10 Reasons Iron Man 3 Exceeds My Expectations

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Truth be told, this is one superhero film this year I wasn’t really  looking forward to. I mean I LOVE the first film, and I didn’t even hate the second one even with its set of flaws. But I guess I’m just a bit worn out with the character of Tony Stark himself, his snarky cool edge that was so fun to watch before is just getting stale. But thanks to writer/director Shane Black, somehow he manages to win me over with his direction style. Here are just some things he did right:

1. Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce came up with a thrilling story that doesn’t dwell too much on the rich-billionaire syndrome. I mean we’ve seen all that, so no need to keep rehashing that fact. We see the frivolous party-animal part of Tony Stark in a flashback at the beginning, but shortly after that, he’s plucked out of his elements. It’s a fish-out-of-water story of sort, as Tony ends up being stranded in a snowy small town in Tennesse.

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Shane Black on the set with RDJ

2. The burning question for this particular superhero, perhaps more so than any other Marvel superhero is this: Does the suit make the man or the man made the suit? In the Film School Rejects interview Shane Black and exec. producer Kevin Feige, the interviewer said, “…you seem as interested in having Tony out of the Iron Man armor as in it”. Here’s Black’s answer:

I want the Iron Man stuff to have impact. And if he’s always in the suit doing stuff, it doesn’t have any impact. If every once in a while he gets just a piece of the suit and POW! he launches a bolt and somebody goes flying 20 feet through the air, but it burns him to do it, that has impact.

I think that’s a wise move right from the get go, having such a strong vision for the character and make him the primary focus once again. I think Black succeeds in creating that delicate balance of seeing both persona of Tony Stark, making the most of Robert Downey Jr.‘s undeniable screen charisma that seems to only get better with age.

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Now, THAT’s the money shot

3. Going back to basicsbut somehow makes the old feels new again. The reason I like the first film was because we see Tony as a real genius who’s seemingly thrive under even the most desperate circumstances with his ability to build something out of nothing. We see that MacGyver side of Tony here, how he somehow can still rise to the occasion outside of his state-of-the-art lab and without his loyal robotic butler Jarvis. Tony Stark actually has to shop at a Home Depot type of store like the rest of us, ahah. The ‘relationship’ between the hero and his Iron suit gets an even more amusing play here, which seems even more hilarious than ever before.

4. Shane Black is no stranger to buddy action-comedies. After all, he was the writer behind the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action franchise Lethal Weapon. He’s also worked with RDJ in the wacky thriller-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where RDJ and Val Kilmer made a droll and quirky pair.

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Here RDJ still has a great rapport with General Rhodes (Don Cheadle), that whole bit about War Machine having a more nationalistic name Iron Patriot delivers some laughs. But when Rhodes is not always around to swap snarky banters with, Black cast a precocious whiz boy (Ty Simpkins) as his sparring partner. The 11-year-old Simpkins is able to hold his own against the veteran actor, and their banter is fun to watch. I love how Tony is still being Tony regardless who he’s dealing with, not allowing anyone—no matter how old—to wallow in self-pity, including himself. It was an unlikely duo that works in the story.

IronMan3_TheMandarin5. Surprising twist on the villain that I didn’t see coming. Having a more realistic ‘real world’ adversary with the terrorism angle works well here instead of simply having another suited-armor nemesis. But there’s more than meets the eye here about the eccentric psychopath The Mandarin that still hit me out of left field. I think comic readers might not necessarily appreciate the alteration but I consider it to be a pleasant surprise that’s sooo entertainingly zany.

Perfect casting of Sir Ben Kingsley in that role, stealing scenes whenever he appears on-screen. The scene of him, Stark and Rhodes is definitely one of the major highlights, but the less I say about the character the better for the sake of your viewing enjoyment.

6. Guy Pearce looking cool and hunky for a change, instead of looking like 200 years old (Prometheus) or some follicly challenged gangster (Lawless). He’s not the kind of villain that takes himself too seriously, Aldrich Killian is a pretty cool name and Pearce plays him as a charming baddie that could easily match Downey’s quick wits. There’s a scene towards the finale that somehow reminds me of his breakthrough role in Memento, I don’t think it’s an homage or anything, it’s just something I picked up on. Pearce seems to have had a good time filming this and it shows!

