Music Break: Philip Glass’ The Illusionist score

As tonight I’ll be seeing Now You See Me tonight, a crime thriller about a team of illusionists pulling off bank heists during their performances, I thought this week’s music break would have a similar theme of magic. The Illusionist is essentially a love story based on Steven Millhauser’s short story, “Eisenheim the Illusionist.

TheIllusionistScore

The film tells the story of Eisenheim, the the son of a cabinetmaker in Vienna, who uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing.

Before I get to the music, I’m quite fond of this period drama. The cast is wonderful, especially Ed Norton who carried the film with his affecting performance. I also love Paul Giammatti and Rufus Sewell here, both are terrific character actors who rarely disappoint. Even Jessica Biel, who’s not typically a strong actress, seems to acquit herself well here as Norton’s long lost love, though at times she did seem to be out of her elements amongst other more experienced actors. Visually it’s quite beautiful as well, shot by cinematographer Dick Pope who deservedly nabbed an Oscar nomination for his work.

Now, I think Philip Glass should’ve been nominated for his work here as well, as his score is no doubt one of the strongest artistic elements of the film.


I love Philip Glass‘ musical style, he’s actually my dream composer for my romantic thriller movie pitch Hearts Want. I first heard his beautiful score for The Hours a few years ago, and I also love his work in The Truman Show. Glass was nominated for three Oscars for his work in The Hours, Notes on a Scandal and Kundun. The Baltimore-born composer utilizes the repetitive structures that some critics would label ‘minimalist style.’ Now, I’m no musical critic, so for me, I’m a fan of his work as his music have a distinct sound unlike any other, and they’re pleasing to the ear.

In this one, he wonderfully captures the romantic sensibility as well as the mysticism and magical tone of the story. According to PhilipGlass.com, Michael Riesman is the conductor and producer of nearly every Philip Glass soundtrack recordings. And here he conducted the Czech Film Orchestra to bring the score to life beautifully.

Another one of my favorites from the score is the Orange Tree track, and the scene in the movie is also one of the major highlights.



Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s music break. What do you think of Philip Glass and/or The Illusionist’ score?

A Trio of New Releases Reviews: Wreck it Ralph, Life of Pi and Hitchcock

Happy Friday and the last day of November, everybody! Are you going to the cinema this weekend? Well, unless you’re already set on seeing the new Brad Pitt retro crime thriller Killing Them Softly, perhaps you’re considering what else is worth a watch? Well then these reviews might help you make up your mind.

Thanks to FC contributor Cecilia Rusli and my colleague Sarah McNeal for two of the reviews.

Wreck-it Ralph

Director: Rich Moore
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Voice Cast: John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer

In almost every video game and movies, there’s the good guy, and there’s the bad guy. Wreck It Ralph tells the story of Ralph who has always been the bad guy on a video game and has the duty of wrecking people’s apartments. Every time there’s a villain, there must be the good guy or what’s-so-called  hero. Fix-it Felix is the character which repairs everything Ralph destroyed. Actually the Wreck it Ralph game reminds me of Rampage, a 90s video game where players destroy buildings. I used to play it on PlayStation while i was a kid and it indeed brings pleasure destroying stuff.

While doing his duty on wrecking apartments, Ralph suddenly wants his life to change. He wants to be the good guy who’s being loved by people. Along the way, he met Vanellope, a kid from the world called Sugar Rush. Sugar Rush with its lovable colors looks like the ones I saw at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. A world full of sweet treats.

It turns out that Ralph has to team up with Vanellope in Sugar Rush and help her to win a car race there. A car race is also brings some video games nostalgia. One I remember pretty well is Crash Team Racing on PlayStation where we need to have a car race with Crash Bandicoot and friends. Yes, it’s a very girly video game. I’m pretty sure there are still plenty of car race arcade games nowadays. During the race scenes, the emotions building between Ralph and Vanellope is done pretty well. The connection between them is very heart-warming and yes it officially made this movie another animated feature with a heart.

Wreck It Ralph SugarRush

Wreck-it Ralph surely will amuse people who are into video games. Lots of video games characters have a cameo here that fans will surely notice and actually name during the movie. I will not do that here as it’s more fun and exciting to discover them by surprise. In some scenes I was actually concerned that people would walk in front of the screen and I’d miss seeing the cameos!

