FlixChatter Review: PILGRIMAGE (2017)

It’s been ages since I’ve got time to write a review, but I knew I had to write one for this after I saw it last weekend.

I’ve mentioned PILGRIMAGE all the way back in January 2016. It’s been a long time coming but I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen (though it’s a shame it’s only playing in a single theatre in Twin Cities suburbs with odd screen times!)

In 13th century Ireland, a group of monks must escort a sacred relic across an Irish landscape fraught with peril.

The premise is simple, but it’s packs a punch in terms of its thought-provoking story and the unrelenting violence these monks face along the journey. It opens with a horrific stoning of Saint Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot following his betrayal. The barren landscape of Ireland, an island on the edge of the world is striking… there’s otherworldly feel to this raw, beautifully-shot film that immediately grabs your attention.

I saw this film mainly for the French actor Stanley Weber who plays a Cistercian priest, Brother Geraldus, and boy did he make quite an entrance. He came to the monastery and soon the monks are on a pilgrimage to escort a holy relic all the way to Rome. Naturally there’s tension mounting between the monks themselves, each have their own views of the significance of this relic.

Pilgrimage explores the themes of what faith means to people. It’s not a deep study of the subject, but it certainly makes a compelling case about religious fanaticism and that radical ‘faith’ can ultimately lead to radical consequences. The film is more of an ensemble cast comprised of four main characters, Tom Holland as Brother Diarmuid (the novice), Stanley Weber as the Cisterian, Jon Bernthal (the mute with a violent past) and Richard Armitage (Norman knight Raymond). I’d say Bernthal is perhaps the most fascinating of the four, simply because of his charismatic, wordless performance that makes you wonder throughout just exactly who this man is. He’s loyal to a fault to the monks but you know he’s a ruthless and dangerous man. It’s a physical role but that demands a quiet menace which Bernthal pulls off with aplomb.

Acting-wise, Holland, Bernthal and Weber are the most memorable to me. Armitage is good but I feel like he’s basically reprising his role as Guy of Gisborne in BBC Robin Hood, though his French is rather impressive. Interesting that Holland and Bernthal are now part of the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe (as Spiderman and Punisher respectively), but they’re both such talented actors that I hope they’ll continue to seek out smaller work such as this one that stretch their acting ability. Weber might not be a household name yet despite being cast in season 2 of Outlander, but he’s certainly got the charisma and acting chops of a leading man.

The film is quite violent, especially the attack in the woods that left practically everyone slashed, chopped and bludgeoned to death. There’s also a torture scene involving a Medieval torture device that sure made me wince. The action didn’t let up until the very end, set in a desolate beach that really takes your breath away. It’s so refreshing to see something unique that doesn’t fit the Hollywood mold. This is one of those rare films that’s not based on any literary works but is an original script by Jamie Hannigan. I love that director Brendan Muldowney also uses many languages in the film, Gaelic, French, Latin, English. I also appreciate that the film is shot on location, you can practically feel the misty air and cold breeze as you’re watching the film, which adds to the intense, gritty and bloody realism of the film.

If this is playing near you, I urge you to see it on the big screen. We need to support original films like this one as it’s becoming even more of a rarity. Made with a shoestring budget yet generates a big impact, I certainly don’t mind seeing this again on Bluray. I so agree with Keith’s review that big budgets aren’t essential to good moviemaking… and this film is definitely a testament of that.



Have you seen ‘PILGRIMAGE’? Well, what did you think? 

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Indie Film Spotlight: LET ME GO + Interview with writer/director Polly Steele

When I first heard about Let Me Go about a year ago, I was immediately intrigued. Not just in terms of its story, but I’ve always been a champion of #womeninfilm and this one has a female writer/director AND a terrific female ensemble cast! I really wanted to see the film at Bentonville Film Festival last Spring, but I had just wrapped my first short film Hearts Want so I timing was an issue. But thanks to Evolutionary Films for sending me the screener link that I was able to see it last month.

The film is based on a true story, and though films about the holocaust are a dime a dozen, writer/director Polly Steele told the story from an unconventional perspective. It’s a unique and compelling approach on a real life story from the past that’s still relevant today. I love the talented female cast who effectively portrayed three generation of daughters being affected by a horrific past. It’s a thought-provoking, heartbreaking yet beautiful film that I wish I could see on the big screen. If you get a chance to see this, don’t miss it. Not only is it an absorbing tale, it’s also a visually striking film with an equally gorgeous score.

Let Me Go is a film about mothers and daughters, it is about ghosts from the past and the impact they leave on the present. Developed from Helga Schneider’s true life story, it explores the effect on Helga’s life of being abandoned by her mother, Traudi in 1941 when she was just four years old. The film is set in the year 2000 following not only Helga and Traudi’s journeys but the next two generations and how Beth, Helga’s daughter and Emily her granddaughter are confronted with the long-term effects of Traudi’s leaving.

 

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Read my interview with Polly Steele on her journey into bringing Helga Schneider’s story to life on screen…

Q: There are so many films about the holocaust done already but your film tells a story from such a different perspective, that is from the family of the perpetrators, instead of the victims. Can you tell me what inspired you to write this story?

When I first found this story I had no idea what attracted me to it. Looking back it was probably the vulnerable face of a small child in the black and white photo on the back cover. This vulnerability echoed inside me somewhere and I read the book. I know that trauma arises from all sides in a conflict and Helga’s trauma is no less valid than anyone else’s. Helga’s story was a difficult story to tell after the war had ended, there was no space for stories like hers. Now that 75 years has past since the war, I think we can acknowledge that innocent children from all sides of a conflict suffer. We cannot move on from our own suffering unless we acknowledge the suffering of others.

Q: How did you first hear about Helga Schneider? Can you tell us the process of getting the rights to tell her story and how long it took you to write the script?

Polly (right) meeting Helga in Italy

After reading the book, I flew to Milan to meet her, she only spoke Italian and a little French and I spoke English and French and so we used her agent to translate and we sussed each other out with a lot of looking into each others eyes. I think we came to an understanding that day and I felt that she entrusted me with her life story, I am very grateful to her.

After seven years of writing and re-writing the script, working with various different companies and even putting it aside for a while, somehow the right team came together, the energy changed and here we are having raised the money in a year and made the film the following year, but the whole process was 10 years in the making.

Q: How involved was Helga herself in making this film? I believe you flew to Italy to meet with her?

