Weekend Viewing Roundup: Sam Riley, Alternative Austen & Man Up (2015) review

I cannot fix the hour or the spot, or the look or the words which lay the foundation…I was in the middle when I knew it had began…

That was a quote from Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and that pretty much applies to how I feel the same way about the actor playing him… Sam Riley.

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I fall even more under Riley’s spell now… [le sigh]

Ok, so yeah, about that weekend roundup, well the past couple of weeks has been filled with quite a few Sam Riley movies: Control (2007), Maleficent (2014), Byzantium (2012) and Franklyn (2008). I didn’t get to see Brighton Rock (2010) yet but hopefully later this week. I’m astonished at his chameleonic ability as an actor, my appreciation post on him will be quite massive let me tell you.


I did see one new release this past week, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and got a chance to chat w/ the author of the book it’s based on, Kim Barker. Review & interview of that coming next week.

Ok, so these are my weekend viewing roundup, starting with…

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

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So this is the first 2016 movie I saw twice on the big screen… and I could’ve gone for a third if it’s still playing for another weekend. Alas, I’d have to settle for all the fun gifs and clips on Tumblr until the Bluray comes out. As you may’ve read in my review, I bloody love this movie and I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Sam Riley & Lily James are now my favorite Darcy & Lizzie pairing amongst the plethora of P&P screen adaptations.

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Austenland (2014)

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Ok so naturally, watching an alternative Jane Austen movie makes me want to re-watch one of my faves from a couple of years ago. As far an Austen-inspired films go, I actually think this one is even sillier than PPZ movie, believe it or not. Some of the supporting characters are so out there and freakishly bizarre that it made me cringe at times (though that Captain East is one spectacular eye candy). Jennifer Coolidge is a hoot but she went waaay over the top at times, yes even by her standards. But the romance of Darcy & Jane (JJ Feild & Keri Russell) is lovely and of course all the misunderstandings and repressed emotions are all the stuff Austen movies are made of. (my full review)
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Man Up (2015)

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This British rom-com has a rather unconventional pairing – Simon Pegg & Lake Bell, and that’s the reason I rented it. Bell played a single woman who inadvertently *stole* a stranger’s blind date, and the film took place over the course of a single night. Bell is a natural comedienne and here she gets to show her comedic chops, and also do a pretty convincing British accent.

It’s a pretty fun rom-com even though it doesn’t always avoid the trappings of the genre and is ultimately predictable, but the two likable leads made the movie feels fresh and genuinely funny. Rory Kinnear, who I often see in more serious movies so far, is so hilariously unhinged as Bell’s not-so-secret admirer. I LOVE the London scenery, both during the day and night, which adds to the film’s charm. The finale could’ve been a bit tighter and less verbose, but I think overall this movie is well worth checking out.

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Well that’s my weekend recap. So what did YOU watch this weekend? Anything good?

2014 Recap: Top Five Favorite Movie Songs

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Ok so I started making my Top 10 Films list, in fact I have my top 9 ready to go with just one more left to include. But y’know what, I realize I should wait until later this week as I have one press screening of a 2014 film on Tuesday.

Now this one is a much easier list to include, and four of the five have pretty much been decided long ago. The fifth one I’m including here is from an earlier 2014 movie I’ve just seen recently, Begin Again. In case you missed it, I’ve posted the Top 10 Favorite Film Scores list back in December, which surprisingly doesn’t have any overlap. What’s indeed surprising to me is that two of the songs here are sung by the lead actresses of their respective films, which means I should really update my five-year-old list of actors who are surprisingly good singers. As for I’m Not In Love, I’ve actually been a fan of that song (which was released in 1975) for some time, but I had to include it here as it’s my fave song from the awesome Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. It might not be as catchy as Hooked on a Feeling but it doesn’t get old as quickly as that one.

