2014 Recap: Top Five Favorite Movie Songs

Top5MovieSongs2014

Ok so I started making my Top 10 Films list, in fact I have my top 9 ready to go with just one more left to include. But y’know what, I realize I should wait until later this week as I have one press screening of a 2014 film on Tuesday.

Now this one is a much easier list to include, and four of the five have pretty much been decided long ago. The fifth one I’m including here is from an earlier 2014 movie I’ve just seen recently, Begin Again. In case you missed it, I’ve posted the Top 10 Favorite Film Scores list back in December, which surprisingly doesn’t have any overlap. What’s indeed surprising to me is that two of the songs here are sung by the lead actresses of their respective films, which means I should really update my five-year-old list of actors who are surprisingly good singers. As for I’m Not In Love, I’ve actually been a fan of that song (which was released in 1975) for some time, but I had to include it here as it’s my fave song from the awesome Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. It might not be as catchy as Hooked on a Feeling but it doesn’t get old as quickly as that one.

So anyhoo, here’s my top 5:

Blackbird – Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights)

Everything’s Awesome –Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island (The Lego Movie)

Once Upon A Dream – Lana Del Rey (Maleficent)

I’m Not In Love – 10cc (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Like A Fool – Keira Knightley (Begin Again)

 

Honorable Mention: 

Agony – Chris Pine & Billy Magnussen (Into The Woods)

I have to include this one as this scene is easily my favorite of the entire film! You can take a look at the hilarious clip here (it’s fuzzy as it’s recorded on the big screen) but I’m including the official song below because the quality is much better.


Thoughts on my picks here? So what’s YOUR favorite songs from the past year?

[Last 2014] Weekend Roundup + Mini Reviews of The Trip To Italy, The Immigrant, Exodus: Gods & Kings and Into the Woods

Hello hello! Hope you had a lovely long Holiday weekend. It’s quite a nice and relaxing holiday for me, though it ended up being a pretty busy one hanging out with friends. I did fit in some movie-watching, even went to the cinema for Exodus though it was more of a last-minute decision when some friends invited us.

LastWeekendRoundupMovies

Just a quick thought on each of them as I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to review them…

The Trip to Italy
It’s not as fun as the first film, The Trip. Perhaps I’m just getting tired of Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon‘s schtick and they’re really not very likable characters. The impersonations are getting a bit repetitive, but some are still fun to watch, especially when they’re talking about all the Bond actors. The Italian scenery and food imagery are truly drool-worthy however.

3halfReels

The Immigrant
The main draw for me is the cast, especially Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cottilard. Two things that this movie have going for it are the performances and the intriguing story. I’m not generally fond of Jeremy Renner and here he’s just ok, not as compelling as the other two actors. The star is definitely Cottilard who remains alluring no matter how destitute they made her up to be. Now, if only the pace and direction had a bit more life to it. It felt overlong and tedious, even if the actors were able to hold my attention for the most part. The finale did pack an emotional punch, but I wish it had been more evenly-handled throughout, especially since the story strikes a chord with me.

3 Reels

Exodus: Gods & Kings
Now, Ted’s given a full review of this but since I just this earlier today, I figure I’ll give my own two cents. Well, I ended up enjoying this more than I thought. Perhaps having a very low expectations helps, but I’m glad to say I didn’t find it boring even if it certainly lacking that *epic* touch I expected from Ridley Scott. Performances are good, especially the two leads Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton, but Scott took way too much liberty with the story and character of Moses. There are too many to mention here but let’s just say this story is more inspired by the Biblical tale than an actual adaptation. It’s one thing if a reimagining of the centuries-old story actually enhances the adaptation, but in this case, the alterations are much to its detriment and much of it just don’t make sense. Still, I don’t think this was an abomination as some critics describe it but I think keeping the integrity of the story would’ve served this film better.

3 Reels


IntoTheWoodsBanner

I have to admit I’ve actually never heard of Stephen Sondheim‘s play before this film, apparently it’s been around for nearly 3 decades. But since I grew up watching a ton of Disney fairy tale movies, the idea of reimagining some of Brothers Grimm fairy tales intrigues me. I’m all about crafting a twist to a classic story, so long as they do a good job of it. Alas, I feel that Into The Woods might be a much better fit as a stage performance as it’s all about showmanship instead of a compelling narration.

