FlixChatter Review: Casino Royale (2006)

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This review was part of Mark & Tom’s Decades Blogathon that was published back in mid May. But since July 6 is Eva Green’s birthday, I decided to post it here this week.


I can’t believe it’s been a decade since Casino Royale came out. I just re-watched it this weekend to refresh my memory for the blogathon, though I had probably re-watched it a few times in the last 10 years. It’s still as good as the first time I saw it, and I still would regard it as one of my favorite Bond films… ever. I’ve mentioned Casino Royale so many times here on my blog, in fact it’s one of my fave films of 2000s and one of the 8 films I’d take with me if I were stuck on a desert island.

Like many Bond fans, I too had trepidation about Daniel Craig casting (too blond, too short, etc.) but of course we’re all proven wrong the second he appeared on the pre-credit scene. Craig might not be the most good looking Bond actor (and he is the shortest), but he more than made up for it in charisma AND swagger. Apart from Craig’s brilliant casting, it’s the story that makes this film so re-watchable. It’s not only a great Bond film, it’s a great film, period. An origin story of sort, James Bond goes on his first ever mission as 007, and he didn’t get off on the right foot with M right away. The scene when M berated Bond when he broke into her flat was intense but humorous, a perfect balancing act the film continuously play throughout. It’s not the first time we see the venerable Dame Judi Dench as M, but I must say I LOVE the banter between her and Craig even more.

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A great Bond film has to have an effective adversary and we find that in Mads Mikkelsen‘s Le Chiffre, a cold-looking Scandinavian with a bleeding eye. It would’ve been a silly gimmick if not played carefully, but here Le Chiffre is a cool and ominous villain. The fact that he’s really not a mastermind in the likes of Blofeld or Drax, but the fact that he’s not hellbent in ruling or destroying the entire world is frankly refreshing. He is a banker to the world’s terrorists, and so his only motive is money, like most of real world villains are. And a great Bond film also needs a memorable Bond girl. Well, Eva Green‘s Vesper Lynd is perhaps the hottest cinematic accountant ever. “I’m the money,” she quips the first time she enters the screen and into Bond’s heart. To this day I’m still enamored by the train scene to Montenegro, the way Bond & Vesper banter each other with wit and sexual undercurrents is what Bond movies are all about. Vesper is no Bimbo and that automatically made her a bazillion times more intriguing than bombshells in lesser Bond movies.

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Casino Royale isn’t big on gadgetry, and as a longtime Bond fan, I actually didn’t mind it. It’s got everything else one would expect in a Bond movie – the cars, the exotic locations, the suspense, action and quick wit – it’s all there. Compared to Craig Bond movies, the Roger Moore versions feel more like a drama given how relentless and vigorous all the action sequences are. The opening parkour/free running scene apparently took six weeks to shoot and my goodness, I’m out of breath just watching it! This is one sprightly Bond and Craig did most of his own stunts, so it looks believable that he was the one doing the action in the movie. He reportedly has the injuries to prove it too! The car chase wasn’t overlong, but dayum was it memorable. The scene where Aston Martin missed Vesper by a hair and rolled over multiple times still took my breath away every time I saw it.

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But all of that action stuff wouldn’t have mattered much without a grounding story. I think the last time Bond was genuinely romantic and emotional was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was when Bond fell in love. The scene of Bond tenderly comforting Vesper in the shower is one of my favorite scenes in all of the Bond films. There is nothing erotic or sexual in this scene, instead it packs an emotional wallop that makes Bond/Vesper relationship one of the best and most convincing romances in a Bond movie. The love story in Casino Royale is core to the plot and it was woven perfectly into all the espionage intrigue.

Vesper: You’re not going to let me in there, are you? You’ve got your armour back on. That’s that.

Bond: I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.

Bond films are known for being an eye and ear candy, and this probably ranks as one of the most beautifully-shot. The scenery in Venice as Bond stroll in the Grand Canal is especially striking, topped off by the intense fight scene in a crumbling house (shot at Pinewood Studios modeled after Venice’s Hotel Danieli). The soundtrack also ranks as one of the best, done by David Arnold with an homage to the legendary composer John Barry. I can’t get over how much I love the track City of Lovers, which I’ve highlighted for my Music Break here. The theme song You Know My Name by Chris Cornell is also one of my favorite Bond songs, and the cards-themed opening sequence is spectacularly-done.

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Per IMDb, this was the first James Bond movie to be based on a full-length Ian Fleming novel since Moonraker 27 years prior. Goldeneye‘s director Martin Campbell helmed the film from a screenplay from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. I wish Campbell would be back in the director seat again as his previous two Bond films rate as one of my all time favorites. There’s so much style & sophistication in abundance here, but never at the expense of story & character. What I also love is that the quieter moments in the movie is still just as intriguing as the high-octane action scenes. That poker game in Montenegro is brimming with elegance as well as suspense, whilst showcasing the film’s excellent production design and costume design. Vesper’s plunging purple dress is a real head-turner and I don’t think Craig has looked more suave than in his tuxedo that Vesper tailor-made for him.

I really can go on and on about this movie as it’s really a masterpiece in the 50 years of James Bond films we’ve got so far. It also made me even more dismayed that the recent film in which the plot directly followed this one was such a downgrade. Looking back at Casino Royale‘s fantastic finale with Bond introducing himself to Mr. White, I expected SO much more than what they gave us with Spectre.

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What are your thoughts about ‘Casino Royale’? Does it rank amongst your favorite Bond films?

Thursday Movie Picks #62: Journalist/Reporters for Print/TV

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Movies featuring journalists/reporters for print/TV

I LOVE this month’s theme as I actually wanted to be a journalist growing up. I was thisclose to enrolling in Journalism major in college before I switched to Advertising. I like a lot of film that involve journalism, especially investigative journalism that continues to be an intriguing subject today. In fact one of the films I’m anticipating later this year that screened at TIFF is SPOTLIGHT, about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child molestation scandal within the local Catholic Archdiocese. These three films also involve scandalous events that’s notable in their time.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

All The President’s Men (1976)

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Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation.

This was one of my Blindspot picks of last year and I’m glad I finally saw it. It’s as much a detective tale as it is about journalism. I like how the story stays focused on the investigative aspect of the scandal and how the Post finally got to publish it, there’s no unnecessary subplots about the personal lives of the leads or anything of the sort. What an intriguing slice of American history, and as someone who’s not born in the US, it’s especially fascinating to see. To this day, every political scandal is tagged with the “-gate” suffix because of this, which adds to the timeless aspect of this film. Thanks to Robert Redford for acquiring the rights to Bernstein’s and Woodward’s memoir and for Mr. Pakula for bringing this engrossing political history to life. The two leads Redford and Dustin Hoffman are in top form here, but it also feature fantastic supporting performances from Hal Holbrook who played Woodward’s extremely secretive source, “Deep Throat.”

The Insider (1999)

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A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a “60 Minutes” expose on Big Tobacco

This film (as well as HEAT) is why I will always admire Michael Mann. I was disappointed by Blackhat but I think he’s still a phenomenal filmmaker that can infuse such a compelling drama to an otherwise ho-hum story. Russell Crowe gave one of his best performances in his illustrious career, which I think deserved a Best Actor Oscar more than his role in Gladiator. I dedicated this post to highlight some of the scenes I love from this film. The relationship between Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe), the whistle blower of the mammoth tobacco company Brown & Williamson’s and Lowell Bergman, a senior producer on 60 Minutes (Al Pacino) is compelling to watch. It’s amazing how even just two people talking on the phone can be so riveting, but that’s the genius of Mann’s style. Lots of great supporting cast here too, most notably Christopher Plummer as the legendary CBS News reporter Mike Wallace, Bruce McGill as trial lawyer Ron Motley, and Michael Gambon as the top tobacco company exec.