So anyhoo, here’s my top 5:

Blackbird – Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights)

Everything’s Awesome –Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island (The Lego Movie)

Once Upon A Dream – Lana Del Rey (Maleficent)

I’m Not In Love – 10cc (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Like A Fool – Keira Knightley (Begin Again)

 

Honorable Mention: 

Agony – Chris Pine & Billy Magnussen (Into The Woods)

I have to include this one as this scene is easily my favorite of the entire film! You can take a look at the hilarious clip here (it’s fuzzy as it’s recorded on the big screen) but I’m including the official song below because the quality is much better.


Thoughts on my picks here? So what’s YOUR favorite songs from the past year?

Music Break: Top 10 Favorite Film Scores of 2014

Top10FaveFilmScores2014I’m so behind on my year-end top ten lists, but hey, I think January is still a great time for those lists right? 😉 I was listening to NPR two nights ago and caught host Robert Siegel interviewing composer Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, The Road To Perdition, Wall•E, etc.) and naturally I started thinking about some of my favorite scores from 2014.

Well, there are a few that I know would make my list, but it was pretty challenging to settle on the last three or four of them. If you’ve been keeping up with my Music Break posts, you might not be surprised by some of my picks here. Now, for this list, I’m focusing on instrumental film scores instead of songs. Thus you won’t see soundtracks of The Guardians of The Galaxy for example, though I think that’s awesome! I will cover the Top 10 Songs in a separate post.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

1. Belle – Rachel Portman

For some reason I had never paid attention to Rachel Portman‘s work before, though she had quite a stellar resume scoring for Emma (that won her an Oscar), Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, Never Let Me Go, etc. I absolutely adore her lush and elegant score she did for Belle and it just suits the tone of the film so well. I’ve listened to the entire soundtrack and loved every second! If you read my review, you know how much I adore this film and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s portrayal of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Portman’s music somehow captures Belle’s emotional journey as well as the romantic side of her relationship with John Davinier.

2. Breathe In – Dustin O’Halloran

After I saw this film, I was inspired to do a list of memorable piano moments on film, but I haven’t posted the score from the film. I’m not familiar with composer/pianist Dustin O’Halloran at all, but after this one, I definitely will keep an eye (and ear) out for him. There’s a bit of Philip Glass’ influence in his work here, and sure enough, when I checked on his Wiki page, he’s influenced by Glass as well as another favorite composer of mine, Ennio Morricone. I grew up listening to piano music as my mother’s a huge fan of French pianist Richard Clayderman. There’s something so ethereal about this score that makes me swoon. The film is atmospheric and intimate, and this music complements that tone beautifully.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Henry Jackman

One of my favorite Marvel superhero movies also have one of my fave soundtracks ever. Henry Jackman should just score every Marvel movie as I LOVE LOVE his X-Men: First Class soundtrack. I thought that Alan Silvestri’s fantastic job for the first Captain America film was hard to top, yet I think Jackman managed to do an equally phenomenal work here. The first one had a strong retro vibe with unabashed patriotism that’s fun and infectious. This one the nationalistic sensibilities is toned down a bit, but the score is still dynamic but a little darker and more ominous. It’s as if the music reflects Captain’s more conflicted moral sense as he navigates the more complex and intricate world he’s suddenly thrown into.

4. Gone Girl – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

I’m not always fond of electronic music but there’s something so hypnotic about the somber sound of Gone Girl’s score. It’s as beautiful as Amy Dunne, but just as unsettling. This Technically, Missing track is perhaps my favorite of the entire album. It’s spine-tingling yet lush, melodious yet haunting, exactly how you’d feel about this story. Every time the repetitive three notes are played, it always takes me back to that big sprawling house where the doomed couple descend into madness. This is Reznor/Ross’ third collaboration with David Fincher and they seem to be even more adept at capturing the psychology of his work.

5. Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat

I first heard of the Desplat when he worked on The King’s Speech back in 2011, and ever since then I’ve become a big fan of this prolific and brilliant composer. I LOVE the more classical-tinged style of his work like The Painted Veil or Tree of Life, but I can’t help being entertained by the playfulness of this score. Just like the film, it’s just so quirky and whimsical and it definitely has a strong eastern-European sound. Desplat incorporates Russian folk songs and pieces and some were performed by the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra.