The 3D was fine. It doesn’t have much pop-up stuff but the scenes at Sugar Rush indeed looks more exciting in 3D. Overall, Wreck-it Ralph is a sweet time machine to the age of 8-bit video games. Great story with engaging characters, lovely colors and musical score surely make Wreck it Ralph one of the best animated movie this year for me. Can’t help waiting for Despicable Me 2 next summer!

– Review by Cecilia R.

4 out of 5 reels


Life of Pi is magical and marvelous

Director: Ang Lee
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain

Life of Pi has been near the top of my list of favorite books for years. When I heard it was being made into a movie, I wondered how. When I heard Ang Lee was director, I knew he’d nail it.

The story is of a shipwrecked boy named Pi, sharing a life raft with a tiger named Richard Parker. And so much more. This story to me is all about choosing to believe versus choosing not to – be it in God, in magic, in journeys, in life. Sure, you can believe that life is nothing more than the cells we are made up of, and when we die, we die. Or you can believe that life is a fantastic journey, rich in detail, strife, love, endurance. Which is the better story? This is the simple question the story asks.

At the end of the movie, Pi is recuperating in the hospital when some insurance adjusters come to find out why the boat sunk. Pi tells them his incredible story, which meets with stares and more questions. They want the truth, they say, just the facts. Why did the boat sink? I don’t know why the boat sunk, says Pi, but he gives them what they want and retells the story starkly. It’s not just dull, it’s torpid. In the end, even the insurance adjusters chose to believe.

LifeOfPi_Still

As an animal lover, I have to say: That poor zebra. That awful hyena. And Orange Juice, the orangutan, gets dispatched way too early. But how magnificent Richard Parker is! And those flying fish! And the jellies!

As much as this review is of a marvelous book and movie, I feel I have to put it in context. I went to see it with my husband, who knew only that I loved the book, my 15-year-old daughter, and my 62-year-old sister-in-law, who is a minister. An interesting group of people, one a focus group would almost hand select to see this movie. We all found it amazing. And we are all going back next weekend to see it in 3D!

5 out of 5 reels

– review by Sarah McNeil


Hitchcock

Director: Sacha Gervasi
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, James D’Arcy, Jessica Biel

Hitchcock is a love story between one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), and his wife and partner Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). It’s set during the making of Psycho, and it also explored how Hitchcock came into working on what ended up being his most successful film.

I’m not familiar with the filmmaker and so the strong influence of his wife was quite eye-opening. In fact, Mirren has quite a substantial role here and this film explores the side of Hitchcock, most people perhaps aren’t familiar with. Apparently it was quite a tumultuous journey to bring Psycho to the screen and a lot of personal sacrifices had to be made. I always like getting a glimpse of the making of a classic, how films get made back in the day, the relationship between actors and the studio, etc. That’s the part that I find amusing with My Week with Marilyn.

In any biopic, especially someone as well-known as Hitchcock, the makeup is crucial. At times Hopkins’ look is distracting as he doesn’t seem to look quite right to me, like he’s always high-strung or something. After a while though, I managed to just accept that he’s Hitchcock and concentrate on the story, but perhaps having an unknown in that role might’ve worked better.

The casting of Helen Mirren is the main reason to see it for me. The dame is always so watchable and has always been a highlight in everything she’s done. Not only is she beautiful and still has a killer figure for being 3 years shy of 70, but she has that screen prowess like no other. I love all the scenes Alma is in, especially the part where she passionately gave her husband a piece of her mind during a heated argument.

Hitchcock_Still1

As for the rest of the supporting cast. Well, initially I wasn’t too fond of Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh (I think she’s perhaps more suitable to play Jayne Mansfield?) but she turned out to be ok and the filming of the shower scene where she was screaming her head off was quite the highlight. The scene of Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy) meeting with Hitchcock is strangely amusing, it’s quite clear in that scene why Perkins was perfect for the role. There’s also a revelatory scene involving Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), albeit a brief one, that hints on Hitchcock’s unhealthy obsession with his leading lady. One of the most curious thing is the character of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) as the Wisconsin serial killer who’s the inspiration for Psycho’s protagonist Norman Bates. I think their relationship was supposed to be a metaphor — the way Hitchcock seems to be consulting Gein as if he were his therapist, etc. — but it’s not entirely clear to me. Aside from the two leads though, there’s little to no depth in the supporting characters for you to care for them.

I think it’s wise that the film focuses on a specific time frame of Hitchcock’s life, but even so, given the brief 1 hr and 38 minute running time, it still feels a little rushed at times. Tonally this film seems rather off as well, it doesn’t quite work as a drama or comedy and there’s little emotional resonance overall. Perhaps mischievous is the word that comes to mind to describe this film, which I suppose is appropriate given the subject matter.

