February Viewing Recap + What I’m looking forward to in March

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Well, one thing for sure, I’m REALLY glad award season is over. I’ve posted my thoughts on the Oscars and all, but to be honest with you, it kinda felt like a chore. I don’t even know if I want to do it next year, I might skip blogging about award season next year, that’ll surely be quite liberating.

What I REALLY want to do is to finally write about Sam Riley… I want to talk about just what a tremendous actor he is and review all his movies! He’s a huge part of my February viewing and that’s a VERY good thing! 😀

So here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

(in order of viewing)

Unfortunately I missed the press screening of Demolition w/ Jake Gyllenhaal but hopefully there’ll be another one later this month. But I skipped Gods of Egypt because there’s no way I’m watching that rubbish, seriously how in the world did that even get made?? Its director’s born in Egypt but he cast a Scot AND a Dane as Egyptian gods??! SMH. It’s a new low even for Gerry Butler!

TV series

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I only have two more episodes to go. I’ll do a review of season 1 when I’m done. We wanted to finish it before Daredevil season 2 is out on March 18!!

Rewatches

Yes, I can’t get enough of Sam Riley, can’t you tell? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the first 2016 movie I saw twice on the big screen and I’d easily go for a third if they’re still running in the cinemas! #sorrynotsorry

MOVIE OF THE MONTH

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There’s simply no other film that affected me more than this rock biopic on Joy Division’s frontman Ian Curtis. Sam Riley‘s performance is beyond mesmerizing… to say it’s a soulful performance is putting it mildly. It’s like he became the character and I felt like I was watching a documentary.

No blindspot for this month, but since I’ve had a huge blindspot on this amazingly talented actor, it more than made up for it. In fact, Control should’ve been on my Blindspot list to begin with!


Two screenings I look forward to in March

Batman vs Superman

The press screening’s been scheduled for 3/22 in IMAX. At this point, I just want want to be proven wrong about what my gut’s been about this movie. I just hope it won’t be a load of crap the way the trailers made it look. But hey, if anything, there’s Batfleck, who just might be the saving grace of the movie. Him and maybe Wonder Woman. I have to say though, this Jimmy Kimmel’s skit made me LOL. Hot dayum Henry Cavill is one beautiful man, too bad about his utter lack of charisma.

 

Knight of Cups

I’ll be seeing this on Wednesday and I can’t wait!! I know the reviews haven’t been stellar, and Terrence Malick’s films are definitely an acquired taste, with a cast featuring Christian Bale AND Cate Blanchett, I simply cannot resist!


Stay tuned for my spotlight post on Whiskey Tango Foxtrot & my interview w/ the author whose book is the inspiration for the Tina Fey movie.


Well that’s my recap of February. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Sam Riley, Alternative Austen & Man Up (2015) review

I cannot fix the hour or the spot, or the look or the words which lay the foundation…I was in the middle when I knew it had began…

That was a quote from Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and that pretty much applies to how I feel the same way about the actor playing him… Sam Riley.

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I fall even more under Riley’s spell now… [le sigh]

Ok, so yeah, about that weekend roundup, well the past couple of weeks has been filled with quite a few Sam Riley movies: Control (2007), Maleficent (2014), Byzantium (2012) and Franklyn (2008). I didn’t get to see Brighton Rock (2010) yet but hopefully later this week. I’m astonished at his chameleonic ability as an actor, my appreciation post on him will be quite massive let me tell you.


I did see one new release this past week, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and got a chance to chat w/ the author of the book it’s based on, Kim Barker. Review & interview of that coming next week.

Ok, so these are my weekend viewing roundup, starting with…

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

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So this is the first 2016 movie I saw twice on the big screen… and I could’ve gone for a third if it’s still playing for another weekend. Alas, I’d have to settle for all the fun gifs and clips on Tumblr until the Bluray comes out. As you may’ve read in my review, I bloody love this movie and I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Sam Riley & Lily James are now my favorite Darcy & Lizzie pairing amongst the plethora of P&P screen adaptations.

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Austenland (2014)

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Ok so naturally, watching an alternative Jane Austen movie makes me want to re-watch one of my faves from a couple of years ago. As far an Austen-inspired films go, I actually think this one is even sillier than PPZ movie, believe it or not. Some of the supporting characters are so out there and freakishly bizarre that it made me cringe at times (though that Captain East is one spectacular eye candy). Jennifer Coolidge is a hoot but she went waaay over the top at times, yes even by her standards. But the romance of Darcy & Jane (JJ Feild & Keri Russell) is lovely and of course all the misunderstandings and repressed emotions are all the stuff Austen movies are made of. (my full review)
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Man Up (2015)

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This British rom-com has a rather unconventional pairing – Simon Pegg & Lake Bell, and that’s the reason I rented it. Bell played a single woman who inadvertently *stole* a stranger’s blind date, and the film took place over the course of a single night. Bell is a natural comedienne and here she gets to show her comedic chops, and also do a pretty convincing British accent.