Veronica Guerin (2003)

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Based on a true story, this is about the Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, a reporter for The Sunday Independent, who exposed some of Dublin’s most powerful crime barons and drug lords in 1996.

One of my all time favorite Cate Blanchett performances, where she totally disappeared into   her role. Cate not only portrays the feisty reporter, she embodies the journalist’s incredible valor in investigating Dublin’s drug trafficking. You immediately believe her as the character and the Aussie thespian even nailed Guerin’s Irish accent convincingly. I know some of you might be put off by Joel Shumacher as director, but it’s a good film, so give it a shot if you haven’t already. It’s one of the great examples of the danger of investigative journalism and how some of them are truly unsung heroes for their bravery to expose things that are harmful to society.

 

BONUS PICK

Philomena (2013)

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A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

I already had the three above locked down but I still want to include this film as I haven’t reviewed it yet. I LOVE Dame Judi Dench and she’s simply phenomenal as Philomena (hey that rhymes :D) Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the script) played the disgraced former journalist Martin Sixsmith who ended up coming alongside Philomena Lee in her journey to find her long lost son. A lot of his acting consist of bewildered reaction to Philomena, especially the part where she basically divulges the entire plot of a trashy book she’s reading that he couldn’t possibly be more disinterested in. It’s a bittersweet story that made me laugh and cry. Dame Judi is mesmerizing here and she’s as effortlessly adept in comedy as she is in dramatic roles. I find the story to be poignant, thought-provoking, and profoundly moving.

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What do you think of my picks? Which movies involving journalism/reporting are your favorites?

Liebster’d once again…

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Firstly, THANKS to Jay, Vinnie, Paskalis and Anna for kindly nominating me this lovely award. I’ve done this once before in 2012, but hey, it’s always fun to do these kinds of posts. 

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11 things about myself:

  1. I originally wanted to be a journalist, that was initially my major in college (Mass Communication with emphasis in journalism). But after taking a few classes, I decided that I’m more suited to graphic design and so I switched. In hindsight, I think that’s a good decision.
  2. Most people who followed this blog from the start might already knew this, but I originally did this blog because I was constantly emailing my friends and colleagues about my mini review of movies. Some of my co-workers said I might as well start a blog and so one day, whilst designing a blog for a client, I started a WordPress blog myself as a test and FlixChatter was born.
  3. My favorite cuisine (aside from Indonesian of course) is Thai. I’d have Thai food several times a week if I could.
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  4. Europe_bandI used to LOVE 80s heavy metal bands like Guns ‘N Roses, Warrant, Skid Row, Poison, as well as the Swedish rockband Europe, which my hubby’s a huge fan of as well. To this day, I still listen to ’em from time to time.
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  5. I used to create romantic *graphic novel* in Junior High, which basically were simple black/white pencil-drawn stories with talk bubbles. I think I might’ve made a half dozen of them that would amongst my class mates. It was mostly out of boredom, and I’d often be sent to detention for my drawing hobby😉
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  6. I took French with one of my best friends in High School but we only managed to finish a couple of classes before promptly giving up. It was just too difficult for our tongues, far more difficult than English and even German, which was part of our High School curriculum. I wish I hadn’t given up so quickly, as it’d have come in handy in watching Stanley Weber’s French movies without English subtitles😦
  7. My taste in music is pretty old fashioned. I basically listen to two genres regularly: classical and soundtrack. I’m also a big fan of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. Ocassionaly I listen to contemporary music, currently I’ve been obsessed with Emeli Sandé. I don’t usually like going to concerts but I’d definitely go see her if she comes to town!
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  8. I’m not proud to admit this but I was a huge fan of New Kids of the Block when I was 14/15. My room was practically a NKOTB *museum* filled with paraphenaphilia and posters that covered every inch of my room wall. But by the time I saw them in concert, my interest had already waned. In fact, they sort of put my enthusiasm for boy bands for good. I never ever like boy bands ever again since then.
  9. FloppyI used to have many pets growing up, both cats and dogs. One of my favorites is a Pekingese dog named Floppy which was given from one of my late mom’s friends who was a Catholic nun. But since I moved to the US I never adopted a pet, but maybe we will in the future.
  10. Both my hubby and I are Indonesian, and we actually went to the same Jr High. But we didn’t meet until college, thousands of miles away from our home. I never thought I’d marry an Asian guy once I go to the US for school, let alone someone from my own country. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
  11. I LOVE social media, especially blogging (natch!) and Twitter, but I can’t stand Facebook. I only have a FB account for my blog and I’m rarely on there. I’ve recently taken up Instagram (thanks partly to my French crush Stanley) and been enjoying it so far.

Jay’s Question:

What is the most fun you’ve ever had in a movie theatre? What movie were you watching?

I already answered this on Jay’s blog: One of the most fun I had at the theater was when I saw Pacific Rim on IMAX a while back, that movie was so darn entertaining and it looked great on those huge screens.

I also enjoyed watching The Dark Knight Rises and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on IMAX, there’s nothing more immersive than watching great action movies in those huge, enveloping screen!


Vinnie’s Questions:

  1. Do you prefer watching films in the cinema or at home?
    Depends. If it’s action movies, I prefer seeing them on the big screen. But for dramas, I prefer seeing them at home.
  2. Do you have any tattoos?
    No. Though I’ve always wanted one on my shoulder. Maybe one day.
  3. What is your favourite sport?
    I’m not much of a sport person at all. I always get bored watching any televised sports games.
  4. Who is your man crush or woman crush?
    Right now it’s all about this French Adonis Stanley Weber
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  5. How good are you at keeping secrets?
    Very good. But I haven’t had to keep too many secrets in my life
  6. What movie do you love that everyone else seems to hate?
    Ahah, I just blogged about this last week.
  7. What do you enjoy the most about blogging?
    Meeting fellow cinephiles from all over the world, sometimes I get to meet them in person, too!
  8. What is your star sign?
    I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I think it’s Aquarius
  9. How many languages can you speak?
    Two. Indonesian (my mother tongue) and English
  10. What is your most valuable belonging?
    Not sure I have any.
  11. Describe yourself in five words.
    Loner, imaginative, candid, emotional, emphatic.


