My Movie Alphabet Blogathon – Actors/Directors Edition

Thanks to Mettel Ray for starting this Movie Alphabet as part of her 400th Blog Post celebration! Her original list consists of movies, directors, actors and actresses, but to switch things up, I’d like to just focus on actors and directors for my list as I’ve done the film version in this Cinematic Alphabet a year ago. So for each letter in the alphabet, I choose to highlight those whose work and performances have become my favorite over the years. I might add honorable mentions later on but it’s taken me much longer than I thought to even just coming up with these, so without further ado, here we go:

A  – Audrey Hepburn

The epitome of beauty and class. I love Audrey ever since my mother brought My Fair Lady from her trip to Europe when I could barely speak any English. She’s such a captivating actress beautiful inside and out, I really admire her charity work outside of her iconic performance in many delightful films.


B – Ben Affleck

I never thought I’d  put Ben Affleck on any of my favorite list, but the only reason I’m putting him here is for his DIRECTING work, especially Gone Baby Gone and ARGO. I think he’s become one of the most talented directors working today.

C – Cate Blanchett

I love this beautiful and massively talented Aussie actress. I haven’t seen her in anything all year so I’m so looking forward to seeing her reprise her role as Galadriel in The Hobbit! I’m also excited to see her in Terrence Malick’s upcoming film Knight of Cups with Christian Bale! I think she might be in two films with Terrence Malick next year.

D – Denzel Washington

I just love how dignified his name sounds and he certainly is a classy actor, not to mention gorgeous. There are some films that don’t appeal to me until he’s cast, and even in so-so movies, Denzel is still great to watch. I think one of his best roles is Philadelphia and American Gangster (I have yet to see Training Day yet).

E – Ewan McGregor

Clearly I have a penchant for Scottish guys, especially the cute ones who can sing 😉 I haven’t seen too many of Ewan’s work but I LOVE him in Moulin Rouge and boy, he could’ve easily have a singing career! He also sang in Velvet Goldmine in his earlier days but his role as the romantic poet Christian stole my heart. His duet with Nicole Kidman is just lovely!

F – Frances O’Connor

I just saw this Aussie actress in Lumpy at TCFF screening and was pleasantly surprised to see her in that film. I think she’s so massively underrated, I wish she had gotten more roles in Hollywood. I absolutely love her in Mansfield Park and also in the time travel adventure Timeline.

G – Gerard Butler

Speaking of cute Scots who can sing 😉 Well I think it’s obvious who I’d pick for G right, he..he.. Seems like a lot of my crushes’ names start with G… Gregory Peck, Gabriel Byrne… but I think Gerry is the only one I’m most consistent on. It’s been interesting following his career over the years and even though he hasn’t got a hit yet lately, I think he’s a charismatic and talented actor, not to mention versatile! So yeah, I think I’ll be a GB fan for years to come.

H – Harrison Ford

It’s amazing how he almost quit acting after American Grafitti! Can’t imagine a more successful actor with so many lucrative franchises under his belt. I like him in action films, but he also shines in dramas like Regarding Henry. My all time favorite role shall always be Indiana Jones though, I mean, he’s the epitome of effortless machismo.

I – Ian McKellen

I was flabbergasted that Sean Connery turned down a high-paying job playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings franchise, but now I can’t imagine anyone else by Sir Ian McKellen in that role. His gravitas and THAT voice that can be both authoritative and soothing makes his performance so iconic. I also love his villainous turn as Magneto in the X-Men films, as well as his super creepy role in Apt Pupil.

J – Judi Dench

One of my three favorite British dames – along with Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith – the 77-year-old thespian has such a strong screen presence and an un-inimitable voice to boot! As I said in my Skyfall review, it’s the best casting decision ever to have her play M. She made the usually forgettable character so much more interesting, no wonder Mendes gave her so much more screen time in the latest Bond flick. I also love her softer side in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

K – Keanu Reeves

I love Keanu… or Chuck as my friend Mark calls him. Yes he’s not the most expressive actors but he’s got quite a screen presence and that certain unique-ness that separate him from the pack. He’s great in action flicks surely (The Matrix, Speed, Constantine, etc.), but I also love him as a romantic lead in A Walk in the Clouds. I just rewatched Point Break recently which was done 21 years ago, and seeing him in the 2012 documentary Side by Side, it’s amazing how this guy practically doesn’t age!

