FlixChatter Review: PAN (2015)

PAN2015Hollywood’s obsession with origin stories continue with this latest reimagining of Peter Pan story. The story is set during the WW II Blitz era London and centers on the 12-year-old orphan Peter (Levi Miller) who lives in cheerless orphanage run by heartless and cunning nuns. But of course we know he won’t stay there for long as he will soon be whisked way to the magical world of Neverland to fulfill his destiny [yawn].

Pardon my dread there, but really, there have been a plethora of ‘chosen one’ storyline done in the past, and this one doesn’t really add nothing new. One of my pet peeves is whenever I hear ‘it’s your destiny’ or something along that line, I just can’t help to roll my eyes as it’s just so darn clichéd. Well, despite all the pixie dust we see in this movie, it lacks a certain kind of magic that would fill me with wonder.

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Don’t get me wrong, I think Joe Wright has a way with creating unique spectacle on screen. The 3D looks bright, colorful and panoramic, and feature some stunning camera work, especially the moment we get to Neverland and introduced to its flamboyant pirate leader Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Here we’ll see how Blackbeard’s plucked a bunch of kids from orphanages all over the world to work as slaves in his mine. So yeah, this movie is VERY loosely based on J. M. Barrie’s classic story, but that’s what you get from a reimagining adaptation. The quarry visual is reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road and the rousing rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is rather amusing as it’s so unexpected.

In Neverland, Peter also encountered James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) who’s still working as one of Blackbeard pixie dust mine minions. Hedlund‘s basically channeling John Wayne-style cowboy and though he’s fun in parts, he’s rather devoid of real charm. There’s all the teasing that Peter and the would-be Captain Hook would not be friends later on, and there’s deliberate *suspense* over when Hook would lose his hand to a crocodile. There’s even a giant CGI croc leaping across your screen, just one of a plethora of sound and sight oddities throughout. Did I mention Cara Delevingne also makes a cameo as a mermaid triplets?

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The relentless CGI-fest will no doubt engulf your senses. At times the effect felt like a huge sugar rush overload. There is only so much eye-popping effects your eyes can handle, I actually had to close my eyes a few times just to recharge my senses. But no amount of visual spectacle can replace a heartfelt story and I think that’s what’s lacking here. There are moments later in the film between Peter and his long-lost mother that’s quite moving, but that emotional resonance is so few and far between.

I think one of the worst moments is between Hook and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) which is just so awkward and pointless. In fact, the entire sequence in the island of the tribe that protect the fairy kingdom feels haphazard with garish colors and absurd battle action. Not to mention the fact that the casting of Mara as a Native American princess is just egregious. I read one reviewer who said ‘…Rooney Mara was crushed by a United Colours of Benetton ad’ Ouch! Ok so there is one character played by a non-white actor Adeel Akhtar, but he’s relegated to comic relief purpose and not much else.

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You won’t expect any subtlety in this movie and I don’t think Wright even tried. What’s also not-so-subtle is the fact that the film seems to be made to launch a franchise. Yet the script by Jason Fuchs is already stretched so thin, with minimal character development. It doesn’t help that it gets lost in the extravagant, noisy special effects. The film’s already a massive box office flop as it’d be a struggle to even make up the $150 million budget. But hopefully this means Wright will return to making intriguing dramas like Atonement and Pride and Prejudice.

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As far as performances go, I have to say that Jackman’s theatrical background is put to good use as Blackbeard. I know the role likely begets over-the-top performance, but all the scenery chewing gets irritating fast. Just like the movie, all the makeup/costume is so showy and circus-y but the character itself isn’t all that interesting. I do like Levi Miller as Peter though, I think he has that expressive face that reminds me of the young girl in the first Jurassic Park movie. Apparently Wright traveled to the UK, the United States, Canada, and Australia and looked at thousands of kids before he found Miller.

Overall, all the well intention of the filmmakers involved is swallowed up by overwhelming action and CGI spectacle. It also went on for far too long at nearly 2-hours, but too short on humor and whimsy. Like a rollercoaster in an amusement park, there are up and down moments, if only there were more ups than downs.

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Did you see PAN? Well, what did you think?

Music Break: Pride & Prejudice + fave scores from Dario Marianelli

I don’t normally do a Music Break post on the weekends but I’ve been listening to the 2005 Pride & Prejudice score lately so I figure it’s as good a time as any.

