FlixChatter Review: Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

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I have to admit that I didn’t know this film was in the works until I saw it on the press screening list. I had listened to Kenneth Turan’s review of the French film Marguerite on NPR, which is also a biopic of a wealthy woman who loves music and the opera but is delusional about her singing ability. In this film, the title role Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) is a New York heiress who’s always dreamed to play in Carnegie Hall.

In the press screening I attended, there were quite a few members of the MN Opera, and so the audience responded very well to the movie right from the start. It begins with Hugh Grant‘s character, St Clair Bayfield, acting on stage. Then suddenly we see Jenkins descending from the ceiling, suspended on a rope, decked out as a naughty Valkyrie. She goes home with her husband Bayfield, who lulls her to sleep with a poem, but their marriage is more like an act, as they live separate lives. Bayfield lives with his beautiful mistress Kathleen (Rebecca Ferguson) who tolerates this arrangement to some degree. But it’s clear that Bayfield genuinely cares for his wealthy wife and he dotes on her. He’s the one who protects her reputation and sustains her life in a bubble so to speak.

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The film’s funniest moments involves Jenkins’ accompanying pianist, Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg), whom she hired on the spot. The shy young man couldn’t believe his luck, earning $150 a week is more than he’d ever expect. But soon he finds out what it actually entails to work for miss Jenkins. Helberg’s expressions the first time he heard Jenkins sing (if you could even call it that) is simply priceless!! He did whatever he could not to burst into uproarious laughter and it was a hoot to watch.

The rest of the movie is pretty much an elaborate scheme to shield Jenkins from criticism. The Carnegie Hall is closed to the public, as Bayfield goes out of his way to only invite friends and those he could bribe. No doubt critics aren’t allowed to attend, as he knew an honest review would crush Jenkins. British filmmaker Stephen Frears is no stranger to directing biopics starring seasoned actresses (The Queen, Philomena) and he did a splendid job once again. This film is definitely more comedic than the two I mentioned, and the laughs just keep on coming. The humor doesn’t simply rely on an elderly woman singing off key, but I’m fully invested in the whole ruse of keeping Jenkins inside her bubble. It’s funny but also a poignant and heart-warming drama, boasted by a terrific performance by the three main cast.

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Streep is an acting virtuoso, and she did all her own singing here, which must have been a challenge as she’s actually a pretty good singer. Helberg is quite the scene stealer, as he’s in all of the funniest bits in this movie. I’ve never seen him before but he’s definitely a gifted comedian. But it’s Grant who’s quite a revelation here with his heartfelt and understated performance. He made me believe that Bayfield’s love for Jenkins is genuine and that he’s not just a gold digger taking advantage of a wealthy senior citizen. All the quiet moments of him and Streep pack an emotional punch.

It’s hard not to root for Jenkins despite her delusion of grandeur. I found myself being swept away by her and this movie. I love the look of this movie too, with beautiful 40s set pieces and costumes. It’s a lovely crowd pleaser that will make you want to get up and cheer. I saw this the day after Suicide Squad, oh what a perfect palate cleanser this turns out to be! The protagonist may be off key but the film certainly is not.

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Have you seen ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’? Let me know what you think! 

Guest Post: Musings on the casting for the upcoming ‘Wicked’ The Movie

Hello everyone! Today we’ve got a guest post from across the pond. Simon Harding is a blogger w/ Theatre Breaks website who writes about London’s Theatreland. As FlixChatter is primarily a film blog, today’s post relates to an upcoming musical adaptation.


‘Wicked The Movie’ On Its Way!

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We can hardly contain our excitement at the thought that one of the most popular musicals ever, Wicked, will soon be making the transition from stage show to the silver screen. The project was given the go-ahead by producer Marc Platt back in November last year, although he was definitely a bit cagey about when the movie would get the great Hollywood treatment… but no matter. It’s enough to know right now that the film will get here eventually, even if it’s in a few years’ time.

[According to IMDb, the movie’s to be directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) – ed.]

But who’s going to bag the main parts? Who are we most likely to see claiming the roles of Glinda and Elphaba?

Names like Samantha Barks, Kristen Bell, Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick have all been bandied about for the main parts in the film, and now the original Glinda – actress Kirstin Chenoweth – has chimed in with who she thinks would be ideal for some of the roles.

