Monthly Roundup: What I Watched in February

FebruaryRecap

Happy March everybody!! It’s still Winter here and we actually may get snow showers on Monday but I don’t care, I’m going to have tulips on my recap banner today!! Think Spring. Think Spring. Think Spring. 😀

Ok, now that I’ve got that out of my system.

Well, February has been quite a hectic month, blogging and otherwise. It’s also been VERY cccccolddd…  more days w/ subzero temps than I remember. But… according to a local meteorologist, historical weather data shows the coldest 90 days of the year, on average, are from December 1 to March 1, so yeah!! Plus, We’ve picked up over 2 hours and 20 minutes of daylight since December 21,  I love it when it’s still somewhat light out when I get out of the office.

Ok, enough with the weather report, or you’re gonna think you’re stranded in a weather blog 😉

Here are some posts you might’ve missed in February:

I participated in a couple of major blogathons this month. They’re both challenging and took some effort, but very rewarding when I’m done. Hope you check ’em out if you haven’t already.

BlogathonsFebruary

Motifs in Cinema: Marriage in Films   |  31 Days of Oscar: Spotlight on Edith Head

Now, as far as movie watching, it’s actually been a pretty good month as I saw about 20 films and TV shows. That’s quite a lot for my standards, usually I can only fit a dozen or so.

New Releases:

New to me:

Code 46

Code46

Bill Cunningham New York

BillCunningham

People Like Us

PeopleLikeUs

All About Eve

AllAboutEve

The Heiress (review upcoming)

TheHeiress

Bel Ami

BelAmi

Hotel Transylvania

HotelTransylvania

Tube Watch:

Rewatch:

Favorite Movie seen in February:

AllAboutEve_vintageposter

There should be no surprise this one would top everything else this month.
An absolute masterpiece that I definitely wouldn’t mind watching this time and time again.


Well, that’s what I’ve been watching this past month. What’s YOUR favorite movie of the month?

Motifs in Cinema Project: Love (and/or Marriage)

I was recently asked by Andrew Kendall at Encore Entertainment to contribute a post for the Motifs in Cinema blogging project. 2012, a multi-site themed blogging projects of 11 writers looking at 11 motifs from films last year. When Andrew emailed me the topics for the Motifs in Cinema Project, for some reason I gravitated towards the Love and/or Marriage theme. Perhaps because it so happens that 2013 falls on my 10-year wedding anniversary. So for this purpose, I’m going to focus more specifically on marriage on films and how filmmakers have used that theme in 2012.

This is the intro for the project:

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across 22 film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a common theme across various films changes when utilised by different artists.

Love (and/or Marriage) in Cinema

By the time this project rolls around, I still have not seen two major Oscar contenders Amour and Anna Karenina in which the theme of love and marriage runs deep. But these eight films happen to explore marriage in varying degree, and each offers us something different when it comes to love and marriage.

[Naturally with this kind of post, I’ll be talking about some major plot points, so consider this a SPOILER ALERT!]

A Late Quartet

One of my favorite films of 2012 that’s probably get lost in the shuffle. Two members of the renowned quartet Fugue are married couple Robert and Juliette (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Katherine Keener). Even though they work together, their marriage is on the brink of doom, seemingly held together by their love for their only daughter, who later on ends up wrecking havoc in the already fragile musical group.

ALateQuartet_KeenerHoffman

Jealousy, lust and disillusionment threatened to break their marriage forever and I thought it’d be the case when Robert gave in to the seduction of his beautiful jogging partner. Neither Robert nor Juliette seems invested in their marriage as much as they are in their music, and therein lies the problem. Having been married for nearly a decade now, I realize how crucial it is to never take our spouse for granted, and this film is a reminder of that.

Brave

Just because it’s an animated film, it doesn’t mean that it can’t have a poignant message. As Pixar has done a few years ago with UP, that opening montage alone speaks volumes as one of the best portrayal of marriage on film. Unlike other less-fortunate Disney princesses, Merida grew up in a loving home with her dad Lord Fergus and Queen Eleanor. The queen is the one who ‘wears the pants’ in the family, so to speak, though it seems unrealistic perhaps in the Medieval era, so it’s perhaps more wishful thinking than anything. That said, it’s wonderful to see such a healthy relationship between the two, the scene where Eleanor vents to Fergus about Merida is both hilarious and moving.

Brave_Fergus_Eleanor

The film also challenges the notion of young and arranged marriage, with Merida protesting the whole betrothal process and refusing to give up her freedom. Marriage should always be a choice, first and foremost, and that ‘happily ever after’ might not always happen. It also shouldn’t be a ‘goal’ so much as a natural procession of life when things fall into place.

