FlixChatter Review: JUDY (2019)

If you have not seen Judy Garland play Dorothy Gale in in the 1939 classic movie The Wizard of Oz than please stop reading this review now and go watch it! For everyone else, you know just how much fame and glory Judy Garland got for being the lead in the movie. But many don’t know about Garland’s last and most painful chapter in her life, just months before her death at age 47. The 2019 film Judy, directed by Rupert Goold and adapted for the big screen by screenwriter Tom Edge, is based on the Tony-nominated West End and Broadway play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter. The film stars Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland and takes up back to the year 1969, when the famous singer and actress arrived in London for a five-week run of sell-out concerts while struggling to come to terms with depression, alcoholism and substance abuse.

The film starts with a young Judy Garland (Darci Shaw) on the set of The Wizard of Oz in 1939 when she was only a teenager. She is told my MGM head Louis B. Mayer that the only thing that makes her special is her voice. He controls what she eats, when she sleeps, and practically all aspects of her life while filming The Wizard of Oz. Flash forward to 1969, Judy and her two kids Lorna and Joey are set to perform for a crowd in Los Angeles for a mere $150. After being kicked out of one hotel, Judy has no choice but to leave her children with their father Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell) while she goes off to London to perform at the Talk of the Town nightclub. Shortly before she leaves, she meets Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) at a Hollywood party and he promises to come see her in London one day.

Renée Zellweger & Finn Wittrock

When she arrives in London, she is introduced to her new assistant, a proper but charismatic Rosalyn (Jessie Buckley) and to concert show-runner Bernard Delfont (Michael Gambon) who is eager to show her off to the sold-out English crowds. Judy is less than thrilled to perform, still taking a steady diet of a pills, the same ones Louis B. Mayer had forced her to take to reduce her appetite and to help her sleep. She performs her first concert with a charming bandleader Burt (Royce Pierreson) and is greeted after the show by two fans who happen to be a middle aged gay couple. They end up going their apartment when all of the restaurants in London happen to be closed after midnight, leading one of them to make a royal mess of scrambled eggs, ones that even Judy could not fix but ends up eating anyway.

Finn Wittrock as Mickey Deans

On day, after a concert Mickey Deans surprises her in London and their instant emotional attraction to each other is evident. He promises her the world, and most importantly that she could come back to the United States with money and be with her children. They are married in London and Rosalyn and Burt gift them an insanely amusing yet dangerous display of indoor fireworks and firecrackers. We soon realize that Mickey’s promises are pretty worthless and the anxiety causes Judy to show up drunk at one her performances, as she is unable to perform and is booed off stage. Delfont is not pleased and chooses English singer and guitar player Lonnie Donegan (John Dagleish) to replace her as headliner. Devastated, Judy feels even stronger the pain of being away from her children. Sidney Luft comes to London to try to work out a custody agreement but that leads to nowhere.

Having been replaced as headliner of her own concerts, Judy begs of Donegan one last song before she departs the state, and she ends up being loved by the crowd, singing multiple songs including an absolutely breath-stopping performance of “Over the Rainbow” with the help of the crowd. I am not sure if it was Renée Zellweger’s version of the song, or the absolute sorrow that Judy Garland herself must have been feeling during that performance, but it is absolutely the moment of the movie and will probably be used in clips for her eventual run to garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.  Zellweger herself carries the movie quite well, even when there are slower and less important moments, but she is also aided tremendously by the brilliant supporting cast of Jessie Buckley and Finn Wittrock.

It’s hard not to be very emotional by the end of the movie, with Zellweger wearing her heart and emotions on her sleeve, and her desire to go out with the best possible performance she is able to garner. Judy Garland’s status as cultural and film star can’t be overshadowed by the final dark days of her career, but at least we can learn to be compassionate and continue to love and admire her as much as we do today. She is a true legend and this film cements that legacy. This film also may cement the legacy of Renée Zellweger, as she also deserves much the same redemption as Judy Garland deserved by the end of the movie.


Have you seen JUDY? Well, what did you think? 

Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors working in Hollywood today

Happy St Patrick’s Day everybody! According to this Guinness Store House sign, everyone’s Irish today 😀

GuinessStorehouseSign

I hope you don’t mind me resurrecting this oldie-but-goodie list I did a while back, but I’ve been meaning to update ’em for some time. This list is limited to performers born and bred in Ireland (at least for most of their childhood), so not those of Irish-descent as it’d take this entire blog to list them all. For the most part, my list stay the same, but you can check out the original list and see who’ve been taken out of the list 😉

Here they are in random order:

  1. Colin Farrell
    ColinFarrellOf all the vile things Joel Schumacher is known for as a director, you could say that he has an eye for talent. He cast Farrell in Tigerland which got the Dublin native noticed. I first saw him in the sci-fi action Minority Report alongside Tom Cruise, and then the Terrence Malick’s The New World. His foray into historical action hero in Alexander was ridiculed panned by critics, and he nearly became a Hollywood cliche with his womanizing ways and drug/alcohol abuse, but he manage to maneuver a career comeback with his Golden-Globe-winning turn in the Irish black comedy In Bruges (2008). His career choices haven’t always been solid (Total Recall remake, Winter’s Tale), but he’s certainly a talented actor. I think he’s wonderful in Saving Mr. Banks.
    ….
  2. Liam Neeson
    LiamNeesonProbably the most famous Irish actors of the bunch, Neeson is one of the hardest working actors right now. His diverse resume is impressive by any thespian standard. From historical figures (Michael Collins, Rob Roy, Schindler’s List), comic-book villain (Batman Begins), to playing bad-ass action star hell-bent on revenge (Taken), Neeson adds gravitas to any role he’s in. Can’t wait to see him as Zeus bellowing ‘Release the Kraken!!!’ in Clash of the Titans. The 61-year-old still looks amazing and obviously has the um, special skills to kick ass. Hollywood offered him to be the next action hero with Taken and he hasn’t looked back since. He probably will be doing action fares like Taken 254 & counting, or a variation of that genre, just like he did with Non-Stop. He’s definitely more watchable than a lot of younger action stars these days anyway, so why not?
    ….
  3. Saoirse Ronan
    SaoirseRonanShe may be only nineteen, but Ronan’s got that wise-beyond-her-years thing going for her, plus enormous talent to boot. She was phenomenal in Atonement as the little girl who couldn’t quite figure out how to channel her attraction to the opposite sex that led to disastrous consequences. She pretty much comes out unscathed even when The Lovely Bones bombed artistically and financially. Since Atonement, Ronan has worked for director Joe Wright again in Hanna as a 14-year old assassin. Boy, talk about range. She’s more than able to hold her own against the likes of Cate Blanchett. Since then, she continues to impress me in The Way Back, How I Live Now, as well as in the small role in The Grand Budapest Hotel. I wish there were more Irish ladies working in Hollywood today so miss Ronan isn’t alone on this list, but she’s the only one so far whose work I really admire.
    ….
  4. Cillian Murphy
    CillianMurphyMost people recognize him as Scarecrow in Batman Begins, but his memorable role is perhaps in the zombie flick 28 Days Later. His impossibly chiseled cheekbones and dramatic eyes somehow make him the perfectly creepy yet sophisticated villain, as he displayed in the horror/thriller Red Eye. Renowned directors such as Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle obviously like working with him, as he’s done two movies for Boyle (Sunshine & 28 Days Later) and Nolan also cast him in his Batman trilogy and Inception. Even in a mediocre movie like In Time, Murphy is usually the best thing in it.
    ….
  5. Michael Fassbender
    MichaelFassbender(Ed note: Though he’s born in Germany, Fassbender is half-Irish and was raised in southwest Ireland)
    I’ve mentioned this guy A LOT on my blog lately and for good reason, he’s definitely eye-candy material but with acting chops to boot. Thanks to Zach Snyder for casting such great actors in 300 even in smaller roles, as I definitely noticed Fassbender as the loyal and valiant Stelios. He’s then proved his amazing range in transformational role in Hunger, and another indie darling Fish Tank which won him several nods from various European Film Festivals. He’s in yet another swords-n-sandals movie Centurion, but he definitely made an impression in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He’s come a looong way since I put him on the original list 3 years ago. His versatility is always on display, whether in costume drama Jane Eyre (as the Byronic hero Rochester) or as a superhero villain Magneto in X-Men: First Class. He even garnered an Oscar nomination for his work in 12 Years A Slave.
    ….
  6. Gabriel Byrne
    GabrielByrneI first noticed Byrne in The Point of No Return as Bridget Fonda’s sympathetic mentor. He may not always get the lead roles, but you always remember him (The Man in the Iron Mask, Little Women, The Usual Suspect, and Miller’s Crossing) The charismatic 63-year-old actor definitely still got the looks to go with all that talent, he won a Golden Globe last year for his performance as a psychotherapist in the HBO drama In Treatment. I cast him in one of my movie pitches, I think he’d be great in a crime noir like this one, wouldn’t you think?
    ….
  7. Ciarán Hinds
    You may not know his name, but you certainly recognize this tall, dark and handsome Belfast native. His dark look makes him suitable to play people from different nationalities: English (Phantom of the Opera, Amazing Grace), (Israeli (Munich), Roman (as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome), Russian (The Sum of All Fears), and that’s just a sampling. His new indie flick set in his native homeland The Eclipse (NOT Twilight 3) is to be released this weekend. Glad to see him get the lead role for a change, hope he’d get another one in the future.
    ….
  8. Kenneth Branagh
    KenBranaghFor all the Shakespearean work he’s done (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet), I initially thought Branagh was an Englishman. The RADA-educated actor had his start in theater when he joined The Royal Shakespeare Company at 23. Soon after he formed his own performance art company called The Renaissance Theatre Company, which counts Prince Charles as one of its royal patrons. He surely brought some of that artsy and sophisticated sensibilities into the comic book adaptation Thor. He’s more than capable doing double duties as actor and director, which he did in the recent reboot of the Jack Ryan movie Shadow Recruit.
    ….
  9. Brendan Gleeson
    BrendanGleesonThis character actor is always fun to watch even in a small role, i.e. as Alastor ‘Mad-­Eye’ Moody in Harry Potter series. But my favorite performance of his would have to be In Bruges with Colin Farrell. I’ve been meaning to see The Guard for ages but it’s not available to rent on iTunes, so I might have to bug my friend who has the Netflix dvd subscription to rent it for me. I’ve been dying to see what happens to At Swim-Two-Birds, which was supposed to be his directorial debut. I blogged about it 2 years ago and still no new news on that one 😦 Just check out the amazing Irish cast on that one, who wouldn’t want to see that come to life.
    ….
  10. Michael Gambon
    MichaelGambonI first noticed the 74-year-old thespian as the evil tobacco executive in Michael Mann’s The Insider. He’s one of those actors who makes an impact even in a brief appearance. Some of his memorable supporting roles are The Wings of the Dove, Charlotte Gray, The King’s Speech and the latest one I saw was in Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet. He’s probably most well-known to mass audiences as Albus Dumbledore, when he replaced fellow Irishman the late Richard Harris in the Harry Potter series.

