Day 4 Review – TCFF 2015 Gala Screening: Youth

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This is the first film from Paolo Sorrentino that I saw, as I missed his film The Great Beauty which won an Oscar foreign language winner in 2014. YOUTH is about about two longtime friends vacationing in the Swiss Alps, they’re in their 80s so you could say youth is behind them. Michael Caine plays Fred, an acclaimed composer and conductor, who brings along his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and best friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), a renowned filmmaker.  

Mick is struggling to finish the screenplay with a team of enthusiastic young writers in tow, hoping to make his last film that would perhaps mark his legacy. Fred on the other hand, has left music behind him. The opening scene shows a rather amusing scene of him with a representative of the Royal Family, practically begging Fred to conduct an orchestra for the Queen. 

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The whole film is about these two men reflecting on their past in their own strange way. The point was whether each would find out that perhaps youth is really a state of mind, and that the most important experiences might still await them. The resort they’re staying at in the Alps made for some truly breathtaking shots. It could practically be a cinematic promotional brochure for real resort in the Swiss Alps area. The film also have some stunning shots in Rome and Venice.

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This is a quintessentially European film, with nonchalant scenes of nudity all around, both young and old. I’ve never seen so many old naked people in a single film before, and honestly, that’s not exactly something I enjoy. I guess it’s probably not a big deal for European filmmakers, I just don’t feel it’s necessary at all. It’s not shocking to me, the full frontal nudity doesn’t serve much purpose. I have to say that there are quite a few bizarre moments on display. Some works, some feels gratuitous. One of the most amusing scenes was when Fred was conducting a bunch of cows in a dream sequence, and later towards the end Mick was haunted by the *ghosts* of all the actresses from his film.

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I feel that Sorrentino is more of a visual director, as the imagery are definitely more memorable here than the narrative. I’m not saying there isn’t any emotional scenes, there are a few that come to mind, but the visuals are far more overpowering. The performances are good all around however. I’ve seen Caine in a lot of supporting roles where I feel he’s just phoning it in, so it’s nice to see him deliver a compelling performance and really got into his character. I’m not the biggest Keitel fan but he’s really good here as well.

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Rachel Weisz offers a memorable supporting turn in a subplot about her being ditched by her husband. I find that I sympathize with her plight more than the two leading men, and her performance was quite heart-wrenching. There is a heartfelt father/daughter relationship between her and Caine, and there is a memorable conversation between the two of them when they’re both covered up in mud in a spa. Paul Dano proved once again he is one of the best working actors of his generation. He plays a famous actor who’s disillusioned with his career and some of his acting choices. Jane Fonda and Romanian model Madalina Ghenea both had a very memorable cameo, but for two very different reasons. You’ll see it when you see the film and that might serve as not-so-subtle message about youth and growing older.

Overall I was entertained by YOUTH and there are definitely some memorable visuals from start to finish. Whether this film will resonate with me in the long run remains to be seen however, as it didn’t move me as much as I had hoped.

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Have you seen YOUTH? Well, let me know what you think!

Weekend Roundup & Kingsman: The Secret Service review

Valentine’s Weekend is awesome this year as it’s a company holiday on Monday for President’s Day, who doesn’t love a three-day weekend right? Hope you had a lovely V-day wherever you are. It was super cold Saturday night so we opted for some scrumptious Thai take-out and watched Nightcrawler, that’s the kind of perfect *night in* for us. I’ll have my full review of the Jake Gyllenhaal film but suffice to say it lives up to all the great reviews I’ve been reading.

It’s not surprising that the Fifty Shades movie shatters box office record, though it’s kind of sad such a movie is so wildly popular. There is no way I’d ever subject myself to what Aussie anchor Lisa Wilkinson calls ‘domestic violence dressed up as erotica’ and I’m convinced her review is far more entertaining that the film:


I re-watched two of my favorite period dramas, Belle and Pride & Prejudice, and my love for both films just keep growing. I did go to the cinema Friday night to see Kingsman: The Secret Service and here’s my review:

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I have to admit that the first time I knew about this movie was from this cool poster I saw at a local cinema. It has no info of the director nor the cast but the visual of an elegant closet is so Bond-like and ever so British. But by the time the trailer came out I thought it looked a wee bit silly, and so it wasn’t until the positive reviews coming out that I was excited to see it.

Well, the movie is VERY British indeed, both an homage AND a spoof to the 007 movies, and as a fan of the genre, that definitely appeals to me. Refined British gent Colin Firth plays as one of the Kingsman agents, Harry Hart, who’s as proper as he is bad ass. The first act was basically him recruiting a replacement for his fellow agent who died on a mission in the Middle East. Harry (aka Galahad) owed his life to Lancelot (another code name inspired by British Knights) and thus he felt compelled to recruit his friend’s teenage son, Eggsy (Taron Egerton). The film moved along swiftly and director Matthew Vaughn infused it with tongue-in-cheek humor and a huge dose of riotous fun from start to finish. The whole sequence at a ski resort is very Bond-like, but think Roger Moore instead of Daniel Craig in tone, complete with a gorgeous female assassin wearing razor-sharp blades as prosthetic legs.

