Five for the Fifth: MAY 2014 Edition

FiveForTheFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Well, per tradition on the Fifth of May, I always feature a Mexican actor/actress and for some reason I have not featured Salma Hayek before. I always think she is one of the most beautiful actresses ever, her body also seems to defy the law of physics.

SalmaHayek

Though I haven’t seen too many of her films, she’s definitely got screen presence. I remember seeing her for the first time in Desperado with Antonio Banderas. I still need to see her Oscar-nominated role in Frida though. I’m curious about her next project The Prophet, which is an animated feature inspired by the classic book by Kahlil Gibran.

What’s your favorite Salma Hayek film?
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2. Well, since it’s still May 4th aka Star Wars Day and it’s only 5 days away since the news broke, so I gotta have one related question right? Besides, the buzz surrounding Star Wars Episode VII will probably never die down until its release date in December 2015. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of this franchise, I’m mostly just curious about the cast as I know it’s a pretty big deal and it has a massive potential to launch/boost the career of the younger actors involved. Besides, even if they’re not a huge fan of the franchise, surely they’re excited to be working with the original actors like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. So the new cast members are: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von SydowI found this image on Twitter with the names of actors listed, which helps tremendously.

StarWarsEpisodeVII_CastPicWithNames

And of course it doesn’t take long for someone to create a fan poster with the old and new cast 😀

StarWarsEpisodeVII_FanMadePoster

So it seems that the two actors rumored to be in the running who I wish were true: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbatch, are NOT part of the cast. But hey, nice to see Oscar Isaac and Andy Serkis on here, I’m a big fan of their work and I hope this will only boost their career even more, especially Isaac’s.

So are you happy with this announcement? Which actor/actress you wish had been cast in Star Wars Episode VII?

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3. Ok, switching gears to a black & white independent film that’s been garnering all kinds of buzz recently called Ida.

IDA_FilmPoster

Poland, 1962. Anna, an orphan brought up by nuns in the convent, is a novice. She has to see Wanda, the only living relative, before she takes her vows. Wanda tells Anna about her Jewish roots. Both women start a journey not only to find their family’s tragic story, but to see who they really are and where they belong. They question what they used to believe in. Both of them are trying to go on living but only one eventually can.

Directed/co-written by Pawel Pawlikowski, it stars Polish actress Agata Trzebuchowska in her debut film. I actually heard film critic David Edelstein reviewed this film on NPR last week where he lauded the film and Agata’s performance, and I just had to check out the trailer:

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I literally got goosebumps just from watching the trailer. It’s been winning a slew of film festival awards all over the world, I sure hope it’ll make it over here to my city.

What do you think of Ida? 


4. Last week I heard news that Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt are teaming up again since they did Mr & Mrs. Smith back in 2005. The details of the new project is still not revealed yet, but according to Variety, it’s based on something Jolie’s written. The two seems to have been busy working on their own projects for the past decade. Pitt won his first Oscar as producer of 12 Years A Slave earlier this year and Jolie’s been busy working on the Lou Zamperini’s biopic Unbroken that’s set to open this Christmas.

Jolie-Pitt-Collaborating

Now, it made me think of other actor/actress couple who’ve worked together and whether it’s something I like to see on screen. Of course it’s nothing new, celebrity couples like Lawrence Olivier & Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor & Richard BurtonHumphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall during Hollywood Golden Age, as well as contemporary ones like Rita Wilson & Tom Hanks and former couples Nicole Kidman & Tom Cruise, Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins, etc. have worked together, sometimes in multiple movies. I think my favorite real-life couple (the two were still married at the time) pairing up in films is Emma Thompson & Kenneth Branagh in Much Ado About Nothing.

What do you think of Jolie-Pitt’s teaming up again and/or which other real-life couple’s collaboration are you a big fan of? 

5. Last but not least, I’m introducing a special guest on today’s Five for the Fifth. From time to time from now on, I’ll invite one of my favorite blog friends to come up with one of the questions. This time, we’ve got Terrence from The Focused Filmographer as a special guest!

His question is inspired by the launch of FOX’s 24 series which he’s super excited about. The 12-episode “event” series 24: Live Another Day kicks off with a two-hour premiere on Fox starting Monday 8/7c and it’s set in London. Of course Kiefer Sutherland is back as counter-intelligence agent Jack Bauer, the agent with nine lives I’d say, as like James Bond (same JB initial too, a coincidence? I think not) he will never die!

