Netflix FIRST LOOK: The Devil All the Time + Rebecca – coming this Fall

Well, it seems streaming content is in our future for a long, long time. If this THR article is to go by, this pandemic isn’t slowing the streaming giant at all. In fact, Netflix continues to spend a gazillion dollars for original films/shows. Well I ain’t complaining!! I’m grateful that my home cinema setup makes it enjoyable for me to watch movies at home.

Here are two I just read about in the past couple of days, both happens to be gothic thrillers, got me super excited! So fall movie seasons isn’t going to be too bleak after all.

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME

Adapted from the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, the screenplay of this Southern gothic thriller is written by director Antonio Campos (Christine) and his brother Paulo Campos.

In Knockemstiff, Ohio and its neighboring backwoods, sinister characters—an unholy preacher (Robert Pattinson), twisted couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), and crooked sheriff (Sebastian Stan)—converge around young Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) as he fights the evil forces that threaten him and his family. Spanning the time between World War II and the Vietnam war, director Antonio Campos’ ‘The Devil All the Time’ renders a seductive and horrific landscape that pits the just against the corrupted.

Now, I’m not typically into horror movies, but man, check out THIS cast!

  • Robert Pattinson
  • Tom Holland
  • Sebastian Stan
  • Bill Skarsgard
  • Riley Keough
  • Jason Clarke
  • Haley Bennett
  • Mia Wasikowska

Now check out the trailer!

Interesting to point out that even though the story is set in Knockemstiff, Ohio, most of the cast are not from the States. Riley Keough is the only American actor here, the rest are English, Australian, Swedish and Romanian descent. Fun seeing Batman-to-be Pattinson as a crooked Southern preacher, ahah, and hey, Spidey is pointing a gun at him 😀

This trailer promises something truly disturbing. I’m not a horror fan but I’m curious to check this one out. Fortunately it’s on Netflix so I can just turn it off it it gets to be way too scary for me, without worrying about making my money worth for the rental fee!

While the movie is set in Ohio and West Virginia, it was actually shot in Alabama. Per EW, Campos said “It was a challenging shoot just because there were so many locations and we were really spread out over a large portion of northern Alabama… The nice thing is Alabama hasn’t been filmed in very often, so it’s not as recognizable as some other places that have been filmed in and photographed thoroughly by various films and TV shows.”

Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson have previously worked together on The Lost City of Z, in supporting roles. It’ll be nice to see them team up again, and now Holland is a legitimate movie star since playing Spider-man. Oh, and speaking of Marvel superhero, initially Chris Evans was to portray Sheriff Lee Bodecker, but was replaced by his bff Bucky, er Sebastian Stan in the role.

The movie is scheduled to hit Netflix on Wednesday, September 16th, 2020.


REBECCA

Now this one is something many people should be familiar with, especially if they’re into Hitchcock classics. The most famous adaptation of the 1938 Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name starred Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in 1940.

After a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo with handsome widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), a newly married young woman (Lily James) arrives at Manderley, her new husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast. Naive and inexperienced, she begins to settle into the trappings of her new life, but finds herself battling the shadow of Maxim’s first wife, the elegant and urbane Rebecca, whose haunting legacy is kept alive by Manderley’s sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).

I also LOVE the cast on this one…

  • Lily James
  • Armie Hammer
  • Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Keeley Hawes
  • Sam Riley

Armie and Lily are such an intriguing pairing and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers is just brilliant! Based on this Daily Mirror article, Kristin’s so believable in the role that she terrified her co-star. I’m a huge fan of Sam Riley too, always glad to see him in any role!

The article also mentions how the Manderley house is a character in itself, as it should be! It’s got Oscar-nominated production designer Sarah Greenwood who did Atonement which also has a memorable English estate in it. I’m curious to see Ben Wheatley in this, as he’s someone mostly known for his shoot-em-up action flicks like Kill List and Free Fire.

We now have a trailer!

Reportedly REBECCA will premiere on October 21 on Netflix.


Can’t wait for these two! What about you?

Eclectic Weekend Roundup: Great Expectations (1998), About A Boy (2002), Under the Cherry Moon (1986)

Well there goes the weekend… it seems to fly by so fast as it always does. I’m super excited for my upcoming trip to Montréal next week, we’ll be there for four nights and then three nights in Québec City. The Airbnb flats we’ll be staying at are gorgeous and they’re both right downtown too! I’ll be doing a Canada-related post next week just before my temporary blogging hiatus.

