Music Break: Favorite songs from Garry Marshall’s classic ‘Pretty Woman’

I was still in high school when Pretty Woman came out and it was a pretty huge hit back then. I haven’t seen this movie in over twenty years, but the passing of director Garry Marshall this past week made me re-watch some of the clips. This and Beaches are my two favorite films from the late filmmaker, and no doubt this movie is one he’ll be most remembered for.

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It’s the 90s version of the classic Cinderella tale, as the protagonist’s BFF (played by the awesome Laura San Giacomo) puts it… Cinde-f*king*rella. The pairing of America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts as a Hollywood Blvd prostitute with former American Gigolo Richard Gere as the to-die-for billionaire is just perfect. They have amazing chemistry that you’re dying for them to be together. And who doesn’t love Vivian, Julia’s huge grin and infectious laugh are so adorable!

I might rewatch it again one of these days. I remember it being a funny, heart-warming and of course dreamy feel-good movie with so many iconic scenes!

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The soundtrack was a staple in the early 90s for me. Now, normally I’d be listening to a movie’s score more than the songs featured in the soundtrack, but for some reason I can’t remember the score from James Newton Howard. But the song compilation album is awesome. It must’ve been one of the CDs I actually brought to college and you know what, these songs are still fun to listen to today. It’s been great walking down memory lane listening to these songs this past week.

So here are some of my favorites… 

I’m not much into sappy love songs, but I did have a thing for the Swedish pop rock duo Roxette 😉

My brother Paul was such a huge fan of Peter Cetera, both when he was still part of the Chicago band and his solo effort. I have to admit I was a bit of a sucker for his love ballads 🙂


Last but not least, the Kiss song isn’t technically in the soundtrack, but hey don’t you just love Prince!

It’s really devastating that Prince and Mr. Marshall are gone the same year! 😦


Hope you enjoy this week’s music break! What’s your favorite ‘Pretty Woman’ song(s)?

Genre Grandeur – Heist Movies: Ocean’s Eleven & Ocean’s Thirteen

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This post is part of MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur (or Guesstimation) series. Thanks to my pal Ted S. for his review of one of his favorite films of the genre.


I lost count on how many times I’ve watched these two Ocean’s films; I’m going to pretend that Ocean’s 12 never existed; the self-indulgent film was an embarrassing to everyone who’s involved in making it. Don’t get me started on the whole Julia Roberts pretended to be Julia Roberts sequence. I wanted to punch the writers and director Steven Soderbergh for thinking that we the audience would be that stupid and thought it would be a fun scene to watch.

Well speaking of Soderbergh, in the early 2000s, he’s the director every actor wanted to work with. If I remember correctly, two of his films in 2000, Traffic and Erin Brockovich were box office hits and got nominated for best picture at the Oscars. He received the golden statue for directing Traffic. So of course there were big expectations for his next picture. Opened during the holiday season of 2001, Ocean’s Eleven was one of that year’s biggest hits and spawned two sequels. Of course the cast was probably the big draw, packed with three A-listers George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts; veterans Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner and Elliot Gould and young up and coming actors such as Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan.
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Recently paroled Danny Ocean (Clooney) decides to get in touch with some of his old buddies including black jack dealer named Frank Catton (the late great Bernie Mac) and Rusty Ryan (Pitt). They hatched a plan to steal money from two Las Vegas casinos during a big boxing match that could be worth more than $130mil. The casinos are owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) who happens to be dating Ocean’s ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts). In order to get their plan rolling, they need some funding from Benedict’s rival Reuben (Elliot Gould). With backing from Reuben, Danny and Rusty went and recruit the rest of the team.

What I love about this film was the chemistry with each of the actors; they were all believable to me as a team on a mission. I especially love the bickering between the Mormon twins (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan). The script was well written and the actual heist was very clever and fun to watch. Unlike some other heist genre film, there were no twists or backstabbing from someone in the team. They finished their mission and everyone got paid.

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After the disastrous Ocean’s 12, Soderbergh decided to fix his mistake from the second sequel and brought the team back for another heist in Vegas. In Ocean’s Thirteen, the team’s mission this time is revenge. After Reuben was left for dead by his former partner Willy Bank (Al Pacino), Danny and Rusty wanted to break Bank’s brand new casino. Unlike the second sequel where I felt the actors and filmmakers were having fun but we the audience were left out. In this film, Soderbergh brought back the fun and I had a great time with it; heck I think I liked it better than the first film. The heist itself was quite clever, instead of stealing the money from the casino for themselves, Ocean’s team decided to let everyone win big. Speaking as someone who goes to Vegas regularly and gambles there, I would have loved to be involved in this heist.