After meeting her the first time, we kept in touch, I would write to her asking her questions and she would write back . I would google translate and on it went. After a couple of drafts of being completely true to her story I made a leap to include the two youngest characters who are fictitious, because I was fascinated with inherited trauma. I made these creative decisions with Helga’s blessing. The two new characters are based on information given to us by Helga who wanted to protect the real identity of her close family members. She understands now that her story has continued to affect those who came after her and that is what the film focuses on. Ironically when I met her again just before we started filming she told me that the two new characters were very accurate relative to her own experience.

Traudi (Karin Bertling), Beth (Jodhi May) Helga (Juliet Stevenson) and Emily (Lucy Boynton) – Andrew Ogilvy Photography

Q: I love the idea of a multi-generation of daughters being affected and dealing with a shared past. Would you share about the casting process for Juliet Stevenson, Lucy Boynton and Jodhi May, as well as Stanley Weber as the only prominent male character in the film?

Juliet came on board very early on. She read the script and then we met and she followed the films progress always remaining committed. She was our rock.  Jodhi also met me early on in the process and committed whole heartedly, she was fascinated by the subject of inherited trauma and also stayed with us until we were green lit. Lucy I saw on a taped video that she did in L.A and immediately thought she had a special something, elegance, an innocent maturity if that is possible and a very natural look on the screen. Lucy could only confirm very close to shooting but thats because she was up for another film at the same time but luckily we got her! Karin was the last to join and the most difficult character to cast. No one wanted to be a hardcore Nazi… but then we cast our net wider and Karin was waiting in the wings in Stockholm and she is a Gem! I am very proud of all of them and Stanley Weber, and Eva Magyar, I think they all did an amazing job.

Stanley Weber in a still from the film

Q: This is the second narrative feature you wrote and directed. What’s the biggest challenge for you as indie filmmaker in terms of bringing your story vision to life?

These days making an independent feature is an incredibly difficult task…to get the stars to align is a rare and beautiful thing but I also believe that as a woman it has been even harder. This was not an easy story to tell, but I had an amazing team of people supporting me and the film. My producer Lizzie Pickering who has been incredible, raising money relentlessly, never giving up as well as our Executive Producers Georges Tsitos who kept us on track from the beginning and then Rupert Labrum who was our first serious investor and stayed loyally with us until the end and many more who subsequently joined. We gathered support by holding storytelling circles in peoples houses and inviting them to listen to a video of Helga and hear her story and then slowly, slowly the money came.

Q: There are some really difficult scenes to watch, especially between Helga and her mother. Can you tell me what’s been the most challenging aspect of filming this?

Filming any scene whatever the content is about making sure that the actors are 100% in the space and time and world that they are meant to be inhabiting, that way they are authentic and then we have done our job. The whole reason that the scenes between Traudi and Helga are different from anything that I have seen before on this subject is that Traudi makes us understand from her perspective what normal was for them in that extreme situation. It is untenable for us in our world knowing what happened, to accept what she says but it’s equally important that we realise what it was like in their shoes. Helga’s dearest wish is that the film may play a tiny part in preventing history from repeating itself.

Still from Let Me Go trailer – All images are courtesy of Evolutionary Films

Q: I love that the films are shot on location and it was stunningly shot by Michael Wood, set to a lush score by Phil Selway. Can you share about finding the locations in the UK and Austria, as well as the scoring process?

Michael Wood is an amazing D.O.P but then he also had the fabulous Alex Walker our designer to pair up with. The two of them did a beautiful job with few resources. David Broder our other producer found Minley Manor in Kent which was used for the old peoples home and then we decided that being in a few key places in Vienna was crucial, like the Judenplatz and so made the financial commitment to shoot in Vienna too. Michael understood very quickly what I wanted to do with the light in this film and the energy of the restless camera. I feel he achieved a great look and Alex also indulged my minimalist approach to spaces, allowing me to eliminate a lot of props and furniture so that we could really focus on the emotional intensity in some of the scenes. We had a great thing going between the three of us. I also want to mention Daniel Goddard who I have worked with for many years as an editor, he too completely understood what I was aiming for, he is a very sensitive and experienced editor and worked wonders.

Philip Selway has been amazing from the absolute beginning. He came on board before most other people and immediately started talking to me about the script. He was so supportive and also so positive about the story, he really understood the themes and spent a lot of time building up sound beds and themes laying the foundations for what turned out to be a stunningly beautiful score. Philip was key in keeping me true to my initial ideas.

Q: Last but not least, would you tell me some of films that’ve influenced you, particularly those dealing with WWII?

I actually grew up in many different countries but spent ten years of my childhood in France and was very influenced by French films. They have far more stories that are about the emotional journey rather than the physical one and that very much influences how I like to tell stories. I can’t say that I see this film as a WWII film and so never approached it like that. I just wanted to tell the story of a family , who had lost their men in the war and had to find their way in the world together, four women , carrying with them a secret that was so extraordinarily heavy, a secret that could have destroyed them all, but they were given a moment in time to let it go, to tell the truth and to let it go and in that way there is hope.
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The film is available in UK cinemas & digital download on September 15. Hopefully it’ll be available in the US soon.
For more info visit Letmegomovie.com


Thanks so much Polly for chatting with me!

AUGUST 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

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Well, that’s it folks… Summer days are definitely numbered now that we’re entering the ‘brrr’ months. Ok so I’m being a tad dramatic. September is actually still quite warm here in the upper Midwest, and in fact Autumn is my all time favorite season, it’s just the season that followed that I’m not looking forward to.

2016 Summer blockbuster season has been seriously lackluster, with mostly duds than gems. I don’t think there’s a single film I absolutely love, except maybe Pete’s Dragon, but it remains to be seen if that would be a classic down the road. Well, I always look forward to smaller Fall films.

September screenings include Queen of Katwe, Sully, Blair Witch, Bridget Jones Baby and The Dressmaker. None of them are on my must-see list, but I’d think they’d be pretty entertaining. Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for Bridget Jones Baby (and she’s in it as well), so that’s the main draw for me in seeing it. Still hoping there’d be a screening for The Magnificent Seven and American Honey!

So anyway, here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

SuicideSquad

Suicide Squad

FlorenceFJ

Florence Foster Jenkins

PetesDragon

Pete’s Dragon

BenHur

Ben-Hur

Anthropoid

Anthropoid

IANASK

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Equity

Equity

HologramForKing

A Hologram For the King

LightBetweenOceans

The Light Between Oceans

CliniqueDrBlanche

La Clinique du Docteur Blanche (2014)


That last one is a French TV movie starring Stanley Weber that’s now available on Amazon Prime!


As you can see, I didn’t really see that many movies this past month. I’m so behind on my reviews, too, but I’m hoping to do my write-up of Florence Foster Jenkins, Ben-Hur, The Light Between Oceans and Equity sometime in the next couple of weeks.