Hitchcock

I wasn’t wowed by this film overall but I did appreciate that I got a glimpse of the marriage life of one of the world’s most famous film directors. The saying of ‘Behind every great man there’s a great woman’ couldn’t be more true when it comes to Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), as not only Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) was supportive and willing to put up with his antics, including his juvenile crush with his leading ladies, she was crucial in his career, too.

Hitchcock_Alma

Alma wasn’t exactly a saint, either. Lacking the attention from her husband, Alma was drawn to screenwriter Whitfield Cook who’s flirtatious with her and plays upon her own writing career aspiration. No marriage is perfect surely, but what I do like about Alfred and Alma is that they are friends as well as lovers, they can relate to each other beyond just the romantic stuff. They seemed to enjoy each other’s company and have that shared creative passion. I think that’s partly why their marriage could last as long as it did despite a few bumps on the road. Dame Mirren is the star of the show for me, and I think I learn much more about Alma here than I did about her husband.
///

Moonrise Kingdom

One of the most delightfully quirky films of 2012 center on two 12-year-olds running away from home to be together. They claim they are in love with each other and we think, ‘they don’t even know what love is!’ Be that as it may, does it make their feelings ‘less true?’

Neither Sam and Suzi come from a healthy family.  Suzi’s parents are on the brink of divorce as her mom is in love with the local Captain. Sam has been living in a ‘juvenile refuge’ as his foster parents no longer wants him living with them. But love is a universal desire even for those perhaps too young to understand, and the film offers an endearingly-naive look at marriage from fresh young eyes who aren’t yet cynical nor jaded by that concept.

Nobody Walks

I didn’t really care for this film, in fact, I listed it as one of the worst films I saw in 2012. The thing is, I’m not fond of films about infidelity, though at times there’s a teachable moment that I can appreciate. In this case, it comes from the supporting character Julie (played by the massively underrated Rosemarie DeWitt). Whilst her husband was hopelessly infatuated by a young, pretty house guest like a 12-year-old boy, temptation also came her way like a storm. She’s a therapist and the seducer is her patient who happens to be a handsome and successful actor. She could’ve given in and chalk it up to her husband being a douche bag and the fact that she had been a neglected wife, but in the end she did the right thing.

NobodyWalks_DeWitt_Krasinski

This film paints a rather bleak portrait of marriage… where things seems quiet and peaceful for this well-to-do family but yet, even the slightest breeze threatens to blow everything apart as if it had no solid foundation at all. For the time being, their union seemingly survives the whole ordeal, but it made me think… for how much longer?? What would ensure them that it would not happen again?? The main character Martine (an attractive but impossible-to-root-for Olivia Thirlby) is even more tragic, not only did she has no complete regard for people’s relationships, she doesn’t seem to value herself nor her own feelings, either.

People Like Us

Despite its incredibly generic title, this movie ends up being a pretty good one. It doesn’t depict marriage between two characters in the film, instead it explores the consequences of a marital misstep, through the eyes of those who end up suffering from it. Sam and Frankie met as a result of their father’s infidelity – Sam is record producer Jerry Harper’s firstborn, and Frankie is the daughter of his mistress. Sam’s last wish before he died is to give a large sum of money to Frankie’s young son, which creates interesting circumstances for all three and their lives are never the same because of it.

PplLikeUs_PineBanks

In my book, infidelity is NEVER a good thing. But sometimes good can come from something bad and in this case, it’s honesty and kindness ends up righting the wrong, even if the way to get there isn’t always smooth.

Robot & Frank

Now this one paints a very different view of marriage. In fact, it never quite enter the picture until the film almost ended. It’s marketed as an unlikely friendship between a robot butler and his master, Frank (Frank Langella), and indeed it is. But there’s also a relationship between a beautiful librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) whom he constantly flirts with. Set in a distant future where physical books are being replaced by digital copies, Frank is struggling to come to terms with the ever-changing world around him.

RobotFrank_SarandonLangella

It’s a film about Alzheimer that doesn’t hit us over the head with the harrowing subject matter, but instead it gives us a sweet – and at times hilarious – picture of family. In the end, it’s revealed that Jennifer is actually Frank’s wife, which I didn’t see coming. That revelation made me tear up as it’s just heartbreaking but also made your heart soar at the same time. Real love knows no bounds, the heart always remembers even when the mind lost its capacity to do so… and that is one of the most beautiful and uplifting picture of marriage I’ve seen in a long while.