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Apparently this was based on a comic-book written by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (the two also collaborated on Wanted). The story itself is actually pretty solid and not all about silly good fun. There’s a bit of a father/son bond between Harry and Eggsy, and a bit of a coming-of-age story in regards to Eggsy. During one of the intense Kingsman training, Mark Strong‘s character told him to ‘get rid of the chip on his shoulder,’ and Eggsy’s slowly coming into his own as the film progresses.

As the film’s master villain is Samuel L. Jackson, as internet billionaire Richmond Valentine that’s a heck of a lot more entertaining than Tomorrow Never Dies‘ lame media mogul Elliot Carver. He even has his very own henchwoman deadlier than Jaws & Oddjob combined, in the form of dark-haired beauty Sofia Boutella. Jackson is obviously having a good time playing Valentine. He speaks with an amusing lisp (which the actor apparently had in real life) and can’t stand the sight of blood. Of course he has to be some kind of a psychopath hellbent on *saving the planet* as it were, but in his own twisted way. It’s an interesting social commentary on how our addiction to our handphones just might lead us to our own demise. Apparently, the broadcast signal sent by Valentine to those hand phones cause people to become extremely violent.

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It’s yet another fun collaboration between Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class). This could very well be Vaughn’s version of a Bond flick, that is if the Bond producers would allow him to make a hyper violent R-rated film. I knew this would be violent but I didn’t know it’d be THIS violent, I mean there are some intense and extremely bloody fight sequences that made even John Wick seems tame. One sequence inside a church reminds me of this scene in 300 when Leonidas single-handedly fought all those Persians, but without the stylized slo-mo. I do think the foul language & violence are excessive, gratuitous and more graphic than it needs to be, even if the fight sequences are well-styled. There’s one crazy head-explosions scene that’s absolutely bonkers, set to the Pomp and Circumstance Marches no less! You can’t help but laugh in its absurdity and the fact that the filmmakers had the balls to do it. SPOILER ALERT: We’ve seen plenty of scenes of the White House exploding on screen, but never the Commander in Chief himself, especially one who is still in power!

I think what makes Kingsman works is its self-awareness and that it doesn’t to be a heavy movie. It’s ‘boys just wanna have fun’ type of flick, packed with wit, dry humor and of guns & gadgetry. The set pieces are great to look at, especially the Kingsman headquarter that resembles Drax’ mansion in Moonraker. And of course, those sleek, sharp suits that’s practically a character in itself. I saw Sam Jackson in a talk show the other day wearing one of the Kingsman menswear line that’s crafted especially for the film, dang that is some exquisite tailoring. It was fun seeing Mr. Darcy being so ridiculously bad ass here. I read that Colin Firth did most of his own stunts, which is quite impressive and somehow he still looked quite elegant doing it. “Manners maketh man” is his motto after all. I quite like newcomer Taron Egerton here as well, I actually think he might fit the role better than Kick-Ass’ star Aaron Johnson who was offered the role initially. It’s always nice seeing the always-reliable Mark Strong having a bit of fun here and there are also some amusing cameo from Mark Hamill and Michael Caine.

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Overall it’s definitely a fun spy flick that works in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Kingsman is gleefully over-the-top, relentlessly boisterous and unapologetically un-PC. If you’re a fan of Vaughn’s or Guy Ritchie movies, you should enjoy this entertaining twist of the spy genre. Though the ultra violence and some offensive content is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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So what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen Kingsman, what did YOU think?

Weekend Roundup Reviews: Now You See Me & The Kid With a Bike

First weekend of June and apparently the box office came crashing down after a strong Memorial weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, Fast & Furious 6 fell 65% to about $34 mil, but yet it still took the top spot with Now You See Me ($28 mil) and After Earth ($27 mil) rounding up the top three. I had no interest in seeing the Will Smith (& son) movie, so even with two press screenings, I didn’t attend either one of them. Anyway, here are my reviews of the two I saw this past weekend:

NowYouSeeMePosterNow You See Me (2013)

An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.

This movie wasn’t even on my radar until I saw the trailer in front of Oblivion last month. It looks like a fun caper with a pretty decent cast, though I was mostly amused by the fact that Christopher Nolan’s Batman alums Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are together again on screen. Well, after seeing the movie, I actually find this interview of the two of them where Freeman dozed off right in the middle of it far more entertaining, ahah.

The movie started off promising enough, with a brief ‘origin’ story of sort how the world’s most popular team of illusionists The Four Horsemen came into being. Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Woody Harrelson made up the four of them, with Harrelson being the most amusing of them all by a small margin. The first magic trick that takes place certainly piques your interest and makes you go, ‘how the heck did they do that??‘ If you’ve seen the trailer, you might’ve seen the clip of thousands of dollar bills showering the audience of a live magic show. Well, the trick is a pretty cool one involving a French guy being teleported to his bank in Paris! A theft this big surely gets the attention of the FBI and the agent assigned to the case, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is hot on their trail. He gets help from pretty Interpol agent Alma (Mélanie Laurent) and there’s a hint of romance in their interaction which falls flat to me.

