the cramped theater.

Birdman_NortonKeaton

I have to admit I still don’t know what to make of that WTF finale that seems deliberately left open for interpretation. It certainly makes for a fun discussion afterwards and it’s been fun reading all kinds of theories about it. I won’t say another word on it as it’s best that you discover that for yourself. Despite all the bizarre scenes and all its dream-like eccentricities, the film somehow still feels personal and human, even relatable in a strange way. No surprise that Birdman‘s become the critical darling of the year and has been raking a bunch of nominations left and right. I for one think the accolade is well-deserved as Iñárritu pushes the creative boundaries of story-telling to a new level.

4halfReels


Have you seen Birdman? Well, what did YOU think?

Mini Weekend Roundup Reviews: Rob Roy & Bourne Legacy

It’s a bit later than usual but I still want to let you know about my weekend movie-watching roundup. Usually I worked on the post on Monday night, but last Monday night I was invited to dinner with friends my hubby and I haven’t seen in over five years. It was wonderful and we had such a great time chatting over delicious Indonesian food (my friend owns a catering business), plus I went home with three DVDs on loan: Lawrence of Arabia, The Man Who Would Be King & Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

Can’t wait to see all of ’em, especially the first one!

Now, we managed to only see two movies this past weekend. We had set out to see Bourne Ultimatum (we have the Blu-ray set) on Sunday night as my hubby and I were quite disappointed with Bourne Legacy, but we couldn’t help watching the closing ceremony. I think the highlights for me were the We Will Rock You segment, Spice Girls [yeah, they’re back and they owned it!!] … AND David Gandy!!! I don’t usually go for models, but that man is BEAUTIFUL ♥ ♥ ♥

All right, now on to the reviews:

ROB ROY

Thanks to my generous friend Michael of It Rains… You Get Wet who kindly lent me the Blu-ray of this film. I had been interested in seeing this movie because of his excellent two-part analysis of this epic swashbuckling drama.

My love for all things Scottish is quite well-known around this blog, but that’s not the only reason I love this film. For one thing, it was beautifully-filmed. The Highlands looks majestic and as soon as the characters appear, the story just pulls me right in.

Liam Neeson is a charismatic lead, who despite being Irish is perfectly cast as one of those valiant men who’s loved and revered by the towns people and his family. I wish he’d still be doing dramatic roles like this one to balance all the bad ass action hero stuff he’s doing these days. In a way though, Rob Roy MacGregor IS an action hero of sort, he was regarded as the Scottish Robin Hood. In this film, Rob Roy was framed for stealing £1,000 from an English Duke, the Marquis of Montrose (John Hurt), and forced to become an outlaw when he refuse to slander the Duke’s Scottish rival.

I was quite engrossed with the story and MacGregor’s journey. Despite the 139 min running time, I wasn’t bored watching it. Neeson effortlessly carried the film but Tim Roth perfectly captured the vile nature of the Duke’s henchman Archibald Cunningham in this Oscar-nominated performance. He’s just so evil through and through, every little thing he did just makes your skin crawl. Their battle becomes personal for MacGregor when Cunningham sexually assaulted his beloved wife Mary [I suggest you read Michael’s fascinating analysis on on this topic], which led to the climactic sword-fight that makes you get up and cheer!

The rest of the performances are excellent as well, Brian Cox rarely disappoints and he was memorable here too, as was Jessica Lange as the devoted wife. I like the depiction of a healthy marriage here, and I also love that Mary is no damsel in distress even despite the harsh circumstances.

I highly recommend this if you’re into historical dramas or an inspiring, heroic story that doesn’t involve a cape or spandex 🙂

4halfReels


Bourne Legacy

My friend Ted already posted his excellent review on this, which I wholeheartedly agree with, but I still want to add my two cents on this. Well, some of you perhaps already know that I’m just not a big fan of Jeremy Renner. I didn’t even think he’s that great in The Hurt Locker [yeah, so sue me!] But that aside, I LOVE the Bourne universe, so despite my initial gripe about him replacing Matt Damon, I’m naturally curious about this movie. Plus spy action thriller is right up my alley.