It’s a pretty fun rom-com even though it doesn’t always avoid the trappings of the genre and is ultimately predictable, but the two likable leads made the movie feels fresh and genuinely funny. Rory Kinnear, who I often see in more serious movies so far, is so hilariously unhinged as Bell’s not-so-secret admirer. I LOVE the London scenery, both during the day and night, which adds to the film’s charm. The finale could’ve been a bit tighter and less verbose, but I think overall this movie is well worth checking out.

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Well that’s my weekend recap. So what did YOU watch this weekend? Anything good?

41 favorite cinematic things to celebrate my b’day

So today’s my birthday. I’ve been blessed to have been alive for 41 years! I have no qualms about admitting how old I am, heck you’re only as *old* as you feel and I feel forever 21 😉

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I was wondering what post to do for my b’day. I did a list of Favorite Films from Each Decade I Live Through last year and y’know what, I still love a bunch of stuff on that list. Just like many things in life, over the years you may feel differently about certain things and the same with cinema. You may grow to love something you weren’t into, or the other way around. So today, I want to highlight the enduring cinematic things that I still love to this day (and probably forever) … as well as new faves I discovered recently 😉

1. The oh-so-heartbreaking unrequited love in The Age of Innocence

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2. Timothy Dalton as James Bond

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3. Nora Ephron’s rom-coms… esp. Sleepless in Seattle & You’ve Got Mail

4. Spellbound… for introducing me to the impossibly beautiful Gregory Peck
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5. Casino Royale & Eva Green as Vesper

6. Period dramas based on the works of my literary heroines: Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell (North & South) & Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)

7. Emma Thompson’s brilliant screenplay for Sense & SensibilityElinorQuote

8.  Roman Holiday (1959)

9. Gladiator (2000)

10. Sam Riley as leather-wearing, Samurai-wielding, bad-ass Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)

11. Tango scenes in movies

12. Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon (Sense & Sensibility)

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13. Superman: The Movie… Christopher Reeve shall always be MY Superman

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14. John Williams’ Jurassic Park‘s score

15. The Gods Must Be Crazy… movie from my childhood that still makes me laugh

16. Phantom of the Opera (2004)

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17.The beautiful period drama Belle… and its star Gugu Mbatha-Raw 

18. Harrison Ford & Sean Connery pairing in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade

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19. Julia Ormond’s Sabrina

20. Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester (BBC’s Jane Eyre 2006)

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21. The immensely under-appreciated Return to Me (2000)

22. Casablanca (1942)… a classic epic I’m glad I got to see on the big screen

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23. Fiona in Four Weddings and a Funeral

24. One of the first Hollywood films I ever saw… Gone with the Wind (1939)

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25. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) … guaranteed to make me laugh for years to come

26. The exquisite scenery of Not Another Happy Ending… Glasgow AND Stanley Weber

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27. Great journalism movies… i.e. All the President’s Men

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28. The Bourne Trilogy

29. John Barry’s music for Somewhere in Time

30. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959)

31. Heath Ledger & Christian Bale in The Dark Knight

32. Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton (BBC’s North & South 2004)

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33. The musical scenes of The Sound of Music (1965)


34. Awesome movie car chases

35. Idris Elba (’nuff said)

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36. These 10 James Bond’s songs 

37. Hand-touching in period dramas


38. Disney Princesses Movies, especially Sleeping Beauty

39. Evocative rain scenes in movies i.e. this one from the sci-fi drama Franklyn (2008) w/ Sam Riley and Eva Green

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40. Paris in the movies

41. Last but not least… movies about writers, i.e. Sam Riley as Sal Paradise in On The Road

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Hope you enjoy walking down memory lane w/ me on my b’day. 

FlixChatter Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

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Jane Austen’s brilliant work has endured over two centuries so far and it’s as relevant as ever. I’m not a purist Austen fan, as I actually enjoy alternative/re-imagining of her work, i.e. Lost in Austen, Bride & Prejudice, Bridget Jones Diary, Austenland, etc. But none are as outlandish as what Seth Grahame-Smith’s done in his book. I hadn’t read it, but when I first heard of the film adaptation back when Natalie Portman was supposed to play Elizabeth Bennet, I was already sold. Fast forward 6 years later, Portman is still attached as a producer but this time we’ve got an ensemble of up-and-coming British actors.