Just for the record, I actually have not seen Psycho so I was a bit worried that this biopic might be a bit lost on me, but fortunately, the film is more about Alfred and Alma than it is about the film. Perhaps people who are avid Hitchcock fans might appreciate it more though, so I’m curious to hear what they think of this film.

Hitchcock_Still2

So overall, I’m glad I knew a bit more about this iconic filmmaker and how much his wife played a part in his career. However, the film is a bit too uneven and not substantial enough to be all that memorable. Still, I find it amusing and certainly worth a look for anyone who’s seen at least one Hitchcock film.

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


Thoughts on any one of these films? Well, let’s hear it!

Trailer Spotlight: Playing For Keeps

All right, two sports-related Gerard Butler trailers released within a month! I wonder if it’s because of the Olympics?? First we’ve got a surfer movie, now soccer, not that I’m complaining 🙂 Now, this one was supposed to be released last March as I included it in my most anticipated movies for the first quarter of 2012. Well, when I mentioned this one in the GB Special Post, at the time it was still called Playing The Field.

Anyway, we’ve now got a brand new trailer and updated synopsis [per Yahoo Movies]:

A charming, down-on-his luck former soccer star returns home to put his life back together. Looking for a way to rebuild his relationship with his son, he gets roped into coaching the boy’s soccer team. But his attempts to finally become an “adult” are met with hilarious challenges from the attractive “soccer moms” who pursue him at every turn.

Well, I like this trailer a bit better than Chasing Mavericks’. Well for one, Gerry gets to keep his Scottish brogue, wahoo! Plus, I kind of like seeing him with kids. I mean the last time he played dad to a little boy was in the wonderful indie Dear Frankie, and he’s definitely a natural with them. Then there’s the supporting cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid and Judy Greer, though I wish Uma and Judy get at least a line in the trailer?? Initially I thought Biel only had a small role, but it seems that she’s got second billing here.

Ah well, I’m going to file this one under ‘promising’ even though the trailer itself is rather meh, and that song is annoyingly schmaltzy. This curiously Mondrian-styled poster doesn’t exactly scream artsy either. But hey, I like the idea of Gerry + soccer, and it’s helmed by a pretty credible director, Gabriele Muccino, the Italian director who helped Will Smith got his second Oscar nomination in The Pursuit of Happyness. Interestingly, that one also features a single dad and his young son.

In any case, I’m glad they switched this from a baseball-themed movie to soccer when Butler was cast [per LA Times blog], and the fact that he was involved in a lot of soccer charity match, including this year’s star-studded Soccer Aid, he’s perfect for this role! It’s poised to be a feel-good dramedy this Winter, but here’s hoping it offers us something more than that.

Updated 11/29: Playing For Keeps Featurette on GB’s character George


Playing For Keeps
is released December 7.


Thoughts on this trailer, folks?

Total Recall – Double Review

Here we go again. The question of ‘is this remake necessary?‘ is ubiquitous once again. For some, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is regarded a classic. So naturally, people are crying foul when director Len Wiseman announced he’s doing a remake 22 years after the original’s release in 1990. So today, Ted and I are looking into this from two different perspectives: He loves the original and has read the Philip K. Dick novel, while I can barely recall the original and hasn’t read the book.

Ted’s Review:

First off I would like to state that I love the original version of Total Recall and I also read the short story by Phillip K. Dick which both films were loosely based on. For this review of the new film, I’m going to try my hardest not to compare this new film to the 1990 version or Dick’s short story.

The film opens in the future, they didn’t specify what year but according to the Sony’s official plotline, it’s set in the year 2084 and earth has suffered some sort of catastrophic chemical warfare and most of the planet are inhabitable except for two areas: a federation on the British isles and a colony which used to be Australia. You see the world has split into two societies, the rich lives in the federation and the poor lives in the slum looking colony.

Just like the original version, it begins with Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) having a bad dream and when he wakes up, he’s comforted by his gorgeous wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). We learned that Quaid is not satisfied with his life, again he’s married to a woman who looks like Kate Beckinsale or in the original version, Sharon Stone, yet he’s still not happy? Seriously, come on now! Oh sorry I didn’t mean to go off track there. Anyways, we also learn that Quaid is a factory worker who dreams of moving up the ladder at his company. But because he’s from the colony, the company refuses to promote him. So one day a new co-worker of his heard him complained about his mundane life and told him about a place called Rekall, there he can make his dreams come true. After a couple of beers at a bar with his best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), Quaid decided to drop by Rekall and get an exciting memory implant.