24LiveAnotherDay

The movie version has been in limbo for some time since the show ended in 2010. Seems that TV is where it’s at right now anyway, with studios launching TV shows alongside their movies. Both Marvel & DC are launching shows like Gotham and Agents of Shield to expand the universe. 24 director John Cassar said this via THR: “I think 24 is probably on the edge of a new wave, and that new wave I think is you’re going to see more and more television shows coming back because for a lot of people it’s new,” Clearly, with Veronica Mars movie and apparently a revival of NBC show Heroes is coming in 2015 (per THR), this trend is definitely catching on. 

So which TV shows do you want to see a comeback, whether as a special TV event or a movie format?


Well, that’s it for the May 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Indie Weekend Roundup: The Reluctant Fundamentalist review

It’s the last weekend of MSPfest and it’s been great watching a bunch of indie films. Saw The Hunt last night and this is my initial reaction:

Now, two of the last three films I’m reviewing this week happen to be are directed by women. It’s interesting that they’re two VERY different genres, this one is a dramatic thriller and the other one I’m finishing up on, In A World, is a comedy, but both are highly recommended.

Anyway, on to the review:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

A young Pakistani man is chasing corporate success on Wall Street. He finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family’s homeland.

I happen to see the trailer just a week before I saw the MSPfest schedule so I signed up to see it right away. This is the kind of film that will likely raise some eyebrows and some people might have strong feelings about it, whether good or bad. I guess that’s to be expected given the subject matter involves terrorism, though this film is not so much about an extremist attack, but the reaction when such a heinous event occurs. This film also works as a character study of an intriguing character named Changez, who like many immigrants, often is (or feels) torn between two worlds.

The film opens with the kidnapping of an American college professor off the street in Pakistan, and somehow Changez, a fellow university teacher, appears to be right in the middle of the Pakistani/American conflict. That’s what Bobby, an American journalist, alludes to when he interviews Changez at a cafe. “I only ask that you please listen to the whole story, not just bits and pieces…” Changez said to Bobby, to which the journalist agrees and as the tape recorder rolls, we’re taken to Changez’s life ten years prior. We saw that he came from a rather privileged background in Lahore and that he was as a prodigious student at Princeton. With the potent combination of extraordinary intellect and tenacity, it’s no surprise he soon attain the American dream when he’s hired at a high-powered consulting firm Underwood Samson. He seemed to have it all, even his love life seems to be going well when he met a free-spirited American girl Erica. But then, 9/11 happened, and from the moment Changez witnessed the footage of the plane hitting the twin tower, things aren’t going to be the same for him.

ReluctantFundamentalistPics

Now, there have been countless films on that subject, but I feel that The Reluctant Fundamentalist manages to tackle the side not often explored but certainly worth telling. As an immigrant, I empathize with Changez even if I don’t necessarily agree with his decisions. In fact, the whole time I was watching the scenes of him literally being harassed by counter-terrorism officers and TSA agents simply because of his nationality, I kept thinking of a Pakistani college friend of mine who actually share a very similar background as Changez. I’d imagine watching this film would perhaps hit too close to home for him.

I appreciate that the film doesn’t really take sides, in fact, it challenges me to put myself in someone else’s shoes, and to see a complex human emotion at play where things aren’t always so black and white. In the midst of such a tense story though, I also find the film to be surprisingly witty and humorous. Changez making a droll reference to CSI Miami to Bobby and the one that got the most laugh, his nonchalant quip about wanting to be a dictator of a middle eastern country with nuclear capabilities when his workmates ask him about what he wanted to be in the next ten years. Even in its humor though, the filmmaker is well-aware of people’s natural prejudices when faced with a character like Changez.

I was very impressed with London-born Riz Ahmed as Changez. The Oxford-educated actor is also a rapper under the name Riz MC. Apparently I had seen him before in a small role in Centurion, but this is the role that really showcase his talent as an actor. He’s effortlessly believable as an intellectual, a charismatic leader, and a romantic lead, which is a testament to his versatility. Ahmed’s melancholy yet expressive big, black eyes say so much, and I can’t help being drawn to his character up until the very end.

Kiefer_Ahmed_ReluctantFundamentalist

Brunette Kate Hudson is quite good here as Erica, herself a tortured soul because of a past incident that killed her former boyfriend. The two have a convincing chemistry, though from the start it’s clear the relationship is built on feeble ground. Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber offer decent supporting performances. It’s interesting to see Mr. Jack Bauer NOT playing some CIA officer in a story that could’ve easily been an extended episode of 24.

Overall, I’m impressed with BAFTA-winning Indian director Mira Nair‘s film adaptation from Mohsin Hamid’s novel. How one receives this particular film is likely going to vary from person to person, but I do think it’s well worth a watch as a cultural drama about a subject that’s sadly always going to be timely.


Thoughts on this film yet? Is this something you’re intrigued to see?