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The last movie by French director Louis Leterrier was the horrible Clash of the Titans. Now this isn’t as bad as that one but really, that’s not saying much. I usually like caper action films and with the whole magic theme interwoven in it, the story is definitely promising. But Leterrier’s direction is so scatterbrained that the movie elicits eye rolls and gaping yawns [no wonder Freeman dozed off promoting this movie, ahah]. A few times during the movie I whispered to my hubby that this movie has a serious identity crisis. I mean, it’s trying to hard to be a mystery thriller, fast-paced action, romance drama, but it fails in all fronts. It also shifts its focus from the various characters in such a frenetic fashion that I barely care just who’s tricking who and what’s really at stake here. Then, as the heists gets even more daring and the action more bombastic, the film throws this big twist at the end that’s supposed be this huge shocker. Unfortunately, I’ve stopped caring by that point. The climax just isn’t all that rewarding after all the disconcerting ride this movie’s put us through. Plus, the flashback reveal is so lame and preposterous I practically threw my hands up in the air.

There are some cool scenes here and there but overall Now You See Me‘s is such a big waste of talents and material. I don’t care about any of the characters either. I mean, the fact that I kept referring to Freeman and Caine’s characters as Lucious Fox and Alfred should tell you just how memorable these characters are. I only remember Ruffalo’s character’s name as it’s cool enough to be a superhero alter ego, but Rhodes is so daft that his superiors must’ve been in a trance when they hired him, ahah. Apart from some cool scenes of the magic show that made me feel as if I were actually in Vegas watching a show, there’s barely any cinematic magic to speak of here. Even the action scenes are nothing groundbreaking, even the rather long car chase scene is nowhere near as exciting as the one Leterrier did in the first Transporter movie. Eisenberg’s character said that the first rule of magic is always be the smartest person in the room. Well, seems like such a person went ‘poof’ in the making of this movie!


2 out of 5 reels


TheKidwithaBikePosterThe Kid With a Bike (2011)

Abandoned by his father, a young boy is left in a state-run youth farm. In a random act of kindness, the town hairdresser agrees to foster him on weekends.

This film came highly recommended by a few of my closest bloggers. The story definitely appeals to me and right of the bat it reminds me of one of my favorite indie Dear Frankie as the protagonist is also abandoned by his father. The difference is, the 11-year-old Cyril doesn’t have a mother either and he reluctantly lives at a foster institution. Kids like Cyril are so broken that a life of delinquency seems inevitable, even if the stubborn and impulsive boy is actually a good kid at heart.

Seemingly by chance, Cyril runs into Samantha [literally!] as he was running away from his foster counselors. He’s been looking for his missing dad and his bike. Samantha (Cécile De France), a hairdresser in town, somehow finds out where his bike was sold and buys it back for Cyril. Her kind gesture doesn’t end there, she even offers to take Cyril with her on weekends, and she even agrees to take Cyril to find his dad.

What strikes me about this French film is how matter-of-fact the story goes right from the beginning. It doesn’t pull any punches on showing the pain and despair Cyril (Thomas Doret) goes through in his young life, and the cruelty of his own father in when he gives him up in order to start a fresh new life. Even as someone who grew up without a father myself, I don’t think I could fathom being deserted by my own parent in this manner. The scenes of Cyril and his dad who’s now moved to another town and works at a restaurant is heart-wrenching. It’s not just painful to see how his dad blatantly rejects him, but more so because Cyril refuse to accept that fact and is denial that his dad no longer wants him in his life.

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It’s almost inevitable that a kid like Cyril would fall into a bad crowd. So when a charismatic gang leader known as The Dealer practically recruits Cyril, I was terrified for what’s in store for this young boy. Thankfully, the film didn’t descent into some real sinister territory, and the resolution proves to be quite a turning point for the young protagonist. Even though it has an open-ended finale, I think we could guess just which path Cyril is finally on to. It’s nice to see something of substance after the vapid one I saw days before. It’s a simple film with barely any frills, but the story is really the *star* of the film.

I must admit though, that I didn’t quite connect with Cyril as much as I had hoped I would. I find myself quite frustrated with Cyril as he doesn’t warm up to Samantha despite her kindness towards her, and Doret’s not an expressive performer (I guess this being his first film is understandable). I do appreciate the fact that the filmmaker is perhaps presenting his character just the way he is, without manipulation or making him to be a sympathetic character. As with Samantha, I wish there’s more background on her character as there could be more time spent on why she was so adamant to help Cyril.

That said, I’m curious to see more from the Belgian filmmaker duo, brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Since making films in the late 70s, they’ve been garnering numerous awards and multiple Palme d’Or honors. This film won the Grand Prix at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe in Best Foreign Language Film. The cinematography of the city of Seraing (which happens to be the birthplace of the Dardennes), a French-speaking region in Belgium, is pretty scenic. Now, the use of music is so sparse that when it appears it almost took me out of the movie. From what I read about the filmmakers, they apparently rarely use music in their films which I find quite odd.

According to Wikipedia, the screenplay had a structure inspired by fairy tales. No wonder Samantha is portrayed like a fairy godmother. Yet the message of humanity in this film is quite inspiring, we could use more people like her in this world.


4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear what you think!

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Coen Brothers’ Gambit remake

I haven’t visited impawards site in a while but I’m glad I did so today. How have I not heard of this film before?? I mean, hello Col. Brandon and Mr. Darcy… I mean, these are two of my all time favorite period drama heroes!! 😉

The gist:

So what’s Gambit about? Now, you comic-book fans out there might think of the X-Men character, but no, it has nothing to do with that. Here’s the synopsis from Orange.com:

Private art curator Harry Deane (Colin Firth) devises a finely-crafted scheme to con England’s richest man and avid art collector, Lionel Shabandar, (Alan Rickman) into purchasing a fake Monet painting. In order to bait his buyer, he recruits a Texas rodeo queen (Cameron Diaz) to cross the pond and pose as a woman whose grandfather liberated the painting at the end of WWII.

