Birthday Tribute: Top 5 Favorite Keanu Reeves’ Roles & Trailer Spotlight: 47 Ronin

Today is Keanu Reeves’ Birthday and I almost missed it! Can you believe it he’s 49 years old?? He’s nearing 50 but he doesn’t look a day over 35!

Keanu_Then_Now
Keanu in Point Break (1991) and this year at Cannes

Keanu Charles Reeves was born in Beirut on September 2, 1864 in Beirut, Lebanon. His father is Hawaiian Chinese and his mother English, his first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian. My pal and fellow Keanu fan Mark and I sometimes call him Chuck 🙂 Keanu strikes me as the type of actors who aren’t in it for the fame or money. He seems like a nice guy in real life too. Perhaps you’ve seen this video of him giving his seat to a woman on the subway that went viral. Dan at Top 10 Films recently posted Top 10 Random Acts Of Kindness From Actors and Keanu came in at number 1 as he donated his lucrative back-end deal for The Matrix franchise to the crew of the films, saying they were the unsung heroes, the ones who made the films so good. He has been quoted as saying, “Money is the last thing I think about. I could live for a few hundred centuries with what I have made already.” WHOA! Now, THAT’s real charity folks, nice to see celebs who actually walk the talk and that is a rarity in ANY industry.

I’ve been a fan of his ever since I saw him in Speed, and though he’s not the most expressive actors out there, he more than makes up for it in screen presence and that inherent movie star quality that an actor can’t really train for. There’s also a certain earnest demeanor about him that makes me root for him instantly, and he’s got that cool factor without appearing smug. Plus, Keanu not only looks good but sounds good as well with his deep, manly voice.

Keanu’s quite a prolific actor, with 70 films/TV projects under his belt since his start in the early 80s. His big break came with Point Break in 1991, but Speed and of course The Matrix made him a household name. I’ve seen just a little over a dozen of his films, both small and big-budgeted films, and though he certainly isn’t going to nab any acting awards, I’ve always enjoyed watching him. I actually own some of his films that I don’t mind seeing over and over again. If I were to rate my top 5 favorite roles, it’d look like this:

KeanuTop5Roles

5. Kevin Lomax – The Devil’s Advocate

4. Johnny Utah – Point Break

3. Paul Sutton – A Walk in the Clouds

2. Jack Traven – Speed

1. Neo – The Matrix

Honorable Mentions: John Constantine in Constantine + Shane Falco in The Replacements

I think he’s more versatile than people give him credit for. He’s obviously great as an action hero, but he’s got the sensitivity and vulnerability to play a romantic lead or a down-on-his-luck kind of guy like he did in Henry’s Crime. I haven’t seen the comedy Something’s Gotta Give and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee where he had supporting roles, but it proves that he does seek out a variety of roles in his career. He’s also ventured into directing, in the fascinating documentary Side By Side.

47RoninJapaneseposter

Now, the one film I’ve been anticipating for quite some time is 47 Ronin. I actually mentioned this back in 2010 when I featured its director Carl Rinsch‘s short sci-fi film The Gift which was at one point optioned to be made into a feature film. Besides Keanu, who looks like he’s in his element, I quite like the Japanese cast: Hiroyuki Sanada (who was sadly wasted in The Wolverine) and Pacific Rim‘s Rinko Kikuchi. Check out the trailer:

Here’s the synopsis per EMPIRE:

After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, the leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Reeves), a half-breed they once rejected, as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witches and wondrous terrors.

Ok, despite the rather blah trailer, I’m still intrigued by this. Visually, it looks pretty cool but let’s hope this won’t be another case of style over substance as we could use a truly epic Samurai movie. Per IMDb, this is the seventh cinematic adaptation of the Japanese folktale of the 47 Ronin, after The 47 Ronin, ChĂ»shingura, Chushingura, The Fall of Ako Castle, 47 Ronin (Japanese film) and The Last Chushingura. But this is the first out of Hollywood. Even though Keanu is a Western actor, his Asian heritage makes him look like he belongs in this film. I haven’t been following it closely but it seems that it’s been in development hell for years with budget and creative differences issues. There were even rumors last year that Universal fired Rinsch as the budget ballooned to $225 mil (from the already massive $175 mil). That’s just ludicrous even for a 3D film, and such a huge risk for the studios to give it to a first-time director!

