FlixChatter Review: The Gentlemen (2020)

I’d say Guy Ritchie is an acquired taste… you could even say he’s one of those love-it-or-hate-it filmmaker, which means you either love or hate his fast-paced, at-times frenetic style, and I’m mostly talking about his gritty British gangster films, so the family-friendly Aladdin is obviously an exception. For the most part, I like his movies. From his debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, to the underrated Rocknrolla, and the 2015 The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which I like more on rewatch, his movies are often irreverent, cheeky and fun.

After Aladdin, Ritchie returns to his roots with The Gentlemen. He’s back to portraying working class gangsters, peppered with his rather unsubtle disdain for the British upper class. This time he’s got an American as the protagonist, a self-made London-based cannabis [drug]lord Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). Mickey is trying to sell his profitable marijuana empire off so he could retire with his wife Rosalind. He’s already found a buyer and they’ve agreed on a price. But then of course, things go awry as bribery, blackmail, and all kinds of treachery schemes complicate matters for Mickey and his loyal right-hand-man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam).

The amusing part of the whole narrative is the fact that the story is told by private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant, doing his best Cockney accent) to Raymond. I won’t go into details apart from the fact that he’s got crucial intel involving Mickey’s business dealings that include some lesser members of the British royal family, and he’s willing to keep it a secret for a handsome fee.

The interaction between Grant and Hunnam are my favorite parts of the movie. There’s a rather silly movie-within-a-movie bit that’s gleefully amusing thanks to Grant’s performance and Hunnam’s constantly-befuddled expression. I love how Grant’s embraced his comedic side playing a flamboyant scumbag (what the Brits would call a tosser), and he seems to be having loads of fun tormenting Hunnam’s straight-laced Raymond. In Guy Ritchie’s world, even gangsters stand by a certain ‘moral’ code.

The film goes back and forth between Fletcher’s version of the story and the reality, which isn’t always easy to follow. Some of the things happening made little sense, but it was a lot of fun that you’re along for the ride. McConaughey‘s movie star charisma works well for the role, in fact, it’s nice to see him use his Southern charm and menacing energy in equal measure. Henry Golding‘s Dry Eye is perhaps the weakest link of the movie. Not the actor’s fault necessarily, as I think Golding is more versatile than meets the eye, but his role is more of a caricature, not exactly a memorable villain. Not that I think about it though, I think Ritchie’s movies aren’t known for having memorable villains, perhaps because his protagonists are often anti-heroes.

Now, despite his limited screen time, the movie’s surprising MVP is actually Colin Farrell, an inner city boxing trainer known as Coach who becomes Raymond’s unexpected ally. Involuntarily, Coach got dragged into Mickey’s crime world thanks to his students, one of them is played by Manchester rapper Bugzy Malone.  There’s a fantastic rap video at one of Mickey’s cannabis lab, as well as in the end credits that’s well worth staying for. As the sole female character in a sea of testosterone, Michelle Dockery is wonderfully shrewd, sexy and confident as Mickey’s beloved wife whom he adores and looks up to.

It’s still a movie about the boys however, and in that regards it’s not a ‘woke’ film nor does Ritchie care much about being politically correct. Some of the racist, homophobic jokes would ruffle some feathers, there’s a hugely gross scene being played over and over, not to mention a certain vulgar scenario that is disturbing even without being shown. While some may call this movie a ‘return to form’ to what he does best, there’s much recycled material that feels derivative and predictable.

For a gangster crime comedy, there’s actually not a whole lot of action set pieces and it’s perhaps Ritchie’s more ‘restrained’ version in terms of frenetic action, violence and overly-stylized camera work, but of course it’s still chockfull of crude language and F bombs. I like that the movie is more of a battle of wits than wham-bam-action, as the gangsters try to outmaneuver each other to stay on top of their game. Stylistically, there’s also much to appreciate, from the dynamic music (score by Christopher Benstead) to the dapper business suits AND tracksuits (costume designer Michael Wilkinson previously worked with Ritchie in Aladdin), even the ones worn in the rap video.  I don’t know that he’ll win new fans to his cinematic flair, but for those who enjoy his style, I’d say it’s was pretty darn entertaining. I wouldn’t even mind watching it again when it’s out on streaming.


Have you seen The Gentlemen? What did you think?

FlixChatter Review: SING (2016)

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Directed by Garth Jennings, Christophe L0urdelet | Written by Garth Jennings

Featuring the voices of: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth McFarlane, John C. Reilly, Taron Edgerton

The end of the year holiday season is always prime for finding movies kids can go to. After all, school’s out, and they need things to do to hold their attention. In my case, I needed to get them out of the house and a screening of an upcoming animated movie (courtesy of Flixchatter) would give my wife a couple hours of well-earned breathing time. My kids (7 and 9) are pretty picky about the movies we go to (my oldest held off seeing any of the Star Wars movies until after X-Mas) so I was a bit surprised after seeing the trailer that they were all-in.

