Thursday Movie Picks: BOOKISH films

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… BOOKISH movies.

I haven’t been able to participate on TMP lately but when I saw today’s topic I knew I had to take part! I guess this topic could be about movies based on books, but I see it as movies where books/literature play a central role or that the main characters love reading, so I’m going with that… and I’m choosing films set in England (because one day I’d love to shoot my feature film there!) Plus,  I have been reading quite a bit lately and I do LOVE movies about books!

In any case, here are my three picks:

The Bookshop (2017)

England 1959. In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop.

Books can be a great way to escape your mundane every day life or a way to cope with a traumatizing event. In this movie, the protagonist Florence (Emily Mortimer) copes with the loss of her husband through books and decided to open a bookshop in her town, which somehow ends up facing fierce opposition from powerful local elites.

It’s a rather slow film but I quite enjoy the reflective nature and you truly feel the pain Florence is going through. The scenes when at the bookshop really makes me sad that there aren’t that many brick + mortar book stores anymore.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

In the aftermath of World War II, a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war.

Matthew Goode as Juliet’s publisher + Lily James as Juliet

I have just rewatched this movie recently and it makes me wish I could visit Guernsey, an island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. The protagonist Juliet Ashton (Lily James) is a London-based writer who, upon receiving a letter from the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (yep, that’s the name of the book club!), she decided to pay write a book about them and their experiences during the Nazi occupation.

I love that the film has a bit of investigative aspects as Juliet delved deeper into the lives of the book club’s members. Of course the book idea wasn’t exactly received warmly initially, and you get to figure out why that’s so. There’s of course a sweet romance between Juliet and Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), the one who wrote to her in the first place.


Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?

Well, as a fan of Jane Austen, naturally I’d have to include a movie based on her books. But I chose Pride and Prejudice as the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet LOVES reading and there are scenes of her reading even as she’s walking about, not a care in the world as she’s so engrossed in the pages of her book. It makes me like her instantly and it’s a great way to distinguish her from her sisters… that she’d rather be lost in a good story than be bothered about ‘silly’ things like boys. That is of course until she meets Mr. Darcy.

I love that Lizzie’s first comment as she meets Mr. Bingley speaks about how much she loves reading…

The library at Netherfield, I’ve heard, is one of the finest in the country.

Now, Bingley’s own sister pretends to love reading when she said “I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library,” but she only said that to attract Mr. Darcy’s attentions.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

FlixChatter Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


When this movie came across my screen as I fired up Netflix, I knew this is the kind of movie I’d enjoy. Billed as a ‘celebration of literature, love, and the power of the human spirit,’ it’s a charming film set in an English island during WWII. It certainly helps that I’m an Anglophile and British period dramas are my cup of tea, plus this is based on a historical novel written by two women, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

I adore Lily James since Cinderella, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. She’s an instantly-likable actress and it’s easy to warm up to her character, Juliet Ashton a young London writer living in the shadow of the war. Despite the fact that she’s pretty successful, lives in a gorgeous Chelsea flat, her dashing publisher Sidney (Matthew Goode) is also her bestie, and she’s courted by a handsome American soldier (Glen Powell), Juliet doesn’t seem to be as happy as one would think. But her life is about to take a different turn when she gets a letter from Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), a member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Yep, the mouthful title is a book club that inadvertently got started on a fateful night involving Nazi soldiers in the occupied island of Guernsey. As the correspondence goes on, Juliet is set on writing a book about the book club, and so off she goes to an island in the English channel off the coast of Normandy.

I love the idea of a young woman setting of on an adventure, especially in a time when it wasn’t as free for women to do so. And I also love the fact that Juliet isn’t too eager to marry a seemingly too-good-to-be-true prince charming. Naturally, Juliet was treated like a celebrity once they meet the members of the Society, and that first meet-up where she was presented with the potato peel dish is a group meet-cute. I adore every single member of the Society, Amelia (Penelope Wilton), Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay), Dawsey, Isola (Katherine Parkinson) and Eben (Tom Courtenay), the cast is a bit of a Downton Abbey mini-reunion with Goode, Findlay, Wilton and James herself were all part of the popular period drama cast. But despite their warm welcome, the group (especially Amelia) is vehemently opposed to the idea of Juliet writing an article about them for the Times.

