Everybody’s Chattin’ + John Wick: Chapter 2 trailer

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Happy Tuesday, or if you’re an eternal optimist, happy-three-more-days-until-Friday! 😀 My hand is still not well yet, apparently it’s NOT Rheumatoid Arthritis, it’s something w/ a fancy name: Extensor Tenosynovitis. Heh, it’s really annoying, I have to wear a splint daily which makes typing a chore. I might have to do MRI in a couple of weeks if it’s still not better by then.

In any case, it’s time for some community links
 so here we go!

Ahhh I love Autumn
 it’s my fave season. That’s why I LOVE Alex‘s latest quiz post

Michael reviewed the classic Hitchcock Strangers On A Train



 whilst Keith just reviewed the New Zealand comedy I can’t wait to watch: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

A new blog I recently discovered, The Double Take, just reviewed Deepwater Horizon

Jenna & Allie reviewed Bridget Jones’ Baby which I also enjoyed (my review should be up later this week!)

The latest HBO show Westworld has got everyone talking, check out Margaret‘s recap of episode 2 (we’re gonna binge on it in November when most of the episodes are available!)

Speaking of TV, Getter just posted about The Fall season 3.

Since it is Halloween month, lots of sites are dedicating a month of horror


Dell just reviewed Scouts Guide to Zombie Apocalypse which actually sounds like a hoot



 and Steven just reviewed Bride of Frankenstein


Now on to the sequel I can’t wait to see


Though generally I prefer new, original stories, once in a while came a movie so fun I can’t help wishing for a sequel. Well, John Wick is such a movie and it seems that people are quite um, taken by this action franchise as there’s reportedly John Wick 3 in the works even as the first trailer just dropped!

Well, you don’t mess with Keanu, the seemingly meek and mild-mannered man who can spontaneously combust whenever his beloved dog is threatened. The trailer promises even more action and Keanu being as lethal as well as bulletproof as Neo! We’ve got the same director, Chad Stahelski, as the first one, and the movie looks just as stylish done on a modest budget (reportedly the first film was done for only $20 mil). Oh and speaking of The Matrix, gotta love the Neo + Morpheus reunion w/ Laurence Fishburne, woo hoo!

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I love the teaser poster of the hero being measured for a suit. Per HitFix, Keanu told the New York Comic-con crowd that “I really liked putting this suit back on and doing what John Wick gets to do
 He’s a guy that’s really fighting to be free.” He’s just so perfect for the role and he makes John Wick so watchable!

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The Rome scenery looks gorgeous too. Not quite a Roman Holiday though
 no rest for the wicked I suppose. Well let’s hope John gets a bit of some relaxing vacation in the Eternal city before all hell break loose and he puts an end to his enemies’ dream of an eternal life on this earth.

John Wick Chapter 2 is out a day before my birthday on February 10, so hey, nice to see something exciting released in the *dead months* of Winter!

 


What do you think of the John Wick 2 trailer? Are you as psyched as I am? 

Casting News Roundup: Chris Pratt, Rosamund Pike, Keanu Reeves & Mel Gibson + Andrew Garfield

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Boy I’ve been meaning to do a post on casting news but for some reason just never got around to it! Well, I might make this more of a weekend bi-monthly series as there’s never a shortage of casting news 😀

Chris Pratt to star in graphic novel adaptation Cowboy Ninja Viking

Pratt_CowboyNinjaVikingLook at the smirk on this guy! When I read the description of the graphic novel created by writer A.J. Lieberman and artist Riley Rossmo, I think Chris Pratt fits the role nicely. Per Collider, The story revolves around an assassin with Multiple Personality Disorder who possess the skills of a cowboy, a ninja, and a Viking, and works for a secret government program. Pratt is to play the protagonist Duncan, and I think it’ll be fun to see him manifest into those three different personas. No director is attached yet, though some names including Marc Forster was circling the project at some point, seems that this project has been in development for some time.

Rosamund Pike joining Charlie Hunnam in ‘The Mountain Between Us’

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One of the year’s breakout female star probably has a slew of offers coming at her. I kinda wish she’d be cast in the lead instead of co-lead with a male actor. In any case, sounds like she’s joining Charlie Hunnam in an adaptation of Charles Martin’s book of the same name. The story revolves around two people who survive a plane crash in the mountains where they are forced to trust each other and find safety while badly injured. Rosamund Pike plays a successful writer who’s flying East to get to her much anticipated wedding, whilst Hunnam plays a surgeon on his way back East after a medical conference for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day. So based on the book description in Amazon, it’s kind of like a romantic version of Alive and perhaps The Grey, I guess I could see the casting work for the story though I’m not sure about this one until I see at least a trailer.

Keanu Reeves in Talks to Star in Tarsem Singh’s ‘The Panopticon’

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Though Keanu never really left Hollywood, seems that he’s sort of got a career resurgence following the success of John Wick. I’ve always liked the guy so more Keanu casting is awesome in my book 😉 So he’s been cast in the sci-fi thriller Replicas which sounds right up his alley: After a car accident kills his loving family, a daring neuroscientist (Reeves) will stop at nothing to bring them back, even if it means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory, a police task force, and the physical laws of science themselves. (per The Wrap).

Well, seems that he’s also in talks to team up with Tarsem Singh in an action thriller The Panopticon, but the premise seems wholly generic to me: “The Panopticon” follows a seemingly ordinary man who receives a mysterious package containing a pre-recorded message from himself, warning that the world is about to end and only he can save it. He must race against the clock to piece together the puzzle before time runs out for mankind. Meh, I’m kind of tired of this ‘one man left on earth to save the world’ premise. It’s so stale, derivative and hackneyed that it’s REALLY hard to actually make a good film out of it. But then again, John Wick‘s premise isn’t exactly groundbreaking either but the film still turned out fresh and fun. Judging from Tarsem’s past work though, it’d probably be more of a visual feast than an absorbing story.

