FlixChatter Review: JUNGLE CRUISE (2021)

Disney once again capitalize on one of their Disney park’s attraction and turn it into a movie. I suppose that’s no surprise since the last franchise based on a popular Disney ride, Pirates Of The Caribbean grossed a total of $4.5 Billion globally with five movies, making Johnny Depp extremely wealthy with a reported $300 mil total for playing Jack Sparrow. I’ve actually never ridden either rides before, despite having visited both Disneyland AND DisneyWorld several times. The original Jungle Cruise opened in July 1955 at Disneyland Park, making it one of its oldest.

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At the center of the story is Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), an explorer who’s a bit like Indiana Jones meets Rachel Weisz’s character in The Mummy. Armed with a map her father gave her and an ancient artifact object she acquired from in a fun heist opening sequence, she is off to the Amazon in search of an ancient tree which flower holds miraculous healing power. Thanks to a scenario of mistaken identity and a clever ploy involving a Leopard, Lily ends up hiring Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), a wisecracking skipper with predilection for cheesy dad jokes on his ramshackle boat La Quilla. His intro during an actual jungle cruise tour is pretty amusing and fun.

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Much like in The Mummy, Lily and Frank didn’t get off on the right foot initially but surprise, surprise, they form a bond throughout the journey. Blunt and Johnson may seem like an unlikely duo but they have a pretty effortless chemistry and the two play each other off quite well, though some of the jokes/puns are cringe-worthy, especially Frank’s obsession with Lily’s pants. In fact that is his nickname for her, a light commentary of the misogyny of the 1930s period. Now, the plot is a bit too convoluted for a movie based on a ride, and the PG-13 rating is warranted given some of the petrifying jungle scenes and supernatural bits. It’s best not to overthink it and just enjoy the ride as it were, and marvel at the visual beauty of the Amazon river and the lush rainforest. 

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Barcelona-born Jaume Collet-Serra, known for his action flicks with Liam Neeson and the shark movie The Shallows (which I quite enjoyed) is pretty adept in directing the action scenes. “Everything that you see wants to kill you…and can.” Frank says, but of course the scenes of perils aren’t really that scary in a Disney movie, which automatically takes the suspense out of even the most intense action sequences. 

As far as the supporting cast go, Paul Giamatti is rather over the top as Nilo, a successful businessman in the Amazonian port town who often extorts money from Frank. Jack Whitehall plays Lily’s hapless brother MacGregor who’s often the butt of jokes for being absolutely clueless about what this dangerous journey entails. Disney attempts to be more inclusive with including an LGBT character though his coming-out scene is downplayed and feels like an after-thought. Edgar Ramírez is Captain Aquirre, one of the three soldiers in the mythology of the ancient tree, but he became kind of a throwaway character given how the ending is written (more of that later). Lastly, we’ve got a scene-stealing performance from Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim, who’s basically a cross between an Indiana Jones + Bond villain complete with his hilarious German accent. I’ve only seen him in one Black Mirror episode so I’m not totally familiar w/ his work. His talking-to-bees scene and casually yelling “Hallöchen!” from his submarine while holding a machine gun are wildly amusing. I’m still giggling over how he pronounced ‘jungle’ as ‘chunkle’ in a German accent, mwahahaha!

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My biggest issue is the way Disney is forcing the romance between Lily and Frank. It’s so hugely unnecessary and adds nothing to the story. I realize that Romancing the Stone is one of the main inspiration for the movie, but the romance just seems so forced and would’ve worked better if Emily and Dwayne are just platonic friends. I also have an issue with the ending SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) Now, in the beginning of the movie Lily says she’s convinced the flower from the ancient tree would change the future of medicine forever, and she’s willing to risk her own life to get it. Yet when she finally got the petal, literally by the skin of one’s teeth, she quickly gives it away to bring Frank back to life. The movie also wants to have the cake and eat it too by making the flower miraculously appear AFTER Frank is back alive again, render her sacrifice inconsequential. I think there’s an opportunity for the team of writers to offer somewhat of a redemption to Aguirre and his soldiers which would have been a more intriguing character arc instead of just having them being trapped by the jungle all over again.