It’s described as a crime-comedy. Now, another thing that piqued my interest is that the screenplay is written by the Coen Brothers, who specializes in this kind of genre. But this time they’re not directing the movie, instead, it’ll be Michael Hoffman (One Fine Day, The Last Station) doing the directing duties. The story is a remake of the 1966 movie of the same name with Michael Caine as Harry. I don’t know how many remakes the Coens have done in the past, I think The Ladykillers and True Grit were remakes, but I’ve only seen the latter and that was one of my top 5 movies of 2010.

The Cast:

See my first paragraph. Obviously the two male leads Alan Rickman and Colin Firth sold me already on this movie. But add the always excellent Stanley Tucci and this automatically becomes a run-don’t-walk-to-the-theater kinds of flicks. But Cameron Diaz?? Heh, can’t say I’m enthused about her casting… but I’ve got to admit, she’s got good comedic skills, case in point: Something About Mary, and I totally could see her as a Texas rodeo queen. Besides, it could be worse… Jennifer Aniston was considered for the role of PJ Puznowski.

Looks like the pics above are snapped at Heathrow Airport. Boy, even at 40 Diaz’s still rockin’ those daisy dukes! I like the fact that the movie is filmed on location in London. No Rickman in sight though, but no matter, I just have a good feeling about this one. With the Coens’ script, this seems poised to be quite an entertaining caper comedy.

Now the bad news… for us in America anyway…

Release dates:

According to Cinemablend, Gambit has been pushed back by CBS Films from October 12th of this year to a mysterious time in “Winter 2013.” Not sure why that is, but apparently the studio is placing Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths in its slot. Looks like my UK friends are the lucky ones as they still get to see it this year on November 21.

Added 9/20:

The trailer is now here!

Man, now I’m even more excited to see this!


Thoughts on this movie folks? Are you going to see this one?

FlixChatter Review: The Dark Knight Rises

In an era where seemingly every Summer we get a superhero cinematic event, Christopher Nolan still manages to kick it up a notch with The Dark Knight Rises. Really, even without the ruckus over death treats over negative reviews and the tragic event that happened in Aurora, CO, during a midnight screening, the hype over the final chapter to Nolan’s Batman saga is still a colossal one. The over-exposure is really quite overwhelming, to the point where I have to make extra effort to tune it out and be as fresh as possible.

Well, I’m happy to say that it paid off to know as little as possible about the plot as I was surprised a couple of times watching this. I think those of you that still have not seen this yet, I suggest you do the same and avoid reading about it as much as you possibly can.

Now, the gist of the story is actually pretty simple… it’s eight years after Bruce Wayne has hung up the Batman mantle, still haven’t moved on from his lost love Rachel who perished in The Dark Knight. But suddenly a disturbance of great proportion threatens to destroy his beloved city of Gotham, and so he feels compelled to help its citizens, even at the risk of facing an adversary that’s even greater than he had faced before. So the gist is simple, but somehow, Nolan and his team of writers concocted a complicated storyline involving a myriad of characters that at times I was left discombobulated trying to make sense of it all.

Before I go further with my critique, let’s start with the positive first.

Nolan has certainly done a remarkable job in maintaining the tone and quality of all three films that they work seamlessly as one spectacular trilogy. In keeping most of the cast intact and most importantly, the writers, we are already fully invested in the story and characters, and when new characters are introduced, there is no dissonant.

Two of the new main characters are both impressive — Anne Hathaway as the masterful thief Selina Kyle [she was never described as Catwoman though she essentially is one] and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as rookie policeman John Blake. Both actors bring something new to the table and I’m happy to say that my doubt about Hathaway’s casting was quickly erased the moment she appeared on screen. She was sassy, strong and playful but yet has that vulnerable side to her for the emotional moments in the film. Marion Cotillard as a philanthropist businesswoman Miranda Tate doesn’t have much screen time by comparison, but her character is certainly a crucial one.

As for Bane, now I think he’s a pretty formidable villain though not the character itself and Tom Hardy‘s performance is not as iconic as the one from the previous installment. Yet I think he’s quite a force to be reckoned with and there are some scenes that made me shudder just on the sheer of physical strength he had.

The rest of the returning cast (Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman) are in top form as well, but if I were to rank my favorite Nolan’s Batman saga characters, I’d say Alfred Pennyworth will be in my top five. Michael Caine brings so much heart into the story, and there’s one pivotal conversation between him and Bruce Wayne that makes me cry. He’s such a father figure to Bruce, and as I’ve said in this Father’s Day post, Alfred really is the one who helps shape Batman to be the kind of hero we’ve come to know and love. Christian Bale proves once again he is the perfect choice to play the conflicted, tormented hero and he even looks like he’s aged a bit here, eaten up by such deep sense of grief.

As Ted mentioned in his review on Saturday, I also think the action scenes are brilliantly-executed. There are not as many of them but once they appear, it is so thrilling and fun to watch, especially the moment Batman first appeared with his brand new toy, the flying tumbler fittingly dubbed The Bat. I feel like I was one of Gotham’s citizens happily cheering my hero once again! As for the mano-a-mano with Bane, well this moody poster with the broken Batman’s cowl on the ground certainly delivers its promise. That fight scene is brutal! Nolan is not afraid to make the hero suffers and Batman has never been more in peril than he is here, both physically and emotionally. Yet we will see why the title ‘Rises’ is aptly used here.