Sing, directed by Garth Jennings (Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), brings us to a world inhabited by animals, namely a Koala: Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), an ambitious, if not overzealous theater owner working to keep his run-down theater afloat amid a string of failed shows and financial crisis. About to be evicted, he comes up with a plan to host a singing contest (a-la American Idol) with prize money of $1000. However, Buster’s aging and loveable Iguana assistant, Mrs. Crawley, mistypes the prize at $100,000. Animals from all over the city flock to Buster’s audition where we meet our main characters: Mike the mouse (Seth McFarlane), a devious but talented crooner; Ash (Scarlett Johansson), the punk rock porcupine; Rosalita the pig (Reese Witherspoon), a lovable domestic wife/closet singer; Johnny (Taron Egerton), a cockney accented Gorilla with the sweetest voice and finally Meena the elephant (Tori Kelly), a shy but talented singer with very low self-esteem. During and after the audition process, Buster hides the fact that the prize money isn’t what it seems and does whatever is necessary to keep the show going and revitalize his theater.

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The most interesting part of Sing is when the story hones in on the contestant’s private lives. Rosalita with 25 piglets, Meena with her encouraging family, Mike’s run in with the underworld, Ash’s arrogant boyfriend and Johnny’s criminal dad add a bit of dimension to these otherwise one dimensional characters. As with most movies of this genre, it’s filled with pop culture music references, many of which went over my head but trivial in the scope of things.

The animation is tight and frenetic. The music is loud and bombastic. There is enough slapstick to elicit the laughs and giggles throughout. However there are some key dramatic moments involving Johnny and his relationship with his father and a little bit with Rosalita and Meena that resonated with my kids in a positive way. While my youngest was up from his seat dancing to the tunes and performances, my oldest cried a bit at the tender moments with Johnny and his dad. This was a good thing in my book.

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Finally, Sing avoids the predictable and loathsome culture of winning it all (American Idol, The Voice) to its credit. There are no Simon Cowells here which is a good decision on Illumination’s part. It’s really about finding your voice (literally and figuratively) and being true to yourself that really matters in the end. While that makes Sing as cheesy as it implies, it’s true – Sing is as light and cheesy as you would expect. But sometimes, with kid’s movies, that’s just what the doctor ordered.


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So what do you think of SING? Let us know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: Kubo And The Two Strings (2016)

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Directed by Travis Knight | Written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler

Featuring the voices of: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Brenda Vaccaro and George Takei.

This latest film from Laika is a 3D stop-motion animated film. It tells the story of Kubo, a boy who comes across the ocean as a baby, adrift with his mother, fleeing some sort of great danger – one that has left him with only one eye. In hiding, he grows into a young boy and demonstrates a magical affinity for storytelling and origami. He uses this gift to mesmerize the townsfolk with tales of great warriors and monsters for a bit of money. Meanwhile, his mother, also possessing magical powers, is slipping away in a deep melancholia and fading memories. She forbids him to stay out after dark for they are being hunted by those responsible for taking his eye. As the story progresses, this inevitability comes to pass and those forces catch up to him.

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Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous film. Laika, which builds on its resume of Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls, has slowly and meticulously been perfecting it’s craft in the genre. 4.3 seconds of animation was produced in a day – the film taking 5 years to complete. Its look is stylish and impressive, fooling this reviewer’s eye into thinking it was done completely in the CGI domain.

Even more impressive are the themes the film tackles: love, life, death, rebirth, grief, the idea of memory as sacred and divine, and the power of storytelling. In this sense, “Kubo” strives for Studio Ghibli territory and is much closer to Miyazaki than any Dreamworks/Pixar/Disney offerings of late. It is appropriate to describe “Kubo” as a Samurai film as it has elements reminiscent of Kurosawa especially in its depiction of evil and the supernatural, as well as the hero’s journey.


While the film doesn’t completely succeed in its efforts to address all of these themes, it doesn’t fail either. Kubo should be lauded for not dumbing down its ideas to cater to the lowest common denominator. There is a darkness and melancholia added on to the film’s optimism and humor – and this seems fitting to its execution: simple with a dash of complexity. I also found its un-sentimentality refreshing in the era dominated by the Frozens and the Finding Dorys.

Kubo and the Two Strings is not perfect but it makes a valiant effort in a mature way. The filmmakers should be commended for that.

Note: the film has some scary images and sequences and not recommended for kids under 10.

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So what do you think of Kubo and The Two Strings? Let us know what you think!

Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2016 Edition

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

1. Ok let’s start off with the casting news that’s likely still on everyone’s minds. I know it must be on my pal Ted S.’s mind as he’s a huge fan of of the book, right Ted? The forever-in-the-works adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower finally has casting in place: Idris Elba will play the gunslinger Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey will play the villainous Man in Black.

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King himself has confirmed the casting:

I know there’ll be fuss about the race thing just like when Elba played Norse god Heimdall in Thor, but I personally think Elba’s one of those actors that can pull off ANY role, regardless of what skin color the character’s supposed to be. But I haven’t read the book so I don’t know if he’d actually fit the character of Roland in terms of personality, etc.

So what do y’all think about this casting news? 
….

2. Now, a lot of you already know I’m currently into British actor Sam Riley. I’ve also been obsessing over Pride and Prejudice and Zombies where he played a charming but dangerous Mr. Darcy [the only Darcy I ever hyperventilate over 😉 ]. If it’s still playing in theaters near me, I’d gladly go again for a third time!