Paskalis’ Questions:

  1. Please name a movie that can describe you or what you feel now!
    Persuasion.
    Because my script deals with long lost love and second chances, so that’s what’s been on my mind lately
  2. What’s your all time favorite movie OST?
    John Williams’ Jurassic Park
  3. Choose one: Jurassic World, Terminator Genysis, or Star Wars Eps. VII?
    Simply because it’s the only one I saw that I remember but I don’t think it’s a good movie.
  4. Choose one: annoying cliffhanger or super-twisted bad ending?
    I’d say none, but if I must pick one, at least the latter won’t make me guess what the ending is
  5. Choose one: European movie, Asian movie, Australian movie or South American movie? Name a title!
    I have a fondness for British movies, and I just recently rewatched this wonderful Scottish gem Dear Frankie that’s just been added to Netflix. Everyone should check this one out!
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  6. What’s the best Indonesian movie you ever watched?
    I haven’t seen any Indo movie in a long time. The last one I saw was Ada Apa Dengan Cinta which was pretty good.
  7. If your life were a movie, what other movie might look similar to it?
    Unfortunately, I never saw my life reflected in any film I’ve seen
  8. If your life were still a movie, who will portray you best?
    Again, this is a tough one. I don’t think I can answer this.
  9. As a movie blogger, what kind of comment you loathe?
    Comments that clearly prove they don’t even read the post at all
  10. As a movie blogger, do you follow foreign blogger and interact with them? Why yes, why not?
    Ahah yes, most of my blogger friends are *foreign* as a lot of them live outside of the USA. Interacting with my fellow bloggers is one of my fave parts about blogging.
  11. Now, please describe your blog in a sentence!
    A blog of movie musings, commentaries, reviews, artists interviews, top ten lists and more!
    …..

Anna’s Questions:

  1. Favorite TV show(s)?
    I hardly watch any TV but the last shows I saw that I REALLY enjoyed was Netflix’s Daredevil and BBC’s Broadchurch.
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  2. Last movie you saw?
    Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  3. Book you’re currently reading?
    None at the moment, but hoping to catch up on The Girl on the Train
  4. Comedy or drama?
    Drama generally.
  5. Classic or contemporary?
    Contemporary.
  6. SenseSensibilityDvdWhat’s that one movie you always recommend to anyone who asks?
    Sense & Sensibility (1995).
    Even to those who aren’t fans of period dramas as the story is just so beautiful, and it’s superbly acted, writen and directed.
  7. You’re able to go back in time and be an extra on the set of any movie. Which one is it?
    Any movie starring Stanley Weber (for obvious reasons)😉
  8. Favorite foreign film?
    In terms of replayability value: Cinema Paradiso
  9. Book version or movie version: which is better?
    I know generally book version is better, though I don’t have as much patience for certain books, so in terms of Jane Austen adaptation, I enjoy the film/tv versions better.
  10. Best performance from your favorite actor/actress?
    This is way too hard as I have so many faves. But I just rewatched Mrs. Brown with Dame Judi Dench and I think it’s definitely one of her many best performances.
  11. Watching movies alone or watching movies with someone?
    Depends. I enjoy watching movies alone or with my hubby equally, though I prefer watching my guilty pleasures by myself😉


Now the easy part… the nominations!

Well it seems that everyone’s been nominated already, but I’ll do it anyway and you can choose to participate or not, it’s entirely up to you.

  1. Cindy @ Cindy Bruchman’s Blog
  2. Margaret @ Cinematic Corner
  3. Jordan @ Epileptic Moondancer
  4. Tom @ Digital Shortbread
  5. Steven @ Surrender to the Void
  6. Alex @ Alex Raphael Blog
  7. Abbi @ Abbi Osbiston Blog
  8. Natalie @ Writer Loves Movies
  9. Andina @ Inspired Ground
  10. Mark @ Three Rows Back
  11. Rodney @ Fernby Films

Should you take part in this Liebster Award meme, please answer these 11 questions*:

  1. Have you ever made a fanfic? If so, what is it about?
  2. What’s your favorite dish/desert to make?
  3. Who’s your favorite movie actor who’s currently starring in a TV show?
  4. If you can only listen to ONE film soundtrack for a whole month, what would it be?
  5. What musical instrument do you play (or wish you could play)?
  6. Name one film you initially love but eventually grow to dislike?
  7. Favorite quote you find inspiring?
  8. Which is your favorite movie writer [could be a journalist, novelist, etc.]?
  9. Has your cinematic crush ever inspire you to do something you otherwise wouldn’t even consider?
  10. Favorite outfit/costume from a movie?
  11. What’s your latest cinematic/music obsession?

*I’m cheating a bit and use a few questions I asked in my last Liebster post, but since I’m tagging new people, I figure that’s ok😛


Sorry for the super long post! Thanks for reading everyone, now you know a little bit more about yours truly😀

Question of the Week: Which movie(s) are you looking forward to in March?

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Now that award season is officially over… we can all look forward to what else 2015 has in store for us. February is practically dead in terms of new releases, in fact I only saw Jupiter Ascending & Kingsman in the theater. But there are more intriguing stuff coming next month. I have rsvp-ed for The Second Best Marigold Hotel and Cinderella‘s screenings and Ted will be going to Chappie & Run All Night in the next couple of weeks.

I might rent Get Hard and Serena, but I have zero interest in seeing yet another Taken variation that Liam Neeson is doing, Run All Night. I mean it just looks so darn awful from the trailer, oh why’s Ed Harris doing in there?? [face palm] Oh and Sean Penn’s The Gunman is directed by the first Taken‘s director too, and so he apparently wants a piece of the action moolah from that bankable violent thriller. As for Insurgent, well I’ve completely lost interest in that Divergent franchise even though I quite like the first movie. So maybe I’ll rent that on a slow night.

Anyway, you can check out the full March Release schedule here over at IMDb, but here are some of the movies I’m looking forward to seeing:

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.

I LOVE the first movie, the ensemble cast is simply splendid. I mean you can’t beat Maggie Smith & Judi Dench, two of my favorite Dames, together again in a movie. This time we’ve got Richard Gere to spice things up😉

Cinderella

A live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale about a servant step-daughter who wins the heart of a prince.

I grew up w/ Disney Princess movies so naturally I’m drawn to this. Plus I quite like Kenneth Branagh as director so he’s another draw for me to see it!

The Riot Club

Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening.

All those gorgeous British boys doing VERY bad things. I dunno about you but that intrigues me😉 Plus I’ve had a crush on Sam Reid ever since BELLE (he’s in the far right in the pic below), and Jeremy Irons’ hunky son Max is in the main cast, too. It’s from the director of An Education, which I like, so hopefully it’ll be good!

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Seymour

Director Ethan Hawke explores the life and lessons of piano teacher Seymour Bernstein.

I heard about this after I saw Predestination and it sounds like a great doc! I love that Hawke is doing a personal project like this, I hope this arrives on Netflix soon.

Chappie

In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

I proceed this one w/ caution even though I LOVE sci-fi that deals w/ man vs robot relationships. I was quite disappointed w/ Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium so hopefully this has more of an engaging and emotional story like District 9.


So which March movie(s) are you most excited about folks?

10 Actresses I would watch in just about anything

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As part of a continuation to the Top 10 Actors I’d See in Anything post, I figure I’d do the same list for the fairer sex. If anything, my love for actresses seem to be more constant than for actors, not sure why but aside from some new discoveries, I’ve been a fan of most of these actresses for a decade or longer. Again this idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are Blog. The same as the actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in literally anything because there are some movies with them in it I haven’t seen and probably never will. But having their name in a certain film would certainly make me more inclined in watching them.

Here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite:

10. Kristin Scott-Thomas

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Ever since I saw her as Fiona in Four Weddings & A Funeral years ago, I’ve always been fond of the English actress. There is an air of mystery about her, as well as a certain sadness, which made her perfect for her Oscar-nominated role in The English Patient. She’s always wonderful to watch in anything, even in bit parts in lesser-known films like The Heir Apparent, Mission: Impossible, Easy Virtue, Nowhere Boy, etc. Her dramatic talent is irrefutable, but I think she’s got comedic chops too, as she displayed in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I’d love to see this lighter side of her in other movies. Wish she’d gotten more leading roles, instead of being cast in awful movies like Bel Ami against sub-par leading man Robert Pattinson.

