(Indie) Weekend Roundup: Today’s Special and The Heir Apparent Reviews

Bella proves she’s now one tough vampire chick by… arm wrestling??!

The Twi-hards rejoice once again with the release of the last movie of the behemoth Twilight franchise (wahoo!! free at last!) Their purchasing power truly cannot be denied! $141 mil this weekend alone domestically, topping the first part of Breaking Dawn‘s $138 mil. I did see the first part as my Twi-hard colleague lent me her dvd, I probably wait until she does the same thing again next year, simply for the unintentionally hilarious moments now that Bella joins her man as a vampire herself.

I skipped the cinema this weekend as I just wasn’t that interested in Lincoln and I sort of lost interest in Anna Karenina. I think I’ll just rent that instead. I doubt Keira with all her pouting could convey the depth of Tolstoy’s beloved character as he envisioned her in the book.

So my hubby and I opted for a couple of indies from Netflix Instant instead and we really enjoyed both of them. Here are my mini reviews:

Today’s Special (2009)

A young Manhattan chef Samir rediscovers his heritage and his passion for life through the enchanting art of cooking Indian food.

This 2009 foodie comedy is loosely inspired by the lead actor Aasif Mandvi‘s off-Broadway play, Sakina’s Restaurant. You might remember the Indian-American actor as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and also as Mr. Aziz of “Joe’s Pizza” in Spider-Man 2. He’s also done supporting parts in films like The Proposal, The Last Airbender and Margin Call.

Nice to see him in a leading role here and I immediately sympathized with his character Samir, a sous chef in a posh Manhattan restaurant who dreams of making it big. But when he’s passed over for another promotion, Samir promptly quits and plans to move to France, but fate has a different plan for him and he ends up taking care of his dad’s rundown Indian restaurant.

On top of that, Samir has to deal with family issues, the typical overbearing mother who wants to find him a Muslim wife, and a disillusioned father who constantly berates him that he’s not as good as his deceased brother. Samir’s personal journey is peppered with humor, heart-warming moments, and chock-full of hilariously eccentric characters. I love that even the minor characters — such as this one kitchen worker who could only say yes and no — are quite memorable.

The scene-stealer here is Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah as the free-spirited taxi driver Akbar whose chance meeting with Samir one night could be the best thing that ever happened to him. I don’t ever remember Mr. Shah in anything else before which is a shame as he’s quite a charismatic actor and his character is just so darn charming!

Just like any movies about food, the scenery is really mouth-watering. I tell you, it made me crave Indian food watching Akbar mentor Samir on the art of cooking Indian cuisine. Akbar is a passionate chef who cooks from the heart, which goes with the tagline of the film, ‘Life Has No Recipe.’ The relationship between these two are the best part of the film, as the romance between Samir and his former colleague (Jess Weixler) isn’t explored all that well.

Overall it’s an enjoyable ‘cultural comedy’ if you will, but anyone should be able to relate to its universal theme of family, friendship and the message of making the most of one’s ‘broken dream.’ I highly recommend this if you’re in the mood for an enjoyable off-the-beaten-path comedy.

4 out of 5 reels


The Heir Apparent (2008)

After a powerful billionaire is murdered, his secret adoptive son must race to prove his legitimacy, find his father’s killers and stop them from taking over his financial empire.

I remember seeing the trailer for this movie a while back but didn’t remember the title. Apparently this film is based on a graphic novel by a Belgian comic artist Philippe Francq, who incidentally is a big fan of the Tintin comics I grew up with. What I love about this film is its international flavor, which reminds me of Bond movies in the way it was shot in many exotic locations.

The protagonist is Largo Winch, played by French actor of Israeli-descent Tomer Sisley, a reluctant heir to a billionaire magnate, Nerio Winch. Largo gets entangled in a corporate conspiracy theory following the death of his adopted father. He has to prove his legitimacy to the shareholder of his late father’s company, the W Group, and also find out who kills him.

The film has some flashback scenes on Largo’s adoption and upbringing, both when he was living with a Croatian family designated by Nerio himself, and how Largo’s father has always prepared him to be his chosen heir. This personal journey of Largo keeps the story grounded, even if the twists start to pile up and the action gets more and more bombastic. Director Jérôme Salle likely borrows the style from Bond and Bourne movies, there are all kinds of chase scenes to be found here. Motorbike chase, car chase, foot chase, you name it, there’s even a scene of the hero falling into the ocean that’s highly reminiscent of Bourne Supremacy.

