Thursday Movie Picks: Amateur Sleuth

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

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

This is a fun topic and there are tons to pick from! I always like to mix classic and contemporary movies, so that’s what I’ll do again here.

SPELLBOUND (1945)

Spellbound Poster

A psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.

Any chance I can talk about Gregory Peck I’ll jump at it, ha! This is the film I fell for the ridiculously handsome classic actor with a swoon-worthy deep voice, who was only 29 at the time in his fourth feature film. It set off an obsession for the next year, now I owned pretty much ALL of his movies!

Gregory Peck Ingrid Bergman Spellbound

Can’t believe it’s a decade ago since I saw this, I have to rewatch this soon. It’s actually the first time I saw Ingrid Bergman as well, and both of them light up the screen as they fall in love. I like the double mystery of solving Peck’s character’s amnesia issue through psychoanalysis, and figuring out the killer of the real doctor. Classic Hitchcock in terms of direction, camera work, visual style, mood, etc. featuring a brief but memorable the dream sequence by Salvador Dali. I also love Miklós Rózsa‘s astounding score, perhaps my fave of all Hitchcock movies. The final sequence is indelible as well, which has been copied many times over by other filmmakers.


REAR WINDOW (1954)

Rear Window Poster

A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

I hadn’t planned on picking two Alfred Hitchcock films here, but well, he was the master of mystery noir. This one also features one of my fave classic actors, James Stewart, and another classic beauty Grace Kelly. 

This is definitely one of the best films confined in a single location, and the set design is absolutely astounding. Apparently the set was constructed specially for this movie, on the whole they built about 30 apartments and about half was fully furnished! I also love the costume design by the legendary Edith Head (notably all of Grace Kelly’s gorgeous dresses), I’m shocked she was NOT nominated for an Oscar for her work here.

Rear Window Costume Design

This movie was my January 2015 Blindspot pick, and I loved it! Despite the lighter, playful tone, the film packs a lot of interesting themes about psychology, human nature that are intrinsic in most of Hitchcock’s films.


BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

Batman Begins poster

After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight to free crime-ridden Gotham City from corruption.

I gotta include one of my favorite comic-book films here. Bruce Wayne aka Batman is an amateur super sleuth and crime fighter. The first of Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight trilogy shows Bruce’s foray as a detective, teaming with up with Gotham City’s police commissioner Gordon. I LOVE the dynamic between Christian Bale and Gary Oldman, two of the best actors working today.

Batman Begins -Batman Commissioner Gordon

Batman didn’t just bring down crime lord Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) but also exposed the real villain Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), the radical leader of League of Shadows who wants to destroy Gotham. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think of this film as a noir thriller that happens to have a superhero character in it, and I’m excited that the upcoming THE BATMAN will show the caped crusader in his detective mode than what we’ve seen in other films!

ZODIAC (2007)

zodiac-fincher-movie

In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.

I caught this one almost a decade after its release, which apparently didn’t do too well at the box office. It’s surprising given the star-studded cast, but then again this was a year before Robert Downey Jr. became Iron Man and long before Mark Ruffalo became his fellow Avenger as the Hulk. Interesting how the three leads have now become Marvel stars!

Jake Gyllenhaal Robert Downey Jr

At almost 2.5 hours long, this David Fincher murder mystery is more of a slo-burn film but an effective and suspenseful one. There are some lighter moments too between Jake Gyllenhaal and RDJ, as the film focuses on the life of the detectives on top of being a whodunnit type film. The sinister part is that the story is based on real events in the San Francisco Bay area, adapted from Robert Graysmith’s non-fiction book of the same name (Gyllenhall played Graysmith in the film).


So which are YOUR favorite movies about amateur sleuth?