Favorite Role: Fiona in Four Weddings and A Funeral
Least Favorite Role: Virginie in Bel Ami

9. Carey Mulligan

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The first thing I noticed about miss Mulligan is her soothing speaking voice in Never Let Me Go. I already liked her even before she showed up on screen. There is a pleasant countenance about her that I like, as well as a certain childlike innocence that she displayed in An Education. Even when she plays unsympathetic characters like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and the acidic-tongued Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis, you can’t totally despise her. When I saw her in Never Let Me Go, I somehow didn’t realize she was Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice! She’s quite a chameleon. Can’t wait to see her in Far from the Madding Crowd next year.

Favorite Role: Kathy in Never Let Me Go
Least Favorite Role: Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Jessica Chastain

Top10Actresses_Jessica

I mentioned in this post a couple of years ago that miss Chastain sort of came into my cinematic view pretty suddenly. I hadn’t heard of her even six months prior to that, and seems that in an instant she churned out four very distinct performance within the span of a couple of years: The Debt, Tree of Life, Coriolanus and The Help. Then she impressed me once again in Zero Dark Thirty, displaying strong dramatic chops that’s entirely different from the other roles I’ve seen previously. Seeing her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby sealed it for me that she has to be on this list. I think she’s absolutely beautiful, but in an unconventional way. She’s the kind of actress who I think gets even more interesting the longer you look at her. Can’t wait to see her in crime drama A Most Violent Year opposite Oscar Isaac!

Favorite Role: Eleanor Rigby in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Least Favorite Role: N/A

7. Marion Cotillard

Top10Actresses_Marion

What is it with French women that made them so beguiling? Miss Cotillard certainly has screen charisma that appeals to both sexes, and though she’s impossibly beautiful she’s not Bimbo-like at all. Like Kristin Scott Thomas, I also find her a bit mysterious which adds to her appeal. I guess I find people with *sad* eyes more intriguing, perhaps it’s that tortured-soul quality I find very appealing in men as well. She gave such a heartfelt performance in Inception, and she’s my favorite performer even in the all-star cast musical NINE. In fact, her two musical renditions are superb as she shows not only her dramatic prowess, but also her amazing vocals & dancing ability.

Favorite Role: Adriana in Midnight in Paris/Luisa in NINE
Least Favorite Role: Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises

6. Sandra Bullock

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Like a lot of people, I first noticed Sandra in Speed and I’m instantly a fan. Whether it’s action stuff like The Net, Demolition Man, or rom-coms like While You Were Sleeping, Forces of Nature, Two Weeks Notice, The Proposal, etc. Sandra is so watchable. Though she also excels in serious dramas like The Blind Side and Gravity, I think I like Sandra most in comedies as she’s just so darn lovable in them. I don’t think Miss Congeniality would’ve been as watchable without her in the lead. She’s also hugely entertaining in interviews and her fun, down-to-earth personality absolutely shines in candid conversations. She’s one of those rare movie stars who seem so approachable that you could imagine her as your best friend!

Favorite Role: Annie in Speed/ Lucy in While You Were Sleeping
Least Favorite Role: Kate in The Lake House

5. Emma Thompson

Top10Actresses_Emma

I think I’ll always be a fan of Emma given my undying love for 1995’s Sense & Sensibility. I’ll always be grateful for her amazing screenplay and her lovely performance as Elinor Dashwood. Before that, I’ve already liked her in Much Ado About Nothing and The Remains of the Day. Her segment in Love, Actually with Alan Rickman is my fave of the entire film, and she’s wonderful in Stranger than Fiction and in the romantic drama Last Chance Harvey. Her comic-relief performance in Harry Potter is a lot of fun to watch, too. Her latest role in Saving Mr Banks shows she definitely should’ve gotten more leading roles. Playing someone so uptight and controlling seems so far away from her laid-back and goofy, but then again, Emma has a knack for playing eccentric characters.

Favorite Roles: Elinor in Sense & Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Sarafine in Beautiful Creatures

4. Dame Helen Mirren

Top10Actresses_Helen

Though I had seen Dame Mirren in Gosford Park, it’s not until The Queen that she REALLY came to my attention. She truly won me over with that performance and so every time I saw her name attached in something, I’d want to check it out. Since then she’s impressed me in State of Play, The Debt, The Last Station, and even the goofy action comedy RED & RED 2 where she displayed her bad-assery as a femme fatale. She’s the best thing about the Hitchcock film adaptation as Alma Reville, even her animated character Dean Hardscrabble in Monsters University is fun to watch! Can’t wait to see her in a thriller opposite one of my fave British thespians Alan Rickman in Eye in the Sky!

Favorite Roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen
Least Favorite Role: N/A

3. Dame Judi Dench

Top10Actresses_Judi

Like Helen Mirren, I became familiar with Dame Judi in her latter works. In fact, it’s her most mainstream role as M in Goldeneye that got my attention. She outshone practically every male actor in that role previously, and she delivered such a scene-stealing performance she upstaged even Mr Bond himself! I have to say part of me wish she had been M in earlier Bond films as I’d love to see him going toe to toe with another theater thespian Timothy Dalton as 007!

Since then, I’ve seen Dame Judi in a variety of roles: biopics like Mrs. Brown, My Week with Marilyn and Philomena; and a fair share of literary adaptations like Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and her 8-minute Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love. I LOVE her in the lovely drama Chocolat, as well as in the ensemble comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Recently I saw her in Ladies in Lavender, teaming up again with her real-life BFFs Maggie Smith after nearly 20 years (in A Room with a View). I always enjoyed seeing them together, so I can’t wait to see the ‘Marigold hotel’ sequel!

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, M in Bond movies
Least Favorite Role: N/A

2. Emily Blunt

Top10Actresses_Emily

 

Though she didn’t get the lead role, it’s safe to say that miss Blunt was the breakout star of The Devil Wears Prada. She’s so deliciously devious in her comic turn that was so fun to watch. But I think it’s her performance in the lesser-known Jane Austen Book Club as a French teacher that made me a fan. She’s my favorite character in the film and I really sympathize with her despite her flaws.

Finally I saw her in a leading role in The Young Victoria and once again I absolutely adore her. Interesting that she plays the same character that Judi Dench played in her later years in Mrs. Brown, which is also my fave role she’s done. Emily stuns even in bit parts, i.e. playing Tom Hanks’ young lover in Charlie Wilson’s War. Since then I’ve seen Emily in a variety of roles: The Adjustment Bureau, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Looper, and most recently Edge of Tomorrow. She had a more action-packed roles in the last two films, perhaps in an attempt to shed her English-rose image. I think she fits well in drama, comedy or action, which shows her versatility and on-screen appeal.

Favorite Roles: Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria
Least Favorite Role: N/A

1. Cate Blanchett

Top10Actresses_Cate

Ahhhh… the Great Cate. I absolutely love this woman. Similar my first intro to Carey Mulligan, I too fell for Cate’s soothing narration in The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I LOVE her as Galadriel, perhaps one of the most famous characters she plays in her illustrious career.