….

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Chris O’Dowd, Richard Harris, Ray Stevenson, Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn, and Pierce Brosnan.


So, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day (or just the love for the Irish), who are YOUR favorite Irish actors?

Bookmark and Share

Weekend Roundup: Puncture & Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007, BBC’s Emma (2009)

Happy Monday all! It’s been a quiet weekend for me, I barely went out on Sunday as we’ve got everything old man Winter has got to offer. Frigid temp is not enough apparently, so we’ve got dumped with snow, sleet and freezing rain all afternoon. Perfect weather for staying in however.

Apart from going to Side Effects screening on Thursday [review later this week], I pretty much turned to Netflix and some borrowed movies from friends. Here are my mini reviews:

Puncture (2011)

PuncturePosterAs this comes out the same year at Captain America, no wonder this B movie gets lost in the shuffle. I remember seeing the trailer and I thought this must be a way for Chris Evans to show he’s got acting brawn on top of his physical one. I’ve got to admit I was curious to see how Evans fare as a drug-addicted lawyer who takes on a health supply corporation on behalf of a nurse who got punctured by a contaminated needle and contracted HIV.

It’s a David and Goliath legal drama that resembles the battle between a whistle blower and the tobacco giant in The Insider, but unfortunately the similarities ends there. The direction style is far less inferior, not exactly as gripping as the based-on-a-true-story premise. Apparently Evans’ co-star Mark Kassen directed the movie with his brother Adam, and this was their first feature film. Evans himself is quite convincing in his role, though his training as the First Avenger makes him look much too buff to play a junkie.  I really doubt the real-life Mike Weiss has a ripped 8-pack abs as he spent all his days either studying his case or snorting cocaine. Interesting to see Vinessa Shaw twice in one week [she has a small role in Side Effects], she was pretty good here as the HIV-infected nurse. The casting of Michael Biehn here is very baffling as he’s not given hardly anything to do at all, and his character’s portrayed as being so mysterious for no good reason.

Puncture_still

Despite the heartbreaking premise and a well-intentioned effort, the movie is pretty forgettable. Some scenes were over-dramatized and others are not substantial enough. The film also seemed to suggest the fate of Mr. Weiss is not as simple as an overdose, but there’s no follow up of that. I don’t think the ambiguity serves the film well at all. In any case, under a more experienced filmmaker, this could’ve been more engrossing.

…..

2.5 out of 5 reels


Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012)

EON_007Documentary

As a massive Bond fan, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this documentary until my hubby told me about it a few days ago! I’m also ashamed to say that I just realized what EON Productions stand for, and it’s really an apt title considering the length the producers had to go through in bringing the Bond books to the big screen. Here’s the full synopsis per 007.com:

Everything Or Nothing focuses on three men with a shared dream Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman and author Ian Fleming. Its the thrilling and inspiring narrative behind the longest running film franchise in cinema history which began in 1962. With unprecedented access both to the key players involved and to Eon Productions extensive archive, this is the first time the inside story of the franchise has ever been told on screen in this way.

