Christmas Weekend Recap: Scrooged + binging on Westworld

Happy last Tuesday of the year folks! Hope you had a lovely Christmas break. Mine is relatively mellow on Christmas day, though we did go up North to Duluth Friday and spent the night there to see the Bentleyville Tour of Lights (I’ve shared the pics here).

We came back in time for Christmas Eve church service, which was wonderful. For the next couple of days, we pretty much hibernated indoors as the weather is quite frightful outside. But hey, it gave us a chance to finally watch a Christmas classic we’ve missed all these years…

SCROOGED

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Thanks to Courtney’s post on her favorite things about Scrooged, I thought it’s about time I checked it out. My hubby and I loved Bill Murray and the movie is directed by Richard Donner, who I’ll love forever for giving us Superman: The Movie. Well, the updated Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas staple and it’s easy to see why. Murray is perfect as a selfish, heartless TV exec, he’s just effortlessly funny and the slapstick stuff was hysterical. Nice to see Karen Allen here too though she’s barely given anything to do. The movie itself isn’t exactly perfect but still it was a lot of fun and has that rousing ending with great music. Glad I finally saw this movie, a Christmas must-see movie I can now cross off my list.

WESTWORLD

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If you were to ask me to sum up what I did on Christmas weekend… it’d be bingeing on Westworld! My hubby and I couldn’t wait to finally have time to devote to this series, and I much prefer to binge on tv shows these days, and having a free subscription to HBO on the first month certainly helps! It took us two days to get through halfway of the first season, with just five more episodes to go.

Well, first impression is… we LOVE it!! It’s definitely the kind of sci-fi shows we like… bold, visually-stunning, thought-provoking, well-written and well-acted… it pretty much ticks all the boxes of what a binge-worthy show should be. It reminds us a bit of another sci-fi we used to binge-watch, Battlestar Galactica, an ensemble-cast series which also deals with the interactions of humans and robots but I think Westworld is even bolder and sharper in scope. I love that the show is not melodramatic or bogged down by unnecessary romantic plots, but man does it give you a ton of stuff to think about. It’s what people call a mindf*ck in the best possible way! The cast are simply astounding and most of them bring their A-game to the series. If I had to list my four favorite characters, it’d have to be these:


Anthony Hopkins effortlessly adds gravitas as the park creator, whilst Ed Harris is wonderfully menacing and cool as hell as Man in Black. He’s such a terrific actor, and he adds SO much to his role. I can see why Margaret goes ga ga over him now 😉 I haven’t seen Evan Rachel Wood in hardly anything, but she’s no doubt the heart of the show and her acting is phenomenal!! I sure hope this show will give a boost to her career as she’s clearly very talented. As for Thandie Newton, this is perhaps the strongest performance I’ve seen her in, though she was memorable in Crash and Rocknrolla.


I’m also impressed with James Marsden who I think is an underrated actor who people might not take seriously because of his good looks. Well he’s still a sight to behold here as the cowboy Teddy, but at least he gets to show his acting chops too. I’m most intrigued by Jeffrey Wright‘s Bernard, as he seems to have a hidden agenda that’s been hinted out since episode 1. But please guys, NO SPOILERS in the comment as I’ve only got to episode 5. My hubby and I couldn’t help watching fan theories on youtube after each episode, there’s really SO MUCH to ponder and analyze, that’s why we’re limiting ourselves to a couple of episodes a day even though we can’t get enough!

The Nolans sure have the brains for storytelling. Jonathan Nolan‘s written a ton of my fave films with his brother Christopher (esp. The Dark Knight). Here he teamed up with his wife Lisa Joy who’s a talented TV writer in her own right. Executive producer JJ Abrams sure has a midas touch too, is there anything that guy can’t do?? I might also check out Michael Crichton‘s 1973 film Westworld in which the series’s concept is based on. I had no idea Crichton was also a film director on top of being a best-selling author.

Well, I’ll do another summary post again once I’m done w/ the season. So far I think Westworld does live up to the hype!


So what did you watch this Christmas weekend? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Westworld too!

Everybody’s Chattin + TV News Update: HBO’s Westworld & George RR Martin’s Wild Cards

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Happy Wednesday everyone! Are y’all watching the Olympics? I missed the opening ceremony so I only caught up w/ some clips on Flipboard. I did watch the Men’s 100m backstroke as Minnesotan David Plummer, a swim coach who’s perhaps one of the oldest at 30, won Bronze.  Woo hoo!

