FlixChatter Review: Little Women (2019)

As a fan of period dramas with strong female protagonists, naturally I’ve been looking forward to seeing the new Little Women adaptation. I remember loving the Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version, but 25 years is a long enough time to see a new adaptation from Louisa May Alcott‘s autobiographical novel about her own life with her three sisters in post-Civil War America.

After the success of Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig was undoubtedly poised to helm this adaptation that’s packed with a stellar cast: Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy,  Emma Watson as Meg and Eliza Scanlen as Beth. She re-teamed with Ronan once again, who apparently asked to be cast as the headstrong, modern protagonist Jo March. The film is told from her perspective as she reflects on her life in a non-linear narrative. It took some time for me to figure out which timeline is being told, as one has to really pay attention to details whether a scene takes place in flashback or present. But once the film gets going, it’s easier to follow and I was immersed in the March sisters’ journey.

Lady Bird was beloved by critics and audiences alike, but I must say I enjoyed Little Women more and Gerwig’s direction has the right amount of flair to make the story really come alive. Ronan is a consistently excellent actress, but she clearly reveled in this role. She’s so lively, passionate and fiery as Jo March, and her independent spirit shines through. The March sisterhood is endearing and emotionally moving, each woman’s journey is handled with care and most importantly, each is given a ‘voice’ that most women is deprived of in that era. Jo’s relationship with each of her sister is well-developed, especially the sibling rivalry between her and Amy. 

Pugh has quickly become one of my favorite actresses and the incredibly gifted miss Ronan has truly met her match in this casting. Of course I was as furious as Jo when she found out Amy had done that heinous thing to her (you know what I mean if you’ve read the book or seen the film). Their relationship is the most explosive, for a lack of a better word, without being over-dramatic, with each young performer fiercely holding her own. The speech Amy made about how the inequality of women of that time is a defining moment in the film. Though delivered almost in a matter-of-fact manner by Pugh, it packed an emotional punch. Apparently that whole speech was written in the last minute just before shooting, at the suggestion of Meryl Streep who played Aunt March.

In terms of casting, Laura Dern is wonderful as the kind, caring mother of the March girls. Streep is always great to watch and she even became a comic relief at times, but it’s Chris Cooper who’s absolutely devastating as Mr. Laurence. He imbued SO much heart in the role with barely any word spoken… and relationship with Beth, who reminds him of the granddaughter he lost, is particularly heart-rending.

I remember having a bit of a crush on the 1994’s version of boy next door Laurie (played by Christian Bale, natch!), but I absolutely adore Timothée Chalamet in the role. The Hollywood’s boyfriend of the moment has always been extremely watchable, but the way he looks at Jo with his longing look… oh my! And that proposal scene just breaks my heart.

Now, if I have to nitpick however, is the relationship between Jo and Friedrich Bhaer, the professor. Now, I can forgive casting a French actor (Louis Garrel) playing a German character (or someone with a German name), but I just didn’t feel much connection between the two and the scene feels rushed somehow. I remember swooning over Gabriel Byrne as Bhaer and the ‘my hands are empty’ scene was far more emotional.

Overall though, this is definitely one of the best literary adaptations and it’s a shame Greta Gerwig and the film was overlooked at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. Let’s see if the Academy would rectify that. It’s a film with an inspiring message for girls and women alike, and a good one for boys as well to serve as a reminder that the journey for women equality still continues. In terms of production values, there are plenty to admire as well. The production design by Jess Gonchor is excellent, setting it in Louisa May Alcott’s family home where she wrote the novel adds so much authenticity. So is Jacqueline Durran‘s costumes that look era appropriate and fits each character well. The gorgeous cinematography by Yorick Le Saux and lush music score by Alexandre Desplat all makes Little Women a feast for the senses and one I think I’ll want to watch over and over for years to come.


Have you seen Little Women? Well, what did you think?

Rental Pick: LOVING VINCENT (2017)

In a story depicted in oil painted animation, a young man comes to the last hometown of painter Vincent van Gogh to deliver the troubled artist’s final letter and ends up investigating his final days there.

Billed as the world’s first fully painted animation feature, naturally each scene is worth framing. It’s a gorgeous film that leaves my mouth agape as I kept wondering ‘how did they do THAT?’ Well, per IMDb trivia, each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh himself, created by a team of 100 painters. It’s fitting then that title is Loving Vincent as his art was treated with such care.