But despite its lack of originality, I think this is a pretty enjoyable and slick action adventure that should please action fans. There’s enough suspense and beautiful cinematography of exotic locales to keep up entertained as well. There’s one breathtaking scene where Largo rides a boat to a round island that’s supposedly near Malta (see below), but it was filmed in Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily, Italy. The scenery rivals that of a Bond film which is quite impressive given it’s only got a $30 mil budget.

I think Sisley is a pretty appealing leading man, even if he’s not exactly the most-skilled actor. He’s got a devil-may-care attitude to him, but he’s also got a warm side to him, especially during the scenes with his adopted mother Hannah. Apart from Kristin Scott Thomas, who’s excellent as always, most of the supporting cast is unknown. I think I’ve only seen Mélanie Thierry in the The Princess of Montpensier trailer and she’s got quite a steamy scene with Sisley. They use various languages here as well which enhances a level of authenticity and the music by multiple Oscar-nominee Alexandre Desplat is worth noting as well.

I like this one enough that I might actually check out the sequel, The Burma Conspiracy, which has the same director as this one.

4 out of 5 reels


So that’s my weekend roundup, folks. What did YOU watch this weekend?

Encore Entertainment’s Essential Performances of the 90s Showdowns – Game # 13

My friend Andrew, the ever so eloquent blogger of Encore’s World of Film & TV has kindly invited me to take part of his gargantuan tournament of 90s performances on film. The goal is to determine the single performance, chosen by you fine lovers of cinema, that is worthy to be the BEST of the decade. Andrew asked me to do a write up to a couple of the showdowns [you can see the entire bracket here], and this is the first of my two showdowns.

Please take part in this well, essential blog event by casting your VOTE and make your voice heard!

Without further ado, here’s my writeup for Game 13:

Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects (1995) as Roger “Verbal” Kint

Spacey won Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role and his Keyser Söze role has deservedly become a cult favorite. In fact, it’s become something of a representation for deception “[so and so] pulled a goddamn Keyser Soze on me!” A villainous role is often a juicy one, but even more so is a dual role, and Spacey did his best scene-stealing turn as Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint that put his star on the map in Hollywood. His mannerism, nervous tick, limp walk, shifty eyes are so darn convincing that we have no choice but believe that he’s who he says he is, a down-on-his-luck petty crook who gets entangled with the more talented felons. Even in a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro and Chazz Palminteri, Spacey dominates the screen up until the very last scene when he pulls the rug right from under you with aplomb.

VS.


Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient (1996) as Katherine Clifton

Kristin Scott Thomas’ work as the unfaithful wife caught in a torrid affair is a heartbreaking one full subtle nuances. I have always liked her as an actress. She has this melancholic look about her and also something deeply enigmatic and impenetrable that I find intriguing. The second Katherine Clifton danced with the handsome Count Laszlo de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes, looking as gorgeous as ever), she was done for. She was bashful at the way intense way he looked at her, but she too was embarrassed at her own attraction towards him. It’s the kind of unbridled desire that neither of them could avoid.

Yet there is certain sadness in her eyes, that guilt she cannot shake for betraying her husband. The chemistry between these two British actors is so palpable that I can’t help but gasp as they consummate their passion, mere yards away from her husband chatting away with fellow party-goers. I’d think passion is hard to fake even for actors, but the way she looked at Fiennes’ character felt so real. Even her subtle protest ‘don’t’ when he calls her ‘Mrs. Clifton’ … there is nothing artificial about her performance. The same could be said about her other work I suppose, but her role in Anthony Minghella’s masterpiece is no doubt her shining hour.

So…

Which of these is the finer performance of the 90s?


Please cast your VOTE on Andrew’s blog and/or let me know your pick and why in the comments.

Double Screening Reviews: Jeff Who Lives At Home & Salmon Fishing in The Yemen

Happy Thursday all! Today I bring you two mini reviews that my friend Haley and I saw at an advanced screening this week.