A little bit about the composer…

DarioMarianelliDario Marianelli was born on June 21, 1963 in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. He studied piano from the age of six, and also sung in a boy’s choir from that age. In his mid twenties he moved to London, where he enrolled at the National Film and Television School.

He’s worked with director Joe Wright on four films, some of which have become my favorites. Apparently he’s introduced by one of the producers of Pride & Prejudice where he and Wright hit it off straight away. One of the producers, Paul Webster, remembered the work I had done for him on The Warrior, a few years earlier. He introduced me to Joe Wright, the director of Pride & Prejudice, and we hit it off straight away. Per M Online interview, in their very first conversation they ended up talking about Beethoven early piano sonatas which became a point of reference and starting point for the score.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

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The score for Joe Wright’s feature film debut has become one of my favorites ever, and so it’s about time I feature it here on Music Break. It’s as lush as the landscape in Derbyshire, England, as swoony-romantic as the classic love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I’d think if Jane Austen were to listen to this score, a smile would form on her face.

I had to include the score used in the helicopter-shot scene when Lizzie standing on the precipice of a large cliff, the wind blowing her hair and the sun shining down… it’s an iconic scene made even more perfect by this score.

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And of course, the dawn scene… it’s the kind of scene that just never gets old for me. I’ve seen it countless times and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lizzy and Darcy more ravishing than in this very scene. I LOVE how Wright filmed Darcy walking in his long, cape-like robe towards Lizzy… you could practically breathe the crisp morning air in this scene… the scenery & the music… it’s just absolutely luscious.

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Pride & Prejudice remains my favorite of Marianelli’s work so far, followed by Atonement which he deservedly won an Oscar for, two years after his first nomination for Pride & Prejudice. In 2013 he’s nominated again for Anna Karenina. I remember seeing one comment somewhere, might’ve been on youtube, that says how an Italian guy could make the perfect Russian music. Well, according to that article above, Marianelli regarded it as his best work as he said he learned a lot from that experience.

So here are four more scores I love from Marianelli… so definitely made beautiful music in all of his collaboration with Wright. I thought they’d be working together in Wright’s next film PAN, but my other favorite John Powell is scoring that. Marianelli is working on a film where Keira Knightley appears once again, EVEREST.

V For Vendetta (2005)

Atonement (2007)

The Soloist (2009)

Anna Karenina (2012)


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Hope you enjoyed today’s music break. What’s YOUR favorite score(s) from Dario Marianelli?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina

Thanks to my friend Julian who told me about the trailer via Twitter, I had forgotten that I was going to do a spotlight post on this film when I first picked up the novel. I still have not finished the Leo Tolstoy masterpiece, still stuck at about the halfway mark. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish it, it’s really quite a heavy book about Russian aristocratic society on top of the obvious tragic love story, but watching the trailer actually makes me think I shouldn’t give up on it, yet.

Before I get into the casting and overall thoughts on this adaptation, first check out the poster and the trailer below:

CASTING

Firstly, let me confess that I’m not exactly sold on Keira Knightley‘s casting. The trailer doesn’t exactly change my mind. In fact, I’m already bored looking at her here, I don’t know if I can watch two hours of her being gloom and doom, suffering in the name of love.

I wasn’t sure who I’d rather see in her place, but now I think perhaps Mélanie Laurent, the French actress who was in Inglourious Basterds and most recently in Beginners. She actually look like she could be Russian and she has that melancholy yet mysterious look about her. Plus she’s not as well-known as the pouty-mouthed Keira, which would’ve made it fresher. Alas, Joe Wright apparently loves working with the English actress, this will mark his third project with Knightley after Pride & Prejudice and Atonement.

Now, the casting of Aaron Johnson piqued my interest, he’s wowed me in a couple of things he’s done, particularly as young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy. At only 22, there’s something so sensual about this young man, such virility and vigor. But there’s also restlessness and unworldliness that he seems to be able to inhabit as Vronsky, which as you know in the book would lead to the downfall of their torrid romance. Not sure he pulls off the mustache look though, I’m just not fond of it and I find it quite distracting. Funny how reading it in the book is quite different than seeing the character on screen. I almost wish Wright would take creative liberty and forgo the mustache on Vronsky, I mean he’s taking a bunch of creative license on the story anyhow.