Well, this weekend I ended up watching quite a bit of movies! Two of them are ones I thought I had seen before, but when I saw it I realize I had not seen them. Have that ever happened to you? Maybe it’s my hapless memory playing tricks on me, as I remember some scenes vividly but maybe I just saw clips of them a long time ago. Anyway, here’s my quick thoughts on those films.

Great Expectations (1998)

GreatExpectations1998Somehow I didn’t realize this Charles Dickens’ modern adaptation was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Believe it or not but I’ve never read Dickens’ novel but I knew they had made a ton of liberties with this adaptation, even changing the protagonist’s name from Pip to Finn and instead of becoming a wealthy Gentleman, he became a successful artist. But the essence of the story remains, as was the plot about unrequited love between Finn and Estella (Ethan Hawke & Gwyneth Paltrow).

I think both are perfectly cast. Hawke’s got that pinning look down pat every time he looks at Paltrow, and she definitely captured that ‘icy rich girl’ aura. The entire ensemble is stellar, with Chris Cooper, Anne Bancroft, Robert De Niro rounding up the cast. The cinematography was gorgeous and of course when I looked it up it was done by the genius Emmanuel Lubezki. My favorite part is definitely the music by Patrick Doyle which I have highlighted in this post.

I think the film itself was good but not as great as I had hoped considering the talents involved. It does make me want to see the more conventional adaptation set in the same era as it is in the book, thankfully there’s the 2012 BBC version with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter on Netflix!

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About A Boy (2002)

AboutABoy2002I seem to have a distinct memory of having seen this one so I might have a long while ago but my memory of it is scant so it feels like I had just seen it for the first time. This is a coming-of-age story with a twist as the 12-year-old Marcus is the one who helped 38-year-old Will grow up.

Hugh Grant is wonderful as Will, a cynical, immature young man who holds no job whatsoever and is living off of the royalty of her dad’s famous Christmas song. It’s so cute to see Nicholas Hoult as a dorky kid back then, as he’s now grown up to be a tall and good looking young man. I love the two female cast here too, Toni Collette as Marcus’ unstable hippie mom and Rachel Weisz as Will’s love interest.

Based on a novel by Nick Hornby and directed by brothers Chris & Paul Weitz, I really enjoyed this one. Yes there are predictable moments throughout, but it’s got genuine humor and a big, big heart. 

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Under the Cherry Moon (1986)

UnderCherryMoon1986Now, I saw this one simply because Prince had directed AND starred in it. My pal Becky (Prairiegirl) lent me the dvd she rented from Netflix and though the movie’s *won* a bunch of Razzies, I simply had to see it out of sheer curiosity.

Gigolo Christopher Tracy (Prince) and Tricky (Prince’s real-life pal Jerome Benton) are two friends from Miami who’s scamming rich women in the French Riviera. But of course Christopher and Mary, one of the girls he was supposed to scam end up falling in love. The story is so cheesy and inherently silly, but it’s still amusing to watch simply because it’s Prince!

As a huge fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, it’s also fun to see her in big screen debut at the age of 26. She looked so gorgeous and fresh, and though she and Prince didn’t really have a good chemistry together, the moment the two characters saw each other for the first time was quite a hoot. She was draped in a bath towel in the middle of her own lavish birthday party and Prince was dressed in one of his extravagant suits that shows his lower back.

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Though I can’t say it’s a good movie, I still think it’s quite watchable and you could even say this is one of those so-bad-it’s-good variety. There are scenes of Prince playing piano, singing and dancing, so it’s definitely well-worth a watch for his fans. Though he did direct another feature film after this one (the sequel to Purple Rain), I’d say filmmaking wasn’t really his forte. Even Kristin herself didn’t speak kindly of this movie (per IMDb trivia) and I can’t say I blamed her. Oh, apparently Terrence Stamp was going to play Kristin’s dad but he was replaced by Steven Berkoff (Bond nerds like me would know him as a Bond villain in Octopussy).

All in all I didn’t regret watching this one. The retro costumes and Mediterranean scenery are beautiful. Apparently it was shot in color but presented in black & white.

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Besides these three films, I also rewatched Captain America: Civil War again in IMAX 3D and I actually like it even more. I appreciate the stuff I enjoyed from the first viewing even more so this time around, and I wasn’t as bothered by the slow start.


So what did YOU watch this weekend? Anything good?