The setback didn’t send Juliet immediately back to London. Instead she’s set on doing research about the German occupation on the island. As the group opens up to her more, she soon finds out about what has happened to Elizabeth. The less said about Juliet’s discovery the better, but it’s safe to say she has fallen in love with the town and the people in it. There’s a lovely tentative romance between Juliet and Dawsey (Huisman is sort of been type cast as romantic lead in period romances and he does well in these roles), but the bonding scenes between Juliet and the female members of the book club is equally delightful to watch. I have to say that Penelope Wilton is particularly memorable as the grieving mother. She’s a terrific character actress who can balance drama and comedy seamlessly.

Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings & A Funeral, 2012 Great Expectations) kept the tone pretty light despite some of the serious war-related scenes, he puts the focus more on the relationship between Juliet and the people she encounters. It sometimes feels like a rom-com, but with more at stakes given the time it’s set in. But it doesn’t quite escape the trappings of the genre in that the romance is completely predictable. Fortunately, there’s enough of a surprise surrounding the lives of the people involved and the poignant history they’ve been through that I’m still swept up and moved by it.

Visually and thematically, it feels something out of Jane Austen movies. It’s even more enchanting for me personally as the movie make some references Austen, as well as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. The set pieces are gorgeous, there’s something so immensely charming about the small, coastal English town. It wasn’t filmed in Guernsey however, but instead the coastal exterior was shot in various UK locations such as Cornwall, Bristol, etc.  I also love the 40s period clothing that makes everyone so vintage chic.

This is definitely ‘comfort food’ for fans of period dramas like me, but fortunately a nutritious one. Interestingly, this was supposed to be a Kenneth Branagh production with Kate Winslet in the title. As much as I’m intrigued by that prospect, I have to say I like Lily James as Juliet and I appreciate Newell’s old-school, unabashedly-sweet approach. I would have liked to have seen more of [bespectacled, Clark-Kent like] Matthew Goode, but I enjoyed seeing every bit of him every time he’s on screen.

I’m glad this movie is on Netflix as I’d readily watch it again. As a writer, one of the biggest appeal for me is how the movie is practically a wonderful love letter to the written word.


Have you seen The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society? I’d love to hear what you think!

Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2017 Edition

Welcome to FlixChatter’s blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation, 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. I know it’s been over a week since the death of Bill Paxton, who passed away on February 25 at the age of 61 from surgery complications. As this and many other tweets pointed out… Paxton was the only man to face off against a Terminator, Alien, and a Predator. He’s certainly famous for his sci-fi genre roles, but boy he’s done SO many memorable roles in his illustrious career. He’s such a consummate character actor who’s convincing playing anything… the ultimate ‘everyman’ in most of his movies as he’s so darn likable.

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I pretty much grew up with Paxton in the 90s too, with movies like True Lies, Apollo 13, A Simple Plan, Titanic and of course Twister, where he got the lead role. It’s hard to pick which is my fave role of his, but certainly Twister is in my top 3.

What’s your fave Bill Paxton movie(s)?

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2. I got a chance to see an adaptation of Shakespeare’s epic tragedy King Lear at the Guthrie Theatre. One of the main reasons for me to see it is because Blood Stripe‘s lead actress Kate Nowlin plays Goneril, one of Lear’s three daughters.

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It was a brilliant stage performance, with great lighting effects and sound design. I actually hadn’t seen any film version of the movie, not the 1971 movie nor the 2009 PBS’ Great Performances version with Ian McKellen. So I saw it fresh for the first time and was quite riveted by it.

What’s your favorite film based on a play… and which play would you like to see made into films?