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This epic fight that takes place after Mr. Darcy’s first proposal scene is nothing short of epic. Riley and Lily James have such a scorching chemistry, and they’re now my favorite Lizzie & Darcy. It’ll definitely make it to my top 10 favorite scenes I’d watch over and over again from 2016… and beyond!

So tell me, which film(s) you’ve seen more than once in the theater this year? Feel free to share your favorite scene from that movie, too.

3. Last Wednesday I saw Knight of Cups… I mentioned in this post that I knew going in that the latest Terrence Malick’s film has no script. I’m still curious about it because of the cast.

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Well, suffice to say, if you’ve never been into Malick’s style, I’d say best to avoid this one. It’s basically a 2-hr visual poetry set to classical music. As beautiful the visuals is, lensed by Malick’s regular, triple Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki. But y’know what, his cinematography work here actually made me nauseous! I had to close my eyes several times to keep from hurling. I generally like most of his films, save for Badlands and To The Wonder which I haven’t seen yet. But I’m kind of put off by this one that I don’t think I want to watch ANY film without a script ever again. Heh, screenwriters exist for a reason Mr. Malick. I’m hoping his next film Weightless actually has a script, as it’s really hard to resist THIS ensemble cast!

What are your thoughts about Terrence Malick’s style? Yay or nay?
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4. Per tradition, there are a couple of trailers I want to highlight today. Both are female-driven, though they couldn’t be more different in terms of genres.

Let’s start with Despite the Falling Snow, which I had been anticipating for some time. I had blogged about it when I posted about 5 new-to-me actors I’d like to see more of, as Rebecca Ferguson plays the lead in this one. It also has one of my new fave actors Sam Reid from Belle, woo hoo! There are so few romantic thrillers out there and I LOVE the premise of this. Forbidden romance set in wartime setting, with intrigue and suspense thrown in, I’m SO there. Plus it’s also directed by a woman, UK-based filmmaker Shamim Sarif.

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In Cold War Moscow, a female spy steals secrets from an idealistic politician – and falls in love with him.


Now THIS is a reboot I’m actually looking forward to: GHOSTBUSTERS! This is likely to be one of Summer’s biggest hits. I LOVE the female cast, it just looks like such a hoot. This will be Melissa McCarthy‘s fourth time with Paul Feig, after starring in Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy. I’ve only seen the last one which was a blast, and Kate McKinnon is my fave SNL cast member from the current season.

30 years after Ghostbusters took the world by storm, the beloved franchise makes its long-awaited return. Director Paul Feig brings his fresh take to the supernatural comedy, joined by some of the funniest actors working today.

Thoughts about either one of these trailers?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Wendell from Dell on Movies.  Blockbuster season will begin in earnest in March, starting with Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice later this month, The Jungle Book in April and Captain America: Civil War + X-Men Apocalypse in May.

Which 2016 blockbusters do you absolutely have to see and which will you skip?


Well, that’s it for the March edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Musings on Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR

InterstellarBannerI’ve been a big fan of Christopher Nolan‘s work, in fact I’ve seen all of his work and they’ve pretty much range from great to fantastic. I’ve been looking forward to Interstellar like most movie fans, but to be honest with you, for whatever reason, a couple of weeks before the film opened and as the hype reaches its tipping point, I started to feel… indifferent. In any case, I went to see it Saturday night anyway and instead of a straight review, this is more of my reaction to the movie… what I like and don’t like about it, so pardon if I’m rambling a bit…

The film is essentially about a small group of people going on a space travel adventure to save mankind. Well that’s the elevator pitch version anyway, but at the heart of it is a father/daughter relationship that transcend through space and time. I don’t remember seeing a specific year mention but the story is set in the future when the earth as we know it is dying, food is scarce as dust bowls continually wipe out farm crops. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a widower & former NASA test pilot who’s now taking up farming with his father in-law and his two kids, Tom & Murphy. Cooper hasn’t quite given up his space aspiration as when he and his kids spotted a drone flying close by, Cooper gets all giddy and drives through those supposedly precious corn fields to chase after it.

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I discussed some crucial plot points here, so beware if you haven’t seen the movie

It’s perhaps one of the only truly joyful moment in the film, and it’s obvious that his 10-year-old daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) shares his enthusiasm for science and space. Soon Cooper is reunited again with NASA in its secret hideaway. How did he get there? Well apparently a dust storm through an open window spells out the coordinates of its location in morse code. Say what? Well, that’s just one of the mind-boggling things about this movie and we’re just getting started. When Cooper gets to NASA, the elder professor Brand (played by Michael Caine, natch) tells him of a possible solution to humanity’s crisis and that is they’ve got to find a sustainable planet on the other side and Cooper is the only man for the job. Hmmm, wouldn’t you think that if he’s truly the only person for this crucial mission, NASA would’ve sought him out instead of waiting for him to somehow stumbles into their base? I mean, Cooper lives pretty much just down the road and they know he has the skills to pilot their ship.

Following the NASA encounter, the film doesn’t waste any time to shoot Cooper into space. Discussions about this movie would likely involve wormholes and black holes which frankly go way over my head, but there are a plethora of plot holes as well to contend with. The one I mentioned in the above paragraph is just one example. Apparently famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have been tweeting about the ‘Mysteries of #Interstellar’ which you can find here. I kept nodding as I read each tweet, especially the one where Cooper cracks his helmet on one of the planet’s he visits and he’s even able to remove his gloves during a fight. Wouldn’t you think the Planet’s air is toxic to the human body??