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10 Actresses I would watch in just about anything

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

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

10. Kristin Scott-Thomas

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

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

9. Carey Mulligan

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

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

8. Jessica Chastain

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

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

7. Marion Cotillard

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

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

6. Sandra Bullock

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

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

5. Emma Thompson

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

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

4. Dame Helen Mirren

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

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

3. Dame Judi Dench

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

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

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

2. Emily Blunt

Top10Actresses_Emily

 

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

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

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

1. Cate Blanchett

Top10Actresses_Cate

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

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

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

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

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

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:

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

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

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

Roman Polanski Blogathon – Bitter Moon (1992)

This post is part of the Roman Polanksi Blogathon spearheaded by Ratnakar of Seetimaar – Diary of a Movie Lover Blog. Check out his blog for more posts on the acclaimed director.


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Greetings, all and sundry!

It is not often that I am invited to opine on a director who makes his films and tells his and others’ stories his own personal and very unique way. Often to the betterment and occasionally to the detriment of the viewing audience.

With legendary accomplishments to his credit, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown to his credit. And all possessing his own special, sometimes annoying oblique view in key scenes. I would like to steer a bit off course to one of the director’s later films. Medium in budget and length, though filled with romantic and occasionally creepy backdrops of Paris, the city of lights, a Mediterranean cruise to Istanbul, and later, India. Allow me to ask a few moments of your time to introduce:

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Roman Polanski at the reins: Bitter Moon (1992)

Which centers around a very prim and proper British couple. Hugh Grant and Kristen Scott Thomas as Nigel and Fiona Dobson. Honeymooning on said Mediterranean cruise. Relishing each others’ company. Meeting other passengers and enjoying their company while dining and dancing. As they meet Mimi. A voluptuous and seductive french woman. Played to the hilt by Emmanuelle Seigner. And her much older American and paraplegic husband, Oscar. Brought creepily to life with an extra sheen of slime to spare, by Peter Coyote.

To say that failed writer, Oscar is not a happy camper would be gross understatement. A lecher of high magnitude. Denied through an accident to pursue his often raunchy proclivities. Blessed or cursed with the gift of reading people instantly. Finding their weak spots and subtly applying pressure to get what he wants is an art. And Oscar is a master. Leaving both Nigel and Fiona off put and glad to be rid of them as the evening wears down.

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But. as a bad penny. Oscar and Nigel’s paths cross again. Invited to Oscar and Mini’s cabin for a very enticing, fetish laden “joke”as Oscar proceeds to experience vicariously and through voyeurism, what the accident has taken away.

And there is a story behind that accident. That is relayed to Nigel as Oscar weaves a tale of love at first sight when glimpsing Mimi for the first time on a Paris bus. Mimi leads Oscar on a merry chase through sidewalk cafes, after hour bistros and rather seedy, less than Michelein rates hotel rooms. Where love blossoms and Oscar and Mimi begin experimenting with limits as bondage, sadomasochism and voyeurism are dabbled with. Then plunged deep into. With Mimi being surprisingly imaginative while reveling in her submissive role.

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Oscar has discovered his Fountain of Youth. With no bottom to the well of his elegant, sophisticated depravity. Until a sultry post experiment argument ensues inside Oscar’s Peugot parked just outside a busy street. Mini exits onto the sidewalk. And Oscar flings open the right hand, driver’s side door. Steps out. And in a instant worthy of Warner Brothers, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Is hit by speeding delivery truck.

The tide turns in an instant. With Mimi “taking care” of Oscar and his still strong, though vicarious desires. Paying off in jealousy aimed at Oscar’s impotence as Mimi pursues her new, dominant desires. While Nigel and Fiona are slowly seduced and drawn in.

I’ll leave it right here for spoilers sake.

Now. What Makes This Movie Good?

Experiencing Roman Polanski delving into sensitive areas usually left untouched. Offset and highlighted by the romance of a lush and scenic cruise. While setting inescapable boundaries within the confines of a ship at sea.

Placed in the competent, deft and more than charming when need be hands of Peter Coyote. Who has rarely been better. Watching him work his way under Nigel’s skin in a collage of arrogance, knowing and a tinge of pity near mesmerizes. While Emmanuelle Seigner looks seductively, temptingly gorgeous without saying a word. A heady brew, indeed. In an adult themed film that may not be for everyone.
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What Makes This Film Great?

Hugh Grant. Well grounded and just before being “discovered” in the US. Taking on half of an archetype role while underplaying it marvelously with Kristen Scott Thomas.

