Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Last of the Mohicans, Social Network

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m actually still enjoying another day off today 😀 Well, staying in for the holiday break has quite a bit of perks. Besides not having to deal with holiday traffic, I also got to enjoy more movies than I usually around to in a typical weekend. I like mixing up genres when I watch movies, so after watching The Last of the Mohicans on Wednesday night, my hubby and I were planning on seeing Tangled with another friend after a hearty Thanksgiving lunch. We had bought tickets for the Disney flick but at the last minute we decided to see Social Network instead which was playing five minutes after.

Not sure what took me so long, but I’m certainly glad I finally got to see The Last of the Mohicans. As I had just seen Master & Commander just a couple of weeks ago, I kind of saw some similarities not only because both are period films taking place roughly around the same time (only about 50 years apart), but they both have strong leading men who carry the movie on their buff shoulders.

Daniel Day-Lewis is nothing short of electrifying as Hawkeye, an adopted son of a dying tribe called the Mohicans. Set during the French and Indian war in 18th century colonial America, it’s got a wonderful mix of action/adventure and unabashed romance at the heart of the story. It’s probably going to be on my top five Michael Mann films (though not having seen Collateral and Ali yet I probably should wait until I do).

Well, I’m probably the last person to see Social Network. I wasn’t too interested in it as I’m not a regular Facebook user but was intrigued by all the hype and stellar reviews (97% on RottenTomatoes, wow!). It’s hard to keep expectation in check with that kind of buzz but luckily, the film delivered. It truly captured the spirit of our generation and a fascinating look at the rise of the social media phenomenon.

You don’t need to do a ton of research to know the movie took much liberty with the story of FB founder Mark Zuckerberg, which makes Social Network more fascinating than a standard biopic because the subject of the story wasn’t even involved in the making of the film. But I was mostly curious to see the movie as an art form as I really don’t even care much about the subject matter to begin with, and in that regard, David Fincher did an amazing job. The film kept my attention the whole time, it was taut and gripping, more so than a lot of stuff out there billed as a ‘thriller.’ Performances were great all around, particularly Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg and Andrew Garfield as his BFF Eduardo Saverin. I’ve noticed Garfield in Red Riding trilogy and Never Let Me Go and was really impressed by his screen presence. I think the 27-year-old Brit’s got a nice blend of leading man quality with character actor sensibility, not a bad thing to have for any actor. Justin Timberlake also turned in a compelling and humorous performance as the Napster founder Sean Parker.

Alain Delon as hitman Jef Costello

This weekend I also re-watched How To Train Your Dragon that we bought on Black Friday and loved it even more the second time around. So yeah, it was definitely worth every penny! And last night I finally got to see Part I of the Pillars of the Earth 8-part miniseries. I like it so far, but then again I’m always fond of movies with lots of Brits in ’em… and it doesn’t hurt that Rufus Sewell is involved 🙂 I’ll post my review once I’m done with the whole thing.

Oh, I also want to share that I’ve got a french crime thriller Le Samouraï scheduled to arrive tomorrow that I’m quite excited about. I’ve always wanted to see an Alain Delon movie (who was one of my late mother’s favorite actors) but haven’t got around to it for some reason. Thanks for This Guy Over Here‘s list, I finally added it to my queue.

So, what movie(s) did you manage to see this past weekend?

Guest Post: The Joy of Discovering Rufus Sewell – a Birthday Tribute

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Today we celebrate the birthday of a special actor Rufus Sewell. I had a birthday post for him last year, but this time I thought what better way that to invite Mr. Sewell’s number one fan, my good friend Prairiegirl to share her own heartfelt tribute. Read on:
Today Rufus Sewell is 43. Who would have guessed what would happen after I discovered him only two-and-a-half years ago. Since then I have had the distinct pleasure of catching up on all of his work I could get my hands on, from 1992 (Gone to Seed, British TV series, seven episodes) forward. His earliest film work is listed as Twenty-One (1991) on IMDb (just ordered a used VHS copy from Amazon, finally gave in because I can’t find it to rent or to buy on DVD anywhere. It was only $6. If you want a new, unused VHS tape of it be prepared to pay a whopping $47! More about this phenomenon next.) Here’s a very early clip of Rufus as young bus driver Robby Fay in The Man of No Importance (1992), along with middle-aged bus driver Albert Byrne (Albert Finney), in a heartwarming tale of a friendship between colleagues. Here’s a clip of the final scene in the film:

Unfortunately, AMONI is impossible to get on DVD, either for rent or purchase. I gave in and bought this one on VHS also, but it doesn’t play right in my old VCR any more. This Audient blog post laments this sad condition.
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Discovery.
I was half way through watching Tristan and Isolde (2006, recommended by Netflix) in June of 2008. In the middle of the scene with Rufus and James Franco (Tristan) on the bridge where Lord Marke (Rufus) asks if Isolde is faithful to him, I said to myself, “who is this [amazing] guy?!” He spoke with so much emotion, with exceedingly convincing expressions and just so much shear heart that I rewound that scene about fives times and was immediately in love with my first movie boyfriend. When I told “Flixy” (rtm) how excited I was, (now that I had someone comparable to her dear Gerry Butler), she said, rather nonchalantly, oh, yes, Rufus, I like him, he’s in Dangerous Beauty, The Illusionist, The Holiday and knew he was a Brit. Well, imagine my delight, again! So then the relentless hunt began – to see anything I could that mentioned Rufus Sewell, to see if T&I was just a fluke, or if he was always that stunning.
Hunt and Catch.
Very soon after, Flixy and I had a Friday Movie Night and watched Dangerous Beauty (1998), and I totally, completely, fell head-over-heals. I had already seen The Illusionist and The Holiday without realizing at all that Rufus was in either, that’s how much the Bridge scene took me away.