According to Movie Pilot, Kirsten would like to see young actress Dove Cameron take on the part of Glinda and Lea Michele tackle Elphaba if the cast is going to be on the young side. If the producers decide to cast people in their 30s instead, Kirstin would be happy to see Beth Behrs be Glinda and Zooey Deschanel come on board as Elphaba.

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Emily Blunt & Reese Witherspoon

Here at Theatre Breaks, we’d happily see Emily Blunt claim the part of Elphaba for her very own, and Reese Witherspoon as Glinda. Did you catch her turn in Walk the Line? The girl can sing!

Anyhoo, it’s a long way off yet until December 2019, so we’re sure more rumours will abound as to who will take the main parts.


If you’d like to book tickets to a Wicked theatre show in the UK, check out the prices and seat availability on the Theatre Breaks website.


Who would you like to see take on the roles of Elphaba and Glinda? Let us know who your picks would be in the comments below.

Thursday Movie Picks #37: All in the Family Edition – Mother-Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

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Happy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Mother/Daughter Relationships (Biologically Related)

This week’s TMP topic is a bittersweet one for me. I had a loving, albeit brief relationship with my late mother. In fact, we were very close up until she died on my 16th birthday. I have to admit at times I feel a pang of sadness whenever I see a mother and daughter depicted on screen, I often still wonder how life would be life if she were still around. In any case, for my three picks, I try to have a variety of mother/daughter relationship, so here are my three picks:

BRAVE (2011)

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Pixar’s first *Princess* movie centers on a headstrong n spirited girl who like many of today’s girls her age tend to rebel against what’s expected of her. I love that the movie is centered on her relationship with her equally headstrong mother, Queen Elinor, instead of the typical romantic pursuit. I LOVE Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson who provide the voice work for Merida and Elinor. In case some of you still has seen this movie, let’s just say there’s a magical physical transformation that happens that drastically changes how they have to relate to one another. Through it all, the two end up forging a bond that’s even stronger than ever before. It’s quite an adventure that’s full of humorous & even peculiar moments, but also poignant ones that made me laugh and cry. It’s definitely one of my fave cinematic mother/daughter relationship that truly moved me.

1000 Times Good Night (2013)

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Juliette Binoche plays a war photographer who often risks her life on the job, but even after a nearly fatal accident, she still can’t give up her career. Her eldest daughter Steph looks up at her and is obviously drawn to her mom’s globetrotting career that certainly looks cool and glamorous on the outside. The daughter in this film is a young teen and so immediately picture myself in her shoes, as my late mother was an amateur photographer. She kind of had the same free spirit personality and I always thought my mom was fearless. One key scene is when she ended up tagging along with her mom to Africa, much to the chagrin of her marine biologist dad. A traumatic incident made Steph realize just how dangerous her profession really is. The mother/daughter moments in the scene that followed really connected with me, and there’s a wonderful chemistry Binoche and Lauryn Canny who plays Steph. Here’s my full review of the film, which is now on Netflix.

August Osage County (2013)

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Now this is an example of the kind of mom I’m glad I didn’t have. Meryl Streep‘s Violet Wetson is a venom-spewing, pill-popping mother of three daughters who seem hellbent on driving a stake between her and everyone around her. That also includes her own husband, and the film takes place during his funeral. Violet has mouth cancer, partly due to her years of chain smoking, but even so it’s really hard to sympathize with her. Out of the three, Julia Roberts’ Barbara is the one who has the biggest conflict with her mother. The fact she herself is dealing with her own issues with her estranged husband and angsty teenage daughter adds to her exasperation. The Wetson family is as dysfunctional as they come  – they constantly bicker with each other, and the more things are said, the more secrets are revealed that made things worse. The screaming match are quite overwhelming, and it made me appreciate my own family. The craziest scene is when Barbara literally hurls at her mother trying to prevent her from taking any more pills, it was pretty bizarre and quite hilarious. I think it’s an especially interesting film to watch for mother and daughter, if anything, it’d make each of them think of what NOT to do to one another.