The producer of this doc is John Battsek who also produced the Oscar-nominated Searching for Sugar Man, and I’m happy to say that this film absolutely delivers. It was not only well-done in terms of productions, filled with fun footage from various Bond films and accompanied by John Barry’s fantastic Bond music, this has become my favorite documentary ever. Yes of course the subject matter is of great interest of mine, but there’s much to be said about its production quality and exceptional access to the inside story of the key players.

EON_Cubby_Sean_Ian_Harry
Broccoli, Connery, Fleming and Saltzman

Though I’ve heard about the split up of Broccoli and Saltzman, it’s still quite tragic to see. The same with how George Lazenby threw fame away as quickly as he gained it, and the rift involving Connery and the producers, especially between him and Saltzman. It’s such a treat to see all Bond actors appear in the film to talk about their Bond role, interesting that all of them has their share of struggle surrounding it. The film paints a very sympathetic picture of the late Cubby Broccoli in particular, but his history certainly checks out, without a doubt he loved the character of Bond all the way back to how he’s written by Ian Fleming. It would seem that his involvement in this lucrative franchise went above and beyond the chase for profit.

Kudos to director Stevan Riley for crafting a compelling documentary that’s as thrilling and entertaining as the Bond adventures. Certainly there’s as much at stakes unfolding behind the camera as in front of it, the drama involving Kevin McClory, one of the producers of the oh-so-ill-advised Never Say Never Again is especially riveting. I had just seen the documentary on Ian Fleming that’s included in The Living Daylights Blu-ray recently, so some of the details on the famed author was already known to me. Yet it’s still fascinating to learn about it, I’d certainly be interested in seeing his biopic. This film definitely enhances my appreciation for one of my most favorite movie franchises. A must-see for anyone who’ve seen at least one Bond movie, and absolutely essential for any Bond fan.

…..

4.5 out of 5 reels


BBC TV’s EMMA (2009)

BBC_Emma2009I’m quite fond of Romola Garai, whom I think is one of the most underrated British talents ever. So when my co-worker lent me the dvd of the 2009 BBC adaptation of Emma with her in the starring role, I couldn’t wait to watch it. I always felt that the 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow to be just ok, well apart from Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley of course. Oh how I’d love to see him as Knightley in THIS adaptation.

Emma is not my favorite of the Jane Austen’s collection, that would be Sense & Sensibility. Yet I quite like this adaptation largely because of Garai’s casting. Though she was 27 at the time, she looked believable as the 20 year-old Emma Woodhouse, a pretty & privileged girl who loves finding suitors for her friends. She portrays Emma as suitably vivacious and naive, as well as a bit of a spoiled brat. We like Emma despite some of her blunders and careless decisions, and Garai’s able to capture her remorse as well as her bubbly nature. Of course this being a miniseries, her character development is far superior than the film version.

Some thoughts about the rest of the cast. Michael Gambon is an interesting choice as Emma’s father who always assumes everything is hazardous to one’s health, he somehow makes his fussy nervousness as something endearing. As I’ve mentioned above, I love Northam’s interpretation of Knightley. I think Jonny Lee Miller is not bad, but I wonder if someone else in the role would’ve been a better choice as he doesn’t seem to be much older than Garai (there’s supposed to be a 17-year difference in age) Plus, I kept thinking of him as Edmund Bertram, the role he played in 1999’s Mansfield Park (one of my fave period drama heroes). Interestingly enough, Blake Ritson who played Mr. Elton also played Edmund in the 1997 BBC version! Certainly BBC has a pretty small pool of actors to choose from, ahah. Ritson is a far better casting choice than Alan Cumming in the film version. I mean, he was just so darn creepy, plus it’s really too much of a stretch to imagine him as a vicar.

Emma_Garai_Miller

Overall this is a lovely adaptation with fun dialog and gorgeous scenery. Kudos to the production quality, the color scheme, costume, music, etc. that makes for a very enjoyable watch. That said, I still much prefer the Masterpiece Theater’s production Sense & Sensibility as the story is inherently more heart-wrenching to me. It’s worth noting that the screenwriter Sandy Welch also wrote the 2004’s North & South, which is by far my favorite BBC miniseries ever.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend viewing roundup. How ’bout you, seen anything good?

Five for the Fifth: End of the Year Edition

fiveforthefifth

Hello folks, welcome to the very last edition of 2012 Five for the Fifth!!