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7. Fun action set pieces but yet they’re not just some over-the-top and vapid bombastic shoot-em-ups (*cough* Die Hard 5 * cough*). The most memorable one, that you’ve likely seen in the trailer, is the relentless attack on Tony’s Malibu mansion. I remember marveling at that sprawling beach-front property in the first movie, and seeing it being destroyed to bits was wow, I’ve got to admit my heart sank a bit as I watched it.

The eye-popping special effects are to be expected. I still enjoy watching our armored hero shooting off to the sky, but this time, the flying sequence isn’t so much about Iron Man looking hip and cool on the air, but more about what he can do with that gift. Ultimately, it’s Tony’s sharp thinking that does the saving, not simply the power of that suit itself.

8. Robert Downey Jr.’s consistent dedication to the role is one of the main factors the franchise hasn’t lost its juice. Everything we’ve come to know and love about the character is all there, Tony’s flair for the theatrics, his nerdy obsession with his robotic toys, and his snarky prowess is still firing on all cylinders. Yet somehow under Black’s direction, it feels fresh, sprightly, and endearingly self-deprecating. I think the key here is showing the character’s vulnerability and contrast that with his larger-than-life billionaire antics.

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There are countless hysterical scenes where things don’t go according to plan for Tony. Even in the moment he needs it most, his invention can still let him down, and that sense that our hero isn’t always so invincible makes him more human, and in some ways more relatable.

9. But also not ‘too relatable’ as we go to see a superhero movies for escapist entertainment. Iron Man 3 is by no means a dark and gloomy affair (I don’t know why some reviewers equate this with The Dark Knight) as I don’t think it would fit the essence of Tony Stark if they go that route. There are dark moments to be sure, but the mirthful tone is intact and plenty of geeky gadgetry to keep the superhero geek massively entertained. Black & co. never forgets that at its heart, Marvel superhero movies are popcorn entertainment and on that front, it certainly delivers!

IronMan3_RebeccaHall10. The returning characters are given a bit more to do here. Retiring from directing duties (but still serves as exec. producer), Jon Favreau is quite amusing as the head of security of Stark Industries. I wish Rebecca Hall has more screen time but still, it’s nice to see her here alongside Gwyneth Paltrow (who’s not even the most beautiful woman in this movie, let alone the world, heh). That said, I kind of like that Stark’s love interest is not just a damsel in distress in this one which makes Pepper Potts a bit more interesting than in the previous installments.


Perhaps having a tepid expectations helps me enjoy this more than I otherwise would, as the movie is definitely not without flaws. Just to name a few, the motivation of the super-villain’s descent to madness is too much of a stretch and the loud clanging and bombastic mayhem of the third act can be quite dizzying. But overall, those who haven’t become too cynical or jaded by superhero movies would be hard pressed not to enjoy this one.

Though the iron suit sometimes run out of juice in this movie, thankfully the Iron Man franchise still has plenty of that in its third installment. I wouldn’t rate this as high as other stellar “threequels” like the Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a solid addition to the lucrative Marvel canon.


4 out of 5 reels

What did you think folks? Does this one meet YOUR expectations?

Hollywood Movie Draft Pitch IV: A Crime Drama by Kenneth Branagh

The 2012 Hollywood Fantasy League is now upon us! This extremely fun and addictive blogathon is created by none other than my friend Castor (who sadly has now disappeared from the blogosphere). This is my fourth time I’m participating  in this blog-a-thon, you can find links to my previous three pitches in this post.

I have drafted my director and actors last December, so you can read the rules and rationale on this post. Just to reiterate, this time around there’s a bit of a twist beyond simply assembling our favorite set of thespians. Besides limiting the cast to 3 actors and 3 actresses, there is also a competitive component to the HFL game where each player’s score is measured by the events affecting the filmmakers/actors of their choice. So if an actor I pick is cast in a mega-blockbuster or end up getting thrown in jail for a DWI, I may gain or lose points based on those events. Anyway, without further ado, let’s just get on the pitch, shall we?

LOGLINE:

A crime drama about a former gangster turned crime novelist who’s dragged into his dark past by his former aide looking to avenge the death of his brother. This is not an action film but more cerebral and suspenseful in nature, set with moody music and beautiful cinematography. My inspiration is Road to Perdition.