What I LOVE about the Melbourne-born thespian is her chameleon ability to play virtually ANY role from all walks of life. Whether it’s a fearless Irish journalist (Veronica Guerin), working class ex-heroin addict (Little Fish), troubled NY socialite (Blue Jasmine), a wounded wife shot on an overseas trip (Babel), an English monarch (Elizabeth) or Hollywood royalty (as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), there’s NOT a role Cate couldn’t pull off. She can do any accent flawlessly, and her voice is just so pleasant to listen to. Ok so I still haven’t seen her in her Oscar-nominated role as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, but no doubt she’s also convincing in portraying the opposite sex.

Borrowing from my Birthday Tribute post, Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

Can’t wait to see her in Kenneth Branagh’s life-action adaptation of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother next year!

Favorite Roles: Galadriel in LOTR, Veronica Guerin
Least Favorite Role: Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skulls

 …

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! I’ve been a fan of most of these for a while, but there are some newbies added based on their performances this past year (Mbatha Raw & Pike). A lot of the actresses here hugely underrated, but just like a lot of my male crushes, I guess I have a penchant for the under-used and under-appreciated ones. Anyway, here they are in my fave role each of them has done so far:

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  1. Helena Bonham Carter
  2. Angela Bassett
  3. Eva Green
  4. Rebecca Hall
  5. Gugu Mbatha-Raw
  6. Julia Ormond
  7. Rosamund Pike
  8. Saoirse Ronan
  9. Maggie Smith
  10. Kate Winslet

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So that’s my list folks! Feel free to name your own picks of actresses you’d watch in practically anything🙂

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions & Reminiscing on Best Actor/Actress Nominees’ Early Roles

TheOscarsLogoThe film industry’s biggest night is just three days away. Dozens upon dozens of award ceremonies have taken place in the past few months, culminating on Sunday with the Academy Awards! I figured I’ll join in on the fun of predicting who will win the Oscars, split into two categories. The ‘Should Win’ here who I’m championing to win based on what I’ve seen. Nothing scientific here, the winning predictions are based on what I’ve read/heard, other awards up until now, as well as pure gut instincts. So here goes:

BEST PICTURE
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should Win: “Gravity”

Have you checked out the Bloggers Roundtable Post over at Keith’s blog? Thanks Keith for inviting me to take part with my favorite bloggers!

BEST DIRECTOR
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón

BEST ACTOR
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey
Should Win: [Since I haven’t seen Dallas Buyer’s Club] Chiwetel Ejiofor

BEST ACTRESS
Will Win: Cate Blanchett
Should Win: Cate Blanchett

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will Win: Jared Leto
Should Win: Michael Fassbender

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should Win: Sally Hawkins

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win: “Her”
Should Win: “Her”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should Win: “Captain Phillips”

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Will Win: “Frozen”
Should Win: “Frozen”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Will Win: “The Square”
Should Win: “The Act of Killing”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Will Win: “The Great Beauty”

Should Win: “The Hunt”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Will Win: “Gravity”
Should Win: “Gravity”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: “Gravity”
Should Win: “Gravity”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Will Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Should Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”

Reminiscing on Acting Nominees’ Early Roles

Now, I’d like to do something different this year than simply predicting the winners. I was inspired by something I saw a couple of nights ago whilst I was at the gym. ABC always airs interviews with the acting nominees and show clips of their previous films. Well, it made me reminisce on the first time I saw each of the Best Actor/Actress nominees and how I felt about them then. For the purpose of this post, I’m only focusing on the leading category for this post. So allow me to walk down memory lane for a bit.

OscarBestActressNominees

Amy Adams

AmyAdamsJunebugFirst saw her was in Catch Me If You Can but for some odd reason, I didn’t remember her until much later after I saw the film. She had a small role as a Southern Belle type hospital nurse whom Leo DiCaprio’s character proposed to. But the role that really impressed me was Junebug where she also played a Southerner, a young mother to-be who thinks that her baby would solve her marital strain. It’s a bit of an odd film but I definitely remember her in that, and clearly the Academy did too, as it earned her first of five nominations.

Cate Blanchett

CateBlanchettLOTRIt was her role in the mega blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring that made me notice the Aussie thespian. I absolutely loved her voice as she narrated the story. After that I went back to watch her Oscar-nominated role Elizabeth, which to this day I still think she’s far more worthy of the Oscar win than Gwyneth Paltrow was in Shakespeare in Love. I’ve never NOT been impressed by her performance since, I’m constantly in awe of her versatility and chameleonic quality, convincingly speaking whatever accent is required of her. Balancing small films like Little Fish, Veronica Guerin to a big-budget production like The Aviator, she seems to be able to do it all effortlessly. Even in a terrible movie like Indiana Jones 4, she’s still very watchable.

Sandra Bullock

SandraBullockSpeedI might’ve seen Sandra in Working Girl TV series but for some reason I didn’t realize she’s the same girl in Speed! I didn’t recognize her with her big wavy hair, ahah. So I have to say it’s her big break in the hit action flick, which was also Keanu Reeve’s breakthrough role, that made me notice her. I liked her straight away and I’ve always been fond of her since. She might not have Blanchett’s range, but she more than make up for it in congeniality – no surprise that she made two movies bearing that sentiment as it’s so tailor-made for her. I’m one of the few who didn’t mind that she won Best Actress for The Blind Side, but her dramatic chop is stretched even further in Gravity.

Judi Dench

JudiDenchGoldeneyeOne of British finest Dames has had a long career in various stage, TV and film work before she made history as the first female M in the James Bond series. So I first noticed her as Bond’s snarky boss in Goldeneye, who aptly and memorably calls him a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur.’ Bravo! Only three years later she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in Shakespeare in Love despite being on screen for a mere 8 minutes. The one British monarch role I absolutely love her in was Mrs. Brown where she played an older Queen Victoria who found friendship in her servant Mr. Brown as she was mourning her husband’s death.

Meryl Streep

MerylStreepKramervsKramerAn acting living legend has a staggering 17 Oscar nominations (3 wins), the most of ANY performer of all time. The first time I saw her was in Kramer vs. Kramer when I was a kid, where she won her first Best Actress Oscar. That film was indelible as I remember being quite frightened by the scene where her kid fell in the playground, being carried home by her on-screen husband Dustin Hoffman. I haven’t seen a lot of her work and to be frank, she’s not really a favorite of mine even if she’s always impressive in everything I’ve seen her in. I definitely enjoyed seeing her as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, that’s really a fun role for her where she gets to be this larger-than-life meanie without being cartoonish.

…..

OscarBestActorNominees

Christian Bale

Bale_MidsummerNightsDreamI honestly can’t remember when I first saw Bale in movies. I know it’s long before he don the cape as the Dark Knight, and it wasn’t his movie big break as a child actor in Empire of the Sun as I saw that after Batman. So it could very well be his small supporting role in Midsummer Night’s Dream as I saw that one on the big screen. It’s interesting to see the ever-so-serious Bale in a Shakespearean fantasy comedy. I barely remember what the whole story was about but I remember how dreamy he was in it, hard to imagine him doing a fluffy role like that, but I think he should just to break things up from all the solemn and dark stuff he does nowadays.

Bruce Dern

BruceDernNebraskaThis is the only time in a long while where I haven’t seen any of the work of an actor prior to the one being nominated. I have heard of him but somehow I just never saw him in anything. I have to rectify that situation at some point as I was quite impressed by his performance in Nebraska. People constantly tell me he’s played great bad guys in his younger days, so I just have to check those out!