The main players are comprised of the Baker & his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), and the wicked witch (Meryl Streep). The rest are basically supporting characters: Jack and his mother (Daniel Huttlestone and Tracey Ullman), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and Johnny Depp’s in a glorified cameo.

IntoTheWoodsStills

Not a bad cast at all, and I must say they all did a good job singing and performing the songs. Some fare better than others of course, Kendrick could’ve done well on the stage version of this with her beautiful voice and Streep also has quite a lovely voice. Much have been said about her performance as the witch, but seems that at this point she could just be reading a restaurant menu poetically and they’d shower her with a plethora of awards. I think she’s rather over-the-top here, though that’s perhaps the direction she was given. Her song has the most memorable melody of the entire movie, but I don’t think her performance itself is THAT extraordinary. I think my favorite has to be Pike & Magnussen’s (the two Prince brothers) hilarious and unabashedly campy rendition of Agony. Ironically, it’s the least agonizing rendition of the rest and it got the whole theater cheering for its flagrant goofiness. Corden has the most screen time aside from Streep and I think he’s a good and likable actor that’s able to hold his own. He has a nice chemistry with Blunt, who’s always lovely to watch no matter how little she has to work with.

Overall though, I just can’t get into the story. It’s convoluted for no apparent reason and the third act just got too somber and dark for its own good, which seems disconnected from the lighter scenes that precede it. In fact, the stories don’t feel well-connected at all, they just seem randomly thrown together for amusement sake. Much like the equally star-studded ensemble of Nine, Rob Marshall seems more adept at assembling a bunch of fabulous crews and actors but he’s inept in making the most of the performers to tell an engaging story. I’ve only seen three of his work, including the overrated Chicago which I don’t think deserve the Best Picture Oscar. In fact I wish it hadn’t, as it encouraged Marshall to think he’s a great director.

As I walked out of the theater, I wonder if it had been ill-advised to adapt this material on the big screen. I mean if they absolutely had to adapt it, perhaps Disney should’ve gotten someone who’s more of a bold visionary filmmaker. Someone who could breathe some real sparkle (to match all that fairy dust) into this adaptation and make it entertaining in the process. As it is now, the movie is mere window dressing with gorgeous set pieces, pretty costumes and lovely songs, but it inspires more of a ‘huh?’ reaction than ‘wow.’

2Reels


Well, have you seen any of these films? What did you think?

Weekend Roundup + Musings on the SAG Awards & Golden Globes Nominations

What a hectic weekend it’s been. With my hubby’s company holiday party, a Christmas concert, a TCFF bloggers meet-up and a morning screening, I barely had time to even open my laptop until Sunday night. No time for home cinema at all obviously, though I did see two press screenings: Into The Woods on Thursday night and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Saturday morning.

It’s my first Night of the Museum movie I’ve ever seen, in fact I didn’t even know this was the third entry, wow! It was fun enough that I might check out the previous two. As for Into The Woods, well let’s just say that apart from some hilarious sequences, this material might’ve been more suited for a play. I’ll post a double review of both before Christmas.

IntoTheWoods_NightAtMuseum3

Ok, this post marks the first Awards Chatter of the year!

I finally had time to put my thoughts down on the two recent award nominations that was announced back to back last week. To keep this post at a manageable length, I’m only limiting my comments to under 15 categories each, and on FILM nominations only (as I barely watch any TV to have any opinion on those).