BACKGROUND:

Story is set in Boston in the mid 60s. I’ve always liked a period film with all the retro set pieces, cars, clothes, etc. and the characters will be mostly Irish-Americans. The protagonist is Vincent Moran, a crime novelist under a pseudonym Connor McEarleane (combining the last names of his grandparents) who’s given up his criminal lifestyle for 15 years. What starts out as an innocuous way to alleviate his writer’s block ends up being much bigger than any of the players had originally anticipated.

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

Originally I drafted Branagh as I wanted the story to be set in Ireland, but I think he’s still going to be a good fit for this film as the characters are mostly Irish-American and Branagh’s done a noir film before, Dead Again. I’m thinking he could work with someone like The Departed screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) to create a compelling noir drama that’s heavy in character development. Branagh would also go well with a lot of actors with theatrical background like Gabriel Byrne, Tom Hiddleston and Rebecca Hall.

The Irish thespian would also have a cameo as Moran’s editor in the film.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

Gabriel Byrne is Vincent Moran, a 53-year-old chain-smoking, fedora-wearing Irish-American who’s left his life as a gangster 15 years ago. He’s penned several best-seller crime novels under a pseudonym Connor McEarleane (combining the last names of his grandparents), but is currently suffering from a massive writer’s block.
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Tom Hiddleston is Eddie Stokes, 37-year-old railroad engineer who was one of Vincent’s men. His brother Mike was Vincent’s former aide who’s killed by Vincent’s former rival, Liam Winter. Eddie’s been trying to get away from the crime business for years, but he just couldn’t let go of his brother’s death.
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Rebecca Hall is Evelyn Dillon, 34-year-old aspiring actress who works part time at Emerson College as an associate drama teacher. She’s Eddie’s girlfriend, but also caught in an affair with the charming and persistent Danny. Evelyn’s also a victim of the Mob as her dad was accidentally killed during a shootout at his factory.
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Richard Armitage is Daniel ‘Danny’ McGrath, 38-year-old childhood friend of Eddie who’s an undercover cop investigating a corruption involving the Irish-American Mob. As a youngster, he watched his family members rise and fall under them so this mission is a personal one.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Vincent’s loyal wife Sylvia, who has chronic heart disease. When she almost died of heart failure 15 years ago, she pleaded with Vincent to leave the Mob and live peacefully for the sake of their family. She’s now serves at the board of a local Heart Foundation.

Saiorse Ronan is Claire Moran, Vincent’s only child who’s the apple of her dad’s eye. She’s 19 and is a drama major at Emerson College. She was rebellious in her early teen years, hanging out with the wrong crowd and had bouts of drug addiction. But ever since Evelyn befriends her, she’s much calmer and has become closer to her parents.

\;.;

Special thanks to my friend Stella K. @ Byrneholics.com for helping me with some of the plot points.

PROLOGUE:

Flashback of a disheveled and swollen-eyed Vincent at the hospital next to his ill wife Sylvia after an open heart surgery. Vincent tells her to keep his promise if she lives this time, that is he’d leave the Mob business, something Sylvia has pleaded with him repeatedly. The scene then changes to Vincent smoking profusely in his study, surrounded by crumpled paper all around him and cigarette butts piling up on his ashtray. He’s having a major writer’s block for months and he thinks being away from the crime underworld is making him dull.

THE SET UP:

ACT I

It’s a crisp late Autumn evening, suddenly Vincent receives a call from his former employer Eddie who demands to see him at once. Eddie has been trying to track him down for the past two years for he wants Vincent to help him bring down his former rival Liam Winter [I’m thinking someone like Terrence Stamp in this role] to avenge his brother’s death. Eddie’s brother Mike was Vincent’s former aide.

At first Vincent was reluctant to get back into the criminal underworld he’s left behind so long ago, but Mike was a loyal employer to him, plus this might help him get his creative juice back. But Vincent makes Eddie promise that he’d be patient with this plan as they have to be very careful to bring down someone like Liam.

Meanwhile, Danny’s mission to infiltrate Liam’s fast-growing empire is made even trickier as Eddie constantly pesters him for information. Danny insists that he’d help Eddie bring Liam to justice but his mission is to bring the Mob boss alive so the force could use him to arrest the others, but of course Eddie just wants Liam dead. Eddie’s always got a complicated relationship with Danny as there’s always a trace of rivalry between them, and to make things worse, they both fall for the same woman when both of them met Evelyn as she’s waiting tables at a local bar.