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Pacino w/ Ellen Barkin who’s quite the scene stealer in the movie

These two Ocean films aren’t the best in the heist genre but they sure are fun to watch. Maybe because it’s set in one of my favorite cities to visit Las Vegas, it’s the reason why I can’t get enough of these films.

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Well, what do YOU think of these two Ocean’s films? Which of the trilogy is your favorite? 

Thursday Movie Picks #37: All in the Family Edition – Mother-Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

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Happy 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. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Mother/Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

This week’s TMP topic is a bittersweet one for me. I had a loving, albeit brief relationship with my late mother. In fact, we were very close up until she died on my 16th birthday. I have to admit at times I feel a pang of sadness whenever I see a mother and daughter depicted on screen, I often still wonder how life would be life if she were still around. In any case, for my three picks, I try to have a variety of mother/daughter relationship, so here are my three picks:

BRAVE (2011)

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Pixar’s first *Princess* movie centers on a headstrong n spirited girl who like many of today’s girls her age tend to rebel against what’s expected of her. I love that the movie is centered on her relationship with her equally headstrong mother, Queen Elinor, instead of the typical romantic pursuit. I LOVE Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson who provide the voice work for Merida and Elinor. In case some of you still has seen this movie, let’s just say there’s a magical physical transformation that happens that drastically changes how they have to relate to one another. Through it all, the two end up forging a bond that’s even stronger than ever before. It’s quite an adventure that’s full of humorous & even peculiar moments, but also poignant ones that made me laugh and cry. It’s definitely one of my fave cinematic mother/daughter relationship that truly moved me.

1000 Times Good Night (2013)

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Juliette Binoche plays a war photographer who often risks her life on the job, but even after a nearly fatal accident, she still can’t give up her career. Her eldest daughter Steph looks up at her and is obviously drawn to her mom’s globetrotting career that certainly looks cool and glamorous on the outside. The daughter in this film is a young teen and so immediately picture myself in her shoes, as my late mother was an amateur photographer. She kind of had the same free spirit personality and I always thought my mom was fearless. One key scene is when she ended up tagging along with her mom to Africa, much to the chagrin of her marine biologist dad. A traumatic incident made Steph realize just how dangerous her profession really is. The mother/daughter moments in the scene that followed really connected with me, and there’s a wonderful chemistry Binoche and Lauryn Canny who plays Steph. Here’s my full review of the film, which is now on Netflix.

August Osage County (2013)

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Now this is an example of the kind of mom I’m glad I didn’t have. Meryl Streep‘s Violet Wetson is a venom-spewing, pill-popping mother of three daughters who seem hellbent on driving a stake between her and everyone around her. That also includes her own husband, and the film takes place during his funeral. Violet has mouth cancer, partly due to her years of chain smoking, but even so it’s really hard to sympathize with her. Out of the three, Julia Roberts’ Barbara is the one who has the biggest conflict with her mother. The fact she herself is dealing with her own issues with her estranged husband and angsty teenage daughter adds to her exasperation. The Wetson family is as dysfunctional as they come  – they constantly bicker with each other, and the more things are said, the more secrets are revealed that made things worse. The screaming match are quite overwhelming, and it made me appreciate my own family. The craziest scene is when Barbara literally hurls at her mother trying to prevent her from taking any more pills, it was pretty bizarre and quite hilarious. I think it’s an especially interesting film to watch for mother and daughter, if anything, it’d make each of them think of what NOT to do to one another.

BONUS PICK:

Beyond the Lights

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This is one of my fave films I saw last year, and the casting of Minnie Driver and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as mother/daughter is one of the reasons I love it. Glad Paskalis included this movie on his list, I couldn’t believe I almost didn’t include that here. An ambitious and driven single mother who wouldn’t take failure as an option, Macy succeeds in turning her daughter into a star. But at what cost? Macy’s controlling behavior ultimately drives Noni away and there’s a heart-wrenching moment when Noni finally said enough is enough. It’s not that Macy didn’t love her daughter, but sometimes, some people just don’t know how to love. Apparently, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s search for her own birth mother was the catalyst of the mother/daughter story in the film (per this indiewire article).