GoldenGlobes

BEST PICTURE (drama)
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
 …
Oyelowo_Selma
David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ve only seen two out of this list, but Selma‘s press screening has been scheduled in the first week of January so I’m looking forward to that! I honestly don’t know which one I’m rooting for most, I guess I’ll know after I see Selma but I’m glad there’s finally a good Martin Luther King Jr. adaptation. But where’s Gone Girl?? It’s nominated for Best Director but no love from the Hollywood Foreign Press for the film itself?
 …
BEST PICTURE (comedy/musical)
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Pride
St. Vincent
 …
After having seen Into The Woods, I definitely don’t think it deserves a nom! I wish Begin Again had been nominated here over that one instead, it’s just a more entertaining and engaging film by a wide margin. Ah well, I guess out of this list, I’m rooting for Birdman with Grand Budapest Hotel a close second.
 …
BEST DIRECTOR
Wes Anderson | The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay | Selma
David Fincher | Gone Girl
Alejandro González Iñárritu | Birdman
Richard Linklater | Boyhood
 …
As I haven’t seen Selma and Boyhood, out of the three I’ve seen, I’m torn between Iñárritu and Fincher. Congrats to Ava DuVernay for making history as the first-ever African-American woman to be nominated in the Best Director category! At the same time, why does it take THAT long for a woman of color to finally get directorial recognition?! Well, out of the ones I’ve seen, I’m leaning towards Iñárritu as Birman is just unlike anything I’ve ever seen and will surely end up in my final Top 10. It’s hilarious yet poignant at the same time and I’m just glad to see Michael Keaton making a major comeback!
 …
BEST SCREENPLAY
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Again, I’m rooting for Birdman here, though I think Gillian Flynn did a fantastic job adapting her own novel Gone Girl, so I definitely wouldn’t cry foul if she wins.
 …
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The LEGO Movie
  …
Yay, three of my fave animated films are nominated!! Out of Big Hero 6, HTTYD 2 and The LEGO Movie, I’d LOVE to see Big Hero 6 win, but I think The LEGO Movie could very well be the one to beat this year.
 …
ACTOR (drama)
Steve Carell | Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch | The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal | Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo | Selma
Eddie Redmayne | The Theory of Everything
 …
Carell_Foxcatcher
This is such a strong category and each seems to be quite deserving of a nom. I’m bummed that I have only seen two performances here, Carell’s and Cumberbatch’s. Carell is absolutely astounding and virtually unrecognizable in Foxcatcher and so my money is on him this year.
 …
BEST ACTOR (comedy/musical)
Ralph Fiennes | The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Keaton | Birdman
Bill Murray | St. Vincent
Joaquin Phoenix | Inherent Vice
Christoph Waltz | Big Eyes
 …
I LOVE the fact that Fiennes is getting a nod for a comedic role and deservedly so. But I’ve been a fan of Keaton for some time and I’m really rooting for him to sweep all the awards this year.
 …
BEST ACTRESS (drama)
Jennifer Aniston | Cake
Felicity Jones | The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore | Still Alice
Rosamund Pike | Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon | Wild
 …

So the trend that actress who *deglamorize* for a role usually gets nominated continues. I haven’t seen Cake yet and I honestly haven’t heard much of it apart from Aniston going sans makeup in the role. I guess I might rent it when it’s out on rental. I’d LOVE to see Pike win this category, I mean she’s just fantastic as Amy Dunne, and please please please, don’t give it to Witherspoon!! I’m already so disappointed seeing her name here, I mean I’d rather nominate Gugu Mbatha-Raw for either Belle or Beyond the Lights any day!

 …
BEST ACTRESS (comedy/musical)
Amy Adams | Big Eyes
Emily Blunt | Into the Woods
Helen Mirren | The Hundred Foot Journey
Julianne Moore | Maps to the Stars
Quvenzhané Wallis | Annie
 …

I’ve only seen Emily Blunt‘s performance here, and though I’m not crazy for the movie, I do think she’s VERY good in the role but she’s always been a great actress IMO. Kudos for Moore for her double nominations though I have yet to see either one of her performances.

 …
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Rosana Arquette | Boyhood
Jessica Chastain | A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley | The Imitation Game
Emma Stone | Birdman
Meryl Streep | Into the Woods
  …
Both Knightley and Stone were good in The Imitation Game and Birdman, respectively, but I don’t know who I root for most out of those two. I’ve always like Chastain as an actress and I’d have liked to see her get a nod for The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Interesting that Streep’s character is considered a supporting role in Into the Woods, as she seems to have a pretty major screen time there. In any case, does she have to be nominated for EVERY SINGLE ROLE she plays EVERY YEAR though?? I could think of a handful of actresses I’d rather see in her place, for one I’d love to see Andrea Riseborough (or Naomi Watts) in Birdman get a nod! I was also impressed by Kim Dickens as Detective Boney in Gone Girl.
Andrea Riseborough with Keaton in 'Birdman'
Andrea Riseborough with Keaton in ‘Birdman’
 …
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert Duvall | The Judge
Ethan Hawke |Boyhood
Ed Norton | Birdman
Mark Ruffalo | Foxcatcher
JK Simmons | Whiplash
 …
Woo hoo for Mark Ruffalo! I was a bit worried Channing Tatum would get a nod in the supporting role instead of him. I guess Tatum could be considered a co-lead with Carell. But Ruffalo was truly the heart of the film and he was truly believable and compelling in the role. Meh on Robert Duvall, but I guess it’s better him getting a nod than Robert Downey Jr from The Judge.
 …