ACT II

The Eddie + Vincent’s collaboration is far from smooth. They’re always at each other’s throats whenever they meet to go over their plans of attack. Before long, Vincent realizes that Eddie’s so consumed with his vengeance that he’s become reckless and impulsive that his behavior puts both of them in danger. This plan also puts a strain on Eddie’s relationship with Evelyn as he’s become volatile. One minute he’s sweet as can be, taking her on the town and showering her with love, but the next he’s irritable and insolent. A few times Evelyn runs into Danny when Eddie’s suddenly gone missing for days and she vents to him. Danny made a promise to Eddie never to reveal any of his plans involving the Mob to Evelyn as they both know that is the one thing Evelyn would never tolerate. Danny tries his best not to be overcome by his jealousy towards Eddie but at the same time he can’t suppress his feelings for Evelyn.

Weeks go by and Vincent’s getting restless that his dark past is creeping up on him and he suspects that Eddie has something to do with it. Vincent’s editor Gus Foshay (possibly Branagh doing a cameo in this role) has been pestering him about Vincent missing the deadline for his next novel and he comments about a rumor that Vincent was involved in some shady stuff in the past, and whether the publishing company need to be worried about that. Vincent assures Gus it’s all just hearsay, but he realizes that in this business, one can never be too trusting or too careful, which means that everyone who knew about his past ought to be silenced. Talking to Sylvia that night, not only does she concur that idea, but that she urges her husband to do whatever it takes to ensure their family’s well-being.

ACT III

Claire comes home for Christmas and brings along her drama teacher Evelyn who’ve become good friends ever since Claire takes her classes. Evelyn’s supposed to spend Christmas with Eddie but he cancels at the last minute, saying he gets call off to work. As Evelyn has no clue who Vincent is nor his scheme with Eddie, she casually mentions about how spending time with the Morans helps her get over her disappointment of not spending Christmas with her boyfriend. Vincent eventually figures out that her boyfriend is Eddie and this makes him even more convinced that getting rid of Eddie would also mean protecting Evelyn from such a reckless personality who might also endanger Claire’s life if Evelyn ends up marrying him.

Before returning home that evening, Evelyn drops by Eddie’s house to grab something she had left there but finds Eddie lying on the floor with blood all over. It turns out that he’s got a tip that Liam was going to be at some Christmas dinner and decides he’s going to take him out on his own instead of waiting for Vincent. But he ends up in a shootout with some of Liam’s men and got shot in the upper arm.

Evelyn confronts him and so he has no choice but to tell her everything. Evelyn’s furious that Eddie’s been lying to her and so after treating his wounds, she leaves the house. Danny’s heard about the shootout and is on his way to Eddie’s when he runs into Evelyn. Danny takes the distraught Evelyn home and she tells him she’s breaking up with Eddie. Danny tells her he’s been in love with her for years and they end up sleeping together.

Early in the morning Liam and three of his men find out where Eddie lives and enter the house to kill him but Eddie’s already on the way to Vincent’s. They ransack the house and found an address written taped on a piece of paper. That address turns out to be Vincent’s home.

ACT IV

Eddie tells Vincent what happens so before Liam gets to his house, Vincent promptly takes Sylvia, Claire and Eddie into his 1963 Cadillac DeVille to his safe house in the country. Once he drops his wife and daughter there, he and Eddie heads back to the city that same night. Unbeknownst to Eddie, Vincent has made a call to Liam and told him that it’s Eddie who wants him dead. He made up a story that Vincent has no choice but to help Eddie because he threatens to kill his daughter. Vincent offered to personally deliver Eddie himself if Liam promises to leave him and his family alone. Liam sees no reason not to believe Vincent as he has been away for so long.

Back in the city – When Evelyn wakes up in the morning, she tells Danny she’s worried about Eddie. So the two heads over to Eddie’s and find the house torn to pieces. They immediately presume that Eddie’s been kidnapped by Liam. Danny calls for backup to Liam’s compound and then takes Evelyn to one of his trusted colleagues.

By the time Danny and the police get there, Liam and two of his men had been shot point blank in the head. They also find Eddie’s dead body in the same room with a gunshot to his head and a .22 cal pistol in his hand.

EPILOGUE:

Vincent drives back to his safe-house to be with his family. A brief flashback to Vincent and Eddie taking out Liam and his men, which ends with Vincent taking Liam’s pistol and aiming it at Eddie, saying “I’m sorry Eddie, but you did get your vengeance. Liam won’t ever kill again,” and pulls the trigger.