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Given Disney has removed the ride’s problematic colonialism stuff and the racially-insensitive depiction of the jungle natives, the movie also wisely subvert that narrative of them being primitives and offer a fun twist about the indigenous people. Visually, the movie looks beautiful, which is to be expected given the large budget. The movie is shot in Hawaii though obviously there are plenty of CGI use for most of the action scenes. Just don’t expect a gritty depiction of the jungle, everything looks too clean and artificial, down to Lily’s hair and red lips that doesn’t seem to be affected by all the hullabaloos. The production design by Jean-Vincent Puzos is fun to look at and I enjoyed the music James Newton Howard, apart from the weirdly bombastic rock music playing during the jungle flashback scene.

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At over 2 hours, it’s a bloated adventure movie that could’ve easily been trimmed down. Overall though it’s entertaining enough for the whole family, though perhaps not for really young kids. Surely they’re banking on Jungle Cruise to be another lucrative franchise for the Mouse House, though it’s not one I personally am clamoring to see. I’m being generous with the rating here, but a full point belongs to Plemons’ hilarious portrayal, I actually can’t wait to rewatch the movie on Disney+ just for Prince Joachim’s scenes!

3/5 stars


What did YOU think of JUNGLE CRUISE?

FlixChatter Review: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

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Directed by Rob Marshall | Screenplay by David Magee

Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters

There are few things I hold dear to my inner child’s heart, one of them being Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Regarded as a classic, the 1964 film succeeded on so many levels. There was Julie Andrews’ groundbreaking performance as Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweeper is equally lovable (despite his fake cockney accent). There was innovative special effects and animation. There was song and dance and my, oh my, was there! Richard and Robert Sherman’s memorable songs took the film into new heights for a musical and it had so much heart in the performances and execution (never mind P.L. Travers’ objection to the film).

So, when Disney announced a sequel, I was excited, cynical and partly in disbelief. After all, this was the tallest order of the highest magnitude. I came in with low expectations. But that changed a bit when Emily Blunt was cast as she looked ‘practically perfect’ (referencing the perfect nanny herself) in the title role. This time around, Poppins has returned to look after the Banks children 25 years after the events from the 1964 film. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), now an adult with 3 young children, is working at the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank like his late father before him.

Disillusioned by the loss of his wife a year prior and financial ruin and the threat of losing their family home literally knocking at their door, Michael, along with sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) search in vain to try and find a way to pay off Michael’s loan before the bank (Fidelity Fiduciary mind you) takes their house away. Whishaw is quite good in his early scenes singing A Conversation a touching lament to his late wife. Mortimer looks quite a likeness to the younger Jane Banks so that was a nice touch. However, we don’t see much of her throughout the film. She plays a labor activist, an homage to the elder Mrs. Banks who was a suffragette.

Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack the lamplighter in parallel to Van Dyke’s chimney sweeper. Like Bert in the first movie, he plays Mary’s counterpart on their adventures and performs the opening song and rudimentary lamplighter army sequence (Trip A Little Light Fantastic). Miranda is an accomplished performer and it shows especially with the opening (Underneath the) Lovely London Sky.

Emily Blunt is stunning as Mary Poppins. She holds her own in her rendition of the title character (even to unfair comparisons to Julie Andrews) and also does justice to the material in front of her. Her shining moment is the sweet The Place Where Lost Things Go. Blunt’s dance number with Miranda on A Cover Is Not a Book is exceptional as is the choreography and production. Her performance is noteworthy in this regard and is rewarding to watch.

Mary Poppins Returns is an entertaining, albeit a templated version of the original film down to the character and plot-lines. Its predictability isn’t a total downside as we all know things will turn out all right in the end. But it does feel a bit lacking I suspect from Disney’s too-cautious efforts to make it right. The film is well-crafted down to a T but that meticulousness and dare-I-say bombastic-ness of its musical approach may be its weakest points. Marc Shaiman’s music and Scott Wittman’s lyrics do all they can to match the vivaciousness and grandeur of Richard and Robert Sherman’s work on the first film. But they weren’t able to capture that heart and subtlety that so permeated the original Mary Poppins. There’s no heart wrenching performances like the younger Jane and Michael’s The Perfect Nanny”nor the touching nostalgia of Julie Andrew’s Feed The Birds. This may be an unfair assessment as I believe Mary Poppins Returns stands on its own. But the things that made the original a classic just isn’t quite there.