Well I’m super excited to see Anthropoid tomorrow. I’ve posted the trailer here and yesterday I read this awesome NY Mag article that the film shows how women helped defeat the Nazis.

Ok how about those links!

A couple of Suicide Squad-related posts: Margaret lamented on the lack of Jared Leto’s Joker’s scenes, among others, whilst Jordan actually had some praises for the movie.

Jia posted a Blindspot review on one of my favorite modern noir thrillers, L.A. Confidential

Jay reviewed a movie I missed at the theaters, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I can’t wait to rent as soon as it’s available.

I hadn’t reviewed Spielberg’s The BFG yet, but it seems Mark liked the movie more than I did, whilst Zöe pretty much agreed with me in regards to Jason Bourne.

I enjoy reading ranking lists! Keith just ranked the Marvel movies from worst to first ( I LOVE his #1 pick!)

This is a movie which trailer intrigued me… Dan reviewed Indignation

Last but not least, Cindy shared some great book recommendations.


Ok, we’ve still got a couple of months to wait yet for this upcoming series, but man, everything about this upcoming series looks really good!

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A series inspired by the 1973 film of the same title written by Michael Crichton about a futuristic theme park populated by artificial beings.

Now, I’ve never seen the original series with Yul Brynner, but the idea of a western sci-fi instantly intrigues me. Ok now it doesn’t always work, as in the case of Cowboys & Aliens, but we’ve got quite a pedigree in terms of its creator.

I love that it’s a husband/wife team behind this series remake: Jonathan Nolan and fellow screenwriter Lisa Joy Nolan. Oh, and JJ Abrams also serves as executive producer along with the Nolans. Check out the trailer:

Here’s just a sampling of the impressive ensemble cast:

  • Anthony Hopkins
  • Ed Harris
  • Evan Rachel Wood
  • James Marsden
  • Thandie Newton
  • Jeffrey Wright
  • Tessa Thompson
  • Shannon Woodward
  • Ben Barnes

The 10-episode season 1 will premiere on HBO on Sunday, October 2 at 9 p.m. I can hardly wait!
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As Game of Thrones‘ fans are waiting for season 7 with bated breath, its author George R.R. Martin has long set his sights elsewhere. He just may have another sprawling fantasy world on television, according to Variety.

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Universal Cable (same studio behind Mr. Robot that I’m currently watching) has purchased the rights for Martin’s work. The first volume in the book series was published in 1986, with 22 volumes released to date.

Here’s the premise:

“…the shared world of the Wild Cards diverged from our own on September 15, 1946 when an alien virus was released in the skies over Manhattan, and spread across an unsuspecting Earth. Of those infected, 90% died horribly, drawing the black queen, 9% were twisted and deformed into jokers, while a lucky 1% became blessed with extraordinary and unpredictable powers and became aces. The world was never the same.”

I quite like the sound of this, so I’ll keep an eye on this project. Surely plenty of actors are salivating to be cast in this.

 


What are your thoughts about these TV projects?

FlixChatter Review: Anchorman 2 – The Legend Continues

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It took almost ten years for Ron Burgundy and his gang to come back to the big screen. Reportedly Paramount was nervous about green lighting this sequel even though the first one was a modest hit, but it didn’t earn enough to warrant a sequel. Well, after many years of stuck in production limbo, Burgundy and his gang of newsmen are back!

The action picks up a few years after the events of the previous film, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his now wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) are living in NYC and working together as co-news anchors at a big news station in the city. One day both of them had a meeting with their boss, a well-known actor played this role and I won’t spoil it for you as to who it was but if you look it up on IMDB, you’ll know the actor. The boss decided to promote Veronica to be an anchor on the prime time slot and fired Burgundy. He also told Burgundy that he’s one of the worst anchorman he’d ever seen. After the meeting, Ron and Veronica got in a fight, he didn’t want her to accept the new position and gave her an ultimatum, it’s him or the job. Well fast forward a few months later, Ron is now back in San Diego working as a spoke person at some water park. He’s broke, lonely and pretty much have no desire to go on living. After a failed suicide, a new producer showed up and offered him a new job. He told Ron that he’s starting a 24 hours news station and that he wants Ron to be his main news anchor. Ron wasn’t sold on this 24 hours news idea but he’s broke and needed the money. He accepted the job and decided to get his old gang back together. The whole movie was about the adventures of Ron and his gang in the big city and all the silly stuff that you’d expect to see in this kind of movie.