I’ve also posted my top 10 list of the year so far…
are any of your favorites on the list?


 TV Series

WineShow

The Wine Show

MrRobot

Mr. Robot (Season 1)


 Rewatches


Starz’s The White QueenBBC North & South
The Age of Adaline | Not Another Happy Ending

I didn’t rewatch many movies this month. I did watch about an hour worth of the 1959 Ben-Hur, especially some of the key moments that are so indelible to this day. It’s incredible how in the age of pre-CGI, the epic chariot race still got my blood pumping, and the rowing/ship battle scenes are simply incredible. It made me miss Quintus Arius’ presence in the 2016 all the more.


MOVIE OF THE MONTH


EQUITY
 might not be the first Women-on-Wall-Street film, but it certainly is an important one that paints a realistic portrayal of real women on the male-dominated financial industry… strong, driven, ruthless, conflicted… This film isn’t afraid to show powerful women who are flawed. It’s a warts-and-all approach that I find refreshing. A far cry from the rosy, fantasy world of Mike Nichols’ Working Girl.

Produced, written, directed by women featuring a female-driven cast, this is a film I wish Hollywood would make more of! It’s not perfect, but the story’s well-crafted and Anna Gunn is excellent in the lead role.


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

Everybody’s Chattin, Weekend Roundup + Music Break: The Eagles’ Hotel California

EverybodysChattin

Happy Tuesday everybody! It’s a short week with the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, and thank God we got an extra day off in the coldest weekend of Minnesota Winter. Well I sure hope this is as cold as it gets, with temps reaching double digits BELOW ZERO. We barely made it to zero the past couple of days! But hey, it’s gonna be in the 20s tomorrow, heat wave! 😛

Well, since I haven’t been doing a Weekend Roundup post in a while, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve been watching this weekend…


I’m not going to review Sicario as Ted has already done it here. But here’s my reaction:


I wish I had seen Sicario sooner, it’d surely make my top 10 list! Oh, and Benicio Del Toro was surely robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nomination!

Stanley_Figaro
Stanley in French TV Movie ‘Figaro’ (2008)

Marie Antoinette was pretty interesting but it’s way too s-l-o-w and it felt so repetitive as for a while the film just didn’t go anywhere. It seems that Sofia Coppola is a hit and miss and this is certainly no Lost in Translation. I think I probably enjoyed it a bit more as I’m intrigued by French history but under a different director I think the film would’ve been a much better film.

Kirsten Dunst was surprisingly good in the title role though, and I did like the use of modern music in some of the scenes, but overall the movie is rather meh. Wish Stanley Weber had played Marie’s lover Count Axel Fersen instead of Jamie ‘Christian Grey’ Dornan. Stanley might still be in acting school back in 2006 but heck, I think he could still pull it off, I mean he IS French and quite a seductive one, I might add 😉

No doubt it was bittersweet watching Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon once again in Sense & Sensibility. I had to admit I teared up a bit when he showed up on screen for the first time… I wrote a tribute for him this weekend, I shall miss him dearly. As for 45 Years, it’s such a delicate and beautifully-told story that shows how delicate love truly is. Charlotte Rampling is wonderful, her Oscar nomination is well-deserved.

So about those links…

Keith reviewed 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. I was as surprised as he was that this wasn’t another crappy Bayhem, I think he did the story justice. (Check out my interview w/ the three soldiers who lived it)

I’ll be participating in Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club next month, woo hoo! Check out next month’s topic and hope you’ll participate!

Reviews galore… Steven and Ian reviewed The Revenant, Mike reviewed the indie sci-fi 400 Days, and Vinnie reviewed The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Speaking of 400 Days, check out my Q&A with the writer/director Matt Osterman)

A couple of awesome music-related lists! Chris picks his top 10 best albums of 2015 and Margaret lists her picks of 10 best film tracks of 2015.

Last but not least, Dan wrote about Tom Hardy winning Best British/Irish Actor of the Year at London Critics’ Circle Award. Woo hoo!! Definitely well-deserved, let’s hope he wins an Oscar too!


Music Break

RIPGlennFrey

This music break is dedicated to Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of The Eagles who just passed away. Yes, another rock royalty has left us… boy it hasn’t been a good start to the new year has it? 😦

I love what the author of this CNN article (who wrote the biographic To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles) said… “The passing of Glenn Frey both recalls and closes the book on one of rock’s most celebrated rock ‘n’ roll songwriting teams, but for many of us it also signals something more personal: the passing of a time when the Eagles’ “Hotel California” was the anthem for the youth of America in the ’70s — the way Beatles music was for the children of the ’60s…[Hotel California] described both the band’s self-destruction by excess, its awareness of that self-destruction and its inability to stop it. (‘You can check out any time, but you can never leave. …’).” 


Hotel California is certainly my favorite from The Eagles, and also one of my favorite songs from the 70s. There’s something so eerie in the poetically-mesmerizing lyrics that always hypnotized me every time that song came on the radio. It also has a cinematic quality in that I somehow visualize the song every time I heard it.

Rest in peace, Mr. Frey.

>>>


Hope you enjoyed today’s music break!

Labor Day Weekend Roundup: a goofy comedy, a road trip doc + a fantasy romance

It’s been quite a nice and mellow three-day weekend for me… the calm before the *storm* as it were, as the later part of September is going to be a pretty busy one for me. Twin Cities Film Fest is just a month away, but we’ll get a preview of the film festivities this coming Friday with the Fundraising Gala. I have a friend from out of the country staying with us the following week and then we’ll be taking a trip to Sedona, AZ and hopefully meet up w/ my pal Cindy C.!

Well, a good part of my weekend is full of script writing… AND dreaming of Deauville — Deauville American Film Festival that is…

Of course THIS is who I’d most like to meet…

Deauville2015_Stanley1
One lucky lady got to meet my French crush, Stanley Weber

Anyhoo, I didn’t go to the cinema all weekend but I must say my home viewing can only be described as eclectic.

Zoolander (2001)

At the end of his career, a clueless fashion model is brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

ZoolanderFinally got around to seeing this movie. I’m familiar w/ the premise and it’s become such a pop culture phenomenon of sort that a sequel is in the works. I thought I’d watch it before it comes out next year. Crazy that it’s been 15 years since this came out and I think both Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson still look pretty much the same.

They’re both hilarious in this satire of the fashion modeling industry. There are actually some famous male models, like the outrageously gorgeous Tyson Beckford and Claudia Schiffer. In fact, this movie is worth seeing just for the cameo, esp. David Bowie! I expected it to be goofy good fun and it certainly didn’t disappoint. 