To those who’ve never missed a single FFtF post, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for making this my most popular 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. Well, it’s only three weeks away to 2013. I think it’s been quite a year for movies, hasn’t it? I mean we’ve got major blockbusters for super lucrative franchises – The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall AND The Hobbit all in the same year! Yes, it’s a big year for Twi-hards as well but for the rest of us, aren’t you glad the franchise is [almost] over? All together now: free at last!! 😀

Thanks to TCFF though, I’ve also got a chance to view some awesome indie movies as well, which balance things out nicely. I will do my Top 10 of 2012 at the end of the month, but I think Argo, Skyfall and The Sapphires might make my list.

So my first question is: What’s YOUR top five favorite films of the year (so far)?

……
2. Ok, 2012 is barely over and I’m already looking forward to June 14, 2013! Yep, that’s the US release date for Man of Steel. If you’re on Twitter on Monday, most likely you’ve seen it but just in case you haven’t. Behold…

ManOfSteelTeaserPoster2


‘Oooh lookie here, sexy Henry in handcuffs!!’ 😉 Ehm, sorry, now that we get that out of the way. Most people were baffled as to ‘why is Supes a villain?’ and just the general logic [or lack thereof] that you can’t technically confine Supes with all his mighty powers behind bars, that is unless the prison is made of kryptonite of course. But judging from the look of Supes’ expression, looks like it’s a voluntary decision on his part to be led by the military convoy. I kind of like the departure from tradition, in fact, Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder seems to be set on defying tradition even from the costume alone. As EMPIRE mag says, “…a little originality is good for the soul.”

So what do you think of the teaser poster, folks? Thoughts about this reboot so far?

3. It’s been a while since I blog about Rufus Sewell, one of my favorite hunky Brits. But I want to let you know on his Sundance Channel two-part miniseries Restless he’s currently starring in, along with Hayley Atwell, Charlotte Rampling and Michael Gambon.

RestlessMovieStill

Adapted from William Boyd‘s spy novels that Boyd himself is adapting, it’s set during the early days of World War II and follows a Russian spy who tries to infiltrate the British Secret Service with the goal of influencing U.S. power brokers and swinging American public opinion in favor of fighting the Nazis.

SundanceRestless_Stills

Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery plays Ruth Gilmartin, who, in 1976, visits her mother Sally (Rampling), and is handed a diary recounting her colorful past. Turns out mom was actually born Eva Delectorskaya (Atwell), having emigrated from Russia to France. In the wake of her brother’s death in 1939, she’s recruited by British agent Lucas Romer (Sewell) to spy for the U.K. on the eve of World War II. (per Variety) Judging from the picture above, there’s likely some smoldering romance involved as well. Check out the awesome extended preview/featurette below with the ensemble cast:


The premise sounds intriguing and I like the look of this miniseries. Plus the cast is excellent! Rufus and Hayley certainly look fabulous in period costumes.

The first part of the miniseries begins this Friday at 9P E/P on the Sundance Channel. Can’t wait to see this one when it’s available to rent!

Well, what do you think of the trailer? Would you watch this one if you have the Sundance Channel?

4. Well, one of the biggest movie of 2012 has just come out in Blu-ray. Some of you might already pre-order The Dark Knight Rises and even seen it all over again a few times by now? 😀 Well I might get a copy too but not in a hurry to do so. One thing that I find amusing lately is the emergence of these Honest Trailers by the Screen Junkies (the trailers are made by Break Media digital company. You’ve likely seen their parodies of popular movies like Hunger Games, Prometheus, Avengers and my favorite of all, Twilight on YouTube. Well, Nolan’s final Batman trilogy no exception, check out their latest work below. As you probably guess, these honest trailers do have plot spoilers on them, but really, if you haven’t seen this movie by now, you probably aren’t that interested in Nolan’s Batman movies in the first place.

These guys definitely don’t pull any punches on their parody, but y’know what, it addresses a lot of the questions I had with the movie I wrote in my review. No matter though, this movie is obviously flak-proof anyway as the Blu-rays are likely going off the shelves as we speak.

How many honest trailers have you seen and which one(s) do you like best?


5. Ok, my last question is not exactly movie-related but you are free to make it so if you like. Well, I’ll be off to my two-week vacation on Friday. I don’t usually go on vacation during the holiday season but our schedule just works out that way this year. I haven’t been in any major vacation in over a year, but I’ve been blessed with a lot of memorable one in my lifetime. I think my favorite one is a tossup between the trip to Italy and the UK a few years back. I’m more of a city girl so I love exploring the enchanting cities like Rome, Florence and London that’s so full of history and full of life.

ILoveLondon

I still dream to go to Scotland, Australia and Eastern Europe (especially Prague), hopefully one of them would happen in the near future.