Once he’s at Rekall, he was given a few life style choices and he chose to get a memory as a secret agent. Before he gets the implants though, cops stormed into Rekall’s office and killed everyone except Quaid who we found out could handle himself. Then the rest of the film became a chase, first Quaid didn’t understand why his wife is now trying to kill him and then later he ran into another beautiful woman named Melina (Jessica Biel) who told him he’s not who he is.

First let’s get the good stuff out of the way, the film was beautifully shot and composed. The special effects were top notch and some of the action sequences were pretty great; I really enjoyed the car chase on the highway of the future (looks way too similar to the highway in Minority Report) and also the fight scene in an elevator. I would like to thank Wiseman for shooting action scenes that we can actually see instead of the usual handheld shaky style that’s been popular lately in action films.

Unfortunately those are the only good things I can say about this remake. The film lacks originality, wit and humor. The futuristic world looks so much like other (much better) sci-fi films that came before it. I imagine Wiseman goes into a meeting with his production designer and visual effect guys and said “Look I want to copy every other sci-fi films, so make the cities look like they’re from Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Minority Report or i, Robot. Then make the robots, cars and jets looks like something out of Star Wars prequel.” Now I don’t mind people copying other films, so long as their story and characters are interesting. Well Wiseman failed on those areas too. Since I’ve seen the original so many times, I found the plot in this version to be boring and uninteresting.

I also didn’t care for any of the characters, I felt Ferrell’s Quaid was just running around trying to save his own ass and then Biel’s Melina was just the typical damsel in distress, yes she can handle herself but in the end, Quaid still has to come to her rescue. As for Beckinsale, well she’s way too hot for me to take her seriously as a killing machine. It was a mistake for the filmmakers to combined the characters of Lori and Richter from the original into one. You’re probably wondering why I haven’t mention the main villain of the film yet, well to be honest he’s not worth mentioning. You don’t really know much about Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) except that he’s the guy in charge of the federation and he’s evil, plain and simple. I don’t blame the actors for not being interesting, the writers didn’t give them much to work with.

To me another mistake the filmmakers made was to do direct remake of Verhoeven’s film instead of reinvent the story. I mean they could’ve followed the original short story and maybe it could’ve been a much better film. Even though this remake has bigger budget and ten times better special effects, the film felt small in scope compare to Verhoeven’s version. Again I think it’s the filmmakers’ fault for not trying something new. Also, they took the material way too seriously, for a summer action film, I couldn’t find one single humorous scene in it.
I really wanted to enjoy this film but in the end I found it to be joyless, repetitive and not creative at all. I’m not saying it’s a bad film, I was just bored with it.

If you’ve never seen the original version, then you might enjoy it. But if you ask me, I’d tell you to skip this one and see the original instead.

2 out of 5 reels

Ruth’s Review

I always love a good sci-fi and truthfully, I think having seen the filmmaker and cast at last year’s Comic-con might’ve elevated my enthusiasm for this movie. So when my hubby got a 2-for-in deal from VISA, we though, eh what the heck.

Since Ted already covered the plot, I’m only going to talk about how I feel about the film. Well, there’s really not much praise I can say about this movie. It’s too bad as the premise from the great mind of Philip K. Dick offers soooo much potential. The whole notion that the earth is now barren except Great Britain (The United Federation of Britain or UFB for short) and Australia (The Colony) is quite intriguing. And visually it’s quite a feast for the eyes, the ‘downtown’ area of UFB looks convincingly gritty, yet the aerial view shows a sleek, futuristic city of the year 2084. It reminds me of Blade Runner, but much, much sleeker, obviously CGI technology has come a long way since 1982.

The transportation system called ‘The Fall’ that goes through the planet’s core to travel from the two main regions are pretty cool looking and so are those super awesome hovercrafts! I LOVE the hovercraft chase scenes, especially that part when Farrell’s character disengage the vehicle from the hanging track, causing it to plummet thousands of feet below. It doesn’t quite match the truck vs. batpod in The Dark Knight of course, but still it was fun to watch. But aside from a few fun action sequences, this movie is pretty darn boring.