Jeff, Who Lives At Home

Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Stars: Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Judy Greer

Let me preface by saying I’m no writer, in fact a sheer sense of panic set in when Ruth asked me to write a review for her blog. I’m also no film connoisseur, but I am a visual person and movies are stories in pictures, I love that. Also, someone once told me that life begins when you step outside your comfort zone, so here goes…

So last night, I went with a group of 5 to a screening of Jeff, Who Lives at Home at the Lagoon Cinema in Uptown, Minneapolis. I must say, it was a far cry from Steve McQueen’s Shame I saw a couple of weeks prior that left me feeling uncomfortable, dirty and a overwhelmingly unsettled. But this isn’t about Shame…I still don’t know how I feel about that one.

The consensus for Jeff, Who Lives at Home was determined unanimously over post-movie drinks to be “Almost great”. Although it all left us with warm fuzzies and wondering what signs in our lives we may have been ignoring, it certainly wasn’t what we had expected. So many movies these days market themselves as comedies, cause everyone likes to laugh and feel good, but this was a different approach and may very well have been the best way to get people into the theater with a cast of comedians. It was funny, don’t get me wrong, and there was probably even one too many jokes about the unusually large size of Jason Segel, but definitely more of a drama than a comedy.

One of my friends proclaimed “Well, I liked it and I usually hate most movies”, so even with the toughest critics it seemed to hit some sort of chord. Despite not being great and not quite what we were expecting it was good. And as much as the yogi in me wants to trust in everything and have faith in the universe that eventually our destiny will be revealed I also sympathize with the skeptics and realists in the world that have been burned too many times by trusting in their optimism.

So if you are looking to be uplifted, laugh a little and almost shed a tear at the end, then this movie is for you. If you ever find yourself wondering if that little seemingly insignificant thing that happened to you today meant something more, than this movie is for you. If you have ever found yourself searching for meaning in life and know you were meant for great things that just haven’t revealed themselves yet, then this is for you. If you are looking for a naked Jason Segel and toothless Ed Helms then you may be somewhat disappointed. But for all the dreamers and optimists (or wannabes) in search of inspiration and happiness we so desperately need in our lives, this is a flick that shouldn’t be missed. Not to mention, I’ve always secretly wished Susan Sarandon was my Mom.

3 out of 5 reels

Review by Haley K.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Director: Lasse Hallström
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas

This movie is one of my most anticipated films I listed on this post, so when I got advanced screening tickets from my pal Ted, I was very excited. Thankfully it did not disappoint!

The one thing that grabbed me right away is the bizarre story, based on a novel of the same name by Paul Torday. I mean Salmon fishing in Yemen?? I mean how could the species that thrive in cold water survive in the hot climate of the Middle East??

Well, the protagonist Fred Jones (McGregor), a fisheries expert for the British government, ponders the exact same thing when he receives this peculiar request. His first meeting with a rep for a wealthy sheik (Blunt) at her office is quite a hoot to watch, especially the scene of him illustrating the impossibility of this project and making up some incredibly high amount of money (50 million Pounds!) in attempt to dissuade the sheik. But obviously money is no object and the sheik is willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen.

The sheik (Waked) mentions the notion of faith frequently to the atheistic Jones, challenging him that there’s more to life than ‘facts and figures.’ It’s not so much faith in religious terms so much as a conviction and believing that something could happen against all odds. The Egyptian-born Waked is so darn charismatic and charming, perfectly cast as a kind and wise Arab royalty who actually has a purpose for this seemingly preposterous project and not simply to indulge on his salmon fishing hobby.

This film is quite tricky to categorize, I mean it’s sold as a rom-com but there are elements of environmentalism, foreign relations and even terrorism, though not in a way you’d expect. In fact, it’s a rare film where a wealthy Arab is portrayed in a positive light and breaks the stereotype that not all of them want to blow up the West.

The casting is definitely a strong point here. McGregor and Blunt have a sweet chemistry together, and their slow-burn romance is wonderful to watch. Blunt has a more emotional performance here, which works pretty well against the more deadpan McGregor. I definitely enjoy seeing Scott Thomas in a comedic role as an over-zealous Britain Press Secretary. She’s so sarcastic it’s downright cruel, bossing everyone around including her own boss the Prime Minister. The iPhone chat between the two is pretty funny, but her reaction seeing the Arab guards dressed in Scottish kilts at the sheik’s castle prompted the most laughter, ‘Oooh, happy birthday Patricia!’