The filmmakers gathered a great cast but Meryl Streep’s turn as cousin Topsy probably should have been given to Julie Walters, another great actress who plays Ellen the Housekeeper, in a wasted tiny role. But perhaps that is due to too many greats on set. In effect, it’s a valiant effort by everyone involved from the writers, actors, and songwriters. Memorable were the performances but the songs not so much. It’s a great looking film but not the classic that it could have been.

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So what do you think of Mary Poppins Returns? Let us know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: The Girl on the Train (2016)

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When this project was first announced, I was hoping I’d finish the book by the time the film comes out. Well I didn’t get to the book, but I was still anticipating this one, largely for the female-driven story.

Comparison to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (which I reviewed almost exactly two years ago) is inevitable, given that both involve a missing person and is told from a female perspective with some mental, emotional turmoil. Reading the character descriptions in the novel, where the protagonist Rachel Watson is described as ‘not beautiful and can’t have kids,’ it seems that the stunning Emily Blunt, who’s actually pregnant with her second child during filming, doesn’t seem to fit the role. That said, I think Blunt did a terrific job in making Rachel a believable train wreck (pardon the pun). She rides the train every day and passes by the same neighborhood, a leafy, posh Hudson River Valley where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux).

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Rachel still can’t reconcile with her past and she drinks away the blues, filling up her plastic water bottle with booze whilst she voyeuristically watches Megan Hipwell from the train. In Rachel’s eyes, Megan lives the life she’s always dreamed of. A beautiful woman married to a handsome, rich guy who seems to love her, as they’re shown being constantly lovey–dovey. But one day, Rachel sees Megan kissing another man and she goes berserk. It’s as if something snaps in her and she somehow felt *betrayed* that Megan would stray.

Watching this film makes me want to pick up Paula Hawkins’ 2015 best-selling novel, as surely there are tons of story/character nuances that are simply lost in a feature film. Certain internal things, such as the moment Rachel got upset by Megan’s infidelity, is conveyed visually by her lashing out in the bathroom of Grand Central Station. While her chronic drinking problem might’ve made her prone to destructive behavior, this scene made her seem like a deranged, violent person.

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Though the film did manage to keep me engrossed throughout, thanks largely to Blunt’s performance, the narrative feels disjointed. I don’t know if it’s meant to make the audience empathize with how the protagonist is feeling but it can be quite frustrating. Director Tate Taylor (who directed The Help with a multi-narrative plot) adapts the film from Erin Cressida Wilson‘s screenplay. Her last script was Men, Women & Children, which I wasn’t at all entertained by, though this one is far more watchable by comparison. I was rather skeptical when Taylor signed to do the film, as I was expecting someone more like David Fincher who made Gone Girl such a gripping and visceral film that’s also wildly entertaining. The Girl On The Train is a dark and somber tale, but the film itself could’ve been less drab.

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Performance-wise, I find it odd that we’ve got a British actress playing the protagonist when the filmmakers moved the story from London in the novel to NYC. She keeps her British accent throughout though it’s never clear where she’s actually from. In any case, Blunt approaches the role with razor sharp precision, not just by looking unglamorous but she also embodied Rachel’s tormented peace of mind. Newcomer Haley Bennett as Megan has the most screen time out of the supporting cast. I think she has some screen presence, but at times I find her scenes too melodramatic. Later we find out her life isn’t so dreamy after all, and she too has a dark past that haunts her, but yet I can’t find myself to sympathize with her. To be fair, none of the privileged people who love to indulge in their own misery is easy to root for.

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The rest of the characters are pretty much one dimensional. Rebecca Ferguson‘s good as Tom’s second wife Anna, but her acting skills seems underused here. Luke Evans is all rugged perfection as Megan’s husband Scott but he seems to be more eye-candy than anything. Another handsome actor, Venezuelan Edgar Ramírez, seems oddly cast here as Kamal Abdic, who’s from Serbia or Bosnia in the book, but he’s speaking Spanish in the film. Ramírez seems charismatic enough but his character is so boring it barely made any impact. I also have to mention Lisa Kudrow as Tom’s ex boss Amanda whose role is basically a cameo, but an important one.