Acting-wise it’s lackluster as well, and I blame that on the flimsy script as Colin Farrell is actually a pretty decent actor. Somehow he’s just devoid of charisma here, in fact, he’s much more memorable in his brief scenes chasing Tom Cruise in another Philip K. Dick’s adaptation Minority Report than the he is running around for 2 whole hours here. Practically the entire time I was watching this, I was plagued with this de-ja-vu-ish feelings that I’ve seen all this before in different sci-fi movies, but done in much more compelling way. Kate Beckinsale, Wiseman’s ultra-gorgeous wife, is only there for mere eye candy. I mean her character — a kick-ass cop who NEVER has a bad hair day in her life despite having to wake up in the middle of the night to report to work — is so absurd that it’s borderline comical. She can practically leap from building to building in 10-inch heels as if she’s some bio-engineered robots and even with my suspension-of-disbelief cap screwed on tight, it’s still hard to imagine she had been playing Quaid’s loving wife for seven years.

Believe it or not, the only person who provides a little bit of emotional resonance is Jessica Biel’s character Melina, who claims to be Quaid’s girlfriend before his memory implant. At least I sympathize a bit with Melina in her struggle to get her boyfriend to figure out his real identity again, though at times she does appears more like a damsel-in-distress like Ted pointed out. Cranston was pretty much wasted as a one-dimensional villain, and Bill Nighy fares even worse! I mean, he’s actually more memorable getting his vampiric face slashed in Underworld, I mean come on!!

Overall it’s just a bland and vapid adaptation that offers no redemptive value whatsoever. Even those seemingly frivolous Summer superhero flicks have more purpose than the protagonist in this movie. Quaid seems only interested to save his own behind while at the same time trying to prevent the evil bad dude Cohageen from invading the entire planet with his robot army.

So in the end, though I don’t have fond memories of the original, I still agree with Ted’s rating on this one. Good thing we’ve got a pair of cheap tickets to see this, as it’s only worth a rental at best. Now I can see why Ted lists Len Wiseman in his list of hack directors in Hollywood!

2 out of 5 reels


Do you agree/disagree with our assessment of this movie? Let’s hear it in the comments!

THIS JUST IN: Total Recall (2012) Full Trailer

All right, after the stupid trailer-for-a-trailer thing that Sony released last week, this time we finally have the real full-length trailer! I’ve actually been looking forward to it since I saw the Hall H panel at Comic-con last year. Sheesh, it took ’em almost a whole year to finally release the trailer??

Just like the 1990 original film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, this one is based on the Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. This time it’s Colin Farrell in Arnie’s role of Douglas Douglas Quaid, a bored factory worker who buys a ‘holiday’ from Rekall Inc., a company that sells implanted memories. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, somehow Quaid finds himself hunted down by the police — and his own wife — and ends up teaming up with a rebel fighter.

Anyway, check it out below:

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I think the trailer looks pretty good, and some of the rough footage shown at Comic-con look far more polished here. I’m a sucker for action sci-fi laden with special effects, and this one certainly offers plenty of that. The futuristic cars and hovercrafts displayed at the convention look pretty darn cool, hope they’re put to good use in the movie.

Len Wiseman directs his gorgeous wife Kate Beckinsale once again, seems like he’s always cast her as some bad ass fighter just in those Underworld movies. Now guys would probably look forward to her fight scenes with Jessica Biel, ahah.  Nice to see Bryan Cranston in the trailer this time, but no sign of Bill Nighy anywhere. The rest of the supporting cast include John Cho (sporting Billy Idol hairstyle), Ethan Hawke, and Bill Nighy.

This looks to be more serious than the original. Now as a fan of Equilibrium, I am hopeful that writer Kurt Wimmer will deliver something worth remembering. Let’s hope that this is a step forward from Wiseman, though most likely it’ll be more escapist entertainment at the movies than a sci-fi classic.


I’m game for this one come August, how ’bout you folks?

DVD Picks: Easy Virtue and A Good Year

Easy Virtue

I’ve wanted to see this when I saw the trailer early last year, but wasn’t fast enough to make it to the theater. Adapted from Noel Coward’s 1924 play, it’s a comedy that pokes fun at the stifling British upper class. Jessica Biel stars as a feisty American divorcee Larita who re-marries a young man from a wealthy family, and immediately causes a stir as soon as she arrives at his parents’ crumbling stately home. She’s surrounded by mostly British cast (always a good thing in my book): Ben Barnes as her young husband John, and Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas as Barnes’ parents, the Whittakers.

I have to admit, I was baffled at first by her casting but Biel is quite a revelation here. Not only does she look really good in the retro costumes – they look flattering on her bodacious figure – but she’s also quite believable in her role. Best of all, she seemed to hold her own against the more experienced actors. She did seem a bit of an outcast at times, but in this case it’s actually a good thing as as her character is meant to feel that she didn’t belong.