But hey, you never know, it may still make money. I mean, look at World War Z. We’ll see if this turns out to be a good one. The film comes out on Christmas day, 2013.


So, what’s your favorite Keanu role and what do you think of 47 Ronin?

Weekend Roundup and ARGO review

It’s been quite a hectic start to October for me, but it’s definitely going to be an exciting month with Twin Cities Film Fest just around the corner!

I skipped the cinema this weekend, but it looks like people just can’t get enough of bad ass Liam Neeson with his special set of skills. Taken 2 took in an astounding $50 million (apparently it’s not the third best October opening ever), which is sensational considering the dismal review. Now, even though I heard reports that Neeson won’t be back for Taken 3, the studio is likely to give him an offer he can’t refuse. I do hope he’s got the integrity to say no to that.

I saw a total of three films this week: ARGO (thanks to my buddy Ted for the advance screening tickets), and two great films from the early 90s: The Hunt for Red October and Point Break. Red October is the one Jack Ryan movie that has eluded me for some reason but it’s a fantastic political thriller, and despite being set mostly on a submarine, it’s not at all dull. From the comments on the Five for the Fifth post, seems like a lot of people like Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan and now I could see why.

I saw Point Break years ago and I’ve been wanting to rewatch it for some time. I finally bought the Blu-ray this weekend and I certainly have a new appreciation for the Kathryn Bigelow’s action thriller. The story is not ground-breaking but it’s more multi-layered than meets the eye. Full of high-octane action and the surfing and sky-diving scenes are quite spectacular, bummer that Hollywood is reportedly set to remake this cult classic! Anyway, I’m sort of crushing on Keanu Reeves all over again now, ahah.

Now on to the review of…

ARGO (2012)

At first glance you might think this has something to do with Jason and the Argonauts, but no, this one has nothing to do with Greek Mythology though there is a reference to that in the film. This Ben Affleck-directed political drama is loosely based on a true story, that is former CIA technical operations officer Tony Mendez’ account of the Iran hostage crisis of the late 70s.

The opening of the film starts out like a documentary, providing a pretty detailed background of why supporters of the Iranian Revolution are protesting outside of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Basically, the anti-Shah Iranians under Ayatollah Khomeini demanded for his return to Iran (he was undergoing cancer treatment in the US) for trial and execution.

For a film where the outcome is already known, Affleck did a great job in building up the suspense right from the get go. The whole sequence where the Iranians took over the embassy is quite gripping, and how the six of the consular employees were able to escape just in the nick of time and ended up taking refuge at the Canadian embassy.

Enter CIA officer Tony Mendez (Affleck) who’s tasked to get those six men out of the country. According to Wiki, Mendez’s work in the agency frequently dealt with forging foreign documents, creating disguises and handling other graphical work related to espionage. After exploring all the options that the agency considered — one of which includes a bike trek across 3000 miles of treacherous mountain conditions! — it’s clear that the utterly bizarre idea of smuggling them as a fake film crew was the only option!

ARGO is full of edge-of-your-seat scenes from start to finish. It doesn’t take long for the audience to realize just how high the stake is and how those escapees’ lives are in great danger, as they could be discovered at any moment. If found, they would suffer a much worse fate than the hostages, and Mendez saw that firsthand when he arrived in Iran and saw men being hung from cranes in public view!

Thankfully, Affleck peppered the taut suspense with dry humor and lighthearted moments, courtesy of the delightfully zany pairing of John Goodman and Alan Arkin as Oscar-winning make-up artist John Chambers and Hollywood producer Lester Siegel, respectively. The scenes in Hollywood as they’re working on coming up with the fake movie is such a much-needed relief from the tense situation happening in Iran. It’s a hoot to see both Chambers and Siegel working on a movie that doesn’t even exist, there’s even a fake reading and launch party to get the press to ‘sell’ the movie! In the CIA camp, there’s also Bryan Cranston as Mendez’s CIA boss in D.C. who’s always fun to watch.

This is Affleck’s third outing as director and now I can say he’s one of my favorite directors. I’d rate this as high as Gone, Baby, Gone and once again the 40-year-old Bostonian displayed his keen ability to not only cast excellent actors but drew the best performance from them in his films. Though his own acting here is good, I still think Affleck is much more skillful behind the camera. The lesser-known actors playing the hostages also did a good job in their roles, as well as Victor Garber as the Canadian ambassador.