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Was their “chance meeting” with Mimi, chance at all? Why them? Are Oscar and Mimi looking for friends, play mates, or suckers for a long con? One doesn’t really know, because Polanski, being Polanski only lets you see and hear what he wants you to see and hear (The muted, discussion scene from Rosemary’s Baby) what he wants you to see and hear. And this film has more than its share. And is better for it.

All aided by sunny skied and rain damp street on location Cinematography by Tonio Delli Colli. Who makes romantic backdrops and scenery even more romantic. While being aided and reinforced by an original soundtrack from Vangelis.


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


Thoughts on this film and/or Roman Polanski? Let it be known in the comments.

FlixChatter [Guest] Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

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Nicolas Winding Refn made a name for himself after directing 2011’s Drive, many thought that film should’ve been nominated for best picture at the Oscars. I really enjoyed it but I thought it’s more style-over-substance type of movie, so when Only God Forgives was announced as his next movie, I hoped it would actually be less style and more good storytelling. Unfortunately that was not the case, in fact OGF might be a prime example of a film that’s all style and not much substance.

The film begins with a scene at a Thai boxing arena, we’re first introduced to Julian (Ryan Gosling) and his brother Billy (Tom Burke). We then were shown that the boxing arena is actually a front for drug dealings runs by both Julian and Billy. Later Billy decided to go out and have some fun. He went to a local whore house and asked the pimp if he has any 14 year girls that he can have sex with. The pimp told him no and Billy went crazy and beat up him up. A few minutes later, Billy was able to find a young hooker on the street. The next scene we see cops are surrounding a hotel where Billy took the young hooker.

Here’s where we were introduced to Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), he’s some sort of a police chief and pretty much the judge, jury and executioner. As it turned out, Billy raped and murdered the young hooker. Chang surveyed the scene and then brought in the hooker’s father, he let the father go into the room and beats Billy to death. Then Chang lectured the father about letting his daughter have sex for money, the father begged for his forgiveness but Chang decided to punish him by chopping one of his arms off. Later on, Billy’s and Julian’s mom Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrived from the States. She wants revenge for her son’s death and orders a hit on everyone who was responsible for his death.

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There’s isn’t much story in this film, it’s basically a revenge flick that involves people killing one another. Refn seems to be more interested in showing moving images than actually telling a story. Here he mimic other filmmakers such as Kubrick, Lynch, Malick and his idol Alejandro Jodorowsky. In fact, he dedicated this film to Jodorowsky and the film kind of reminds me of Santa Sangre, Jodorowsky’s weird thriller that involves a mother and son. Many shots in the movie reminded me of Kubrick’s The Shining and Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Then there’s the visual and music which reminds me of Malick’s films. I think this was one of the few films I saw where the cameras hardly moved, Refn seems to be using many steady cam shots and have his actors do most of the moving around.

Performance-wise, I think the actors did as well as they could considering that the script had no plot whatsoever. Gosling hardly spoke throughout the film, all he did was either stare at the actors across from him or walking around looking somber. I’m not sure what Refn wanted out of that role. I’m curious as to how the character would’ve turned had Luke Evans starred in it, he had to back out because of scheduling conflicts with The Hobbit. Pansringarm’s Chang is some kind of god or higher power being, he walks around with dark clothes and no one can seem to hurt or kill him, my assumption is that the film’s title refers to him. I think the best performance belongs to Kristin Scott Thomas, she reminded me of Gary Oldman’s performance in Leon: The Professional. It’s way over the top performance but you somehow believe that kind of person do exist in real life.

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There’s been a lot of talk about the film’s violent content and yes it’s quite brutal. But not as bad some of the more extreme films such as Irreversible, Hostel or any of those torture porn flicks. Refn actually cut away some of the more violent scenes or he just didn’t show it. I’m actually glad he did that because I don’t think I can handle some of the more brutal scenes, like the rape of the young hooker, I hate rape scenes, I find them more disturbing and disgusting than seeing someone getting their head blown off. Now he did show some quite violent sequences, especially the scene where Chang tortured a guy who put out a hit on him, that was hard to watch.