Aside from the few surprising twists and the quirky premise, this movie doesn’t really break new grounds. A lot of the scenes are quite predictable, but Swedish director Lasse Hallström’s direction made for an enjoyable and heart-warming movie. There are also gorgeous scenery of the Scottish highlands (and the sheik’s sprawling estate) and also Morocco which subs for Yemen.

So yeah, Salmon Fishing in Yemen is a fun catch (pardon the pun). It probably won’t be as fondly remembered as Chocolat, but I don’t even mind renting this again one day on DVD.

4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen any of these? If not, do either of them appeal to you?

Hollywood Movie Draft Pitch IV: A Crime Drama by Kenneth Branagh

The 2012 Hollywood Fantasy League is now upon us! This extremely fun and addictive blogathon is created by none other than my friend Castor (who sadly has now disappeared from the blogosphere). This is my fourth time I’m participating  in this blog-a-thon, you can find links to my previous three pitches in this post.

I have drafted my director and actors last December, so you can read the rules and rationale on this post. Just to reiterate, this time around there’s a bit of a twist beyond simply assembling our favorite set of thespians. Besides limiting the cast to 3 actors and 3 actresses, there is also a competitive component to the HFL game where each player’s score is measured by the events affecting the filmmakers/actors of their choice. So if an actor I pick is cast in a mega-blockbuster or end up getting thrown in jail for a DWI, I may gain or lose points based on those events. Anyway, without further ado, let’s just get on the pitch, shall we?

LOGLINE:

A crime drama about a former gangster turned crime novelist who’s dragged into his dark past by his former aide looking to avenge the death of his brother. This is not an action film but more cerebral and suspenseful in nature, set with moody music and beautiful cinematography. My inspiration is Road to Perdition.

BACKGROUND:

Story is set in Boston in the mid 60s. I’ve always liked a period film with all the retro set pieces, cars, clothes, etc. and the characters will be mostly Irish-Americans. The protagonist is Vincent Moran, a crime novelist under a pseudonym Connor McEarleane (combining the last names of his grandparents) who’s given up his criminal lifestyle for 15 years. What starts out as an innocuous way to alleviate his writer’s block ends up being much bigger than any of the players had originally anticipated.

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

Originally I drafted Branagh as I wanted the story to be set in Ireland, but I think he’s still going to be a good fit for this film as the characters are mostly Irish-American and Branagh’s done a noir film before, Dead Again. I’m thinking he could work with someone like The Departed screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) to create a compelling noir drama that’s heavy in character development. Branagh would also go well with a lot of actors with theatrical background like Gabriel Byrne, Tom Hiddleston and Rebecca Hall.

The Irish thespian would also have a cameo as Moran’s editor in the film.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

Gabriel Byrne is Vincent Moran, a 53-year-old chain-smoking, fedora-wearing Irish-American who’s left his life as a gangster 15 years ago. He’s penned several best-seller crime novels under a pseudonym Connor McEarleane (combining the last names of his grandparents), but is currently suffering from a massive writer’s block.
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Tom Hiddleston is Eddie Stokes, 37-year-old railroad engineer who was one of Vincent’s men. His brother Mike was Vincent’s former aide who’s killed by Vincent’s former rival, Liam Winter. Eddie’s been trying to get away from the crime business for years, but he just couldn’t let go of his brother’s death.
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Rebecca Hall is Evelyn Dillon, 34-year-old aspiring actress who works part time at Emerson College as an associate drama teacher. She’s Eddie’s girlfriend, but also caught in an affair with the charming and persistent Danny. Evelyn’s also a victim of the Mob as her dad was accidentally killed during a shootout at his factory.
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Richard Armitage is Daniel ‘Danny’ McGrath, 38-year-old childhood friend of Eddie who’s an undercover cop investigating a corruption involving the Irish-American Mob. As a youngster, he watched his family members rise and fall under them so this mission is a personal one.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Vincent’s loyal wife Sylvia, who has chronic heart disease. When she almost died of heart failure 15 years ago, she pleaded with Vincent to leave the Mob and live peacefully for the sake of their family. She’s now serves at the board of a local Heart Foundation.