Now on to the wronged husband Alexei Karenin. In the book he’s described as not being much to look at, so initially I was baffled at Jude Law‘s casting. I mean he’s as far away from ‘ugly’ as you can get, in fact he’s perhaps one of the most beautiful man in the world, so props for the make-up people to actually make him look unattractive enough.

Interesting to see Keira’s Mr. Darcy, Matthew MacFadyen appearing as Anna’s brother, Oblonsky. Other notable British cast include Emily Watson, Olivia Williams and up-and-comer Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s son) as Levin, whose story parallel Anna’s in the book.

STORY

Anna Karenina is the quintessential doomed love story. A married woman falls in love with a dashing and wealthy calvary officer and must pay the price of being shunned by society for her actions.

What I find complex about the book is the double plot, as I mentioned above, the story of Anna & Vronsky and that of Constantin Levin. Naturally the film will focus more on Anna’s crumbling marriage and infidelity, so in a way it’s a simplification but digestible version of Tolstoy’s epic Russian saga. What I love about it is the rich characters and how Tolstoy create such complex and nuanced characters, there’s no simple hero/heroine or villain. In fact, Anna is a deeply flawed protagonist, at times it’s hard for me to root for her.

As much as I admire Tolstoy’s meticulous attention to detail, I also find it frustrating and overwhelming, I mean he’d go on and on Levin’s agricultural interest, all that details about 19th century farming is over-indulgent. Especially when the first intimate encounter between the two forbidden lovers is skipped over completely. Judging from the trailer though, we’ll likely see lots of heaving bosoms, longing glances and steamy trysts in this passionate adaptation. The screenplay is written by Oscar-winner Tom Stoppard who won Best Screenplay for Shakespeare in Love.

STYLE

Now this is one area this movie won’t be lacking. Even right from the opening sequence with the conductor directing a stage performance, we can expect a lush, lavish, and gorgeous movie that’ll transport us to 19th century Russia where everyone speaks with a British accent 😀 I love vintage train stations and surely there’ll be as many scenes set there as in various palatial locations.

The costume design and set pieces are beautiful to look at. Waif-looking Keira certainly wears the period costumes well and Wright knows how to light her and frame her in such a dramatic way. It reminds me a bit of Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence in terms of all that pent-up longing, and it makes heartache looks so appealing, ahah. I think Wright might give Baz Luhrmann a run for his money in the style department.

Overall Thoughts 

I was intrigued initially but this trailer doesn’t quite move me. I teared up every time I saw the Les Miserables trailer but not with this one, somehow Keira just leaves me cold. Even the poster with the words ‘AN EPIC STORY OF LOVE’ emblazoned under the two doomed lovers just seems so corny. Overselling it a bit? I mean, the only *epic* thing to me is the visuals. Perhaps I’m a bit fatigue from seeing all the costumed drama being released this year — The Great Gatsby, Les Miserables are also out around the Holiday season.

I do like this genre mind you, and I’m a fan of Joe Wright’s work [saves for the manipulative The Soloist], but this feels like too much style over substance, which is the same fear I have for the similarly opulent-themed Baz Luhrman movie that’s also based on a celebrated book. Granted Wright’s first two period dramas were highly acclaimed, so perhaps this one would follow in that footsteps? We shall see. But right now, I’m not sure I’d see this one on the big screen.


What say you, folks? Thoughts on this Anna Karenina adaptation, particularly on casting?

Hollywood Fantasy Draft Pitch II: Last Voyage of The Valentina

LOGLINE

Based on the novel by Santa Montefiore (yup, that’s the author’s real name!), Last Voyage of The Valentina is a romance mystery taking place between war-torn Italy at the end of WWII and aristocratic London in the early 1970s. The story switches back and forth between Italy and London in the span of about 25 years.

The story begins with a brutal murder at an Italian palazzo in 1945. Twenty years later, this unsolved crime touches the live of the story’s protagonist, Alexa (changed from Alba in the book), a hedonistic but unhappy woman who lives on a houseboat on the Thames named after her mother, Valentina. Propelled by her discovery of a portrait of the mother she never knew, Alexa is determination to find out the truth, which takes her back to Incantellaria, an unexpected jewel hidden within the red cliffs and caves of the Amalfi coast where her parents first met. Themes of love, obsession, decadence and betrayal peppered the drama as she delves deeper into her forbidden past. With the ‘alluring woman of mystery’ that is her mother at the center of it all, the revelation might just be the key of finding happiness in her own future.