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Now, plot holes in sci-fi movies are common, in fact, it’s kind of inevitable… I mean it’s ‘fi’ for fiction after all. Interstellar does have the appearance of being grounded in realism however, in fact, Nolan hires a real astrophysicist Kip Thorne in building the Black Hole for the movie and to ensure the depictions of wormholes and relativity are as accurate as possible. But yet, one doesn’t need to be a scientist that a close proximity to the black hole would’ve killed those astronauts instantly and thus that planet being so close to such black hole, which Cooper’s team dub Gargantua, simply cannot exist. I have to admit though, it’s been fun reading about all the stuff that don’t make sense in Interstellar. It seems that with a lot of Nolan’s movies, analyzing it is as fun as watching his movies.

That said, I was more than willing to suspend my disbelief and go along for the ride. And what a ride it was. The imagery and visual effects is nothing short of tremendous. It’s something that I’ve come to expect from Nolan’s team, and they did not disappoint on that front. Everything is so meticulously-crafted. Though I’ve seen a lot of spaceships in other sci-fi films, I’m still in awe looking at all the details of the Endurance ship and all the other set pieces. Instead of his usual collaboration with Wally Pfister (who was busy making his first film Transcendence), we’ve got Hoyte van Hoytema in charge of cinematography. The Dutch-Swedish cinematographer impressed me greatly with his work in HER, but he’s outdone himself here with his astounding work. The earth landscape rivals the beauty of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, but it’s the visuals of the outer space and the barren alien planets that’s really breathtaking. But whilst the film’s scenery is truly a feast for my eyes, my ears aren’t so lucky. Hans Zimmer‘s score is often so loud to the point of irritation and it drowns out all the dialog, especially during the NASA visit where Brand is giving Cooper a tour. Perhaps it’s intentional, as this article points out, but really, I wouldn’t care about the thematic significance when my ears are hurting, y’know. I listened to the soundtrack later on and really enjoyed it, though I still love his work on Nolan’s Batman films more.

InterstellarStill5Sometimes I feel that perhaps I’m not smart enough to get Nolan’s movies… let alone TWO Nolans working together. Christopher and his brother Jonathan ‘Jonah’ Nolan collaborated on the script as Jonah originally developed it for Steven Spielberg who later passed on the project. To say that Interstellar is discombobulating is quite an understatement. I LOVE using that word whenever I get the chance to, but I don’t necessarily enjoy being in a constant state of bewilderment. The entire sequence involving Matt Damon is completely lost on me, not only did Damon’s casting completely take me out of the movie – “What’s Jason Bourne doing here?” “Wait, is this Elysium 2.o?” – the whole storyline of Dr. Mann wanting to kill Cooper felt preposterous to me. So he goes space crazy, okay… but I really didn’t expect the sudden villain-y scenario here and it’s a subplot I could do without.

I haven’t quite recovered from Mann’s um, riddle and Nolan’s already hit me with another as the film seemingly raced towards the finale once the film passed its two hour mark. I was totally baffled by the sequence of Cooper and the robot TARS inside some kind of a tesseract portal, supposedly built by ‘future us’ [as Cooper said during his frantic mumbling] which implies there’s advanced humans in existence by then who could build such a thing. Suddenly Cooper discovers it’s him who’s actually the *ghost* that haunts Murphy’s and knocks stuff off her bookshelf. There’s too much to digest here that my mind wander a bit, admiring the gorgeous scenery of that fifth dimension portal or whatever the heck that is. The whole time I kept thinking ‘how did they do that?‘ Then suddenly Cooper is floating again in outer space and before you know it, he gets rescued and wakes up in a whole new earth. O-kay…

When I wasn’t scratching my head pretty much the entire time, there were moments that I winced at the constant sobbing scenes that reminds me of Spielberg’s schmaltz-fest War Horse. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a genuinely emotional moments. I was quite moved by the father/daughter relationship in various points of time, the tearful goodbye and the reunion come to mind, but at times, I felt like I was deluged by over-sentimentality. I don’t know, maybe Nolan felt he’s got a reputation of being a cold or emotionally-detached that he went a bit overboard trying to refute that?

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[End of spoiler section]

Fortunately, the actors are more than up for the task to bring the humanity aspect of this space drama. McConaughey is a convincing everyman here, that I’m willing to overlook his Southern accent playing a character supposedly being from the Midwest. He has an effortless chemistry with Foy who plays his young daughter. My second favorite performance is Jessica Chastain as the older Murphy, not only she resembles Foy but she carries the same sensibilities and stubbornness displayed in her younger self. I’ve never been a big fan of Anne Hathaway but I think she acquits herself well, even delivering such a such a mawkish speech as “Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space” referring to her long lost love Dr. Edmund who went on a previous NASA mission. I’ve mentioned how I feel about Matt Damon above, I really wish they’d cast someone less famous & less ubiquitous than him. Michael Caine is always reliable, though they totally botched the aging process of his character [aka he basically doesn’t age at all in 23 years!]. John Lithgow and Ellen Burstyn both delivered a memorable performance despite their brief screen time.