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Lastly, there’s Tom the antagonist, who actually seems untrustworthy from the start. Initially, the only image of Rachel comes from his point of view and she’s portrayed as a truly unhinged woman with drunken, violent outbursts. I think Theroux a skilled actor but there’s not much to work with when he’s given a paper-thin character who’s more of a caricature douchebag than a menacing sociopath. I’d think in the novel there’s more to his character than presented here?

The reviews haven’t been kind for this, sounds like another case where the book is much more superior than its cinematic adaptation. The novel might be a ‘thriller that shocked the world,’ but I don’t think the film lives up to that. I do think it’s still worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Blunt who proves herself once again that she’s a versatile and skilled actress. The movie itself isn’t quite as thrilling as it could’ve been, though I wasn’t exactly bored by it. It works more as a psychological drama than a taut whodunit murder mystery.

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Have you seen ‘The Girl On The Train’? Well, what did YOU think?

Guest Post: Musings on the casting for the upcoming ‘Wicked’ The Movie

Hello everyone! Today we’ve got a guest post from across the pond. Simon Harding is a blogger w/ Theatre Breaks website who writes about London’s Theatreland. As FlixChatter is primarily a film blog, today’s post relates to an upcoming musical adaptation.


‘Wicked The Movie’ On Its Way!

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We can hardly contain our excitement at the thought that one of the most popular musicals ever, Wicked, will soon be making the transition from stage show to the silver screen. The project was given the go-ahead by producer Marc Platt back in November last year, although he was definitely a bit cagey about when the movie would get the great Hollywood treatment… but no matter. It’s enough to know right now that the film will get here eventually, even if it’s in a few years’ time.

[According to IMDb, the movie’s to be directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) – ed.]

But who’s going to bag the main parts? Who are we most likely to see claiming the roles of Glinda and Elphaba?

Names like Samantha Barks, Kristen Bell, Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick have all been bandied about for the main parts in the film, and now the original Glinda – actress Kirstin Chenoweth – has chimed in with who she thinks would be ideal for some of the roles.

According to Movie Pilot, Kirsten would like to see young actress Dove Cameron take on the part of Glinda and Lea Michele tackle Elphaba if the cast is going to be on the young side. If the producers decide to cast people in their 30s instead, Kirstin would be happy to see Beth Behrs be Glinda and Zooey Deschanel come on board as Elphaba.

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Emily Blunt & Reese Witherspoon

Here at Theatre Breaks, we’d happily see Emily Blunt claim the part of Elphaba for her very own, and Reese Witherspoon as Glinda. Did you catch her turn in Walk the Line? The girl can sing!

Anyhoo, it’s a long way off yet until December 2019, so we’re sure more rumours will abound as to who will take the main parts.


If you’d like to book tickets to a Wicked theatre show in the UK, check out the prices and seat availability on the Theatre Breaks website.


Who would you like to see take on the roles of Elphaba and Glinda? Let us know who your picks would be in the comments below.

FlixChatter Review: SICARIO (2015)

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Director Denis Villeneuve loves to make films about dark subjects, in his latest one he decides to tackle the dark world of war on drugs here in United States.

After a raid that’s gone terribly wrong on a home that belongs to a very powerful drug cartel, young FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) decides to volunteer to be part of a secret mission that’s being lead by a mysterious agent named Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). She’s on a need-to-know basis on this mission, she also meets another mysterious agent named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro); who tells her that they’re going to find the biggest drug dealer in the world and take him down. Their first task was to transfer a prisoner from Mexico back to the States but some thugs decided to attempt the break the prisoner free.

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This lead to a shootout that killed all of the thugs in the middle of the highway and Macer was not too happy about it. She’s a by the book type of an agent and thought what happened during the shootout was illegal. But both Graver and Alejandro told her this is how it’s done in the real world and she has to deal with it. As the movie progresses, Macer starts to wonder if she’s in over her head and not sure if she could trust either of the men she thought had her back.

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I can’t say that I’m a fan of Emily Blunt since I haven’t seen many of her work. But she’s very good here as the ambitious young agent who thinks she can make a difference. Basically she represents us the audience, she’s seeing this ugly world of drug war for the first time, there are no rules and innocent people gets kill in the middle of it. Brolin is his usual self; he’s a mysterious character that you don’t really know which side he’s on. Del Toro on the other hand, really shines in this movie. His character is a cross between James Bond and Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. He’s a cold blooded killer that can’t stop, but there’s a reason behind his madness.