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

‘August: Osage County’ review from a fan of the award-winning play

This review is courtesy of guest blogger Sarah Johnson who mainly writes reviews for the Twin Cities Film Fest.

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Well, I’ll say one thing for “August: Osage County” – I wouldn’t wait until August to see it. When the play opened on Broadway in 2007, Charles Isherwood, the New York Times theater critic, called it “a fraught, densely plotted saga of an Oklahoma clan in a state of near-apocalyptic meltdown.” That sounds about right. It focuses on the Weston clan in the sweltering weeks of August. Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mullroney, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard and Benedict Cumberbatch play the male roles in the movie but the story is really about the strong-willed women in the family and a crisis that brings them all home.

After it won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, I saw it when the touring production came to Ordway Center in St. Paul in 2010. That was more than three years ago and I still think it’s the best play I’ve ever seen. Whenever I see the movie version of a show after I see the live version that I really liked I always wonder- Am I going to like it as much? I did and for two reasons.
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The first is the incomparable Meryl Streep as Violet Weston, the venom-spewing matriarch suffering from mouth cancer in a drug-induced haze. Her performance reminded me of Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? At a family dinner, she doesn’t just re-open old wounds, she rips off the scabs and pours a gallon of salt in them. It’s one of those hypnotic performances you can’t take your eyes from.
I’m not the biggest Julia Roberts fan in the world but she does a good job of stripping away her sometimes annoying toothy grin acting style and admirably portrays Barbara, the oldest daughter. (I would say as the oldest with her own daughter she has the most baggage but every character in the show has enough baggage to fill a stagecoach.) Of course, Roberts’s problem is she’s playing opposite Meryl Streep. Good luck with that.
The second thing I noticed about this film was in the opening credits. Tracy Letts, who wrote the book for the Broadway play, also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Of course, I was thinking after seeing the movie, who else could have adapted this? The movie is about an hour shorter than the play (the live version actually had two intermissions and, believe me, you needed both of them) but it doesn’t lose much impact.
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It’s obvious Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and Eugene O’Neill (Long Day’s Journey Into Night) were influences on Letts. Not knowing anything about his background, part of me wonders what happened in his life to enable him to write such a savage tale of family dysfunction? Drug abuse, incest, suicide, mental illness, alcoholism…yep, it’s all there.
Shows like August: Osage County ring so true because everyone can relate to them. But what gives this one an edge of reluctant comedy is when you start to think, “Geez, my family may be weird but at least they’re not as messed up as these people!” I think anyone could go on and on about the multiple layers in this show. Having seen both versions, I can say while the play seemed more visceral and intimate as you were watching this catastrophe unfold before you in real time, it closed on Broadway in 2009 and the national tour was only at the Ordway for a short time. If you didn’t get a chance to see either of those (or even if you did), the movie is your chance to see it on the big screen. Don’t miss it.
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5 out of 5 reels

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Thoughts on this movie and/or the cast? We’d love to hear it!

October Movie Watching Recap and Movie of the Month

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Hello November! It’s also the weekend daylight savings ends here in Minnesota, so we get an extra hour to do whatever we wish, yay! Well, since I’ve been suffering with a cold the past week (yes that meant I was sick during my vacation plus I also twisted my ankle on my second night of the trip), most likely I will be using that extra hour to rest.

But hey, don’t cry for me, folks. It was still an awesome trip to NYC, which was to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding, the first of two wedding festivities (the 2nd one will be in our hometown Jakarta). LOVE New York City in Autumn, the foliage hasn’t quite peaked yet, but the leaves colors are just gorgeous! I didn’t get a chance to visit as many places due to my twisted ankle though, so we’ll likely be back next year!

Before the ankle-twisting incident... Visiting Belvedere Castle in Central Park and goofing around w/ my sister-in-law on the BIG Piano at FAO Schwartz
Before the ankle-twisting incident… Strolling w/ my dear hubby in Central Park, visiting Belvedere Castle, and goofing around w/ my sister-in-law on the BIG Piano at FAO Schwartz

I’m also happy to report that thanks to TCFF, it’s been a GREAT movie-watching month for me. Check out my 2013 TCFF coverage by clicking the tab at the top of the blog, there are surely some movie gems you wouldn’t want to miss!