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The longer I mull over it, the more I feel that Interstellar is a film I appreciate but not love. It’s not because it’s too confusing because I have loved other films I don’t completely understand, Nolan’s own Inception being one of them. It’s just that in the end, I just don’t feel as much connection with any of the characters and their journey. Despite all that crying in the film, overall the film didn’t tug my heartstrings as much as I had hoped. Heck I was more affected by the relationship of the robot Baymax and its protagonist Hiro in Big Hero 6, that movie was so joyful and emotional all at the same time. Speaking of robots, I thought TARS is a hoot and perhaps as memorable as any of the human characters. And hey, for once the robots are actually loyal to the humans whilst the main enemy of man is ‘Mann’, get it? 😉

The film has been called overly-ambitious and that its intellectual reach exceeds its grasp. I can’t refute either of those points, but I still have to give props to Nolan for making something bold and audaciously cerebral. I’m not just talking about dazzling us with jaw-dropping visuals but in the way he challenges viewers with stupendous and imaginative ideas. I appreciate that Nolan never asks us to ‘check our brain at the door’ or dumb stuff down to make things more digestible. But at the same time, there is also such a thing as having too many ideas and themes to process in a single film. There’s perhaps enough substance here to warrant say, a miniseries. The movie is nearly 3 hours long but it’s still not enough time to focus on one of those ideas, the result is sensory overload that threatens to suck the joy out of what’s supposed to be a piece of entertainment. I might revisit this film again later when it’s out for rental and perhaps I’d have a different opinion then.

Interstellar_TARSThis is one of the longest musings I’ve done in a movie, which is funny as I originally wanted to do a mini review of it but it proved to be impossible as there’s so much to say. Despite my gripes and what a lot of reviewers have said that it’s a beautiful-but-flawed film, I still urge you to see it. It’s the kind of film that’s meant to be seen in as big a screen as possible, as some of the sequences shot using IMAX camera are simply stunning. However you feel after you see it, Interstellar is still a worthwhile experience and it also makes for a fun discussion/reading afterwards. The Nolan brothers are certainly one of the most powerful siblings working in Hollywood today. Even if this one isn’t quite a masterpiece, they’re still a force to be reckoned with and I still look forward to what Chris Nolan will come up with next.

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So, that’s my thoughts on Interstellar. Do you agree/disagree? I’d love to hear what you think!

The morning after … Oscars 2014 – Recap and Reflections

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Happy Monday everybody! Soooo… how many of you stayed up late to watch the Oscars last night? Well I live tweeted for the most part, I find that it’s easier than doing a live blog. As the Oscar attendees got ready this Sunday, I went to brunch, gym, prepared dinner and went downstairs to my entertainment room an hour before the ceremony started.

Well, first things first…

The Winners!

These are the 14 I predicted, which I got all correct except one for Best Documentary:

  1. Best picture: “12 Years a Slave”
  2. Best director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
  3. Best lead actor: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
  4. Best lead actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
  5. Best supporting actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
  6. Best supporting actress: Lupita N’yongo, “12 Years a Slave”
  7. Best animated feature: “Frozen”
  8. Best feature documentary: “20 Feet From Stardom”
  9. Best foreign-language film: “The Great Beauty”
  10. Best adapted screenplay: “12 Years A Slave”
  11. Best original screenplay: Spike Jonze, “Her”
  12. Best original score: “Gravity”
  13. Best cinematography: “Gravity”
  14. Best original song: “Let It Go,” from “Frozen”

Gravity won the most awards tonight, with seven Oscar. Wahoo!! So it won for Best Cinematography (yay Emmanuel Lubezki!), Best Editing, Best Score (congrats Steven Price!), Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and the first Mexican filmmaker ever to win, Alfonso Cuarón was named Best Director. If only it also won Best Picture, but ah well, I already knew it’d be a split.

Favorite Winners of the Night

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Congrats Cate, Matt, Jared, Spike, Lupita and Alfonso!
[happy dance] 😀
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Red Carpet Stuff

These are my two favorites:

BlanchettOscarDressI REALLY love how she wore this unabashedly sparkly feminine dress with such panache. I LOVE her dress simply because of the way she wears it.

NyongO_OscarDressI LOVE how Lupita Nyong’O handles color. She has been making one amazing dress choice after another. I’m not super crazy about the shape of this pale blue dress, but she carried it off so well. And that bandeau made her look like Cinderella at the ball! She’s just too cute for words.

I quite like the rest of the acting nominees (sorry, not crazy for Meryl Streep or June Squibb‘s dress to be honest)

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Dapper men on the red carpet!

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Before the ceremony even begun though, Benedict Cumberbatch already WON Oscars 2014 with THIS awesome photobomb:

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Favorite Speeches:

“I love you mom …Thanks for helping me to dream.” — Jared Leto, acknowledging his mom and brother in his acceptance speech. VERY cool that he showed love for his family.

“No matter where you come from, your dream is valid.” — Lupita Nyong’O. No matter how , acknowledging his mom and brother in his acceptance speech. VERY cool that he showed love for his family.