Now, the story itself surprised me. I didn’t know much about Van Gogh but the ‘fact’ that he killed himself in his 30s was well-known. But did he actually commit suicide? The film traced the last days of Vincent’s life through the eyes of a young man (Douglas Booth), who happens to be the son of Vincent’s postman. The film’s filled with plenty of familiar faces (at least to me as I’m into British shows/films) portraying people in Vincent’s life (Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory, Eleanor Tomlinson and her Poldark‘s co-star Aidan Turner).

Written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, it’s really quite an endeavor and astonishing to behold. It’s not the strongest film in terms of narrative however, but still it’s an incredible feat to accomplish. It’s quite something to want to tell an artist’s story through his painting, to actually do it–and done it well–is astounding. Well-deserved of its Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations, I was also rooting for it to win an Oscar in Best Animated Feature category. It’s definitely a must-see for art fans or really anyone up for something you’ve never seen before.

Loving Vincent left me in awe of Van Gogh’s talents but also saddened by his troubled life. I think most artistic genius are tortured souls and he’s definitely one of them.


Have you seen Loving Vincent? I’d love to hear what you think!

Guest Review: LADY BIRD (2017)

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Directed By: Greta Gerwig
Written By: Greta Gerwig
Runtime: 1 hr 34 minutes

So at this point I think that my opinion of Lady Bird is wrong – if it is possible for an opinion on a piece of art to be wrong. The vast majority of everyone seems to have decided that Lady Bird is a piece of subtle genius, a near perfect discussion of adolescence and mother/daughter relationships.

But the movie didn’t do it for me.

Lady Bird opens on a mother and daughter traveling in a car as the last several moments of The Grapes of Wrath fill the silence between them. The monologue ends and Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) removes the cassette tape from the tape deck, puts it back in its case, and takes a moment to sit in a harmonious sniffling silence with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). It is one of the few moments of harmony between the two characters and, like every other such moment, it quickly devolves in an argument, which itself terminates with a very dramatic, perfectly indie exit from the vehicle.

Lady Bird’s primary asset is its perfect grasp on indie films as a genre. Lady Bird perfectly encapsulates the quirky real-world aesthetic that makes indie movies so much fun through muted cinematography, a subtle script, and understated performances.

The cast in Lady Bird was incredible. Beanie Feldstein was charming as Julie Steffans, Lady Bird’s best friend. Lucas Hedges played a heart rending Danny O’Neill. Laurie Metcalf (again, the mother character) broke my damn heart on her drive around the airport out of the park, which was an especially marked achievement considering that that portion of the story made no sense. Having loved Saoirse Ronan in movies like Brooklyn and Grand Budapest Hotel, I was surprised to find her completely uninteresting in Lady Bird. Ronan’s performance was a steady monotone, which was a jarring choice considering Lady Bird’s tumultuous inner life. Lady Bird is constantly rebelling, but her exterior is placid to a fault.

I also took issue with the development of two characters: Kyle Scheible (Timothee Chalamet) and Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf). Kyle Scheible was simultaneously filling two icky boyfriend tropes: the pseudo-intellectual and the popular kid, which meant that some of the best jokes were at his character’s expense, but also that he did not make sense as a person. Kyle Scheible always existed on the periphery of a group of beautiful people, ignoring them for books about philosophy or history.

Similarly, Marion McPherson, played to a tee by Laurie Metcalf, made no sense. Perhaps my own childhood, being the average thing that it was, did not prepare me to believe that it is possible for a mother to be so petty with so little reason, but don’t think that’s it. I can buy a mother who is a flawed human and says the wrong thing and, despite it all, is still probably a better mother than she had growing up. What I cannot buy (and excuse me for being vague – I am trying to avoid spoilers) is a mother who reacts in extremes that wind up hurting her more than her victims.

Worse, the end of the movie felt forced. One bad college party makes Lady Bird appreciate her upbringing and the values she was raised with. Although I understand the impulse to wrap the story up neatly, the reason behind the revelation was not there, so it just felt awkward.

Ultimately a few amazing performances and general indie charm are not enough to save Lady Bird. If nothing else interesting is playing, I would still suggest watching it. It’s worth it for the the constant stream of early 2000s nostalgia that runs through the entire movie and a few powerful moments: the hug between Lady Bird and Danny O’Neill (you’ll know it when you see it) and the mother’s drive through the airport are two such moments that come to mind.

Lady Bird has its moments.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century. 


Have you seen ‘Lady Bird’? Well, what did you think? 

My Top 10 Picks from Twin Cities Film Fest

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Well, it’s been almost two weeks since the 2015 Twin Cities Film Fest wrapped. I knew the tough part would be selecting the top 10 and so I took my time posting this. I use the same criteria when selecting my top 10 films from a given year. So when I say ‘top movies’ it’s sort of a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible.