I went in with an open mind that perhaps this film might change my mind about Renner, after all I wasn’t a big fan of Damon before Bourne Identity. Alas, it did not happen, in fact, even in the whole opening sequence in the Alaska wilderness, I was more taken by Oscar Isaac [now I’d like to see more of him in Hollywood!]. Bourne Legacy does not change my mind about Renner, but the problem lies more in the writing. I mean, Aaron Cross is just not as compelling a character as Bourne, simply because of his motivation that Ted has pointed out in his review. Bourne’s memory loss drives him to find out just why he is the way he is and does what he does, that alone is a compelling journey for us to stick around for. Cross on the other hand, knows full well who he is, a ‘chems’ addict super soldier who wants to stay that way. So basically he is terrified to go back to be a ‘regular joe’ once he knows the power of those pills, and truth be told, he probably can’t survive independently in society either.

In his journey, Cross is assisted by the beautiful chemist, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who survives a murder-suicide by his colleague. Cross is doubtful about her naiveté in that she has no clue what the pills are used for, and so did I. Despite the long talks between the two of them that seem to go on forever, her character still isn’t explored really well. There’s also the issue of figuring out just who the enemy is. Technically, it’s Ed Norton’s Eric Byer, who’s hired by the top officials of Operation Blackbriar or the Treadstone Project to get rid of all trace of their Black Ops operation that Bourne has systematically exposed in the previous film, hence the ‘legacy’ in the title.

To say that Cross sort of operates under the ‘shadow’ of Bourne is an understatement. Seems like even the filmmakers don’t want us to forget about the original hero because every few minutes, Damon’s photo ID is flashed on screen and you know what, it actually makes me miss him even more!! Like in Total Recall, there’s all this déjà vu-ish feeling that I have seen this all before but done much, much better. Even the action was just so-so, the shootout at Martha’s house is perhaps the only highlight. The motorcycle chase in Manila is exhilarating, thought that whole bit about Larx-03, the ultimate super soldier that even Byer boss thought was only a prototype makes me laugh. It reminds me of T-1000 in Terminator 2 how he just got up after being shot multiple times and crashes his motorcycle!! It was a fun sequence but that point I didn’t really care much about Cross anymore so it didn’t have that much of an impact.

My biggest beef with this whole movie though, is how extremely misleading the marketing is. In the trailer and even the posters list Joan Allen and David Strathairn’s names but both only appeared for less than 2 minutes!! I mean, that’s barely a cameo!! The supporting cast was one of the main draw for me to see this, so that was VERY disappointing!

All in all, Tony Gilroy’s direction confirms my dread that the film is a downgrade from the stellar Bourne trilogy. A lot can be said about that anti-climactic ending, but ‘gripping’ isn’t one of them. In fact, the only best thing about it is the awesome Extreme Ways soundtrack by Moby, but it also makes you long for the predecessor.

2halfReels


Thoughts on either one of these? Let it be known in the comments.

Weekend Viewing Roundup: 21 Jump Street + Moonrise Kingdom Reviews

Happy Monday all [well Tuesday to some of you on the other side of the world]! I have to say this has been a great week for movie watching. I actually managed to see THREE new movies [well new to me] and even sneaked in a couple of older movies for a rewatch: 300 and Spider-man 2 [I guess I was in a Spidey mood]. Well, I’ve posted my review The Amazing Spider-man last night, which according to Box Office Mojo made $140 mil in six days, but believe it or not it still falls short compared to the Sam Raimi’s versions. But it’s obviously lucrative enough to warrant multiple sequels, I think a trilogy should be a given.

Now, here’s my mini reviews of the other two films I saw this weekend.

21 Jump Street

I used to watch this show in High School so the primary reason I watched this is pure nostalgia. I didn’t want to see it on the big screen as I wasn’t crazy for the main cast [Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum] but the overwhelmingly positive reviews definitely compelled me to rent it. Well, this movie had me in stitches from the start and it never let on.