“Films with women at the helm are not a “niche”, but do, in fact, make money.”  – Cate Blanchett, championing women in film in her defiant acceptance speech. Yes, you go girl!!

There’s no vid of the actual acceptance speech, but this is a clip of her in the Winners Room:

Matthew McConaughey‘s speech was rather odd at times, but I’m glad he thanked God, which is apparently a rare thing at the Oscars according to this website. He said he needed three things to survive: God, family and someone to look up to as a hero.

“First off, I’d like to thank God, because that’s who I look up to. He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand … [He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late (British actor) Charlie Laughton, who said, ‘When you got God you got a friend and that friend is you.”

He got no applause for that, which I’m not surprised at all, this is Hollywood after all. In any case, it turns out that hero is himself 10 years down the line…  “My hero’s always 10 years away … I’m never going to attain that. That keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.” He also thanked his wife, children, mother and his gumbo-loving late father. And hey, he didn’t leave out his signature ‘awright, awright, awright.’ Classic!

My all time fave speech of the night is Alfonso Cuarón‘s all the way. He’s just so humble but hilarious:
“For many of us making this film was a transformative experience … For a lot of people that transformation was wisdom. For me it was just the colour of my hair.” But the funniest bit was when he thanked the *wise guys* at Warner Bros, before quickly correcting himself with saying ‘wise men’ Mwahahaha!!



Highlights

  • First award given I’m super stoked about… but not really surprised. FROZEN for Best Animated Feature. Wahoo!! Nice to see a female director up on stage, too.
    ///
  • Absolutely love Joseph Gordon Levitt & Emma Watson… Best Presenter Couple of the night. Sooo adorable, I wonder why they don’t just date in real life!
    JGL_EmmaWatson
  • Matthew McConaughey looks dapper and quite a gentleman presenting with the very odd looking Kim Novak. That’s what’s excessive plastic surgery do to you folks. But Matthew seems very gracious and gentlemanly throughout.
  • The Oscar Selfie that crashed Twitter! It broke record as the most-shared image with 2 million retweets over the course of two hours of the telecast! Nice to see that these celebs can be goofy just like us!
    OscarsCelebsSelfie
  • Lupita Nyong’O winning Best Supporting Actress. YES!! She did such an amazing job as Patsy in 12 Years A Slave. I was hoping either she or Sally Hawkins would take home the gold. I’m happy Nyong’O won and her speech was awesome. You go girl!
    LupitaOscarWin2014
  • Bill Murray‘s tribute to his friend… “Oh, we forgot one,” says Murray before he announced Best Cinematography. “Harold Ramis, for Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day.”
  • Spike Jonze won Best Original Screenplay, YAY!! So well-deserved, I wouldn’t even mind Her winning
  • I have to admit the whole Pizza Delivery shenanigan is absurdly-wonderful! It’s so out of character for the traditionally more button-up ceremony that made it all the more fun. Ellen actually ordered pizza and the delivery guy obviously had the time of his life going to the Oscars! Imagine delivering pizza to Han Solo/Indiana Jones himself, man!!! Earlier Harrison Ford seemed grumpy when presenting an award, so maybe he was just starving!
    PizzaAtOscars2014
    Thanks to FanSided for this awesome GIF!

    PittPizzaOscars2014
    Brad Pitt handing out plates is just priceless!
  • Chris Evans presenting… I thought he looked sooo good I barely registered what it was he’s presenting. I think it was a bunch of clips about heroes?? Well I guess it’s fitting coming from Captain America himself.
    ChrisEvansPresenterOscar2014

So how did Ellen do as host?

EllenOscar2014Host

Well I happen to enjoy her hosting duties. I thought she was hilarious but not mean-spirited. Hope she’ll be back next year.

She started off by making fun of the L.A. weather “It has been a tough couple of days for us here. It’s been raining.” Ahah yeah, we barely made it ABOVE zero here where I live.

Here are some of my favorite jokes:

“I’m not going to say who looks the most beautiful, but it’s clear. It’s Jared Leto. I mean, he’s the prettiest. Boy is he pretty. Nominated for best supporting actor, and Matthew McConaughey also pretty by the way but a different, like a rugged, dirty, a dirty pretty, like a rugged dirty pretty. Good dirty, not bad dirty. Both nominated for Dallas Buyers Club, a very important movie. It deals with the serious issue of people who have sex at rodeos. Don’t do it.”

“A little background on Bruce [Dern]. His grandfather was the governor of Utah, his great uncle was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and his Godmother was Eleanor Roosevelt. And here you are among us tonight. What went wrong?”

“One of the nominees is Her and by Her, I mean Meryl Streep.”

The whole Pizza bit was hilarious!! So ok the show went a bit longer but THIS was fun and I don’t mind it one bit. I mean, between the A-list selfie that broke Twitter, ordering pizza and collecting money in a hat, it feels like the *people’s Oscar* this year, more casual and goofy than usual.
PizzaOscar2014“I don’t have any money. Sandy [Sandra Bullock] you have money. You got a lot of money. Where is Harvey Weinstein? Harvey? “ Mwahahahaha!