BACKGROUND

I picked director Joe Wright for his work in Atonement (also based on a novel), as I think he’d be able to handle a dark, mysterious tale that’s also unabashedly romantic. After only three full-length features (Hanna will be his fourth), he’s quite an accomplished director who’ve won a BAFTA and was the youngest director ever to have a film open the Venice Film Festival with Atonement. His movies are often beautifully-shot, which is crucial for this story for its depiction of the Italian setting and he’s also displayed a capable hand in handling films with multiple flashback scenes. Also, I’d like him to incorporate one of his long tracking shots, such as this continuous 4.5-minute shot of the Dunkirk evacuation.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

For the rationale of why I selected these actors for each role, visit my Dream Cast post. Special thanks to Prairiegirl for lending me the novel and for being a consultant for this pitch.

Charlize Theron as Alexa Arbuckle
The protagonist of the story. 26-year-old Alexa is the daughter of British naval officer Thomas Arbuckle and the alluringly mysterious Italian beauty Valentina. She’d also play the young Valentina during the flashback scenes (where she’ll be sporting dark brown locks), which would require Charlize to get some dialect coaching to prep for the role.

Long-legged, tanned skin, with long wavy dark hair and piercing blue-grey eyes, Alexa is strikingly beautiful and a free-spirit. Men are drawn to her like bees to honey, but her endless succession of lovers leave her empty and unfulfilled. She may be tough to root for at first due to her hedonistic nature, but she grows up as the story progresses.

Rufus Sewell as Fitzroy Davenport
Viv’s literary agent who pines for Alexa. Described in the book as attractive in a very aristocratic way: intelligent eyes that sparkled with humor; a wide, infectious smile; a strong chin and jaw line; scruffy, with dark curly hair.

Ever so charming yet kind, Fitz plays a large role in Alexa’s quest for her mother and becomes the man she deeply falls for. Rufus is no stranger to romantic roles, as well as being the heartbroken one. But he’s not all longing sigh and yearning gaze, which is why his sense of humor and playfulness will come in handy in spicing up the character.

Michael Fassbender as Gabriele Ricci
Yes I know Fassbender is German but with some tan and dark hair, I think he has no problem playing an Italian gentleman. Witty, gallant and reassuring, Gabriele is the Italian Samaritan who helps Alexa get to Incantellaria after she’s robbed penniless. His part is small but prominent, and with his smoldering quality, he is sure to leave an indelible mark to the viewers.

Alan Rickman as Thomas Arbuckle
I love Rickman’s sensitive portrayal as Col. Brandon in Sense & Sensibility. As Alexa’s estranged father, Thomas rarely speak of his lost love Valentina. Now a wealthy man after the war, the former naval captain has since been married to Margo and has additional children, but he is constantly burdened by his memory of his first love.

Emily Watson as Vivienne ‘Viv’ Armitage
Watson is a passionate and versatile actress who’ll imbue the character of a late 30s London novelist with wit and whimsy. She lives on a boat next to Alexa’s and is the one who introduces Fitz to Alexa. Though Viv is fond of Alexa, she’s also weary of her and knows what the girl is capable of. She constantly warns Fitz not to fall in love with Alexa.

Brenda Blethyn as Margo Arbuckle
As Alexa’s stepmother, Margo can never seem to compete with a dead woman. Despite Alexa’s aversion, Margo is always civil with her difficult step daughter, as well as provide the stability that Thomas needs. Blethyn has a way of portraying a sympathetic female protagonist with a heart.

Rupert Penry-Jones as the young Lit. Thomas Arbuckle
This strapping lad seems born to wear a naval uniform, ehm. Thomas falls hard and fast for Valentina the second he sees her in the crowd of the Italian harbor. After being at sea for over three years patrolling the Italian coastline, Thomas is ready to settle down with the love of his life. When he finds out Valentina is pregnant with Alexa, he’s ecstatic… until her life is robbed far too soon, leaving him devastated.

Alfred Molina as Falco Fiorelli
Alexa’s Italian uncle who’s the same age as her father, late 50s. He’s got brooding looks and formidable physique and a sadness in his dark eyes, making him appear older than he is. He and Thomas harbor a deep, dark secret about Valentina’s death which still haunts him since.