So my last question to you is, what’s your most memorable vacation you’ve ever had? I’d also love to hear about your dream vacation 😀



Well, that’s it for the last 2012 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. There’ll be more coming next year for sure!

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

TCFF Day 3: Reviews of QUARTET and We Are Wisconsin Documentary

Man, can’t believe the third day of TCFF has come and gone already, time sure flies by fast when you’re having a good time! The highlight of the day for me is definitely seeing Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s debut on the lives of retired musicians and Opera singers. Seems like people of all ages enjoyed the film, check out Ingrid Moss’ interview with the audience after the film:

And here are the reviews of the day:

QUARTET

I don’t know why but I quite enjoy comedies about old age… especially when it has a stellar seasoned cast! I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel recently, which I haven’t got a chance to review yet, and similarly, Quartet puts a comedic spin on aging and mix it with lush, beautiful music.

Based on a play by Ronald Harwood, Quartet is a dramedy, or specifically, it’s a comedy about the dramas of four retired opera singers as they deal with old grudges, passion, pride, romance… and Rigoletto. The all-British cast are led by Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins, with Michael Gambon as a curmudgeon opera director Cedric.

I tell you, I wish that in my old age I get to retire in a place like Beecham House! It’s the most opulent retirement home I’ve ever seen, people are treated like royalty here and there’s beautiful music every where you turn as the residents are either playing violins, piano, what have you, or singing together. It’s like living in an Opera house! But prima donna Jean Horton (Smith) isn’t keen on having to live here, despite such a tremendous welcome from current residents that harkens back to her old days. Her arrival also disrupts the peace of Reginald Paget (Courtenay) who shared a not-so-rosy past that he’s not prepared to let go.

The dynamics between them are fun to watch. Maggie Smith‘s character Jean is the most developed here as she navigates through pride and bruised ego, as well as attempting to atone for her failed relationship with Reginald (Regi for short). I’ve always loved stories of lost love and it’s depicted in such a sweet way. Billy Connolly is especially amusing with his cheeky remarks unabashedly flirts with all the women in Beecham House, including the young, compassionate doctor played by Sheridan Smith (whom I just saw recently in Hysteria). I’ve always liked the Scottish thespian since Mrs. Brown, and he was hilarious as Merida’s father in Pixar’s Brave earlier this year.

It’s no surprise what the major highlight of the movie is the music, and as a huge fan of classical music it’s such a treat for me. The whole thing feels like a love letter to classical music and opera, with also a nod to hip hop and rap. Say what? Yep there is an especially touching scene when Regi teaches a group of students and prompted one of them to perform rap in class.

I applaud Dustin Hoffman in crafting such a charming film. It’s not flawless however, the films feels meandering at times, but despite the lack of focus in parts, it’s still a delight to watch because of the performances. Hoffman is certainly deft in selecting the cast that works well together. I thoroughly enjoy this movie… beautiful music, mirthful dialog, gorgeous scenery and lovely performances. What’s not to love?

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Special thanks to the Minnesota Opera for sponsoring this film for TCFF!


We Are Wisconsin

I’m not sure why, but this screening was not sold out. Out of the three documentaries that I have seen so far, this was the best by a long shot. It communicated a serious issue that is close to home. We are Wisconsin spotlighted the occupation that took place during May in the Wisconsin State Capitol, as a result of the bill that Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans were trying to push through.

There was definitely biased towards the Liberal political views – or rather the people that opposed what was trying to be passed. There were moving testimonies from people leading and participating in the revolt, and the images of inside the Capitol as the issue progressed.

I had not followed this story in the news while it was going on, and before seeing this I still only had a loose grasp on exactly what happened. But after the first images of the people who were actively fighting for their beliefs I was transfixed. Many facts could have been omitted, but I was successfully convinced of the injustice politics can inflict on the government’s citizens.

Laura Glass, the main teacher that gave testimonies in the documentary, was present for this screening. Her presence in the audience helped drive home the feeling of how relevant this is in American culture. Footage of the protests and people occupying created this energy that made me feel like I should be taking a more active role in Minnesota’s politics for this November’s election. Real emotion was evoked, and that is not something every documentary accomplishes.

– review by Emery Thoresen

4 out of 5 reels


Also check out June’s review of Quartet & prankster comedy STAG
with Scrubs‘ Donald Faison

TCFF Schedule and Ticket Info »


Has anyone seen these films? Well, what did you think?