Saiorse Ronan is Claire Moran, Vincent’s only child who’s the apple of her dad’s eye. She’s 19 and is a drama major at Emerson College. She was rebellious in her early teen years, hanging out with the wrong crowd and had bouts of drug addiction. But ever since Evelyn befriends her, she’s much calmer and has become closer to her parents.

\;.;

Special thanks to my friend Stella K. @ Byrneholics.com for helping me with some of the plot points.

PROLOGUE:

Flashback of a disheveled and swollen-eyed Vincent at the hospital next to his ill wife Sylvia after an open heart surgery. Vincent tells her to keep his promise if she lives this time, that is he’d leave the Mob business, something Sylvia has pleaded with him repeatedly. The scene then changes to Vincent smoking profusely in his study, surrounded by crumpled paper all around him and cigarette butts piling up on his ashtray. He’s having a major writer’s block for months and he thinks being away from the crime underworld is making him dull.

THE SET UP:

ACT I

It’s a crisp late Autumn evening, suddenly Vincent receives a call from his former employer Eddie who demands to see him at once. Eddie has been trying to track him down for the past two years for he wants Vincent to help him bring down his former rival Liam Winter [I’m thinking someone like Terrence Stamp in this role] to avenge his brother’s death. Eddie’s brother Mike was Vincent’s former aide.

At first Vincent was reluctant to get back into the criminal underworld he’s left behind so long ago, but Mike was a loyal employer to him, plus this might help him get his creative juice back. But Vincent makes Eddie promise that he’d be patient with this plan as they have to be very careful to bring down someone like Liam.

Meanwhile, Danny’s mission to infiltrate Liam’s fast-growing empire is made even trickier as Eddie constantly pesters him for information. Danny insists that he’d help Eddie bring Liam to justice but his mission is to bring the Mob boss alive so the force could use him to arrest the others, but of course Eddie just wants Liam dead. Eddie’s always got a complicated relationship with Danny as there’s always a trace of rivalry between them, and to make things worse, they both fall for the same woman when both of them met Evelyn as she’s waiting tables at a local bar.

ACT II

The Eddie + Vincent’s collaboration is far from smooth. They’re always at each other’s throats whenever they meet to go over their plans of attack. Before long, Vincent realizes that Eddie’s so consumed with his vengeance that he’s become reckless and impulsive that his behavior puts both of them in danger. This plan also puts a strain on Eddie’s relationship with Evelyn as he’s become volatile. One minute he’s sweet as can be, taking her on the town and showering her with love, but the next he’s irritable and insolent. A few times Evelyn runs into Danny when Eddie’s suddenly gone missing for days and she vents to him. Danny made a promise to Eddie never to reveal any of his plans involving the Mob to Evelyn as they both know that is the one thing Evelyn would never tolerate. Danny tries his best not to be overcome by his jealousy towards Eddie but at the same time he can’t suppress his feelings for Evelyn.

Weeks go by and Vincent’s getting restless that his dark past is creeping up on him and he suspects that Eddie has something to do with it. Vincent’s editor Gus Foshay (possibly Branagh doing a cameo in this role) has been pestering him about Vincent missing the deadline for his next novel and he comments about a rumor that Vincent was involved in some shady stuff in the past, and whether the publishing company need to be worried about that. Vincent assures Gus it’s all just hearsay, but he realizes that in this business, one can never be too trusting or too careful, which means that everyone who knew about his past ought to be silenced. Talking to Sylvia that night, not only does she concur that idea, but that she urges her husband to do whatever it takes to ensure their family’s well-being.

ACT III

Claire comes home for Christmas and brings along her drama teacher Evelyn who’ve become good friends ever since Claire takes her classes. Evelyn’s supposed to spend Christmas with Eddie but he cancels at the last minute, saying he gets call off to work. As Evelyn has no clue who Vincent is nor his scheme with Eddie, she casually mentions about how spending time with the Morans helps her get over her disappointment of not spending Christmas with her boyfriend. Vincent eventually figures out that her boyfriend is Eddie and this makes him even more convinced that getting rid of Eddie would also mean protecting Evelyn from such a reckless personality who might also endanger Claire’s life if Evelyn ends up marrying him.