Well, here are some of my posts this past month:

New-to-me Feature Films Watched (in alphabetical order):

12 Years A Slave

August: Osage County

Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness (doc)

Captain Phillips

Dark Knight Returns Part I and II

Everybody’s Fine (for the Robert De Niro Blogathon)

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Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football (doc)

How I Live Now

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Nebraska

One Chance

Parkland

RUSH

The Armstrong Lie (doc)

The Fifth Estate

The Big Noise

The Search for Simon

Trust Greed Bullets and Bourbon

Winter in the Blood

Check out which of these films made my TCFF Top Five

I still have some TCFF screeners I have yet to see as I had to lend them to fellow blog volunteers, so there would’ve been more films on this list had I got around to watching them. On top of the films listed above, I also watched a total of 8 short films during TCFF: The Family-themed Shorts that includes A Better Life, as well as Hot and Bothered.

I was planning on going to The Counselor‘s screening but couldn’t make it as it was at 10 in the morning. But after reading the dismal reviews, it’s perhaps best that I just rent that one later. Besides, that might be too dark and disturbing to see before going to work, ahah. No rewatches for me either this month, though we did get our Pacific Rim Blu-ray a couple of weeks ago that we’ll be watching this weekend!

SpidermanTurnOffTheDarkOh, whilst I was in NYC, my hubby and I also got a chance to catch Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway. It was pretty decent and the theatrics was pretty entertaining, and Justin Matthew Sargent was good as the lead. I do think Marvel’s web slinger is much more suitable as a feature film, plus they made some changes to the story that I wasn’t too keen on. The music by Bono is not bad, though the only one I really dug is Rise Above, here’s a sample:


I’m glad I saw it, but unlike say, The Phantom of the Opera, it’s not a show I’d want to see over and over again.


Movies of the Month:

I knew it would be hard for me to pick just ONE Movie of the Month in October, there are simply too many excellent films. Well, after much deliberations (in my head that is) it came down to a tie between these two:

AugustOsageCty_Collage12YrsASlave_CollageInteresting that both feature a star-studded ensemble cast, and both has Benedict Cumberbatch in it. I didn’t plan on that (nor did I plan on seeing THREE films this month that stars the awesome and mighty popular Brit, not that I’m complaining). Both films feature a brutally-honest look into its subject matter, both physically and emotionally, and at times it’s tough to watch. Kudos to directors Steve McQueen and John Wells for their daft hand in crafting such challenging films.

As for the performances, the true star of August: Osage County and 12 Years A Slave are Meryl Streep and Chiwetel Ejiofor, respectively. I have a feeling Streep is a shoo-in comes next year’s Oscar, but I sure hope Ejiofor would get a shot, he sooo deserves it. I hope to review both of these soon and will post ’em when the embargo is lifted, but I highly recommend both films which will surely get a lot of mentions come award season.


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in October?

TCFF Day 8 Film Highlights and Interview with ‘The Big Noise’ director Dominic Pelosi

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It’s already Day 8 of TCFF! Boy, time flies when you’re having a blast! We’ve got a bunch of great films screening today, check out our host Ingrid Moss introducing what’s playing today:


I’m excited for The Big Noise and One Chance (aka the Paul Potts movie), which couldn’t be more different in terms of story and tone. But hey, the eclectic schedule works for me!

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I’ve posted the premise and trailer of One Chance in this lineup post. Now here’s the premise of The Big Noise which plays at 4pm today:

Morris Falzon works with his father George in a small law firm in Sydney’s Inner West. With his personal life a mess and the business falling apart, Morris is thrown a lifeline when a dying client reveals he is leaving Morris a small fortune in his will. It seems his luck is about to change. However, when his client stages a miraculous recovery, it seems it’s back to the grindstone… or is it? Morris and George hatch a plan that will either make or break them – literally.


Director Dominic Pelosi kindly granted me an interview about his film. Check it out below:

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1. I just saw the film Nebraska by Alexander Payne at TCFF that’s also filmed in black and white. So I’m curious what made you decide to shoot your film in b&w?

Black and white for me gives a separation from reality that I find to be a more traditional approach to cinema and seems to be somewhat under-utilised these days. Whilst aesthetically black and white appeals to me greatly it is also highly dependent on the script – the muted image can often aid in the tone of a film, given that The Big Noise has dark undertones it seemed a logical choice for the story telling. In addition having a very limited budget, scenes were often shot months apart allowing the black and white hopefully, to smooth any inconsistencies in the footage.