I enjoy the whimsical comedy and witty banters, but as the movie progresses, I find that there’s more to the story than it seems to be. Firth’s melancholic but earnest performance adds gravitas to this movie, he plays a rather glum war vet and distant husband, increasingly weary of his nagging wife. He welcomes the new addition to the family with open arms, especially because his wife detests her. Their interaction slowly sheds a light as to who he, as well as Larita, really is. Perhaps it’s Firth who brings out the best in Biel, the great repartee between them is fun to watch.

The fairy-tale-free ending isn’t quite what expected, but in hindsight I quite like it. Larita’s old secret has been revealed, which led to her being dismissed by John, leaving her all dressed up with no one to dance with at the party.  Mr. Whittaker steps in and the two wounded souls finally come to terms with their predicaments as everyone around them watch them dance the tango together passionately and defiantly. It’s a great scene not only because I enjoy the sequence itself, but because of the significance of what their action/choices mean to them and the people inside that house.

Jessica & Colin's tango scene is one of the movie's highlights

The thing I find a bit odd is how the movie switches from comedy – laden with slapstick scenes – to a more weighty subject almost abruptly. But overall it’s still a pretty charming movie. Like Firth said in the premiere interview, “it’s a substantial movie that’s surprisingly light in tone.” That about sums it up.
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A Good Year (2006)

Thanks to loyal FlixChatter reader Samantha — who shares my fondness for Russell Crowe — for urging me to see this movie. This is Crowe’s second collaboration with Ridley Scott after Gladiator, but unlike the first one, A Good Year was trashed by the critics, with most of them basically lambasting him for his lack of comedic talents. Now, Sam’s theory is that it was panned seemingly for no other reason than that people were weirded out by an Aussie tough guy actor and a director known for doing intense thrillers doing a ‘soft’ movie. She might have a point there, it’s their own expectation that prevent them from enjoying the movie for what it is. I actually enjoyed it and it’s refreshing to see the gentler side of Crowe.

Maximillian may share a similar name to Maximus, but there’s no resemblance of that Roman general here. This successful investment broker Max is self-serving, ruthless, and unfeeling. In fact, all Max cares about is himself and as his best friend says, what Max Skinner does best is make money (the kind that’d give Gordon Gekko a run for his millions). He hasn’t spoken to his only surviving family member who helped raise him, uncle Henry. One day, a letter arrives informing him of his uncle’s passing and that he inherits his chateau and vineyard in Provence. Max doesn’t think much of that gift, and inclines to immediately sell it for profit.

Marion Cottilard

But it’s when Max visits the vineyard to renovate the place that things take an unexpected turn. Despite his initial reluctance, eventually Max begins settling in with the leisurely life, buoyed by his fond childhood memories he shared with his uncle growing up. He also meets a beautiful woman whom he unknowingly ran over the road as he was fumbling with his phone whilst driving, played by the ravishing French beauty Marion Cottilard, whose almost as gorgeous as the picturesque French countryside. As luck would have it, Max’s lucrative job is suddenly put in limbo pending an investigation into a questionable bond transaction, so the seemingly ‘trivial’ inheritance could become a life-changing matter. To complicate matters though, a young California girl suddenly shows up at his doorstep claiming to be Henry’s illegitimate child (the radiant Abbie Cornish).

Based on a best-selling novel of the same name by Peter Mayle, Scott’s personal friend, the story speaks about making the most of life’s simplest joys. The critics bark at the unhurried pace of the movie, but that’s kind of expected given the moral of the story where the protagonist takes a break out of his high-intensity life and discover there’s more to life than monetary success. Besides, the quieter scenes give you a chance to marvel at the lush scenery —  it’s almost worth renting this movie just for the cinematography alone, which might compel you to book a trip to France pronto.

The excellent Aussies Cornish & Crowe

Crowe is quite charming as Max, and he’s got a nice chemistry with Cottilard. It also boast terrific supporting performances from British-Indian Archie Punjabi as Max’s saucy assistant, Tom Hollander as Max’s best bud Charlie and best of all Albert Finney as uncle Henry. I particularly liked the flashback scene with him playing tennis with the young Max (Freddie Highmore) and his wise words: “You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is, uh… how much more enjoyable it is to win. It’s inevitable to lose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it.”

Turns out there are quite a few good things going for this movie. It might not be Scott/Crowe’s best work, but it’s definitely worth a look.