Visually it’s a wonder. Seriously, it’s worth every penny seeing it on the giant IMAX screen. Over an hour of this movie was filmed on 70 mm IMAX film and boy did it show! I was ooh-aahing throughout seeing those gorgeous aerial shots of Gotham, I am certainly glad he chose this format instead of 3D. His longtime collaborator, Wally Pfister ought to get an Oscar nod for his cinematography work here.

At 2 hours 44 seconds, the film also able to keep me engrossed the entire time, which is quite a feat.

So, what doesn’t work here?

A couple of them is on the technical level, such as Bane’s often unintelligible voice that makes it even impossible to comprehend when Hans Zimmer’s score is blaring so loudly in the background that it drowns out everything else happening in that scene. There are moments where I wish they’d turn the volume of the music down a bit so I could hear the sound of the environment the scene is set in and more importantly the dialog! Even when the characters are screaming, I still have trouble hearing what they are saying. I think the score is good, but because it’s so irritatingly loud, I can’t appreciate it as much as I would otherwise.

Now, plot-wise, seems like in seven years, the complexity level has quadrupled since Batman Begins and as I’m watching it, I feel like Bane is not the only one having trouble breathing as Nolan doesn’t seem to give much room for us to come up for air. This film is sooo jam-packed with layer after layer of plot, and whilst it has the power to thrill, it also can be quite frustrating at times. Now, I don’t mind the complexity of the story, but I feel that Nolan seems to be more concerned with the bigger picture of the plot that the *smaller details* seem to have gone by the wayside.

Interestingly, I just read this well-written article on Anomalous Material by Nick Prigge that talks about how the Nolan brothers certainly know their set-ups and payoffs. That is, with every small set-up in the movie, even a seemingly trivial one, there’s always a pay-off, which is always a good rule of thumb in screenwriting. Yet I feel that the writing team drops the ball a few times in this final installment. I’m only going to mention those examples in the spoiler section below for those of you who have seen the movie, but let’s just say that the suspension of disbelief is often stretched too far, and I’m saying that because Nolan has pride himself in creating such a realistic universe in his Batman films that I expect more from him. It’s not a deal-breaker in the grand scheme of things, but yet it’s big enough that I’d have to take into account when I rate the film.

Final Thoughts:

Is this THE best Batman film of the three? I’d say no, and not only because Heath Ledger’s The Joker was such a more compelling villain, but more because of the lack of inconsistencies in the way Nolan set up the universe of Batman and Gotham. I guess I scrutinize this film more because I have come to expect so much more from Nolan and the director himself has set the bar so high to justify such expectations.

Still, overall The Dark Knight Rises is a satisfying finale to a fantastic [and lucrative] franchise, and it boasts such a WHOA ending to boot! The conclusion mirrors that of the spinning totem in Inception where we’d be endlessly discussing what we *think* happens at the end [that darn Nolan does it again!!]. I’m also glad that there’s surprisingly a lot of heart beneath such an exhilarating, rip-roaring superhero blockbuster.

4 out of 5 reels

SPOILER ALERT!

Highlight the text below to read this section:

As I stated in my review above, my beef is that Nolan is inconsistent in the way he set the universe of Gotham. In this final movie he suddenly introduces the notion that Gotham is part of the United States, hence that televised presidential speech, but yet the city seems to function as if it’s on its own and no other states exist. I mean how could the cops be trapped under the rubble for three whole months and NO Federal aid comes to the rescue?? I mean all they had to do is to have a Pentagon-like military headquarter send some kind of help by air (since the bridges are burned down) and just blow up those rubble so the cops can get out?? Instead they had to wait for Batman’s aid to do so. I find that really hard to believe.

Another thing is about Bruce Wayne. Now, why is he wearing a walking stick for eight years walking around in Wayne manor and suddenly when he’s back as Batman again, he no longer has a limp and can withstand such brutal beating from the brute force that is Bane. Even the back-breaking thing, well, we’re entering incredible fantasy territory again with how speedy his recovery is and even if that is plausible, my suspension of disbelief is already stretched thin to see him able to walk normally again, but he can actually make such a giant leap to escape the prison of the League of Shadows?? Wow, I think that’s asking too much because everything in this movie is already set up in such a realistic tone. I mean Gotham itself doesn’t have the fantastical element like in Tim Burton’s Batman movies, it’s set up just like an ordinary metropolitan city like New York. So the inconsistencies feel jarring to me.

Lastly, there’s that part where Miranda, a.k.a. Thalia Al Ghul stabs Batman up close with a big knife and it’s clear Batman is hurt as she sadistically twists the knife before she pulls it out. Yet in the subsequent scene, Batman doesn’t show ANY sign of pain whatsoever, it’s like the stabbing never happened. Make that what you will, but I think that’s sloppy writing, no?? I mean tell me where the payoff is on that one, maybe I’m missing something??

I’m curious to hear what you think about Gordon-Levitt’s character. At the end of the movie, his real name is revealed to be Robin [unlike in the comics where Robin is actually an alias] and seems as if based on Blake’s conversation with Bruce Wayne, Batman is grooming him to take over his mantle as the protector of Gotham. I wonder if there’s going to be a follow-up to that in the future with perhaps Nolan serving as a ‘mentor’ of the project, like he does with Man of Steel.