Later on, after most of the pizza were consumed, she continued on the joke about paying for them!
“So I borrowed Pharrell’s hat, and I thought I’d pass it around and get some money for the pizza.” *She then proceeded to get money from the likes of Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt, she basically cajoled Brad Pitt to give her more than the $20 bucks he initially threw in the hat. When it came to Lupita Nyong’o, she opened her tiny purse and gave her a lip gloss instead. Ellen threw it in her pocket saying, ‘It’s your lip gloss? Ok now that’s gonna be worth something.”
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So how did I do on my predictions?

Well, I did better than last year as I got 13 out of 14 predictions right. But really, this year has been quite predictable. I think the only TRULY nail-biting major categories were Best Supporting Actress, but I think Lupita Nyong’O has been gaining a lot of traction this award season.

American Hustle got ZERO awards despite a whopping 10 nominations! WOW, talk about a complete shutout. According to this TIME article, Only two films have ever received worse snubs: 1977′s The Turning Point and 1985′s The Color Purple, which were each nominated for 11 awards, but didn’t win a thing. Other films that share the dubious distinction of receiving 10 nominations with no wins are 2002′s Gangs of New York and 2010′s True Grit. Ouch.

But hey, don’t feel sorry for the losing Oscar nominees as none would go home empty handed. Apparently the Oscar’s goodie bag is  worth $85,000, ranging from gifts from $6 to $16,000. The strangest gift yet? $2,700 “O-Shot” procedure to help a woman’s sex drive [????], you can read about the rest of the gifts here.

Now, even though I was pulling for Gravity to win Best Picture, I’m not terribly disappointed that 12 Years of Slave won. It’s cute seeing the usually solemn director Steve McQueen leaped on stage as he was cheered by his cast and crew!

McQueenLeap12YearsOscar2014

Least fave moments:

Bette Midler singing Wing Beneath My Wings. I don’t hate the song, but I REALLY didn’t like her singing it tonight, especially after such a beautiful theme of Somewhere In Time of In Memoriam. Same with Idina Menzel‘s live rendition of Let It Go. I personally prefer the First Time in Forever song anyway, but Menzel’s singing was so pitchy and she looked like she was struggling with the song that it was cringe-worthy! Glad that it won Best Song though.

Seeing this pic of Philip Seymour Hoffman… still can’t believe he’s gone 😦 I appreciate The Academy showing his photo last and the longest though, but still, that can’t bring him back …

PSH_MemoriamTribute


So did you watch the Oscars last night? Thoughts on the winners and what’s your pick of best/worst moments?

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions & Reminiscing on Best Actor/Actress Nominees’ Early Roles

TheOscarsLogoThe film industry’s biggest night is just three days away. Dozens upon dozens of award ceremonies have taken place in the past few months, culminating on Sunday with the Academy Awards! I figured I’ll join in on the fun of predicting who will win the Oscars, split into two categories. The ‘Should Win’ here who I’m championing to win based on what I’ve seen. Nothing scientific here, the winning predictions are based on what I’ve read/heard, other awards up until now, as well as pure gut instincts. So here goes:

BEST PICTURE
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should Win: “Gravity”

Have you checked out the Bloggers Roundtable Post over at Keith’s blog? Thanks Keith for inviting me to take part with my favorite bloggers!

BEST DIRECTOR
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón

BEST ACTOR
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey
Should Win: [Since I haven’t seen Dallas Buyer’s Club] Chiwetel Ejiofor

BEST ACTRESS
Will Win: Cate Blanchett
Should Win: Cate Blanchett

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will Win: Jared Leto
Should Win: Michael Fassbender

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should Win: Sally Hawkins

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win: “Her”
Should Win: “Her”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should Win: “Captain Phillips”

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Will Win: “Frozen”
Should Win: “Frozen”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Will Win: “The Square”
Should Win: “The Act of Killing”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Will Win: “The Great Beauty”

Should Win: “The Hunt”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Will Win: “Gravity”
Should Win: “Gravity”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: “Gravity”
Should Win: “Gravity”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Will Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Should Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”

Reminiscing on Acting Nominees’ Early Roles

Now, I’d like to do something different this year than simply predicting the winners. I was inspired by something I saw a couple of nights ago whilst I was at the gym. ABC always airs interviews with the acting nominees and show clips of their previous films. Well, it made me reminisce on the first time I saw each of the Best Actor/Actress nominees and how I felt about them then. For the purpose of this post, I’m only focusing on the leading category for this post. So allow me to walk down memory lane for a bit.

OscarBestActressNominees

Amy Adams

AmyAdamsJunebugFirst saw her was in Catch Me If You Can but for some odd reason, I didn’t remember her until much later after I saw the film. She had a small role as a Southern Belle type hospital nurse whom Leo DiCaprio’s character proposed to. But the role that really impressed me was Junebug where she also played a Southerner, a young mother to-be who thinks that her baby would solve her marital strain. It’s a bit of an odd film but I definitely remember her in that, and clearly the Academy did too, as it earned her first of five nominations.