Before returning home that evening, Evelyn drops by Eddie’s house to grab something she had left there but finds Eddie lying on the floor with blood all over. It turns out that he’s got a tip that Liam was going to be at some Christmas dinner and decides he’s going to take him out on his own instead of waiting for Vincent. But he ends up in a shootout with some of Liam’s men and got shot in the upper arm.

Evelyn confronts him and so he has no choice but to tell her everything. Evelyn’s furious that Eddie’s been lying to her and so after treating his wounds, she leaves the house. Danny’s heard about the shootout and is on his way to Eddie’s when he runs into Evelyn. Danny takes the distraught Evelyn home and she tells him she’s breaking up with Eddie. Danny tells her he’s been in love with her for years and they end up sleeping together.

Early in the morning Liam and three of his men find out where Eddie lives and enter the house to kill him but Eddie’s already on the way to Vincent’s. They ransack the house and found an address written taped on a piece of paper. That address turns out to be Vincent’s home.

ACT IV

Eddie tells Vincent what happens so before Liam gets to his house, Vincent promptly takes Sylvia, Claire and Eddie into his 1963 Cadillac DeVille to his safe house in the country. Once he drops his wife and daughter there, he and Eddie heads back to the city that same night. Unbeknownst to Eddie, Vincent has made a call to Liam and told him that it’s Eddie who wants him dead. He made up a story that Vincent has no choice but to help Eddie because he threatens to kill his daughter. Vincent offered to personally deliver Eddie himself if Liam promises to leave him and his family alone. Liam sees no reason not to believe Vincent as he has been away for so long.

Back in the city – When Evelyn wakes up in the morning, she tells Danny she’s worried about Eddie. So the two heads over to Eddie’s and find the house torn to pieces. They immediately presume that Eddie’s been kidnapped by Liam. Danny calls for backup to Liam’s compound and then takes Evelyn to one of his trusted colleagues.

By the time Danny and the police get there, Liam and two of his men had been shot point blank in the head. They also find Eddie’s dead body in the same room with a gunshot to his head and a .22 cal pistol in his hand.

EPILOGUE:

Vincent drives back to his safe-house to be with his family. A brief flashback to Vincent and Eddie taking out Liam and his men, which ends with Vincent taking Liam’s pistol and aiming it at Eddie, saying “I’m sorry Eddie, but you did get your vengeance. Liam won’t ever kill again,” and pulls the trigger.

Soul jazz music blares from his stereo as the scene of Vincent driving fades into a montage of him typing away at his typewriter, inter-cut with scenes at a rainy funeral of Eddie, and ends with a close up of teary-eyed Evelyn in Danny’s arms.


Well, what do you think? Would you be interested to see a movie with this kind of story and cast? I welcome your feedback.

AM’s Hollywood Fantasy League IV – My Dream Cast

The annual Hollywood Fantasy League (HFL) is upon us again! This extremely fun and addictive blogathon is created by none other than Castor from Anomalous Material. You can see who others pick on the latest round.

I’ve participated three times before, but this time there’s a bit of a twist beyond simply assembling our favorite set of thespians. Besides limiting the cast to 3 actors and 3 actresses, there is also a competitive component to the HFL game.

Was your actor selected for a starring role in the next Christopher Nolan mega-blockbuster? Did your director receive a Golden Globe for his latest film? Did one of your actresses get thrown in jail with a DWI? You will score and/or lose points for each of these events and many more.

Well, for sure I won’t be winning this league as I’ve got a specific set in mind for my story, so I didn’t really draft them based on their ‘star-meter’ if you will, but of course they are a talented bunch who’d make any film instantly watchable. I think my cast would appeal to the International moviegoers and the indie-crowd, but not necessarily mainstream US audiences.

I will blog about the story concept sometime next year, as I’m still mulling over some ideas. But for now I can tell you that the story will take place in the UK and Ireland, primarily in Dublin and the genre is crime drama/thriller with a love story at the heart of it.