Raoul Bova as the young Falco Fiorelli
Valentina’s eldest brother who came back from the war around the same time Thomas came back to fetch Valentina to England. He’s the only person who knew the truth that Valentina isn’t as innocent as she seems.

Rosamund Pike as Caroline Arbuckle
Thomas and Margo’s eldest daughter and Alexa’s stepsister who’s three years younger than she. She works in a Mayfair art gallery owned by the Arbuckle’s close family friend. She really wants to like Alexa but can’t figure her out.

Maggie Smith as Lavender Arbuckle
Thomas’ 70+ year-old mother who took baby Alexa in when he came back from Italy and loved her as her own daughter. She acts as if she were indifferent about Alexa when in reality she’s actually bitter about being cast aside when Thomas married Margo.

Alessandro Nivola as the Italian stranger
The tall and handsome stranger that caught Alexa’s eye on the plane. He’s flirtatious and incredibly charming, the quintessential Italian playboy.

Franco Nero as Marchese Ovidio
Seventy-something Incantellaria aristocrat who lives on the mansion on a hill, Palazzo Montelimone. Strikingly handsome with slicked-back gray hair, with straight Roman nose and aquamarine eyes. Educated at Oxford, he holds himself with the poise of a prince.


The film opens in 1945 Italy with a quick scene of brutal murder at an Italian palazzo. Two men came in the thick of night armed with knifes. The victim had been expecting them, he knew why they had come and he was ready, unafraid to die. Up until his throat was sliced he was still triumphant, his last words were “Kill me, but don’t forget that I killed you first.”

ACT I

London 1971 – Viv and Fitz were standing on the deck of Viv’s houseboat on the Thames in a balmy Spring evening. They spied on Alexa who’s ‘entertaining’ one of her lovers on her houseboat. It’s right after her tryst with Rupert, one of her many lovers, that Alexa noticed a brown scroll of paper from between the slats under her bed. She stared at the portrait sketched in pastels and felt a rush of emotions overcame her, it’s like looking into a mirror and the woman’s eyes seemed to follow her as she’s unable to look away. At the bottom of the picture, written in Latin, dum spiro, ti amo (“While I breathe, I love you”) and signed in ink Thomas Arbuckle.

Alexa confronted her father about the portrait and demanded to know more about her mother she never knew. She was resentful that her father had been too busy to build a new family with Margo after Valentina died, and the more children he had, the less Alexa felt that she belonged in the traditional upper-class family. Thomas rarely talked about Valentina, though her presence was still felt in the room, in his eyes. Arguments ensued as Thomas insisted that the past should belong to the past and though he loved her mother, she’s now dead and nothing could ever bring her back. Fuming, Alexa left and vented to her neighbor Viv about her desire to find out more about who her mother was. Viv then suggested that her best friend and literary agent Fitz helped her concoct a plot to dupe her father into divulging details about her mother. Viv’s grand plan is for Alexa and Fitz to spend a weekend together as pretend couple to win the Arbuckles’ heart, and for Fitz to bond with Thomas so that he’s comfortable enough to share about Valentina’s whereabouts. As Fitz had such a huge crush on Alexa, he promptly agreed.

Off to Beechfield Park Mansion where the Arbuckles live, a red-brick and flint,300-year-old house that was passed down from Thomas’ grandfather. Though Alexa only wanted Fitz to charm her parents for her own cause, Fitz actually genuinely wanted the Arbuckles to think well of him and he hoped Alexa would return him with love. Just as Fitz had hoped, that night Thomas poured his heart out as the night wore on and the more wine they drank. As he sat in the worn leather chair in his study, Thomas revealed to Fitz who Valentina was and how she had captivated him. La bella donna d’Incantellaria, he referred to her, and that every time he looked at Alexa, he saw Valentina.

Mission accomplished. Fitz happily reported back to Alexa who was already waiting for him in bed. They didn’t make love until the following morning, and for the first time, Alexa actually spent the night with a man in bed without offering her body to him.