TCFF Lineup is here! Check out what’s showing Oct 12-20

Wahoo!! After months of planning, negotiating, previewing, etc. the TCFF board and staff have finally revealed the full lineup of its third film fest! As did the previous two years, TCFF have become the regional premiere of a lot of this season’s most-anticipated films. Steve Snyder, TIME magazine’s assistant managing editor and TCFF’s scheduler, said it best in his tweet about the event:


In less than a month away, the Showplace Icon Theatre in St. Louis Park (definitely my favorite theater in time with its awesome seat-reservation feature) will be the place to be for movie lovers! So before I get to the movies, be sure to get your tickets beginning Wednesday (tickets are $10 for individual passes and $120 for multi-film and party passes).

Here are a sampling of the notable movies, as Minneapolis StarTribune critic Colin Covert have mentioned in today’s article:

Oct 14 – Dustin Hoffman‘s directorial debut Quartet, a character study of retired opera singers starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins. This one has a good potential to be noticed by the Academy, after all it’s by the Weinsteins and it doesn’t hurt that it’s written by Ronald Harwood (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Being Julia and The Pianist).

This just looks so delightful!! Harry Potter fans out there perhaps notice right away the reunion of Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, ahah! I always like lighthearted comedies starring senior seasoned actors and this certainly look like something I’d enjoy.

Oct 16The Sessions, an affecting comedy-drama inspired by the true story of a paralyzed polio survivor and the sexual surrogate who helped him lose his virginity in his late thirties. It stars Alexandria, Minn. native John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

I have to admit the subject matter is a delicate one as it deals with disability AND sexuality, but I’ve got to admit the trailer looks quite heartwarming and sweet. Apparently the Australian director Ben Lewin, who himself lost the use of his legs to polio, seems to have direct this one with great humor and sensitivity.

Oct 18 Silver Linings Playbook starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro.

This is so exciting!! Just the other day I read that it won the coveted Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. That’s huge considering many previous Audience Award winners have gone on to win Oscar’s Best Picture, i.e. Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, and The King’s Speech [check out this THR article how other previous TIFF’s audience choice have fared at the Oscar]. Apparently the runner-up was Ben Affleck’s ARGO, which has scored early raves at several film festivals.

Lawrence is the main draw for me here, and interestingly enough, I was also impressed by her in Like Crazy which won Best Feature at TCFF last year. I also like seeing Julia Stiles among the cast, she also stars in It’s a Disaster with America Ferrara, premiering Oct. 13.

….

Oct 19 Not Fade Away, a rock ‘n’ roll coming of age tale set in 1964 New Jersey, the feature directing debut from David Chase, creator of HBO’s The Sopranos.

Opening & Closing Films

Oct 12 – As I’ve mentioned here, the program will open with the hunger documentary A Place at the Table featuring Jeff Bridges – A documentary that investigates incidents of hunger experienced by millions of Americans, it takes on the food issue from a new angle, shining a light on the 30% of American families—more than 49 million people—that don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Oct 20 – The festival will conclude with the comedy Lumpy, which was filmed in various Minnesota locations, starring Justin Long and Jess Weixler. The premise definitely has the recipe for an oddball comedy: The best man at Scott (Long) and Kristin’s (Weixler) Arizona destination wedding, Lumpy (Tyler Labine) is the life of the party, until a long, indulgent night leads to his untimely death. Forced to cancel their honeymoon and fly back to Minneapolis to arrange for his funeral, Scott and Kristin meet Ramsey (Timlin) and learn that Lumpy isn’t quite who they thought he was.

….

I’ll be blogging more about other movies that’ll be playing at TCFF, but below is the full lineup!

2012 FULL SCHEDULE

October 12    

8:30PM: A Place at the Table, directed by Kristi Jacobson & Lori Silverbush, 86m

October 13

10:30AM: Call Me Kuchu, directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright & Malika Zouhali-Worrall, 87m