L – Lee Pace

Ok I just realize there are like five Hobbit-related people on this list, ahah, trust me it’s not intentional but clearly Peter Jackson has a keen eye for casting. I’m truly hoping that this highly-anticipated LOTR prequel will launch a few actors’ career, one of them is this super talented Oklahoma native who wowed me in The Fall and also Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day. How this guy is not more famous than Ryan Gosling is beyond me!

M – Michael Mann

For someone as accomplished as Mr Mann, I’m surprised he’s not as prolific. He’s only got ten feature films under his belt, and out of the seven I have seen so far I’ve only been disappointed with this one. I’ve been watching his work as executive producer of the Miami Vice TV show which was one of my favorites growing up. But he’s done at least three that I’d consider a masterpiece: Heat, The Insider and The Last of the Mohicans; whilstthe other three are very, very good.

N – Nicole Kidman

I don’t always seek out every movie she’s in but she’s definitely a darn good actress. It’s quite interesting to see her transformation from a freckled-face redhead to a glamorous porcelain-skinned doll much like her character in The Stepford Wives. I really think she needs to lay off Botox or whatever it is she’s using, as I think she’s already very beautiful. She can be quite fierce if she wants to be, like in To Die For, but one of my favorite roles is the tormented courtesan Satine in Moulin Rouge.

O – Olivia Williams

There are two Olivias I was going to include here, the other one was Olivia de Havilland who played Melanie in Gone With the Wind. But I decided to go with the one I’ve seen more of. I’ve only seen the London native’s work in supporting roles (The Sixth Sense, An Education), but they’re all very good. She was particularly good in a scene-stealing role in The Ghost Writer as the wife of a retired UK Prime Minister. I’m not too fond of the film but she was memorable.

P – Peter Jackson

He hasn’t made many films, but the Lord of the Rings is one of my all time favorite franchise, hence my anticipation for The Hobbit. I’m also one of those who likes King Kong, so I might still give The Lovely Bones a try one of these days despite the dismal reviews. Even when he’s not making films, he’s indirectly contributed to major hits like X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Prometheus, etc. through his visual effects company WETA Digital.

Q – Quentin Tarantino

As I’m not a fan of violent movies, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of QT’s films but I can’t deny his talent and brutal honesty for ‘copying’ other filmmakers work whilst still making them his own. Out of the three of his films I’ve seen, I think I like Inglourious Basterds the most. It’s one of those films I never thought I’d enjoy but it was definitely a pleasant surprise despite my nerves being stretched to its snapping point in more than one occasion.

R – Richard Armitage

I think if you’ve read this blog you should notice this tall, dark and handsome Brit gets a lot of mentions. In fact, I dedicated a post when he was cast in The Hobbit as Thorin! I fell for him in the BBC miniseries North & South, but he also wowed me in other series since – The Vicars of Dibley, MI-5 and Strike Back. I sincerely hope this role in The Hobbit will (finally) catapult his career in Hollywood. He’s far too gorgeous and too talented to only be confined in TV world!

S – Sean Connery

Ok, even as a Bond aficionado, I wasn’t exactly planning on putting two Bond actors back-to-back on this list, but hey, why not? Sir Sean was perhaps the most famous Scottish movie star when he was cast as 007 and having seen Dr. No recently, he certainly has the looks and swagger like nobody’s business. The former body builder is more than just a Bond actor though, he’s great in various roles such as The Untouchables, The Hunt of Red October, Just Cause, The Rock, and of course, his scene-stealing role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

T – Timothy Dalton

Here’s another Bond actor who’s sooo much more than his most famous role. In fact, even though he’s my favorite Bond (yes Daniel Craig is a close second), I absolutely adore him in a role that’s as far away as 007 as you can get: Mr. Rochester in BBC’s 1983 Jane Eyre. He’s wonderful in larger-than-life heroic roles like Julius Caesar, but I also love him as a baddie in The Rocketeer and the made-for-TV thriller Framed with David Morrissey. I’ve already covered how criminally underrated he is and how much I’d love to see him in a romantic thriller with the likes of a fellow seasoned Brit Helen Mirren, so I think my feelings for him is clear.

U – Uma Thurman

I haven’t seen Uma in anything lately but I quite like her in some roles. Her Oscar-nominated performance in Pulp Fiction made her a star and a cult classic status. Seems like QT knows how to tailor a role for her as she was memorably bad ass in the Kill Bill movies. She’s going to co-star with Gerry Butler in his upcoming soccer dramedy Playing for Keeps but curiously absent from all the promos for the film as they seem to only feature Catherine Zeta-Jones or Jessica Biel. Does that say something about her current star power??