So with that in mind, I present you my top 10 picks:

[Click on the title to read my full review]

10. Touched with Fire

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I really didn’t know what to expect from this, but the subject matter intrigued me. A directorial debut from Paul Dalio, the film seems to have been crafted as a love letter to bipolar artists and creative people. I was quite impressed by Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby who played poets who are manic depressive. It’s a heartfelt and sensitive tale of an unconventional love story.

9. Too Late

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This is one of those unique films in which the risky experimentative film-making style paid off in the end. It’s another feature film debut from Dennis Hauck, and it contains only five 20-minute uninterrupted takes, amounting to 100 minutes of non-linear narrative. It’d be a shame if the style was only a gimmick, but thankfully the story is intriguing and actually quite emotional in the end. Plus it’s got an amazing performance from the criminally underrated thespian John Hawkes. His 2015 Northstar Award of Excellence from TCFF is so well-deserved!

8. Remember

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As I mentioned in my review, there have been so many Nazi vengeance tales been made on screen before and yet this one manages to inject something new and different into the sub-genre. That alone is a feat in and of itself. Director Atom Egoyan made this with not much frills but the film is brimming with mystery and suspense. Boasted by an astute and heartfelt performance by Christopher Plummer, I was engrossed in the story despite not much action in the film. That finale packs quite an emotional punch, and it’ll make you forgive the generic and boring title, as it actually fits the plot VERY well.

7. It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong

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Films that contain mostly of dialog between two people is tricky because a lot is required of the chemistry two actors AND of course, the script. Well, director Emily Ting in her directorial debut certainly managed to create a compelling film thanks to those two ingredients. Bryan Greenberg and Jamie Chung (who I found out was a real-life couple after I saw the movie) have an effortless chemistry together. Everything flows nicely and in a natural way, the actors seem comfortable and fit the roles perfectly. But the strength of the film is in the dialog (also written by Ting), which comes to life as the night wears on.

6. A New High

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A homeless shelter in Seattle took a novel approach in helping their residents overcome their addictions, and that is to give them an epic goal to summit one of the most dangerous mountains in the country, the 14,400 ft Mt. Rainier. The film shows the residents train for that mission and the drama that happens in the group, led by former Army Ranger Mike Johnson, who spearheaded this unorthodox rehabilitation project. The film asked the question, ‘will their personal mountains be too steep to overcome?’ and it certainly made me ponder about that in my own life. It’s quite riveting to see each recovering addict face their demons head on, plus the vast splendor of the mountain is absolutely stunning to watch. Directors Samuel Miron & Stephen Scott Scarpulla also had to train for mount climbing as well in order to make this film. Their dedication and their labor of love definitely paid off on screen.

5. The Last Great Circus Flyer

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There are a ton of great documentaries playing at TCFF every year and so it’s no surprise they made up nearly half of my top 10 list. This one certainly has one of the most intriguing subject matter. In 1982, Miguel Vazguez performed ‘the greatest feat in all of circus history’, that is the quadruple somersault, during a Ringling performance. He certainly had a fascinating life journey to tell and director Philip Weyland certainly did his story justice. It’s one of the most entertaining and moving documentary that showcase not only a series of amazing–you could say impossible–physical feat, but also a portrait of a truly extraordinary and inspiring individual. Even if you’re not a fan of circus or trapeze act, I highly recommend this one.

4. Thank You For Playing

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Critics have called this film one of the most important film about video game ever made and it certainly lived up to that. It’s a tear-jerker of a film but one that’s also incredibly uplifting. The story chronicled the Green family, as Ryan and Amy deal with their son Joel who’s diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Ryan is a video game designer and he embarked on creating a most unusual and poetic video game to honor Joel’s life. Most video games deal with a lot of deaths, that is people getting shot or chopped to pieces violently. But never has a game dealt with death the way That Dragon Cancer game does it, tackling the issue of death head on in such a personal, affecting and encouraging way. This well-crafted film should encourage everyone going through a tough time in their lives, and also inspire people to channel their emotion, whether it’s grief or joy, into something truly creative.

3. Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

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When I saw this on the TCFF schedule, I knew this would be one I had to see with my husband. We’re both such huge fans of Indiana Jones and we LOVE Raiders of the Lost Ark! The film has a huge dose of exhilarating fun that matches Spielberg’s adventure masterpiece, as it’s truly the greatest homage to a film fueled 100% by genuine passion and creativity. You can’t help but root for the three guys who remade the film shot for shot when they were 11 years old and reunited 30 years later to finish it. It’s also interesting to see how their families share this unusual journey over the span of three decades. Watch for some extra special surprises that would definitely make you want to get up and cheer. A must-see for Indy fans, but really, anyone who loves a good story would be entertained by this.