6. How To Train Your Dragon 2 – John Powell

I LOVE John Powell‘s work for this animated feature. I actually love the score for the first film more, but the score of the sequel is equally excellent. I have featured the soaring Beyond the Clouds track before in a Music Break post back in June. Now this one is just simply a lush track including the sweet choir sound that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. It’s truly an amazing and inspiring work that I love listening to time and time again.

7. The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

It’s incredible how different this score is from The Grand Budapest Hotel, and this one sounds more like something I’d expect from Desplat. I love classical music and there’s definitely a lot of classical influence in his work. This particular score somehow captures that enigmatic and mysterious quality of the subject matter that is Alan Turing. It also has a tinge of sadness that really hits you in the gut as you listen to it. The repetitive quality somehow makes me think of the Turing Machine and its mechanical process. It’s amazing that according to IMDb, Desplat only had three weeks to score this film, and that’s that’s three weeks from signing on to finishing the last recording session! He said he had the same amount of time to score The Queen, too. Wow, they certainly got a genius to score a film about a genius.

8. Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Speaking of a genius, is there anything Mr. Zimmer can’t do? Seems that no matter what genre, Zimmer somehow could create a music that complement the subject matter. Now, I’ve mentioned in my Interstellar review that I didn’t like how overpowering the music was when it’s played over scenes with dialog. But when I listened to it afterwards, I fell in love with it. Now that I think about it, I think I love the soundtrack much more than the film. It’s like a love letter to space exploration in musical term. It somehow captures the more grounded familial love theme of the story, as well as the grandiose cosmological journey that the characters – and us the viewers – experience. The entire soundtrack is phenomenal, but I like the slower, more introspective music than the more intense versions like the one used in the docking scene.

9. John Wick – Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard

Yet another electronic style music I’m loving from this year. This soundtrack, and this track in particular, has become a staple during my workout routine. It always adds a dose of adrenaline rush whenever I’m not feeling that motivated to get on the elliptical machine. There’s a retro vibe to this soundtrack that adds to the cool factor. It’s one of those pulsating soundtracks that a DJ could spin in a dance club, as John Wick himself performed lots of his dance of death in nightclubs or discotheques.

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10. Maleficent – James Newton Howard

In keeping with the darker, more mature story of Sleeping Beauty’s villain, gone are the chirpy and dreamy-like music of the original. Once Upon A Dream is one of my all time favorite Disney songs, and Lana Del Rey’s rendition will surely end up in my favorite 2014 songs list. Now, the score itself still retains that magical/fairy-tale quality with the composer commanding a large orchestra with a full choir. It’s lush and playful at times but not too Disney-fied the way say, Frozen was. This Maleficent Flies score, complete with the fairy dust sound effects, is just so ethereal and gorgeous. It’s easily my favorite and the one I remember most from the film.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Michael Giacchino

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Howard Shore

Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I – James Newton Howard

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So what do you think of my picks of favorite 2014 scores? Feel free to share your own favorites!

November Recap + Top Movie of the Month

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WOW, would you believe it, we’re already in the last month of 2014! I’ve been sort of blissfully disconnected from the blogosphere the past few days, so I was quite flabbergasted that tomorrow is December already. Seems that the year have flown by much quicker than I could keep up with.

Anyway, it ends up being a rather slow month for movie-watching for me, but I think December will be another busy one with a bunch of press screenings already scheduled in the next few weeks, starting with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into The Woods and Night at the Museum 2.

Posts you might’ve missed:


New-to-me Movies:

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Rewatches:

  • Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  • Superman Returns (2006)
  • Licence To Kill (1989)

Favorite Movie of November 2014:

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I had been anticipating Birdman for some time because I’m a fan of Michael Keaton and it’s great seeing him in a lead role again. Well he certainly did NOT disappoint! It’s truly as bizarre & surreal as I expected it to be, but it’s also poignant, emotional and unlike anything I’ve seen all year. Review coming sometime next week.


So, what movies did you get to see in November and which one is your favorite?