The premise is simple enough. Morton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) are former high school foes, it’s the stereotype of the school jock bullying the nerdy academic. As fate would have it, the two ended up enrolling in the same police academy and become unlikely friends. Though at first they seems to have caught a break when they busted some drug dealers in an unassuming park, the two over-eager young officers forgot to read the Miranda right! As punishment, both are reassigned to a special division in that famous street address which turns out to be an abandoned Korean church.

The foul-mouthed Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) told them their first mission is to infiltrate a high school following a death of one of the students after consuming a potent synthetic drugs. They go undercover as brothers and live temporarily in Schmidt’s parents house. Tatum and Hill certainly have comedic chops and just seeing both of them together just makes me laugh. Despite Tatum being soo much more mature than most high schoolers, they somehow managed to blend in and make friends. An accidental switcheroo in their faux-identity puts both undercover cops in unlikely situations, Jenko hangs out with the nerdy crowds, whilst Schmidt hangs out with the cool crowd, including the lead drug dealer Eric (Dave Franco, yep James’ younger brother).

Preposterous and crazy situations are to be expected in a story like this, but hilarity ensues with every step to get to the drug supplier. One of the most hilarious moments happens when the undercover duo had to try out the drug to prove themselves to Eric. Oh my, I was in stitches through that whole scene, but I was on the floor when they arrive in prom complete with flying white doves!! Believe it or not, there are actually some sweet moments between these two, but mostly it’s just non-stop laughter and fun right up until the wild and deliberately overblown finale. Both Jenko and Schmidt did get their wish of a life filled with car chases and explosions after all!

By the way, I don’t think I consider it a spoiler to say I’ve been waiting to see Johnny Depp’s cameo and you know what, he did not disappoint! I practically screamed when I saw him and I didn’t see it coming, which adds to the experience.

Final Thoughts: What fun! Despite being too vulgar for my taste, the writing makes for a truly hilarious action-comedy. It’s similar to Hot Fuzz but perhaps more accessible to US audiences. I’m can’t say that I’m a fan of Jonah or Channing now, but I can honestly say they both are GREAT in this movie!

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve been waiting to see this one in a while (I even put it on my most-anticipated list), which is unusual as I don’t always get excited about a Wes Anderson movie. The only one I have seen before was The Royal Tennenbaums, and whilst I enjoyed that one, I can’t remember too much of the details except to say that and eccentric are the words that come to mind. It’s the same with Moonrise Kingdom, though I’d add the words endearing and delightful to describe it.

Set on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, it opens in a Khaki Scout Summer Camp on the day one of its member, Sam Shakusky, disappears from the camp. Soon they realize that a young girl from a nearby town, Suzy Bishop is also missing. Soon they discover the two had run away together and the town, led by the island police Captain Sharp goes in search of them.

Sam turns out to be an orphan whilst Suzy is not, but both Sam and Suzy feel like an outcast in their respective circle, and that’s what drew them together. The young actors, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so endearing in their roles, and their lack of acting experience actually adds sincerity to the romance. Their scenes together remind us the delight of what innocent young love could be. These sweet moments are peppered with some dark, poignant moments, as if to illustrate the world that would await the two twelve-year-olds as they grow older.

The adult actors seem to take a back-seat to these young lovebirds, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have their moments. Edward Norton as Sam’s Scout Master is amusingly delirious to what’s happening, and seeing the usually-serious actor as a chain-smoking boy scout leader is entertaining in its own right. Bruce Willis proves once again he’s more versatile than people give him credit for. I like him in his understated roles as much as his ‘yippikaye’ bad-assery and he’s appropriately somber in this one as he secretly longs for a family to call his own. I feel that Bill Murray wasn’t given as much to do here, he’s sort of just playing his quirky-self, but I guess that works just fine in a Wes Anderson movie. The rest of the stellar cast, including Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel and the other one of Wes’ muse Jason Schwartzman, are all good but none of them particularly stood out to me.