BONUS PICK:

Beyond the Lights

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This is one of my fave films I saw last year, and the casting of Minnie Driver and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as mother/daughter is one of the reasons I love it. Glad Paskalis included this movie on his list, I couldn’t believe I almost didn’t include that here. An ambitious and driven single mother who wouldn’t take failure as an option, Macy succeeds in turning her daughter into a star. But at what cost? Macy’s controlling behavior ultimately drives Noni away and there’s a heart-wrenching moment when Noni finally said enough is enough. It’s not that Macy didn’t love her daughter, but sometimes, some people just don’t know how to love. Apparently, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s search for her own birth mother was the catalyst of the mother/daughter story in the film (per this indiewire article).


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

Thursday Movie Picks #29: All in the Family Edition – Married Couple Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I’ve been seeing posts on the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog, but I haven’t been able to participate. Well until now that is.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today is the the first theme for the edition… 

Married Couples

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Well, for this edition, I decided to pick three movies that feature married couples in three very different marital circumstances. Having been married for 11 years, I consider marriage a blessing I don’t take for granted, but it’s also not a walk in the park. For this blogathon, I deliberately picked three different genres just to mix things up, so here goes:

Julie & Julia

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Movies depicting a positive marriage is rare in Hollywood, perhaps they think it just doesn’t make for an interesting story. Well, I always go back to this movie as a good example of a healthy marriage as it actually features TWO loving married couples. People may only remember this movie for all the food/cooking scenes, and they certainly are scrumptious. But for me I always remember the relationship between Julie & Paul Child (Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci), as well as Julie & Eric Powell (Amy Adams & Chris Messina). Both husbands are so supportive of their wives, and they’re depicted in such a real and sincere ways by all the actors. In fact, Paul Child made my list of Best Movie Husbands that I did for my 9th wedding anniversary.

 

Indecent Proposal

indecentproposalI saw this film ages ago with my brother, I think I might’ve been in high school at the time. I thought that the pairing of Demi Moore & Woody Harrelson worked well here and there’s a real chemistry between the two. The film shows how temptation and desire can quickly tear apart even the strongest bond between two people, and their marriage crumbles as a result. But the film doesn’t just show the fragility of marriage, but also the power of love that can piece things back together again, no matter how shattered the bond may have been. The story made such a big impression on me and to this day, the beautiful finale scene by the beach never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The heart-wrenching theme song by John Barry is one of my all time favorite.

Mr & Mrs Smith

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This is the infamous film that serves as the origin story of Hollywood’s golden couple. Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie fell in love during filming and their scorching chemistry is palpable on screen. Playing two skilled assassins who kept their secret identity from each other, it’s perhaps the most preposterous portrayal of marriage, but it sure was fun to watch. The real-life couple could barely fake their disdain for each other in the opening scene at a marriage counseling session:

 


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen these films?

[Last 2014] Weekend Roundup + Mini Reviews of The Trip To Italy, The Immigrant, Exodus: Gods & Kings and Into the Woods

Hello hello! Hope you had a lovely long Holiday weekend. It’s quite a nice and relaxing holiday for me, though it ended up being a pretty busy one hanging out with friends. I did fit in some movie-watching, even went to the cinema for Exodus though it was more of a last-minute decision when some friends invited us.

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Just a quick thought on each of them as I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to review them…

The Trip to Italy
It’s not as fun as the first film, The Trip. Perhaps I’m just getting tired of Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon‘s schtick and they’re really not very likable characters. The impersonations are getting a bit repetitive, but some are still fun to watch, especially when they’re talking about all the Bond actors. The Italian scenery and food imagery are truly drool-worthy however.

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The Immigrant
The main draw for me is the cast, especially Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cottilard. Two things that this movie have going for it are the performances and the intriguing story. I’m not generally fond of Jeremy Renner and here he’s just ok, not as compelling as the other two actors. The star is definitely Cottilard who remains alluring no matter how destitute they made her up to be. Now, if only the pace and direction had a bit more life to it. It felt overlong and tedious, even if the actors were able to hold my attention for the most part. The finale did pack an emotional punch, but I wish it had been more evenly-handled throughout, especially since the story strikes a chord with me.