Leonardo DiCaprio

LeoDiCaprioGrowingPainsI’m always amazed and in awe at Leo’s career trajectory as I first saw him in one of my favorite series Growing Pains! He was so dorky looking but even then you knew he was special. After that I never saw any of his film roles until Titanic, in which I had a slight crush on Jack Dawson (which teen girl wasn’t?). So of course I saw a bunch of his films after that, even the really obscure one like Total Eclipse as a French poet (sans the French accent) where he even had a gay sex scene with David Thewlis. Leo even did a Western in The Quick & The Dead, though by that point I was already crushing on Russell Crowe who never looked better in a film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor

EjioforChildrenOfMenFirst time I noticed Ejiofor was in Children of Men, though I might’ve seen him in Inside Man as well before that. A year later I saw him in American Gangster, with fellow hunky Brit Idris Elba, both playing Americans on opposite sides of Denzel Washington’s character. I’m so glad he’s now getting more recognition, hopefully it’ll bring more leading roles for Ejiofor, as he obviously has the chops. Interesting that both him and Elba has also played leading roles in Mandela-related films, Ejiofor was the lead in this dramatic gem Endgame.

Matthew McConaughey

McConaugheyWeddingPlannerThe role I first took notice of this Southern hunk happens to be in one of my guilty pleasure rom-com The Wedding Planner opposite J-Lo. I thought he was sooo darn hunky and sweet in that movie. I think I might’ve seen him prior to that on Boys on the Side but I can’t remember what he even looked like in that movie. Funny that he was in a sci-fi movie about dragons with fellow 2014 nominee Christian Bale in Reign of Fire, and back then he got top billing over the lesser known Bale. I skipped a bunch of McConaughey’s movies for a while, I have to admit I wasn’t a fan until I saw him in The Lincoln Lawyer. Nice to see his career renaissance – aptly coined The McConissance – of late, he’s poised to win this Sunday.


Thoughts on my predictions? More importantly, would you share your first cinematic memory with any of the Best Actor/Actress nominees?

Weekend Roundup: Holy Motors and Mrs Brown

Happy Monday everyone! Hope y’all had a nice weekend. Still can’t believe two months have come and gone in 2013. Well, because of the press screenings that usually take place on weekends, I don’t go to the cinema on weekends. Here are my mini reviews of the two movies I saw:

Holy Motors (2012)

HolyMotorsPosterI have to admit I have not heard of this French film at all until a few months ago when I read some really rave reviews of this. It sounds so batty and bizarre, and though I don’t really have a huge taste for surreal cinema but I was intrigued enough to check this out.

From dusk ’til dawn, we follow a man by the name of Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) traveling by a white limousine around Paris to a series of nine “appointments.” His chauffeur Celine makes sure he gets to each of those appointments in time, and at each stop, Mr. Oscar transform into new character, one more bizarre than others, but we’re never told just why he does this. From a gypsy beggar, to a motion capture artist like Andy Serkis, he does his own make up and disguise in his well-equiped limo.

The two most bizarre ones to me is when he’s dressed like a leprechaun-looking thing and kidnaps a fashion model (Eva Mendez, channeling Cindy Crawford here) during a photo shoot at a Parisian cemetery and takes her into a cave. It gets even more bizarre after that, trust me. And the other one is the motion capture stuff where he’s doing all kinds of Ninja moves, and then a woman dressed in the mo-cap suit with all the dot markers and the two start to perform a sex act inside a digital production facility and being projected as some reptilian beings on the monitor screen.

The film’s narrative is quite challenging to follow, not to mention the fact that we have no clue just who Mr. Oscar is and why he does what he does. I was willing to go along for the ride and oh, what a trip this is. Director Leos Carax mixes all kinds of genres, as iTunes described it, it’s a monster movie, film noir, romantic drama, musical, crime thriller, futuristic sex fantasia rolled into one, yet it also defies each and everyone of that genre at the same time. It reminds me of Paris, je t’aime a bit but with just one actor in its multiple ‘storyline.’ It’s tough for me to even explain just what’s going on throughout the 2-hour running time, I think if you’re curious about it, just go see it.

HolyMotorsStills

My favorite segment is of Mr. Oscar and Jean (Kylie Minogue) where she sang the movie’s theme song Who Were We. I’m still humming that lovely song, it has kind of a haunting quality about it. The music is actually quite memorable here, there’s also an accordion interlude called ‘Let my Baby Ride’ that’s quite awesome. My late mother played the accordion so that instrument holds a special place in my heart.

I’m not surprised this film won so many film festival awards, and was nominated at Cannes and César. I’d even think it’s worthy to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Oscar. The cinematography is beautiful and unique, it shows various parts of Paris that’s not always all romantic. Lavant’s performance was noteworthy to be sure, that’s got to be a challenging role for any actor. Holy Motors is perhaps more of a cinematic experiment than a conventional film. I don’t think this fantasy film is for everyone though, but I do think if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, you might actually enjoy it. I know I did, and parts of me are weird-ed out by it, even terrified at times, but also mesmerized at the same time. Yet it’s also strangely moving, it somehow appeals to my heart even when my brain fails to comprehend just what is happening. In a sea of movies that lack imagination and originality, I certainly appreciate it when something offbeat like this comes along.

four reels


Her Majesty Mrs. Brown (1997)

MrsBrownPosterIt’s been ages since I saw this film and I have to admit that my initial interest in this film was because my former crush Gerry Butler had a supporting role here. This is in fact his feature film debut.

This film stayed with me for years and has become one of my favorite films about the British monarchs. This would make a great double feature with The Young Victoria, as that one depict the royal romance between her and Prince Albert. In this one, the Queen is in a depressed state following the death of her husband and the whole Balmoral estate is pretty much in a state of mourning as a result.

John Brown is brought in especially as he was one of Albert’s favorite servants. His rather irreverent, frank behavior doesn’t exactly bode well for the royal staff, but soon he found favor with the Queen and their unlikely friendship proved to be good for her mental health. No doubt their relationship created a stir, as you could imagine how scandalous it is for a queen to be hanging out with the queen. There’s of course jealousy arising amongst the queen’s advisers who saw their own influence diminishing as the Queen favored Brown’s advice. The staff, as well as the Queen’s own son the Prince of Wales (Bertie), think Brown’s influence is bad for the Queen’s reputation.

What I love most about this film is the unlikely friendship between two people from two very different worlds. It’s such a pity that someone in the Queen’s position could not confide in anyone even at a time she needed to most, everyone in her circle seemed only concerned about their own status in connection to her. Brown on the other hand, did not care about status nor power. He might be stubborn and hard to deal with at times, but he genuinely cared for the Queen and protective of her well-being. He even shushed a bunch of ‘paparazzi’ who followed the royal party hunting.

MrsBrownStills

Dame Judi Dench is superb, her Oscar-nomination here is well-deserved. It’s a brilliantly astute portrayal that displayed her incredible range. Whether it’s conveying inconsolable grief or a subtle hint of glee following a robust dance with Mr. Brown, she’s always so believable. Billy Connolly is perfectly cast here in a dramatic role. I’ve always found his comedic style rather impudent, and there’s a bit of that here, but he’s so natural as John Brown and he has an effortless chemistry with Dench. Butler’s pretty effective in his small role as Brown’s younger brother Archie. Boy his Scottish accent was still sooo thick here, it’s funny that he’s been cast as Americans nowadays as he still can’t lose that brogue completely. Oh, there’s also an amusing scene of the two of them running into a cold lake fully nude😉

I adore this film and the cinematography of the lush Scottish Highlands are absolutely stunning. I guess John Madden and Dame Judi have a great rapport together. She also won an Oscar under his direction in Shakespeare in Love for only being on screen for a mere eight minutes!!

four reels


I also saw BBC’s 2007 version of Persuasion, mainly to see Rupert Penry-Jones as Capt. Wentworth. I like parts of this movie, but overall it leaves me wanting. This is such a wonderful story of lost love and second chances that deserves a worthy adaptation. Ah well, I’ll leave that for a future post🙂


Well, that’s my weekend recap. What about you? Seen anything good?