3. Ok switching gears drastically… I hadn’t even been paying much attention to this sequel but when I saw the teaser last night I knew I had to include it here. Behold the Deadpool 2 teaser …

Ryan Reynolds and his Deadpool team has done it again! They’ve been very savvy w/ their promotional efforts for the first one and looks like their crazy, unhinged brand of humor is in full display! I wonder how much they had to pay DC to get the rights to use John Williams’ Superman music but man was it awesome!! It’s the kind of teaser I could watch over and over, let’s hope the sequel is as funny as this teaser!

Thoughts on the teaser? Are you excited to watch the Deadpool sequel?

4. Well, some of you might’ve read that LOGAN is my pick of February Movie of the Month. I hadn’t been anticipating it much, my hubby was more psyched about it than I did, but I was blown away by the film.

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It’s incredible that the 48-year-old Aussie actor has played the role for 17 years in various X-Men films and their spin offs. It’s rare for any actor to have played the same role that long, so it’s no surprise that Logan marks he last time he’ll reprise the role.

Let’s walk down memory lane and watch this audition tape from back in 1999 when he first audition to the role that made him famous…

It proves that scheduling conflict can be a good thing for some actors… most of you know that Dougray Scott was originally cast as Wolverine, but he had to bail as Mission: Impossible II (2000) required more filming time. Well I can’t imagine anyone else but Hugh as Wolverine now.

What are your thoughts on Hugh Jackman retiring as Wolverine… and who do you think should play the role next?

5. Ok, since this might be my last Five for the Fifth post in a while (given I’ll be filming my short film in mid April and the following months I might be tied up with post-productions), so I decided to come up with all five questions 🙂

I got a press release email in early February about The Ottoman Lieutenant I hadn’t even heard before. Perhaps this is the first time you’ve heard of it too? I also got another email from the press rep that there’s a possible phone interview with the lead actor Michiel Huisman, who I loved in Age of Adaline. We’ll see if that pans out. In any case, check out the trailer:

The Ottoman Lieutenant is a love story between an idealistic American nurse and a Turkish officer in World War I.

Well, I might check it out when it opens later this month, interesting to see Minneapolis native Josh Hartnett in it as well. It’s a pretty crowded Spring though with a bunch of big-budget releases like Kong: Skull Island, Beauty & The Beast, as well as smaller fares like Wilson,Kristen Stewart’s Personal Shopper and T2 Trainspotting.

So what’s the one movie you can’t wait to see this Spring?


Well, that’s it for the MARCH edition of Five for the Fifth. Hope you’ll take part!

FlixChatter Review: The Invitation (2016)

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Director Karyn Kusama got the attention of Hollywood executives when she made her first film, Girlfight, it also launched the career of Michelle Rodriguez. But like many of other young filmmakers, Kusama made the mistake of accepting a big studio film for her sophomore project and the result was disastrous. Her second film Aeon Flux (starring Charlize Theron) was a huge disappointment, both financially and critically. Many thought Kusama’s career might be over after her third film, Jennifer’s Body, again failed to make a dent at the box office and were mostly hated by critics. The Brooklyn NY native decided to go back to her indie root for her fourth outing and it might be one of the more surprising thrillers I’ve seen in a while.


Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) arrived at a party being thrown by Will’s ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her boyfriend David (Michiel Huisman). At the party are also a bunch of Will’s and Eden’s friends whom they haven’t seen in over 2 years. Through flashbacks we learned that Will and Eden had a son and once were very happily married. Unfortunately they lost their son and Will doesn’t seem to have recovered from that tragic event. Eden on the other hand have accepted the loss and decided to move on. When Will arrived at the party and noticed that Eden looks different and happy, he seems to think something’s not right. He also doesn’t seem to trust David at all and as he catching up with his old friends, we audience also think something’s not right at this party. This is a kind of movie that’s hard to review because you need to go into it with little knowledge as possible.