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Exodus: Gods & Kings
Now, Ted’s given a full review of this but since I just this earlier today, I figure I’ll give my own two cents. Well, I ended up enjoying this more than I thought. Perhaps having a very low expectations helps, but I’m glad to say I didn’t find it boring even if it certainly lacking that *epic* touch I expected from Ridley Scott. Performances are good, especially the two leads Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton, but Scott took way too much liberty with the story and character of Moses. There are too many to mention here but let’s just say this story is more inspired by the Biblical tale than an actual adaptation. It’s one thing if a reimagining of the centuries-old story actually enhances the adaptation, but in this case, the alterations are much to its detriment and much of it just don’t make sense. Still, I don’t think this was an abomination as some critics describe it but I think keeping the integrity of the story would’ve served this film better.

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I have to admit I’ve actually never heard of Stephen Sondheim‘s play before this film, apparently it’s been around for nearly 3 decades. But since I grew up watching a ton of Disney fairy tale movies, the idea of reimagining some of Brothers Grimm fairy tales intrigues me. I’m all about crafting a twist to a classic story, so long as they do a good job of it. Alas, I feel that Into The Woods might be a much better fit as a stage performance as it’s all about showmanship instead of a compelling narration.

The main players are comprised of the Baker & his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), and the wicked witch (Meryl Streep). The rest are basically supporting characters: Jack and his mother (Daniel Huttlestone and Tracey Ullman), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and Johnny Depp’s in a glorified cameo.

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Not a bad cast at all, and I must say they all did a good job singing and performing the songs. Some fare better than others of course, Kendrick could’ve done well on the stage version of this with her beautiful voice and Streep also has quite a lovely voice. Much have been said about her performance as the witch, but seems that at this point she could just be reading a restaurant menu poetically and they’d shower her with a plethora of awards. I think she’s rather over-the-top here, though that’s perhaps the direction she was given. Her song has the most memorable melody of the entire movie, but I don’t think her performance itself is THAT extraordinary. I think my favorite has to be Pike & Magnussen’s (the two Prince brothers) hilarious and unabashedly campy rendition of Agony. Ironically, it’s the least agonizing rendition of the rest and it got the whole theater cheering for its flagrant goofiness. Corden has the most screen time aside from Streep and I think he’s a good and likable actor that’s able to hold his own. He has a nice chemistry with Blunt, who’s always lovely to watch no matter how little she has to work with.

Overall though, I just can’t get into the story. It’s convoluted for no apparent reason and the third act just got too somber and dark for its own good, which seems disconnected from the lighter scenes that precede it. In fact, the stories don’t feel well-connected at all, they just seem randomly thrown together for amusement sake. Much like the equally star-studded ensemble of Nine, Rob Marshall seems more adept at assembling a bunch of fabulous crews and actors but he’s inept in making the most of the performers to tell an engaging story. I’ve only seen three of his work, including the overrated Chicago which I don’t think deserve the Best Picture Oscar. In fact I wish it hadn’t, as it encouraged Marshall to think he’s a great director.

As I walked out of the theater, I wonder if it had been ill-advised to adapt this material on the big screen. I mean if they absolutely had to adapt it, perhaps Disney should’ve gotten someone who’s more of a bold visionary filmmaker. Someone who could breathe some real sparkle (to match all that fairy dust) into this adaptation and make it entertaining in the process. As it is now, the movie is mere window dressing with gorgeous set pieces, pretty costumes and lovely songs, but it inspires more of a ‘huh?’ reaction than ‘wow.’

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Well, have you seen any of these films? What did you think?

A Fisti Recast-athon: The Devil Wears Prada, Gravity, and Michael Clayton

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Now THIS is a blogathon I can’t wait to take part! Andrew over at A Fistful of Films blog just had a brilliant idea for a recast-athon, similar to what I did here but this time with a slight twist. I’ll let him explain in his own words…

Here is my issue with Hollywood. It seems like these talented women (the men have it much easier) are either relegated to minority-necessary casting (like, we NEED a black actress in this movie because the character is a slave) or they get shoved onto television, where they flourish in short-lived TV shows that the average cinephile has probably never heard of.  It is very rare that a top rate director is going to use an actress of color in a role that doesn’t call for one. Obviously, there are a lot of biopic nominations going on all over the place, but taking those out…look at some of these roles and tell me if they couldn’t have been filled by an actress of color.