I guess the benefit of not having seen too much of Wes’ work is that I haven’t grown accustomed to his particular style, so everything seems fresh and fascinating to me. Even the preposterous aspects and the zany-ness of the characters all add to the charm and what makes Wes’ work so unique. There’s also that particular look to the visuals of Wes’ film, my super astute friend John outlined in this *tutorial* post…  he described Wes’ films as having “… the aged look and feel.. What I’m referring to is the yellow filter, and the slight graininess that makes you, the viewer, feel like you’re in a theatre in 1970 watching a film.” I LOVE that, I think it adds something special to the whole experience.

Final Thoughts: This is a delightful movie and it’s moving along quite efficiently at only 1 hr 34 minutes. The ending is heartwarming and sweet, but never nauseatingly so. I might rent this again when it comes out on DVD. I might even venture into Wes’ other works, such as Rushmore and Life Aquatic. Whether Wes’ style is your cup of tea or not as creativity is so subjective, I’m glad there’s still a filmmaker who marches to the beat of his own drums like him in Hollywood.

4.5 out of 5 reels



What do you think of either one of these movies? Do share your thoughts in the comments.

The Ten Best Actors of All Time: Relay Race

My friend Nostra at My Filmviews started this back in mid March, as if he needed to prove to anyone that he lives up to the title ‘King of all Blog Series’ that I gave him 😀 What’s this relay race all about? I’ll let Nostra himself explain:

“So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors”

Since then the baton has been passed on to Terrence @ The Focused Filmographer, Scott @ Front Room Cinema, then off to Pete @ I Love That Film who then passed it on to yours truly!


All right, so here we go:

Robert De Niro

robert Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Although he may not have had any roles that stood out in the last couple of years, he has proven what an amazing actor he is. Just think of his roles in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Godfather: Part II, Goodfellas, The Untouchables, Heat and Cape Fear.

Daniel Day Lewis

daniel day lewis 6 Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Although he might not have appeared in as many movies as some of the other actors in this list he makes up for it in the amazing performances he gives. He really disappears in his roles. Some of his best work includes My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, In the Name of the Father and Last of the Mohicans.

Charlie Chaplin

charlie chaplin1 Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Now this might not be someone you’d immediately think of, but when it comes to comedy and silent movies he was perfect, funny and knew exactly how to make his audience care about the character he played. Some of his best work can be enjoyed in The Kid, City Lights, The Great Dictator and Modern Times.

Gary Oldman

garyoldman e1331475012125 Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

He has proven that he is a true chameleon, with a very distinct look in every movie he appears in. His acting is always a joy to watch. Some of his best known work is that in the Harry Potter series, Leon, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the latest Batman movies and Dracula.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

psm Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

He started acting in 1991 and really has had a very versatile career appearing in movies that are loved in art houses, but in mainstream movies as well. His movies include The Ides of March, Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Wilson’s War, Capote and Magnolia.

Marlon Brando

marlon brando Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Now I must admit that I haven’t seen many of his movies, but he was stunning in his most famous role in The Godfather, but also roles in Apocalypse Now, On The Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire he wowed audiences.

Robert Duvall

robert duvall Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Robert Duvall has had an amazing career as well. I don’t know much about his early work, but I always enjoy to see him on the screen. His characters always are injected with something that grounds them into reality. He appeared in movies like Get Low, The Godfather, Colors, Apocalypse Now and THX1138.

Christian Bale

christian bale Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

With quite the diverse range in roles, Oscar-winner Christian Bale goes to great lengths for many of his roles. From losing weight to almost unhealthy standards twice (The Machinist, The Fighter) to taking dance and martial arts lessons for 10 weeks for Newsies (a film which he dislikes), Bale consistently goes to incredible lengths to bring a role to life. Other examples of his great work include: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Empire of the Sun, Equilibrium, and 3:10 to Yuma.

Edward Norton

The star of one of the greatest films of all time; David Fincher’s Fight Club.  He has made a career out of playing characters with two sides to their personalities.  From an ‘innocent’ abused choirboy with a dark side in Primal Fear right up to his turn as The Incredible Hulk, Norton does Dr Jekyll and Mr Nutcase Hyde better than anybody!  American History X and Fight Club are the standout performances of his career and though he might not have a huge filmography, his casting with Brando and De Niro in The Score was a significant baton-passing to the best actor of a new generation.