V – Vanessa Redgrave

Did you know that Vanessa Redgrave was in a relationship with Timothy Dalton for fourteen years? Apparently they met on the set of Mary, Queen of Scots and were both passionate about Shakespeare, natch! I have been seeing her in a few films lately and she’s certainly a force on screen, from her younger years starring in Camelot all the way to her spectacular supporting role in Coriolanus. I love her in Letters for Juliet where she actually co-starred with her current husband Franco Nero.

W – William Wyler

Every time I go through his filmography, I’m always amazed at Mr. Wyler’s varied work. He’s one of those directors who can’t be confined into any genre as he could do tackle any one of them. Three of my favorite films of his are a Biblical epic (Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ), a western (The Big Country) and a romantic comedy (Roman Holiday). I still need to see the war drama Mrs. Miniver, amongst a plethora of his other work.

X – Professor X

Ok, I don’t know of ANY actor/director with this name so I broke the rule a bit and feature one of my favorite characters instead. Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men franchise was played by two brilliant actor: Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy in the prequel X-Men: First Class. I LOVE both of their performances and the character itself is inherently intriguing and his relationship with his friend-turned-nemesis Magneto is the most compelling part of that franchise.

Y – Yul Brynner

Ok, there are very limited names that starts with Y so I chose Yul Brynner for his iconic performance in The King and I and The Ten Commandments. Apart from those two films I haven’t seen anything else he’s done. The Russian actor (his real name was Yuli Borisovich Bryner) has one of those ‘exotic’ look that made him quite versatile playing all kinds of ethnic characters. He’s also an accomplished photographer and often take pictures of the sets of the various projects he worked on over the years.

Z – Zhang Yimou

I had just become acquainted with his work a few years ago when I saw House of Flying Daggers and was treated to such a visual feast of vivid colors and breathtaking cinematography. His distinct visual style is legendary, which you might have seen in the Jet Li movie Hero or if you saw the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games Opening Ceremony in which he directed. His latest work was Flowers of War which I still need to see one of these days.


Well that’s my Movie Alphabet, folks. Hope you enjoy my list. If you haven’t done one already, I invite you to join in on the fun!

FlixChatter’s Double Review: SKYFALL

It’s no secret that this is one of the top five 2012 films both Ted and I have been anticipating. Nice to see that the world seems to have been ‘gripped’ by Bond fever, as Skyfall has grossed over $500 million worldwide since it opened in the UK on October 26, and nearly $90 mil in its opening weekend here in the US.

So, with all the buzz and our own feverish excitement over its release, does this movie live up to our expectations? Well, read both Ted and my review below:

Ted’s Review

After a four year absence, Bond is back on the big screen and I think it’s maybe the best Bond film ever. Daniel Craig is back as 007, Sam Mendes stepped in as the man in charge behind the scenes, he brought in his usual team to work on this latest Bond film, including the great cinematographer Roger Deakins and the always excellent Thomas Newman as the new composer.

The film starts out with a spectacular chase scene involving Bond and a new agent played by Naomi Harris, they’re after a hard drive containing the names of MI6 undercover agents all over the world. They failed and Bond is presumed dead. A few months later, MI6 agents are being kill off one by one and M (Judi Dench) is being question by Security Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a great addition to franchise in my opinion. Mallory suggested that M should think of retiring because she might lose her step when it comes to the intelligence business. Of course M refused and she wowed to find who’s responsible for these agents being kill off. We then see Bond living in some tropical beach, drinking and sleeping with a beautiful woman. He later learned that other agents are being murder and decided to come back to MI6 and wants to know who’s behind these killings. Since he’s been gone for so long, Bond is out of shape and not as sharp but M sent him out to the field anyway.

I don’t like to go deep into the plot in my review so I’m going to highlight what worked and what didn’t in the film.

Let’s start with what I thought work great in the film:

Daniel Craig and Judi Dench: This is a more personal Bond film and both Craig and Dench did a marvelous job in their respective role. Craig now really owns the Bond character, in this film he’s not the super hero agent we’re used to seeing. He’s a drunk, he gets hurt and he didn’t always save the girl. In an interview, Craig said he really want to bring the character more to reality and so he went and read some of Fleming’s earlier Bond novels. To me he really nailed what Fleming was going for in those novels. Dench played a prominent role in the movie and believe it or not, she was actually the Bond girl in this film. Her performance was the best in the series and I was glad she appeared in the film as much as she has.

Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins and Thomas Newman: When Mendes was hired to direct this film, I was a bit skeptical because he’s never directed an action film before and when a more artsy director took over the franchise, it doesn’t always turned out well. The World Is Not Enough was directed by an artsy director and it’s one of the worst Bond films ever. But I was wrong, Mendes did a great job. Like what Brad Bird did with M:I-Ghost Protocol last year, Mendes decided to bring the franchise back to the old school style while infusing some 21st century action sequences. Speaking of action, Mendes was able to build up a great suspense before showing those awesome action sequences.

I particularly liked the sequence in Shanghai where Bond went after an assassin, the scene was set in a high rise building and the way Mendes staged it was so suspenseful and when Bond finally went mano-a-mano with the assassin, I got goose bumps. I loved that sequence. Since this film marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise, Mendes decided to throw in some homage from the previous Bond flicks. From Oddjob in Goldfinger, Bond jumped on top of an alligator, exploding pen and so on; Bond fanatics will get a kick out seeing those scenes, I know I did.

Of course Mendes can’t do it alone, with his right hand man Roger Deakins doing the shooting, this may be the best looking Bond film ever. Seriously every scene in this film was so gorgeous to look it. The film took place mostly in London and the way Deakins captured the look and feel of that city, I felt like I was there. Also, I always felt London is one of the best cities to capture on films, (NYC is my favorite in case you’re wondering). If you get a chance to see it on the real IMAX screen, I highly recommend you do that. Mendes and Deakins decided to open up the film’s usual aspect ratio of 2.39:1 to 1.90:1 to take advantage of IMAX’s tall screen. It was such a pleasure seeing this gorgeous film on the best format, can’t recommend it enough.

Last but certainly not least is Thomas Newman’s theme, the soundtrack’s more epic and fit the film so well and yes the Bond theme is finally play during the movie not after like the previous two films. Mendes said in an interview that Nolan’s The Dark Knight was a huge influence on this film so some might think the soundtrack kind of similar to that film. In fact if I didn’t know Newman was the composer, I would’ve thought it was Hans Zimmer.

What didn’t work:

Javier Bardem and the Bond girls. My complain with the franchise is that it never has a truly great villain and unfortunately that trend continues. Some critics said Bardem’s Silva is the best Bond villain ever and I strongly disagree with that; sure he’s menacing and probably the most grounded villain in a Bond film; he’s not planning to take over the world or destroy it, he just wants vengeance. But I thought he’s underused and the showdown between him and Bond was kind of anti-climatic. I was hoping for a fist cuff showdown like in From Russia With Love but it never happened.

The Bond girls in this one wasn’t used like in other films. As I mentioned earlier M was basically the Bond girl, so the two lovely ladies weren’t in the film that much. But you can bet Naomie Harris will appear in the Bond franchise in many years to come.

Those are my only two complaints, otherwise it was just a great action film and again I believe it’s one of the best, if not the best Bond film ever. I’ll for sure be seeing it again on the big screen a few more times.

Some people complained that the climatic showdown was too much like Home Alone meets Strawdogs, well it’s a fair comparisons but I’d like to give my personal opinion of that sequence and its title. If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend you don’t read any further because it contains spoilers.

The film’s title refers to Bond’s birthplace and in a way it’s his battleground. To me, it represents a place where M hires a infant James into the secret service and as irony has it , this is the place where it all comes down for a rebirth of 007 and demise of M. You see Casino Royale was a reboot of the franchise and Skyfall is the reboot of 007 himself, when the new M asked Bond near the end of the film if he’s ready, Bond reply with a resounding yes and so we’re now back into the normal Bond template. Is that a good or bad thing? We’ll have to wait and find out what the filmmakers will give us in the upcoming Bond films. If the Bond producers hires another quality director to direct the next one, then I’m sure we’ll get another great Bond film. I know that Chris Nolan and David Fincher are free and I’m sure they can make a great Bond flick. Hey a fan boy can dream right?
– review by Ted S.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Ruth’s Review

Some of the best Bond films start out with an exhilarating opening sequences, and Skyfall follows that tradition. Bond is on a mission in Turkey to recover a stolen hard drive containing a list of nearly all undercover NATO agents in terrorist organizations. Soon Bond and fellow field agent Eve get into a massive car/motorbike/foot chase, wreaking havoc all over the place as Bond often does, before he jumps on top of a moving train. It all seems like a typical 007 action stuff… that is, until the super spy himself actually gets shot and falls into the water. It’s no spoiler as it’s all over the trailers and TV spots, often preceded by Judi Dench’s M shouting to Eve, ‘Take the bloody shot!’