So here’s my team so far:

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Being an Irish native (Belfast-born to be exact), I think Branagh would have the advantage in knowing the history/custom of the area, and his stage background would also help in creating a compelling script (possibly working with The Departed screenwriter William Monahan). I respect him as a director after seeing Hamlet and of course Thor, and he’s recently selected by the British Indie Film Award to receive the Variety award for bringing international attention to the British film industry (per The Wrap). This project will also reunite him with Tom Hiddleston who collaborated with him on Thor and the theatrical play Ivanov.

The All-Brit Cast (in order of the draft pick)

  • Gabriel Byrne
    I need a dashing but mysterious mature actor to play the role of a powerful tycoon. He’s a mafia-like figure whose criminal business dealings are camouflaged by philanthropy and charity work. He’s a well-dressed gent with custom-made suits and fedora and with a charming personality women of all ages would flock to. He’s married to Kristin’s character and has a young daughter (Saiorse) who resents him.

  • Tom Hiddleston
    Though I’ve only seen Tom in one film, I knew right away he’s such a versatile actor. He’s quite popular with the ladies judging from the reaction at Comic-Con during The Avengers panel so I think he’d make a compelling romantic leading man with a dark side.

  • Rebecca Hall
    I’ve seen her in three different films so far and I took an immediate liking to her. She’s unusually beautiful with a certain elegance and grace about her that I find appealing. She’ll play a drama teacher and Tom’s love interest, and there is some kind of ties between her family and Gabriel that’ll be revealed in due course.
  • Richard Armitage
    He first swept me off my feet with his sensitive portrayal of Mr. Thornton in BBC’s North & South, but it’s his role in the espionage series Spooks that made me think he’s perfect for this part I have in mind. Fans of Richard will see his sexy, brooding good looks put to good use 😉

  • Kristin Scott Thomas
    This is a small but important supporting role but with someone of her caliber, she’ll definitely make a lasting impression on the viewer. She’ll play Gabriel’s loyal but conflicted wife who will have to make a drastic decision towards the end of the film.

  • Saiorse Ronan
    This massively talented 17 year-old has impressed me in Atonement and Hanna. This role I have in mind for her is a feisty, wise-beyond-her-years college freshman who resents her father and angry at her mother for not standing up to her husband. She is close to Rebecca Hall’s character as the only person she can confide in, whilst Rebecca keeps her connection to her father a secret.


So, what do you think? Would you watch a British crime drama with this kind of cast?

Flix Character Spotlight: Fiona – Four Weddings & A Funeral

It’s time for another character spotlight since I slacked off last week. The first one in the series was on the amazing-yet-under-appreciated British actor Rufus Sewell, and this time I’m featuring another Brit, actress Kristin Scott Thomas.

Please note: this post may contain spoilers

This fabulous British rom-com Four Weddings and a Funeral pretty much launched Hugh Grant’s Hollywood career. The floppy-haired, stuttering Londoner became an instant heartthrob and the movie itself garnered critical acclaim, including two Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and was a hit with audiences the world over. In fact, according to IMDb, it was the highest-grossing British film in cinema history with worldwide box office in excess of $260 million.

I’m not surprised it was such a hit as it really a charming film with the wittiest script and great performances. It’s an unconventional love story between a commitment-phobe Charles and an American woman Carrie (Andie MacDowell) that spans through… well, what the title says. Throughout their journey, Charles is always surrounded by closest group of friends, who – with the exception of the happy gay couple Matthew and Gareth – are all looking for love of their own. Amongst them, one really stood out to me is the quietly-suffering girl with a massive crush: Fiona. Before I get to the character, let me just say that I’ve always admired Kristin Scott Thomas, the 50-year-old actress always delivers top-notch performances in everything I’ve seen her in: The English Patient, The Horse Whisperer, Life as A House, Gosford Park, and Easy Virtue, among others. Most recently she garnered a BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations in the drama I’ve Loved You So Long.