The script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi keeps the audience on the edge, you feel something’s off about this party and the payoff is well worth the wait. Speaking of waiting, the movie took its time by building the suspense, you’re not sure if Will’s crazy or something bad is about to happen. Kusama did a great job of building the tension and not to give anything away too early.

The performances by the actors were very good, especially Marshall-Green whose character is still haunted by a tragic event and refuse to accept the reality of it. The rest of the cast consist of actors who’ve appeared in other films in smaller roles. One standout performance to me was John Carroll Lynch’s character that showed up later in the film and made everyone at the party very uncomfortable.

This is a film that requires your patience, it’s very creepy in tone and while the payoff wasn’t anything too surprising but it’s well made. Maybe Kusama found her calling and keeps making smaller thrillers like this down the road.

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Have you seen ‘The Invitation’? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Age of Adaline (2015)

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A lot of the times, I anticipate films based on its director or cast, but in this case, it’s the premise that intrigued me. I wish there are more fantasy romance like this made. It seems that a lot of romantic films are either rom-coms or something utterly tragic. Then there’s the Nicholas Sparks variety which I tend to avoid.

The fact that it’s a fantasy romance, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy this film. But hey, we don’t have issues with a plethora of superhero movies requiring that, so why not a romantic film?

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Right from the start, I was intrigued by the protagonist, who basically becomes immortal after a car accident so she always looks 29 throughout the movie. We meet Adaline when she’s around 107 years old, who’s settled into her eternal existence, having to move every decade with a series of fake identities to prevent people from knowing who she is. The only person who knows about her condition is her only daughter (Ellen Burstyn) who looks like she could be Adaline’s grandma. Burstyn adds a lot of depth in her brief role here, but Lively holds her own against the experienced Oscar winner.

The way the story unfolds is pretty straightforward but it’s so beautifully-told with a series of flashbacks that are done pretty seamlessly. The use of VO narration can be irksome, but I don’t mind it so much here, even though it’s a bit overdone in the end.

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The first meet-up at a New Year’s Eve party is breathtakingly perfect. Two good looking strangers lock eyes from across the room that’s followed by a sweet flirtation in an elevator. Michiel Huisman‘s Ellis has all the qualities of a romantic hero – handsome, smart, successful and an old-school romantic, what more could you ask for? Surely Game of Thrones‘ fans are familiar with his um, work. Huisman is Dutch but his American accent is very convincing, but most importantly, he has a great chemistry with Blake Lively and you actually root for them to be together.

I haven’t seen anything Lively is in, apart from her brief role in The Town, but I think she did a fine job carrying this film. She’s beautiful and has a phenomenal figure that make those vintage clothes look amazing. She also has that classic look about her that fit the role. Some actresses might look too modern here, but Lively also has that quiet grace about her that is so elegant and bewitching. They initially wanted Natalie Portman in the role and she would’ve been good, but I think the fact that Lively is a bit of an unlikely casting actually works well for the film. That said, I feel that she might not have the dramatic chops to pull off some of the heavy emotional moments that a more skilled actress could bring to the role.

The supporting cast are particularly notable, especially Harrison Ford as Ellis’ father and his younger self, played by Anthony Ingruber whose physical resemblance is uncanny. Even their voice sound similar. I LOVE Ford’s performance here, he doesn’t do romantic roles often but he’s got that lovelorn look down pat here.

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Now, with a romance like this one, a certain degree of schmaltzy-ness is to be expected. Yet there’s a genuine sweetness and charm in this one that swept me off my feet. Yes there are moments where the dialog comes off corny and the plot is rather predictable, but nothing that would derail the film for me.

I was convinced this film was based on a novel, as so many films like this are, but it turns out it wasn’t. It’s written by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz and I love the idea of lost love interwoven here in Adaline’s enchanting long life. I hadn’t heard of the director, Lee Toland Krieger, but he’s certainly got style as this film looks positively gorgeous. The costume and cinematography are so beautiful to behold, and the set pieces fit each era perfectly. The various San Francisco locations, such as the library where Adaline works, look so charming here, especially in the night scenes.