ACT 2

Flashback to Italy, 1944 – Young Lieutenant Thomas Arbuckle and his fellow British naval officers arrived in the Italian harbor of Incantellaria. Thomas and his naval crew was tasked to investigate about an arms dump left by the German army to make sure they didn’t fall into the wrong hands. It’s on the way to the munitions dump, on the quayside, was where Thomas first laid eyes on Valentina and fell for her instantly. At first he lost her in the crowd but later when the town carabiniere (Italian police), Lattarullo took them to the only restaurant in town, he was reunited with her, as Valentina was the youngest daughter of the trattoria’s owner, Immacolata Fiorelli. During his brief stay in Italy, Thomas and his friends were also invited to tea by the town’s aristocrat, Marchese Ovidio at his home, Palazzo Montelimone. Just as they left his house, he ran into a handsome young boy, Nero, who ran errands for the marchese.

Following a highly-superstitious ceremony that Valentina’s family attended religiously, Thomas and Valentina retreated from the townspeople to the beach where they made love. But in the morning, he had to go back to the war.

ACT 3

London 1971 – After sharing an intimate weekend together, Fitz was seemingly able to convince Alexa to be exclusive with him. Fitz had become more than a lover to Alexa, he was also her friend. For a brief few weeks, they were happy together until Alexa demanded that Fitz come to Italy with her, but he felt that’s something she needed to on her own. When Fitz refused, Alexa broke up with him. Fitz was devastated but with Viv’s encouragement, he did not relent. Alexa told her father that she was going to Italy with or without his support.

Flashback to Italy, May 1945 – Thomas returned after the war to see Valentina again. He had received a letter from Valentina nine months prior that she had gotten pregnant with their baby, which made him even more desperate to see her. When the townsfolk saw him, they were ecstatic. Valentina came to him with their 3-month old baby in her arms. Immacolata gave her blessings and they soon planned their wedding as they both took care of little Alexa. Thomas then met the rest of the Fiorelli’s family. Three of Valentina’s four brothers had come back after the war, with Falco the eldest who became the head of the family since their father died in the war. Falco didn’t warm up to Thomas right away. In fact, he seemed to be resentful of her sister Valentina as well and that night, Thomas overheard them arguing fiercely but he just shrugged it off and thought that perhaps he didn’t like a foreigner marrying his sister.

London 1971 – Alexa flew to Italy without Fitz. He tried to see her before she left but it was too late. Alexa had a tryst with an Italian stranger who caught her eye on the plane. But she found out in the morning that he had robbed her of all her money. She fled the hotel and managed to trick the ticket agent at the train station for a free ride to Sorrento. But as soon as she arrived, a moment of distraction cost her her luggage. She was robbed twice in the course of 24 hours!

As she cussed loudly in frustration, another Italian stranger noticed her. Upon hearing what had happened to her, the gentleman offered to buy her lunch as well as a boat ride to Incantellaria. Alexa was weary at first considering what she had been through, but she had no choice but to trust him. Gabriele Ricci was a Naples businessman who often spent his summers on the coast. He made good on his promise and Alexa was soon reunited with her mother’s family. Realizing he was out of place in this family reunion, Gabriele slipped away without a fuss, but not before asking Falco to give his card to Alexa.

Alexa bonded with her mother’s family who welcomed her with open arms and joyful heart, even becoming a motherly figure to her 6-year-old relative Cosima, whose mother had ran away with a tango dancer. Alexa finally found a place she belonged, something she had never found where at Beechfield Park where she grew up. But soon she learned the hard truth about her past. At the trattoria one afternoon, Lattarullo revealed that Valentina had been murdered.

ACT 4

Flashback to Italy, 1945 – The day before the wedding. At three in the morning, Thomas was awaken by a frantic knocking on the door by Lattarullo. He had brought the most harrowing news that Valentina was dead. Along with him and Falco, Thomas found Valentina’s body slumped in the passenger seat of a convertible Alfa Romeo with exquisite leather seat and walnut interior. Her throat had been slashed as blood had stained her sequined dress. At first he didn’t recognize her as she was dressed like an elegant courtesan wearing red lipstick, fur stole and sparkling diamonds.

Fast forward to 1971 Italy – Alexa demanded Falco to tell her the truth about Valentina’s tragic death, who finally revealed that Valentina had been living a double life. Her mother had been the mistress of a famous Mafia boss Lupo Bianco who was dead in the driver’s seat. As Bianco had been hunted down by the police for years, his death was a triumph for the town’s police and to them Valentina was simply a victim who was in the wrong place in the wrong time.