Silver Linings Playbook

Marriage is the union of two people, but sometimes the breakdown of a marriage could actually brings people together. That’s what happens with Pat and Tiffany, the former lost his marriage to infidelity (and his uncontrollable rage) and the other to a tragic accident. Each of them deals with it in their own way. Tiffany tries to hide her pain by being promiscuous and Pat holds on to the hope that he could still get back together with his estranged wife Nikki.

SilverLinings_CooperLawrence

Though they didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, their relationship slowly became the very thing that help both of them heal… and learn to love again. Pat has always wanted that love to come from his wife, but instead, it comes from an unlikely person that comes to him unexpectedly. The moment Pat felt for Tiffany, it took him by surprise and he looked away, unable to comprehend the change in his heart. It wasn’t until the finale of the dance competition that he finally chose to acknowledge his feelings and decided he needed to do something about it. Director David O. Russell kept the ending open-ended in terms of how Pat ended things with Nikki. But by then it doesn’t really matter. What matters to Pat (and us the viewers) is that he’s finally found that silver linings.


Be sure to check out other entries of Motifs in Cinema on Encore Entertainment Blog!


Thoughts on any of these films? What other 2012 films would you have chosen in regards to marriage?

Monthly Roundup: July Movie Watching Recap

Happy August everybody! Actually scratch that, how is this August already??! Summer blockbuster months are practically over, even though there still a few movies I’m looking forward to before the weather turns cold, such as The Bourne Legacy, Total Recall, oh and Henry Cavill’s thriller The Cold Light of Day that was supposed to be released last April!

As far as blogging go, well there are a couple of major developments this past month. One is FlixChatter is now a member of Cinematic Consensus Group that’s started by the awesome Aussie blogger Rodney of Fernby Films. Hence I display this Member Badge proudly on my sidebar:

My friend Ronan of the fabulous blog Filmplicity also invited me to be a part of the MercatorNet family, that is Popcorn … a MercatorNet blog on the Movies. Check out Ronan’s welcome post and I hope you check out the Popcorn blog from time to time 🙂

As for the blog of yours truly, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from the past month:

July is a pretty busy month at the cinema, I saw four movies on the big screen, including one advanced screening. I think about a dozen movie a month is pretty much I could really fit in my life right now, I wish I could watch more, but ah well, what can you do?

Movies I haven’t seen before:

• The Dark Knight Rises
•
The Amazing Spiderman
•
Moonrise Kingdom
• Ruby Sparks
• 21 Jump Street
• Despicable Me
• Mirror, Mirror
•
Angel (2007)

Re-watch:

  • The Living Daylights (1987)– Timothy Dalton is my favorite Bond and I really enjoy watching this film, good thing Joe Don Baker don’t get a lot of screen time, but this movie really would’ve been perfect with someone else as the villain.
  • Dr. No (1962) – I LOVE watching Sean Connery and I could see why people still regard him as his favorite but the movie is just so darn slow and silly. The highlight is the first time we hear Sean said that famous line: ‘Bond, James Bond’ inspired by a woman, no less!
  • The Dark Knight – Part of the countdown to The Dark Knight Rises, and it’s still the BEST of the trilogy.
  • One More Kiss (1999) – One of Gerry Butler’s earlier films set in Scotland is a bittersweet movie. I’d love to see him do a story like this again with talents but with a more compelling co-star like Cate Blanchett or Rachel Weisz.

Favorite July Movie:

Even though I didn’t give it a full rating, The Dark Knight Rises is still the highlight of my July movie viewing as it looks positively glorious in IMAX and really, all things considered, I think this movie does live up to the hype. A close second would be Ruby Sparks. Meeting the filmmaker and cast was definitely icing on the cake, especially having Paul Dano answer my question in person 🙂


So, how many films did you get to watch in July and which one is your favorite?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: 21 Jump Street + Moonrise Kingdom Reviews

Happy Monday all [well Tuesday to some of you on the other side of the world]! I have to say this has been a great week for movie watching. I actually managed to see THREE new movies [well new to me] and even sneaked in a couple of older movies for a rewatch: 300 and Spider-man 2 [I guess I was in a Spidey mood]. Well, I’ve posted my review The Amazing Spider-man last night, which according to Box Office Mojo made $140 mil in six days, but believe it or not it still falls short compared to the Sam Raimi’s versions. But it’s obviously lucrative enough to warrant multiple sequels, I think a trilogy should be a given.

Now, here’s my mini reviews of the other two films I saw this weekend.