Despite my not-so-enthusiastic review, I actually enjoyed this film. It has some great visual shots, Refn and his camera guy really did a good job of capturing the gritty look of Bangkok. There are some cool action sequences too, I really like the way Refn set up the scene where Chang and his men were ambushed by a bunch of thugs. But the highlight sequence for me was the much-advertised fight scene between Julian and Chang. Those expecting a big fight like other martial arts films will probably be disappointed, the fight actually ended pretty quickly. Since Chang is an experienced kick-boxer, he was able to kick the crap out of Julian easily. Thai actress/pop star Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, who’s apparently a big star in her native country, plays a call girl whom Julian is a frequent customer, but her role is not really significant in the film.

With a better script that focuses more on storytelling and characters development, this could’ve been a great crime thriller. I wanted to know more about Julian’s relationship with his mother, it sort of implied that she had sex with both of her sons, which is why both of them are so messed up. Then there’s Chang. Even though he’s written as this sort of higher being, I wanted to know more about him. If this was written by Quentin Tarantino, I think it would’ve been a great gangster flick. Even though I have a lot of complaints about this film, I really liked it and probably will see it again soon. Fans of Drive might be disappointed though but if you’re a fan of Kubrick, Malick or Lynch, you might like this film.


3 out of 5 reels


TedS_post


Thoughts on this film? Agree/disagree w/ this review? Well, let’s hear it!

Traveling Through Cinema: London

TravelingThruCinema_London It should not be a surprise that I’m an Anglophile, seeing how many British-related stuff I put on this blog 😀 Well, since my good friend Becky (aka Prairegirl) is visiting London in a few weeks, I thought I’d feature one of my all time favorite cities for my Traveling Through Cinema series. Yes, I kind of drop the ball with this series as my first one set in Bruges was back in January, but I’m going to try to do this once a month. OldTimesPlayOne of the reasons for Becky’s visit is to go see Harold Pinter’s theatrical play Old Times at the Harold Pinter Theater starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Rufus Sewell and Lia Williams. Yes I know, lucky girl!! I mean she’ll get to see Rufus LIVE in person on stage! I wish I could go along with her to London, but for now I’d have to live vicariously through her.


By the way, I’m excluding the London tube scenes as I’ve already made a post specifically on that in London Tube and the Movies post.


So with that in mind, here are some of my favorite London scenery from contemporary films (90s and beyond):

28 Days Later (2002)

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I found a great blog post describing the scene above so perfectly…

The setting of the film is … 28 days after a devastating plague swept through England. Jim (Cillian Murphy) is a London courier who was previously struck by a car on his route and plunged into a deep coma before the world came crumbling down around him. The world he awakens to is vacant madness, as the hospital he finds himself in is trashed and abandoned. He cries out for anyone still around. He’s weak and disoriented and hasn’t eaten for quite a while. Some sugary sodas give him some strength as he leaves the hospital, only to find more emptiness. London has been abandoned completely, with not a soul in sight. His cries go unanswered as debris gives him a hint as to what has happened. Missing people. Vigils for those departed. Old newspapers telling of a mysterious infestation.

An Education (2009)

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A coming-of-age tale set in 1960s London

Batman Begins (2005)

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Alfred Pennyworth: Took quite a fall, didn’t we, Master Bruce? Thomas Wayne: And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Bridget Jones Diary (2001)

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Bridget: I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Well, I meant it, but I was so stupid that I didn’t mean what I meant… After all, it’s only a diary. Everyone knows diaries are just… full of crap. Mark Darcy: Yes, I know that. I was just buying you a new one. BridgetJonesDiaryKissFinale Bridget: Wait a minute… nice boys don’t kiss like that. Mark Darcy: Oh, yes, they f***ing do.

Children of Men (2006)

ChildrenOfMenLondon

The explosion scene as the film’s protagonist Theo (Clive Owen) exits a cafe is one of the most harrowing and memorable opening sequence I’ve ever seen. I could even hear the ringing sound after the explosion happen on screen, which I heard is a deliberate effect the filmmaker did to give the effect of what a loud explosion may do to your ears.

Finding Neverland (2004)

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Beautiful scenes of J.M. Barrie & Sylvia Llewelyn Davies’ family in Kensington Gardens

Harry Potter

There are too many great London scenes in this franchise that I have to break them down to several collages.

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Harry through the years… at the train station

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In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and Harry fled a wedding after learning that the Death Eaters were coming for them, and ended up in Piccadilly Circus.