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As with any mashup, it ought to offer a good balance of the two genres. Whilst I think it has a good mix of both, I do think that this might offer more for fans of period dramas as it might not be bloody/gory enough for zombie lovers. It’s heavy on action with a few jump scares and less on the horror side, which suits me just fine. It’s especially thrilling that director Burr Steers (who also wrote the script) is loyal to Austen’s text and the story is grounded in the timeless romance of Lizzie and Darcy. The social class commentary is also preserved, but of course we’ve got yet another layer beneath the lowest class, that is the undead.

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The movie opens with the dashing Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley, perfectly-brooding AND bad-ass) who’s now a Colonel, visiting a wealthy estate in search of recently-turned zombies hiding amongst the living. Within minutes, we see Darcy’s decapitating an undercover zombie in his typical unperturbed stoicism. That scene is followed by a crafty storybook opening credit sequence that explains the fact that in lieu of the Napoleonic Wars, 19th century England is now overrun by hordes of the undead. In this universe though, people who’ve been bitten by the undead don’t immediately turn into full-on zombie until they’ve consumed human brains, hence they can still somehow hide in plain sight.

In order to survive in the world plagued by zombies, they had to be trained in weaponry and martial arts. Apparently the upper class folks have been trained in Japan, whilst those of lesser means, like the Bennet sisters, were trained in China. There’s an amusing bit where Lizzie speaks in Chinese to prove to Darcy that she’s read the proper text of The Art of War. As they say, all is fair in love and war, and thus the zombie apocalypse certainly ups the stakes for everyone involved.

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Faithful to the Pride & Prejudice text, the film still has the scenes that Austen fans would expect to see. We still have the Bennet sisters spending time with the family, except that instead of knitting, they’re polishing their muskets and swords. “My daughters are trained for battle… not the kitchen,” Mr Bennet says at one point, played with dignified grace by Charles Dance. We’ve also got the formal ball where Lizzie and Darcy first meet, and it’s played out just like in the original in that they did not get off on the right foot. I must say Lily James is one formidable Lizzie Bennet, even if she is still too pretty for the role just like Keira Knightley was. Miss Bennet is already a feminist icon to begin with, here the female empowerment element is pumped up even more as she’s a Kung-fu warrior who defiantly says that she’d “never relinquish her sword for a ring” and that the right man wouldn’t ask her to.

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But of course, the two headstrong pair soon find themselves attracted to each other. It’s crucial in any Pride & Prejudice adaptation that Lizzie and Darcy has chemistry and here they have that in spades. Lizzie is no damsel in distress, and by the time she and her four sisters slash a throng of zombies in slo-mo fashion, it’s Darcy who’s hyperventilating. The entire Bennet sisters are pretty bad ass, even Jane (lovely Bella Heathcote) is no shrinking violet and gets to save Mr. Bingley’s (Douglas Booth) life here. The numerous battle of wits are intact, with some intense physical battles thrown in to spice things up even more. The epic duel between Lizzie and Darcy is definitely my favorite part of the film, it’s immensely fun to watch these typically demure characters kick and hit each other senseless, and undoubtedly release their repressed sexual frustration in the process.

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This review from SFGate remarked that the zombies give Darcy a reason to brood about, and I wholeheartedly agree. I have to admit one of the issues I have with Mr. Darcy is that he’s just so enormously wealthy that he doesn’t need to work, and has little reason to justify his somber mood. But here, the titular character is given an intriguing backstory that naturally made him seem less preoccupied with finding a wife given the matters of life and death he has to face daily. There’s also an even more compelling reason why he absolutely detests these zombies (AND Mr. Wickham). I’ve never been one of those Mr. Darcy groupies, but THIS leather-clad, Samurai-wielding zombie killer extraordinaire is a hero worth swooning for, ehm. Speaking of Mr. Wickham (a charming Jack Huston), I think the major twist in Austen’s text involves his character. I won’t go into detail about his character but lets just say he’s quite um, friendly with the zombies. Heck, he even took Lizzie to a church where the patrons are not entirely alive.

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I do have a few quibbles about the poor action sequences though. The blurry sequence during the zombie attacks/fight scene get irritating after a while, and there is some inconsistencies about the nature of the zombies as some can seem less *dead* than others. I also think Charles Dance wasn’t given enough to do and neither was his Game of Thrones’ co-star Lena Headey as eye-patch wearing Lady Catherine du Bourgh (Darcy’s aunt). She’s made out to be a fierce zombie warrior, yet we didn’t see a single scene of her battling zombies! The whole sequence of her going after Lizzie in protest of her union with Darcy is rather silly as she brought along a henchman. You’d think a woman of such stature would never be in need of one.