Now lastly… do you think Batman perished at the end? If so, then that scene at the Italian cafe, is that just Alfred’s imagination of wanting his master to finally have a normal life or was Bruce really there with Selina? Well, my hubby reminded me at brunch today about that auto-pilot thing that Bruce apparently fixed, unbeknownst to Lucius Fox. So that piece of seemingly trivial scene might imply that perhaps the Bat had been flying on auto pilot which allows Batman to rescue himself to safety. So my position is that Batman lives! What do YOU think?


Soooo, what did you think of the movie? Do you agree with my assessment? Feel free to discuss about the spoilery stuff but please state a warning in your comment as a courtesy 🙂

The Flix List: Top Ten Favorite Seasoned Actors

In an industry seemingly obsessed with youth, the world of cinema is actually quite forgiving to those suffering from the inevitable phenomenon called aging. I mean, compared to another lucrative career such as sports, where athletes are forced to retire well before they reach ‘middle aged’ period, there are plenty of opportunities for actors not only to survive in the business but continue to thrive despite their age. In fact, a select few are akin to fine wine… they just get even better with age. Not just in their looks mind you (though indeed some still look smashing in their 60s), but professionally, they’re still relevant and consistently churn out compelling performances. These thespians have the dignity to always do their best, never appear as if they’re ‘phoning it in’ just because they can.

I still think there ought to be far more interesting roles for older actors though, and not just those relegated to supporting categories. There’s a market for it obviously, look at the success for RED and Gran Torino, whose leading cast are all way past AARP eligible age. I for one would love to see more love stories in the vein of Last Chance Harvey than something like oh, I dunno, Something Borrowed.

It’s really tough to whittle it down to just ten as I generally like older actors than the those below 25, my criteria for picking these ten are that they are all over 60 years of age, they’ve done quite a few roles that have become my all-time favorites and they’re still working in the business today (hence my exclusion of Sean Connery, whom I like but unfortunately he’s already retired from acting).

So anyway, here they are in alphabetical order:

1. Michael Caine, 78

It’s Sir Michael to us, folks. The tall, bespectacled English gent is more than just a screen legend, he’s practically an pop culture icon. His distinctive manner of speaking is a popular subject used by impressionists and mimics, but he’s such a good sport about the whole thing which makes me like him more. He’s got over one hundred movies and TV works under his belt, with no signs of slowing down (he’s got four upcoming movies in the next couple of years, five if you’re counting voice work for Cars 2).

Top 3 Fave Michael Caine roles: Alfred in Chris Nolan’s Batman flicks, Cutter in The Prestige, Jasper in Children of Men

2. Timothy Dalton, 65

It would be unthinkable for me to have this kind of list and not include Dalton. Whoever wrote his IMDb page is spot on… “At a consistently lean 6′ 2″, green-eyed Timothy Dalton may very well be one of the last of the dying breed of swashbuckling, classically trained Shakespearean actors…” He’s got the looks, talent, and not to mention that iconic silky, throaty voice.

Sure he may not be the most prolific in his later years, but the dashing Welshman has done so many iconic roles in his career: Bond, Rochester, Julius Caesar, even Rhett Butler in the ill-advised Gone with the Wind follow-up Scarlett. His Bond and Jane Eyre’s Rochester renditions are my absolute favorite from each of the franchise, but his bad boy roles are also memorable: Flash Gordon‘s Prince Barin, Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer and Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz. With his recent stint in NBC’s Chuck and The Tourist, it proves that he’s still got it. I only hope he’d get a leading role in the future worthy of his charisma and talent!

Top 3 Fave Timothy Dalton roles: Rochester in 1983 BBC Jane Eyre miniseries, Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer, Eddie Myers in Framed.
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3. Judi Dench, 77

The grand Dame has sheer screen presence despite her 5’1″ frame that she often plays strong female characters. I first saw her as M in Goldeneye, the first female portraying the 007 character. I love her tough-as-nails performance… who told Bond straight on that he’s a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur.’ Oh and this quote from Tomorrow Never Dies has got to be my favorite from M in all of the Bond movies:
..
Admiral Roebuck: With all due respect M, sometimes I don’t think you have the balls for this job.”
M: “Perhaps. But the advantage is that I don’t have to think with them all the time.”

She is of course equally compelling in period dramas, i.e. as Queen Victoria in her Oscar-nominated turn in Mrs. Brown, and who else could nab an Oscar for being on screen for merely 8 minutes!

Top 3 Fave Judi Dench roles: Queen Victoria in Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, M in Bond movies, Eleanor in A Room with a View.
sss…

4. Clint Eastwood, 80

There’s no stopping Mr. Eastwood, who despite hitting the big 8-0, there’s no sign of slowing down! He’s got one of the most varied and rich career of any actor that seem to transcend generations. Having been famous for his bad ass roles like Dirty Harry, he’s become more successful as a director, winning 2 Oscars for directing Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, two completely different genres no less. I actually haven’t seen either one of them as they’re not my cup of tea, but I’ve seen enough of his other great work to consider him on this list. Oh, as if he weren’t a triple threat already, the pianist and composer is also a darn good singer, as displayed in Paint Your Wagon and in the credits of Gran Torino.