Ferrell had no problem jumping back and play his alter ego Burgundy, in fact I thought he’s better in this film than the first. There were some laugh-out-loud moments, more so than in the first one I thought. I really enjoy the jab at the ridiculousness of cable news channels in our world today, especially one particular network (cough FOX News cough), even Burgundy’s boss is an Australian. The rest of the cast members did a fine job, although I thought there were too many scenes of Brick (Steve Carell) that weren’t funny but I since Carell is a bigger star now, he probably demanded more screen time. The film has a lot more cameos than the first, at the climax scene, there were who’s who of famous faces that showed up, again I won’t spoil it for you.

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There were a few things that didn’t work for me. First, a love story subplot involving Brick and another simpleton who works at the station, Chani (Kristen Wiig), just felt force and went on a bit too long and just wasn’t that funny. Then there’s another plotline in the middle of the film that was never fully developed and they just sort of wrapped it up towards the end of the movie. The antagonist of the film, another famous anchorman Jack Lime (James Marsden), was made out to be Ron’s main competitor but sort of fade into the background in the rest of the film. Lastly, the film could’ve been trimmed by at least 20 minutes or more, a 2 hours run-time for a comedy is way too long.

Overall though I thought this new adventure of Ron Burgundy was a lot of fun and fans of the original will enjoy it as well. I think I laughed more in this film than the first one and I have to confess, I thought the first one wasn’t that funny when I saw it in theater. But after watching it many times on DVD, I became a fan. Well for this one, I became a fan instantly so I guess it’s better than the first one. This one comes highly recommended and if you’re in the mood for a good comedy, you can’t go wrong with this one.

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4 out of 5 reels


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What do you think of Anchorman 2? Was it a big deal for you?

Small Roles Big Performances – James Purefoy + James Marsden

For this blogathon, somehow both Becky and I settled on the actor with the first name James… and both playing a Prince! It’s pure coincidence by the way, but it works out great that they’re two very different actors, one Brit and one American, but both are not only easy on the eye but very talented yet massively underrated.

Visit the main blogathon post to see the full list of participants by clicking the banner above.

James Purefoy – A Knight’s Tale  (2001) 

Genre: adventure comic fantasy romance
Character(s): Sir Thomas Colville / Edward, the Black Prince of Wales

Every time I think of A Knight’s Tale (2001), I giggle, pinch myself, then remind myself (again) that my two favorite actors, Rufus Sewell and James Purefoy, (who both happen to be English, and who both happen to have attended the same drama school in London) are actually TOGETHER in the same film. So dreams really CAN come true! Rufus has a prominent role as antagonist Count Adhemar, whereas James appears only briefly in three short, but significant scenes.
The story (from Wikipedia): 
The film follows the story of William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), a peasant masquerading as a knight, along with his companions in the world of medieval jousting. William poses as a knight and competes in tournaments, winning accolades and acquiring friendships with such historical figures as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales and Geoffrey Chaucer. The story, concisely, in just 12 words (from an IMDb review): It’s like Top Gun, but with horses and lances instead of jets.
First scene (from Wikipedia):
In this joust, William faces Sir Thomas Colville, who withdraws from the tournament after being injured by William, though they exchange a ceremonial pass so that Colville might retain the honor of never having failed to complete a match.
Second scene: 
In their next tournament together, William realizes the knight calling himself Sir Thomas Colville is actually Edward, Prince of Wales, also known (affectionately) as the Black Prince. The film implies there is a custom encouraging knights to withdraw from competition against royalty in order to cause no harm. Count Adhemar quickly withdraws as he receives confirmation that Colville is really the prince. You can see the immediate disappointment in Edward’s face as he realizes he may not be jousting this day. William is expected to withdraw also. But he has come lance to lance with Edward before and senses his eagerness to engage and doesn’t withdraw, which earns him great respect from Edward. Their match is a draw. Before leaving the field, they both recognize each other from their first meeting, and William acknowledges him as prince. Edward: “You knew me? And still you rode?” William: “It’s not in me to withdraw.”  Edward: “Nor me.”
Interestingly, Prince Edward is not a fictional character. He lived from 1330 to 1376. He was an exceptional military leader, and his victories over the French at the Battles of Crécy and Poitiers made him very popular during his lifetime. He died before his father, Edward III, which makes him the only English Prince of Wales never to be King of England. His throne passed instead to his son Richard II.
Third scene (towards the end of the film):
William is arrested for forging papers claiming he was a knight. Prince Edward seeks him out. Here, James is regal, assertive and authoritative, yet deeply compassionate. He orders William to be released from the stocks. The prince draws his sword, touches it to William’s shoulders, and thereby bestows knighthood upon him. He is now Sir William. This leaves him totally free to pursue his goal: winning the jousting championship against Count Adhemar and earning the hand of his desired Jocelyn. It is in this last scene where the noble Prince Edward (and James’ superb acting skills) shines:

I LOVE the costume designer who cloaked James in that subtly embroidered, fur-lined, full length earth-colored coat over a white, deep V-collar shirt that shows off just the right amount of… ummm, well, I think you know what I mean 😉 … I could easily get carried away here (smile). It surely helps that James is tall, dark, and alarmingly handsome.
James has had leading roles in film, but a vast amount of his work has been in television, both here in the US and the UK. His exceptional, standout role was playing Marc Antony in the HBO series Rome (2005-2007, appearing in all 22 episodes). Beginning January 2013 (in the US), he is co-staring with Kevin Bacon in the new Fox criminal thriller TV series The Following.
Spending so much time with James while writing this has left me almost breathless, and … well, you know, yes, never mind, again. But hey, I’m just taking one for the team… team FlixChatter, that is.
So, have you seen A Knight’s Tale? If so, did James’ performance stand out for you too? Let us know!


James Marsden – Enchanted (2007)


Genre: fairy tale romantic comedy
Character: Prince Edward
I don’t exactly know when I first beheld James Marsden, but I’ve always liked the guy. Not only is he drop-dead gorgeous with to-die-for cheekbones, the Oklahoma native can sing! You might’ve seen an episode where he sang You’re Always On My Mind on Ally McBeal,  and of course in the musical Hairspray. I always notice him in various supporting roles he did in The Notebook, Superman Returns and X-Men. On Superman Returns, I found myself rooting for his character, Richard White, as the nice guy who has to deal with his fiancee’s ex coming back into her life. He could’ve easily been written as a jerk but I’m glad they didn’t and Marsden sympathetic portrayal makes him a memorable character in that movie.
He’s obviously quite a versatile actor who can jump from genre to genre, doing an animated feature like Hop to dark thrillers like the Straw Dog remake in the same year! The youthful-looking 29-year-old also has wonderful comic chops that makes him perfect to play Prince Edward in Enchanted! I thought he was well, enchanting as the fish-out-of-water character from fairytale land stranded in modern day New York City. The second he popped out of the manhole complete in his royal attire, I knew he’d be the scene stealer of the whole movie! Lethargic Patrick Dempsey can’t hold a candle to Marsden’s vibrant and amusing performance, he’s just delightfully oblivious!
I love the scene in the hotel room where he mistakes the TV for being the magic mirror, ahah, and of course the whole singing thing in Dempsey’s apartment. Every time the daft prince shows up, the movie just hits a high note for me. I mean, just the scene of him walking with Giselle on the Brooklyn bridge with the Liberty statue hat is a hoot. I really don’t remember much about Dempsey’s character in this movie, but I definitely remember Prince Edward!
Here’s a clip of all Prince Edward scenes from the movie. Enjoy!


Small Roles … Big Performances Blogathon



Thoughts on Purefoy or Marsden’s performances? Well let’s hear it!

Labor Day Weekend Viewing Roundup

Well, it’s been a nice, mellow Labor Day weekend for us. No barbeque or picnic this time, we didn’t even go to the state fair, we’re just not too fond of those, so once every five years is plenty 🙂 I did spent some time shopping for some Hunger Games stuff for my three nieces, apparently they’re kinda obsessed with the book/movie right now. Better than Twilight I guess, ahah.

We did watch quite a bit of movies though, four movies in 3 days is pretty good for us, usually we saw that many in a week. We skipped the mainstream releases this time and went to see the documentary 2016 Obama’s America and Robot and Frank.

My hubby and I got to talking about The Crow over dinner and so we ended up renting Brandon Lee’s last film, as well as the biopic drama on his father, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. I will do a review of those two together later this month, but let’s just say we’re both were quite taken by the tragic story that happened to both father and son. Cursed or not, the mystery surrounding their deaths is very eerie.

2016: Obama’s America

Politics just isn’t my cup of tea, so I had never even heard of this film until a friend at work mentioned it to me and sent me the trailer. Not being a US citizen, I’m not able to vote, but once in a while I’d read about political stuff just so I know what the issues are being talked about. I always think that there are always pros and cons for every party, even if my social views are more conservative leaning. With Obama, I’m naturally more curious about him because of the Indonesia connection. He even went to the same umbrella school, St. Francis of Assisi where my hubby and I went, when he lived in Jakarta for a couple of years. Yet, aside from that, I hardly know anything about him and so this documentary tagline: ‘LOVE HIM. HATE HIM. YOU DON’T KNOW HIM.’ intrigues me.