Months went by and suddenly Fitz showed up in a warm night in October, just as Alexa was deciding whether to call him or Gabriele. It’s as if fate made the decision for her as Fitz asked her to marry him. A couple of weeks before they went back to London, Alexa took Fitz to Palazzo Montelimoni, determined to find some answers once and for all. The place had become a ruin with walls crumbling and fallen stones swallowed by ivy and weeds. As they stumbled into the room that seemed to have been lived in, someone came behind them. He was startled to see Alexa as if he had seen a ghost as she had been the splitting image of her mother. He introduced himself as Nero, the same young boy Thomas had bumped into after having tea with Marchese Ovidio. Nero told them he was the marchese’s lover who inherited the decaying palazzo. He explained that the marchese had loved Valentina too, and before they left, he gave Alexa a scroll that apparently Valentina had given the marchese.

That day, Alexa solved the case the Italian detectives didn’t bother to crack. It turns out the marchese had wanted to have an heir with Valentina but became insanely jealous when he found out she had become pregnant with someone else’s child and wanted to leave Italy. Falco somehow found out the marchese had killed Valentina, and so he and Thomas planned to sneak into his house in the middle of the night and kill him in the same way he had robbed Valentina’s life. “It was a matter of honor,” he uttered, the same words he said after he slashed the marchese’s throat.

Alexa and Fitz went back to London. Alexa gave her father the painting that he had been looking for, the third and most intimate portrait of Valentina that he drew. But what mattered more to him was that now Alexa knew the truth and the burden has been lifted. Alexa was ready to move on and leave the dark past of Valentina behind. As a symbol of a new beginning, she and her family let her houseboat sink to the bottom of the river. As she and Fitz planned their wedding, Alexa longed for Italy, her heart ached for her new home and the people that she had grown to love, especially Cosima. With a heavy heart, Alexa told Fitz she had to return to Incantellaria.

EPILOGUE

Spring in Incantellaria. Alexa now worked at Immacolata’s trattoria – she’d been working hard buying supplies, setting tables, serving customers, even learning how to cook. As she looked out the window overlooking the beach, she heard the sound of a motorboat growing louder. She walked outside to stand beneath the awning with a basket of apples hanging on her arm. A wave of anticipation overcame her as the boat drew up and a familiar young man descended. She had been taking out and staring at his now rumpled business card she’s kept for months, and thought about the kind man who gave it to her. His dark eyes met with her piercing pale eyes. It was then when he last saw her disappear from his view as she was reunited with her family. It was then that he lost his heart, little did he know he’d ever get it back.


Well, what do you think? Would you be interested to see a movie with this kind of story and cast? Please let me know your thoughts.

Hollywood Fantasy Draft II: FlixChatter’s Dream Cast

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It’s that time of the year again, the moment lots of movie bloggers/fans have anticipated has arrived. Yep, it’s the second installment of Anomalous Material’s Hollywood Fantasy Draft where we get to be the producer of any movie we could possibly want with any actors we so desire, by selecting them one round at a time.

Since my last pitch was a romantic thriller, this time the genre will be romantic mystery set in Britain and Italy. That’s all I can say about it until my pitch is scheduled to be revealed one week from now. I’m happy to say that I manage to get all the cast and director who I think are perfect for my story, so without further ado, here they are in the order that I selected them:

Round 1

Michael Fassbender, 33
When I picked Michael, I haven’t figured out what my story is going to be about. But now that I’ve figured out my story, I’m glad I picked him. The Irish actor’s star is quickly on the rise in Hollywood due to his great turn in films like 300, Inglourious Basterds, Centurion) and I highly anticipate his upcoming work in Jane Eyre and A Dangerous Method.

Round 2

Rufus Sewell, 43
Since Rufus is on my list of seven talented actors who deserve more leading roles, and I’ve been complaining how underutilized he is in Hollywood, I think he’d be perfect for my story. He’s sooo easy on the eyes but with an enormous talent and versatility to match. Now the trick is finding a leading lady who deserves him.

Round 3

Charlize Theron, 35
I need an exotic beauty who’s intelligent and has an air of mystery about her, Theron would fit the bill nicely. She’ll be sporting a darker hair instead of her usual blond locks, as well as a lot more tan.

Round 4

Joe Wright, 38
I select this English director as I’m impressed with what he did with Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement. For sure this guy can do romance! And since there’s a great deal of mystery and dark undertones in my story, Wright should be able to capture that as well. Plus, his films are always beautifully-shot.