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Director Denis Villeneuve did a great job of setting up the tension of every intense scenes but chose not to show the graphic violence you’d expect in this kind of film. The script by Taylor Sheridan is very well-written and full of twists and turns. For example, there’s a potential love story that I thought would derail the movie but then it turned ugly real fast. You think you figured something out, but he threw a curve ball at you.

Last but certainly not least is Roger Deakins‘ excellent cinematography, just like his other famous work, the shots in this film were all jaw dropping. There were a lot of wide shots of landscape and city that you have to see on the big screen to appreciate his beautiful work; maybe the Oscar voters will finally give him the golden statue this year.

With great performances, tight direction, well-written script and superlative cinematography, this is one of the year’s best films and I can’t wait to see it again. It’s very highly recommended.

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So have you seen SICARIO? Well, what did you think?

A trio of casting/directing news I’m excited about

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A trio of casting/directing news piqued my interest this past few days that I thought I’d blog about it. I’m supposed to be doing this casting news roundup every month but obviously I’ve dropped the ball a few times 😛

Rebecca Ferguson joins Emily Blunt for
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN adaptation

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YES! Another female-centric thriller based on a female author is getting a cinematic adaptation. The Girl on The Train is based on Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel.

The story follows Rachel, a woman devastated by her recent divorce who spends her commute fantasizing about a seemingly perfect couple who lives in a house that her train passes every day. One morning, she sees something shocking there and becomes entangled in a mystery.

Naturally there’s the Gone Girl comparison given the unreliable narrator and marital dysfunction storyline. Emily Blunt was already cast as Rachel and Rebecca Ferguson apparently will be playing the role of Anna, the wife of Rachel’s ex-husband. There are apparently three prominent female characters in the novel.

In any case, I LOVE this casting bit! I’m a huge fan of miss Blunt and so I was already excited for this film for her, but given how Ferguson is my new girl crush thanks to MI: Rogue Nation, this has shot up to my must-see list for 2016! Well, I hope it’ll be released next year anyway. I’m glad that Ferguson passed on playing Channing Tatum’s love interest in Gambit according to Deadline. Ugh, she’s WAY too good for that role anyway. This sounds like two juicy roles for both talented actresses.

Now of course it’ll be interesting to see who’d be cast as Tom. He’s a douchebag so we’d need an actor who’s charismatic enough to go against these two. Maybe Jake Gyllenhaal or if they want someone older [who’s still smoldering], how about Clive Owen? He needs a REALLY memorable role right now, pronto!

Christian Bale to star in Michael Mann’s Ferrari Biopic

Apparently this film has been a passion project for Mann for the last 15 years. Per Deadline, the he even partnered with the late director Sydney Pollack to bring the story of the Italian auto magnate to life. Apparently the film’s being packaged to be sold at the upcoming Telluride, Toronto and Venice Film Festivals and I can’t imagine this NOT being a lucrative project.

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The film takes place in 1957, a year where passion, failure, success and death and life all collided. I’m not familiar with Ferrari’s life, but a quick check on Biography Channel tells the story that in 1957, a Ferrari car driven by Alfonso de Portago blew a tire and crashed into the roadside crash at the Mille Miglia. The driver, co-driver and nine spectator including five children were killed. In response, Ferrari and tyre manufacturer Englebert were charged with manslaughter as they chose to let the car continue for an extra stage rather than stop for a tire change. It was dismissed in 1961.

EnzoFerrariPer THR, the project adapts the 1991 book Enzo Ferrari: The Man, The Cars, The Races, The Machine, which details the rise of the auto mogul. Now, Bale’s casting definitely piqued my interest. He’s worked with Mann in Public Enemies, which I wasn’t crazy about, but hopefully this would be a more intriguing film. As disappointed as I was with Mann’s Blackhat, I still consider him one of my fave directors. Plus Bale is a heck of a lot better actor than Chris Hemsworth so even though he looks nothing like the real Enzo Ferrari, I think he could do this role justice.

Speaking of Hemsworth though, the last film involving car racing was RUSH which I think was pretty good. I grew up with a brother who’s a huge car fan so I’ve always loved watching car scenes in movies.