It’s hard to review a film like this, but contrary to what you might’ve read, this documentary by conservative scholar and author Dinesh D’Souza is NOT Obama bashing, nor is it endorsed by a political party. It examines the question, “If Barack Obama wins a second term, where will we be in 2016?” and it actually starts with a biopic of sort, of D’Souza himself, an immigrant from India who studied at Dartmouth College. The film even noted that there’s a lot of similarities between D’Souza and Obama, as they’re exactly the same age and both went to an Ivy League university around the same time.

D’Souza and George Obama

Directed by John Sullivan, the film is co-produced by Gerald Molen who won an Oscar for Schindler’s List. The film is largely based on D’Souza’s book The Roots of Obama’s Rage and also includes a substantial amount of quotes from Obama’s audio book Dreams From My Father. D’Souza traveled to Hawaii, Indonesia and Kenya to try to understand what influences might have shaped our President. In Kenya he interviewed people who knew the late Obama Sr. well, most notably Barack’s half brother George, a soft-spoken man who lived in practically a hut barely enough to fit even one person. When asked about Obama not delivering on his promise of being ‘a brother’s keeper,’ George replied diplomatically, “He’s got other issues to deal with… He’s taking care of me. I’m part of the world.”

D’Souza’s research leads him to conclude that Obama holds an anti-colonial worldview from his father as well as anti-western, socialist-leaning mentors, and that the US president actually “wants to reduce America’s footprint on the world.” Now, whether or not you agree with the film’s argument, I think the filmmakers made a compelling case for it. The production values is pretty good considering the tiny budget ($2.5 mil), though some of the re-enactment by actors feels rather clunky at times. Naturally a documentary like this is likely to be one-sided, just like Michael Moore’s anti-Bush doc and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, but at the same time I don’t feel that this film was an outright attack against Obama. One thing for sure, this film is thought-provoking and justifiable asks people to do their research with an open mind before they cast their vote.

Robot and Frank

The minute I saw the trailer for this, I was quite charmed by it. It’s an unlikely heist movie and a sci-fi-themed drama that’s as far away from being science-fiction-y. Instead, it’s a character-driven comedy-drama that centers on Frank, an aging former cat burglar who’s given a robot caretaker by his son Hunter, as he refused to be put in a mental institute. Frank is suffering from an early stages of dementia and has become disillusioned with his sedate life. To everyone’s surprise, his life perks up as soon as Robot comes into his life, and despite his initial hostility towards his health-nut machine, soon Frank and Robot becomes unlikely friends and um, partner in crime.

The movie is set in a vague ‘near future’ where a library of physical books are going to be replaced with a ‘virtual experience’ as it were. The movie starts out quite slow, but grounded by Frank Langella‘s effective performance, but with the arrival of Robot, the pace picks up quite a bit. It’s a touching film that subtly delves with themes of aging and how human connection might be affected when robots exist amongst us in our daily lives. The film doesn’t go into too much depth into this matter however, such as when Frank actually prefers the robot’s company over his own daughter, which should be more disturbing than the film lets on.

Though Frank does a lot of illegal stuff and not exactly a good father figure for his kids, one can’t help but sympathize with him. Langella’s perhaps not the most charismatic actor, but I think his more deadpan style suits his character very well here. I do like the fact that a senior actor gets a leading role and the age-defying beauty Susan Sarandon also has a pretty substantial role as the librarian that Frank constantly flirts with. This is James Marsden‘s third film with Langella, so they have a natural rapport with each other, but he and Liv Tyler aren’t given much to do here than act frustrated by Frank’s shenanigans.

In that sense, the movie lives up to the title as the stars truly are Frank and his robot butler, voiced by Peter Sarsgaard. It’s quite amusing to see the palpable um, chemistry between these two. They argue constantly like old married couple, and there are also some poignant moments that actually makes you feel for the robot.

Robot & Frank is quite an enjoyable little movie on account of the talents involved, there’s also a bit of a twist at the end that’s quite poignant. However, I feel that it could’ve been a far more memorable film had it dealt with the robot vs. human connection theme with a little more conviction.

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


I welcome your thoughts on these films. So what movie(s) did you see this weekend?