BEST SCORE
Alexandre Desplat | The Imitation Game
Johann Johannsson | The Theory of Everything
Trent Reznor | Gone Girl
Antonio Sanchez | Birdman
Hans Zimmer | Interstellar


I’ve been listening to Interstellar’s score a lot lately so I guess that’s my favorite from the bunch. But Reznor’s work for Gone Girl is excellent and I’ve been a fan of Desplat’s work generally. Seems that the Academy loves him, he’s been nominated 6 times in the last 7 years, but he has yet to win. So perhaps this would be Desplat’s year?
 …

SAGawards
I’ve never blogged about the SAG awards before for some reason, but it could very well be far more important than the Globes and other awards apart from Oscars. Per THR, in the years since the SAG Awards were first handed out in 1995, the guild’s acting nominees and winners have predicted the Academy Awards’ acting nominees and winners more consistently than any of the many other accolades that collectively constitute the awards season.

It’s definitely the year of the Brits! There’s a British actor in practically every acting category both at Golden Globes and SAG this year.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
STEVE CARELL / John du Pont – “FOXCATCHER”
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / Alan Turing – “THE IMITATION GAME” 
JAKE GYLLENHAAL / Louis Bloom – “NIGHTCRAWLER”
MICHAEL KEATON / Riggan – “BIRDMAN” 
EDDIE REDMAYNE / Stephen Hawking – “THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING” 

Pretty much everyone I predicted would be nominated are on this list, and yay once again for Keaton! It’s a big year for Cumberbatch & Redmayne as this is the first SAG nom for the two Brits that would likely lead to the Oscars. VERY curious who’d win this year but I have no quibble about the nominees. I was bummed not seeing David Oyelowo‘s name here but apparently Selma wasn’t completed in time to send screeners to the SAG voters, hence the exclusion.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
JENNIFER ANISTON / Claire Bennett – “CAKE” 
FELICITY JONES / Jane Hawking – “THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING” 
JULIANNE MOORE / Alice Howland-Jones – “STILL ALICE” 
ROSAMUND PIKE / Amy Dunne – “GONE GIRL” 
REESE WITHERSPOON / Cheryl Strayed – “WILD”

Aniston_Cake

Unlike the more predictable MALE category, the Lead Best Actress category is full of surprises! Jennifer Aniston getting a double nomination, esp. from SAG, wow I’d never guess THAT as I have never even heard of her film Cake until a few weeks ago. I just hope there’s more her performance to warrant that nom than simply going sans makeup (and having bad hair) for the role. One thing for sure, as I said above, I don’t buy Witherspoon in a similar ‘non-glamorous’ role in Wild.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
ROBERT DUVALL / Joseph Palmer – “THE JUDGE” 
ETHAN HAWKE / Mason, Sr. – “BOYHOOD” 
EDWARD NORTON / Mike – “BIRDMAN” 
MARK RUFFALO / Dave Schultz – “FOXCATCHER”
J.K. SIMMONS / Fletcher – “WHIPLASH”


I’m rooting for Norton and Ruffalo out of this bunch, both of them are nothing short of excellent. I guess Norton’s role in Birdman is flashier but Ruffalo shines in a more understated performance in Foxcatcher. I definitely wish Duvall won’t win this category, I don’t know why he’s even nominated here.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
PATRICIA ARQUETTE / Olivia – “BOYHOOD”
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY / Joan Clarke – “THE IMITATION GAME”
EMMA STONE / Sam – “BIRDMAN”
MERYL STREEP / The Witch – “INTO THE WOODS” 
NAOMI WATTS / Daka – “ST. VINCENT”

[sigh] Meryl Streep once again, am I the only one tired of seeing her name in EVERY SINGLE NOMINATIONS year after year? Boy I didn’t even know Watts was in St. Vincent, I thought if she were to get a nod it’ll be from Birdman. I was quite impressed with Stone in Birdman, perhaps her best performance I’ve ever seen from her after her mediocre turn in those Spider-man movies and an entirely unconvincing one in Gangster Squad.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
BOYHOOD (IFC Films)
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
THE IMITATION GAME (The Weinstein Company)
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus Features)

ImitationGame_Cast

It’d be interesting if The Imitation Game with its all-star British cast win this thing but they do have an excellent ensemble! I personally love The Imitation Game and Birdman ensemble as I think the supporting cast absolutely deliver across the board, and they’re not just a glorified cameo like many in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

So who got snubbed??