2. Room

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I’m thrilled that there have been a lot more female filmmakers as well as talents represented this year, one of the reasons I love TCFF! So it’s especially gratifying that two of the main gala screenings feature a strong female performer in the lead. I actually saw Room at a press screening before TCFF started, but I’m still going to include it here as this was TCFF’s opening gala.

Room is one of the most well-acted films I saw the entire year, emotionally heartbreaking but not a dour, depressing film. Featuring one of the strongest lead performances this year, Brie Larson shines as a doting mother who’s kept in captivity in a single room for years. The believable relationship between Ma and her young son Jack is crucial to the film and both Larson and Jacob Tremblay nailed it. It’s a deeply immersive film that really get you into the emotional psyche of the characters, thanks to a shrewd direction by Lenny Abrahamson.

1. Brooklyn

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It’s always wonderful when a film lives up to your already lofty expectations and then some. Saoirse Ronan is the perfect leading lady to tell the story of Eilis, a young Irish immigrant who moves to Brooklyn and becomes torn between the new city and her homeland. The story is deceptively simple, but I was swept away by the rich, engrossing human drama that’s brought to life by the nuanced performances of the cast.

This is such a gem of a movie and watching Ronan is her understated yet layered portrayal of Eilis is nothing short of mesmerizing. She’s able to convey internal battle within her with just her eyes or a subtle smile, as there’s a great deal of economy of dialog in this film but everything has a purpose. I’m also impressed by Emory Cohen, and actor I’ve never seen before but I certainly want to see more of. He has a James Dean-esque vibe here, charming but vulnerable, certainly a worthy suitor to the film’s protagonist.

No doubt this is Ronan‘s best work among her already illustrious career and I’d love to see her get major acting nominations come award season. Kudos to director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby for crafting a beautiful story that’s engaging and full of heart. I mentioned this in my review already but it bears repeating: lest Hollywood forget, well-written story is the greatest special effects of all.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in random order):

Just because these didn’t quite make my top 10, I still think these films are excellent and definitely well worth your time. In fact, I’m pretty sure Anomalisa would make a lot of critics’ top 10 of the year. I love how film festivals always offer *a cure for the common flicks* so to speak, a breath of fresh air from what you see in mainstream Cineplex today.

THANKS AGAIN Twin Cities Film Fest for the awesome lineup!


The TCFF Insider Series kicks off in December, so be a member so you don’t miss out on film screenings/events all year long!

If you miss my TCFF coverage, click on the Twin Cities Film Fest tab at the top of the page.


What are your thoughts on my Top 10?
Which one(s) of these films have you seen or look forward to?

Day 4 Review – TCFF 2015 Gala Screening: Brooklyn

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Three of my most highly-anticipated films at TCFF premiered on Saturday. Two of them are studio features, Youth & Brooklyn and one is a small indie drama The Dust Storm, which I have reviewed here along with my interview w/ one of the director and cast members.

It was quite a whirlwind day starting with the Future of Film panel at 1pm with Rob Nelson from National Society of Film Critics, Ryland Aldrich from Twitchfilm.com and Emma Griffiths, Emma Griffiths PR. It’s great getting insights from film experts on the changing landscape of film promotion/distribution and various film trends. I also got to meet director Samuel Hathaway before his red carpet (check out my interview w/ him on The Old, Old Story), as well as David Spaltro whom I met a couple of years ago at TCFF. Great to see him back in town for his psychological horror film In The Dark (review & interview post coming next week!)


So here’s one of the reviews from Day 4:

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Brooklyn

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I’ve been waiting to see this film since it premiered at Sundance and so imagine how thrilled I was when I saw it on TCFF lineup!! I’ve been a fan of Irish thespian Saoirse Ronan since Atonement, Hanna and How I Live Now, which also premiered at TCFF two years ago. Suffice to say her casting was the main draw for me to see this and she did NOT disappoint.

As an immigrant myself, naturally the story of a young Irish immigrant moving to the United States resonated with me. Of course our circumstances are very different, but I identify with the feeling of homesickness and the challenges of navigating a whole new environment. Brooklyn is set in the 1950s. It opens with Eilis Lacey, the youngest of two Irish sisters living in a small town in County Wexford, Ireland. She’s offered a chance to move to New York City by a priest, for a chance of a new life. Her older sister Rose strongly supports that idea, even if that means she’d have to be the only one looking after their mother.