Boy, Keanu is one busy dude. Per The Wrap, he’s recently wrapped Eli Roth‘s “Knock Knock” and the courtroom drama “The Whole Truth,” and he’s currently filming the indie “Daughter of God.” Oh and supposedly he’s also working on Bill & Ted‘s 2?

Mel Gibson to direct Andrew Garfield in a WWII drama?

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Now this last one is intriguing to me as Mel Gibson hasn’t directed any film since Apocalypto nearly a decade ago. Regardless of how you feel about the actor/director, I think he’s a talented filmmaker.

DesmondDoss_HacksawRidgeI’m curious about his next project which is a WWII drama based on the true story of Corporal Demond Doss, the first conscientious objector to receive the US congressional Medal of Honor by President Truman. Per Comingsoon.net, Doss was drafted into World War II at age 23. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, he refused to kill or carry a weapon and, as such, became stationed as a medic. The center of the story is likely to focus on 1945â€Čs three-month military assault Operation Iceburg, also known as the Battle of Okinawa. “Hacksaw Ridge” was the name given the location of a particularly brutal two-week confrontation wherein United States troops faced off against Japanese soldiers on the rocky cliffs of Okinawa.

If the deal went through, Gibson would reteam w/ Braveheart‘s screenwriter Randall Wallace who co-wrote it with Robert Schenkkan. Look-wise, Andrew Garfield seems to have the right physique and age to play the role and I think it’d be good to see him in something that’d really display his versatility as an actor.


Ok so what do you think of any of these casting news and/or the projects mentioned above?

….

Everybody’s Chattin’ and Music Break: John Wick Soundtrack

HAPPY [almost] FRIDAY!! I’m gonna combine this month’s Chattin’ post with Music Break as I missed it the past couple of weeks. I’m getting a bit of a blog fatigue lately and I’m behind on a bunch of reviews, so I might do more mini reviews in the next few weeks. I also have two fantastic guest posts from my pals Jack Deth & Daveackackattack on David Mamet and great TV recommendations, so stay tuned!

Well, since Interstellar opens this weekend, I most likely will go see that on Saturday. It’s nearly 3 hrs long, so I don’t feel like seeing it after dinner or I’ll doze off before the first half is over.

So here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

Michael eloquently talks about his love for film photography which is increasingly become a lost art today.

OnlyLoversLeftAliveImgI can’t believe I still haven’t seen Only Lovers Left Alive, especially after such a glowing review from Mark , but fortunately I have seen Fight Club, and another Mark, as in Mark Walker illustrates why it’s definitely one of Fincher’s finest

Margaret reviewed Begin Again, which sounds lovely and I can see why she’s crushing on Mark Ruffalo 😉

Stu just caught up on The Act of Killing and I’m glad he appreciated that documentary despite not being the easiest film to watch

Drew on the other hand, is lamenting on how boring and pointless The Rover was, I had no idea Joel Edgerton wrote it!

PrinceSwitching gear to a music post, check out what makes Chris‘ list of Top 10 Songs by Prince 

Lots of new trailers are released this week, check out what you’ve missed on Terrence‘s Trailer Time Thursday

Now this is a list I can get behind… Tom lists 10 actors he avoids in pretty much anything. Wow, I agree with ALL of them, though I still don’t mind Timberlake in a small supporting role

Last but not least, Dan and Ryan have already set their minds on 2015 Blindspot lists, and they’re asking your help to choose 12 movies that you believe they must watch next year

 


Now time for some awesome music …

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… and John Wick’s puppy, cutest movie dog you’ll see this year!

A lot of you already know I love the movie but one of the things I love about it is this cool and dynamic score from Tyler Bates and Joel Richard. It fits the mood and tone so perfectly and it’ll make for an awesome dance party soundtrack! I can’t help tapping my feet and groovin’ to the beat as I’m listening to it. Screencrush said in their John Wick review that Keanu Reeves is “…the kind of star who is still partying like it’s the mid-to-late ’90s, and that’s totally more than okay…” Y’know what, the music certainly has a 90s vibe to it to match the 90s-style action sequences of shooting guns mid air and the likes.

My fave track is the Shots Fired one at the club scene, followed by Red Circle and a slower one about Willem Dafoe’s character, Old Friend Marcus.




Well have a great Friday, everyone! What are you gonna see this weekend?

FlixChatter Review: John Wick

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‘Don’t judge a movie by its trailers,’ That’s a saying I often live by, for better or for worse. But in the case of John Wick‘s trailer, which was groan and eye roll-inducing the first time I saw it, I’m glad I ignored my first instinct and saw it anyway.

The movie is as lean as its protagonist, the eternally-youthful 50-year-old man that is Keanu Reeves. It’s lean in running time (1 hr 36 min), dialog, as well as plot. The movie keeps things simple and doesn’t try to be anything else but a stylized revenge thriller. All you need to know is that John Wick is a former mob hit man who re-emerges after 5-year retirement when some dumb punks break into his house and kill his dog given by his late wife.

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The swift exposition reveals that those punks are actually the son of his former employer, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). John Leguizamo‘s great in his brief scene as Aureilo, a car shop owner frequented by the thugs who’s also friends with Wick.

Viggo: Why did you strike my son?
Aureilo: He stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog.
Viggo: Oh.

The over-the-top way the movie tells us the protagonist is entertaining and hilarious. The filmmakers – former stunt professionals David Leitch and Chad Stahelski – are in on the joke and they’re smart enough NOT to take things too seriously for this type of action flicks. I read a review from a top critic that says action flick is about movement and given the stunts background of the filmmaker, they certainly subscribe to that adage. I remember critics described the stylized action of Zack Snyder’s 300 as the ballet of death. Here we’ve got the bullet ballet of Gun Fu, which is a martial-arts fighting in close-quarters with firearms that’s common in Hong Kong action cinema. It reminds me of John Woo’s style, but without the doves. Though the style is not exactly groundbreaking, it somehow still feels fresh and a heck of a lot of fun!