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Long Way Round (2004)

This documentary series follows actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on a motorcycle trip around the world. The two friends will travel through such places as Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Alaska, before finally ending the journey in New York.

LongWayRoundMy hubby was watching this when I went downstairs to our entertainment room and we ended up watching a couple of episodes. I thought it was fascinating AND quite hilarious as the Scottish actor and his buddy prepare to go on this crazy motorcycle journey around the world for three months!

They also interviewed their wives (as well as their parents) and their reaction of this trip. But the funniest bits are all the challenges of all the logistics and training (medical, even self defense) as they’d go into some dangerous territories like Ukraine.

Of course the main draw initially is the fact that Ewan is a big film star, but after a few minutes we forget about that as he’s such a real and down-to-earth guy and this film is as much about Ewan & Charlie’s friendship as it is about the motorbike roadtrip.

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The Age of Adaline (2015)

AgeOfAdaline

A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

I’ve been wanting to see this film for ages. There’s something about this romantic premise that beguilles me. I’m a huge fan of period dramas a la Jane Austen, so more on the old school romance so long as it doesn’t have the name Nicholas Sparks attached to it [shudder]. I have my full review ready so I’ll post that sometime this week.
….

BELLEmovie_Gugu_Sam

I also rewatched BELLE on Labor Day as I’m in the mood of period dramas. I absolutely LOVE this movie. I’ve seen it a dozen times and it gets me every single time… I have SO many favorite scenes from this film, I wish I could find the one where Davinier declared passionately, ‘I love her, I love her with every breath I breathe!‘ in that carriage [swoon] 😛

But I also LOVE this scene between Belle and John… Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid are absolutely perfect together [le sigh]


Well, that’s about it for my weekend. How ’bout you? Seen anything good?

Five for the Fifth: SEPTEMBER 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! 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.

1. Since this is Back to School week for many of you, or will be after Labor Day weekend, I figure I’ll borrow the question of this week’s Thursday Movie Picks topic. Since I didn’t participate, I figure I’d name three movie teachers who made an impression on me:

  • Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) – Dead Poets Society
  • Jean Brodie (Maggie Smith) – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris/Michael Gambon) – Harry Potter series

So what’s your favorite teacher(s) in movies?

2. September is a boon for film lovers as there are a plethora of film festivals going on. The big ones like TIFF, Venice, Telluride, etc. are going on this month, but this one you might not have heard of: The Deauville American Film Festival (Festival du cinéma américain de Deauville). It started on the day I was born, 1975, and took place in Deauville, the closest seaside resort to Paris in Northwestern France.

Deauville2015

I actually heard of this film fest thanks to my dahling Stanley Weber who’s a member of the The Révélation Jury this year. There are tons of my most-anticipated films premiering there as well: Knight of Cups, 99 Homes, Sicario, Everest, etc. I had to laugh at their picks of this year’s honorees though. I mean Michael Bay?? Orlando Bloom?? Seriously?? Though I have no problem that they’re honoring Keanu Reeves though.

What’s your most memorable film and/or moment at a film festival? Local or otherwise.

….

3. FIRST LOOK of a couple of films I can’t wait to see that I’ve talked about off and on on this blog. First, we’ve got the trailer of the sci-fi romance comedy The Lobster starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw.

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

The trailer made me laugh so hard! The idea is absolutely bonkers which would make for an amusing comedy, so hopefully the funniest bits aren’t all in the trailer. I’m especially curious to see Weisz, Seydoux and Whishaw who I normally associate with serious films.

KnightOfCups

Now, the Terrence Malick drama Knight of Cups that I’ve been waiting for over four years now is getting closer to be released. Well by close I mean within a year, we are talking about Malick after all. A new featurette is just released, including interviews with some of the cast, but no Christian Bale who’s the lead.

Rick (Bale) is a screenwriter living in LA tries to make sense of the strange events occurring around him.

In typical Malick fashion, the movie looks exquisitely-shot, again working with his regular DP, Emmanuel Lubezki. Per IMDb trivia, there was apparently no script and all of the scenes were improvised. Only Malick could get three Oscar winners to do his movie with no script, wow! So does that mean the film would not be eligible for a Best Screenplay award then? Not that I’m suggesting there’s ever a chance it would be nominated. I just think it must be quite an adventure working for this eccentric filmmaker, but hey, it’s got Bale AND Cate Blanchett so I’m still highly anticipating this one. Plus Bale looks so damn hot in this film, ehm 😛

So what are your thoughts on either one of these films?

Lucy_Desi4. Gotta have a casting news update on FFTF, especially when it concerns the incomparable miss Blanchett! Per Variety, she’s set to play the comedic icon Lucille Ball in a biopic that’s being produced by her two children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. Aaron Sorkin is in talks to pen the script, which will center on Ball’s 20-year marriage to Desi Arnaz. She eloped with the Cuban bandleader in 1940, and the two created the massively successful sitcom “I Love Lucy” — in which she won four Emmys — in 1951 through their Desilu Productions.

I think this is great casting as Blanchett can pretty much tackle any role. They haven’t cast the actor to play Desi yet but I’d LOVE to see Guatemalan-born Oscar Isaac in the role. I think the role should be filled by a Latin actor and I’d love to see Isaac do a comedic role. Plus I think he’d be smokin’ paired up with Blanchett. Both are massively talented actors, so please Hollywood, make it happen!

Blanchett_Isaac_LucyDesi

Thoughts on Blanchett’s casting and who should play Desi?

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5. 
This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Margaret from Cinematic Corner!

Margaret was inspired by the fact that Mad Max: Fury Road finally won something and soon it’s gonna be Oscar season.

Are people going to forget all about the great movies we had in the first 9-10 months of the year? So before the Oscar season starts, I thought it would be fun if everyone shared their line up for Picture and Actor/Actress/Supporting Actor & Actress categories before the big Oscar baits start premiering.

So if the Oscars were to be handed out this month, which film and the four major acting awards would you pick to win?


Well, that’s it for the September 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

AUGUST 2015 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

August2015Recap

Well, we are officially entering the ‘ber’ month which means ‘brrrrr’ months are upon us. But I do love Autumn here in Minnesota though so let’s not think about Winter yet.

The highlight for me this month is that I’ve kept up on my script and it’s about 70% done now. I mean obviously there’s going to be a ton of rewrites and polishing but I’m just glad I’ve kept up with it almost daily, and thus I haven’t been blogging [and visiting others’ blogs] as much lately. In any case, I might blog even less in the future, but I don’t plan on giving that up completely, at least not yet.