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I also like the use of music, featuring vintage and contemporary songs over the course of Adaline’s life. It just sets the mood nicely and gives you that swoony quality the film aims for. I went into this film with neutral expectations, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. In fact I love it enough where I certainly don’t mind watching it again.

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Have you seen Age of Adaline? Well, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

FlixChatter Review: WILD (2014)

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Based on a memoir of Cheryl Strayed, a Minnesota native, it’s no surprise the TCFF screening last month was packed and there were a long line at the RUSH line trying to get tickets to the sold-out showing. As someone who haven’t read the book, I was intrigued by the female-driven story and was expecting to be entertained as well as enlightened. Alas, I got neither.

This movie is like Eat, Pray, Love 2.0 where a white woman in the midst of a life crisis decided to go on a journey of self-discovery. Now, instead of traveling the globe, in the mid 90s Cheryl hiked the 2,663 mi (4,286 km) long trail of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), all by herself. So the first act was quite amusing as we watched the petite Reese Witherspoon struggling to even carry her ginormous backpack twice her size and struggling to figure out how to put up a tent, cook a meal and so on. The film tells us in flashbacks who Cheryl is and how she ended up taking up such an extreme adventure. She went on such an arduous trek without much preparation, I mean the PCT is such a challenging terrain even for most experienced hikers. It seems that Cheryl went through life in a similar reckless manner, prompted by the death of her mother, played by the always affable Laura Dern.

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Though her family was poor, Cheryl’s mother was always there for her and she had such a sunny outlook on life even in the most dire circumstances. Her mother’s death from lung cancer wrecked the already-fragile Cheryl and her life went on a downward spiral. She drank, did drugs and slept with any willing man, even in a dirty alleyway. It’s no surprise her humiliated husband divorced her and even she didn’t fault him for doing so. In fact, her last name ‘Strayed’ was made up by Cheryl herself after the divorce, perhaps to signify her lost and philandering ways?

Witherspoon pulled all the stops in portraying Cheryl’s ‘warts and all’ persona, which includes posing nude, swearing up a storm, and pretty much anything we don’t expect from *America’s sweetheart.* But that’s the thing, I felt like the actress tried too hard to shed her ‘good girl’ image here, yet I feel she didn’t quite go far enough. For one I think she still looks too beautiful even sans makeup, never once did I believe her as a desperate person reaching her wit’s end. Some have said it’s a bravura and transformative performance but to me it looks superficial and bait-y, because she didn’t immerse us or make us empathize with the character.

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Perhaps an actress with a better range (like Cate Blanchett or even Emily Blunt) might’ve suited this role better. Other than Witherspoon and Dern, there are no other performances worth talking about. I only noticed Michiel Huisman as a guy she hooked up on her journey as I recognized him from some Game of Thrones stills, but he wasn’t given much to do than looking hunky.

The film itself also tried too hard to tug at my heartstrings that it felt manipulative. That is if you weren’t overwhelmed by the repetitive and at times jarring flashbacks to the point of ad nauseam. It’s worth noting that this is Jean Marc Valèe‘s follow-up film after the critically-acclaimed Dallas Buyer’s Club which was nominated for an Oscar, and the script was done by acclaimed writer Nick Hornby (About A Boy, An Education). Great pedigree to be sure, if only I had been more impressed by the result.

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The cinematography by Yves Bélanger of the PCT is perhaps the only thing I admire about this film, I mean it could double as an advertisement for the scenic trail (oh and for REI too, with its blatant product placement). Though the running time was under 2-hours, I felt like it went on for ages and I never felt more relieved to see end credits appearing on screen! I don’t mean to be so down on this movie, I suppose the themes of self-empowerment and perseverance are quite inspiring, but in the end, Cheryl Strayed remains emotionally distant to me.

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Have you seen WILD? I’m curious to hear what you think!