Soul jazz music blares from his stereo as the scene of Vincent driving fades into a montage of him typing away at his typewriter, inter-cut with scenes at a rainy funeral of Eddie, and ends with a close up of teary-eyed Evelyn in Danny’s arms.


Well, what do you think? Would you be interested to see a movie with this kind of story and cast? I welcome your feedback.

Five For The Fifth – February 2012 Edition

Hello folks, welcome to the February 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

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. So let’s get started, shall we?

1. Well today’s the biggest night of football, I know my hubby will park himself on the sofa and watch Giants and Patriots battle it out at the Superbowl XLVI. You can’t say that I’m a fan of team sporting events nor sport movies for that matter, I can count with my hands how many sports-related or specifically American football movies that I enjoyed. I did like Rudy when I saw it in high school with my brother, but not so much because of the football part, but I just love the underdog story. I also like Jerry Maguire more for the relationship of Tom Cruise’s title role with his client and his loyal assistant-turned-girlfriend.

Another fun one I remember is The Replacements... no I’m not saying it’s the greatest football movies ever, in fact it’s kind of a screwball but pretty enjoyable. Keanu Reeves plays a washed-up quarterback who’s recruited as part of the replacement team during a pro football strike. It even got Gene Hackman as the coach who believe in the unlikely if not preposterous players that include a Welsh former soccer player called ‘The Leg’ (Rhys Ifans) and a crazy defense lineman played by Jon Favreau. This dance scene done to the Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive is a hoot, always puts a smile on my face every time I watched it.


So what’s your favorite football movie(s)? 


2. The box office results hasn’t been posted yet but as of last Friday, Daniel Radcliffe’s horror flick The Woman in Black and the superhero-themed sci-fi Chronicle are on a tight race. Chronicle tells the story of three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. It’s done in a low budget, shaky cam movie ala Paranormal Activity, which also has mostly unknown cast. From what I’ve been reading lately, it sounds like an interesting entry into the whole superhero genre, some even call it a deconstruction of the conventional superhero mythology.

My matey Scott @ Front Room Cinema made up a top 10 list of alternative superhero movies last Thursday, and my favorite of all of them remains to be Unbreakable, which is also my favorite M. Night Shyamalan’s work. It’s one of those rare films that despite the ‘whoa’ ending, it’s still rewarding to watch it several times over as there’s always something new you discover and appreciate. I might give Chronicle a rent, I always like a fresh new take of the oft-told plot of ordinary folks acquiring extraordinary superpowers.

So what’s your favorite alternative superhero movie? Or if you happen to see Chronicle already, what did you think? 


3.  Ok time for some casting news. Last week, they announced a couple of duo casting I like. One of them is Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana in an untitled thriller by John Crowley (Boy A, Is Anybody There). I quite like Boy A, it’s an understated indie drama that shows the would-be Spider-man Andrew Garfield that he’s got some serious acting chops.

The plot for this upcoming project is quite intriguing… Hall and Bana will play former lovers who must work together on the defense team during a terrorist trial (per THR). I certainly like the cast, both aren’t A-listers yet, not sure why as they’re both not only gorgeous but massively talented.

So which casting news that you’re thrilled about from the past week?


4. Now, another two duo casting I like feature two actors whose stars are quickly rising: Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton. Edgerton is another Aussie on my watch-list after his terrific performance in Warrior, and you already know from this post that I adore Chastain.

Now the projects are quite peculiar, they’re signing on to a double feature films called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Hersa New York-based couple going through a rough patch in their marriage. His will follow the events from the perspective of the husband, a restaurant owner; Hers will tell the tale from the wife’s point of view as she heads back to college. According to SlashFilm, these two films are intended as standalone features based on a script by Ned Benson (In Defiance of Gravity).

So what do you think about this project? Would you watch a double feature like this one?


5.The Oscars is taking place in a couple of weeks, and since 1991, the Academy Awards ceremonies has made the Kodak Theater its permanent home. But soon that won’t be the case as the company has since filed bankruptcy and won’t be able to make the $4 million annual payment to retain that name on the building.

Per Reuters, last Wednesday the 131-year company asked a U.S. bankruptcy court judge to allow it to get out of its $75 million naming rights deal with the real estate company behind the complex. THR also reported last December that the Oscar ceremonies might actually move to another spot entirely after 2013. It’s kind of sad what’s happening to Kodak, given their crucial role in the entertainment industry and long-standing relationship with film makers for decades.