Despite those flaws, overall I had a lot of fun with this one. The actors are fully committed to their roles and they play it straight throughout, no wink-wink nudge nudge as if they’re doing a SNL skit. The deadpan humor is interwoven in the inherently bizarre plot and I was more than along for the ride. I think you’d enjoy this movie more if you accept the sheer audacity of mashing up these two genres from the get go. The fact that the most preposterous scenes are done with a straight face makes them even funnier. Matt Smith steals every scene he’s in as the ridiculous Mr. Collins, though he’s playing him far more flamboyantly than the previous versions. There’s always been a hint that Collins might have a thing for Darcy and it’s played up even more in this movie.

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The set pieces and gorgeous costume design by Julian Day is delightful to look at. The soundtrack by Fernando Velázquez is also suitably elegant but with a touch of ominous brood. For fans of rom-coms, this is one where there is both romance AND comedy in equal measure. I definitely will watch this again, and on the big screen! I’m glad the movie ends on a cliffhanger as I wouldn’t even mind seeing a sequel, but only if we have Lily James and Sam Riley back as Lizzie and Darcy. I like James more here than in Cinderella and she certainly can handle the action as well as the drama. I thoroughly enjoyed Sam Riley‘s portrayal of Darcy, he might not be as refined as Colin Firth but he plays up the strong-silent-type hero perfectly. He’s said in interviews that if Firth is the Sean Connery of Darcys, he’s the Roger Moore. But considering his bad-assery and special skills in weaponry, he’s more akin to Daniel Craig’s Bond mixed with Taken‘s Bryan Mills!

So yeah, I find this unlikely mashup more than a little agreeable. I do think the reason this movie works is a testament of the genius of Austen’s writing. Not only does it stand the test of time, the core of the story is intact no matter what backdrop it’s set against.

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Have you seen this movie? I’m curious to hear what YOU think!

January Viewing Recap, Quick Thoughts on SAG Awards + A New Crush

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Well, the first month of 2016 has come and gone. After two weeks Christmas break, work was quite hectic. Somehow I didn’t get as much time to write either, and it seems the closer my script is to *completion* the more I feel like rewriting. I suppose that’s what they say, writing is 90% rewriting.

In any case, here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

(in order of viewing)

Rewatches

Belle (2014)

Anna Karenina (2012)

Sense & Sensibility 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Notting Hill
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MOVIE OF THE MONTH

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I’m kinda late to the party but it’s easily the BEST film I saw this month. It would’ve made my top 10 of 2015 if I had seen it sooner.


SAG AWARDS

I didn’t watch it but based on the articles and tweets I’ve read, it seems that the big takeaway from the night is the focus on diversity, as was Sundance Awards the same night, which seems to sending a big message to the Academy. Idris Elba, who was overlooked by Oscars this year, took home two SAG awards, one for Beast of No Nation and the other for his TV work in Luther. (view complete SAG winners at THR), whilst similarly-named that also have a mostly-Black cast Birth of a Nation swept top awards at Sundance, winning U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award.

Glad to see the terrific ensemble cast of Spotlight won SAG, too. Woo hoo! As for Leo and Brie, methinks there’ll be a repeat at the Oscars, don’t you? Check out Brittani’s post on SAG winners.

 


Play it again Sam 😉

So I saw Pride + Prejudice + Zombies which I actually enjoyed quite a bit [review upcoming]. It was as entertaining as I expected, but what I wasn’t expecting was how much I um, enjoyed seeing Sam Riley as the leather-clad, musket/samurai-wielding zombie killer extraordinaire Mr. Darcy!

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So yeah, suffice to say I’m besotted by this 36-year-old Yorkshire man 😉

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I’ve been familiar with him for a while but for some reason I hadn’t seen anything Sam’s done before (what a shame!) so I have a lot of catching up to do (yay!). So I saw Byzantium Saturday night, the Neil Jordan’s unconventional vampire drama that’s been in my Netflix queue for some time. Then Sunday afternoon I watched the sex-drenched road movie On The Road based on Jack Kerouac’s novel of the same name.

The film is as aimless as the character but it was immensely watchable thanks to Sam’s narration with that irresistible raspy voice and soulful performance. He’s the character we the audience live vicariously through, as the film was seen through his eyes.

I can’t wait to catch up on more of his work, especially his breakthrough role Control about the UK band Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis.

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Well that’s my recap of January. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?