Final Thoughts: In a year chock full of movie superheroes, it’s nice to see a real-life story about a group of quiet heroes who took great risk to save others. Kudos for Affleck for creating an authentic and atmospheric film. ARGO is a thrilling and entertaining adventure that shifts brilliantly between three different locations—Washington D.C., Tehran and Hollywood—until it culminates in a nail-biting finale. Stay on during the credits as they show the photos of the real-life individuals depicted in the film, the casting manager did a good job in finding actors that resemble them. This is easily one of the best films of the year and surely will end up as my top 5 of 2012. At this point, it could even be a shoo-in for Best Picture Oscar nomination.

4.5 out of 5 reels


What did you see this weekend? Anybody else seen ARGO? If so, do let me know what you think.

Guest Post: Summer films from my teen years



So with the summer movie season well under way, I’ve decided to go back to the time when I was still in my teens and looking forward to every summer season because not only I had the entire summer off from school, but also the big summer films Hollywood has to offer. I used to love watching Entertainment Tonight because they would always show the upcoming trailers of summer flicks; the internet was still new so you can’t watch movie trailers online yet.

I’m going to list big the films from the summer seasons of 1990 to 1996; I was still in my teens in those years and went to see a lot of movies in theater. And I’ll name my favorite films from that Summer, too. If you’re the same age as me and love films, then you might remember what went on during those hot Summer seasons.

1. Summer of 1990:

The notable big films were Days of Thunder, Dick Tracy, Die Hard 2, Robocop 2, Ghost, Fire Birds, Back to the Future Part 3, Total Recall, Another 48 Hrs., Gremlins 2, Presumed Innocent and Air America. Around this time I was too young to get into R rated films so I didn’t see Die Hard 2, Robocop 2, Total Recall and Air America until they came out on VHS. A lot of people probably don’t remember but the summer of 1990 was the summer of Disney vs. Paramount. Disney has Dick Tracy and Paramount has Days of Thunder and the marketing for both films were huge! I remember I went to McDonald’s that summer and all I could see was Dick Tracy related items and Burger King was pimping Days of Thunder.

Jerry Bruckheimer didn’t have nice things to say about Disney and their big film Dick Tracy (This was a few years before Bruckheimer signed with Disney), so the battle was on. The results? Well the two films didn’t earn that much at all compare to the other films, in fact no one saw it coming that Ghost ended up being the biggest hit of the season. My favorites were Die Hard 2, Total Recall, Another 48 Hrs. and Back to the Future Part 3. Robocop 2 and Days of Thunder were quite disappointing to me.

2. Summer of 1991:

The big guns were Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Rocketeer, Backdraft, Point Break, Mobsters, Doc Hollywood and Child’s Play 3. I don’t remember why but the summer of 1991 offerings were pretty weak, maybe because a lot of studios were afraid of T-2 and they were right because it’s the biggest hit of the summer and the year. It’s also the first film to actually have cost over $100 mil to make and it set the standards for special effects in films. I actually saw the film on the big 70mm screen and I was blown away by it. The picture and sound were pretty spectacular.

My favorite from the list was Point Break, I fell asleep watching Backdraft, while Robin Hood with Kevin Costner was okay. The only other film I saw in theater that summer was The Rocketeer, I don’t remember much about it though, and I might have to give it a rent soon.

3. Summer of 1992:

The big films were Lethal Weapon 3, Alien 3, Batman Returns, Far and Away, Sister Act, Patriot Games, Iron Eagle 3, A League of Their Own, Cool World, Prelude to a Kiss, Universal Soldier, Unforgiven, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Death Becomes Her, Mo’ Money, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery and Single White Female. I called this the summer of sequels and Lethal Weapon 3, Batman Returns and Patriot Games were big winners.

Alien 3 on the other hand was the biggest bombs of the year, it was plague with bad behind the scenes rumors and it was way over budget. Another big bomb of that summer was Far and Away, Ron Howard’s attempt to imitate David Lean’s film was met with bad reviews and audiences didn’t care to see Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman on the big screen. Howard even shot the film with Panavision Super 70, the highest quality in film, very similar to Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and Ryan’s Daughter. My favorites were Lethal Weapon 3, Batman Returns, Patriot Games and Unforgiven (it’s probably my favorite western film ever).