21 Jump Street

I used to watch this show in High School so the primary reason I watched this is pure nostalgia. I didn’t want to see it on the big screen as I wasn’t crazy for the main cast [Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum] but the overwhelmingly positive reviews definitely compelled me to rent it. Well, this movie had me in stitches from the start and it never let on.

The premise is simple enough. Morton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) are former high school foes, it’s the stereotype of the school jock bullying the nerdy academic. As fate would have it, the two ended up enrolling in the same police academy and become unlikely friends. Though at first they seems to have caught a break when they busted some drug dealers in an unassuming park, the two over-eager young officers forgot to read the Miranda right! As punishment, both are reassigned to a special division in that famous street address which turns out to be an abandoned Korean church.

The foul-mouthed Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) told them their first mission is to infiltrate a high school following a death of one of the students after consuming a potent synthetic drugs. They go undercover as brothers and live temporarily in Schmidt’s parents house. Tatum and Hill certainly have comedic chops and just seeing both of them together just makes me laugh. Despite Tatum being soo much more mature than most high schoolers, they somehow managed to blend in and make friends. An accidental switcheroo in their faux-identity puts both undercover cops in unlikely situations, Jenko hangs out with the nerdy crowds, whilst Schmidt hangs out with the cool crowd, including the lead drug dealer Eric (Dave Franco, yep James’ younger brother).

Preposterous and crazy situations are to be expected in a story like this, but hilarity ensues with every step to get to the drug supplier. One of the most hilarious moments happens when the undercover duo had to try out the drug to prove themselves to Eric. Oh my, I was in stitches through that whole scene, but I was on the floor when they arrive in prom complete with flying white doves!! Believe it or not, there are actually some sweet moments between these two, but mostly it’s just non-stop laughter and fun right up until the wild and deliberately overblown finale. Both Jenko and Schmidt did get their wish of a life filled with car chases and explosions after all!

By the way, I don’t think I consider it a spoiler to say I’ve been waiting to see Johnny Depp’s cameo and you know what, he did not disappoint! I practically screamed when I saw him and I didn’t see it coming, which adds to the experience.

Final Thoughts: What fun! Despite being too vulgar for my taste, the writing makes for a truly hilarious action-comedy. It’s similar to Hot Fuzz but perhaps more accessible to US audiences. I’m can’t say that I’m a fan of Jonah or Channing now, but I can honestly say they both are GREAT in this movie!

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


Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve been waiting to see this one in a while (I even put it on my most-anticipated list), which is unusual as I don’t always get excited about a Wes Anderson movie. The only one I have seen before was The Royal Tennenbaums, and whilst I enjoyed that one, I can’t remember too much of the details except to say that and eccentric are the words that come to mind. It’s the same with Moonrise Kingdom, though I’d add the words endearing and delightful to describe it.

Set on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, it opens in a Khaki Scout Summer Camp on the day one of its member, Sam Shakusky, disappears from the camp. Soon they realize that a young girl from a nearby town, Suzy Bishop is also missing. Soon they discover the two had run away together and the town, led by the island police Captain Sharp goes in search of them.

Sam turns out to be an orphan whilst Suzy is not, but both Sam and Suzy feel like an outcast in their respective circle, and that’s what drew them together. The young actors, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so endearing in their roles, and their lack of acting experience actually adds sincerity to the romance. Their scenes together remind us the delight of what innocent young love could be. These sweet moments are peppered with some dark, poignant moments, as if to illustrate the world that would await the two twelve-year-olds as they grow older.

The adult actors seem to take a back-seat to these young lovebirds, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have their moments. Edward Norton as Sam’s Scout Master is amusingly delirious to what’s happening, and seeing the usually-serious actor as a chain-smoking boy scout leader is entertaining in its own right. Bruce Willis proves once again he’s more versatile than people give him credit for. I like him in his understated roles as much as his ‘yippikaye’ bad-assery and he’s appropriately somber in this one as he secretly longs for a family to call his own. I feel that Bill Murray wasn’t given as much to do here, he’s sort of just playing his quirky-self, but I guess that works just fine in a Wes Anderson movie. The rest of the stellar cast, including Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel and the other one of Wes’ muse Jason Schwartzman, are all good but none of them particularly stood out to me.