1:00PM: The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair, 99m

3:00PM: The Iran Job, directed by Till Schauder, 93m

5:00PM: The Eyes of Thailand, directed by Tim Vandersteeg, 65m

7:00PM: It’s a Disaster, directed by Todd Berger, 88m

9:00PM: Bro’, directed by Nick Parada, 89m

October 14

11:00AM: Crazy & Thief, directed by Cory McAbee, 52m

12:15PM: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg, 115m

2:45PM: We Are Wisconsin, directed by Annie Eastman, 105m

5:15PM: Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman, 97m

7:15PM: Stag, directed by Brett Heard, 83m

9:15PM: Dead Man’s Burden, directed by Jared Moshe, 93m

October 15  

7:00PM: Finding Home, directed by Chars Bonin, 90m

9:00PM: The “Lighter” Side (MN Shorts), Various MN Directors 100m

October 16

6:00PM: Best of MN: Festival Winners!, Various MN Directors, 60m

6:30PM: The Sessions, directed by Ben Lewin, 95m

8:30PM: The Rhymesayers European Tour, directed by Andrew Melby, 105m

October 17  

6:45PM: Dust Up, directed by Ward Roberts, 90m

7:00PM: Nobody Walks, directed by Ry Russo-Young, 83m

9:00PM: Opposite Blood, directed by Billy Xiong, 120m

October 18

2:45PM: American Autumn: An Occudoc, directed by Dennis Trainor Jr., 76m

4:45PM: Field Work: A Family Farm, directed by John Helde, 97m

6:30PM: Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell, 117m

6:45PM: Pincus, directed by David Fenster, 79m

8:45PM: Carlos Spills the Beans, directed by Brian McGuire, 90m

9:00PM: The “Darker” Side (MN Shorts), Various MN Directors, 110m

October 19  

2:15PM: Reportero, directed by Bernardo Ruiz, 71m

4:00PM: A Band Called Death, directed by Jeff Howlett & Mark Covino, 98m

6:00PM: Things I Don’t Understand, directed by David Spaltro, 111m

6:30PM: Not Fade Away, directed by David Chase, 117 min

8:30PM: A Late Quartet, directed by Yaron Zilberman, 105m

9:00PM: Problem Solving the Republic, directed by Elliot Diviney, 95m

October 20

11:00AM: Bay of All Saints, directed by Annie Eastman, 75m

11:30AM: Detropia, directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady, 90m

12:45PM: After I Pick the Fruit, directed by Nancy Ghertnet & Cathleen Ashworth, 93m

1:45PM: Lies, Lust, Betrayal – and Cold-Blooded Murder (Indie Shorts), Various Directors, 81m

2:45PM: Take Care, directed by Scott Tanner Jones, 86m

3:45PM: Ready to Fly, directed by William Kerig, 96m

5:30PM: Dead Dad, directed by Ken J. Adachi, 81m

6:00PM: The Story of Luke, directed by Alonso Mayo, 95m

8:00PM: Lumpy, directed by Ted Koland, 91m


Well, what do you think of this year’s lineup? Which movie(s) here are you most excited about?

Scenes Spotlight: Michael Mann’s ‘The Insider’

CBS’ newsman Mike Wallace passed away last Saturday at the age of 93. He’s the star of the network’s TV news magazine 60 Minutes from the time it’s launched in 1968. As someone who almost majored in journalism in college, I certainly admired someone with such panache and brilliance. Surely Mr. Wallace was a pioneer and icon of American journalism.

Hearing about his death brings back memories of one of my favorite films that happen to depict the renowned journalist, albeit in an unflattering light. Now, Mr. Wallace likely would not want to have his name be associated with this movie, as portrayed by Christopher Plummer. The film was based on the Vanity Fair article, “The Man Who Knew Too Much” by Marie Brenner, which focused on Jeffrey Wigand, a whistle-blower trying to expose tobacco company Brown & Williamson’s dangerous business practice. Not surprisingly, Mr. Wallace disliked his on-screen portrayal which depicts him as yielding to corporate pressure to kill Wigand’s story (per Wikipedia).

Here’s a clip of Plummer as the no-nonsense newsman reacting to having his interview edited out. Wow, that’s powerful stuff, Plummer is such an underrated actor. Glad he finally got his way-overdue Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this year.


Now, how far creative license was taken by director Michael Mann is debatable, but as a dramatic thriller, this is definitely one of Michael Mann’s best work. The performances are top notch all around, Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer are superb in their roles. Crowe was barely recognizable as Wigand, with 35 extra pounds and hair bleached white, a far cry from his role in Gladiator the year after. I tell you, Crowe should’ve won an Oscar that year instead of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty. The supporting cast is great as well, including Michael Gambon, Bruce McGill and Philip Baker Hall.

Now, this is not a fast-paced film by any means, but boy is it ever gripping. It’s quiet but intense. Even at the slowest moment, the tension is always on as there is so much at stake and nobody has an easy decision to make. If you haven’t seen this movie, I suggest you skip the clip at the end but take a look at this trailer below and tell me this doesn’t at least intrigue you. It’s arguably one of the best journalism movies ever made, it’s a thriller with a documentary vibe of a David vs. Goliath story.


Now, those who’ve seen this will perhaps recall this awesome finale between Wallace and 60 Minutes‘ then producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino). It’s poignant, dramatic and über stylish… that is, quintessentially Mann’s. Perhaps Pacino should reunite with Mann again as he also hit a high note in their first collaboration, Heat.


The camera angles and slow-motion photography adds so much to the stern atmosphere. The music at the end is just outstanding… brilliantly captures the somber but defiant mood of that scene.


Have you seen this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the movie or Michael Mann.