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Death Eaters attack the Millennium Bridge

The police are continuing with the investigation into the cause of the Millennium Bridge disaster. River traffic has been halted as police search for survivors. The surrounding area remains closed. The Mayor has urged Londoners to remain calm…

— A Muggle radio broadcast

Love, Actually (2003)

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Notting Hill (1999)

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Nowhere Boy (2009)

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Retro London – John Lennon’s early years from the mid 40s and 50s

John: Why couldn’t God make me Elvis? Julia: ‘Cause he was saving you for John Lennon!

Rocknrolla (2008)

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A beautifully-shot, memorable scene in a fabulous London museum

..

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

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I love the art direction of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. The Oscar nomination for this category is absolutely well deserved. I love how the CGI somehow still look and feel organic, and it captured the gritty atmosphere of the time and place. The incomplete Tower Bridge looked spectacular in the finale battle between Holmes and his nemesis Lord Henry Blackwood. This article by setdecorators.org says Ritchie brought a new, energetic perspective to the enduring adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “While our story is rooted in London of the 1890s, we have tried to make it as contemporary as we possibly can,” Ritchie said.

Skyfall (2012)

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A reflective scene of Bond on a rooftop overlooking his beloved city

The King’s Speech (2010)

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Lionel Logue: What was your earliest memory? King George VI: I’m not… -here to discuss… -personal matters. Lionel Logue: Why are you here then? King George VI: Because I bloody well stammer!

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Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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Zombies attacked London! Thank goodness for Shaun and co!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

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A frill-free spy thriller in 1960s London

Control: All I want from you is one codename: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier… George Smiley: …Spy.

X-Men First Class (2011)

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Erik Lehnsherr: After tomorrow, they are gonna turn on us. But you are blinded because you believe they are all like Moira. Charles Xavier: And you believe they are all like Shaw. Listen to me very carefully, my friend: killing Shaw will not bring you peace. Erik Lehnsherr: Peace was never an option.

V for Vendetta (2005)

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The Parliament goes ka-boom!

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot… – Evey

The Young Victoria (2009)

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Love rules all. Queen Victoria & Prince Albert.

Now, this movie has not been released yet but based on the trailer, looks like All Things To All Men would have a TON of great London scenes (and gorgeous Brits), especially the ones in the London Eye! I’m a bit obsessed with that Ferris Wheel, if I lived in London I probably would go on there every weekend, ahah.

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Toby Stephens in a scene at the London Eye


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Well, hope you enjoy my favorite London scenery in the movies. Certainly it’s not a comprehensive list by any means, so please feel free to add YOUR own favorite in the comments.

Weekend Viewing Roundup: People Like Us, Mission: Impossible 1996 + Hansel & Gretel Guest Review

Well, it’s another Wintry weekend here in MN with snow and plummeting temps. But I’m looking forward to 30 degrees above zero this week, ahah.

Well, it’s relatively unproductive as I only saw two movies this weekend as I spent some time working on my ARGO write-up for The Lamb Devour The Oscars series.

ThiArgo_UKposters is part of a 32-part series dissecting the 85th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars.

Click on the poster to see my full post.

Do check out the other entries of the LAMB Oscar series.
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Here are mini reviews of the two films I saw over the weekend:

People Like Us

While settling his recently deceased father’s estate, a salesman discovers he has a sister whom he never knew about, leading both siblings to re-examine their perceptions about family and life choices.

PeopleLikeUs_posterBoth my hubby and I wanted to see this when we saw the trailer. The two lead actors, Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks are both likable and charismatic, and I’m glad this wasn’t another silly rom-com or a Nicholas Sparks lovey-dovey romance. Instead, the film follows the journey of two incredibly flawed characters whose paths crossed after a famous record producer died after a long battle with cancer. Sam, a brash salesman, has been estranged from his dad for some time, in fact, he despised him so much he tried to weasel his way out of going to his funeral! But when his father left him a large sum of money and left a note for him to give him to someone named Josh Davis, it led to a journey that would change his life forever.

The film is quite predictable and at times perhaps seems rather formulaic, but what I do like is the emotional resonance. One can’t help but deeply sympathize for Sam, Frankie (Banks) and her son Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario). There’s also a brief but effective performance from Michelle Pfeiffer as Pine’s mother. There are a lot of honest, heart-rending dialog between the two, and all the actors believably played their roles. At times I was frustrated by Sam’s decisions in keeping the ‘secret’ from Frankie about who he really is. In fact there’s one tense moment where Frankie’s rage was justified. I kept thinking what I would do if I were in her situation.