  • Nina Sayers (Black Swan)
  • Nic (The Kids are All Right)
  • Cindy (Blue Valentine)
  • Megan (Bridesmaids)
  • Tiffany (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Cheryl (The Sessions)
  • Dolores (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Jasmine (Blue Jasmine)
  • Ryan Stone (Gravity)
  • Ginger (Blue Jasmine)

So here are the RULES:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn’t require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don’t need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person).  This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time. So, in other words, don’t select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968’s Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn’t born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit.  Plead her case.  Let’s tell those Hollywood casting directors what they’re missing.


I LOVE this idea! I often think the same thing too that a lot of these roles could’ve easily been done by so many non-white actresses. I love that Drew focuses on actresses as non-white MALE actors certainly do get it easier than the female counterparts. It’s a shame really as there are SO many talented & beautiful actress of color out there who remain so underutilized. So here are three actresses who I think could’ve given an equally good performance in these Oscar-nominated roles:

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Angela Bassett as Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)

BassettMirandaPriestlyI have always been a big fan of miss Bassett. In fact, I have sort of a girl crush on her from Waiting To Exhale. She obviously epitomizes a strong, perceptive, no-nonsense woman but she has a certain vulnerability as well that make me think she’d be great as Miranda. Bassett is nine years younger than Meryl Streep, but I don’t think age is an issue here. In an era where Lucky Fashion Magazine’s editor in chief and Banana Republic’s creative director are of Taiwanese and Korean descent respectively, why not have a Black woman play a Fashion Mag editor in the movies?

I think Bassett would rock the role with her dramatic chops, and she also has a playful side and a rockin’ body that’d look phenomenal in high fashion. As Meryl portrays Miranda less as a sadistic monster of a boss but more of a fierce/demanding figure, I think Bassett can do the same given her naturally-likable persona.

Bonus: It’d be cool to see gorgeous British actress Naomie Harris in the role of Andy Sachs, the naive college grad who moved to NYC and lands a job as Miranda’s co-assistant.

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I’ve been impressed by Naomie in 28 Days Later, Skyfall and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and I’d LOVE to see her in more prominent roles. She’s even more beautiful than Anne Hathaway but I think she could be made up to look more like the girl-next-door.

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Michelle Yeoh as Ryan Stone (Gravity)

YeohRyanStoneWhen I first saw the trailer of Gravity, I was a bit surprised to see Sandra Bullock as Biomedical engineer Ryan Stone on her first space shuttle mission. She just wasn’t the actress I had in mind in the role, though she did a great job in the end and I think her Oscar nomination was well deserved. Now, I read that Natalie Portman was originally the first choice for the role, but heh, if only Hollywood would think outside the box once in a while. I think an actress who’d suit the role nicely is Michelle Yeoh. It’d somewhat coincide nicely the fact that in June 2012, Chinese space pilot Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space.

Yeoh is actually two years older than Bullock at 52, though both look at least 10 years younger than their age. I always think of the former Miss Malaysia is hugely underrated, despite having churned out great performances in Crouching Tiger, Sunshine, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies and recently, The Lady.

I think her martial-art training and dance background would help with the rigorous physicality required for the role. She also has the dramatic chops to pull off the quieter moments of desperation that Stone encounters when she was all alone in space. I really think Yeoh would’ve done a wonderful job in the role and the film would’ve had an ever bigger International appeal given her popularity in Asia.

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Viola Davis as Karen Crowder (Michael Clayton)

ViolaDavisKarenChowderI had put down miss Davis in this role before I saw her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them where she played a tough but compassionate NYU professor. But now I’m more convinced she’d have been awesome in the role. As she is now playing yet another sharp-witted character, a tough-talking, shrewd defense attorney/law professor in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, you know she would be perfect as the general counsel of an agricultural conglomerate.