George Miller in talks to direct Man of Steel 2?

Now, file this under rumor that I wish were true! I hadn’t even been remotely excited for Man of Steel 2, nor that I thought it was still in the works. But with Mad Max creator George Miller’s involvement, color me intrigued!

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If you’re into comic book adaptations, you probably are familiar that Miller was at one point going to direct a Justice League film with Armie Hammer as Batman and D.J. Cotrona [who resembles Henry Cavill a bit] as Superman back in 2007. It’s perhaps best that the project never came to fruition, but obviously Miller is interested in doing a comic-book film. Given the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, I’d think he’s in Warner Bros good graces to come back to the DC world.

Of course even if there’s a remote chance of this project happening with Miller, it’s still a loooong way off as Man of Steel 2 isn’t part of WB superhero slate until 2020. Per EW, what we can expect include movies like Shazam and Cyborg [??] Heh, I tend to agree with Rich in this article that perhaps some comic-book movies should NOT be movies.


Well, any thoughts about any of these news?

….

2014 Recap: 10 Favorite Female Performances of the Year

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As I’m still putting my finishing touches on my Top 10 list [it’s really quite an agonizing process], I decided to turn my focus on the performances I love from 2014. I initially drafted about underrated performers who I wish had gotten more love, but I think I’ll make that a ‘Question of the Week’ post instead as I’d like to hear what others would pick. In any case, casting and the actors’ performances can alter how I feel about a given film. In fact, they could even make or break a film. Well most of the time anyway, once in a while there comes a movie that not even a stellar cast or great performances can SAVE… *cough* Into The Woods *cough*

Let’s start with the ladies first, the Male Performances list will be posted later this month. 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. Emily Blunt – Edge of Tomorrow, Into The Woods

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I’ve been a fan of miss Blunt for some time, but this is perhaps her first foray into sci-fi action thriller as a co-lead. She’s my pick of surprisingly-bad-ass-female-character in my Random 2014 Recap, though she was quite bad ass in Looper last year, too. There’s something about her character Rita Vrataski that immediately clicks with me. She’s a knock-out yet still has a warm & vulnerable vibe, she’s not some killing machine. That said, her repeated killing of Tom Cruise’s character is quite amusing 😉 In Into the Woods, she stretches her versatility further by singing as well as acting, and she does it wonderfully! In fact, her character is one of my few favorites from the movie, yes even more so than Meryl Streep’s!

2. Jessica ChastainThe Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

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Chastain is another favorite actress whom I discovered last year with her prolific turns in major films like Tree of Life, The Help, and Zero Dark Thirty. She’s one of those chameleon actress who reminds me of Cate Blanchett, and this film truly shows her chops. Her character Eleanor isn’t the most sympathetic and at times aggravating, yet her soulful performance makes her so captivating. Eleanor’s overwhelmed by her grief and Chastain conveyed that sense of repressed pain and anger so convincingly. It’s one of the year’s most poignant and powerful performances that sadly seems to have been overlooked by award pundits.

3. Marion CotillardThe Immigrant

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Miss Marion is truly a force to be reckoned with. She’s devastatingly beautiful and even fragile-looking but she carries certain inner strength that she often conveys in her eyes. I also love the fact that she seems to seek out non-glamorous roles, even though she manages to look even more beautiful sans makeup. There are actors who can act with just her eyes even when she is absolutely still, and Marion is one of those actors. That talent works wonderfully for her role as a Polish immigrant, Ewa. Her survival instinct is intriguing to watch here and makes you truly empathize with her agonizing journey.

4. Elizabeth Banks – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I

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Banks is one of those effortlessly charming and affable actress, which makes her absolutely perfect for the role of Effie Trinket. Her vivacious, flamboyant persona brings the character to life in such an entertaining way. Yet she makes her more than just some silly girl with a penchant for lavishly colorful outfits, in fact she brings so much heart to her role. It’s great to see Effie getting more screen time in this final part of the franchise. Forced to wear muted-colored jumpsuits, thrown into a fish-out-of-water experience, she still manages to steal scenes with her lively personality.