So what do you think about the Kodak predicament… and what sponsor do you think would replace the theater name? 


Well, that’s it for the February edition of Five for the Fifth. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all!

AM’s Hollywood Fantasy League IV – My Dream Cast

The annual Hollywood Fantasy League (HFL) is upon us again! This extremely fun and addictive blogathon is created by none other than Castor from Anomalous Material. You can see who others pick on the latest round.

I’ve participated three times before, but this time there’s a bit of a twist beyond simply assembling our favorite set of thespians. Besides limiting the cast to 3 actors and 3 actresses, there is also a competitive component to the HFL game.

Was your actor selected for a starring role in the next Christopher Nolan mega-blockbuster? Did your director receive a Golden Globe for his latest film? Did one of your actresses get thrown in jail with a DWI? You will score and/or lose points for each of these events and many more.

Well, for sure I won’t be winning this league as I’ve got a specific set in mind for my story, so I didn’t really draft them based on their ‘star-meter’ if you will, but of course they are a talented bunch who’d make any film instantly watchable. I think my cast would appeal to the International moviegoers and the indie-crowd, but not necessarily mainstream US audiences.

I will blog about the story concept sometime next year, as I’m still mulling over some ideas. But for now I can tell you that the story will take place in the UK and Ireland, primarily in Dublin and the genre is crime drama/thriller with a love story at the heart of it.

So here’s my team so far:

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Being an Irish native (Belfast-born to be exact), I think Branagh would have the advantage in knowing the history/custom of the area, and his stage background would also help in creating a compelling script (possibly working with The Departed screenwriter William Monahan). I respect him as a director after seeing Hamlet and of course Thor, and he’s recently selected by the British Indie Film Award to receive the Variety award for bringing international attention to the British film industry (per The Wrap). This project will also reunite him with Tom Hiddleston who collaborated with him on Thor and the theatrical play Ivanov.

The All-Brit Cast (in order of the draft pick)

  • Gabriel Byrne
    I need a dashing but mysterious mature actor to play the role of a powerful tycoon. He’s a mafia-like figure whose criminal business dealings are camouflaged by philanthropy and charity work. He’s a well-dressed gent with custom-made suits and fedora and with a charming personality women of all ages would flock to. He’s married to Kristin’s character and has a young daughter (Saiorse) who resents him.

  • Tom Hiddleston
    Though I’ve only seen Tom in one film, I knew right away he’s such a versatile actor. He’s quite popular with the ladies judging from the reaction at Comic-Con during The Avengers panel so I think he’d make a compelling romantic leading man with a dark side.

  • Rebecca Hall
    I’ve seen her in three different films so far and I took an immediate liking to her. She’s unusually beautiful with a certain elegance and grace about her that I find appealing. She’ll play a drama teacher and Tom’s love interest, and there is some kind of ties between her family and Gabriel that’ll be revealed in due course.
  • Richard Armitage
    He first swept me off my feet with his sensitive portrayal of Mr. Thornton in BBC’s North & South, but it’s his role in the espionage series Spooks that made me think he’s perfect for this part I have in mind. Fans of Richard will see his sexy, brooding good looks put to good use 😉

  • Kristin Scott Thomas
    This is a small but important supporting role but with someone of her caliber, she’ll definitely make a lasting impression on the viewer. She’ll play Gabriel’s loyal but conflicted wife who will have to make a drastic decision towards the end of the film.

  • Saiorse Ronan
    This massively talented 17 year-old has impressed me in Atonement and Hanna. This role I have in mind for her is a feisty, wise-beyond-her-years college freshman who resents her father and angry at her mother for not standing up to her husband. She is close to Rebecca Hall’s character as the only person she can confide in, whilst Rebecca keeps her connection to her father a secret.


So, what do you think? Would you watch a British crime drama with this kind of cast?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Starter for Ten & A Scanner Darkly

There’s nothing interesting at the cinema this weekend, but it’s always nice to catch up on older movies I’ve been meaning to see.

This past Friday was our first Girls Movie Nite since its summer hiatus and my girlfriends and I had initially settled on Water for Elephants. The trailer looks pretty good and the combination of Christoph Waltz and Robert Pattinson in a circus setting seemed intriguing. Unfortunately it’s not available on Netflix yet (another reason I’m canceling my subscription) so we ended up seeing Starter for 10 since one of my friends owns the DVD. The other one I saw was A Scanner Darkly, a sci-fi done in interpolated rotoscoping animation style in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame.