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Weekend Roundup & Review of Disney’s Maleficent

Hi everyone! Hope you had a lovely weekend. Well it’s sort of the calm before the storm as Twin Citians are bracing for the first snow storm of the year. We’re supposed to get anywhere between 6-12 inches, ugh! I ran a bunch of errands today just so I don’t have to go anywhere besides to and from work, though even THAT is gonna be quite an adventure tomorrow.

In any case, well it’s been quite a busy week for me movie-watching wise. Like many of you, I saw Interstellar on Saturday night in the AMC IMAX theatre. I’m still trying to process it, but I’m gonna try to review it this week, along with Big Hero 6. Y’know what, this time I’m agreeing w/ the critics in placing the Disney animated feature ahead of Christopher Nolan’s big space drama (91% for Big Hero Six vs 73% for Interstellar)

Friday night, my hubby and I opted for a fairy-tale reimagining that we’ve been wanting to see for some time. Boy it took forever for this movie to be available on iTunes, who knows why Disney delayed the rental release for SO long as the movie was released back in May. So here’s my review:

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As a huge fan of Sleeping Beauty, which is my favorite Disney fairy tale, I’m curious to see the backstory of Maleficent, which is also one of my fave Disney villains. The twist of the story itself is a hit and miss. I thought that the unlikely relationship between Maleficent and Aurora is interesting and also kind of hilarious. I mean before Maleficent curses Aurora to die on her 16th birthday upon pricking her finger on a spinning wheel, she also confirms one of the three good fairies’ blessing that she will grow in grace and beauty and that she’ll be loved by ALL who meets her. Well I guess that includes Maleficent herself as she can’t help to also grow to love Aurora in the end. Therein lies the issue I have w/ the plot – Maleficent isn’t so much an evil sorceress we expect from the animated version, as she never really did anything evil at all despite her vengeful quest. She’s portrayed more like a victim of the ambitious Stefan who betrays her to become King and he’s definitely the malevolent one in the story.

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That said, there are quite a few enjoyable moments to be had and Angelina Jolie is mesmerizing as Maleficent. I really can’t imagine anyone else in the role and she handles the dramatic as well as the mischievous moments brilliantly. The scene when she discovers her wings are cut off is quite heart-wrenching, but she also seems to be having fun with the more whimsical moments in the movie. The rest of the casting doesn’t fare as well, I’m so baffled why Sam Riley agrees to do the role of Diaval, Maleficent’s shape-shifting crow as it’s such a thankless role. I really thought there’ll be more to that character later on, but it never happened. Seems that all the guys in this movie are either evil or pointless, including Prince Philip, Aurora’s supposed suitor. Sharlto Copley’s plays Stefan with a sheer madness about him, consumed by paranoia and contempt against Maleficent that he seemingly forgot about his own family. I wasn’t crazy w/ Elle Fanning as Aurora, as she’s more cute than beautiful, but I guess they’re going for more an innocent girl so I warm up to her as the movie progresses. Given this is Maleficent’s story, all three gifted actresses (Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple) weren’t given much to do here.

The visuals are basically a CGI extravaganza, which is not surprising given first-time director Robert Stromberg worked extensively in the visual effects department most of his career. The flying sequences are great to look at and there are some beautiful scenery and set pieces. That said, I’m still partial to the animated version from 1959 with its hand-drawn illustrations. Even by today’s standards, I’m still in awe how lush and beautiful it is. I like that the movie pays homage to the original in some ways though. Per IMDb, Jolie apparently insisted that the dialogue in Aurora’s christening sequence has to be written word-by-word and based exactly from the original animated film because she feels that it was the main core and setup of the entire film.

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So overall I think this is a decent film if you’re willing to accept the reimagining of the fairy tale classic for what it is. The ending is kind of predictable and the ‘true love’ aspect seems to be borrowing from Frozen from a year before. But if you want to see this for Jolie’s performance as Maleficent, she certainly doesn’t disappoint.

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Have you seen Maleficent, well what did you think?