2012 Year in Review: Best & Worst Movies and Memorable Movie Moments

Bye2012Can’t believe 2012 has come and gone. I don’t know about you but this past year felt especially fast for me, it just flew by before I had a chance to reflect on a bunch of things. I know a lot of bloggers have been putting their stamp on whether this has been a good or bad year for movies. Now, I personally don’t know how to really judge that, I think if someone were to ask me, I’d say it’s been a pretty good year as I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of movies, both the blockbusters and the smaller indie flicks.

Now, as I’ve done in the past couple of years, this top 10 is more of a list of favorites so naturally it’s very subjective. The movies included are reserved for those released in 2012 that I saw on the big screen (whether on regular theatrical release, screenings or at a local film festival).

So here they are in alphabetical order (it’s hard enough to pick just 10 so I sure as heck am not going to rank these):

2012FlixList

Top 10 Favorite 2012 Films:

  • Argo (my full review)
    Ben Affleck’s third directorial work makes up for a stellar ‘trilogy’ of his work. It was an engaging, edge-of-your-seat stuff and it was emotionally satisfying to boot. Great casting on John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the scene-stealing Hollywood folks set out to make a fake movie.

  • A Late Quartet (my full review)
    One of the indie gems at TIFF that totally lived up to my expectations, especially in the performances department. If you’re a fan of Christopher Walken or Philip Seymour Hoffman, I highly recommend this one.

  • Brave (my full review)
    I actually re-watched parts of this on the plane during my vacation and I still loved it. In a year of kick-ass movie heroines, Princess Merida is a highlight. Pixar delivers once again!

  • Looper (my full review)
    One of the best action sci-fi I’ve seen in years, thanks in no small feat to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The make-up might be distracting but Levitt’s performance was still strong enough to overcome that. The first movie by Rian Johnson I’ve seen – this one certainly makes me want to seek out his other works.

  • Silver Linings Playbook (my full review)
    This one was touted as the ‘centerpiece’ feature film at TCFF and glad it lived up to the hype. Another strong performance from Jennifer Lawrence (I actually like her a bit more here than in The Hunger Games) and proves that pretty-boy Bradley Cooper can definitely act. It also marks one of Robert De Niro’s best in recent memory.

  • Skyfall (my full review)
    Thanks to Sam Mendes, his team of writers and of course the blond Bond du jour Daniel Craig, we’ve got a massively entertaining Bond film that packs both brains and heart. I love that Judi Dench’s M is sort of the unconventional ‘Bond girl’ in this one, and the gorgeous cinematography by Roger Deakins certainly makes this one all the more memorable.

  • The Avengers
    The loud, popcorn blockbuster is certainly the highlight of the first half of 2012. Considering the herculean hype surrounding this one, it’s quite a feat that Josh Whedon & co. managed to still meet that, and then some! There are so much to like that I listed a top 10 reasons why The Avengers rocked.

  • The Dark Knight Rises (my full review)
    It’s really a testament to Christopher Nolan that despite all the plot holes, I still enjoyed it immensely. I still rate The Dark Knight higher, but overall it’s a satisfying ending to an amazing trilogy!

  • The Hobbit
    Well I just did my top 10 reasons why I loved this movie, so naturally this would end up on my top 10. Definitely a welcome return to the visually mesmerizing world of Middle Earth. Can’t wait for Part II!

  • The Sapphires (see my review)
    Last but definitely not least. I adore this inspirational true story set in the 60s about four talented young Aboriginal girls who were plucked out of obscurity when they formed into a dynamic singing group. Such an affecting story and the music is a winner, I can’t wait to see this again soon.

10 Honorable Mentions:

These ten films are excellent, they didn’t quite make my top 10 but they’re definitely still worth checking out if you haven’t already (click each title for full review):

Cloud Atlas, It’s A Disaster, Moonrise Kingdom, Robot and Frank, Quartet, Ruby Sparks, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, The Sessions, The Hunger Games, Things I Don’t Understand.


The year of the British Dames Trio

DameSmithDenchMirren

Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren all wowed me in their roles in Quartet, Skyfall and Hitchcock, respectively. Though Hitchcock is not stellar movie, Mirren’s role is the highlight for me and her casting as the filmmaker’s wife Alma undoubtedly made the film a lot better that it otherwise would. Dame Smith and Dench were also wonderful in the delightful The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which marked the second time I saw them together on screen (the first one was A Room with a View). If only these three fine dames would star in a film together one day!


Now, I’d like to give a shout out to these 10 Movies I saw in 2012 (either on a rental or on the plane) that I’d highly recommend (click each title for my full review):

  1. Side by Side
  2. Headhunters
  3. Coriolanus
  4. The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch
  5. The Whistleblower
  6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  7. 21 Jump Street
  8. Margin Call
  9. Daybreakers
  10. Endgame

Five Biggest Disappointments in 2012

Now, to even things out, I also want to list those released this year that I didn’t care for. Fortunately, there are only five of them (that I have seen) that I rated 2.5 out of 5 or below.

  1. Total Recall
    Their comic-con panel (especially Colin Farrell) was a heck of a lot more entertaining than this stinker
  2. Bourne Legacy
    I wasn’t a fan of Jeremy Renner to begin with and I wasn’t about to become one after this. Rachel Weisz was a lot more charismatic here, which begs the question as to why she signed up to do this one.
  3. Playing For Keeps
    Well, it’s the year I say goodbye to Gerry Butler😦 I’ve written an open letter in lieu of the review, but suffice to say this is one of the worst movie I’ve ever seen in recent memory [shudder]
  4. Snow White and the Huntsman
    I couldn’t stand K-Stew but I thought I’d give her a chance in something other than Twilight. Alas, she’s as expressionless as she ever was, so my befuddlement as to why she keeps getting roles continues. The rest of the cast weren’t exactly stellar either.
  5. Nobody Walks
    This was the worst movie I saw in at TCFF, I just didn’t enjoy the story at all, it actually left a bad taste in my mouth after. It turns out that one of the writers of this was Lena Dunham, so it’s highly unlikely I’d ever be interested in her HBO show Girls.


Top Five Favorite Movie-related Moments in 2012:


Well that’s my recap of 2012 in movies, folks. I’ll have a separate list of the films I’m anticipating in 2013.

So what tops your list of best and worst of the year?

Rental Picks: A Separation and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Happy Friday!