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People keep asking me if I’m back…. yeah I’m thinking I’m back

One of the secret ingredients of this movie is no doubt its leading man. Say what you will about Keanu Reeves but he’s got screen charisma. And not only that, he can effortlessly earn our sympathy, which is essential in any revenge fantasy. John Wick may be ruthless, but he’s not heartless and that layer of vulnerability is what Keanu often brings to even his most action-packed roles. His brooding, taciturn and trademark stoic mode is put to good use, as well as his physical prowess in pulling off those action stunts. I’ve always liked Keanu and I really don’t think he’s ever *left* even with the recent big flop of 47 Ronin. All the supporting cast like Willem Dafoe and Ian McShane did a good job despite not having much to do. The two that stood out to me were Lance Reddick in his brief appearance as the hotel manager frequented by hitmen, and Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist who actually makes for a memorable villain this time around. He’s so lame in Mission Impossible 4, but here he displays a genuine sinister side with a sarcastic sense of humor. I also like the fact that Viggo is kind of a reluctant bad guy, he doesn’t really want to fight Wick but he knows he has to. The only character I don’t care for is Adrianne Palicki‘s Mrs. Perkins which is totally unnecessary. It’s as if the filmmakers just want to have a femme-fatale character in here thrown for good measure.

JohnWick_Still4In case you can’t tell already from my review, yes I enjoyed this movie! Armed with gorgeous cinematography by Jonathan Sela, Tyler Bates‘ dynamic soundtrack (who did a great job scoring 300 as well), and bad-ass & kinetic action set pieces, I’m glad I saw this one on the big screen. The action stuff looks gritty and actually fun to watch, sans the dizzying quick cuts or extreme slo-mo that plague most action movies these days. It’d look great in IMAX too I bet, though seeing all those exploding heads and limbs getting stabbed in such a huge screen would’ve been too much for me. Given how violent it is though, the movie is actually not that gory. The gunfights are done in quick succession and there’s no lingering open wounds that make your stomach churn. Still, the scene after scene of carnage does make me wince at times, but hey, it comes with the territory.

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This movie should please action fans with its unabashed love for thrilling, preposterous action and no-nonsense storyline. Again, it doesn’t try to be deep or philosophical, the protagonist just wants to get back to those who wronged him. Pure and simple, the only moral of the story is, ‘don’t mess with John Wick!’ The ending is ripe for a sequel and you know what, I wouldn’t mind seeing it if Leitch/Chad Stahelski and Keanu are involved.

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Have you seen this? Well, what did you think?

Blogathon: 10 Actors I Would See In Just About Anything

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Thank you to Lady Sati, whom I’ve been commiserating with in the agony & ecstasy of crushing over an underrated Brit, kindly passed the baton to me to join this awesome blogathon! This idea originated with Abbi at Where the Wild Things Are, and to be honest with you, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Partly it’s because I’ve been nuts about Toby Stephens lately [haven’t you noticed?] that he’s sort of ruined it for other actors for me. So apart from Toby [who I’d watch in literally ANYTHING], the title of the post is hyperbolic of course. For the other actors, it’s not that I’d watch them in anything because there are tons of 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.

Ok now I know this is a list for LIVING actors, but if we could include deceased actors, no doubt Gregory Peck would be on the list as I’ve seen practically everything he’s in by now. Heck, I even made a tumblr because of him though now it’s dedicated to Toby [natch!]

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

10. Tom Hardy

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First saw the hunky and versatile actor in Rocknrolla, along with two other actors here on my top 10 list (Elba & Butler) where he played Handsome Bob. Incidentally, his character was a closeted gay man who’s been secretly in love with Butler’s character. One thing I noticed right away is Hardy’s gorgeous voice to go with his handsome face, and he’s got such swagger. Then I saw him in Inception where he stole practically every scene he’s in, and it’s interesting that he played a forger consider the actor’s quite a shape-shifter himself. He’s entirely unrecognizable as Bane in The Dark Knight and also in Warrior, where he bulked up considerably that he looked like he’s twice the size of his character in Rocknrolla! Hardy’s proven to be a capable actor even when all he’s got to work with is his face, as proven in the one-man-show Locke. Heck, he’s even watchable in abominable rom-com like This Means War which I saw on the plane just for him.

Favorite Role: Ivan Locke in Locke
Least Favorite Role: Tuck in This Means War

9. Idris Elba

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I also first noticed the hunky former D.J. in American Gangster where I didn’t realize he was British. But I really took notice when he was in Rocknrolla as Gerry Butler’s BFF Mumbles. Like Hardy, he not only looks good but sounds good as well sporting his native Cockney accent. The next few years I saw him in The Losers, Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Elba’s got such a magnetic persona and devilish charm, in fact I felt rather guilty drooling over him when he was playing Mandela. If only the Bond producers were daring enough to cast him as Bond, oh man he’d be a killer 007.  I still need to catch The Wire soon, but he’s definitely an actor whose career I watch closely.

Favorite Role: Stacker Pentecost in Pacific Rim
Least Favorite Role: Roque in The Losers

8. Clive Owen

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There’s something mysterious to Clive that adds so much to his allure. He smolders without even trying and he’s inherently cool because he doesn’t seem to have anything to prove. The first time I saw him was in those BMW films, which instantly wished he had been in the running as Bond. I know Clive is known for his dark, brooding roles like Children of Men and Closer, as well as in action hero roles like King Arthur, Shoot ’em Up, Sin City, The International, etc. but I also love him in dramatic roles, i.e. Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Boys Are Back and Shadow Dancer. He even shines in slightly comedic roles like the recent dramedy Words & Pictures with Juliette Bincohe.