I think Hollywood might be reluctant to cast an actor of color in such an unsympathetic role, but I think it’d be a challenging and fun role for someone of Davis’ talent. Chowder is ruthless and even callous, willing to take a life when her cause demands it. But she’s also suffering from a mental breakdown and tough she appears tough and in control in the outside, on the inside she is crippled with anxiety and fear. Though I LOVE Tilda Swinton’s Oscar-winning performance, I can totally see Davis pulling off such an inner conflict with aplomb. Davis’ adept use of subtle body language as well as her magnetic screen presence would also work wonder for such a role.


What do you think of my recast-athon picks? If you were to do your own recasting, who would YOU pick?

Five for the Fifth: AUGUST 2014 Edition

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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. As customary with Five for the Fifth, I’d like to highlight a filmmaker/actor who’s having a birthday today. Well, it so happens that two talented-yet-underrated British actors have a birthday today: Mark Strong and Janet McTeer. They turn 50 and 52 respectively.

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You might not know these two actors by name but surely you have seen them in a film or TV show. I can’t remember where I first saw Mark Strong but he’s been in so many films and he’s always memorable even in small supporting roles. My favorite of his roles would be Rocknrolla, Robin Hood, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Zero Dark Thirty. He’s quite a versatile actor and he has a rather chameleon face where you can’t tell what ethnicity he belongs to. I mean he could play a Jordanian prince as effortlessly as an English lord.

As for Janet McTeer, I really should see more of her work. I’ve only seen the two-time Oscar nominees in the BBC Sense & Sensibility as Mrs. Dashwood. I know my pal Ashley loves her as she’s her favorite actress. The statuesque actress (she’s 6’1″) is a graduate of RADA and can effortlessly juggle TV and film work. She’s starring in The Honourable Woman BBC miniseries with Maggie Gyllenhaal and a Victorian-era thriller Angelica with Jena Malone and Ed Stoppard.

So what’s your favorite from both of these fine actors?
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2. My hubby and I were watching a bunch of new trailers on iTunes on Friday and we came across Into The Woods. For some reason I hadn’t heard of this movie before, either that or I just forgot about it.

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IntoTheWoodsCast

Into the Woods is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel — all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.



As someone who grew up watching Disney fairy tale movies, this immediately intrigues me. The cast is awesome too, boy is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do? Never mind, clearly there is none. I like the Emily Blunt and James Corden pairing, and Anna Kendrick is inspired choice as Cinderella. Though I’m usually not enamored by Chris Pine, I must say he looks mighty dashing as Cinderella’s Prince, yowza!! Ask my hubby, I actually rewound the trailer and paused it a few times when he appeared 😉 Can’t wait to hear Chris’ singing voice, as he’s displayed on Jimmy Kimmel a while back, he actually has a great set of pipes!

I had no idea there’s actually a musical on Broadway featuring music by Stephen Sondheim. Now, Rob Marshall directing is a bit worrisome however, considering what a mess NINE was despite the stellar cast, but hey hopefully this will be good. It’s set to open on Christmas day, competing with Unbroken and Exodus. But considering the subject matter, this should be a hit with the kiddies at least.

Does this one interest you, folks?

3.Ok so this weekend I finally saw the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, thanks to my pal Ted who kindly lends me a bunch of Blu-rays. It’s been ages since I saw this film, I honestly can’t remember a lot of it, so I can’t really say what’s different from the theatrical version.

KingdomOfHeavenDirectorsCut

Boy I forgot how amazing the cast was, well everyone except for the lead Orlando Bloom. To be fair, I think he’s not as horrible as I thought he was but still the movie would’ve been a heck of a lot better with a stronger lead actor IMO. I mean he looks good here but he barely his face is so expressionless and he barely has any gravitas required for the role. The supporting cast is spectacular though: Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Eva Green, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, and Edward Norton whose face is hidden behind a mask the entire time. Oh I’m quite impressed by Alexander Siddiq who really should be in more films! Did you know his real-life uncle is Malcolm McDowell? Sorry I digress. Watching this makes me think of other Director’s Cut versions out there and how many of them are superior to the theatrical version.

So my question to you is, do you watch Director’s Cuts of a movie if they’re available? If so, which one(s) are your favorite?

……

4. Director Colin Trevorrow sure knows how to get fans’ attention and capitalize on the success of The Guardians of the Galaxy. Last week he tweeted a photo of Chris Pratt looking hunky and very Indiana-Jones-y in Jurassic World.