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It’s interesting to note that this was Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut. He and Roberto Orci are the writers of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness you just saw the trailer last night. This is quite a different role for Pine though, there’s the cool confidence he projected as Sam, but there’s also some vulnerable moments that he was able to capture as well.

Despite some slow moments, I think People Like Us is a decent drama that manages to move me. There are some great music here and interesting camera work that adds to the level of enjoyment. I’d say give this movie a shot if you’re looking for something to rent. Not a bad first effort from Kurtzman, curious to see what he’d tackle on next.

..3.5 reels


Mission: Impossible (1996) – rewatch

An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.

MissionImpossible1PosterThanks to Ted for lending me the Blu-ray. It’s been ages since I saw this movie and I must admit I didn’t really care for it. It was just way too convoluted for its own good, and not nearly as entertaining as the latest movie. Upon second viewing though, I think I appreciate it a bit more, and it’s not as impossible to follow as I thought previously. Still, I think Tom Cruise and this franchise gets better with age.

Speaking of age, this film certainly feels dated, especially when Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) was on the plane watching the tape, ahah. It just looked so primitive! I didn’t remember how great the cast was though, especially Kristin Scott Thomas and Vanessa Redgrave, both are sadly underutilized and not on screen long enough for my liking. The star of the show, as always, is Cruise as Ethan Hunt. The special features said he apparently loved the TV series, and certainly his um, mission to bring it to the big screen has paid off given how profitable this franchise has been.

The first part of the film has quite a different tone than the finale, it even felt like it’s a whole different film. Brian De Palma framed the whole failed mission and the chase through the streets of Prague like a Hitchcockian conspiracy noir, but by the end it was on a full-throttle Michael Bay style action flick with a chopper flying inside a tunnel and exploding, of course with the main hero unscathed.

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Overall it was entertaining enough, the most memorable sequence when Hunt & co. tried to hack into the CIA mainframe through the roof still holds up. Jean Reno was especially hilarious in that sequence, but the rest of Hunt’s team wasn’t really given much to do. I don’t mind that there isn’t as much action set pieces here as in the other MI films, but at the same time De Palma seems to take this film way too seriously whilst the twist is actually pretty predictable. Thankfully, the franchise only gets better and the fourth film was excellent as Brad Bird could deliver a fast-paced and thrilling ride from start to finish.

Interesting that as I watched the Special Features, Cruise barely aged from movie to movie! He looked practically 17 in this movie, he’s just so boyish looking. So I guess that’s a good thing as even now that he’s 50, he actually looks about 40 which is what I’d expect Ethan Hunt to be.

3.5 reels


Hansel & Gretel : Witch Hunters

– thanks to my friend Ashley S. for her review!

HanselGretel3DposterVan Helsing meets Kill Bill in this original retelling of the classic fairytale, Hansel and Gretel.  Say goodbye to cliché fairytale nursery rhymes and hello to a badass duo, who set the record straight on being “victims” and take action into their own hands. This isn’t your average bombs and explosions action packed movie, but a blend of brutal yet simplistic medieval weaponry with sleek and highly functional modern technology. The fight scenes take place across murky waters, gorgeous forests, pious villages, and, oh yes, a candy covered house.

The makeup, wardrobe and props were spectacular! Each witch’s makeup was unique to her own evil attributes, but gave a nod to traditional folklore, without having to throw on a crooked nose and warts (burn her!).

The actors weren’t afraid to get down and dirty, either. When one is a witch hunter, one is bound to end up covered in their work—literally. There were several close up shots of the lovely Gemma Arterton covered in goop (almost as if she were being slimed), but even covered in blood, guts and dirt, she still manages to look beautiful, sigh. But what good would a period film be if we didn’t catch the main actor in only his pantaloons? Don’t worry! Jeremy Renner doesn’t disappoint and bares his chest (or more) to ease his aches and pains.

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The short, snappy and dry dialogue is similar to other popular romacolypes (romantic apocalypse) movies like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. Be on the lookout for subtle and not so subtle hints of modern day culture amidst medieval inconvenience, which fits perfectly into the growing popularity of the “fairytale” genre. The movie isn’t just fantasy or action, but simply takes a classic bedtime story and turns it into something fun for every child-at-heart, adult. All in all, if you’re looking to be pleasantly surprised, have a few laughs and quite possibly be a little disturbed, this is the movie for you. It’s fun, unexpected and will leave you hoping for more movies like it to come.


Thoughts on these movies, folks? Do share your own weekend viewings in the comments.