Favorite Role: Theo in Children of Men
Least Favorite Role: Smith in Shoot ‘Em Up

7. Alan Rickman

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I actually first saw Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply in my ESL class before I started college. Then later on I learned that he was the same actor playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Since then he’s become one of my all time favorite villains, but also one of my most cherished period drama hero as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Later on I’ve loved Rickman in a variety of roles: Galaxy Quest, Love Actually, Bottle Shock, and I even rented Gambit because he’s in it. Rickman’s line delivery is just one of the things I love about him, as evident in his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. He’s perhaps one of the most impersonated actors out there, young British talents like Benedict Cumberbatch & Tom Hiddleston have done impressions of him. His voice is so golden that even when he voiced Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the android is my fave character in the movie.

Number of movies seen: 18
Favorite Role: Col. Brandon in Sense and Sensibility
Least Favorite Role: Lionel Shahbandar in Gambit

6. Gerard Butler

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Ok for those who’ve followed my blog from the beginning already know I’ve had a huge crush on the Scottish lad ever since I saw him in Phantom of the Opera. I definitely prefer his leaner look before he got so buff in 300, though all that crazy training shows his dedication for a role. Well, lately I was dismayed by his role choices, mostly those atrocious rom-coms he kept signing up for like The Ugly Truth and Playing for Keeps. The latter was so horrible I actually swore off Butler for a while in my open letter. But Butler’s the only one of my crushes whom I’ve actually met in real life so perhaps that’s why it’s not easy to just forget about him. To be fair though, it’s not like Butler didn’t bother to act the past few years. In fact, it’s a shame that his compelling work in Machine Gun Preacher was overlooked, and even his surfing role in Chasing Mavericks was decent even if the film wasn’t exactly great. So he still makes my list despite his terrible role choices because well, for some reason I still care for the guy and still have hopes for him, futile though it may be as his next projects are Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen [sigh]. But then I remember him in his earlier roles in Phantom, Dear Frankie and BBC miniseries The Jury, and y’know what, I’m not quite ready to think he’s a lost cause yet.

Numbers of movies seen: 31
Favorite Role: Erik/Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera
Least Favorite Role: Mike in The Bounty Hunter

5. Keanu Reeves

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Ok here’s another actor who perhaps would never win an Oscar, but one can’t refute Keanu’s unusual charm. Believe it or not I think I first saw Keanu in Paula Abdul’s Rush Rush music video, ha! I wouldn’t hold it against him though, I mean he’s probably a young struggling actor making ends meet. Of course the role that made me swoon was Speed, followed by The Matrix (though I’ve only cared to see the first one). Keanu is actually more versatile than people think and despite not being the most expressive actor, he’s just so effortlessly likable. People often forget he’s quite good in My Own Private Idaho with River Phoenix, and able to hold his own against Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate. I absolutely love him in the romantic drama A Walk in the Clouds, yes even more so than in his other romantic roles like The Lake House. Even sporting laughable British accent in Much Ado About Nothing and Dracula I still find Keanu amusing to watch, and I’ve even enjoyed watching him in the little-seen movies like Street Kings and Henry’s Crime. I also admire Keanu on a personal level, as he’s well-known for being super generous with his wealth and shunning the lavish Hollywood lifestyle. I don’t care what people say about him, I’ll always be a fan of Keanu and I don’t think there’s an actor quite like him in Hollywood.

Number of Movies Seen: 15
Favorite Roles: Jack in Speed & Neo in The Matrix
Least Favorite Role: Alex Wyler in The Lake House

4. Russell Crowe

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Thanks to his tremendous performance as Maximus Decimus Meridius, I was quite obsessed with Mr. Crowe following Gladiator. I remember trying to find all his previous roles, even as obscure as his early Aussie movies in Proof, Heaven’s Burning, Rough Magic, Breaking Up, etc. Every time I saw Crowe’s name attached to something, I’m more inclined to give it a shot even if it’s for a rental. A recent re-watch of Gladiator confirmed how much I admire his acting style. He’s not only charismatic but he’s got such a certain astute way in displaying emotion with even the most subtle gesture. I think his performance as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider is his best role to date, yes it even beats Gladiator and he should’ve won his Oscar for that role. Crowe makes a compelling hero to be sure, but his villainous turn in 3:10 to Yuma is just as intriguing to watch. Oh and regardless what critics have you believe, he’s quite good in Ridley Scott’s rare rom-com A Good Year which displays his lighthearted side.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: Maximus in Gladiator & Jack Aubrey in Master & Commander
Least Favorite Role: Alex Wyler in The Lake House

3. Christian Bale

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Before Bale landed the role of Batman, Bale had made an impression of me as Bateman, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. It was such a dark and violent movie as I saw the unrated version by accident, but Bale was nothing short of electrifying. I think before that role, I had already seen Bale in Reign of Fire alongside Gerry Butler AND Matthew McConaughey, an apocalyptic sci-fi movie with fire-breathing dragons [yep, you heard it right, but it’s quite worth a look just for the cast]. Of course I LOVE Bale as Nolan’s Batman, especially in the origin story in Batman Begins where we see his transformation from a naive rich kid to a bad ass caped crusader. I also loved him in his more understated roles such as John Rolfe in The New World. Despite being there for only 20 minutes, he’s my favorite character and I bought the dvd because of him. Even in so-so movies, the Welsh thespian is often the best thing in it and makes the movie worth a watch. He’s also awesome in Equilibrium which I probably wouldn’t even bother to watch if Bale weren’t in it. His incredible dedication to his craft is incredible, talk about suffering for his art by losing/gaining ridiculous amount of weight for a role. He may not be as versatile as people think though, as I don’t think he could do full on comedy, but he seems to know how to choose roles that suits him.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: Bruce Wayne in Nolan’s Batman Trilogy
Least Favorite Role: Melvin Purvis in Public Enemies

 