A Thanksgiving Post: 24 cinematic things I’m thankful for this year

To my American friends all over the States, I want to wish you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope that you’re all enjoying some time together with family/friends and cherish those moments dearly. To those in other parts of the world, I bid you happy-almost-weekend day 😀

Well, it’s not as if you need a special day to give thanks, right? But just for the sake of being timely, here are 24 random movie miscellanea I’m thankful for this past year:

1. Well I think it’s quite obvious isn’t it, yours truly has fallen under the spell of the beautiful creature that is Gregory Peck. It’s been such a delight to discover his classic films all the way from the early 40s. He’s just so compelling to watch in any genre! The more films of his I watched, the more I appreciate just what a wonderful actor he truly was.

Playing against type as a gritty, dusty outlaw in 'Yellow Sky'

2. Though he’s passed on last February, John Barry’s music lives on… there are so many wonderful movie music he’s left us with, but my favorites shall always be Somewhere in Time and Out of Africa.

3. The casting of Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

4. Andy Serkis‘ performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

5. The gorgeous Paris scenery… and Marion Cotillard‘s radiant beauty in Midnight in Paris

6. Tarsem’s visual panache in Immortals

7. Gerry Butler‘s heart-wrenching and fearless performance as Sam Childers in Machine Gun Preacher

8. This wonderful black & white trailer of The Artist, can’t wait to see the actual film!


9. Discovering Tom Hiddleston from THOR.

10. The fantastic rapport between James McAvoy & Michael Fassbender as Xavier & Magneto in X-Men: First Classjust one of the 40 reasons I LOVE this film!

11. Pixar’s BRAVE’s beautiful poster and a very promising trailer!

12. Working on my third pitch this past Summer for Castor‘s Fantasy Draft Pitch blog-a-thon… tentatively titled RESTAURO — starring Viggo Mortensen, Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving, directed by Duncan Jones.

13. Finally getting around to seeing Kenneth Branagh’s HAMLET and loving it!

14. Gentleman’s Agreement, one of the most compelling Oscar-winning film with a bold message about a then-controversial and risky topic about antisemitism… more people should see this even today.

15. Having the privilege to interview Anton Yelchin and Drake Doremus in person for Like Crazy during Twin Cities Film Fest… my first ‘official’ press junket 😀

16. Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain’s compelling performance playing the same character in The Debt

17. Going to Comic-Con this past Summer … and meeting Captain America himself, Chris Evans!

18. The exquisite cinematography of The Big Country by William Wyler… and the joy of seeing Moses and David (Charlton Heston & Gregory Peck) beat each other up in an epic fight scene

19. Harry Potter franchise ends with a bang… and seeing the back story of Severus Snape, played brilliantly by Alan Rickman

20. Terrence Malick‘s suddenly prolific streak, reportedly attached to direct two new films Lawless and Knight of Cups, which means we may see up to five Malick films within a few years!

21. Well-designed and iconic movie posters… such as this one:

22. Spellbound‘s surreal dream montage designed by Salvador Dali… and how dreamy Gregory Peck is in this [sigh]

23. The Hobbit‘s video journals (thanks to Claire Packer for posting the updates). Bless Peter Jackson for constantly updating fans with the progress of one of the most anticipated film of next year.


24. And last but not least… I’m ever so grateful for the joy of blogging and ‘meeting’ fellow movie lovers via the blog and Twitter… thank you everyone who have supported this blog for the past couple of years. Hope you’ll stick around for more 😀


So what are you thankful for this holiday season?

The Case of Being Spellbound: Musings on Movie Crushes

I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time… but seeing how swoon-worthy Gregory Peck in Spellbound I feel like indulging. Besides, one of my longtime crush is having a birthday this Saturday, another one has a movie opening this Friday, and my friend Novia just happened to be celebrating her Monthly [Cillian] Murphy series on her ultimate movie crush, so today just seems as good a time as any. Admit it, we’ve all got our share of movie crushes. Some last only as long as the film you saw him/her in question remains in your memory, but some crushes linger for years.

So what really constitute as a movie crush?