2. I read that your cast are largely unknown. How did the casting come about for your film?

Casting nonprofessionals was a choice made very early on, which made the casting process much easier in a sense. If the script called for a lawyer, then we would approach a lawyer, or if it required a real estate agent then we would try convince a real estate agent to do the part. This was a process that heavily borrowed from the Italian neo-realist filmmakers which to me can provide an organic performance; the actor doesn’t have the tools to rely on, the tools that modern viewers have become accustomed to seeing. This can obviously have varying results, but the overall tone is something that I think is unique to this process. We did however cast a couple of professional actors in minor roles to try and better balance some of the more dialogue intensive scenes.

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Maurice Marshan as Morris Falzon


3. Would you speak a little (or a lot) about the Italian-Australian community depicted in your film? Does this film stem from a personal experience? I’m also curious what was the significance of the title.

Many Italians migrated to Australia in the 50’s and much like anywhere else set up pocket communities that maintained much of their heritage. My brother Andrew (screenwriter) and I have grown up around that type of community as our father arrived in Australia from Italy in the mid- 50’s. The Big Noise borrows heavily from those experiences. That element of the Italo-Australian community has somewhat faded in recent years and in a way The Big Noise depicts the struggle for that 1st generation to adapt to that change. The sense of uniformity in Australia has been slowly blanketing these pockets and there was certainly an attempt to present this in the film. To comment or have an opinion on this point wasn’t my intention, rather to show the consequences of big societal changes on the individual – this particular story was something both Andrew and I know well so the Italian-Australian angle became a good vehicle for us.

4. The writer of your film, Andrew Pelosi, I presume he’s related to you? Did you both come up with this film concept and how was your experience working with Andrew?

TruffautShootPianoPlayerWe both share very similar interests and love, for the most part, the same movies. One of our favourite films is Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, so we spoke about someday possibly making something in that type of framework and tone. Andrew gave me a script that he has been able to evolve over time to suit our actors and budget restraints that I felt had a similar spirit to Truffaut’s film. He was able to conceptualise ideas that we had expressed to each other into a much more digestible screenplay with regards to plot etc. We would then work together in fleshing things out throughout the filming process. We are extremely close anyway so making a film together was fairly seamless, there were times like any relationship where I’m sure he’d had enough me. We will no doubt continue to make films together.

5. Since this is your debut and your film was made on a small budget, what was the biggest hurdle/challenge, as well as rewarding moments, that you faced when you made this film?

Not having a great budget meant undertaking many of the necessary technical aspects of filmmaking whilst trying to direct. This probably proved the most difficult aspect for me personally. Learning the camera and pulling my own focus whilst trying to get a performance from a nonprofessional actor definitely had its moments. But was also the most rewarding aspect. I’m not sure if we could have made the film any other way. For many of the actors this being their first time performing in any capacity meant that having a crew of two or three people (at most) allowed for a level of comfort that wouldn’t be found on many film sets.

The film is also around 50% in Italian which made it extremely difficult for me as I don’t speak a word. Our father translated those scenes for us as Andrew is very limited in the language as well. There are two key actors that don’t speak a word of English so trying to direct them was challenging, I would attempt to direct them by physically showing them what to do. Editing the film was a real process, trying to correct technical errors and cut a film that was true to the script took a very long time, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Working with nonprofessional actors and having them be involved with something that they wouldn’t have ever thought of being involved in perhaps provided the greatest satisfaction. It is certainly something I hope to continue on future films.

THANK YOU Dominic for the insightful interview!! Hope you’ll check out The Big Noise when it plays near you!


Second screening added for August, Osage County
Tonight (Oct 24) at 9:15 pm!

Now, another film I’m super stoked about is August, Osage County. Since I’m flying to NYC on Saturday morning, I couldn’t see the original screening at 6pm. Fortunately TCFF just added a second screening tonight, wahoo!! Check out the latest poster w/ Julia Roberts attacking Meryl Streep, that about sums up the dysfunctional family plot, doesn’t it? Plus the cast is just killer! Check out the trailer on this post.

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There’s still time to get your tickets!
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


Stay tuned for more TCFF coverage. So any of the films above that caught your eye?

Twin Cities Film Fest: Preview of 2013 Lineup

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Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is excited to offer a sneak peak at several films coming to their 2013 lineup, including some of the most anticipated films of the year. TCFF is less than two months away, it will will run from October 17 – October 26.