Rufus in Dark City

Turns out many knew him from the 1998 mystery/sci-fi thriller Dark City. Not my usual genre, but understood the praise after watching it. Then came his more well-known parts as vengeful, spurned suitors in A Knight’s Tale (2001, Count Adhemar) and The Illusionist (2006, Crown Prince Leopold), and his downright villainous scoundrel in The Legend of Zorro (2005, Armand). He played rather ordinary men in some rather interesting circumstances in Cold Comfort Farm (1995), The Woodlanders (1997), In a Savage Land (1999), Paris, je t’aime (2006), Amazing Grace (2006) and Downloading Nancy (2008). He is in period-costume glory in Hamlet, Arabian Nights, Helen of Troy and Pillars of the Earth.

He is comfortable either on TV, film or stage. He prefers finite TV series (Gone to Seed, MiddleMarch, The Last King, John Adams, Taming of the Shrew) as opposed to an open-ended series like Eleventh Hour, (which lasted only a year on CBS), but was too long to for him be in one place. According to Rufus… “an interesting experiment” as he calls it, to be polite. And aside from his outstanding acting, in ordinary life the guy is just plain charming, considerate, and friendly… as displayed in Craig Ferguson’s interview… which easily endears me to him even more.

Rufus in a scene from Pillars of the Earth

Anticipation
Now that I’ve seen most there is to see of Rufus outstanding work, (except, or course, his stage plays, which include performances in Arcadia, Translations and Rock ‘n’ Roll), the only thing that’s left to do is see it all over again, or look forward to what’s coming up. The Pillars of the Earth (eight-part mini series) debuted in the USA in July, is playing on BBC4 in Britain currently, premiering in Germany this week and has been seen in Italy, Greece and maybe more. I haven’t even seen any episodes yet, but there’s buzz that Emmy nominations can’t be far behind. I don’t have Starz, so am anxiously waiting for the DVD to come out at the end of November here in the USA. To see the extraordinary range that Roof is capable of, watch this compilation of him as Tom Builder in Pillars of the Earth. Even where the music eclipses the dialogue, you can’t miss the depth and range he conveys:

Rufus in a scene in The Tourist

And then we can look forward to seeing him out of 11th Century garb and back in a suit again in the Aurelio Zen series he stars in on PBS sometime in the future and another contemporary role (a “small, but significant” role, according to Ruf) in the major Hollywood film The Tourist opening here December 10.

Real World.
And lastly, I have to give a shout out to all my fan girl friends over at The Rooftop (Everything Rufus, All The Time – made up tagline, but so true). Life would be a little less bright without it. And I would feel a lot crazier as a Ruf fan if not for them, because their fantasies (and “Caps” ;-)) are usually more than I could ever dream up. But some really do come true however, just ask Gloria, aka Dreamer who met Ruf on the set of Zen in Rome this summer.
So, in this second year of FlixChatter, comes the second salute to one of the most endearing, splendid and remarkable actors. Mr. Sewell, if you’re reading this, I wish you a very happy birthday!

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: Pillars of the Earth

Thanks to Prairiegirl for telling me about this TV miniseries that’s currently in production. Based on an International best-seller of the same name by Ken Follett, it’s a story about building a cathedral in the Middle Ages. The project’s produced by brothers Ridley and Tony Scott through their production company Scott Free. According to Geeksofdoom site, Tandem Communications, which previously picked up the Dune miniseries for the SCI FI Channel, spent over eight years trying to acquire the rights to Follett’s novel, first published in 1989.

Here’s the short synopsis from the miniseries official site:

The Pillars of the Earth is a sweeping epic of good and evil, treachery and intrigue, violence and beauty. This sensuous, spirited and passionate story is set against a backdrop of war, religious strife and power struggles which tears lives and families apart. In that time, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge.

Against this backdrop, human dramas and love stories entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, the sadistic Lord William, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone work and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. At once, this is a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age.

That sounds like an intriguing subject for a compelling drama, and I could see how a miniseries, instead of a 2-hour movie is a better medium to capture the complex story instead of showing us the cliff notes version of it.

Currently shooting in Hungary and Austria, the series is directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (Heroes, Saving Grace, Into the West) and also boasts an impressive cast: Ian McShane, Donald Shuterland, Rufus Sewell, Matthew Macfayden and Hayley Attwell. Glad to see Rufus in the mix, who’s no stranger to period dramas.  His talent and experience — not to mention his gorgeous mug — should bring a large dose of awesomeness to the project. Macfayden is currently working in Ridley’s Robin Hood as the Sheriff of Nottingham. I can’t help but wish that his RH’s co-star Mark Strong were in this, too =) You can read the full cast on Mr. Follett’s own site, as well as production notes from the British author’s blog.

The set photos/clips look impressive, take a peek of them on the project site.  And with a cast like this, I sure hope this project will make its way to US shores when it’s released next year.