Top 3 Fave Clint Eastwood’s work: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Director) , Frank Horrigan in In The Line of Fire, Robert Kincaid in The Bridges of Madison County

5. Harrison Ford, 69

Ok so Cowboys & Aliens failed to ignite at the box office this past weekend, but I doubt it’ll make a dent in his amazing Hollywood career. Ford is a cinematic icon, having played so many classic roles, including my all time favorite, Indiana Jones (have you voted in his b’day poll yet?) Btw, I had just seen The Conversation where he had a minor role, that movie was released 37 years ago and it struck me how much Ford ages well. I like Ford in both his action as well as dramatic roles, recently I rewatched Regarding Henry as it was on TV and I was so moved by it — it’s perhaps his most underrated roles as he didn’t garner any awards for that nuanced performance.
,,,The Chicago-native reportedly just signed on to do another cowboy role as an aging gunfighter Wyatt Earp in Black Hats, set in 1920s New York (per THR)

Top 3 Fave Harrison Ford roles: Indiana Jones, Henry Turner in Regarding Henry, Linus Larabee in Sabrina (1995)
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6. Morgan Freeman, 74

The first time I saw Mr. Freeman was in Street Smart with Christopher Reeve, this was at the time I was crushing on Superman so I watched everything he’s in. I didn’t like the movie but Freeman gave an Oscar-worthy performance in his first nomination (he went on to garner four more nods in his career). I absolutely adore his role as Lucius in Nolan’s Batman films, a man of gravitas who also provides comic relief effortlessly. His scenes with Bruce Wayne in both Nolan’s Batman movies are always the major highlights as they have such a great rapport. Freeman is perhaps best known for his dramatic performance in Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, but the Memphis-born actor also shows he’s got comic skills in Maiden Heist and RED.

Top 3 Fave Morgan Freeman roles: Lucius Fox in Chris Nolan’s Batman flicks, Red in Shawshank Redemption, Nelson Mandela in Invictus.
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7. Ed Harris, 61

I don’t know what it is about Ed Harris but I always enjoy seeing him on screen, even when he’s playing an unsympathetic character. Perhaps it’s his soulful eyes or his seemingly unruffled demeanor. Ted just posted the box office misfire article where he mentioned about The Abyss. I really like that film largely because of Harris’ performance, and I could say the same thing about a lot of the movies he’s in. I like the fact that he’s also a family man, having been married to the same woman since 1983.

Top 3 Fave Ed Harris roles: Bud Brigman in The Abyss, Christof in The Truman Show, Mr. Smith in The Way Back
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8. Anthony Hopkins, 74

Hopkins first scared the pants out of me when I saw Silence of the Lambs in the theater (what was I thinking?) But the beauty of the Welsh actor is that in the movies that follow, he easily disappeared into his roles that I wasn’t ‘haunted’ by Hannibal Lecter every time he appeared on screen. Apparently Sir Laurence Olivier himself discovered him, who invited him to join The National Theatre in 1965 (per IMDb). I suppose it takes one to know one, as both are über talented Oscar winners who are easily one of the greatest actors in of their respective generation.

Top 3 Fave Anthony Hopkins roles: James Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Ludlow in Legends of the Fall, Don Diego de la Vega in The Mask of Zorro.

9. Helen Mirren, 66

I’ve mentioned her a lot on this blog so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I adore this classy lady. Mirren is one of those rare beauty who doesn’t let age get in the way of her inherent sensuality. My friend Vince recommended Excalibur to me where Mirren played a seductive temptress and seeing her most recently in State of Play, it’s clear she hasn’t lost that twinkle in her eye. She can also play buttoned-up obviously, having won all kinds of awards for playing the title role in The Queen. I haven’t seen Calendar Girls yet but I’ll be sure to get to that soon.

Top 3 Fave Helen Mirren roles: Queen Elizabeth in The Queen, Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station, Victoria in RED.

10. Alan Rickman, 65

Last but definitely not least. Again, no surprise as I’ve mentioned him a lot… just yesterday I was raving about his performance as Snape in the Harry Potter movies. That accent with that inimitable delivery… like Dalton, one of the best thing about this Londoner is his silky voice. He’s got quite a female following and I’m not at all surprised. His role as Col. Brandon alone earns him a place on this list, but he’s also fantastic in almost everything he’s in. I also think he should do more comedy as he was such a hoot in Galaxy Quest. It’s funny that I actually first saw Rickman in Truly Madly Deeply when my ESL teacher invited her foreign students to her home, and at the time I wasn’t at all interested. Only later on that I realized it was Rickman as the romantic ghost Jamie.

Top 3 Fave Alan Rickman roles: Col. Brandon in Sense & Sensibility, Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, Severus Snape in Harry Potter franchise.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • Jim Broadbent, 62
  • Brian Cox, 65
  • Ian McKellen, 72
  • Vanessa Redgrave, 74
  • Tom Wilkinson, 63

I feel like I could’ve made this into a top 20, but now it’s your turn. Who are your favorite seasoned thespians?

FlixChatter Review: Inception

It’s been more than twelve hours since the movie ended, yet I’m still mulling it over, spewing quotes from the movie, and can’t stop thinking about it. Nolan’s films infiltrate the minds, kind of like when you just wake up from a vivid dream and still feel trapped between the dream world and reality.

Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange. – Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio)

I don’t know about you, but I dream often and they’re sometimes quite vivid. No matter how weird and surreal the are, one common thing they share is that my dreams always contain a mishmash of what’s real and what’s not, sometimes they even involve people/things from long ago that I thought I had forgotten, meshed together with those in my imagination. When I woke up, often abruptly, my main is in a state of confusion, but yet I wish I hadn’t been awaken. It’s discombobulating yes, frustrating at times as you can’t keep your finger on it, but dreams tend to be fascinating in a strange way. The same can be said about this movie.

The first fifteen minutes it was challenging to discern. It opens with a figure washed ashore on a beach, waves crashing onto him, and the story immediately unfolds in such an enigmatic way. Characters are vaguely defined as neither good or bad, but one thing we do know even from the trailer, DiCaprio’s Cobb is a thief. He’s not just any thief however, he isn’t after material things, but something far more priceless: an idea, someone’s deepest secret. But this time, his supposedly final job, he’s been hired by wealthy tycoon Saito (Ken Watanabe) to do the opposite of he usually does. Instead of extracting an idea, his task is to plant one into his subject’s subconscious mind, which happens to be Saito’s business rival. As if stealing from people’s dreams isn’t impossible enough, this crazy mission is bound to be ultra complicated. Well, just you wait.

The thief gets his game on

I just saw Nolan’s first feature film Following just two days prior, so the details are still quite clear in my head. It’s quite obvious that Chris Nolan is obsessed with how the mind works and psychological manipulation. His first and latest film both deal with the concept of theft and intrusion, even the lead character share the same name: Cobb. But of course Inception is not so much a sibling of Following but its distant, ultra wealthy relative in the way of scope, scale and aspiration. There have been expensive blockbusters released this year, so in terms of production, its $170 million budget is by no means groundbreaking. What separates this from the pack is its sheer ambition and up-to-there creativity. To quote TOTAL FILM in it’s Summer issue: “…Inception’s USP is all about WTF originality.” I read one tweet on Friday that pretty much summed it up my experience: “Thanks Mr. Nolan. Now we only have 11% brain power left in us…” or something along that line. Unlike most popcorn blockbusters, you can’t switch off even one tiny part of your brain going into this movie, and even then you’ll still be perplexed, bewildered and frustrated by what’s taking place on screen.

To go into details of the story would be a disservice to those who haven’t seen it, besides, words escape me in trying to find ways to describe it. Many of Nolan’s movies usually demand repeated viewings to fully grasp the story, and this one is no exception. It’s got such a complex and multi-layered dream-within-a-dream concept, with plots and twists piling up on top of each other that we’re bound to miss some key information the first time around. I wish I could rewind a couple of scenes and turn on the caption on, especially when Ken Watanabe is conversing with DiCaprio, which are some of the vital scenes in the movie. But the thrill is in trying to piece together this puzzle Nolan’s thrusts upon us (my husband quipped that Nolan must be into puzzle games and perhaps chess when he was growing up), and there are also some spellbinding visual effects to enjoy throughout. The CGI is quite seamless, which is a feat in and of itself, but the beauty is that when we’re seeing it, we don’t get stuck at the technicality of it. The special effects enhance the story instead of distract us from the movie.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’d have seen a glimpse of the scene where the city of Paris is folding up geometrically. Well, it looks so much cooler in the movie, and we the audience, as well as DiCaprio and Ellen Page’s character marvel together seeing the people who are still walking about and cars driving normally in a gravity-defying manner. Then there is the surreal sudden appearance of a freight train in the middle of a downtown street and a hotel hallway that spins like a hamster wheel in a Matrix-like action sequence. Those are just a few visual treats that go along with the cerebral ones.

DiCaprio & Cotillard as husband & wife

It’s also exciting for me to see the influences that shape Nolan’s body of work. He said to Empire magazine that “[Inception] is absolutely my Bond movie… I grew up just loving them and they’re a huge influence on me.” No wonder, I chuckle during the sequence in the snowy mountainous region of Calgary, as it bear a striking resemblance to the ski shootout in For Your Eyes Only, among others. Interestingly enough, Nolan’s favorite Bond movie is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (which is the least successful Bond movie with George Lazenby), as Nolan puts it, “…it’s by far the most emotional.” Similarly with Inception, amidst all the high-level concept, high-tech gadgetry and action-packed sequences, at the heart of the movie is a love story between Cobb and his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard).

Part of Leo's team: Tom Hardy & Joseph Gordon-Levitt

So, with all the anticipation that went on for almost a year, does it live up to my expectation? One short answer: YES. Albeit being quite mystified for a good portion of the movie, it was exhilarating and fun, a thrill ride for the eyes and the mind. The acting is also excellent throughout, and not just by DiCaprio alone, who’s definitely the ‘face’ of the movie. Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Watanabe, Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger and Sir Michael Caine are wonderful in their respective roles. I particularly enjoy Hardy (who I last saw in Rocknrolla) who steal scenes every moment he’s in with his charming presence and comic relief. I would love to see more of this guy in the leading role.

Well, on that note, let me end with his line from the movie, “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” Hardy’s character Eames said just before he pulled out a giant firearm next to a lesser-equipped Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur (you can see the exact clip here, thanks to Chele Belle’s comment). Hmmm, that’s got to be the motto Christopher Nolan lives by.