Though the story is focused on the somewhat topsy-turvey romantic journey of Charles and Carrie, it’s the side story of Charles and Fiona that leaves a lasting impression on me. Sure it’s great to see the two main leads finally hooking up, and so Carrie finally gets her man in the end, la di da. But the witty, well-dressed and loyal Fiona only gets to watch the love of her life gets wrapped up in one romantic endeavor after another. Yet, it’s a testament of how great the script is that they never painted her as a victim, in fact, one doesn’t feel sorry for Fiona so much as deep empathy, as we’ve all been there before, you know, who hasn’t had an unrequited love once in their lifetime? The character also has the most memorable lines, especially the one where she had a naughty chat with the bumbling priest Father Gerald (played brilliantly by Rowan Atkinson) when discussing what it feels like to do weddings for the first time.

This scene below is one of my favorites from the movie, it’s not completely unpredictable but it still pinches your heart when you hear Fiona answers his best friend’s question with “You, Charlie.” Just as soon as she said it, she stops, perhaps regretting what she just did but knew there’s no turning back. It’s an exquisite scene, well-directed, well-written and superbly-acted by both Hugh and Kristin. In the middle of a festive, boisterous party, the mood completely shifts into something so quiet and heart-wrenching-ly real that you could almost feel Fiona’s pain and Charles’ astonishment, yet Fiona never loses her cool even as she bares her soul knowing there is no chance they could be together. What a refreshingly un-sugarcoated portrayal of the reality of love.

(Special thanks to Becky a.k.a Prairiegirl for capturing the clip for me)

If there is ever a moment where you want to scream at Charles for: one, being so darn oblivious and two, for not choosing someone as awesome as Fiona, who’s not only wealthy and beautiful but also knows him inside and out and loves him just the same, it’s this scene. But of course, love ain’t that simple, isn’t it? And perhaps, happy ending is overrated. This movie offers such a wonderful study of relationship that the best love story doesn’t always end up the way you expect it to be.

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Remember Me

Interesting title. I don’t think Robert Pattinson will ever that problem for quite some time now. With a slew of teeny-boppers — and their moms — swarm the theater to see New Moon, I couldn’t help being intrigued by the trailer of R-Patz new flix. Check it out below:

Pattinson plays a rebellious young man who has a strained relationship with his father. Tyler, who lives in New York City, is a guy who tries to break every rule. He thought no one could possibly understand what he was going through until the day he met Ally through an unusual twist of fate. However, their newfound relationship is threatened after Ally witnesses her mother’s murder and Tyler deals with the suicide of his brother, causing his parents to divorce. Moreover, hidden secrets are revealed and the circumstances that brought them together slowly threaten to tear them apart.

Pierce Brosnan plays his distant father, and they actually look believable as relatives. The rest of the excellent cast include Chris Cooper and Lena Olin, hmmm it can’t be that bad if Mr. Cooper is involved. But it’s clear this is a Pattinson’s vehicle, as the floppy-haired young Brit makes a real attempt to find a career beyond Twilight. The role doesn’t seem much of a stretch though, he’s still brooding and cranky like Edward, but at least he doesn’t sparkle =) I got to admit the guy is pretty nice to look at, though having seen the vampire flix once, I really don’t get what the fuss is about. But hey, I’m not going to bash someone’s taste, I mean we all have our guilty pleasures. It’s mostly the manic reaction and calculated overexposure that’s what’s sickening about it. To be fair, I think R-Patz and Kristen Stewart are probably a pretty gifted actors, and I for one would rather see them in other (read: better) flix.

Speaking of which, shortly after this trailer is released, it’s reported that Uma Thurman has joined the cast of his new flix Bel Ami, based on Guy de Maupassant’s short story of the same name. The story tells of George Duroy (Pattinson), a young journalist who rose from poverty to become one of the most successful men in Paris via the ruthless and calculating bedding of the city’s most glamorous and influential women. Sounds like a tailor-made role for the Hollywood boy du-jour, wouldn’t you say?

Thurman & Scott-Thomas will romance R-Patz

Kidman was rumored to have gotten the part earlier, but apparently it wasn’t a done deal. According to The Hollywood Reporter, British actress Kristin Scott Thomas also has joined the cast. Thurman’s role will be the wife of Duroy’s friend, a woman who is extremely involved and connected in the goings-on of Parisian society. She helps Duroy in his ascent, later becoming his wife. As for Thomas, she will play a socialite who falls for Duroy, becoming clingy in the process.

Let’s see how the young heartthrob fares against the two accomplished ‘mature’ actresses.