ChrisPrattJurassicWorld

Now I have completely forgotten about this movie, which apparently is not a reboot [thank goodness] but set about 20 years after the events in the original Jurassic Park. Pratt’s sure to be a bonafide star after this weekend, so I think the movie surely would benefit from having him in the lead. I’m mostly curious as I LOVE the original Steven Spielberg film, but the cast they’ve assembled is pretty good so far. In addition to Pratt, we’ve got Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, Nick Robinson (whom I liked in The Kings of Summer), Irrfan Khan, and Vincent D’Onofrio. The film is set to open next Summer, June 12, 2015 to be exact. I hope it’ll live up to the original, but I suppose we’ll have a better idea about it once we see a trailer.

Have you been anticipating Jurassic World?.

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Fernando from Committed to Celluloid Blog. So here it is in his own words:

HouseofCardsSeason2

One of my favorite things in the last few months has been following Netflix’s House of Cards and watching Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) being absolutely ruthless and expertly manipulative, so my question is:

What’s your favorite villainous couple (they don’t have to be married to each other) in TV or film?


Well, that’s it for the AUGUST 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

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?

‘August: Osage County’ review from a fan of the award-winning play

This review is courtesy of guest blogger Sarah Johnson who mainly writes reviews for the Twin Cities Film Fest.

AugustOsageCounty_bnr
Well, I’ll say one thing for “August: Osage County” – I wouldn’t wait until August to see it. When the play opened on Broadway in 2007, Charles Isherwood, the New York Times theater critic, called it “a fraught, densely plotted saga of an Oklahoma clan in a state of near-apocalyptic meltdown.” That sounds about right. It focuses on the Weston clan in the sweltering weeks of August. Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mullroney, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard and Benedict Cumberbatch play the male roles in the movie but the story is really about the strong-willed women in the family and a crisis that brings them all home.

After it won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, I saw it when the touring production came to Ordway Center in St. Paul in 2010. That was more than three years ago and I still think it’s the best play I’ve ever seen. Whenever I see the movie version of a show after I see the live version that I really liked I always wonder- Am I going to like it as much? I did and for two reasons.
AugustOsageCounty_still
The first is the incomparable Meryl Streep as Violet Weston, the venom-spewing matriarch suffering from mouth cancer in a drug-induced haze. Her performance reminded me of Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? At a family dinner, she doesn’t just re-open old wounds, she rips off the scabs and pours a gallon of salt in them. It’s one of those hypnotic performances you can’t take your eyes from.
I’m not the biggest Julia Roberts fan in the world but she does a good job of stripping away her sometimes annoying toothy grin acting style and admirably portrays Barbara, the oldest daughter. (I would say as the oldest with her own daughter she has the most baggage but every character in the show has enough baggage to fill a stagecoach.) Of course, Roberts’s problem is she’s playing opposite Meryl Streep. Good luck with that.
The second thing I noticed about this film was in the opening credits. Tracy Letts, who wrote the book for the Broadway play, also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Of course, I was thinking after seeing the movie, who else could have adapted this? The movie is about an hour shorter than the play (the live version actually had two intermissions and, believe me, you needed both of them) but it doesn’t lose much impact.
AugustOsageCounty_stills1
It’s obvious Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and Eugene O’Neill (Long Day’s Journey Into Night) were influences on Letts. Not knowing anything about his background, part of me wonders what happened in his life to enable him to write such a savage tale of family dysfunction? Drug abuse, incest, suicide, mental illness, alcoholism…yep, it’s all there.
Shows like August: Osage County ring so true because everyone can relate to them. But what gives this one an edge of reluctant comedy is when you start to think, “Geez, my family may be weird but at least they’re not as messed up as these people!” I think anyone could go on and on about the multiple layers in this show. Having seen both versions, I can say while the play seemed more visceral and intimate as you were watching this catastrophe unfold before you in real time, it closed on Broadway in 2009 and the national tour was only at the Ordway for a short time. If you didn’t get a chance to see either of those (or even if you did), the movie is your chance to see it on the big screen. Don’t miss it.
fivereels
5 out of 5 reels

TCFF_reviewer_Ruth


Thoughts on this movie and/or the cast? We’d love to hear it!