So the most popular four-letter word during award season is back once again!

Seems that the early frontrunner Unbroken is not really much of a contender. I bet Angelina Jolie (who’s been nominated for Golden Globes half a dozen times, even for The Tourist!) would never guess Jennifer Aniston would get DOUBLE nominations this year. Perhaps the HFPA and SAG voters just don’t want to see both of them competing on the same red carpet or something? But the fact that the film didn’t earn a single acting nom, even for its lead Jack O’Connell is surprising to me. Now, the movie itself might not even be THAT good, so whether it’s really a SNUB remains to be seen.

Jolie_FilmingUnbroken
Jolie on the set of ‘Unbroken’ – Photo courtesy of HollywoodTake.com

Some consider this a snub, but I’m not all that surprised NOT seeing Interstellar nor Matthew McConaughey amongst the nominees. I’m not disappointed either as the film didn’t wow me. Seems that Ben Affleck is also not getting any love for his performance in Gone Girl, which arguably is one of his best acting in recent memory.

Spall_MrTurner
Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner

Lastly, two Cannes winners: Bennett Miller (Best Director for Foxcatcher) and Timothy Spall (Best Actor for Mr. Turner) are both missing from both Golden Globes and SAG nominations. I have been hearing nothing but praise for Spall’s performance as the eccentric British painter, so this seems to be a pretty glaring omission.


Well, there ya go folks. So who do you consider the surprises and/or snubs this year from both GG and SAG awards?

Everybody’s Chattin’ and Teaser Trailer Spotlight: Pixar’s Inside Out

EverybodysChattinWinterHello all! It’s yet another combo post today, as I want to highlight some of my favorite posts from fellow bloggers as well as highlight a brand new teaser trailer from Pixar. I was going to do a Music Break of Into The Woods since I’m going to the press screening tonight, but I’ll save it ’til next week. I’m also going to the Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb screening early Saturday morning. I haven’t seen the first movie but hey Dan Stevens is playing Lancelot!

I might be blogging about my reaction to the SAG and Golden Globes noms, boy they all seem to be coming out at once! Oh and stay tuned for Ted’s review of Exodus tomorrow. If you’ve read yesterday’s post, you might’ve guessed what he thinks of it 😉

So here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

CR_FelixLeiterAfter having finished the audio book Carte Blanche (read by my dahling Toby Stephens, natch!), Michael talked about one of Bond’s most loyal allies: Leiter, Felix Leiter.

One of my fave bloggers Cindy B. always have such insightful and perceptive posts. Her latest is on the point of view of Books vs Films and why the latter often doesn’t live up to its source material.

A few month-in-review posts are still trickling in. Kristin and Eric just posted what they’ve watched last month… and Kristin also talked about what she’s anticipating in December.

Those with music in their minds … Josh posted his list of Top 25 Songs of 2014, whilst Chris picks his Top 100 songs in batches.

Lots of great reviews of movies I haven’t seen yet:

Mark reviewed Whiplash, Stu reviewed Calvary, and Zoë reviewed FURY. Meanwhile, Mikey and Katy are both impressed by the movie I wish I had seen: Nightcrawler.

ConradHall-RoadtoPerdition

Last but not least, check out these two great lists … Alex picks his Top 10 Conrad L. Hall films, whilst Dan/Top10Film‘s contributor listed Top 10 Horror Films from the USA.

 


Now time for that awesome teaser trailer …

I hadn’t been following Pixar’s next project but oh, I absolutely LOVE this story concept! Inside Out is Pixar Animation Studios’ fifteenth feature film and glad they’re going back to an original story since Brave in 2012.

Pixar_InsideOut

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters.



Now I’m not too crazy about the name (wonder what other titles were tossed around). But hey, the premise does sound promising and the trailer definitely grabbed me. This looks like it could be right up there with Toy Story and Wall•E, both of which are written by Pete Docter and he also directed Monsters Inc. and UP for Pixar. Docter is the sole screenwriter of Inside Out and he’s also one of the co-directors. I quite like the voice cast too: Diane Lane, Amy Peohler, Kyle MacLachlan, Mindy Kaling, and Bill Hader. So color me excited for this one!


What do you think of ‘Inside Out?’