Jatin Setia, executive director of the Twin Cities Film Fest, said this year’s slate of studio premieres represents the most promising, star-studded lineup in TCFF history: “The buzz we’re already hearing, from people wanting tickets to the new Meryl Streep-Julia Roberts premiere, to the new Alexander Payne film – which is sure to be a Best Picture contender – is deafening. And to then see subjects like Nelson Mandela and Simon Cowell in our lineup – for any serious movie lover, this is the true beginning of the Oscar race.”

While specific dates and showtimes are not yet public, TCFF is excited to showcase the following films:

NEBRASKA

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After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states, Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America. NEBRASKA is written by Bob Nelson and directed by Alexander Payne, which last film The Descendants won Best Adapted Screenplay.

Dern won Best Actor award at Cannes in this comedy drama, and in this interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Dern “…considered Alexander Payne to be a “genius” and why he “wouldn’t dare” to deviate from Payne’s script because “he’s too good.” Check out the first trailer:

ONE CHANCE

James Corden as Paul Potts
James Corden as Paul Potts

From the director of The Devil Wears Prada, ONE CHANCE is a comedy based on the remarkable and inspirational true story of Paul Potts, a shy, bullied shop assistant by day and an amateur opera singer by night. Paul became an instant YouTube phenomenon after being chosen by Simon Cowell for ‘Britain’s Got Talent.’

Fresh from celebrating his Tony Award-winning Broadway run in One Man, Two Guvnors, BAFTA winner James Corden (The History Boys) stars as Paul Potts and is supported by an acclaimed ensemble cast that includes Julie Walters (Mamma Mia!, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot), Colm Meaney (Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa ), Jemima Rooper (Kinky Boots, Lost in Austen) and Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady). Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Hope Springs) and written by Justin Zackham (The Bucket List).

No trailer yet but here’s that Britain’s Got Talent clip from a couple of years ago of the real Paul Potts. Make sure you have some Kleenex handy:


TCFF’s Silver, Gold and Platinum Passes are now available!

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GET THEM EARLY
(while supplies last)


MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

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The film is based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society. Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Prometheus) stars as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris (Skyfall) stars as Winnie Mandela, with Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directing.

I LOVE this cast! I’m a huge fan of Elba, who I think would make a fine Bond (if the producers are brave enough for a Black Bond) and Naomi was a sassy Bond girl in Skyfall so what a perfect pairing! I’ve seen about three Nelson Mandela films so far, with actors of various built and height portraying the titular world leader. I must say that Elba seems too big physically (not to mention hunky!) to play Mandela, but hey, it sounds like a meaty role for the talented actor, so I’m definitely looking forward to this!

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

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This is one of those movies I’d watch just for the cast. I mean, just look at the names in that poster! This film is based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name made its Broadway debut in December 2007. It continued with a successful international run and was the winner of five Tony Awards in 2008, including Best Play.

It tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is directed by John Wells (The Company Men) and features an all-star cast, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.


This is one of my most-anticipated Fall movies so I’m thrilled TCFF’s got it! There’s already Oscar buzz on Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in the Best Supporting Actress category. Now, I’m particularly curious about Cumberbatch’s role in this, who along with McGregor are the only two Brits in this star-studded cast. Their roles are probably pretty small though.


In early September, TCFF will announce its full 10-day slate, compiled from more than 300 viewed contenders and submissions. Tickets will go on-sale at twincitiesfilmfest.org beginning October 1, 2013.


What do you think of this early lineup folks? Any one of these on your must-see list?

Weekend Viewing Reviews: Mirror Mirror and Angel (2007)

The last day of July is coming to an end, in fact it’s already August for some of you, but hey I thought I’d fit in a couple of reviews first before I post my Monthly Roundup tomorrow. Been watching the Olympics much? The only thing I managed to watch is the opening ceremony which was splendid I thought. Great job Danny Boyle! To me the main highlights were the Mr. Bean on the Chariot of Fire orchestra and of course, James Bond escorting the Queen! If you haven’t seen that Happy & Glorious clip you can watch it here.

Anyway, here are the two movies I saw over the weekend:

Mirror, Mirror

By the time I posted this Snow White battle post I was still on the fence about which Snow White movie I was anticipating most, but then after seeing the silly trailer, I decided I wasn’t going to waste my time on Mirror, Mirror. Well this Friday night my hubby and I were looking for something light and fluffy, and it’s either this or This Means War, and since we like a few of Tarsem’s work, we thought ok, what the heck.