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The journey on the boat is quite excruciating for Eilis, but somewhere along the way she always ended up finding a friend to help her through it. The same way when she arrived in Brooklyn to stay in a Mrs. Kehoe’s Catholic boarding house along with four other girls. I LOVE Julie Walters here, she’s definitely the comic relief with her comments like ‘no talking about the Lord’s complexion at dinner!’ or ‘giddyness is the eighth deadly sins!’ She’s strict but not without a sense of humor. The always reliable Jim Broadbent provides an excellent supporting turn as the compassionate priest Father Flood who arranged for Eilis’ immigration.

Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will make you feel wretched, then will move on to somebody else…

I love the quote above from Father Flood to Eilis, and sure enough, soon Eilis’ able to overcome her homesickness as soon as she finds romance with an Italian boy Tony (Emory Cohen) who’s handsome and effortlessly charming. There’s a James Dean-esque vibe in his performance and perhaps that’s intentional. Soon he invites Eilis home to meet his very Italian family. I love the cultural aspects of the film, showcasing the different lives of American immigrants from different countries. There are amusing scenes such as when Eilis’ fellow boarding house friends teach her how NOT to splash spaghetti all over her blouse during dinner, and Iarla O’Lionaird as Tony’s smart-aleck-y 8-year-old brother Frankie was definitely a scene stealer!

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Life doesn’t always go according to plan however, and Eilis’ life changed abruptly that compels her to return back to Ireland. Life if full of tough choices, and that’s what happens with Eilis when she finds herself back in her home town. Suddenly there’s a decent life waiting for her in Ireland that she didn’t find before she moved to Brooklyn. A tentative romance also develops with a friend from her high school Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) that complicates matters. There’s nothing like two romantic prospects on both sides of the Atlantic that would get any girl torn, but there’s also more to it than that.
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I love how the seemingly-simple story of an immigrant girl can be so deeply poignant and moving. I remember liking John Crowley‘s British indie Boy A with Andrew Garfield, and he’s certainly has a way for capturing the anguish and torment of young people. The same with screenwriter Nick Hornby who penned About A Boy in crafting a heartfelt character-driven piece.

It’s definitely Saoirse Ronan‘s best work amongst her already illustrious career. At twenty, she’s the right age to portray Eilis, and she infused such gravitas into her role. She’s able to convey internal battle within her with just her eyes or a subtle smile, as there’s a great deal of economy of dialog in this film but everything has a purpose. Visually, the set design of 50s Brooklyn and Ireland are believable, captured beautifully by cinematographer Yves Bélanger. But to me, it’s the story that I will remember most of all. Lest Hollywood forget, well-written story is the greatest special effects of all.

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Have you seen BROOKLYN? Well, what did you think?

Thursday Movie Picks #36: Movies adapted from a Young Adult Novel

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Today the theme is… 

Movies adapted from a Young Adult Novel


How I Live Now (2013)

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An American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, finds love and purpose while fighting for her survival as war envelops the world around her.

I saw this film three years ago at TCFF. It’s definitely one of the darker young-adult adaptations that sort of flew under the radar. I didn’t give it a stellar review as it seems more elusive than suspenseful but I think it’s worth a look for it’s intriguing survival story in a doomed distant future based on a YA novel by Meg Rosoff. I’ve always been impressed by Saoirse Ronan and her casting was the main draw for me to see it. She didn’t disappoint, even if the uneven tone of the film prevents this from being a truly compelling film.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

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Four kids travel through a wardrobe to the land of Narnia and learn of their destiny to free it with the guidance of a mystical lion.

Seems that it’s been ages since I saw this movie but I remember being enchanted by it. There’s mystery, adventure and magic, a proper fantasy film of good vs evil filled with interesting characters. One of those characters is no doubt Mr. Tumnus, played by then-unknown James McAvoy. The child actors were wonderful but it’s the supporting cast who are the truly memorable, especially Tilda Swinton as the White Witch and Liam Neeson‘s voice lending gravitas to the godly lion Aslan. This is director Andrew Adamson‘s live-action debut, but I think he did C.S. Lewis’ beloved work justice.

Harry Potter films (2001-2011)

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Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I got into the Harry Potter franchise rather late, in fact it was around the time the first of the two final movies was released that my hubby and I started watching. Well, the first few were good but thankfully they got better in future installments, and I’d say my favorite is The Prisoner of Azkaban when Sirius Black appeared. Even amongst a stellar all-British cast, Gary Oldman still stood out in the role. It doesn’t hurt that the film was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I have to give props to Daniel Radcliffe and the rest of the young cast for being so watchable across 8 movies and made me care about their journey. The last two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows final films are adventurous, properly dark and emotionally-engaging. I might revisit these movie again and this May I’m actually visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios 🙂


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?