October Movie Watching Recap and Movie of the Month

OctRecap

Hello November! It’s also the weekend daylight savings ends here in Minnesota, so we get an extra hour to do whatever we wish, yay! Well, since I’ve been suffering with a cold the past week (yes that meant I was sick during my vacation plus I also twisted my ankle on my second night of the trip), most likely I will be using that extra hour to rest.

But hey, don’t cry for me, folks. It was still an awesome trip to NYC, which was to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding, the first of two wedding festivities (the 2nd one will be in our hometown Jakarta). LOVE New York City in Autumn, the foliage hasn’t quite peaked yet, but the leaves colors are just gorgeous! I didn’t get a chance to visit as many places due to my twisted ankle though, so we’ll likely be back next year!

Before the ankle-twisting incident... Visiting Belvedere Castle in Central Park and goofing around w/ my sister-in-law on the BIG Piano at FAO Schwartz
Before the ankle-twisting incident… Strolling w/ my dear hubby in Central Park, visiting Belvedere Castle, and goofing around w/ my sister-in-law on the BIG Piano at FAO Schwartz

I’m also happy to report that thanks to TCFF, it’s been a GREAT movie-watching month for me. Check out my 2013 TCFF coverage by clicking the tab at the top of the blog, there are surely some movie gems you wouldn’t want to miss!

Well, here are some of my posts this past month:

New-to-me Feature Films Watched (in alphabetical order):

12 Years A Slave

August: Osage County

Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness (doc)

Captain Phillips

Dark Knight Returns Part I and II

Everybody’s Fine (for the Robert De Niro Blogathon)

Forev

Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football (doc)

How I Live Now

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Nebraska

One Chance

Parkland

RUSH

The Armstrong Lie (doc)

The Fifth Estate

The Big Noise

The Search for Simon

Trust Greed Bullets and Bourbon

Winter in the Blood

Check out which of these films made my TCFF Top Five

I still have some TCFF screeners I have yet to see as I had to lend them to fellow blog volunteers, so there would’ve been more films on this list had I got around to watching them. On top of the films listed above, I also watched a total of 8 short films during TCFF: The Family-themed Shorts that includes A Better Life, as well as Hot and Bothered.

I was planning on going to The Counselor‘s screening but couldn’t make it as it was at 10 in the morning. But after reading the dismal reviews, it’s perhaps best that I just rent that one later. Besides, that might be too dark and disturbing to see before going to work, ahah. No rewatches for me either this month, though we did get our Pacific Rim Blu-ray a couple of weeks ago that we’ll be watching this weekend!

SpidermanTurnOffTheDarkOh, whilst I was in NYC, my hubby and I also got a chance to catch Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway. It was pretty decent and the theatrics was pretty entertaining, and Justin Matthew Sargent was good as the lead. I do think Marvel’s web slinger is much more suitable as a feature film, plus they made some changes to the story that I wasn’t too keen on. The music by Bono is not bad, though the only one I really dug is Rise Above, here’s a sample:


I’m glad I saw it, but unlike say, The Phantom of the Opera, it’s not a show I’d want to see over and over again.


Movies of the Month:

I knew it would be hard for me to pick just ONE Movie of the Month in October, there are simply too many excellent films. Well, after much deliberations (in my head that is) it came down to a tie between these two:

AugustOsageCty_Collage12YrsASlave_CollageInteresting that both feature a star-studded ensemble cast, and both has Benedict Cumberbatch in it. I didn’t plan on that (nor did I plan on seeing THREE films this month that stars the awesome and mighty popular Brit, not that I’m complaining). Both films feature a brutally-honest look into its subject matter, both physically and emotionally, and at times it’s tough to watch. Kudos to directors Steve McQueen and John Wells for their daft hand in crafting such challenging films.

As for the performances, the true star of August: Osage County and 12 Years A Slave are Meryl Streep and Chiwetel Ejiofor, respectively. I have a feeling Streep is a shoo-in comes next year’s Oscar, but I sure hope Ejiofor would get a shot, he sooo deserves it. I hope to review both of these soon and will post ’em when the embargo is lifted, but I highly recommend both films which will surely get a lot of mentions come award season.


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in October?