Well guess what, it’s actually quite entertaining. Right from the early concept poster, this movie had always been marketed as a comedy and I think on that front it delivered. I was laughing throughout and despite some really cliche moments, I enjoyed it. Lilly Collins is definitely believable as Snow White, and despite marginal acting skills (this isn’t exactly an acting movie after all), at least she is far more expressive than Kristen Stewart!

I’m still bothered by Julia Roberts as the evil queen however, and her atrocious British accent (if you can even call it that) is just laughable. Why did Tarsem even insist on her speaking with a British accent anyway?? I mean this is a fairy tale, she could’ve been speaking with an Icelandic accent and it won’t matter, might as well let her keep her Southern drawl. Thankfully, it doesn’t derail the whole movie, and Armie Hammer as the dashing Prince more than makes up for her shortcomings. The 6’5″ hunky Californian looks like he practically jumps out of the Disney fairy tale princess storybook, but Hammer’s got some decent comic timing to prevent him from being more than boring eye candy. The part where he was under the puppy love spell is quite a hoot! The Prince and Snow White has a sweet chemistry, and there’s an amusing twist about the whole true love’s kiss notion.

Nathan Lane is a natural at comedy and he gets the most laughs here. A major plus here is that unlike Snow White and the Huntsman where the dwarfs were criminally underused, they have a pretty big part here. The relationship between them and Snow White are also much more developed in a whimsical but heartwarming way. That’s not to say this is a deep movie, but at least it’s consistent with the trailer and doesn’t over-promise us with something profound.

Tarsem’s visual is not as spectacular as in The Fall, in fact it seems too CGI-ish coming from the visual visionary. I’m also not too fond of Snow White’s makeup, I mean Collins is absolutely gorgeous but someone needs to wax her Leonid Brezhnev eyebrows! I normally don’t complain about stuff like that but those bushy brows do become quite distracting as I’m watching this.

Overall I thought it was pretty enjoyable and did I mention Sean Bean also had a cameo here? Oh, and Tarsem did an homage to Bollywood in the final scene which I thought was fun, but at the same time I’m glad he didn’t put this scene in the middle of the movie!
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3 out of 5 reels


Angel (2007)

Now this movie seems to have everything going for it for me to LOVE it. It’s a period drama, one of my favorite genres, it’s about a writer, and it’s got a nice cast. I actually like Romola Garai in Amazing Grace and Atonement, I think she’s quite underrated. There’s also Sam Neill, Charlotte Rampling AND Michael Fassbender as Garai’s love interest. Ok, what’s not to love, right? Alas, it’s quite disappointing.

The story is set in early 20th century England where Angel Deverell (Garai) grew up with her single mother atop her grocery shop. She is a gifted writer who’s always dreamed of being a novelist. She defies all odds when somehow a publisher (Sam Neill) is willing to take a chance on her and publish her romance novels. The thing is, Angel is as far from angelic as you can get. She is a pompous brat with no manners and treats her own mother and aunt, pretty much the only family she has, like dirt. It’s tricky to create a story based on an unsympathetic heroine. She reminds me a bit of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, only much, much less endearing. Heck, at least Scarlet treats her parents far better than Angel does.

The transformation from rags to riches feels rather abrupt as well, and I can’t seem to figure just what is the point of Angel’s story. We’re only given a glimpse into her best-selling novels but not enough to see just what made her the way she is. Those novels made her famous and rich enough that she could buy Paradise House, a sprawling estate she’s always dreamed of living in as a kid. But Angel remains an enigma up until the end, and it’s such a lost opportunity since the movie pretty much focuses mostly on her for the entire two hours running time.

Fassbender as the object of Angel’s affection is wonderful to watch, though even he still can’t save the movie. The moment Esme appeared he was quite breathtaking, and despite his not-so-kind words about Angel’s work, she was smitten [well naturally]. Yet there is something wanting about their romance, I don’t know why I just wasn’t enthralled by it, even their love scenes leave me cold, Fassbender’s shapely bum notwithstanding, ehm. There’s also a key relationship between Angel and Esme’s sister, Nora, who’s rather obsessed with Angel, but once again, there’s not much character development in that either, so the whole thing is just frustrating.

I generally like Sam Neill but I feel that he’s wasted here. Charlotte Rampling who plays his wife makes much more of an impression with her sardonic smile, she’s the only character who doesn’t think highly of Angel right from the start. As for the protagonist, I just can’t muster enough sympathy for Angel, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily Romola’s fault as I do think she’s a decent actress.