5. Keira KnightleyBegin Again

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Keira Knightley is a bit of a hit and miss for me. So far I’ve liked her mostly in period dramas (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) but entirely miscast in Anna Karenina. But here it’s refreshing to see her as a plain jane, and not only that, she also proves to be a decent singer. In fact, her rendition of the soulful Like A Fool is one of my favorite scenes in the film (and one of my Top 5 Fave Movie Songs), it’s heart-wrenching without being at all schmaltzy. This could be her most likable — and relatable — role I’ve seen her in, and I could totally buy her as a struggling-yet-defiant indie musician. Her chemistry with Mark Ruffalo is endearing to watch, as sweet & lovely as the film itself that lingers with you long after the end credits roll.

6. Rosamund PikeGone Girl

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It’s impossible to make this list without having the impressive breakout performance from Rosamund Pike. It’s a bravura performance that’s sure to be talked about for years to come, a captivating female anti-hero you love to hate. Some actresses might not get this type of juicy role in their lifetime, so it’s nice to see that Pike took this opportunity and absolutely went to town with it. It’s a wonderfully layered and multidimensional character, infused with utter ruthlessness as well as astute comic timing.  What’s going to be most interesting is where would miss Pike go from here? I’d love to see her tackle an intricate role like this again instead of back to being stuck on playing second banana to some Hollywood A-listers.

7. Gugu Mbatha-RawBelleBeyond the Lights

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If there is one actress I’m so thrilled to discover this past year, without a doubt it’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I got a bit of a girl crush on her in Belle, as she totally owned the role of a mixed race girl navigating a complicated existence in 18th century England. Within the same year, in a completely different role, Gugu once again captivated me with her performance as Noni, a disillusioned Rihana-like pop star. Both characters require an actress who’s able to convey intense and complex emotions and she totally delivered. Her beauty and talent is simply mesmerizing. I have the same wish for her as I do miss Pike, it’d be a shame if she’s back to only playing the typical wife/girlfriend of some famous Hollywood actors.

8. Haley Lu RichardsonThe Young Kieslowski

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Haley may only be 19 years-old but she seems wise beyond her years. She has such a strong screen presence in this indie dramedy, as well displaying a great deal of range as a young teen who got knocked up. I got a chance to chat with Haley for an interview earlier this year and was delighted to see her vivacious personality. In the same year, she did an entirely different and grittier role in The Well, so obviously she’s quite a versatile actress. She seems at ease in either drama or comedy, it’s only a matter of time that Hollywood notices her soon.

9. Amy Ryan – Birdman

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Amy Ryan could be one of the most underrated actresses working today. I first noticed her in her Oscar-nominated role in Gone Baby Gone, but since then I only saw her in bit parts here and there, yet she always makes the most of it. Here she plays Michael Keaton’s Riggan’s ex-wife, and I really don’t know what to make of her at first. It may not be the juiciest roles of the entire ensemble, but she did get one of the most memorable lines when snaps at Riggan that he doesn’t know the difference between admiration and love. I also have to give a shout out to another notable performance she did in Breathe-In, Ryan certainly has a knack for elevating every role she’s given, no matter how small.

10. Tilda Swinton Snowpiercer

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Tilda Swinton‘s one of those chameleonic actresses who seems to relish in disappearing into a variety of different characters and this one is as quirky as they come. She’s barely recognizable here (and also in The Grand Budapest Hotel in a cameo) as Mason, a sadistic, tyrannical leader of the futuristic train. She’s a despicable character but Tilda’s always a hoot to watch, enthralling even, and perhaps the most entertainingly bizarre character I’ve seen in a while. It takes an astute performer to be scary and hilarious in the same breath, but that’s what Tilda’s capable of, and her screen presence is off the charts.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

These lovely ladies also made quite an impression on me, even if some of the films aren’t exactly stellar. In fact, some of these performances even eclipsed the film they appear in and therefore making them more watchable. In others, they elevate the already great roles they’re given and made the film all the richer for it.

Here they are in random order:

  • Cate BlanchettThe Monuments Men
  • Andrea RiseboroughBirdman
  • Felicity JonesBreathe-In
  • Rinko KikuchiKumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  • Eva GreenSin City 2: A Dame to Kill For
  • Angelina JolieMaleficent
  • Mackenzie FoyInterstellar
  • Elizabeth RobertsOld Fashioned
  • Kim Dickens – Gone Girl
  • Carmen EjogoSelma


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