2. Timothy Dalton

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Whaddayaknow, two Welsh actors back to back in my top 5. Most of you likely know I’m a card-carrying member of the Dalton-is-best-Bond brigade. I LOVE his only two roles as 007 which made me a fan for life. But on top of that, he’s also massively awesome as Prince Barin in the sci-fi cult classic Flash Gordon and the Errol Flynn-channeling villain in The Rocketeer. Until Toby Stephens entered the picture, Dalton was my favorite Rochester amongst the ubiquitous Jane Eyre adaptations and he also made a marvelous Julius Caesar in the 1999 Cleopatra TV Movie. He also has a surprisingly great comic timing too as displayed in Hot Fuzz and the silly-but-fun Beautician and the Beast. There’s a certain intensity and passion in Dalton’s eyes that I find riveting and he’s one of the best looking 70-year-old actors out there. In fact, from the clips of the Penny Dreadful series, it’s clear Dalton seems to only get better with age. I don’t normally watch horror, but I would be willing to give it a shot when it’s available to rent. I wish he had been more prolific in his career. I’d think that Dalton could’ve done a number of roles offered to his peers like Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and Patrick Stewart. In fact, I’d have loved to have seen him as Alfred in the inevitable Batman reboots or even better, he’d rock a role of an older Bruce Wayne if they were to adapt Batman Beyond to the big screen.

Number of Movies Seen: 22
Favorite Roles: James Bond in The Living Daylights & Licence to Kill
Least Favorite Role: Michael Barrington in Sextette

1. Toby Stephens

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Ahhhh… finally we get to the top of the list. The man who gets me all giddy like a school girl every time I watch him on screen. My Tumblr is now dedicated to this fine British thespian and I literally squeal every time his exquisite face come across my dash. There are few actors in life who generates such an extreme reaction from me, in fact so far there’s only been five of them, starting with Christopher Reeve when I was a wee girl, and he’s the first redhead I’ve ever been head over heels in love with.

As I said in my Toby Appreciation post, the reason Toby’s bewitched me so much is more than just his devastating good looks, but it’s his chameleon-like ability and incredibly expressive face that conveys so much emotion. He’s blessed with greenish-blue piercing eyes and he sure knows how to use them well in each and every role, such as below as Captain Flint in Black Sails.

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Sati said about her crush Stephen Dillane that ‘…one look in his eyes is enough to tell you so much about the character he is playing’ I feel the exact same way about Toby and that’s why it’s been such a joy catching up to his work. Toby seems to fit any genre, from period dramas to sci-fi to something like a pirate which one wouldn’t normally associate such a posh, refined and cultured English gent with. Yet Toby effortlessly tackles the role whilst juggling a high-society comedic play in NoĂ«l Coward’s Private Lives at the same time.

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Toby with Anna Chancelor in ‘Private Lives’

Clearly looks + talent runs in the family as I’ve been a huge fan of Toby’s mum Maggie Smith, but I really respect Toby that he doesn’t owe his career to her. But of course having been exposed to the acting craft early on made an impact on him and made him such a multifaceted performer, excelling in every acting medium from stage, TV, film and even radio where he acts just using his voice alone. He’s also one of those actors who can master any accent, which he’s used in various roles from playing Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby TV Movie to a CIA operative in BBC’s Strike Back. Heck, he even spoke Hindi in the Bollywood historical epic The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey, right after he played Bond villain in Die Another Day no less. About half of the dialog was in Hindi whilst he had to speak with a Scottish accent the rest of the time as Captain William Gordon.

Role that made me a fangirl – Vincent in The Machine (2013)
Role that officially ruined all other men for me: Mr. Rochester in BBC Jane Eyre (2006)
Number of movies/TV shows I saw with him in them: 19 (so far)
Favorite Roles: Rochester in BBC Jane Eyre + Captain Flint in Black Sails
Least Favorite Role: Victorin in Cousin Bette (1998)
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 The Many Faces of Toby Stephens
(clockwise from top left: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Queen’s Sister, Wired, Jane Eyre, The Rising, Die Another Day, Cambridge Spies, Robin Hood, Black Sails, The Machine, Vexed, Possession, The Great Gatsby)


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ok I’m not ranking these, this list is in alphabetical order as it was tough enough ranking my top 10! A couple of these actors might’ve made my main list a few months ago but upon looking at some of my old favorites, only three of them made the cut. I’m still a big fan of all of them though, or they wouldn’t even get a mention. Sam Reid is the newbie here as I have only seen him in Belle so far but he really impressed me that I’d love to see more of his work! So here they are and photo shows the role that made me a fan:

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  1. Richard Armitage
  2. Eric Bana
  3. Henry Cavill
  4. Benedict Cumberbatch
  5. Chris Evans
  6. Tom Hiddleston
  7. James McAvoy
  8. Ewan McGregor
  9. Sam Reid
  10. Rufus Sewell

 


Bloggers who have previously shared their almost anything actors/actresses:

  1. Abbi at Where the Wild Things are
  2. Fernando at Committed to Celluloid
  3. Kristin at All Eyes On Screen
  4. Jaina at Time Well Spent
  5. Nostra at My Film Views
  6. KaramelK at Karamel Kinema
  7. Getter at MettelRay

Now I’m passing the torch to my pal Melissa [aka Queen Mel] over at Snap Crackle Watch who shares my taste for cute British boys 😉


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

Weekend Viewing Roundup & 28 Days (2000) mini review

Happy Sunday everyone! It finally felt like Spring is actually around the corner here in my neck of the woods. The good news is we can forgo the long johns and parka, but we now have to put up with dirty cars as the roads and slushy roads from melting mountains of snow.

Well, no cinema trip this weekend but it’s been a great week as a film fan as I got to see Divergent two weeks early and also got to interview author Veronica Roth and cast member Ansel Elgort (who’d be starring with Shailene Woodley again in the upcoming drama The Fault in our Stars). I’m still transcribing the Q&A so stay tuned for it next week!