I think a real crush is when you like an actor so much you just can’t get enough of them. You want to see everything he’s ever done, and you’re willing to track down even the most obscure little thing you could find, even if he has only like 5-minute screen time. That’s what I did as a wee girl when I fell for Christopher Reeve in Superman. Or the time I ordered a DVD of this British sit-com Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married all the way from New Zealand because Gerry Butler has a part in it, ahah. Turns out to be a pretty funny show thankfully.

Contrary to what you might think, I don’t fall for actors very often. Well, you know, the whole butterfly-in-the stomach variety. In fact, I was surprised how much I was struck by Peck in Spellbound… It was a big swoon moment as I watched the way he looked at and held Ingrid Bergman… I was um, spellbound by his gorgeous face (and how his ears sort of stick out a bit), the way his dark hair kind of curl on his forehead, his deep voice. There’s also that quiet grace about him that I always find irresistible in a man. So yeah, it’s one of those rare swept-off-my-feet moments that when it happens, I kind of want to cherish it.

I can only think of a few such hypnotic moments. If you read this blog long enough, none of this is a surprise to you. Back in December 2004, it took the second viewing of Phantom of the Opera for me to fall for who else but ze Butler. It was a seduction scene when the masked genius led the young ingenue Christine to his lair. Well let’s just say she wasn’t the only one to come under his spell, ehm. A couple of years ago, watching Mr. Thornton in BBC’s North & South got me swooning over Richard Armitage. It’s a tough role to match as I haven’t been that mesmerized by anything else he’s done since (hopefully his role in The Hobbit would mean he gets more movie roles!)

Another time I recall was in Sense & Sensibility, the moment Col. Brandon was struck by Marianne’s beauty (and her singing) and the way he’d secretly steal glances from her and read to her with such affection, I will forever be a fan of Alan Rickman because of that role. Oh, and I can’t possibly leave out the moment I saw Dalton emerged as Rochester in 1983 Jane Eyre. He fell off his horse and I fell head over heels in love 🙂 I had already fancied him as Bond, but it’s his portrayal as Rochester that did me in. There were other less-intense-but-still-memorable crushes such Gabriel Byrne in Little Women, Karl Urban in The Lord of the Rings, Christian Bale in The New World, Lee Pace in The Fall, Eric Bana in Troy, and Tom Hiddleston in Thor, to name a few.

As far as movie crushes go, seems that I always fall for either a Brit or Aussie. Even if I had no idea where the guy is from, or how obscure he was or how small a part he has in an big ensemble-cast movie, I’d end up being attracted to someone outside of the US. It’s almost a mathematical certainty (well I said almost because I did fall for the California-born Peck instead of he equally-dashing Brit Cary Grant). I don’t know if it’s because my first ever crush was my British ESL teacher, but I think the Brits/Aussie actors just have a more charming personality to go with their looks, not just in movies, but also in interviews/talk show appearances. Now, before you hurl anything at me, I’m not saying American actors aren’t attractive, in fact, some are too perfect-looking that it actually becomes a turn-off for me. Bradley Cooper, Matthew McCougnahey, Chris Pine and the suddenly buff ‘it boy’ Ryan Gosling, seem to fit into that category.

A Taste for the Obscures

Henry Cavill and Gerry Butler were unknown when I first noticed them, and a lot of my crushes are not exactly household names yet. As an actor becomes too famous though, sometimes my fascination would wear off. I kind of feel that way about Michael Fassbender now, though obviously it’s not a fault of his that he’s getting recognized for his work. Overexposure can be such a killjoy, that’s why superstars like Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Leo DiCaprio don’t do anything for me.

Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with this. I guess Gregory Peck just inspired me to just write about other movie crushes in the past. So thanks for allowing me to indulge a bit in between my search for more Peck’s classic movies to watch, ahah.


Now your turn. Please share your own movie crushes… who’s your long-time crush and which one(s) captured your heart recently?