My Choice: Gregory Peck

Yes I realize my pick is quite predictable to most of you, ahah. But hey, we are talking about the best actors of ALL TIME here and after seeing twenty eight of his feature films in the last six months, I can confidently say he wasn’t just a great and versatile actor, he’s an acting legend! I think even fellow AFI Lifetime Achievement Award recipient DeNiro (and his co-star in the Cape Fear remake) would vouch for him. Interestingly, Mr. Peck passed away the night DeNiro received the AFI honor, and he called Peck “elegant, distinguished and a film icon” (per People).

Most of you know he won an Oscar as the quiet hero Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, but few know that it was his fifth Oscar nomination. He nabbed the other four Best Actor nominations within the first five years of his career. Though he’s known for portraying serious roles and a lot of noble men, I think he’s as adept and convincing in his more comic roles such as in Arabesque, Designing Woman and Roman Holiday. He’s also fun to watch as an all-out bad guy, such as in Duel in the Sun and Boys of Brazil (based on what I read anyway as I haven’t seen it yet), though by his own admission he wasn’t as keen on playing. I really think Mr. Peck is the real deal, a quintessential movie star with enormous acting talent and strong screen presence to boot.

Who I Replaced: Paul Giamatti

slice paul giamatti 01 Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Oh man, I am in tears that I have to remove Giamatti from the list because I really like this guy!! I’m so sorry Scott, since you’re the one who added him to this list but if it’s any consolation, I do think he’s excellent, excellent actor but I guess out of all the nine other actors on this list, I feel like Giamatti is the one who’s perhaps more successful as a character or supporting actor, but doesn’t necessarily have that ‘star quality’ to get people to see a film simply because his name is on the marquee. I guess you could argue that about Philip Seymour Hoffman as well (which was my second choice to take out), but I do think Hoffman is the stronger and more compelling performer one of the two.



Ok, since it’s been mostly guys who’ve been picked to do the relay, I’m going to pick another girl for the next one. So I’m handing the baton over to… Kristin @ All Eyes on Screen. All right Kris, you’ve got a week to take part in the relay. Looking forward to see who you’d add and replace!
… 


So what do you think of my pick? Who would you replace if you were me? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Conspicuous Trailers of the Week: Ondine & The Joneses

I’m breaking tradition with posting TWO trailers this week, but I talked about these back in September ’09 as one of TIFF’s buzz-worthy movies. While I’ve seen three of the movies I listed: Bright Star, The Young Victoria, and the Oscar nominated Up in the Air, a few others have not even been released, yet. I even sort of forgot about them until last week when their trailers surfaced. They both happen to be independent flicks but from two completely different genres.
….

Ondine
The story of an Irish fisherman who discovers a woman in his fishing net who he believes to be a mermaid.

Director: Neil Jordan (Interview with the Vampire, Michael Collins, The End of the Affair)
Cast: Collin Farrell, Tony Curran, Stephen Rea, Alicja Bachleda

….
The Joneses

A seemingly perfect family moves into a suburban neighborhood, but when it comes to the truth as to why they’re living there, they don’t exactly come clean with their neighbors.

Director: Derrick Borte (debut film)
Cast: David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Gary Cole, Lauren Hutton

….
I think they’re both look interesting (read: worth-seeing), though Ondine looks kind of bizarre and Collin Farrell’s accent is a bit intelligible to get the real gist of what the movie is about. The Irish scenery once again makes it look forlorn, with a rather grim feel to it, similar to The Eclipse trailer that’s also set in Ireland.

….
The trailer for Leaves of Grass has also been released, which I actually been anticipating since last July, where Edward Norton plays a dual character of twin brothers: One an Ivy League professor, and the other a small-time pot grower. Written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, it also stars Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Keri Russell.

Unfortunately, the profanity-laden trailer of this dark comedy actually leaves me cold, though I have to admit Norton definitely pull off the dual roles really well. You can see it on YouTube if you’re interested.