Posts You Might’ve Missed

Liebster Award

A Trio of Casting News
I’m Excited About

Guest Post – Musings from a part-time cartoon artist:
Maybe some comics shouldn’t be movies

five_newtomeactors_2015Music Break: Pride & Prejudice and
Fave Scores from Dario Marianelli

Interview with the filmmakers of
NO ESCAPE: John Eric & Drew Dowdle

Blogathons

Against the Crowd:
a battle of two sword-n-sandals movies

The Five Emotions Blogathon

Thursday Movie Picks #56:
Alien Invasion of Earth

Reviews

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Dark Places [guest review]

The End of the Tour

Solomon Kane

Casting By Documentary

No Escape

New-to-me Movies:

Hitman: AGENT 47 (2015)

Seeking A Friend For the End of the World (2012)

La Banda Picasso (2012)

The Last Flight (2009)

Two Days One Night (2014)

I tried to watch CHERI with Michelle Pfeiffer but just couldn’t finish it. I just think Rupert Friend is so awkward in the title role. Heh, his character is supposed to be a young French Casanova, wish they had cast Stanley Weber who’d be more age appropriate AND perfectly seductive in the role.

Rewatches:

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Pride & Prejudice TV miniseries (1995)

Persuasion TV movie(2007)

Sword of Vengeance (2014)

Top Secret! (1984)

Hot Fuzz (2007)

TV Shows:

Dancing on the Edge

Movie of the Month

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I had been waiting to see Two Days One Night for ages. I thought this was going to hit Netflix back in June. Well, it was well worth the wait. It’s such a compelling human drama, right from the start the story truly sucked you in and Marion Cotillard gave such an amazing performance. It’s an understated role and they made her look so plain her as a young Belgian mother Sandra who discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal. So the title refers to the time she has to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

This is the second film by the Dardenne Brothers‘ work after The Kid with the Bike and it’s definitely a superior one. It’s such a minimalist film in terms of style, the performances are naturalistic, but the story REALLY packs a punch. I was fully invested in the character’s journey and it really pays off in the end. It’s certainly one of miss Marion’s most astounding work in her already illustrious career. I can’t recommend this one enough folks, see it pronto if you haven’t already.

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So that’s my AUGUST recap. What’s YOUR fave movie(s) you saw this month?

Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2015 viewings

I saw this list on Variety on 10 Actors To Watch in 2015 and I realized I dropped the ball on this Actor Discoveries post last year. I mentioned in the first post back in 2012 that one of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. I planned on making this post an annual thing but alas, the last time I did this post was in 2013.

On that list, I included Lake Bell, Daniel Brühl, Riz Ahmed, Andrea Riseborough and David Oyelowo. Since then, most of them have been getting more prominent roles, with the exception of Riseborough which I think is so criminally under-utilized. Since I didn’t make a list last year, certainly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid would’ve made my 2014 shortlist.

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So, based on this year’s viewings (not exclusive to movies released last year) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

[In alphabetical order]

Carmen Ejogo

Ejogo

The Oscars not only dropped the ball on several counts when it comes to SELMA last year. Much was made about the omission of Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo from the nomination list, but I think Carmen Ejogo was equally deserving to be amongst the Best Supporting Actress nominees.

Like his co-star, she’s from the UK but she effortlessly portrayed an American. She’s been working in a variety of TV and film, so I feel kinda bad that I hadn’t seen her until this year. There’s a certain elegance and tortured soul about her that makes her so intriguing to watch. I’m hoping her career would benefit from the Oscar buzz and that she’d be getting more and more prominent roles.

What’s Next: Jazz biopic Born to Be Blue with Ethan Hawke

Jack Huston

Huston

I noticed Jack Huston when I saw American Hustle, but it wasn’t until Night Train in Lisbon that I became a fan. Huston has quite a Hollywood pedigree, being the grandson of famed filmmaker John Huston and nephew of Anjelica Huston. But the 32-year-old Londoner is a talented actor in his own right.

I like that he has one of those *ethnically hard to pin down* look about him that makes him suitable to play different kinds of ethnicity. In Night Train to Lisbon he played a Portuguese doctor and an American mobster in American Hustle. As many actors who grew up in the UK, he’s got a knack for accents which makes him even more versatile. I wasn’t thrilled at all when they announced they’re remaking Ben-Hur, but since they cast Huston in the titular role, I’m actually intrigued! I’d love to see more of him in a variety of roles, as he’s far more interesting to watch than a lot of Hollywood A-listers working today.

What’s Next: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (as Mr. Wickham) and the Ben-Hur remake

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Rebecca Ferguson

Ferguson

My friend Ashley had told me about the Starz’s miniseries The White Queen a while back, but I haven’t got around to seeing it. Well, it’s on the top of my Amazon Prime queue now after I saw Rebecca in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. I really couldn’t shut up about how impressed I was with her in that role. It was surely a kick-ass performance but she didn’t just pull off the physicality of the role, but she elevates the role into so much more. She’s equally as intriguing as Tom Cruise if not more so, and no doubt she’s the most memorable part about that film.

As I’ve blogged about here, I’m thrilled to see her cast in The Girl on the Train and I’m glad she didn’t end up becoming Channing Tatum’s love interest in Gambit. She’s so much more interesting to be pigeonholed into action roles, and so I hope Hollywood realizes that.

What’s Next: She’ll be in the upcoming espionage drama Despite The Falling SnowShe’ll be starring with Sam Reid, wahoo!!
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Sarah Snook

Snook

Sometimes it only takes a single film for you to become an instant fan of a performer. That’s the case with Sarah Snook, who single-handedly stole the time travel sci-fi film Predestination with her outstanding performance.

As I mentioned in my review, it was a revelatory performance from the Aussie actress whose educated at National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. It’s quite a complex role with multiple layers but it’s so rewarding to see how she tackles each one convincingly and with so much heart.

What’s Next: She has a small role in the Aussie-set drama starring Kate Winslet, The Dressmaker. She’s also in the Steve Jobs film with Michael Fassbender. I hope she lands a leading role soon, she deserves it!
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Stanley Weber

Weber

Well I think this one doesn’t need much introduction if you’ve been reading my blog this year. I have mentioned him practically every week since I discovered him on April 5 in the Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending (yes I even remembered the date!). It’s one of those spellbound moments that doesn’t happen very often, but once it did, well, it’s REALLY hard to snap out of it 😛

I’ve posted a full tribute for him here that list five of my favorite roles of his so far. It takes more than a pretty face for me to be obsessed with someone, and Stanley certainly is a dedicated actor who can handle stage, TV AND film roles, in fact that’s what he’s juggling this year alone. I LOVE actors who loves to mix things up and not afraid to look unglamorous for a role. It’d be tough to make this Frenchman look ugly though, I mean he’s still so beautiful even with THIS haircut for his upcoming role as a Jesuit priest in Pilgrimage.