Here’s what I saw this weekend:

28 Days (2000)

A big-city newspaper columnist is forced to enter a drug and alcohol rehab center after ruining her sister’s wedding and crashing a stolen limousine.

I’m not exactly sure why we rented this movie but if you haven’t seen this yet and was curious to see Viggo Mortensen here a year before he became Aragorn, note that the actor’s billing on IMDb is misleading as his character’s screen time is so small it’s more of a cameo! Dominic West had more screen time than him as the obnoxious & drunk boyfriend of Sandra Bullock‘s character. Now I like Sandy and that’s one of the reasons I saw this, but even she couldn’t save the movie.

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I felt like the story could’ve been told so much better and have more depth to make it memorable. I’d say you’d like to see a movie about characters in a mental institution, I think you’d be better off renting Girl, Interrupted. I think making this subject matter and make it a comedy seems ill-advised. It’s not THAT funny to begin with and the serious moments just didn’t make any real impact. I think the one saving grace is perhaps Alan Tudyk as a gay German rehab patient. I wish he had more screen time as he’s hilarious and the movie seems to pick up every time he appears. Oh, there’s also Steve Buscemi who’s always watchable, but it’s a bit odd to see him playing it completely straight as the former-alcoholic-turned-counselor, it kind of seems like a missed opportunity, ahah. Oh, as for Mortensen, well he is practically wasted as a supposedly famous baseball player who has a knack for watching soap operas. Yes it sounds funny but it’s really not that hilarious as it’s being played in the movie as his character didn’t even appear in the soap re-enactment scene towards the end.

I can’t say I recommend this one unless you’re a die hard Sandra Bullock fan. But I wish I had rewatched While You’re Sleeping instead.

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2 out of 5 reels


I also re-watched a couple of old favorites this weekend …

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I LOVE this romance drama by Mexican director Alfonso Arau. Yes Keanu Reeves seemed an unlikely romantic lead but I think he’s lovely in this movie and has a nice chemistry with Italian/Spanish actress Aitana SĂĄnchez GijĂłn. I’ve always admired the gorgeous cinematography, it turns out it was the work of recent Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki! I still love this movie, it’s one of my fave unconventionally-romantic movies!

CasinoRoyalePoster

Daniel Craig‘s fantastic intro to the Bond franchise has become one of my all time favorites. It’s still the one to beat out of the three he’s done so far IMO. The action, the scenery and the music are all superb, plus it features my fave Bond girl Vesper Lynd. I’d rather see Eva Green here than in the 300 sequel, and based on Ted’s review, good thing I skipped the movie.

… and a new-to-me Wes Anderson movie released seven years ago:

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I’ve been curious to see this one for some time, but after seeing Keith’s review on Friday I thought I’d rent it this weekend. As I was writing my review of Grand Budapest Hotel, it gives more perspective into Wes Anderson’s filmography. Stay tuned for my review of both of his movies later this week!


So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on the movies I mentioned above?

Birthday Tribute: Top 5 Favorite Keanu Reeves’ Roles & Trailer Spotlight: 47 Ronin

Today is Keanu Reeves’ Birthday and I almost missed it! Can you believe it he’s 49 years old?? He’s nearing 50 but he doesn’t look a day over 35!

Keanu_Then_Now
Keanu in Point Break (1991) and this year at Cannes

Keanu Charles Reeves was born in Beirut on September 2, 1864 in Beirut, Lebanon. His father is Hawaiian Chinese and his mother English, his first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian. My pal and fellow Keanu fan Mark and I sometimes call him Chuck 🙂 Keanu strikes me as the type of actors who aren’t in it for the fame or money. He seems like a nice guy in real life too. Perhaps you’ve seen this video of him giving his seat to a woman on the subway that went viral. Dan at Top 10 Films recently posted Top 10 Random Acts Of Kindness From Actors and Keanu came in at number 1 as he donated his lucrative back-end deal for The Matrix franchise to the crew of the films, saying they were the unsung heroes, the ones who made the films so good. He has been quoted as saying, “Money is the last thing I think about. I could live for a few hundred centuries with what I have made already.” WHOA! Now, THAT’s real charity folks, nice to see celebs who actually walk the talk and that is a rarity in ANY industry.

I’ve been a fan of his ever since I saw him in Speed, and though he’s not the most expressive actors out there, he more than makes up for it in screen presence and that inherent movie star quality that an actor can’t really train for. There’s also a certain earnest demeanor about him that makes me root for him instantly, and he’s got that cool factor without appearing smug. Plus, Keanu not only looks good but sounds good as well with his deep, manly voice.

Keanu’s quite a prolific actor, with 70 films/TV projects under his belt since his start in the early 80s. His big break came with Point Break in 1991, but Speed and of course The Matrix made him a household name. I’ve seen just a little over a dozen of his films, both small and big-budgeted films, and though he certainly isn’t going to nab any acting awards, I’ve always enjoyed watching him. I actually own some of his films that I don’t mind seeing over and over again. If I were to rate my top 5 favorite roles, it’d look like this:

KeanuTop5Roles

5. Kevin Lomax – The Devil’s Advocate

4. Johnny Utah – Point Break

3. Paul Sutton – A Walk in the Clouds

2. Jack Traven – Speed

1. Neo – The Matrix

Honorable Mentions: John Constantine in Constantine + Shane Falco in The Replacements

I think he’s more versatile than people give him credit for. He’s obviously great as an action hero, but he’s got the sensitivity and vulnerability to play a romantic lead or a down-on-his-luck kind of guy like he did in Henry’s Crime. I haven’t seen the comedy Something’s Gotta Give and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee where he had supporting roles, but it proves that he does seek out a variety of roles in his career. He’s also ventured into directing, in the fascinating documentary Side By Side.