What will you be watching today, folks? Are you going to the cinema to see the latest of the Disney animated feature Wreck-It Ralph (check out my pal Terrence’s review), the Kung-fu movie The Man with the Iron Fists or Denzel Washington’s Flight? Well, if you decide to rent something, here are a couple you might want to check out if you haven’t already:

A Separation (2011)

The first Iranian film which wins an Oscar. Yes that sentence is enough to catch my attention to see A Separation at the cinema. The film tells the story of a married couple Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) which have to live separately because of their differing decisions either to move out of the country for the sake of their child or to stay in Iran to take care of their dad suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Parent vs. child. It’s never an easy choice.
It all started with various daily things which need to be done after Simin move out from the house to live separately. Then Nader hires a caregiver to take care his father. The film shows in a matter-of-fact way what a separation could possibly bring to a family. The writer/director Asghar Farhadi managed to build more and more conflicts from the beginning until the very end of the movie.
The film was playing on my emotions a lot. Curious, sad, angry, sympathy. As the audience, I don’t even know on which sides they are actually on. The way this movie reveal the facts practically reminds me of Nothing But the Truth. I can’t stop questioning which fact of the movie is true. It’s a drama that turns out to be a thriller, too. Not only did the film make me think, A Separation has a great cast which really support the dramatic parts. Every main character plays a strong role to tell the whole story. One of my favorite scenes would be when Nader teaches her daughter some lessons for her school. I could see a very strong bond of how a father wants her daughter to be smart and mature.
In the end, A Separation delivers their targeted message very well. A beautiful conclusion which will let the audiences have their own thoughts about a marital separation.

– Review by Cecilia R.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

As I’ve alluded to in my review of Quartet, I LOVE films about older people’s adventure. Perhaps because I grew up with my grandmother for years, I’m not sure. Now the main draw for me to see this British dramedy is the stellar cast! It also marks Judi Dench’s third collaboration with director John Madden — the first two earned her an Oscar nomination and win for Mrs. Brown and Shakespeare In Love, respectively.

The title refers to a hotel in Jaipur, India which is advertised as a newly-restored “for the elderly and beautiful.” Well, after a lengthy and exhausting journey, all seven of the British retirees want to do is relax in their luxurious lodging, only to find the place to be well, less sumptuous than what they had in mind. The hotel turns out to be a run-down place run by a young man who dreams of restoring his family business to its pristine condition.

Each of the characters deal with this unpleasant surprise in multiple different ways, just as each of them have their own reasons to come to the country in the first place. Some of the multiple storylines work better than others. I don’t know if I’d call the direction uneven but certainly there are parts of the movie I just don’t care for.

For me, my favorite parts involve the two Dames, Judi Dench (Evelyn) and Maggie Smith (Muriel), and also Tom Wilkinson’s character who attempts to fulfill his lifelong wish to reunite with someone from his past he cares deeply about. I think Muriel has the biggest personal growth of them all, as she overcomes her own prejudice out of her encounter with a hotel’s employee who can’t even speak English. Evelyn who’s a widow not only become accustomed with the culture, she also finds a job and perhaps a second chance at love. The elderly Brits’ stories are inter-weaved with the hotel manager Sunny (Slumdog Millionaire‘s Dev Patel) whose buoyant spirit lives up to his name. He deeply clashes with his mother’s career aspiration for him, as well as the cultural expectation of arranged marriage as he’s in love with a girl who works at Evelyn’s call center.

There’s plenty of humor for sure, but the story also has some poignant moments that are pretty affecting. There are themes of cultural taboo and also outright racism that make you wince at times, but overall the spirit of the film is pretty light and colorful, just like the vibrant India setting. It’s not a flawless movie however, the pace at the beginning could be much improved, and the relationship between Dench and Bill Nighy just wasn’t handled as well as I expected. There are also some cringe-worthy moments of Ronald Pickup’s character that I don’t find it particularly amusing. But despite all that, this is quite a lovely movie and I’m definitely not disappointed by my favorite cast here, especially Dame Judi. I always enjoy watching her act and she looks particularly radiant here.

‘Everything will be alright in the end’ that’s the motto Sunny tells his guests when they’re disappointed. It’s an uplifting motto we could all take to heart.

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


Have you seen either one of these films? Well, what did you think?

The Ten Best Actress Of All Time Relay Race

Remember the Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race I did back in March? Well, The King of Blog Series Nostra @ at My Film Views is at it again, this time with the female counterparts of the race.

Here are the entries from the other participants so far in the Actresses Relay Race:

My Filmviews » The Velvet Cafe » Martin Teller » The Movie Review Warehouse » Benefits of a Classical Education » Just Another Movie Blog » Film Actually

If you’re curious to see where the Top 10 Best Actor’s race is at right now, check out Nostra’s Update
Well, I’m honored to receive the baton from my pal Dan @ Public Transportation Snob. And here are the original rules of the Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race from Nostra:

“I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actresses of all time. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actress (that is an obligation) and add his/her own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actress. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actresses. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!”

Here is the current list of 10 actresses as it stands now:

Cate Blanchett

Katharine Hepburn

Julianne Moore

Barbara Stanwyck

Meryl Streep

Kate Winslet

Viola Davis

Juliette Binoche

Judy Garland

Ingrid Bergman

……


Now, picking who I’d like to add is easy and since the one actress I thought of right away is already on the list (hint: the only Aussie on the list), the second one I had in mind happens to be one of her co-stars. Of course, with the fun of choosing who to add comes the arduous task of having to remove one from the list. But hey, that’s what a race is all about right? So with a heavy heart, I choose to remove…

Judy Garland

I’m truly sorry to have to remove a classic actress but between her and Barbara Stanwyck whose work I have not seen, I’m afraid I have to choose miss Garland. Yes I know, most of you probably will cry foul at me for not having seen The Wizard of Oz, but it’s one of those classics that have eluded me to this day and frankly, I don’t know if I will ever see it. Interestingly enough, the 1937 original of A Star Is Born, is said to have been modeled after Stanwyck’s rise to stardom (per IMDb trivia) and Garland was nominated for an Oscar in the 1954 remake. In any case, I have no doubt Judy Garland is a great actress with a wonderful voice and an iconic role, but again, there’s only room for ten, so that’s that.

Now, the easy part.

The actress I think deserves to be on this list is…

Judi Dench

Ok, I didn’t plan on replacing a ‘Judy’ with another one with an ‘i’ but as I’m thinking of a best actress of ALL TIME, my mind just keeps going back to the Dame. She may be petite at 5’1″ but there is nothing diminutive about the 78-year-old English thespian. With six Oscar nominations and one win, plus twice as many BAFTA awards for her work in both TV and films, she is a force to be reckoned with. Not many actress, even of her caliber, could nab an Oscar for only being on screen for 8 minutes! But she did it in Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

I first saw her in Goldeneye as M [the first woman in that role, best casting ever!] but after seeing her in about 16 films, I realize that she’s as outstanding in period dramas as she is in an action thriller as those Bond films. I absolutely LOVE her performance as Queen Victoria in Her Majesty Mrs. Brown, and she often steal scenes even in brief parts, i.e. Pride & Prejudice as the high-and-mighty Lady Catherine de Bourg, the more lowly Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre and also as a curmudgeonly grandmother with a secret in Chocolat. She shines even in so-so films like Nine and My Week with Marilyn, and often is one of the best things about the film.

I wish I could say that I have seen her stage performance as she’s as celebrated as a stage performer as she is a film actress, if not more so. She’s been nominated and won the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award as well as other prestigious theater honor for her stage work. I hope she will last a while in this *race* as I do believe she’s one of THE best actress in the business with 100 titles under her belt!


Who’s next?

I’d like Anna from Defiant Success to continue the relay, who’s well-versed in classic and contemporary cinema. I’m curious to see what she’ll do with the list🙂


So, what do you think of my decision? Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!