What’s Next: I can’t freakin’ wait to see Stanley in STARZ’s Outlander season 2, the adventure drama Pilgrimage, and the French WWII drama L’origine de la violence. Hopefully all of them will be out next year!!
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Honorable Mentions:

I hadn’t heard of any of these five impressive performers prior to 2015, but I’m glad I saw them and I hope they continue to find prominent roles in Hollywood.

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Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

The Swedish actress seems to have had quite an astronomical rise to stardom in Hollywood. She had been working in her native country until about 2012 when she was cast with Mads Mikkelsen in A Royal Affair. I didn’t see Anna Karenina until earlier this year on the plane, in which she had a small role, but it wasn’t until Ex Machina that I really took notice of her. She has this delicate physique but a formidable screen charisma that makes her so lovely to watch. It’s no surprise she is one busy girl, with three more films scheduled to open later this year, as well as the untitled Bourne film with Matt Damon next year.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man)

As I was watching the John le Carré spy drama, one of the performances that intrigued me was by the actor who portrayed the mysterious Issa Karpov. I found out later that Dobrygin is a Russian actor who’s a classically-trained ballet dancer. He apparently won a Silver Bear award for Best Actor at Berlin Film Festival for Russian film How I Ended This Summer.

I definitely would love to see more of him in Hollywood, hopefully he will continue acting and not go back to go back to ballet. Per The Guardian, he has just finished on Susanna White’s Our Kind of Traitor, with Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris.

Karidja Touré (Girlhood)

Another French actor who caught my eye and this was her feature film debut! The 21-year-old has that undeniable charm and screen presence on top of her acting talent. Her parents are from the Ivory Coast but she was born in France and grew up in Paris. I hope she’d get the same opportunities as fellow French actor from north African origin, Omar Sy, who had a breakout role in The Intouchables. He’s gone to big budget route such as Jurassic World, but I’d like to see Touré in smaller films that would offer her a chance to show what she’s capable of.

Maika Monroe (The Guest)

The Guest feature two awesome performances from relative newcomers. I’m already familiar with Dan Stevens from his period drama days in the UK, though most Americans probably saw him here for the first time. I hadn’t seen Monroe before however, and right away I thought she has an uncanny resemblance to Gwen Stefani. She also has that cool factor, that effortless swagger of a rock star that makes her fun to watch. She’s also in the buzzed-about horror flick It Follows, so I think the 22-year-old Californian has a long career ahead of her.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman)

Speaking of swagger, there’s plenty of that to be found on the 25-year-old Welsh native. There’s a devil-may-care attitude in him that I find endearing, which reminds me a bit of Tom Hardy when I first saw him on screen. I haven’t seen him in a serious drama yet so I’m curious to see how he fares in that. Hollywood’s certainly taken notice of him, as he’s been cast as the Robin Hood reboot. We’ll also see him along with Hardy in LEGEND later this year.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd)

The Belgian actor has been working pretty steadily since the early 2000s but for some reason I just never got around to seeing any of his films until earlier this year. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting him in the role of Gabriel Oak, a classic romantic hero in Victorian England, but he won me over with his sensitive portrayal. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him. I said in my review that he reminds me a bit of Viggo Mortensen, and that’s a good thing. Curious to see what role he’d tackle next, but I probably should go back and check out his older films.


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

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Liebster’d once again…

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Firstly, THANKS to Jay, Vinnie, Paskalis and Anna for kindly nominating me this lovely award. I’ve done this once before in 2012, but hey, it’s always fun to do these kinds of posts. 

liebsterrule

 


11 things about myself:

  1. I originally wanted to be a journalist, that was initially my major in college (Mass Communication with emphasis in journalism). But after taking a few classes, I decided that I’m more suited to graphic design and so I switched. In hindsight, I think that’s a good decision.
  2. Most people who followed this blog from the start might already knew this, but I originally did this blog because I was constantly emailing my friends and colleagues about my mini review of movies. Some of my co-workers said I might as well start a blog and so one day, whilst designing a blog for a client, I started a WordPress blog myself as a test and FlixChatter was born.
  3. My favorite cuisine (aside from Indonesian of course) is Thai. I’d have Thai food several times a week if I could.
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  4. Europe_bandI used to LOVE 80s heavy metal bands like Guns ‘N Roses, Warrant, Skid Row, Poison, as well as the Swedish rockband Europe, which my hubby’s a huge fan of as well. To this day, I still listen to ’em from time to time.
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  5. I used to create romantic *graphic novel* in Junior High, which basically were simple black/white pencil-drawn stories with talk bubbles. I think I might’ve made a half dozen of them that would amongst my class mates. It was mostly out of boredom, and I’d often be sent to detention for my drawing hobby 😉
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  6. I took French with one of my best friends in High School but we only managed to finish a couple of classes before promptly giving up. It was just too difficult for our tongues, far more difficult than English and even German, which was part of our High School curriculum. I wish I hadn’t given up so quickly, as it’d have come in handy in watching Stanley Weber’s French movies without English subtitles 😦
  7. My taste in music is pretty old fashioned. I basically listen to two genres regularly: classical and soundtrack. I’m also a big fan of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. Ocassionaly I listen to contemporary music, currently I’ve been obsessed with Emeli Sandé. I don’t usually like going to concerts but I’d definitely go see her if she comes to town!
    EmilieSande
  8. I’m not proud to admit this but I was a huge fan of New Kids of the Block when I was 14/15. My room was practically a NKOTB *museum* filled with paraphenaphilia and posters that covered every inch of my room wall. But by the time I saw them in concert, my interest had already waned. In fact, they sort of put my enthusiasm for boy bands for good. I never ever like boy bands ever again since then.
  9. FloppyI used to have many pets growing up, both cats and dogs. One of my favorites is a Pekingese dog named Floppy which was given from one of my late mom’s friends who was a Catholic nun. But since I moved to the US I never adopted a pet, but maybe we will in the future.
  10. Both my hubby and I are Indonesian, and we actually went to the same Jr High. But we didn’t meet until college, thousands of miles away from our home. I never thought I’d marry an Asian guy once I go to the US for school, let alone someone from my own country. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
  11. I LOVE social media, especially blogging (natch!) and Twitter, but I can’t stand Facebook. I only have a FB account for my blog and I’m rarely on there. I’ve recently taken up Instagram (thanks partly to my French crush Stanley) and been enjoying it so far.

Jay’s Question:

What is the most fun you’ve ever had in a movie theatre? What movie were you watching?