Starter For 10

 

Set in 1985, working-class student Brian Jackson navigates his first year at Bristol University.

Seems like James McAvoy hasn’t made a bad film. At least out of the eight films where he had a prominent role, none of them has disappointed me. Ok so I didn’t love Becoming Jane (despite my love for period dramas) but it’s more because of Anne Hathaway performance than James’.

McAvoy truly carried this film with his earnest performance as the brainy kid Brian who finds out that life education is definitely as important as being book smart. Despite being in his mid 20s when he did this film, he was quite believable as a college freshman. His transformation from the naive geek with bad hair to a slightly older & wiser university student is fun to watch. Scottish director Tom Vaughan peppered the film with witty dialog and whimsical college scenes without relying on silly or inappropriate gags like college films like say, Old School. Even the more sexually-charged scenes are a hoot, especially the one involving Brian and the parents of the girl of his dreams on a Christmas holiday, are funny but not cringe-worthy.

The romance is sweet and engaging. It’s almost unanimous that everyone in my group sympathize with Rebecca Hall’s character. I feel that it’s not only because her character (also named Rebecca) is written that way but also because Hall seems to always come across very affable on screen. The film truly belongs to the über talented McAvoy but Benedict Cumberbatch managed to steal some scenes with his hilarious performance as the ambitious group ‘leader’ competing for the University Challenge quiz show. His character may be one-dimensional but still he made it entertaining. The ending is quite predictable but I don’t really mind it in a movie like this where a lack of ‘plot twist’ is not a detriment.

Starter For 10 is quite a poignant yet funny coming-of-age comedy drama starring the hottest young British talents working today. Many of the cast have now become quite famous: McAvoy himself, Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, The Town, Everything Must Go), Benedict Cumberbatch (Amazing Grace, BBC’s Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, An Education, The Devil’s Double). Alice Eve is perhaps the least known but she’s starring in The Raven next year.

The music is quite memorable as well with songs mostly by The Cure and other British bands such as Tears for Fears, The Smiths and Wham!.

4 out of 5 reels

A Scanner Darkly

 

An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug called Substance-D and begins to lose his own identity as a result.

I’ve been curious about this film for some time, mostly because of the rotoscoping animation style I’ve mentioned about, as well as the fact that it’s a Philip K. Dick adaptation. He’s perhaps one of the greatest sci-fi authors whose work have been a popular subject for films such as Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report and most recently The Adjustment Bureau.

The cast for this film, especially Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr., is also a big selling point. Combine that with an intriguing subject matter and a distinct visual style, this one surely can’t be a misfire, right? Well, I wouldn’t call it a misfire, but I can’t exactly call this one enjoyable. People have said that this movie is not for everyone, but really, one can say that for just about every title, right? Even the most beloved movie would have its detractor. The thing is, I was prepared to really like this one, but I actually found this one to be tedious in parts that I actually dozed off about three-quarters the way through. I did wake up about 10 minutes before the end and found that the story is quite profound, but yet I’m just not interested enough to rewind which parts I had missed.

I think the main strength of the film is the story itself, which made me think that I might appreciate the novel more. The acting is also good overall — both Keanu and Robert are perfectly cast, and Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson are quite memorable in their supporting roles. But the pacing is a bit too slow as the novelty of the animation style wears off. I really think the visual technique is really imaginative and I appreciate that the filmmaker went with this route. Yet I’m not really sure how much that style improve the story-telling. Yes I do believe director Richard Linklater is able to capture the paranoia and perceptual contortion caused by Substance-D, but because of the animation style, I feel that the subtle expressions that we would otherwise be able to perceive from each actor is somewhat lost. I almost feel guilty that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I learn in the Special Features about the dedication of the filmmaker and how personal this project is to him.

Perhaps if I give this film another chance I might enjoy it more, though I highly doubt I’d see this again. The thing about this whole film is how unsettling it is. I hate insects so the opening scene alone of a guy suffering from intense hallucination is disturbing and down right repugnant. But with that said, I’d still recommend this for a rental for people who enjoy sci-fi movies and Philip K. Dick’s stories. Though I didn’t end up loving it, I definitely don’t regret finally seeing this.

3 out of 5 reels

Well, what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen either one of these films, please share your thoughts in the comments.