I guess the benefit of not having seen too much of Wes’ work is that I haven’t grown accustomed to his particular style, so everything seems fresh and fascinating to me. Even the preposterous aspects and the zany-ness of the characters all add to the charm and what makes Wes’ work so unique. There’s also that particular look to the visuals of Wes’ film, my super astute friend John outlined in this *tutorial* post…  he described Wes’ films as having “… the aged look and feel.. What I’m referring to is the yellow filter, and the slight graininess that makes you, the viewer, feel like you’re in a theatre in 1970 watching a film.” I LOVE that, I think it adds something special to the whole experience.

Final Thoughts: This is a delightful movie and it’s moving along quite efficiently at only 1 hr 34 minutes. The ending is heartwarming and sweet, but never nauseatingly so. I might rent this again when it comes out on DVD. I might even venture into Wes’ other works, such as Rushmore and Life Aquatic. Whether Wes’ style is your cup of tea or not as creativity is so subjective, I’m glad there’s still a filmmaker who marches to the beat of his own drums like him in Hollywood.

4.5 out of 5 reels



What do you think of either one of these movies? Do share your thoughts in the comments.

The year of ensemble-cast movies – which one is your favorite?

With The Avengers kick-starting the Summer movie season, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of blockbusters. The year of ensemble cast blockbusters to be exact, as The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit are all vying to be amongst the ‘billion dollar club’ of the decade.

Avengers’ cast in the London premiere

An ensemble cast: a cast in which the principal performers are assigned roughly equal amounts of importance and screen time in a dramatic production.

A couple of years ago I listed my top five ensemble cast films from the past decade. Now, it’s not as simple as just hiring a bunch of actors in one movie, as some dismal movies like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve did. A good ensemble formula is when the assembled players actually work well together and elevate the story, instead of just getting ‘butts in seats’ for their name’s sake.

The ensemble cast films aren’t limited to just the mega blockbusters, however, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love also boast a large troupe of actors for their films. There’s also the 80s action heroes ensemble that is Expendables 2, and comedy ensembles What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Movie 43 from the Farrelly Brothers which I talked about last March [it’s apparently has been pushed out ’til next January]. On a smaller scale, there are these two independent projects I’m highly enthusiastic about:

  • At Swim Two Birds with the Irish ‘dream team’ of Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Michael Fassbender, and Jonathan Rhys Meyersthat’s hopefully out this year as well.
  • All Things to All Men with Gabriel Byrne, Rufus Sewell, Toby Stephens, Elsa Pataky (Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth’s wife), Leo Gregory, Julian Sands and James Frain. I will blog about this as soon as I have more info about the project, but in the meantime, check out this comprehensive post on Byrneholics site.

Ok, these three films represent three of my favorite ensemble cast from this year’s release (apart from The Avengers that is):

Moonrise Kingdom

  • Edward Norton
  • Bruce Willis
  • Bill Murray
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Harvey Keitel
  • Jason Schwartzman
  • Frances McDormand

Norton, Willis and Murray… what a trio! The trailer looks like a hoot as well. This might be another Wes Anderson movie I like since The Royal Tennenbaums!

The Dark Knight Rises

  • Tom Hardy
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Christian Bale
  • Liam Neeson
  • Anne Hathaway
  • Gary Oldman
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Michael Caine

The Dark Knight‘s cast is already ace, but the additional cast (especially Hardy and Gordon-Levitt) just makes it even better!! I’ve never even heard of Josh Pence before (last photo on the 2nd row) but curious how he’d fare as young Ra’s Al Ghul.

The Hobbit

Click image to see a larger version
  • Luke Evans
  • Hugo Weaving
  • Elijah Wood
  • Martin Freeman
  • Cate Blanchett
  • Evangeline Lilly
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Christopher Lee
  • Ian McKellen
  • Andy Serkis
  • Richard Armitage
  • Ian Holm
  • Lee Pace
  • Billy Connolly

Now, is it any wonder I actually dreamed about being on the set of this movie??! Again, I already LOVE the cast of the Lord of the Rings trilogy but Peter Jackson seems to have upped the ante even more as The Hobbit is chock full of my favorite UK/Aussie actors!! A lot of them are from UK TV shows so I wonder if PJ are a big fan of BBC? 😀 You already know this but I’m looking forward to seeing Richard Armitage as Thorin the most, but also Lee Pace as Thranduil the Elven King!

Added 12/3

HONORABLE MENTION:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – I LOVE the all-British cast, especially the two Dames: Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. But it’s also nice to see the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy amongst the cast as well.


Inspired by my pal Terrence’s Time to Vote Tuesday, I figure it’d be fun to have an interactive post for today 🙂

So which of these ensemble cast is your favorite? Please cast your vote below (you can pick 2) and do share why in the comments 🙂

…