Presumed dead, Bond is free to retire on some island somewhere, but his holiday is short-lived when he learns that MI-6 headquarter has been attacked, both in the physical and cyber world, prompting his return to England. The message in M’s hacked computer repeatedly says ‘Think on your sins,’ which seems to suggest that this attack is a personal one. Just how personal? Well, it’s best for you to find out on your own. Let’s just say that Bond’s loyalty to his boss is tested beyond what he could ever imagine and the mission has become very personal for him, too.

There are tons to appreciate in this film, thanks to a first-rate team starting with the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and his team of writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. The sharp script allows for a thrilling action, snappy dialog, and just the right amount of whimsy without resorting to copious one-liners.

I think it’s great that since this year marks the franchise’s 50th anniversary, Skyfall is one of the most personal Bond films ever as it touched upon who he was before he became the secret agent we’ve come to know and love. I always enjoy seeing the more ‘human’ side of our super spy, it certainly makes for a thrilling and also poignant story. Daniel Craig is even more confident in his third outing, but he also has the right amount of vulnerability to balance that grit, which adds more depth to Bond the way Timothy Dalton did with character two decades earlier. Clearly people are much more ready for such an interpretation now.

As we’ve been talking about Bond villains as part of the 007 Chatter series, suffice to say that Raoul Silva will NOT end up in the WORST list. Though the personal vendetta motive of the villain is hardly groundbreaking, it still feel fresh thanks to Javier Bardem‘s performance. Creating a genuine tension between Bond and his villain is no small feat as we’ve seen it so many times before. Yet the encounter between the ever-so-creepy Silva and Bond is quite fascinating, what with the homoerotic intimidation that treads between sinister and amusing.

My favorite part in the film is the relationship between Bond and his boss, M. They’re not always in the best terms as you could tell in their blatantly snarky banters (remember M once called Bond ‘a sexist, misogynist dinosaur!’), but it’s obvious they respect and care for one another. I tell you, it’s the Bond producers’ best casting decision ever to have an acting juggernaut Dame Judi Dench play that role, and Mendes makes the most of her amazing talent. No doubt this is the meatiest role ever written for M in the entire Bond history, you could say she’s the co-star of this film given the large amount of screen time. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw as Q and Albert Finney makes up the stellar supporting cast, making this the best cast in the James Bond series to date!

Whether this movie will be the best Bond film ever is arguable of course, but it could easily be the most picturesque Bond film ever, thanks to (yet another) Oscar-nominee Roger Deakins. He created one glorious, picture-frame-worthy shot after another, starting with the very first one of Bond’s silhouetted figure entering a building in Turkey. The scenes in China, especially the fight scene in a Shanghai skyscraper with the electronic billboard as a backdrop is breathtakingly gorgeous. The lush scenery in the Scottish Highlands is one of the major highlight as Bond returns to a place from his past.

So, how do the two Bond girls fare? Well, Eve definitely belongs in the BEST Bond girl category. I really like Naomie Harris as the smart and strong field agent. She’s bad ass but still has a feminine and flirty side. She’s a knockout too, especially in that gold dress in the Macau casino. Unfortunately, I’m not too fond of Bérénice Marlohe‘s Sévérine. Yes she is beautiful to be sure and that dress she wears at the casino shows off her killer figure. But her overacting makes me squirm, I think the dialog between her and Bond is the weakest part of the film. Good thing she didn’t have much screen time to drag the movie down further.

Final Thoughts: Well, looks like the ever-so-lucrative 50-year old franchise is going stronger than ever. Skyfall is not just a good Bond film, it’s a good film, period. I think Sam Mendes and co. did a smashing job in creating a 21st century Bond movie that strikes a nice balance between high drama and high octane action. I certainly welcome a more emotional Bond film, and I’m glad Mendes is not afraid to give us that.

So to answer the question whether this film lives up to my already-lofty expectations. The short answer is YES, though I think I still rate Casino Royale as the best one amongst Craig’s Bond films so far.

4.5 out of 5 reels


So what are your thoughts of Skyfall? Did it meet YOUR expectations?