I already answered this on Jay’s blog: One of the most fun I had at the theater was when I saw Pacific Rim on IMAX a while back, that movie was so darn entertaining and it looked great on those huge screens.

I also enjoyed watching The Dark Knight Rises and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on IMAX, there’s nothing more immersive than watching great action movies in those huge, enveloping screen!


Vinnie’s Questions:

  1. Do you prefer watching films in the cinema or at home?
    Depends. If it’s action movies, I prefer seeing them on the big screen. But for dramas, I prefer seeing them at home.
  2. Do you have any tattoos?
    No. Though I’ve always wanted one on my shoulder. Maybe one day.
  3. What is your favourite sport?
    I’m not much of a sport person at all. I always get bored watching any televised sports games.
  4. Who is your man crush or woman crush?
    Right now it’s all about this French Adonis Stanley Weber
    StanleyNAHEpremiere
  5. How good are you at keeping secrets?
    Very good. But I haven’t had to keep too many secrets in my life
  6. What movie do you love that everyone else seems to hate?
    Ahah, I just blogged about this last week.
  7. What do you enjoy the most about blogging?
    Meeting fellow cinephiles from all over the world, sometimes I get to meet them in person, too!
  8. What is your star sign?
    I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I think it’s Aquarius
  9. How many languages can you speak?
    Two. Indonesian (my mother tongue) and English
  10. What is your most valuable belonging?
    Not sure I have any.
  11. Describe yourself in five words.
    Loner, imaginative, candid, emotional, emphatic.


Paskalis’ Questions:

  1. Please name a movie that can describe you or what you feel now!
    Persuasion.
    Because my script deals with long lost love and second chances, so that’s what’s been on my mind lately
  2. What’s your all time favorite movie OST?
    John Williams’ Jurassic Park
  3. Choose one: Jurassic World, Terminator Genysis, or Star Wars Eps. VII?
    Simply because it’s the only one I saw that I remember but I don’t think it’s a good movie.
  4. Choose one: annoying cliffhanger or super-twisted bad ending?
    I’d say none, but if I must pick one, at least the latter won’t make me guess what the ending is
  5. Choose one: European movie, Asian movie, Australian movie or South American movie? Name a title!
    I have a fondness for British movies, and I just recently rewatched this wonderful Scottish gem Dear Frankie that’s just been added to Netflix. Everyone should check this one out!
    DearFrankiePhoto
  6. What’s the best Indonesian movie you ever watched?
    I haven’t seen any Indo movie in a long time. The last one I saw was Ada Apa Dengan Cinta which was pretty good.
  7. If your life were a movie, what other movie might look similar to it?
    Unfortunately, I never saw my life reflected in any film I’ve seen
  8. If your life were still a movie, who will portray you best?
    Again, this is a tough one. I don’t think I can answer this.
  9. As a movie blogger, what kind of comment you loathe?
    Comments that clearly prove they don’t even read the post at all
  10. As a movie blogger, do you follow foreign blogger and interact with them? Why yes, why not?
    Ahah yes, most of my blogger friends are *foreign* as a lot of them live outside of the USA. Interacting with my fellow bloggers is one of my fave parts about blogging.
  11. Now, please describe your blog in a sentence!
    A blog of movie musings, commentaries, reviews, artists interviews, top ten lists and more!
    …..

Anna’s Questions:

  1. Favorite TV show(s)?
    I hardly watch any TV but the last shows I saw that I REALLY enjoyed was Netflix’s Daredevil and BBC’s Broadchurch.
    NetflixDaredevil
  2. Last movie you saw?
    Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  3. Book you’re currently reading?
    None at the moment, but hoping to catch up on The Girl on the Train
  4. Comedy or drama?
    Drama generally.
  5. Classic or contemporary?
    Contemporary.
  6. SenseSensibilityDvdWhat’s that one movie you always recommend to anyone who asks?
    Sense & Sensibility (1995).
    Even to those who aren’t fans of period dramas as the story is just so beautiful, and it’s superbly acted, writen and directed.
  7. You’re able to go back in time and be an extra on the set of any movie. Which one is it?
    Any movie starring Stanley Weber (for obvious reasons) 😉
  8. Favorite foreign film?
    In terms of replayability value: Cinema Paradiso
  9. Book version or movie version: which is better?
    I know generally book version is better, though I don’t have as much patience for certain books, so in terms of Jane Austen adaptation, I enjoy the film/tv versions better.
  10. Best performance from your favorite actor/actress?
    This is way too hard as I have so many faves. But I just rewatched Mrs. Brown with Dame Judi Dench and I think it’s definitely one of her many best performances.
  11. Watching movies alone or watching movies with someone?
    Depends. I enjoy watching movies alone or with my hubby equally, though I prefer watching my guilty pleasures by myself 😉


Now the easy part… the nominations!

Well it seems that everyone’s been nominated already, but I’ll do it anyway and you can choose to participate or not, it’s entirely up to you.

  1. Cindy @ Cindy Bruchman’s Blog
  2. Margaret @ Cinematic Corner
  3. Jordan @ Epileptic Moondancer
  4. Tom @ Digital Shortbread
  5. Steven @ Surrender to the Void
  6. Alex @ Alex Raphael Blog
  7. Abbi @ Abbi Osbiston Blog
  8. Natalie @ Writer Loves Movies
  9. Andina @ Inspired Ground
  10. Mark @ Three Rows Back
  11. Rodney @ Fernby Films

Should you take part in this Liebster Award meme, please answer these 11 questions*:

  1. Have you ever made a fanfic? If so, what is it about?
  2. What’s your favorite dish/desert to make?
  3. Who’s your favorite movie actor who’s currently starring in a TV show?
  4. If you can only listen to ONE film soundtrack for a whole month, what would it be?
  5. What musical instrument do you play (or wish you could play)?
  6. Name one film you initially love but eventually grow to dislike?
  7. Favorite quote you find inspiring?
  8. Which is your favorite movie writer [could be a journalist, novelist, etc.]?
  9. Has your cinematic crush ever inspire you to do something you otherwise wouldn’t even consider?
  10. Favorite outfit/costume from a movie?
  11. What’s your latest cinematic/music obsession?

*I’m cheating a bit and use a few questions I asked in my last Liebster post, but since I’m tagging new people, I figure that’s ok 😛


Sorry for the super long post! Thanks for reading everyone, now you know a little bit more about yours truly 😀

My entry to the Against the Crowd Blogathon: A battle of two Sword-and-Sandals Movies

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Wendell over at Dell on Movies is reprising his blogathon from a year ago. Since I didn’t participate at the time, I knew I had to do it this time around. Dell’s idea is that this is our chance to tell the world about our love for a movie everyone else hates and the other way around.