Round 5

Emily Watson, 43
I need a solid mature actress who’s smart and witty for the role of a London novelist. Watson is so under-appreciated despite churning out consistently good performances.

Round 6

Alan Rickman, 64
I’ve always adored Rickman and he always strikes me as a tortured-soul type which would be perfect for this role. If you think he’d be playing a villain, think again. The seasoned Brit is more than a one trick pony. He’ll play the estranged father of Charlize’s character.

Round 7

Rosamund Pike, 31
I need a British young woman to play Charlize’s step sister. Rosamund has impressed me in several movies (except for Die Another Day) and she’ll be a good addition to my cast.

Round 8

Brenda Blethyn, 64
I need a middle-aged actress to fill a sympathetic stepmother role, for that I choose this acclaimed English actress. She has also worked with Joe Wright before in both Atonement and Pride & Prejudice.

Round 9

Rupert Penry-Jones, 40
For the flashback scenes, this London actor will play the younger Alan Rickman as a British naval officer during WWII. Since he played a Naval Captain in BBC’s Persuasion but did not get to wear his navy uniform, I intend to rectify that situation in my movie 😀

Additional Cast

Maggie Smith, 76
Despite the merely 12-year difference, the Dame will play Alan’s mother. The two-time Oscar winner doesn’t have a big part, but certainly an important one in relation to Charlize’s family’s past.

Additional Cast

Alfred Molina, 57
This veteran English actor is ever so versatile he’s been known to play various ethnicity, due to his Spanish & Italian heritage. In fact, the first time I saw him was as an Iranian in Not Without My Daughter. In my movie he’ll be playing Charlize’s Italian uncle.

Additional Cast

Alessandro Nivola, 38
I’ve been impressed by Nivola in several films, i.e. Junebug, Mansfield Park. In the latter he played a flirtatious Henry Crawford so he’ll be using that devilish charm once again here as an Italian stranger. Nivola’s actually part Italian as his paternal grandfather was the Italian sculptor Costantino Nivola.

So there you have it. Now the question is, would you pay to see a movie with this kind of cast?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: HANNA

Saiorse Ronan as Hanna

Please, please, don’t ever confuse this with Hannah Montana [shudders], which is what you’ll get when you google this title. No, not even close. This is an upcoming thriller from Joe Wright, the director of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, tackling yet another genre after last year’s music-themed biopic drama The Soloist. When I first heard about this a few months ago, only Saiorse Ronan and Eric Bana had been cast, but now I learned that my favorite actress Cate Blanchett is also involved, yay!

Here’s the gist of the story from Collider: Hanna (Ronan) is a teenage girl. Uniquely, she has the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a solider; these come from being raised by her father (Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland. Living a life unlike any other teenager, her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity.

Blanchett & Bana, what a duo!

The La Femme Nikita-esque plot is intriguing and the cast certainly appeals to me. Bana and Blanchett are on my Top Ten Aussie Actors list, and Ronan really impressed me in Atonement. In fact, I often think that she has the potential to have Blanchett’s career, as she’s no doubt one of the most talented young actors working today. Jason Flemyng, Tom Hollander, and Olivia Williams rounded up the excellent cast.

Apparently this movie was one of the significant deal at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. According to Deadline.com, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group (SPWAG) bought most key territories of the foreign distribution of Hanna, while Focus Features will handle the domestic US distribution. Sony did that based on 1 minute and a half of footage and a look at the script. SPWAG was the same studio that took a chance in Neill Blomkamp’s debut District 9, and will distribute Terrence Malik’s upcoming fantasy drama The Tree of Life.

Below is the theatrical trailer. It’s due out 8 April 2011.


What do you think folks, would you watch it?

NewsFlash: Joe Wright NOT directing My Fair Lady remake?

What??! Darn, I was pretty excited about this project and Wright at the helm. But The Playlist just reported over the weekend that it was all a lie. There’s even a video on that post of the director himself admitting he passed on the directing offer, but for some reason, the press already got a hold of the false info that he was on board. He clearly didn’t sound too enthused about it, though he was rather coy about the real reason he didn’t want to direct.

Not sure if this mean this My Fair Lady remake project is now in limbo, though Wright did say Keira Knightley still might do the role of Eliza. Well, I’ll definitely keep an eye on this one. I’ll post updates as soon as I get ’em.