4. Summer of 1993:

Hollywood offered us Hot Shots! Part Deux, Super Mario Bros., Jurassic Park, Cliffhanger, Last Action Hero, The Fugitive, Hard Target, Free Willy, Rising Sun, Another Stakeout, Coneheads, and In the Line of Fire. This summer was billed as Arnold vs. Sly since each of them had a summer flick, Stallone has been doing comedies for a few years and Arnold didn’t have a summer movie in 1992. So when it was announced that Cliffhanger would open in May and Last Action Hero in June, many predicted that both films would earn hundreds of millions of dollars.

Boy were they wrong, Cliffhanger ended up making around $80mil while Last Action Hero became one of the biggest box office misfires of the decade, ouch! The summer actually belonged to the dinosaurs and Harrison Ford. Jurassic Park became the biggest hit of the summer/year and The Fugitive was right behind it. My favorites were Jurassic Park, The Fugitive, Cliffhanger, Hard Target, In the Line of Fire and Rising Sun.

5. Summer of 1994:

The summer kicked off with Maverick then Beverly Hills Cop 3, The Flintstones, The Cowboy Way, Speed, City Slickers 2, Wolf, Wyatt Earp, The Lion King, Forrest Gump, True Lies, The Client, The Shadow, The Mask, Natural Born Killers and Clear and Present Danger. So this was the first summer ever that has two films earned over $300 mil at the box office, Forrest Gump and The Lion King. Also, it was a reunion for Arnold and James Cameron, their film True Lies was the priciest of the year costing at around $120mil to make. Even though this was a huge summer for films, somehow I don’t remember much about it. I think I only saw 4 films in theater that summer; True Lies, Speed, Clear & Present Danger and Forrest Gump and I enjoyed all of them. The rest were pretty forgettable with the exception of The Lion King which I didn’t see until it came out on video and I really enjoyed it.

6. Summer of 1995:

The theaters were filled with big films such as Crimson Tide, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Braveheart, Casper, Congo, The Bridges of Madison County, Batman Forever, Pocahontas, Apollo 13, Judge Dredd, First Knight, Species, Under Siege 2, Clueless, Free Willy 2, The Net, Waterworld, Babe, Dangerous Minds and Mortal Kombat. 1995 was a pretty weak year in films and the summer season offerings weren’t that impressive either.

The summer kicked off with Crimson Tide (Jerry Bruckheimer’s first big budget film with Disney after he and his business partner Don Simpson left Paramount). I went to see it with a friend and we loved it and thought this could be a great summer for films. Boy was I wrong, the next movie I went to see was Die Hard 3 and even though I enjoyed it, I was still quite disappointed with the movie. Then I saw Congo and wow that was bad, Batman Forever and Judged Dredd were also quite bad. In July I saw Under Siege 2 and Waterworld, I was surprised how much I enjoyed both films but by no means they were great or even good films.

At the time, Waterworld was the most expensive movie ever, cost around $175mil to produce. The last summer movie I saw in theater was Mortal Kombat and I really enjoyed that one. I didn’t get to see Braveheart in theater until it won all those Oscars and they decided to re-release it back in theaters in the spring of 1996. My favorites were Braveheart, Crimson Tide and Mortal Kombat.

7. Summer of 1996:

Hollywood gave us Twister, Mission: Impossible, Dragonheart, The Rock, The Cable Guy, Eraser, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Striptease, The Nutty Professor, Independence Day (ID4), Phenomenon, Courage Under Fire, The Frighteners, A Time to Kill, Chain Reaction, Escape from L.A., Tin Cup and Island of Dr. Moreau. I remember this summer well because I graduated from high school that May and also it was the summer of films filled with CGI. Also, this was the year where most movie theaters in America updated to digital sound. I think I’ve seen most of the films on the list in theater that summer.

My favorites were Mission: Impossible, The Rock, Eraser, ID4 and Twister. Now I’m not saying these were great or even good films, but they were quite entertaining, especially if you saw them at a theater that has digital sound. I thought I was gonna go deaf after I saw The Rock at the revamped theater close to where I used to live.

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Well those are my memories of summer films during my teen years, what about you? Feel free to share your memories of summer flicks; I would love to hear from someone who grew up in the 70s since I believe that decade had so many great films.