1. Pick one movie that “everyone” loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of at least 75% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that “everyone” hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of less than 35% on rottentomatoes.com. Should a movie you select not have a grade on rottentomatoes.com, use a score of at least 7.5 on imdb.com for ones you hate and less than 4.0 for ones you love. Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

I always like this ‘against the crowd’ idea because it happens all the time that my taste doesn’t align with critics or other moviegoers. Heck I actually enjoyed the latest video game flick Agent47 but I kinda knew the critics’ gonna trash it.

Well, I’ve sort of already made a list for both categories, Ted & I collaborated on 12 *rotten* movies we secretly adore and I picked five movies everyone loves that leave me cold. But for the purpose of this blogathon, I thought it’d be fun to pick a film of the same sword-and-sandal genre.

Now, let me preface this list with the fact that I think *hate* is a strong word. But it baffles me why this movie is regarded so highly as I could barely finished watching it. I have already included it the ‘movies everyone loves’ list above, but I’m going to pick it again because out of that list, this is the reigning *king*  as I even shudder thinking how much I don’t care for it…

Spartacus_RTscore

I’m a fan of swords & sandals genre and I LOVE LOVE Ben-Hur which came out the year before. Now, whilst I saw Ben-Hur years ago as a young girl and it has since became one of my favorite films of all time (not just from this genre), I could barely made it through this one. My jaw dropped when I found out just how high the score is after seeing the film. I saw this a few years ago and I could barely made it to the end.

Firstly, I simply don’t buy Kirk Douglas as a gladiator slave for a second. He just isn’t tough nor ruthless enough I’d imagine the character to be and he (as well as Tony Curtis) looked way too healthy to play a supposedly desolate and malnourished slave. Despite what some may called wooden acting from Charlton Heston, it was easy to root for him to get back at all the injustices that befell him and I was fully invested in Ben-Hur journey throughout the film. I really didn’t care for Spartacus as I was too distracted by how I think Douglas was miscast. Even the great Laurence Olivier and couldn’t save this movie and it didn’t help matters that Douglas had zero chemistry with the lovely Jean Simmons. I couldn’t stop laughing at the awful, fake looking backdrop wallpaper they used for the romantic scene.

Spartacus1960stills

As of 2008, this movie was ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Epic.” Seriously?? The only epic thing about it is the epic squabbles behind the scenes that you can read on IMDb trivia about the falling out with not one but TWO directors and all the studio meddling due to everyone having a huge ass ego.

In regards to his casting, later on Douglas himself admitted that he made this film partly because he didn’t get the role as Ben-Hur (he was offered the role of Messala but refused to play second banana to Heston). “That was what spurred me to do it in a childish way, the ‘I’ll show them’ sort of thing.” Heh, clearly Ben-Hur‘s director William Wyler made the right decision as I doubt Douglas could do a better job than Stephen Boyd as Messala, let alone the title role! It’s common knowledge that director Stanley Kubrick disowned this project as he didn’t have complete creative control over it, well that pretty much explains it.


Now, I’m going to contrast that with a much lesser-known film that’s released last year. I know that most of you haven’t even heard of it as it barely got a theatrical release and went straight to VOD/Blu-ray.

SwordOfVengeanceRTscore

Yes ok so naturally the fact that Stanley Weber is in this automatically makes me want to defend this movie to the death, ehm. But hear me out. I initially doubted this too, thinking that even my undying love for this French Adonis still wouldn’t make me enjoy it. But then it came to Netflix earlier this month and I decided to check it out. Voilà! I actually like it a lot and have seen it four times since.

SOV1

It’s a visually-driven genre film that doesn’t pretend to be deep or philosophical. The mysterious protagonist, only billed as Shadow Walker, quipped ‘Vengeance is my only belief.’ And you know what, he lived by that rule in the movie. He didn’t seek out to be a hero or has aspiration to lead a nation or anything like that, he just wants vengeance. It’s as minimalistic as it gets, so if you go in expecting a whole lot more, then you set yourself up for disappointment.

Stanley Weber is freakin’ bad ass in the lead role, sporting a historically out-of-place corn rows but who cares, it looks so damn cool! Apart from that hairstyle, he looks suitably grim and gritty, and his rugged costumes look believably soiled and grubby. His character is the strong silent type who’s as efficient with words as he is with his sword fighting. He’s like an 11th century John Wick!

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The movie has the look and smell of the dark ages, the set pieces look appropriately harsh and gritty, the fact that it was shot on location in Serbia in the middle of Winter. Even from the opening sequence when we first met Shadow Walker slaying off people in the rain, I love Jim Weedon‘s style and his use of music. It’s decidedly modern, even sounds a bit like John Wick‘s score, but somehow fits perfectly with the action. Weedon started out as an award-winning commercials director who also worked on some SFX work for films like Gladiator (the Elysian Field sequences).


Obviously I dug Stanley in the lead role but I also like his fellow French actor Edward Akrout who co-starred with him in BBC’s The Hollow Crown Henry V. There’s a great mano a mano sword fight between the two that’s fun to watch, but my favorite scene is the one in the woods where the Shadow Walker get to show his action hero prowess. Annabelle Wallis might not be as convincing as a leader of exiled rebels, but she has a nice enough chemistry with Stanley.

Sword of Vengeance is stylishly-shot and the decidedly stark, bleak color scheme actually looks quite artistic in contrast to all the red of the spurting blood from those who get in our hero’s way. But I think the simple, no-frills plot suits the piece. I mean the title says it all, obviously the protagonist is seeking vengeance and once it’s revealed what’s taken from him, you get why he does what he does. Yes, a bit more character development is always nice, but at a brisk 87 minutes, it was entertaining enough without overstaying its welcome.

SOV_shadow_walker

Glad that I’m not the only one liking this flick, this THR reviewer also said nice things about Stanley: “…the chiseled, handsome Weber, whose beautifully coiffed cornrows suggest his character had time for long hairstyling sessions between battles, is a suitably taciturn, macho hero in the Eastwood tradition, even managing to make such declarations as “Vengeance is my only belief” sound convincing.” Indeed!

So yeah, I have no qualms about liking this flick. It’s not for everyone but if you like this type of genre flick, I’d say give it a shot. I love seeing Stanley as an action hero, it just shows just how versatile he is as an actor. He did this movie whilst juggling a yet-to-be-released French WWII drama and a French stage adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie, so obviously he can handle a variety of roles.


Ok so I’m sure you have an opinion about my picks. Let’s hear it!