Cate Blanchett

CateBlanchettLOTRIt was her role in the mega blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring that made me notice the Aussie thespian. I absolutely loved her voice as she narrated the story. After that I went back to watch her Oscar-nominated role Elizabeth, which to this day I still think she’s far more worthy of the Oscar win than Gwyneth Paltrow was in Shakespeare in Love. I’ve never NOT been impressed by her performance since, I’m constantly in awe of her versatility and chameleonic quality, convincingly speaking whatever accent is required of her. Balancing small films like Little Fish, Veronica Guerin to a big-budget production like The Aviator, she seems to be able to do it all effortlessly. Even in a terrible movie like Indiana Jones 4, she’s still very watchable.

Sandra Bullock

SandraBullockSpeedI might’ve seen Sandra in Working Girl TV series but for some reason I didn’t realize she’s the same girl in Speed! I didn’t recognize her with her big wavy hair, ahah. So I have to say it’s her big break in the hit action flick, which was also Keanu Reeve’s breakthrough role, that made me notice her. I liked her straight away and I’ve always been fond of her since. She might not have Blanchett’s range, but she more than make up for it in congeniality – no surprise that she made two movies bearing that sentiment as it’s so tailor-made for her. I’m one of the few who didn’t mind that she won Best Actress for The Blind Side, but her dramatic chop is stretched even further in Gravity.

Judi Dench

JudiDenchGoldeneyeOne of British finest Dames has had a long career in various stage, TV and film work before she made history as the first female M in the James Bond series. So I first noticed her as Bond’s snarky boss in Goldeneye, who aptly and memorably calls him a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur.’ Bravo! Only three years later she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in Shakespeare in Love despite being on screen for a mere 8 minutes. The one British monarch role I absolutely love her in was Mrs. Brown where she played an older Queen Victoria who found friendship in her servant Mr. Brown as she was mourning her husband’s death.

Meryl Streep

MerylStreepKramervsKramerAn acting living legend has a staggering 17 Oscar nominations (3 wins), the most of ANY performer of all time. The first time I saw her was in Kramer vs. Kramer when I was a kid, where she won her first Best Actress Oscar. That film was indelible as I remember being quite frightened by the scene where her kid fell in the playground, being carried home by her on-screen husband Dustin Hoffman. I haven’t seen a lot of her work and to be frank, she’s not really a favorite of mine even if she’s always impressive in everything I’ve seen her in. I definitely enjoyed seeing her as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, that’s really a fun role for her where she gets to be this larger-than-life meanie without being cartoonish.

…..

OscarBestActorNominees

Christian Bale

Bale_MidsummerNightsDreamI honestly can’t remember when I first saw Bale in movies. I know it’s long before he don the cape as the Dark Knight, and it wasn’t his movie big break as a child actor in Empire of the Sun as I saw that after Batman. So it could very well be his small supporting role in Midsummer Night’s Dream as I saw that one on the big screen. It’s interesting to see the ever-so-serious Bale in a Shakespearean fantasy comedy. I barely remember what the whole story was about but I remember how dreamy he was in it, hard to imagine him doing a fluffy role like that, but I think he should just to break things up from all the solemn and dark stuff he does nowadays.

Bruce Dern

BruceDernNebraskaThis is the only time in a long while where I haven’t seen any of the work of an actor prior to the one being nominated. I have heard of him but somehow I just never saw him in anything. I have to rectify that situation at some point as I was quite impressed by his performance in Nebraska. People constantly tell me he’s played great bad guys in his younger days, so I just have to check those out!

Leonardo DiCaprio

LeoDiCaprioGrowingPainsI’m always amazed and in awe at Leo’s career trajectory as I first saw him in one of my favorite series Growing Pains! He was so dorky looking but even then you knew he was special. After that I never saw any of his film roles until Titanic, in which I had a slight crush on Jack Dawson (which teen girl wasn’t?). So of course I saw a bunch of his films after that, even the really obscure one like Total Eclipse as a French poet (sans the French accent) where he even had a gay sex scene with David Thewlis. Leo even did a Western in The Quick & The Dead, though by that point I was already crushing on Russell Crowe who never looked better in a film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor

EjioforChildrenOfMenFirst time I noticed Ejiofor was in Children of Men, though I might’ve seen him in Inside Man as well before that. A year later I saw him in American Gangster, with fellow hunky Brit Idris Elba, both playing Americans on opposite sides of Denzel Washington’s character. I’m so glad he’s now getting more recognition, hopefully it’ll bring more leading roles for Ejiofor, as he obviously has the chops. Interesting that both him and Elba has also played leading roles in Mandela-related films, Ejiofor was the lead in this dramatic gem Endgame.

Matthew McConaughey

McConaugheyWeddingPlannerThe role I first took notice of this Southern hunk happens to be in one of my guilty pleasure rom-com The Wedding Planner opposite J-Lo. I thought he was sooo darn hunky and sweet in that movie. I think I might’ve seen him prior to that on Boys on the Side but I can’t remember what he even looked like in that movie. Funny that he was in a sci-fi movie about dragons with fellow 2014 nominee Christian Bale in Reign of Fire, and back then he got top billing over the lesser known Bale. I skipped a bunch of McConaughey’s movies for a while, I have to admit I wasn’t a fan until I saw him in The Lincoln Lawyer. Nice to see his career renaissance – aptly coined The McConissance – of late, he’s poised to win this Sunday.


Thoughts on my predictions? More importantly, would you share your first cinematic memory with any of the Best Actor/Actress nominees?