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Now, the one film I’ve been anticipating for quite some time is 47 Ronin. I actually mentioned this back in 2010 when I featured its director Carl Rinsch‘s short sci-fi film The Gift which was at one point optioned to be made into a feature film. Besides Keanu, who looks like he’s in his element, I quite like the Japanese cast: Hiroyuki Sanada (who was sadly wasted in The Wolverine) and Pacific Rim‘s Rinko Kikuchi. Check out the trailer:

Here’s the synopsis per EMPIRE:

After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, the leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Reeves), a half-breed they once rejected, as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witches and wondrous terrors.

Ok, despite the rather blah trailer, I’m still intrigued by this. Visually, it looks pretty cool but let’s hope this won’t be another case of style over substance as we could use a truly epic Samurai movie. Per IMDb, this is the seventh cinematic adaptation of the Japanese folktale of the 47 Ronin, after The 47 Ronin, ChĂ»shingura, Chushingura, The Fall of Ako Castle, 47 Ronin (Japanese film) and The Last Chushingura. But this is the first out of Hollywood. Even though Keanu is a Western actor, his Asian heritage makes him look like he belongs in this film. I haven’t been following it closely but it seems that it’s been in development hell for years with budget and creative differences issues. There were even rumors last year that Universal fired Rinsch as the budget ballooned to $225 mil (from the already massive $175 mil). That’s just ludicrous even for a 3D film, and such a huge risk for the studios to give it to a first-time director!

But hey, you never know, it may still make money. I mean, look at World War Z. We’ll see if this turns out to be a good one. The film comes out on Christmas day, 2013.


So, what’s your favorite Keanu role and what do you think of 47 Ronin?

My Movie Alphabet Blogathon – Actors/Directors Edition

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

A  – Audrey Hepburn

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


B – Ben Affleck

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

C – Cate Blanchett

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

D – Denzel Washington

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

E – Ewan McGregor

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

F – Frances O’Connor

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

G – Gerard Butler

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

H – Harrison Ford

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

I – Ian McKellen

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

J – Judi Dench

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

K – Keanu Reeves

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

L – Lee Pace

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

M – Michael Mann

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

N – Nicole Kidman

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

O – Olivia Williams

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

P – Peter Jackson

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

Q – Quentin Tarantino

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

R – Richard Armitage

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

S – Sean Connery

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

T – Timothy Dalton

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

U – Uma Thurman

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

V – Vanessa Redgrave

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

W – William Wyler

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

X – Professor X

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

Y – Yul Brynner

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

Z – Zhang Yimou

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


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

Weekend Roundup and ARGO review

It’s been quite a hectic start to October for me, but it’s definitely going to be an exciting month with Twin Cities Film Fest just around the corner!

I skipped the cinema this weekend, but it looks like people just can’t get enough of bad ass Liam Neeson with his special set of skills. Taken 2 took in an astounding $50 million (apparently it’s not the third best October opening ever), which is sensational considering the dismal review. Now, even though I heard reports that Neeson won’t be back for Taken 3, the studio is likely to give him an offer he can’t refuse. I do hope he’s got the integrity to say no to that.

I saw a total of three films this week: ARGO (thanks to my buddy Ted for the advance screening tickets), and two great films from the early 90s: The Hunt for Red October and Point Break. Red October is the one Jack Ryan movie that has eluded me for some reason but it’s a fantastic political thriller, and despite being set mostly on a submarine, it’s not at all dull. From the comments on the Five for the Fifth post, seems like a lot of people like Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan and now I could see why.

I saw Point Break years ago and I’ve been wanting to rewatch it for some time. I finally bought the Blu-ray this weekend and I certainly have a new appreciation for the Kathryn Bigelow’s action thriller. The story is not ground-breaking but it’s more multi-layered than meets the eye. Full of high-octane action and the surfing and sky-diving scenes are quite spectacular, bummer that Hollywood is reportedly set to remake this cult classic! Anyway, I’m sort of crushing on Keanu Reeves all over again now, ahah.

Now on to the review of…

ARGO (2012)

At first glance you might think this has something to do with Jason and the Argonauts, but no, this one has nothing to do with Greek Mythology though there is a reference to that in the film. This Ben Affleck-directed political drama is loosely based on a true story, that is former CIA technical operations officer Tony Mendez’ account of the Iran hostage crisis of the late 70s.

The opening of the film starts out like a documentary, providing a pretty detailed background of why supporters of the Iranian Revolution are protesting outside of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Basically, the anti-Shah Iranians under Ayatollah Khomeini demanded for his return to Iran (he was undergoing cancer treatment in the US) for trial and execution.

For a film where the outcome is already known, Affleck did a great job in building up the suspense right from the get go. The whole sequence where the Iranians took over the embassy is quite gripping, and how the six of the consular employees were able to escape just in the nick of time and ended up taking refuge at the Canadian embassy.

Enter CIA officer Tony Mendez (Affleck) who’s tasked to get those six men out of the country. According to Wiki, Mendez’s work in the agency frequently dealt with forging foreign documents, creating disguises and handling other graphical work related to espionage. After exploring all the options that the agency considered — one of which includes a bike trek across 3000 miles of treacherous mountain conditions! — it’s clear that the utterly bizarre idea of smuggling them as a fake film crew was the only option!

ARGO is full of edge-of-your-seat scenes from start to finish. It doesn’t take long for the audience to realize just how high the stake is and how those escapees’ lives are in great danger, as they could be discovered at any moment. If found, they would suffer a much worse fate than the hostages, and Mendez saw that firsthand when he arrived in Iran and saw men being hung from cranes in public view!

Thankfully, Affleck peppered the taut suspense with dry humor and lighthearted moments, courtesy of the delightfully zany pairing of John Goodman and Alan Arkin as Oscar-winning make-up artist John Chambers and Hollywood producer Lester Siegel, respectively. The scenes in Hollywood as they’re working on coming up with the fake movie is such a much-needed relief from the tense situation happening in Iran. It’s a hoot to see both Chambers and Siegel working on a movie that doesn’t even exist, there’s even a fake reading and launch party to get the press to ‘sell’ the movie! In the CIA camp, there’s also Bryan Cranston as Mendez’s CIA boss in D.C. who’s always fun to watch.