It turns out that this is French director François Ozon’s first English-speaking movie based on a novel by Elizabeth Taylor [no, not the Hollywood actress]. Well, I’m not exactly impressed by his work here. The set pieces and costumes are beautiful enough, but poor narrative really drags this movie down. Oh, to make matters worse, this film has got the worst special effects I’ve ever seen in a contemporary film. It looks like it was made for only $150K instead of  $15 millions!

So, unless you’re a die hard Fassbender fan, I really can’t recommend this one. It’s too bad as it seems to have the recipe of a charming period drama.

2 out of 5 reels


Well, what did you watch this past weekend? Thoughts about either one of these movies?

Who will win the weekend? The Expendables vs. Eat, Pray, Love

Everyone’s been calling it the ultimate battle of the sexes at the movies this weekend. Of course it isn’t the first time an explosive action-packed movie opens against a chick flick, nothing new there, but it seems that with The Expendables vs. Eat, Pray, Love, the contrast couldn’t be more… well ginormous. As massive as the size of these guys’ biceps!

VS

Well, if you’ve visited FC long enough you’ll know which theater I’ll be in. As far as chick-flicks go, Eat, Pray, Love is like the “mother-lode” of that genre, and no, it’s not the Four Weddings and a Funeral kind, if you catch my drift. Movieline said this when the trailer first came out: “… it is about a woman who gets tired of having sex with Billy Crudup and James Franco, so she goes around the world eating carbs until she gets to have sex with Javier Bardem.” Ha! It’s an oversimplification of course, but hey, judging from the trailer, it’s pretty spot on IMO. Ok, I also have a beef about it… Julia’s character says, “I’m going to Italy, then to India, and end the year in… Bali.” Ok, so not people know where Indonesia is, but not only would it makes a perfect trio of countries starting with the letter ‘i’, Bali isn’t a freakin’ country!!

Anyway, I read this one review I found through WordPress dashboard, and it pretty much sums up why this movie doesn’t appeal to me at all. Looks like even the critics are more in favor of Mr. Stallone and the gang on rottentomatoes. So yeah, BRING IT ON, guys! (It looks so testosterone-charged I’ll probably grow balls by the end credits) 🙂

So, between these two and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim, what will you be watching this weekend?

Scene Spotlight: Changing seasons – Notting Hill

I’ve been having a serious case of Spring fever of late – as practically everybody in my neck of the woods – as we seem to be skipping March and goes directly to May. The Twin Cities have had NO SNOW the entire month, not even any real wind chill to speak off. I mean, the typical temp for this time of year is 47˚F (that’s 8˚C for those outside of USA), but yesterday we hit 73 degrees! Today we may even be flirting with 80˚!! I mean, that’s no doubt tank-top-and-sandals weather, people!! Though on the way to work yesterday morning, I saw a woman pretty much freezing her bums off in her short skirts as the wind still made it feel quite nippy.
NottingHillChangingSeasons

Therefore, I thought it’d be fitting to celebrate this definitely welcome the change of season with this scene from Notting Hill. Despite its blatant scmaltzy and lovey-dovey-ness, it’s perhaps one of the better rom-com out there, if not for the terrific all-British supporting cast and charming sidekicks Rhys Ifans and Emma Chambers — as Hugh Grant’s hilarious roommate and googly-eyed sister, respectively.

Set to Bill Withers’ soulful tune Aint No Sunshine When She’s Gone, it follows Grant’s William Thacker walking through the area of Notting Hill during the four seasons: summer, fall, winter and spring, as he mends his broken heart over Julia Roberts’ movie star Anna Scott.

According to IMDb trivia, the long shot was actually four different shots, all filmed the same day. Computer technology morphed the actor seamlessly from one shot to the next. It’s definitely a lovely and clever way to display the shift from one season to the next, a far cry from this ‘imaginative’ way this popular teen vampire flick did to signify the same thing.

I also chose this scene as my hubby and I are planning celebrate our 7th anniversary with a trip to London, yay! Unfortunately, since we’re not US citizens yet, there’s a vigorous UK Visa process we have to go through, including a biometric appointment (where we have to be finger-printed at an immigration office!). God willing everything will go smoothly and within 45 days we’d be walking where Hugh did in the photo above. So pardon the lack of posts in the next few weeks as I’ll be preoccupied with planning our trip, but there might be quite a few of ‘London-themed’ posts from now until mid May! 🙂


What do you think of Notting Hill and/or this scene?