This is Affleck’s third outing as director and now I can say he’s one of my favorite directors. I’d rate this as high as Gone, Baby, Gone and once again the 40-year-old Bostonian displayed his keen ability to not only cast excellent actors but drew the best performance from them in his films. Though his own acting here is good, I still think Affleck is much more skillful behind the camera. The lesser-known actors playing the hostages also did a good job in their roles, as well as Victor Garber as the Canadian ambassador.

Final Thoughts: In a year chock full of movie superheroes, it’s nice to see a real-life story about a group of quiet heroes who took great risk to save others. Kudos for Affleck for creating an authentic and atmospheric film. ARGO is a thrilling and entertaining adventure that shifts brilliantly between three different locations—Washington D.C., Tehran and Hollywood—until it culminates in a nail-biting finale. Stay on during the credits as they show the photos of the real-life individuals depicted in the film, the casting manager did a good job in finding actors that resemble them. This is easily one of the best films of the year and surely will end up as my top 5 of 2012. At this point, it could even be a shoo-in for Best Picture Oscar nomination.

4.5 out of 5 reels


What did you see this weekend? Anybody else seen ARGO? If so, do let me know what you think.

Weekend Roundup: ENDGAME review

It’s another s-l-o-w week at the box office when the number one movie is a small-budget horror flick The Possession and it barely cracked $10 million! I skipped the cinema this weekend, though I was initially anticipating The Cold Light Of Day. But the utterly dismal critical rating (9% on rotten tomatoes!!) dissuaded me for shelling out 10 bucks to see it, no matter how much I LOVE Henry Cavill. Ah well, best to just wait for the rental methinks.

So Friday night, my hubby and I decided to see a little-seen thriller/drama ENDGAME set during Apartheid in South Africa. I’m glad I stumbled upon this film because I had never heard of it before. I was just looking at the positive reviews of Dredd 3D and was curious who had directed it, which brought me to Pete Travis. Seems like nobody has seen this film as I asked three times on Twitter about it and got zero response. Only my pal Ted replied saying he hasn’t even heard of it! Ah well, read my mini review below, I think it’s a worthy film.

I also got to see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The reason I’m curious to see it is because a few weeks ago I heard that Keanu was reportedly keen on making Bill & Ted 3! And since I haven’t seen the original, I though what the heck. Well, it’s definitely a silly movie in the vein of Wayne’s World, but it’s good fun and quite a hoot to see how Keanu hasn’t aged that much in 23 years!!

Anyway, here’s my review of:

ENDGAME (2009)

apartheid |əˈpĂ€rtˌ(h)āt; -ˌ(h)Ä«t|
(in South Africa) a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.

The subject matter is quite heartbreaking, as is any movie about racial segregation. Based upon the book The Fall of Apartheid by Robert Harvey, the movie is a dramatization of the covert discussions between the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Party, that brought down the Apartheid regime.

It starts off with a suspenseful scene of Jonny Lee Miller‘s character being ‘smuggled’ into the black township to hear about the suffering of the black Africans. I thought he was a doctor at first, but it turns out Michael Young is a businessman, a public affairs director for Consolidated Gold Fields, a British gold-mining company. Young ends up being the key individual who brought about the controversial secret meetings between the two opposing parties, down to securing a country house in Somerset, England to host the talks.

For a film that barely has any action or shootouts, the level of suspense is quite high. Despite not having a lot of knowledge about who the main key players are, I quickly sympathize with what each of the players signed on to, and the risk that came with it. Travis’ direction depicts the predicament subtly but efficiently, it’s a slow build-up to the momentum but he manages to keep it engaging.

I did get a bit dizzy from the hand-held camera work used in some scenes, and in this case I don’t think it’s really all that necessary to use this technique. Fortunately, there are a lot going for it here that keeps me intrigued. The filming location in Cape Town definitely helps enhance the authenticity and atmosphere, but what really sells the film for me is the cast, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor as Thabo Mbeki from the ANC side. Ejiofor has this aura of intelligence and gravitas that is perfect for his role, and he also carries the emotional moments very well. There’s a scene where he’s overwhelmed with shock and fear following a car chase and you just feel he’s thisclose to falling apart.

The rest of the supporting cast is full of B-list actors who are excellent in their roles. Miller does a good job as not only the ‘instigator’ but also the ‘moderator’ of sort, and he depicts the role of a quiet hero in a perfectly-understated way. At first I thought that Mark Strong‘s character is the usual bad guy type, but there’s actually more to it than meets the eye. The only one I wasn’t too keen on is William Hurt as philosophy professor Willie Esterhuyse, but mostly because I can’t understand most of the things he’s saying with his odd Afrikaans accent. But yet the crucial scenes between him and Ejiofor are terrific, their slow bond of trust is intriguing to watch, those scenes are one of my favorite parts in the movie. Derek Jacobi also has a brief cameo here as Miller’s boss, but it’s always nice to see him deliver lines the only way he could. Last but not least, NYC actor Clarke Peters delivers an emphatic performance as Nelson Mandela, the thing that strikes me about the quiet hero is how his inner strength helps him to stay calm during even the bleakest moments of his life. It’s truly extraordinary what he went through, but even more remarkable is how he survived such an ordeal with grace.

At the end of the film, some facts are shown as to what happens to the real-life characters following the meeting. Though it still take years before the reign of Apartheid ended, it showed what the courage of a few brave men could do and the power of hope in humanity. I highly recommend this one. It’s a sophisticated historical drama on an important subject that’s well-written and well-acted. It’s not a ‘sensational’ movie, uplifting without being emotionally-manipulative, which is perhaps why it flew under the radar.

4 out of 5 reels


Thoughts about this movie? Also, did you see anything good this past weekend?